100 Books: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.

“In a flash, only thirty years, the Mongol warriors would defeat every army, capture every fort, and bring down the walls of every city they encountered. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus would soon kneel before the dusty boots of illiterate young Mongol horsemen.”


Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World” by Jack Weatherford

I can’t quite recall when I last read Jack Weatherford’s Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, but I do recall reading it. I feel like it was in my college dorm room, but, at the same time, I have a feeling this was a book I picked up on a vacation, so the timeline doesn’t quite match up. I remember being really fascinated by this clear and concise biography of the great Mongol ruler and namesake for one of my cats, Genghis Khan, and, rereading it several years later, I’m just as impressed. Weatherford is clearly passionate about the subject (sometimes too passionate, as his bias tends to shine through) and he writes it in an extremely accessible way. His painting of Mongolian society is vivid and inspiring, and it’s a great resource not only for this era of history, but also for realistic world-building for other projects.

There’s no denying the power and magnitude of the rise of power of Temujin, who would come be known as Genghis Khan and rule half the world. His story is a defiance against culture and stature, rising from a lowly position on the steppes to one of the most powerful men in the world. It’s a tale of how this illiterate Mongol established some of the basic foundations of modern society (such as paper money, efficient commerce, and the spread of ideas and religion in an open, tolerant way), as well as a story of a man who would show no mercy. If one conquered followed the rules of Temujin’s reign, then there was no problem, but defy the Great Khan, and prepare to be destroyed. Though the Mongol rule diminished quickly after the death of Genghis Khan, there is no denying the profound influence this man had on the development of the world, and Weatherford explores this in his book, as well as a brief section explaining how such a powerful and admired figure earned such a notorious bad prestige in the modern world, despite all the things he helped bring to it.

As I said before, sometimes a clear bias surfaces when Weatherford demonizes those who try to demonize the Great Khan, which gives off the impression of trying to paint Genghis is a purely positive light, as if to counteract all the negativity surrounding his name. For me, that made be doubt all the golden praise for the Golden Horde (surely, some of those tales held a kernel of truth, though they were likely incredibly exaggerated), but it’s still a great lead and transports the reader to a very incredible age of a very incredible man. A very good read, highly recommended. You’re likely to learn something new, as well as long to take a trip out to the wild Mongolian steppe which sets the stage for this epic life.

Books read: 006/100.

RoW80 Update: A Day Late…

…and (several) dollars…well, you know how the rest of it goes. I started typing a post for yesterday’s A Round of Words in 80 Days check-in, got about half-way through, and decided to just take the day off. It was a late start, not because of Easter, as I don’t celebrate Easter unless I’m home with my Catholic family, but because we were celebrating a friend’s birthday the night before and I had a hungover boyfriend to take care of. It happens. The whole weekend was slightly off for me, for a variety of reasons, but it’s a new day, a new week, and I’m ready to get back to work, eyes on the proverbial prize.

With a little bit of an adjustment to my goals. I’m kicking the drawing one to the curb. Drawing is good and something I need to do more of if I want to look into being a merchant/artist at the comic conventions here in the area, but, right now, it’s just a distraction from writing. It’s not fitting in with my routine, so it’s outta here. The only drawing I should be concerned with right now is the sketching for the painting that will hopefully become Soulless‘s cover art.

What about the other goals? I was starting to feel like a chapter a day of editing on Soulless was too much…editing and typing are completely different beasts, so I’ve decided to just edit as much as I can per day, and leave it at that. I know it’s important to have quantifiable goals, but I think, in this respect, I know I’m just going to edit the crap out of it until the end of the round, even if that means going through it three times or ten or twenty, depending on how I manage it, so I think this will work, as well as keep me from beating myself up too much if I only get a few pages polished up on some days.

I’m still going to try to get a story out every week. I’m a little behind on this, because I have a story to send out still that I’m in the process of typing, but it should be ready to go and shipped out somewhere by the end of the day. That’s my big goal today. Get this sucker out. I’m having trouble with a title, though, since “Super Scary Wolves Are Going to Kill Me” doesn’t quite set the right tone, accurate as it may be.

