““There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” –Maya Angelou.
I am a woman of a million stories, each of them bearing down on me and trying to latch onto my imagination. I love this about myself; I have never truly known writer’s block and there’s always something I can be working on. The problem tends to be that I want to work on all of them at once, which is pretty much impossible, and that agony that Maya Angelou speaks of in this quote is one very near and dear to me. When I’m unable to write for a period of time for whatever reason, I start to feel it. That’s when I know that writing is truly my calling in life.
There’s a bit of irony in the quote for me, too. While I virtually burst at the seams to tell the stories in my books, I’m a relatively private person in the story of my personal life. I’ll be open if anyone asks, but there’s really not a lot of agony in keeping my own story inside. Some. I’ll admit to some, because sometimes it does weigh on your shoulders and you wish you had someone to share your experiences with, but it’s the stories that I create that I’m the most eager to tell.
What about you, fellow readers? When there’s a story in your head, do you ache to tell it? My worst pains seem to come when I’m too busy, when I have so many obligations I have to keep up, but all I want to do is sit and write, write, write! Do you experience that as well? What’s your greatest creative agony?
“‘One’s own life is to be savored. The lives of others are to be cultivated.’”
“Magic: The Gathering: The Secrets of Magic Anthology” edited by Jess Lebow
The Secrets of Magic Anthology, edited by Jess Lebow, surprisingly revealed very few secrets, and I feel that my latest venture into the Magic: the Gathering world would have been more aptly titled M:tG: Origins. Especially in the first half of the book, most of the stories gathered in this collection seem to be origin stories of many characters previously met in other M:tG books (as well as some I have not yet met, but now feel a little more eager to discover). Overall, I felt this presentation of stories of Dominaria was much weaker than some of the previous ones, though it was certainly not without its own charms.
One of the best stories for me was Scott McGough’s “Family Man,” which set up the Blade Runner-esque “future” Magic world that was my first exposure to this world. He did such a brilliant job of painting this hyper-stylized world that the images he crafted stick with me still, much more so than any other story in the volume. I wanted to like J. Robert King’s “Behold, the Fish!” because it was just chock-full of great introspection on the artist during times of war, but I just couldn’t dig the overall story, even if I loved the theme. Jim Bishop’s “Goblin King” was particularly cool, too, and I loved how I was still captivated by Chris Pramas’s “Burning Vengeance,” even though I could see where it was going from a mile away. Many of the others, though, felt a little lackluster and formulaic, without the Magic I was looking for.
Not your best offering, Magic: the Gathering, and I hope there’s not an offering that’s worse…
Books read: 030/100.
NaNoWriMo word count goal: 50,000
NaNoWriMo word count reached: 22,033
NaNoWriMo grade: F
So, National Novel Writing Month for me this year was not exactly spectacular. I didn’t even reach the halfway point, which is probably one of my worst showings so far. The thing is, though, I’m not too concerned about it because, while I didn’t get much done on this particular project, I still got 22,000 words done and I did not slack off on my other projects. In fact, ironically, I felt I got more writing done on the other projects when I was working on NaNoWriMo this month. Funny how that works out.
I think the fact this post isn’t going up until well after the end of the event is a good indication of how crazy it’s been. And that’s okay. While I don’t intend on continuing my NaNoWriMo piece right now (I’d rather go back to fully concentrating on the other projects), I still have a good chunk of something started, waiting for me to pick it back up when some of these current projects reach completion. It’s always a good thing to have a lot of options, I feel, so NaNo helps me create some cushion to fall back on in the future.
Looking back, I think the real issue with getting further toward the 50k goal was a lack of enthusiasm for the piece itself. Coming up to NaNo, I didn’t know what I wanted to work on, especially since I was working on so many other things, and I just went with a random idea that had popped up in a discussion with my boyfriend. It was a cool (secret project involving injecting our food with chemicals that give some people super powers), but it wasn’t planned out, it wasn’t developed, and, more often than not, I was just rambling on with whatever came to mind that day. There was no real story or endgame, just a concept and that, I feel, was the ultimate reason why it didn’t get very far. I just wasn’t “feeling it.” Towards the end of the month, a plot turn occurred and started to give it some momentum, so I definitely have somewhere to go next time I decided to dig it up.
So, dear readers, how did you fare this November? Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? What were the results? What plot did you concoct and do you intend to keep working on it through December, or is it being shelved for a future project? Let’s hear what you’ve got!
Today, a terrible thing almost happened. I almost quit NaNoWriMo.
With only a week left to go, that’s a pretty extreme decision, and the fact that there’s only one more week left to go is one of the many reasons I decided to keep going. You see, November is a very crazy month for me. Not as crazy as December, but I work retail, so November is all about the prep for December, and then there’s a multitude of other things going on in my life, mostly all of them positive, that have lead me to barely be able to touch my NaNo piece. Only today did I hit 20k. I’m so far behind, and Black Friday is coming up and there’s no way I’ll be able to catch up…
So might as well scrap it, right? Ever since the beginning, I was really doubting my premise for this novel, and, besides, the whole point of NaNo is to just keep writing and finish a damn book, which I’m currently doing with seven other projects. What would it matter if I ditched this one and just focused on the others like I’ve been doing? Writing is still getting done, it’s just not exactly 1667 words per day on this particular project that I don’t really care about. Might as well just call it another failed year and get on with my life.
