Is It Over Yet?

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Whew, we made it! Happy New Year!

First off, you’ll be pleased to know that last year’s baseline of Keep Everyone Alive has been achieved. Huzzah!

The rest of it… eh. Let’s get into that.

Alright, so the usual culprits: Reading Goals, Writing/Editing Goals, and Rejection Goals. These are kind of the big three that I keep coming back to year after year. Let’s look at how I did last year.

Reading Goals Last year, I stuck with twenty-four books, which had felt about right the year before. I also wanted to split it evenly between fiction and nonfiction, without regard for classifications beyond that. Aaaand I failed *sad trombone* or so I thought! Turns out Goodreads keeps better track of these things than I do and I barely squeaked in with twenty four books. Fifteen fiction and nine nonfiction, but you know what? Don’t care. I’ll take the win. (I need it.)

Writing and Editing Goals This year’s goal here was to do one first draft, one editing draft, and at least two new short stories. I thought that I would be able to overshoot this one, but nope. Sure couldn’t. I mostly finished a first draft of the cookbook, and nearly finished a first draft of Anathema, but there was no editing draft this year. I drafted up several short stories, but all basically just drafts of the same one story, and I really haven’t quite gotten it to where it needs to be anyway. So I guess I’ll count that as one short story? Still. It’s a fail.

Rejections Goals This year I figured I’d shoot for twenty four rejections, with the recognition that I might need to scale this back for mental health reason. And it was indeed scaled back. Waaaay back. All the way back to zero. I dropped this goal pretty quickly in the year and I think that was a good call. I managed to get into submissions a little toward the end of the year, but definitely without numbers goals involved. So I have some rejections, but I’m not sure how many and I don’t feel like counting them up. So yeah. Also fail.

So yeah. Rough year. But I’m not beating myself up over it. It was a rough year for pretty much all humans, so I’ll chalk this one up to solidarity and forget it ever happened. Failure means you’re trying, learn from your mistakes, and all that. Done.

This year! I’m not deluding myself into the belief that just because the Gregorian calendar says so, we’re on a clean slate. I don’t really expect things to get back to “normal” any time soon, so my typical goals won’t either. Once again, we’re scaling things back, with the room to grow them later if the year becomes amazing. That said, this year’s goals are…

  1. Reading Goal: Twenty-four books, of any variety, two per month. Twenty-four seems like a good fit, so we’ll keep it on.
  2. Writing and Editing Goals: I’m going to finish a first draft book and the short story from last year before the end of the month. Then I will do one first draft (dispersed between two NaNo’s) and one edit (sprinkled without deadline throughout the rest of the year). I’m not going to fuss about shorts this year.
  3. Submission Goal: I will do twelve submissions, one per month. That is all. Rejection, acceptance, or soul-crushing silence, it all counts toward the goal once I click send.

And that’s it! I’m hoping the year will steady out a bit and we can start the process of recovering. But even if it doesn’t and things stay wonky, I still think I can accomplish these goals. (If the year gets even worse than last year, then I’ll ditch all goals, abandon hope, and admit myself into a probably-haunted asylum hidden in the wilderness.)

How about you guys? Any literary goals for the year (or month, or week), or are we done with that nonsense? Let me know in the comments below! And until next week, happy writing!

Jolabokaflod Book Haul

Three or four years ago, Mrs. Zayon at the kids’ school library introduced me to an absurdly-long-worded holiday tradition, which took me at least two years to be able to consistently pronounce correctly(ish). (Before that it was something along the lines of ‘chocoblockoflokken’.) But since it turns out that ‘Jolabokaflod’ translates into ‘Christmas book flood’, that’s actually only one syllable more than in English, so we’ll call it a wash.

