Author Update: 10 Things I Love That You May Not Know About Me

How about a little positivity today? This exercise sprang from a Facebook trend that circulated during my city’s COVID-19 lockdown wherein people would post lists entitled, “10 Things People Love, but You HATE.”

The whole concept was a bummer, in both premise and execution. That was more negativity than folks needed at the time and I don’t think anyone felt better for having written or read any of them. But then a counter movement began from people who felt the same way I did. When we started to write lists of ten things we loved, I learned so much more interesting things about the people in my circle. For example, one of my college English professors enjoys weightlifting! I would never have known.

Here’s my list. I surprised myself with what made the cut for my top ten, so this was a great way even for me to learn more about me. I encourage you to try this, too!

1. Baking. Though I don’t bake often, I have tons of recipes saved to my Pinterest. Sometimes I pluck one of these out when I’m stressed or procrastinating on something I don’t want to do.

2. Coloring. You may know about this one if you follow my Instagram. I have a very basic understanding of the color wheel, but I use crayons to learn shading tricks and to make the usual an unusual color.

3. Exploring. Especially abandoned places, forgotten spaces, and far flung locations.

4. Scavenging. I’m secretly a Corvid in my heart, because I love finding old things I can still use and love. This covers my obsession with thrift stores, used book stores, and garage sales.

5. Exercising. If God hadn’t nerfed me with weak joints, I would exercise way more than I do. Right now I settle for walking, but dream of running and lifting again someday.

6. Organizing. Plans, items, schedules, topics, projects, I’ll organize them all. I get a sense of peace and well being from having things in order.

7. Listening. To music, people, silence. You can learn a lot about others and yourself if you just keep quiet.

8. Creating. Probably more obvious with all the writing, but this also encompasses drawing, building, fashion, and crafts.

9. Philosophizing. Nothing serious. Just making mental connections about the how and why of life.

10. Daydreaming. I have more in mind to write or do or try or be than I could ever manage in one lifetime. I hope I get reincarnated or existence turns out to be a videogame simulation with extra lives so I can experience it all. If not, at least it all still happened in my mind.

Got a list of things you love? Post yours in the comments below. I’d love to read more about you!


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My Top 10 Favorite Books Written by or About Women

You know readers. We can never pick just one favorite book. For my part, I can’t even pick my favorite series. So many amazing books await out in the world, more than I could ever read before I die. To keep this post short, I had to narrow down the parameters to my top ten favorite books written by or about women.

While I spend my life trying to read the most moving, the most truthful, and the most meaningful novels out there, a few have drawn me back into their welcoming pages over and over. I have reread every one of the books below and keep most of them on my (limited) bookshelves. (Only Sabriel still lives at my local library, but I will own a copy someday.)

Nothing makes me happy quite like when I meet someone who has read one of these, or who decides to read them at my suggestion. Please check them out. They’re arranged in no particular order. If you’ve read any of these, I would love to hear what you thought!

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Though I loved The Raven Boys, the first installment in the Raven Cycle, I fell deeply into Stiefvater’s writing in The Dream Thieves, which released just after I finished the first book. Imagine characters you know so well as to be your friends. Imagine they stumbled upon magic, the dangerous kind, and upon each other, dangerous people. Want so big and impossible as to swallow up existence. All set against the backdrop of Virginia’s mysterious Shenandoah Valley.

Her writing hooks itself like thorny vines into my veins. The narrative driven by these characters makes me breathless for flashed smiles, daring choices, and the strength of unbreakable friendship.


The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Oh, look. Another book by Maggie Stiefvater. (Spoiler alert: there is not a single one of her stories I have not enjoyed.)

I first bought The Scorpio Races for my mom’s birthday, even though I had never read it. While sitting within the massive shadow of a Gander Mountain sign, hoping to sell a litter of puppies to passersby, I read the first several chapters aloud to my mom.

I may or may not have later asked several times if she was done with the book yet so I could read it.

Every year in October or November, I reread The Scorpio Races. Nothing else I have read evokes the magic of fall and deadly horses the way this book does.


Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I’m not even sure how I wound up reading Six of Crows. My friend had convinced me to read Leigh Bardugo’s previous series, the Grisha Trilogy. I recall standing in a Barnes & Noble with her as she gushed over the book’s beautiful, black-edged pages. Maybe she handed it to me one day in that Read this! way some readers will do.