As far as 750 Words goes, I’m dropping the attempt to write a novel in 750 words a day, just because I was really losing the voice and I don’t really need to be working on ANOTHER novel right now. I’ve got Heartless to work on while editing Soulless and Serpent in a Cage is very close to completion, too, so another novel defeats the point of focusing on only one or two big projects at a time. Instead, I’m going to use 750words as a springboard for some of those short stories I want to finish each week. Every day, I’ll plug in a prompt and go at it for 750 words, and then pluck one out to focus on when it’s time to start a new story. I think that will help greatly when I’ve just sent a story out and I’m trying to think about what to do next.

Really, it wouldn’t be RoW80 without a goal adjustment at some time during the game. How’s everyone else doing? Have you felt the urge to go off the rails a little like I did? The way I see it, if you go off the rails a little, that’s just fine, as long as you manage to get back on track, which is what I’m hoping to do.

Don’t forget to check out all the other fab RoWers here!

Happy writing!

The First Step is the Hardest.

Well, I finally did it. I finally got back to starting my workout and meditation routine this morning, so hopefully I can start making it a habit again. I used to do a small session nearly every day before work started to get too overwhelming for me to manage setting the time aside, and I’ve been meaning to go back to it now that the job I disliked and stressed me out is out of the way, but I kept forgetting until it just felt weird doing it (I have to do it in the morning, before I shower and get ready for the day, otherwise it just sets everything off). So, today, I remembered. Hooray! I’m throwing in some ab workouts I’ve collected from various magazines, too, because that’s the area I want to concentrate on. The change in my diet a year ago to vegan helped me lose a little bit of weight just by watching what I eat, so now it’s time to see how much good it can do for me now that I’ll be focusing on toning and trimming down some of the fat.

It isn’t just about the weight, though, or even about being more active and doing things that are good for my body now that I’m mostly sitting around to work when I used to be on my feet all day. There’s something about the few moments I give myself for quiet meditation, breathing, and then yoga that seems to just set things right. It allows one to focus, to get in tune with their body, and to just allow any stress to leave you, if only for a little bit. It’s something I haven’t had a chance to do in quite some time, so I’m eager to see how working this into my routine allows me to be even more productive and content in my life that I’ve already managed to accomplish these last few weeks.

Now if only I could think of a good way to prevent the cats from interrupting me when I do it…

100 Books: The Haunting of Hill House.

“…it might not then be too fanciful to say that some houses are born bad.”


The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson

When it comes time to return to working on Rosewood Manor, I know exactly what book will be coming off the shelves to reread to help inspire that great, brooding, heavy feeling that comes with a good haunted house tale. On recommendation of my boyfriend, I finally managed to dig into Shirley Jackson’s icon tale of a terrifying abode and its resonating effects on the human psyche, The Haunting of Hill House, and I’m more than impressed by its ability to get under my skin just as effectively as if I was one of its unfortunate visitors or, even worse, one its lingering permanent occupants.

The premise is simple and one we’ve heard repeated many times in the haunted house horror narrative: a doctor is looking to investigate some paranormal claims, invites some people along for the line, and spookiness and danger ensues. On the surface, the cast of characters and the situation seems very much like one we’ve seen before: there’s innocent and naive Eleanor, the wild and vivacious Theodora, providing two young and nubile heroines, as is the wont for such tales. There’s the scholarly Dr. Montague, heading the whole thing, and there’s Luke Sanderson, a somewhat foppish young man with no direction and no claim to much except a family heritage and the house itself. Since it was written in 1959, it’s safe to say that Hill House doesn’t so much as follow these archetypes as it did create them, but, not getting to it until 2014, it’s clear that it was a formula that continued to be repeated ad nauseum.

What kept Hill House entrancing and out of the norm for me, though, was Jackson’s incredible prose. While there were a few moments when I felt the breezy narrative got a little too Kerouacian for me, I was incredibly impressed and blown away by the unexpected power of the narrative. Eleanor is a fascinating character, one I found myself remarkably relating to on a very deep level. Perhaps I just picked the right time to read this book, as she’s only a few years older than me and is going through a transition that makes her feel that she doesn’t have a place in the world. She’s imaginative and flighty, quite a bit like me, so I found myself incredibly wrapped up in her story and fascinated by the subtle sway Hill House was having over her.