Jolabokaflod is the Icelandic tradition of exchanging books and then reading them quietly on Christmas Eve; the books are usually enjoyed with a cup of hot chocolate as well. What’s not to love? In our family, we have a few tweaks to make it ours. Since not everyone likes drinking chocolate (I haven’t completely ruled out the possibility that they were switched at birth), we give chocolate bars along with the books that they can nibble at their leisure. And the chocolate and books are just given, rather than exchanged; my husband and I buy one book and candy per person and hand them out on Christmas Eve. Reading of said books is not necessarily mandatory, but it hasn’t yet not happened.

So counting on the fact that nobody in my family actually reads my blog, I thought it would be fun to give you a sneak peak of this year’s book haul! Not all of the books have quite come in yet, so there’s still the chance of a swapperoo at the last minute, but this is the plan.

For me! (who doesn’t love an excuse to buy yourself a good book?)

Un Rêve de Renard by Minna Sundberg This is the French edition of one of my favorite webcomics ever, A Redtail’s Dream, which is available in its entirety here. (Minna Sundberg is currently working on another comic called Stand Still, Stay Silent, about a scrappy salvage crew in a post-apocalyptic world. Also available online! She’s a wonder!) A Redtail’s Dream is about a young man and his dog trying to put their town back together when a supernatural and super selfish young fox accidentally tosses it in a dreamscape. Oops! I got the French edition so I can practice my sorry excuse for language skills in a story I love and am already familiar with. We’ll see if it helps!

This one is already in hand, so no backup necessary! Hooray!

For darling spouse!

Skin Game by Jim Butcher My husband already loves this series, but he doesn’t have the last couple, so I’m sure he’ll be happy to get his hands on this one. This is the fifteenth novel in the Dresden Files, a series about Chicago-based wizard Harry Dresden—think noir detective books starring a young Merlin in modern day Chicago. Possibly riding a demon T-rex, who knows.

Also in hand, so no backup necessary, but I have one anyway. Because why would I ever not buy more books?

Calvin et Hobbes, Tome 10 by Bill Watterson Hubby also loves Calvin and Hobbes comics and has most of them, so like my book, he’s already familiar with the stories and this is really just an excuse to practice French and have fun doing it. Great crossover interest for the kids, too.

For eldest child!

Amulet, Tome 1: Le Gardien de la Pierre by Kazu Kibuishi Once again, we have a already known and loved graphic novel, but in the French edition. You know the drill by now. This is the first book in an eight book series about a family that accidently gets sucked into a fantastical alternate dimension. A girl must use her great-grandfather’s amulet to protect her family and the new realm that she’s come to love.

Unfortunately, this one isn’t yet in hand. So just in case it doesn’t show up, I’m planning to blitz down to the Barnes and Nobles to collect our backup title:

Flight of the Dragon Kyn by Susan Fletcher The second book in the Dragon Chronicles series, my oldest is head over heels in love with the first book and is itching to get his hands on this one next. Unfortunately, the library doesn’t have it! Oh no, looks like I’ll have to buy it!

For the redhead!

Soeurs Grémillet, Tome 1: Le Rêve de Sarah by Giovanni Di Gregorio Lots of dream books! This is another graphic novel, and one that none of us have read, so this would take a lot of work to imbibe, but it is relatively short and youngish so hopefully manageable. It’s about three sisters trying to untangle a web of family secrets and is heartwarmy and sad and sweet, perfect for my thoughtful little boy.

This one is unfortunately sold out of where I hoped to get it from, so it isn’t looking likely. So in case that doesn’t pan out, we have a backup planned for this dude, too!

The Wonders of Nature by Ben Hoare This was kind of a no-brainer for my curious kid who wants to save the world. A nonfiction reference book with a hundred cool and beautiful things from the natural world, mixed with legends and history, he’d love this one.

For le petit!

La Boîte à Musique, Tome 1: Bienvenue à Pandorient by Gijé Carbone You got it, another French graphic novel. I’m sensing a theme, are you? In this story a girl gets shrunk down and sucked into her late mother’s magical music box. Crazy!