I had never loved heist stories before reading Six of Crows. As a fantasy heist, The Lies of Lock Lamora could not begin to compare to Six of Crows and its sequel for sheer brilliance of maneuvering, tactics, risk, and stakes. And beyond that, each and every character breathes with life, cleverness, and desperation for a better life.


Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce

Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce

In Tamora Pierce’s lengthy, multi-installment series about the country of Tortall, the Trickster’s Choice duology comes at the very last. I own every one of her books, but for me, none compare to this one.

Two words: fantasy spies. The daughter of a rogue and a knight who becomes embroiled in the espionage of a foreign country as she works to prove herself a capable spymaster. She’s fun-loving and sly, surrounded by clever and brave characters who grow dangerous enough to stage a coup.

I have ever loved the rogue and spy tropes. Perhaps this book is why.


Gregor and the Code of Claw by Suzanne Collins

Gregor and the Code of Claw by Suzanne Collins

You want a fantasy, underground (literally) reimagining of World War II and the Holocaust, mixed with giant flying bats, kickass princesses, and prophecies? The Underland Chronicles have exactly that and more. I love this entire series, more even than Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy. But the fifth and last grips me the most.

Lines have been drawn, alliances made and severed. The main character has experienced loss, betrayal, and growth as a young man and warrior into a deadly fighting machine. Gregor and the Code of Claw puts Gregor through the wringer of all-out war. I love tracing his journey to this point, from kid to adventurer to soldier, training to become deadly enough to protect the mysterious world he loves.


All Systems Red by Martha Wells

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Anxious? Just want to be left alone to do your thing? Have only a specialized skill set at which you are very, very good? Don’t know what you want out of life? Sarcastic and cynical?

If so, you will love Murderbot. I identify so hard with the protagonist of All Systems Red by Martha Wells, a SecUnit designed for security and nothing else, that hacked its own governor module in order to… keep pretending to work just so it could watch media serials. Where ‘pretend’ means do a top notch job while worrying about the quality of the work performed. Y’know, like we all do.

Eight chapters of thrilling action, touching moments, wonderful characters, and seething intrapersonal conflict makes up this first installment in a quartet of novellas, all set within a seamless science fiction interstellar society.


Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Whenever I talk about good books about necromancy, I always laud Sabriel by Garth Nix as the best. Beyond a wonderful story about a strong and thoughtful young woman adventuring in a land full of monsters and finding a boy to love and protect along the way, the narrative covers all the delectable little necromancy things I love. From a representation of the River Styx to the death knell of a bandolier of small bells to a lineage of necromancers who, instead of raising the dead, send them back down the river where they belong.

This story brought me in to the presentation of trained wizards living in a modern age (that being a World War I era fantasy world), mixing ancient magic and rune-inscribed swords with modern inventions like firearms and flying machines. I practically vibrated with happiness through the whole read and couldn’t get enough of some of the beautiful and haunting diction. In my opinion, Sabriel is the best necromancy story.


Eona: the Last Dragoneye by Alison Goodman

Eona: the Last Dragoneye by Alison Goodman

I have spent many a moment admiring the cover art of Eona: the Last Dragoneye by Alison Goodman. In this sequel to Eon, in which Eona pretended to be a boy in a desperate bid for power and status, Eona must now face her identity as a woman. I loved following her struggle to grasp for power in a man’s world by attempting to erase herself, only to discover that doing so lost her the most important aspect of her life, her connection to the queen of the dragons that controlled the land.

This story inspired me so much when Eona discovered she could find strength in her truth instead of viewing womanhood as weakness. The journey across two books to find her way is filled with splendid characters, a variety of perspectives, and incredible power plays and counter plays, all set against the beautiful backdrop of fantasy China.


Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Remember from before when I mentioned I love rogues? And tough women? Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett has both, as well as playful, fun banter, deadly peril, clandestine operations, and underdog struggles to save everyone in the awful city of Tevanne from several individuals, each with ambitions to be become a god.

I love how the unfolding of the narrative brings the four main characters together: a rogue, a paladin, and two artificers, to use some tropey language. Oh, and a talking key. Though the characters all begin at odds with each other, they soon find that their goals align as they uncover secrets about the magical method of scriving, secrets that upend everything they know about their world.