Subtle is actually an excellent word to describe the atmosphere of this book. Hill House is scary in a way you don’t entirely realize; Jackson lures you in with a nice sense of comfort and safety, and then, all of a sudden, things are going haywire and you’re on the edge of your seat. I had to stop reading it before bed because the book, much like Hill House itself, gets right under your skin. When I finished a chapter and started breathing again, I realized that this is precisely the feeling I want to inject into people with my own horror writing.

There’s also so much to this slim book that I felt I missed that will warrant many, many more readings in the future. I’m also interested in external readings about it, too, particularly in the very intriguing relationship built up between Theodora and Eleanor, especially when one takes into consideration Theodora’s…”friend,” and the way her and Luke’s interactions go from slightly chilly to more warm and affectionate. I could go on, but then, the next thing you know, I’ll have a university ready paper on the matter. So I’ll save those thoughts for further reading.

Ultimately, The Haunting of Hill House was a delightful little horror gem, just precisely the sort of horror I love and would love to have more of. It’s making its way onto my ever-growing list of books that are absolute must-reads.

Books read: 005/100.

5 Reasons Why You Should Buy “Bowlful of Bunnies” Now.

You’ll all have to forgive me, but the other day was Bill Paying Day, which means stress overload in the manners of money, which means I’m throwing a promotional post at you. After giving it a long and hard thought on how best to approach marketing, sometimes I think honesty is the best policy, and, let’s face it. A lot of us write because we love it, but some of us (myself included) are actually deluded enough to think they can make a wee bit of money off of this gig, and thus, a post like this is a necessary evil. Besides, I’ve got quite a few new followers who haven’t been subjected to this (though I’m 99.8% sure some of those followers are bots), so there’s some untapped market out there. I’m here today to give you the top 5 Reasons why you should by my book, Bowlful of Bunnies, if you haven’t already.

5. You’ll be supporting an independent artist achieving her dreams. This one’s the really cheesy gee-whiz reason, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I turned thirty this year, maybe it was just that I finally realized how much my job was demanding of me, but I quit that job so I could focus on writing full time, which is absolutely terrifying to someone who has been working since she was seventeen, and thus receiving an income for that whole time, too. Granted, I’ve saved up enough to give me the freedom to be able to pursue writing full-time, but it’s still nerve-wracking. No, the sale of one book isn’t going to get me out of my student loans or pay my rent, but every little bit helps. If that’s not money well spent, I don’t know what is (and, seriously, I might not know what is money well spent, I’m from the Britta Perry school of finance: “I’m just really bad with my money, and that’s why I never have any.”)

4. Be there at the start of a great career. It might be overly optimistic of me, but, one day, I’m going to be big, Or at least marginally notable. Getting in on it now with my first book will give you that privilege of being able to say, “Oh, L.S. Engler? I’ve been reading her for years, ever since she was just a wee little indie author with but one title to her name…”

3. The variety. While most of my work tends to be heavily inspired by fantasy and magical realism (and there’s no shortage of that in this collection), there’s also historical fiction, science fiction, and some contemporary work as well. Some of the stories are light and fun, some of them are dark and intense. There’s some that I’ve been told kids love, some young adult level ones, and some that are definitely for adults. There’s something for everyone, and for any mood.

2. It’s cheap. Seriously, only 99 cents for the Kindle version? Less than 6 bucks for the paperback? That’s about as much as a latte, my friends, and a lot less fattening. 17 stories, 216 pages. That’s an incredible deal, and I did it that way because you’re trying something new and it’s my small way of thanking my readers for giving me a chance.