And… also seemingly unavailable. So our backup for our youngest is:

Dogman: Grime and Punishment by Dav Pilkey *sighs* I have succumbed.

And that is it! I’m still holding out hope for some more of those French graphic novels, but it is really truly not the end of the world if they don’t show before Christmas. I’ll just hide them and then happily tuck them into Easter baskets a few months hence. Either way, I’m looking forward to sharing exciting new books with my loved ones.

How about you readers? Any bookish traditions you adhere to? Let me know in the comments! I’m always looking for more excuses to put more books on our shelves.

And until next week, happy writing (and reading)!

Native American Heritage Month Booklist

Hey, pals! I hope you’re having a good November so far. Also, did you know that November is Native American Heritage Month? True story! My kids love this month and have especially enjoyed the tremendous amount of work their music teacher at school has put into teaching them about the abundance of foods, dances, songs, and stories that are still very much a part of Fairbanks, Alaska. Living on traditional Lower Tanana Athabaskan lands and in a population center that draws Alaska Natives from all over the state, my family appreciates the vitality and beauty of the cultures and the generosity of the Alaska Native people in letting us share in them through countless potlatches, projects, festivals.

Maasee’!

To celebrate Native American Heritage Month, how about a cool new book? I grabbed titles from a variety of tribes, genres, and age categories. I hope you find something you love!

Picture Books

My Heart Fills with Happiness (Monique Gray Smith; Julie Flett) This is a sweet story about recognizing and treasuring the good things in our lives. It’s lyrical and simple and deep, and in our music teacher’s sweet gentle voice, it’s just about perfect.

Fry Bread (Kevin Noble Maillard; Juana Martinez-Neal) I know I’ve mentioned this book on this blog before, but it’s worth mentioning again. This is an awesome book. And one of the many things I love about it is that isn’t filled with stereotypical “Native” characters. It’s a modern, extended family with different builds, skin colors, hair colors, styles, but all connected by blood and culture (and a love of fry bread. Because who doesn’t love fry bread?).

Sweetest Kulu (Celina Kalluk; Alexandria Neonakis) Oh my gosh this book is so beauuuuuutiful! This is a sweet bedtime poem about the gifts the Arctic animals bestow on a newborn baby. It’s full of love of land and preciousness of people and it’s just so gorgeous. Go buy this for your babies, y’all.

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Middle Grade Books

I Can Make This Promise (Christine Day) Okay, disclaimer, I haven’t read this one yet, but I am super excited to. It’s about an adopted Native girl who doesn’t know anything about her heritage and doesn’t feel like she can ask her white family. But when she finds a box of letters and pictures of what looks to be her birth family, she finds more questions than answers, including this: can she trust the adopted family that kept all this a secret from her? I can’t wait to find out!

Indian No More (Charlene Willing McManis) A girl and her family are shocked when their tribe loses its status as Native Americans. Economic need forces them to move away from (what had been) their reservation and, finding herself in a new place, without the social network and traditions that sustained her in childhood, the main character must adapt to life in California among an array of people and cultures, none of which look familiar. This moving story is set in the turbulent years of the Civil Era, and based on actual events in Umpqua history.

YA Books

How I Became A Ghost (Choctaw author) This story is about a Choctaw boy whose family and entire tribe are suddenly driven out by the neighbors they thought they could trust and sent on a grueling journey in winter to their new reservation far away. And, like so many others, the main character doesn’t make the journey alive. But his family and his people still need him and the Choctaw dead are never far. (And there are more books to follow! Huzzah!)

Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (Sherman Alexie) So I actually grew up very close to the reservation this takes place on and we were constantly passing through, so I extra loved this book. And I love how well this expresses the dual lives of people who have to code switch between white culture in public and their family culture at home. With deft and hilarious doodles throughout, we get a front row seat in this book to watch a kid struggling to embrace a brighter future without abandoning his past. And it is difficult.