Also, there’s a fabulous LGBTQIA+ element, but I won’t spoil. Wink.


The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

In The Rook by Daniel O’Malley, Myfanwy wakes up in a park with amnesia, surrounded by dead bodies. The rest of the story follows her discovery that she, pre-amnesia, knew this would happen and left clues and helpful notes to herself to be able to resume her life and find out who would do this to her.

As an office worker firmly planted in the corporate world myself, I appreciate the descriptions of Myfanwy’s experience starting over with a blank slate to discover the person she always could have been as she navigates her high stakes job and office politics. The office life interwoven with supernatural bureaucracy cracks me up. The intricate mystery of finding herself and uncovering her attempted murderer keeps me turning the pages on every read.


If you’ve read any of these novels, I would love to hear what you thought! If you haven’t, then what are you waiting for?!


Thanks for reading!

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Word Nerd Scribbles: How and Why I Started Blogging

Way back when WordPress was barely WordPress but just after the (not so great) app had arrived, I started blogging primarily to remind the world that I was alive. Being in college forces you to think and make mental connections so much more than day-to-day life does, so at the time, I was filled with Thoughts and Feelings that I wanted to get out. But college also takes up far more of your time than does your average post-graduation life, so while I managed to type up a handful of blog posts about my Thoughts and Feelings, they soon languished in the wake of a stack of books half as tall as me for my English degree.

Maybe not half as tall, but these were for one semester. Yike.

Actually, I started blogging in high school. The now defunct Nerd Girl Scribbles, located at blogger.com at the time. But I was small-ish and had nothing to say, so rebranding happened sometime after.

Because of some nebulous cultural expectation and perhaps as a lingering habit from my days of writing argumentative papers about literature, I began feeling the uneasy need to review the books I read. After graduation, I had lost the classroom environment that encouraged discussion about assigned reading. I wanted to talk about the little narrative things I had noticed. You might say, well why didn’t you join a book club? I did, in fact. But they read books I didn’t enjoy so I ghosted. Instead, I began writing book reviews after closing the pages of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I loved it so much, had such a many things to say about it, and wanted the world to know about this book. (The world already knew about this book. I was late to the game.) After that, I kept up the book reviews and readers started following me for my thoughts about the random things I read. Wild.

The Friday before I was to take a one-week vacation, I was using my phone at work when I wasn’t supposed to, scrolling through Facebook. I came across the original post shown above, which asks the reader to describe them the way an author would in a book. As I went to repost, I knew no one would go along with the request, because effort. But people love to hear about themselves and I like to observe others, so. The offer to write character descriptions about the people who commented was born.

I wrote _thirty_ character descriptions. And surprise, surprise, people wrote some about me in return. I spent my whole vacation on this and it was a wonderful exercise in metaphor, finding my voice, and learning to tell a story in a few paragraphs. I also realized later, after hearing from my friends and family on why they decided not to participate, that I may have by accident revealed a little more about people than is usual. Shrug. Sometimes you just know a person. Sometimes you don’t know what’s a secret.

I wanted to keep all the character descriptions, not lose them to the vagaries of Facebook timelines. And hey, I already had a blog. One dedicated to a love of words. So each description got copied over and I had about half a year’s worth of content scheduled out.

Those were the good old days.

When those posts began to run out, I knew I wanted to keep posting weekly stories to keep my writing in front of the eyes of readers. My favorite show of all time is Mushishi, a serial story about a man who can see strange organisms not visible to everyone, phenomena closer to the source of life than anything else, and he makes his living by traveling across the country to help people troubled by these creatures. He’s gentle, patient, and kind, more willing to find a way around killing. I also at some point had started a (second or third or fifth) Deviantart profile. When I worked at Barnes & Noble, Mumford & Sons songs played on the overhead far more often than I would have liked, but one line always stuck out to me. “I’m a hopeless wanderer.” I tried to use that phrase, hopeless wanderer, as my username. It was, of course, already taken. So I twisted it into hopeful wanderer. Because as Brave Saint Saturn said, the bravest thing of all is always hope.

Those of you who follow my blog probably know where this went. I wanted to write a story about a person who never settled down, who was kind in their encounters with strange things, and I wanted very much to write about encounters with strange things. I had at the time begun toying with the idea of a neutral reader experience, that a lack of details about a main character viewed through first person could remove the lens of the author between the reader and the experience. Allow them to fall into the story themselves.

