Poly-Reader Notes: JUNE 2020

Well, as you could expect, I didn’t get a lot of reading done in May, due to moving/homeschooling/etc. We did finish Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Your Five-Year-Old, which is something, but not much progress made on any other current reads. Oh! I did read all of the upcoming Negative Space: An Anthology of Survival Horror, which was a lot of fun! That’s coming out likely June 19th, 2020, and includes my story, “Rhapsody in Flesh Minor,” a short SF tale about an artistic hermit under attack by a poly-bodied alien. Hopefully as we settle into this new phase of life, I’ll get a bit more time to read (something other than the news).

Currently Reading


The Enchanted Castle – Picked this one up after we finished the fourth Harry Potter book, and I gotta say, as much as I love Nesbit, this…is not quite my favorite. The language, for some reason, is really clumpy to read aloud, unlike her other books, and the story is just…meh… And oh yeah! There’s some blackface in there, which is jarring though not entirely surprising as I’ve run into that issue several times in old children’s books. So THAT involves a conversation with a five-year-old (or, more often, shame-facedly skipping over it because you don’t WANT to have that battle when they’re tired, don’t want to really listen, and will probably only get about 20% of what you’re trying to explain to them). Ideal? No. Not at all. These are important conversations, but gauging how much a young child can understand/appreciate/won’t just confuse them is a complex dance. We’ve had many such conversations before, but I’m still not sure how much he’s really grasped it. And then the book just isn’t that engaging to me, but somehow he’s still intrigued by the magic ring and all that, so we press on for now.

Your Six-Year-Old – About halfway through this one–thank goodness for short books!–and as always, it’s an interesting survey of general six-year-old-ness.I’ve definitely found it helpful at least in identifying behavior that is common and normal at this age which helps calm the panic moments of “I’m a terrible mother! I’ve ruined my child’s life! Why is he so angry half the time then fine the rest of the time?!” Yeah, turns out those mood swings and a tendency to take out his frustrations on me are normal (and perhaps a little extra pronounced because of #pandemic), thank goodness. *phew*

Meander, Spiral, Explode – No progress, but I just need to pull it out of my moving box…

Dad is Fat – Periodically get a second to listen to this, but that’s usually during feedings, which isn’t particularly conducive to jolly laughter…

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman – This is the one book I’ve been reading lately, and I must say, I am loving it. Murakami is always high on my list of favorite authors, but I think all the more so recently in light of the pandemic. I was trying to put my finger on it, when I read an article by Miles Howard in the Boston Globe that kind of touched on it. In Murakami books, there’s no hectic sense of needing to be “productive”. His characters almost always seem to be on a stay-cation or a low key vacation, whiling away the hours without much to do. They make simple meals, drink a few beers, lay on the couch listening to jazz or classical records, or read for a few hours. It’s like they’re all living the pandemic socially-isolated life, where productivity is overrated and survival is good enough. And I absolutely love it. It was soothing before; it’s deeply resonant now.

Wild Swans – I forgot I was reading this book! I should put it where I can see it…

How to Write a Page Turner – I haven’t touched this one in a couple months, which means I really need to just power through it…

A Feast of Sorrows – I’m not that far from the end of this one, I’ve just hit the novelette-length stories at the end, and that’s slowed me down a bit. Just need to power through, because I really love Angela Slatter’s work!

Creativity for Life – Forgot about this one as the whole pandemic got started. Just need to power through…

The Power Broker – Hey, I liked this book BEFORE everybody on TV needed it for their bookshelf-backdrops to make them look smart! I haven’t made much progress but mostly because it’s a huge paperback (~2000 pages, I think) which makes it impossible to hold single-handed, which means I need to hold it on my lap or on an arm-rest to read (thankfully it does lay open), but adds just that little bit of extra challenge that keeps me from making it my go-to read. But I have enjoyed it so far, and look forward to continuing it soon.

Story Trumps Structure – Third entry in my “books about writing” list; this one I haven’t read recently, but I’ve enjoyed it so far as an alternative to the hyper-plotted writing books I’ve been reading in the past year or so.