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Adult Books

Tales of Burning Love (Louise Erdrich) Oh my gosh, this book is hilarious and terrible. The women in these stories are survivors, body and spirit, even when each of them falls for the wrong man (and in this case, the same man, if not all at the same time). I haven’t read any of the other books in the series (set?), but it apparently brings all the characters together from the other books to review their lives with the calamitous ex-husband they share. No happily ever afters here, I’m afraid.

Empire of the Summer Moon (S.C. Gwynne) So, this author isn’t Native, but I still learned a lot from this nonfiction book about American history and the clash of multiple cultures with vastly different traditions and ideals. The book did a good job of emphasizing both the beauty and ugliness of the westward expansion and the groups and individuals involved in it, dismantling and examining the myths we white Americans have about the settling of the country. I’m planning to read Blood and Thunder (Hampton Sides) at some point soon, and it’ll hopefully be just as thought provoking.

Hopefully you’ve found a book here (or on the rest of the vastness of the internet) that you can pick up soon and give a read. Enjoy! And happy Native American Heritage Month!

Trick or Treat

Howdy! Sorry about the lateness of today’s comic. I got wrapped up in my kids school stuff last night (and this morning and this afternoon and this evening–it never ends, really) and completely failed to finish inking the comic on time! So here it is, late but great.

Also, this is your customary warning about next month: it’s NaNo time again! So I’m going to get lazy about the blog, with reblogs, terrible art, the works, starting next week. See you then!

Happy writing!

Midsummer Goal Confessions

Happy summer solstice! Happy Juneteenth! Happy Father’s Day!

The midsummer festival was cancelled this year (and the fair, and Crab Fest, and the Midnight Sun Run, and everything fun *weeps*), but we partied it up at my place by—oh, wait, we didn’t! Because it was so dark and bucketing rain that it couldn’t possibly be solstice and we got confused and didn’t even realize what day it was. Right! Good times.

The estival solstice marks (approximately) halfway through the calendar year, so I figured this might be a good time to do a mid-year check in on how I’m doing on my New Year’s goals, especially as I prepare to hop into another session of Camp NaNo. Things have  n o t  steadied out in all the ways that I had hoped, plus the world in general decided to join in the fun in a multitude of ways too! So doing pathetically easy goals that felt really lame at the time actually turned out to be a great call. Looks like Jill has the power of foresight! Who knew!

I’m actually a little ahead on my twenty-four-books reading goal for the year, but about two-thirds of the books I’ve read have been nonfiction, so I need to pick up the fictional stuff a bit more. And since I did my first book shop raid since before Christmas late last week, I have fresh ammo for that one. Oh, wait, those were all nonfiction that I bought? All of them? …Oh right, because before I made it over to the fiction section, I got gently tossed out of the shop so that other customers could have a turn. But it’s not like I don’t own hundreds upon hundreds of fiction books already. I’ll manage. Somehow. *sinks onto fainting couch*

For my writing and editing goals, I at least have a plan for the rest of the year, with the slight hope that, if ever I should ever ever get my life back again, I might be able to overdo this stuff. I want to complete an editing pass on Quicksilver Queen, my Sherlockian fantasy/steampunk/who knows novel—and I’m actually getting pretty close! And for my first draft of a new novel, I’ll be working on Anathema, a fairy tale retelling, that I anticipate working on for both this session of Camp NaNo and for NaNoWriMo as well. If I can knock out at least one of the short stories by the end of the summer, that gives me plenty of room to actually surpass this goal by the end of the year.

For my submissions goals… well… um. Yeah. I’ll get to those. Really, I will. Twenty-four rejections by year’s end is still attainable. It is. Really. *coughs*

And just in case you care, my nonbookish goals are going pretty well. I’m fudging the specifics a bit, but the overall spirit of the goals is on track. Horray!