Insert buzzer sound here. Eeeeehk. Wrong. I really had been ready to abandon this project, but when I settled in to work on something else with resolve, I realized how incredibly stupid it was. Who cares if I only get 20k? By the end of the week, it’ll be 25k at least, half the goal, but still 5k more than what I’d have gotten if I’d given up. And while I’m not feeling the story right now, that’s always something I can go back to when I start finishing up those other projects.
So I am not going to quit after all. I’m going to pump out as much as I can before the 1st of December, and then I will tuck it away for a while and go back to it eventually. You should never quit, and I’m a little surprised that I was going to, especially since, when I sat down and started typing, things took a more interesting turn and I’m actually pleased with how it’s going at the moment. Who’d have thought?
Have you ever had a moment where you wanted to give up, you were about to give up, and, in the last second, decided not to and things turned out for the better? I’d love to hear of other close calls with quitting.
“‘Planeswalkers, tornadoes, plagues,’ counted Jodah, ‘all are natural phenomena. You can no more avoid them, or blame them, than you can blame an avalanche or a storm.’”
You may have noticed in my reviews of the first two books of the Magic: the Gathering Ice Age Cycle that this has been one of my favorite cycles to date. The first one had a good healthy dose of classic fantasy feel to it, while the second one continued the story without the outrageous leaps in timelines that the other cycles so far had taken. The third book, The Shattered Alliance, continued the trend of being pleasantly surprising and entertaining, a perfect way to wrap up this really cool slice of M:tG mythos.
There are several factors that made this book so intriguing. There was a mystery, one of which I accidentally spoiled myself on, though that made me appreciate what was going on in the book from a knowledgeable standpoint. There’s been a drastic change in the world, but still in the same timeline of the characters of the previous books, so we get to see how they cope and change and deal with this shift. The main character of Jodah is a very cool one, too, because, while he has a mortality greater than most people, he is not a planeswalker like so many of the previous main characters. Though he is not a planeswalker, he is able to deal with planeswalkers on their level, which creates for a really interesting dynamic that haven’t seen on this world much.
I remember my boyfriend, who plays the game, telling me that the Ice Age Cycle didn’t fare as well in the world of the card game, which strikes me as particularly sad, since I think it’s one of the better book cycles I’ve encountered so far. The characters were interesting, the world was pretty tight, and just the mere fact that we stuck with the whole cast throughout the three books was a refreshing departure from the formula so far. The third book continues the theme of embracing the events in the context of a historical anomaly, which I love, and so I’d highly recommend this cycle to anyone wishing to get more into the Magic world.
Books read: 029/100.
“Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.” –Pablo Picasso.
Ever notice how you seem to have your best ideas when you’re too busy doing something else? This quote from Pablo Picasso brings that to mind a little, sort of like the quote from Agatha Christie that the “best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” Inspiration always seems to come when you’re actively doing something. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you happen to already be doing the thing that inspires you, leading you to write a great scene or filled up a canvas with a truly brilliant, inspired piece. More often than not, though, if you’re anything like me, inspiration finds you working at something else…Day Job, traffic jam, cleaning the house.
Usually, it’s something that I can’t just stop and seize the inspiration, but, sometimes, it strikes right where it should, when I’m already in the process of creating, and that’s when the truly exciting stuff happens. When do you feel inspiration usually strikes? Are you able to drop everything and pursue the Muse? Or does she take her visits when you’re incapacitated in some way, catching you while you’re working? What’s your best method of making the most of your Muse when she finds you working?
And me, I’m going to get back to working. Wouldn’t want to miss Inspiration when it comes by!
“Jimmy was the type, Mary Helen had been told, who could sell snow to the Eskimos. As a matter of fact, he had started out selling purses. ‘There’s a lot of money in purses,’ Lucy often quipped.”
“The Missing Madonna: A Sister Mary Helen Mystery” by Sister Carol Anne O’Marie
What’s not to love about an old nun solving murder mysteries? Especially when that old nun is accompanied by a collection of other sassy elderly ladies hunting down the truth about their missing friend?
In my second of the Sister Mary Helen Mysteries, my adoration for this series grew even more, though it was definitely far from perfect. In this volume, we discover that our plucky old protagonist from the first book is a member of OWLs, which has nothing to do with Ordinary Wizard Levels and everything to do with Older Women’s League, and one of the members has gone missing. It’s up to Sister Mary Helen, Sister Eileen, and the other lovingly eccentric OWLs to get to the bottom of things, much to the chagrin of the local law authorities who would much prefer the old bats mind their own business, but, without them, they know it would wind up on the cold case floor.