Notes from a Poly-Reader #9

This month has been, eh, slower than I’d like. While I cleared the requisite five books last month, this month–with combo-punch of wisdom teeth extraction and hubby vaca–has gotten off at a crawl. I’m also running into the inevitable chaos of The Holiday Season, of which I’m hosting not just Thanksgiving but Christmas as well, which is a new experience (though thankfully, both are for small crowds!). I was hoping to keep up my pace of five books finished a month, but now I’m thinking I may just try to wrap up the books I’ve still got on my list (some of which have been there for months and months… (I’M LOOKING AT YOU STYLE…)), and maybe a fiction magazine or two. So the current list is:


 Cricket – Nov/Dec 2016 – This is just on my list because although I haven’t technically started it yet, I fully intend to read this by end of December.

The Strand Magazine – June-Sept 2016 – I’ve finished one story in this, which was a fine story, but haven’t yet made it to the others yet. This may be one I can wrap up this month if I pay attention.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – 128 of some 400-ish? – I don’t have this one on hand while I write this, but I’m fairly certain it’s about 400-ish pages. I’ve made some decent progress on this and am finally down to my last renewal, so I must finish this one by 12/7. Which I fully intend to do. I’m not sure why I’m having such a challenge with this one, because the subject matter does seem interesting. I do wonder if it’s because often I’m reading while also keeping an eye on Bug (or during a movie when he’s happily occupied), which leads to less than 100% attention on a text, and this one really does require a fully-conscious driver behind the wheel. There are just too many names, too many subtle shifts in relationship info, too many details to not be completely devoted to it, and that may be something I can’t bring to the table just now.

The Soul of an Octopus – Same place I’ve been the last few months without having it on hand. I think I’ve pretty much decided to buy this one as my November read, and just try to plow through it by the end of the month, because I really, really loved the audiobook when I started it, and just want to get back to that happy place.

The Year’s Best DF & H 2014 – Same place I was before, and it’s still sitting in the same spot on my side table. BUT! Trying to avoid picking up new books I’m hoping will make room for this one, because I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve read in it so far and am looking forward to more time with it.

Selected Stories of O. Henry – I’ve actually been reading this one (*cough* like, two stories…*cough*), and it’s reminding me why I love O. Henry. Just need to put some attention and love into this one, because once I dig into it, I know it’ll fly.

Style – 

I’ve even added it to my Habit Tracker to try to stay on top of it, but HAS IT HELPED?!

Osama – Okay, okay, I’m at about 69% on this one, so I’m creeeeeeeeeping forward on it again. I’ve just passed a *hint* of a possible breakthrough in the story, so hopefully the pacing will pick up a tiny bit and we’ll finally start to figure out what the hell is going on, which I’m looking forward to, because I think the reveal is going to be worth it. But it’s definitely making me consider how pacing and info-reveal work together to create tension and simultaneously defeat it. With some focus, I may be able to get this one done by the end of the month, but Tinker is taking priority, so this one may slip into Dec.


So there you go! The hopefully complete reading list until January 2017, though I’ll still update at the start of December as to where I’m at with wrapping this list up. If I can finish all of these by 12/31, I’ll have broken my 55 book goal for the year, which will delight the hell out of me! That’s what I want. COME ON! One goal to hit!

Better get back to it…


Day 24-25 — A Three Day Streak & Embracing the Art of Non-Striving

Day 24 — Yesterday was another good day for the List! I got everything done that needed to be addressed by about 3pm, and had a guilt-free relaxing evening. Made some progress on the rewrite, plugged away for another bunch of pages as I retype the draft into the computer. I’ve found that retyping can really help me in the revision process–it’s something I’ve done for “Hope City” and for “Shepherd”–in that it makes me re-evaluate every sentence once by one, and in addition helps me to incorporate changes smoothly without really butchering the flow (which seems to happen when I just insert something that was previously missing).