So, if I’m being completely honest here, I’m a little disappointed with myself that I haven’t blown these puny goals out of the water by now. But given how the year is proceeding, both personally, nationally, and globally, I’m trying to not be like that. I’ve got a lot going on and I’m still making forward progress on (most of) my goals. This year just may be the year that I learn to extend myself a little grace and chill out when I don’t do everything on the check list. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing either!

Sitting down and writing out all my writing goals for the summer really helped me to assess where I am and where I ought to be. I think it might behoove me to do something similar for my submissions goals. Just leaving it in a lump sum without little mini-deadlines hasn’t been doing me any favors so far this year. I’ll try to pull something in that vein together in the next few days to add to my goals calendar, maybe starting in the weeks following next month’s Camp NaNo frenzy. You know, just to make sure I don’t actually get my desk plant. *pouts*

All that said, this is your official heads up that next month is another NaNo month. One more comic and then we’re into the madness. Lots of bad art and lazy reblogs headed your way soon!

If you have goals that you’re working on this year, now might be a good time to take a look at how far you’ve come and how your habits are feeling. And be kind to yourself! Even if you still haven’t gotten quite as far as you were hoping, don’t give up. There’s still a lot of year left, and there’s no shame in reworking your goals to fit your evolving situation. I mean, back in January, we all thought the Australian wildfires were going to be the big headline of the year. Times, they are a-changin’. Your goals can too.

I’ll see you next week with this month’s comic! Until then, happy writing!

Magical Christmas Art

Hi, pals!

As much as possible, Hubby and I try to do homemade gifts around the holidays. We’ve been blessed with the time and (arguably) skills for such diversions, and I despise shopping, so it makes sense for our family.

This year, I got the idea to make custom Magic: The Gathering cards for the kids. (Sorry for all the lingo I’m about to drop.) I thought it would be fun to make Planeswalker cards of each of the kids, with real flavor text quotes and abilities based on their own strengths and weaknesses. 1000% on board with this, Husband then proceeded to one-up me by drafting up the text for an entire set of Marcotte-themed cards. He had vehicle cards based on our cars and chicken coop (ha!), creature types based on our pets and local wildlife, mana-fixing lands based on our house, school, etc. It was fantastic, but geez, my drawing hand was pretty sore by Christmas time. We worked together on the art and barely finished in time, sleeving the freshly printed cards on Christmas Eve. Whew!

I thought it might be fun to show off the art for the Planeswalkers cards. I certainly don’t expect Wizards of the Coast to come knocking any time soon, but I’m proud of my work. I could have done better, but not on the deadline that I was. (On some of the cards, you can see exactly when I ran out of time to do the backgrounds, haha.)

I love art of any kind, whether that’s sculpting, or drawing, or dancing, or painting, or writing, etc. It all gets pretty mixed up in my head and I find that I’m at my most creative when I have a varied diet of artsy goodness.

Enjoy the art, and until next week, happy writing (and arting)!

Aaron James, Loremaster
William Lee, Grand Arbiter
Daniel Duane, Battle Mage
Renner Paul, Mirth Monger
Robert William, Dadbeast
Jill Nicole, Bone Matriarch

Obligatory 20-20 Vision Joke!

Happy New Year! We survived 2019! Good work, people!

Short post this week, but as I mentioned last week, last year was kind of a rough one with quite a few loose ends still mucking up the works. So I’m going to be scaling back my expectations for myself quite a bit in a vain effort to not go completely crazy. Other than that, this is probably all going to look pretty familiar.

Reading Goals Twenty-four books is probably my upper limit so we’ll stick with the attainable. I still want to split it twelve and twelve between fiction and nonfiction, but I’m going to give myself a pretty open range otherwise.

Writing and Editing Goals One first draft, one editing draft, and at least two new short stories. Again, we’re keeping things practical here. This is an area where I anticipate proooooobably overachieving a little bit (maybe?), but I’m wary of setting my sights any higher than this for now. We’ll see where it goes.