I suffer from depression. Or maybe I struggle with depression, because I fight the void every time it comes creeping back up. When one day I got my head above the briny waves of a depressive episode yet again, all these elements came together to create the first Hopeful Wanderer flash fic, A Barren Heart, which is about surviving depression again and again. For the last two years, I have written a Hopeful Wanderer tale (almost) every week. At the time of writing this article, we are ten episodes away from a total of one hundred!

Beyond the work of getting my words connected to readers – of newsletters and likes and follower counts and asking for patrons – the best part has always been the continued creation of this character and this world, of never knowing week to week what the Wanderer may see or do or learn. Sometimes, whatever life thing I’m grappling with slips into the subtext. Sometimes that thing gets noticed by readers, who find resonance with that subtext in themselves. The best part has been the connection. Of knowing that I am indeed alive, and that other people know that fact, too.

Thanks for reading!

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Author Update – Patreon

Presenting the long-promised Patreon!

We hit our followers and subscribers goal! Yay! Now, those hoping to take their involvement in this community to the next level can show their support @ patreon.com/sgbaker.

If you’ve been enjoying my work here at Word Nerd Scribbles, join my creative journey and let’s achieve new heights together!

Promising shout-outs, early access, and more! Check it out!


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Third 2017 Writing Goal Complete

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A graphic depiction of many slain words

Yeah, this might be starting to seem kind of silly. Why am I posting updates about my writing progress every 25,000 words, at a rate of about once a month?

Because this is the only reward I’m getting for writing this many freaking words for the first time in my life. It’s a gold star to myself. I’m type A and I need those gold stars. Thrive on them. If I don’t give myself some recognition for my tiny accomplishments, who will?

Also, I bought myself a couple of these, one for work and one for my desk at home:

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A Fidget Cube from AliExpress

So I made it to 75,000 words. It took me three days past my intended deadline this time, but I still made it once again. I’ve never written this much on any single piece.

Contrary to what NaNoWriMo would have me believe about how 50,000 words is a complete novel, this sucker is probably only halfway done. Granted, it’s a sprawling, crawling mess right now because I don’t always know where it is I’m going. I just know I have to write to get there. It’s a lot more than I need for the plot that I’ve got and Stephen King and probably Dan Harmon would be ashamed of me. A lot of this precious word count will be cut out in the end and I’ve already started daydreaming about where I can trim and tighten up, streamline it a bit.

But not yet. Not yet.


 

This progress tracker is from mywriteclub.com, which is a neat and simple tool for keeping up with your writing progress. It doesn’t just track your words, but also scenes, chapters, pages, lines, etc. If you, like me, get a high from watching that progress bar go up, check it out. And if you, like me, would care to have a writing buddy/cheerleader, look me up here.

Ultimate 2017 Word Count Goal Complete

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A lot of words

 

New high score.

Last year, I wrote roughly 75,000 words total. So at the beginning of this year, I set that number as my goal to beat. I have to admit, while my intention had been to reach this sooner than April, a part of me didn’t expect to make it at all. So high five to me! This is the most I’ve ever written in just three-ish months. It’s also the most I’ve written within the span of one year.

Target destroyed, my dudes. Here’s to seeing how much I’ll have written by the end.

This progress tracker is from mywriteclub.com, which is a neat and simple tool for keeping up with your writing progress. It doesn’t just track your words, but also scenes, chapters, pages, lines, etc. If you, like me, get a high from watching that progress bar go up, check it out. And if you, like me, would care to have a writing buddy/cheerleader, look me up here.

First 2017 Writing Goal Complete

First 2017 Writing Goal

I made it to my first word goal last month! To celebrate, I got myself a new haircut and it’s wicked adorable. Now only 75,000-ish more words to go to complete this novel draft. I’m this. close. to hitting my next word count goal before the end of this month. Just have to power through this icky cold.

This progress tracker is from mywriteclub.com, which is a neat and simple tool for keeping track of your writing progress. It doesn’t just track your words, but also scenes, chapters, pages, lines, etc. If you, like me, get a high from watching that progress bar go up, check it out. And if you, like me, would like a writing buddy/cheerleader, look me up here.