1. Because it’s good. It can’t possibly be a coincidence that my first two reviews on Amazon both called Bowlful of Bunnies delightful, and then the third review (yes, I only have three so far, but all of them are entirely unsolicited) remarked on how incredibly surprising he found it. I’m not usually one to toot my own horn, and I’ll gladly admit that not all the stories are strong, but some of them are pretty damn incredible, if I do say so myself. I know writing, I understand writing, and I’ve put some of my best techniques to use in these pages. You owe it to yourself to discover these words and enjoy them as they should be enjoyed.

So, what are you waiting for?

RoW80 Update: Whoopsies!

Isn’t it interesting how, sometimes, we can be incredibly successful in so many things throughout the day, but then we manage to fail at one minute detail, and all those successes seem to fade into the background to make way for the pressing mar on our otherwise perfect day? That’s how I’m feeling right now, for the most part, though I do feel I’m combating it fairly well by accepting how ridiculous it is. You see, yesterday, I didn’t make a blog post. Big deal, right, especially when you consider how much I did accomplish yesterday. But it’s still sticking to me, like I can’t quite shake that the day was a bust because of this ONE THING. So, okay, I didn’t make a blog post yesterday, and the world kept moving, and so will I. Acknowledged. Let’s focus on the successes instead.

How fitting that today, Kait even posted this on the RoW80 Facebook page, which starts, “When we fail at something important to us…” Nice timing, right?

Anyway, enough of that. Wednesday goals!

Goal One: Soulless: As of typing this, I only have three pages left to go in typing Soulless, so, by the end of the day, I’ll be starting the editing process, at least a chapter a day, all the way until the end of the round. This is way, way, WAY ahead of schedule, so I’m going to beat this face down like a drag queen’s face. Since it’s so ahead of schedule, I’m thinking of starting my Kickstarter sooner, too, but I still need to give that a little more thought. This book is definitely going to be out by at least August, and that is extremely exciting for me.

Goal Two: Short Stories: Every Sunday, I have to send out a short story, and I’m about three or pages away from finishing up a new one about scary wolf creatures, so I’ll be looking into places to send that. If anyone has some suggestions, please pass them on!

Goal Three: Drawing: Er, okay, so there’s two things I didn’t quite get done. No new drawing today. Whoopsies!

My daily goals have been incredibly good, though. This current (*ahem*) draft of Serpent in a Cage only has two or three more chapters and an epilogue to go. That’s right. I’m almost finished with the current (*cough*) draft of SiaC. Could SiaC be not far behind Soulless? It’s possible. Really possible. And, like I said, I almost have a short story finished, I finished reading a book, plus I’m almost done with another one, so reading has been great, too. I’ve also got two posts half-written for future postings, so that’s good.

Not my best check-in, but still a good check in. How about you guys? How’re things going with you? And don’t forget to check out the other RoWers here!

Happy writing!

A Case of the Mondays.

We’ve all heard it. Mondays suck. The weekend is over. Everyone’s suffering from a case of the Mondays. Well, I’m very pleased to rub it in everyone’s faces right now that, for me, a case of the Mondays is pretty much a case of awesome. Chalk it up as yet another fantastic part of quitting your day job to pursue your passion full time.

I love Mondays. Mondays require a little bit of a break from my usual routine. Mondays are laundry days, which means my “office,” aka my bed, is currently out of commission because I’m cleaning sheets and what have you, so I moved everything out to the living room and do things a little differently. As someone who is very tied to a routine, this is a little exciting, and, though it sometimes makes me feel like I’m not as productive, it’s a good change of pace. It’s the day after the weekend, which means I get the apartment to myself a good deal while the roommate is at work, and it allows me to prepare for the rest of the week and get a new charge on things.

Quite a good difference from dreading Mondays, which were usually filled with a ton of paper work and hours of conference calls at my last job. Granted, it’s not all sunshine and laundry, either. I have to make it to the library to print out my tax forms to send (note: I had my taxes finished in February, but Illinois is really stupid about e-filing sometimes), find a notary public (there’s one at the library, but I think I might miss them today, so that might be another project), email HR at my former place of employment about some 401K issues, I started my period this morning, and the rain we’re having now is threatening to turn into snow (GROSS). There’s some bills that need paying, too. Even with all that, though, it’s Monday, the start of a new week, to be filled with a lot of great work and writing, bringing me closer to publishing my next book and other great projects, and I couldn’t be happier. Plus, I just hit 300 follows on my blog. Case of the Mondays? Yeah, I’ll take it.