Also made good reading progress on THE CHILD THIEF by Brom, which has been a delight to read so far. I love his reinterpretation of the character of “The Captain” as an honorable man caught in a very bad situation, spawned by misunderstanding on both sides. His revulsion for what his own men are becoming–while likewise despising the magical world that has trapped them–is just another layer that makes him a riveting character to read about. Love it!

Day 25 — Today has been a training day in the art of non-striving. Last week I had this sharp pain in my left hip which frankly kind of freaked me out (it was really, just, yowch bad). I wasn’t sure what it was, but it was quick and it went away pretty fast, with no real lingering pain save some tight muscles in my back and side. Week proceeds, and it doesn’t come back and there seem to be no other complications. In fact, I’ve been feeling pretty good. This morning? Tried to roll over and YOWCH again. This time, at least, it didn’t surprise me as much so I think I managed to handle the sudden spike of pain better, but still…not so pleasant. I had just read in one of my pregnancy books about stretching ligaments, so decided that since it’s happened twice now, I’d call my doc and see if it was worth going in to have it checked out.

Turns out, these nasty twinges are actually quite normal during the second trimester of pregnancy. It’s called Round Ligament Pain, and it *will* stop happening eventually, once the ligaments around the uterus stretch enough to accommodate the additional weight and strain being put on them. I must have been twisting in just the wrong way this morning and that time last week, and the ligaments just weren’t having it. Closest I can describe it (besides the rubber-band snapping, mentioned in the WebMD link, except imagine that being a really BIG rubber-band and also electrified), it’s like when you’re walking and the tendon on the bottom of your foot suddenly clenches down. It’s not like a Charlie Horse so much as real nasty twang. Quite unpleasant. Thankfully, the nurse assured me that this will pass eventually and is perfectly normal, which does help. At least now if it happens again, I’ll know what the flip it is and not worry that I’ve ruptured something or whatever my occasionally hypochondriac brain can come up with (OH EM GEE, IS IT CANCER?!).

Needless to say, however, my back and left side have been tensed up like crazy since I got up this morning. After a gingerly eating breakfast and taking the dog out, I got my reading done and finished THE CHILD THIEF, and even got a bit of rewriting in there–though not too much. Otherwise, I’ve forgone worrying about not accomplishing things today, and just tried to relax and let the body calm down a bit. It’s been interesting, because it does make me realize how desperately I cling to productivity to measure the worth of my day. If I’m not actively moving towards the completion of some goal I’ve set, I get very antsy and irritable, but most of all, I end up feeling very self-judgmental. All those reedy little Critic thoughts pop into my head and start asking (even politely, helpfully) if maybe I’m just not cut out for this whole writing thing, because obviously, if a bit of a sore back and hip pain can take me out for a whole day, am I really as dedicated as I’d need to be to have any shot of a career doing this? I mean, there are people out there who write 8 hours a day, or a minimum of 4 at least, so really, if even an hour is too much for me some days, should I really be tormenting myself by even trying?

Obviously, I’ll ignore the Critic, because–as I like to remind myself–I’ve heard it all before. But the conflict between cutting myself some slack now and then and that insidious inner Critic is sometimes quite a challenge to navigate. Today, I rested, because I needed it, and because I know that at the start of next week, I’ll get right back up and start working on The List again, because it *works* and I’ve loved using it so far. It’s helped me get so much more done in three days than I feel like I’ve gotten done in months, and I can tell I’m on the right track. But for today, I can put my feet up and take it easy, listen to my body, and not push it. Because pushing it too hard right now could very well make it worse, and I really *don’t* need to strain a ligament just to slow down a bit.


Day 23 — A Two-Day Streak

And…another tentatively successful day! Managed to get my Day’s List finished by around 3pm today, and even spent extra time writing and reading. And I finally put my laundry away that’s been languishing for a week and a half! YAY! Clean living room! It’s a bit astonishing how big the room seems when there’s less junk in it. Hmm…interesting… :)

Super snowy today. I think as of nightfall, we’ve probably accumulated close to ten inches. So glad I didn’t have to go out today other than to walk the dog a bit. Most of that time was just spent trying to keep him from stuffing his face with snow (“Manna from Heaven!” he thinks, and snaps up another bite-ful which will only make him cold and have to pee later. But does he learn? NEVVAR!)

