A Year of Books 2019 — The Best of the Year

The time has come.

Every year about this time, my Bride and I assess.. the BOOKSHELF OF DOOM!

Actually, it’s not very doom-y. It’s this bookshelf that sits next to our bed. The goal every year is to fill it with what we read. Finish a book? It goes on the shelf!

(Other than my professional reading for the ministry… those reviews go up every week over on my other blog.)

And now… it’s time to look at what we’ve read! I’m starting with what I consider the best of the year. These are the books that touched me the most. That doesn’t mean that everything else I read this year is bad. It also doesn’t mean that these are the books that will win the most awards. They’re the books that held my attention best and made me go, “Hm.”

These aren’t in any particular order, so don’t read into that at all. It’s just, as I said, the best of what I read this particular year.

Without further ado… Continue reading “A Year of Books 2019 — The Best of the Year”


Submit Again

In 2003, Marvel Comics established an initiative called Tsunami Comics. They released a number of series all at once, including Mystique, Runaways, Inhumans, Emma Frost, and I’m probably forgetting a few. I remember complaining at the time that it was like they were throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall to see what would stick. It was like they were setting up most of the line to fail by putting out so much all at once. (I should note, that of the series I read, I thoroughly enjoyed them all, particularly Brian K. Vaugn’s Mystique.)

Throw a bunch of stuff at the wall. See what sticks.

It doesn’t work with everything. It didn’t seem to work particularly well for Marvel; most of the series were canceled pretty quickly. I don’t do that with the food my Bride makes for me. I think I might get kicked out of the house. I don’t do that in my ministry. I think it might cause some problems.

But with my stories… Continue reading “Submit Again”

Not a Writing Vacation

So I didn’t write a single word on vacation.

I’d like a writing vacation, where the goal is to just… write. But for the last two weeks I have written nada.

It was not a useless vacation in the least. I got to visit my wife’s great-grandfather on his hundredth birthday. I got to visit a mountain summit. I got to see the wonders of the Arizona desert. (Well, some of them, at least.)

The nice thing about visiting a place very different from where I’m living is that it got the creative juices flowing in new directions. Wandering through a saguaro forest clicked off a very different world in my head. Standing on top of the summit of a mountain changes a person if they’re not used to it. (And I grew up in eastern North Dakota. We don’t have mountains there.) Continue reading “Not a Writing Vacation”

Writing Vacation

Lock me up; just leave me a word processor, all right?

We’re going on vacation soon, and I’m looking forward to it. I get to spend a chunk of vacation with family that I honestly do enjoy spending time with. I get to spend a chunk of time with friends I haven’t seen in years. None of it is going to be very restful, but it’s going to be good.

But it would be nice if I had a vacation where I got to lock myself away with the opportunity to just write. Continue reading “Writing Vacation”

False Dilemma

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Choose one: You can either have creativity or you can have mental health.

That’s what I wrote about a month ago. It really seemed that was the choice that was laid out before me. I had started taking medication for my depression, and my creativity faded. I’d seen it happen with others, so I wasn’t terribly surprised, but it wasn’t exactly an event I was excited about.

After that post, several friends who routinely practice their creativity wrote to me to tell me: Yes, there is creativity after depression meds, but you have to work in different ways to find it. Sometimes you have to fight for it more. It’s not gone; you just have to go hunting for it.

Wouldn’t you know it, they were right? Continue reading “False Dilemma”

I’m an idiot.

No one likes rejection, but there are some rejections that sting a lot more than others.

When an editor rejects a story because it doesn’t fit what she’s looking for, sure it’s not great, but it’s totally understandable. The story doesn’t fit. Might be a great story, but it doesn’t belong in this publication.

When an editor rejects a story because it’s substandard, well, that’s just proper. The first summer I really took a stab at selling some of my writing, the story I considered the least valuable, least well written, is what sold. There’s a reason I still send stories out that I don’t consider my best, but when they get rejected, I’m not surprised.

I’ve got some stories that I consider my best. And they haven’t sold yet. When those get rejected, it hurts.

Last week I got a rejection that really, really hurt, though.

I wasn’t rejected because the story was substandard. I wasn’t rejected because the editor was looking for something else.

I was rejected because I’m an idiot. Continue reading “I’m an idiot.”

Guest Post: I Got Published! Now What?

So, I have this friend, Joanna Fletcher. She’s a cool lady, and she recently got published for the first time. I asked her to stop by and talk just a little bit about what it was like. And, well, she obliged! Without further ado, here’s Joanna!

Ever get an email that completely tilted your world on a new axis? You’re moving through your day, staying on the path you’ve expected. File this, deal with that, et cetera. Then comes that little ping and your reality suddenly shifts.

It had been months. Honestly, I’d forgotten about my short story that I’d submitted (although it seems ridiculous that I could forget). It was the only written piece I had out in the world, that little piece of my heart off to the scary world of publication. I should have been checking on it, worrying about it. That’s what writers do, right? But when you’re finishing a master’s degree, teaching full-time, momming full-time, and taking care of a million other adulting things, the brain has to prioritize what it’s going to focus on. Worrying about my little story that had already been rejected wasn’t high on the priority list.

When I got the email saying that my story had been accepted to a small online magazine, it took a few seconds to register. I read the email once, twice, thrice. Then I made a screech that probably belonged to some prehistoric bird and started frantically texting everyone I knew would care. I got mixed reactions. To be fair, some of the people I shared my good news with didn’t understand how much this meant to me. Since I was a child, I wanted to be a published author. I got an article published in my college newspaper, but I didn’t count that since the editor was a friend. No, I wanted someone who’d never met me to think my stories were good enough to publish. And now I had that moment! Here I go, on my way to my dream of being a full-time writer! What a rush! What a thrill!

What a crash after the adrenaline wore off.

Because now everyone’s asking, “What will you do next? Is there more to the story?” And I’m paralyzed. It sounds ridiculous, I know. One short story published, and I’m…scared?

But it’s true. Because when you get a string of no’s, you get used to it. You expect it. And sometimes you even smile and move on quickly because it’s what you expected anyway.

Sometimes a yes is a plot twist that leaves the writer staggering.

The next submission I’m tackling is for a more well-known publication. They sell books on Amazon and everything. The topic is one I’ve written about hundreds of times. This should be cake! But I have never wrestled so hard with writing a piece of fiction.

So what’s next? It’s simple. Some people need to listen to music. Others have a craving to run (why that is, I’ll never understand). I need to write. Franz Kafka said, “A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.” I can always tell when it’s been a while since I’ve written for pleasure; I get cranky and withdraw even farther from the world. I have to write to feel alive and whole.

I’ll find other places to submit my newest stories. I’ll tentatively create worlds and characters. I’ll fall in love with some and fall in hate with others. I’ll twist my fingers through the open air, searching through my mental files to find just the right word. I will keep writing.