RoW80 Update: Where did the time go?

It felt like just yesterday I was sitting here, thinking about my RoW80 goals, musing about how Sunday felt so far away and I had plenty of time to get things done. Then I realized it was Saturday, meaning tomorrow was Sunday, and I had to make sure I had some art to post and (here’s the big one) a story to send out. Thankfully, it has been done and done. Let’s break it down.

Goal 1: Soulless: No problems here. In fact, I’ve been well exceeding my goals for this one, which was have a chapter typed up for each check-in. I’ve been doing a chapter a day; after today, I’ll only have two more chapters (and an epilogue) to go, then it’s time to hit the ground running with editing. I plan on picking apart a chapter a day until the end of the round, and then it should be as ready as it’ll ever be for some beta readers.

Goal 2: Submit Something Every Sunday: Now, here was where I nearly had a panic attack. Figuring I had lots of time, I lost track of time, and when Saturday rolled around and I went to find the hard copy of “Dragon Rising” I had printed out to send to a children’s publishers, I couldn’t find it anywhere. Ensue chaotic tearing through the apartment, because I don’t have anything else ready to send quite yet and I did not want to fail a goal so soon. Luckily, I noticed a pile of stuff that fell off the kitchen table, and, ta-daaaah!, there was “Dragon Rising.” So it was slipped into an envelop, and I stopped by the mailbox and it’s officially on its way to Boyds Mills Press.

…or it will be. As soon as I find my stamps. Ahem.

Goal 3: Drawings:

Technically speaking, this isn’t a new drawing. I actually didn’t do any new scribbling since Wednesday; I’ve been too busy typing, and, once again, I don’t know where all that time went (typing. It went into typing). Still, I don’t think I’ve shown this piece off yet. If it weren’t for the tricky body/arm work that I still struggle with, I think it’s nearly done. This is Awngel Demarkus, who, ironically, was cut out of the most recent draft of Serpent in a Cage, though she makes her appearance in the second book, The Sun-Scorched Lands. I also think she bears a very striking resemblance to Jen the Gelfling.

Actually, Awngel shows up in a lot of my drawings. I love drawing her, because I love playing around with the Japanese inspiration of her style of dress, and I also love that her features lean a little toward the masculine side, and it’s a challenge to get her strong, broad jaw and still make her pretty.

And the other daily goals have been going along nicely, too. I’ve been reading (almost finished with a book, too!), plodding along on Serpent in a Cage (battle scene is slowing me down a little; for someone who puts so many battles in, you’d think I’d be better at writing them), and I’m maybe a third of the way through a short story that’s kind of about werewolves (question mark???). I’ve been commenting on blogs and posting on Twitter more, so everything is a-okay.

Most importantly, I’m really starting to get into the swing of writing full-time. I’m still super-paranoid about not making any money right now, despite having a hefty sum saved up, but I’m noticing the difference, I’m doing what I love, and it’s really quite incredible. I feel entirely awakened and passionate and that is one of the greatest feelings in the world.

How’s everyone else doing? Did Sunday somehow sneak up on you as it did me? Have you checked out many other RoWers yet? You can find them all here! Happy writing!

Wow, I Wrote That?

There’s an interesting thing that happens when you transcribe a (very) rough draft onto your computer: two different sides of your writerly self seem to develop, the good and the bad. There are moments when your fingers fly over the key, bringing up lines that blow you away. Then, there are moments where you have to pause and hesitate, because what you’re reading on the page is so bad that you have to force yourself to repeat it.

Check out this gem from the rough draft of Soulless, currently being transcribed from the hand-written hard copy:

“As impossible,” Veroh murmured bitterly, just loud enough for her companions to hear, “as Paravelle falling?” Her hands were balled tightly at her sides, her jaw set tightly. The Slayer could feel the cold anger and terror practically radiating from her and she found it slightly terrifying.