Also, it’s weird seeing my belly push outward of its own volition while the little guy kicks. It’s a liiiiiiittle like the chestburster scene in Alien, only not painful…yet… XD


EDITING PROJECT: Ghosts and legends and Bluebeard, oh my! The cold Maine coastline! Haunted grounds! Ribbons and bitter, ghostly wives! Dueling secrets! True love? Perhaps!

Current Editing Project: Nobody Here But Us Monsters (Revision Edit–2nd Pass)
Accomplished in Edits: Finally got through the first word-cutting pass, which feels great. There’s still so much work to do on this, but at least getting some of the fluff out of the way makes it feel a little like I’m making progress on seeing the issues more clearly. Even started retyping the edited draft (as I often do) into a new document, so will probably continue on that tomorrow, and then hopefully jump into the Scenes and Sequels check to see how the story’s shaped. A few tweaks might make a big difference, but we’ll see! Onwards and upwards!


Day 18 – Moving Ahead

Finally! At last! Woo-hoo! I finally got going on this rewrite that’s been plaguing me this week. I feel like I’ve loosened up the scar tissue in a bum shoulder and am actually getting some rotation again. *Phew!* What a relief. Anyway, I’ll go into that more later.

I’ve recognized one powerful way to know if a book is good (at least for me): possession. I’m not even talking about that “gotta read it” feeling, because I find these days that kind of intensity comes in fits and bursts, and can’t be counted on any more than “inspiration” to get my butt in the chair to write. I’m talking about real, honest-to-goodness possession: the ability of a book’s characters or dialogue or action to physically change the real me in the real world. 

There’s a reason I don’t tend to read in public. I make faces. Weird faces. I scowl. I grimace. I glare. I break into huge goofy smiles. I giggle. I get teary-eyed. It’s odd, I’ve heard, from those who’ve studied me reading without my knowledge. But that’s how I know I’m in a good book: the characters have so deeply connected with my imagination that I’m not me anymore. I’m one of them. I’m feeling their pain, I’m enraged by the injustices done to them, I’m enraptured by their love interest, and I’m despondent when they’re defeated. This spans genres: I can get this way about a classic novel by Edith Wharton or John Galsworthy as equally as I can go head-over-heels for a novel like Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell or Nova or anything with Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. I find myself mouthing or even whispering the pieces of dialogue, because reading them on the page alone isn’t enough involvement. If I could, I would crawl into the pages and be RIGHT THERE, short sword or evening paper in hand. 

It’s a ferocity, this possession, a wild, maniacal connection with a world far beyond my own. It’s not something I feel all that often, if I’m being honest. It’s a rare, precious feeling, one I get just often enough to get that spark, that reminder, that I remember having so often in my childhood when all books were new adventures, and I wasn’t as concerned by writing style and plot problems. It’s the kind of book that reminds me that books are portals to wonderful worlds. It’s the kind of thing that makes me buy my own copy of a book, just because I want to keep that world within reach, even if I have no intention in the near future of re-reading it (though I do re-read from time to time). It’s the kind of book I want to pass on to my future kids. The kind of book I want to share with all my friends. The kind of book I’ll defend to the end of the world to other writers and editors, because it’s just. that. damn. good. 

Most recently, it’s been The Silver Spoon by John Galsworthy (recently finished), and currently The Child Thief by Brom. Are either of these books perfect? No–definitely not. From time to time, I hitch up on technical mechanics that bother me, or scenes that don’t quite do all they could. But the overall feeling is that amazing heart-swelling adoration that just sucks me in and sweeps me away. I love it. And maybe I love it all the more because it’s a bit rare. 