The cast of characters extends to a colorful group of ladies and a few new gents to make this little slice of San Francisco such a pleasure to visit, and while there’s a certain hokey quality to O’Marie’s prose at times, I find myself more often delighted by how tongue-in-cheek and rather self-aware it is. It’s Murder, She Wrote with nuns, and I find myself very eager to say I’d love to see this on a television show. In the meantime, I’ll just be satisfied with the books. Entertaining and somewhat impressive, I don’t recommend letting this Madonna go missing.
Books read: 028/100.
“Literary popularity was never a paramount object with me, even in my youth; and, now that I am old, I am utterly indifferent to it.” -Lydia Maria Child
I cannot honestly say that literary popularity is never a paramount object with me; it’s something I strive for, something I’ve always wanted to cultivate for myself since I was young. Being known as an author that people enjoy reading, creating stories that people get excited about, is a dream of mine. Though I never let it overshadow the fact that nothing is better than the writing itself, I would be lying if I said an eventual popularity and success in the literary world isn’t something I would love to happen and at least a part of why I do what I do.
That’s why I can’t help admire people who make a statement like Lydia Maria Child’s above here and actually mean it. The context of the quote is in a rebuttal letter defending the abolition of slaves, expressing her strong opinion to a Southern audience, so you can just feel that it’s meant with all sincerity. What she is writing about is more important to her than being popular; her message is more important that any social incrimination she may receive. I am not exactly writing anything so incredibly admirable as Child, but I am writing a little bit for an audience. I am writing with an ulterior motive of my own success, rather than completely and selflessly for the words themselves.
I’ve met other authors who are able to write merely for the pleasure of it, to voice certain opinions, or just because they have to, it’s simply a part of their core being. I’m definitely in the latter category; writing is a part of my soul. But if that part of my soul can get a little infamy to go along with it? I’ll definitely take it…
How about you? If you’re being honest, do you care about literary popularity? Or are you more like Child, able to find yourself utterly indifferent?
“When the mother considers her daughter’s future and the daughter sits at her mother’s grave. That is when decisions are reached. That is when history is made.”
“Magic: The Gathering, Ice Age Cycle Book II: The Eternal Ice” by Jeff Grubb
One things about the Ice Age Cycle that immediately made me like it, other than the scholarly epithets beginning each chapter, was the fact that, between Book I and Book II, not a whole lot of time has passed. The people who were around and alive in Book I are still in Book II, which, for most of the Magic: the Gathering cycles, has been pretty darn rare. M:tG deals a lot with planeswalkers, immortal beings that survive through ages, so, usually, there are hundreds, if not thousands of years, spanning between books, so the characters are all new, the world has changed, and the strongest connecting factor in the books is the planeswalker in question.
We follow Jodah from the first book and, at first, it certainly seems as though many years have passed, that Jodah has actually died and was brought back to life, but things are much more complicated than that and he is reunited with his friend Jaya to discover the next threat on Dominaria. Since the last book, devastation has swept the land and it’s up to the two of them to travel the world to discover the best way to heal things and defeat the newest threat to the world, as the ice grows thicker and the days grow darker.
While the characters from the first book continued to the second (though not all of them made it, to be sure), there are also new characters in this book that I really found myself intrigued by. The war-torn world is an interesting one, and you can see the alliances building and the danger growing stronger. It’s also very intriguing to have the world buckled down in a freeze like in this Age. It’s a great intermediate book between the beginning and the end of this cycle, and I’m fairly fond of the story. Sometimes, the main characters of Jodah and Jaya seem to fit the typical heroic niches of their story, but the supporting cast makes up for it in this one.
Books read: 027/100.
Thought Catalog recently posted Brianna Wiest’s 18 Things Everyone Should Start Making Time For Again, some of which I agree with, some of which I could take or leave, and the number one thing being “Write Things By Hand.” Since it was the number one thing and it’s a thing I’ve reveled in doing for years, I thought it was pretty gosh darn interesting.
Granted, Wiest is talking about notes and lists, which I do as well, but I cling to this particular thing because this is also how I write my stories. On occasions (like with NaNoWriMo to help with word counts), I do type my work directly into the computer, but, for the most part, I significantly prefer a good old pen and paper. I’ve had some people boggle at that; I can’t help boggle at the fact that there are people who prefer to write on a machine. There’s something about the connection between the pen and the paper, your hand and your brain, that makes the whole experience so much better for me. You’re not only writing the words, but physically creating them, moving the pen to style and bring those letters into existence from the ether of your imagination. Like painting a picture, only with words. I’m even specific about what types of pens and what types of notebooks I use. It’s all part of the creative process for me, and I think I would have a very hard time of it if I was forced to only type, for whatever reason.
Other points I strongly agree with (mostly because I already do them regularly): Cooking a meal just to do it, books, disconnecting with technology from time to time, traveling by train, and putting personal health and well-being first. What are some of your favorites from the list?