When I typed that up, I had to laugh. One of my major annoyances in writing is repeated words, and there are two instances of them (or something close) within the same sentences (tightly/tightly, terror/terrifying). UGH. If I allowed myself to publish something like that, I’d volunteer to hang up my writing cap for good. Fortunately, that’s the beauty of a rough draft. It’s rough, it’s raw, it’s not really very good at all. And that’s where the real talent come in. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re a good writer, but more if you’re a good re-writer.

Granted, I’m sure there are some people who can plop down some words straight out of their heads and it’s beautiful and wonderful and needs very little reworking. But those people are extremely rare, and I am not hesitant to admit that I am not one of them. In fact, I revel in what I’m able to produce in the editing stage.

Now, part of this is because when I write things, I tend to write more than what I know I’m going to use, because, in my experience, writing is best as a subtractive art, like carving marble, where you take something away from the larger whole to make it into something more attractive. Of course, writing also has the benefit of being molded or having things added, more like clay, while marble is much less forgiving. It’s like Coco Chanel’s famous quote, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off,” only instead of fashion, it’s words, and it’s usually a lot more than one.

That’s why it’s so important to just keep writing, no matter how good or bad something is. You can always go back and change it. You should go back and change it. But if you don’t at least have the skeleton down (or, in my case, the bloated obese body in need to trimming), then what do you have? Don’t be afraid to write something awful. The majority of Soulless right now is pretty damn embarrassing, but I can guarantee that it’s going to be a lot better once I’m through with it.

Consumed.

I have become consumed by my writing.

For the most part, this is a good thing. An excellent thing. This is the reason why I quit my job, so that I could once again be infused with the passion of creating that I used to have, that has gotten buried under the minutiae of a typical life. My brain (even when under the attacks of a horrible headache as it is right now) is positively reeling with ideas and excitement over practically every single one of the pieces I’ve got in my wheelhouse right now. Nearly every word I read in a book inspires some other words that I hope to write. Even listening to the radio has me once again making imaginary AMVs in my head. I can’t wait to get my day started and get to work on my writing, and, one days like today that start a little late, I feel a little off, because it’s a little harder to focus and a little harder to get into the swing of things since I’m such a morning person.

So what’s the problem?

I feel guilty. Now, my roommate and I, both of us from fairly traditional families, always joke with each other about being sidled with the “Catholic guilt,” despite neither of us being an active part of that culture anymore. We were raised in a way that put an emphasis on hard work and duty, and I realized that this is the longest I’ve been “unemployed” (quotations since I’m still employed, just beholden only to myself) since I was seventeen. Seventeen. I just turned 30, so that’s thirteen years of dedicated work, and, a lot of those times, I was actually holding down two jobs. I’ve worked my butt off for thirteen years, have very little to show for it, and, so now that I’ve decided that it’s time to stop this nonsense and focus on what really makes me happy, I feel guilty. I feel bad because my workday now involved me getting up, having a cup of coffee, showering, and then sitting down with some notebooks, a computer, and a couple of books all day. It’s astonishing to me how I’ll sit there and think, “This is the happiest I think I’ve been in a very, very, very long time,” only to have it piggybacked by, “So I must be doing something wrong.”

Pretty messed up, isn’t it? But at least I can recognize it and understand it, even if I haven’t quite conquered it yet. I don’t think I’ll ever fully shake that guilty feeling until I have the numbers to prove they, hey, I can be successful doing this, and the only problem with that is that those numbers aren’t going to show up until well down the road. I have to be patient, and that’s never been one of my strong points.

I just have to keep at it. I just have to shake those feelings of guilt off and keep going. I have to embrace the happiness, revel in it, and continue to let myself be consumed by my inspiration and my drive to make my life what I want it to be, finally. It has been amazing these last few days to feel the way I’ve been feeling about my writing, and that is okay. Learning to embrace that one fact there is going to be more difficult than any of the writing, the editing, the marketing, the publishing. The biggest obstacle we have is none other than our own selves.

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