WRITING/EDITING PROJECT: Far-future lifeforms! Pulsars! Sentient robotic trees! Seedling space-travel! Massive radiation poisoning! It’s all here, and being converted to flash fiction from 3,600 words.

Working Title: ”The Miracle of Jane”
Added Words: N/A
Total Words (to date): ~600

Happening Today in the World of Fiction!: A raging pulsar! Poisonous radiation! Tidally locked satellites! A mother’s love and loss! The vast expanse of the universe, and the hope of a thousand happy clones!

Notes: Made good progress today, after a long, long bit of quite painful struggle to get my shoulders back into the story. Got two whole sections tweaked today, which is a nice pick-up, and leaves only three left to go. I’m relieved that a lot of this reworking is turning out to be not *quite* rewriting, but more syphoning off the absolute best details to keep and leaving all the (useful but technically discardable) chaff behind. There’s a bit of rewriting involved, just in transitioning from one thought to the next, but overall, it’s more or less compressing the best of the best sequences into self-contained 200-word segments. It takes a while, and isn’t particularly easy, but I’m finding that I already have a gut-feel for what I desperately want to keep, and that’s helping me zone in on the sentences and images to compile and compress. Tough going, but worth it so far, though tomorrow I’ll be starting to dip into the scenes I really *don’t* want to have to put together. Ugh. Not particularly looking forward to that!


Day 17 – Non-Prose Progress

Today was a good day, if only because I got one major work-related project checked off my to-do list, and that alone feels great. I’ll take the progress, whatever its form! At least this means that starting tomorrow, getting the rewrite of “Miracle of Jane” done by week’s end. If I can wrap up that rewrite, I’ll be on Cloud Nine! 

This week, I’m also reading THE CHILD THIEF by Brom, and so far, I am loving it to death. I’m wary of reading it *right* before bed, but it’s spectacular. I’m so excited about spending more time reading the next couple of days. Electing to tackle one goal at a time has been a smart move this week. I’m going to have to remember this. :)

I’ve also been getting back into journaling before bed about what I’ve been reading every day, which has been great! There’s something about having to put my thoughts about a piece or story that really helps me solidify where my head’s at, rather than just spinning the tires in thought loops. It also helps me keep track of the multitude of books I’m reading at any given time. I’m one of those oddballs that likes to juggle several books at a time. Currently, I’m reading the following six, in no particular order (except THE CHILD THIEF, which is my week’s “to finish” book): 

Q184 by Haruki Murakami (Fiction)
THE CELLO by Elizabeth Cowling (Non-Fiction)
MINDFUL BIRTHING by Nancy Bardacke (Non-Fiction)
REVISING FICTION by David Madden (Non-Fiction, Craft-Related)
THE CHILD THIEF by Brom (Fiction)

I tend to trade each of these other ones off as inspired. THE CELLO is my go-to bedtime book, for when I just need to relax and cool off from the day. I’m reading a *lot* of non-fiction books at the moment. Usually, I’ve got more fiction books on that list (spanning multiple genres), but it’ll continually shift as I finish one and pick up another (or two). Juggling books like this does tend to mean I finish the back-burner books slower than my weekly read, but it satiates my tendency towards distractibility and taste for variety.  

And that’s all for now! Hopefully I’ll have some good writing updates tomorrow. :)


Apex Magazine, Journal, Publishing/Editing


Ok, so that whole updating three times a week thing? Yeeeeah… Anyway! I’ve made it up to Norwescon and will be spending most days from 11AM-2:30PM in the dealers room at the Apex table, so do stop by and pick up a book! (Buying a book is good too, but if you just want to hold one for a few seconds and feel the heft, that’s cool too.) :D

Oh, yeah! I’ve also got copies of DARK FUTURES for sale at the Apex table, so if you want to pick up a copy (and you know you do), me and fellow author Deb Taber will sign it for you! (We promise!)

OH! Also, if you’re so inclined and aren’t swamped with other stuff, come see me read (FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER IN PUBLIC) at 9PM tomorrow night (Friday night) in Cascade 4. As a side note: there will be chocolate. :)