Rejections Goals We’re gonna scale waaaay back here and see if I can hit twenty-four rejections for the year. It’s half of what I set for myself last year, but still nearly double what I actually achieved. (Plus, I’m not sure at this point how much rejection my sad little soul can take.)

I have other personal goals (including talking to other humans and not treating my body like utter garbage) to augment my overall well-being and good-humanness, but this is all my writing stuff.

I spoke last week, and in other times past, about balance—and my lack thereof. I had a lot of trouble this last year with balancing work v. volunteer time, kid v. personal time, etc, and it seemed that the easy answer was always to draw off time that I had previously slated for the things that brought me peace and stability.

I wrote a few months ago about self care, and how I needed to get better at it. And for a while, I really did. I did all the things and I felt better for it. Huzzah!

But then the holidays. It was all an unrelenting marathon from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. Everything went to pieces. Next thing I knew, I was nearly ten pounds lighter, arguing with people about hand towels, and contemplating jumping off bridges.

Clearly this is a problem and steps are being taken.

Including the lightening of the goal load this year! If things straighten out and the stress level comes down, I might adjust my goals and amp up the effort a little bit more. We’ll see. But for now, I think this is more than enough. The base line has become Keep Everyone Alive. Anything more than that is icing.

How about you folks? Any writing resolutions this year? Are you scaling it back, or expanding operations? Let me know in the comments below!

And until next week, happy writing, and happy New Year!

Winding Down and Gearing Up

So, I mentioned it a few times throughout the last several months, but this has been a tough year as far as goal achievement goes. Now’s the moment you’ve been waiting for—just how badly did I flop on my face?

Well… it’s not great. Let’s do the numbers.

Reading Goals I had planned to read twenty-four books: half fiction, half nonfiction; at least six would be about experiences outside my own, and at least three would be Own Voices; and eight fiction from my genre, with four classics and four newbs. I didn’t quite make all that, but I got close-ish. I read twenty-four books, but half of them were not nonfiction. Eight were about experiences outside my own and five of them were Own Voices. Most of them were not from my genre, however. I read no classics, and only two in speculative fiction. Not bad, really, but not quite what I was aiming for.

Writing and Editing Goals I had planned to edit three drafts and write one first draft, as well as an unspecified number of short stories. I actually did… okay? ish? I did two quick and dirty edits on a pair of ugly first drafts (Box of Bones and A Cinder’s Tale) and wrote a first draft of another book in the Star Daughter series, an in-betweener focusing on one of the side characters that was kind of a pain to write. (Good side characters do not necessarily make good main characters.) I wrote a grand total of two short stories over the entire year, and honestly, that was probably pretty good, all things considered.

Rejections Goals Just like last year, I had planned to earn myself forty-eight rejections. Haha, yeah, that did not happen. Not even close. Remember back in August when I only had fifteen rejections? Yeah. It’s still fifteen. I completely checked out on that one.

But I have excuses! So, so many excuses. 😦

Writing Jobs I did quite a bit more freelancing this year than I have in years past, and that meant less time for my own writing. It’s success, in a way, although it doesn’t feed my soul as well as writing things that I love.

Animal Woes Between the staggering number of untimely poultry deaths we had this spring and summer, and the loss of our disgusting but strangely loveable dog Jasper, we had a lot of animal stresses to contend with in the early half of the year.

Multiple Medical Emergencies In addition to my own ongoing chronic health issues, I had family members with their own problems. My eight-year-old was attacked by a dog, and the lacerations became infected, which endangered his eye as well; it was several weeks before I didn’t feel the need to check his temperature and breathing throughout the night and he’ll bear those scars on his face the rest of his life. Stressful. Shortly thereafter, my husband hyperextended his knee and was unable to use his leg regularly for months, during which time he started having heart problems. He’s now seeing a cardiologist in an effort to not die. Also stressful.

Foster Care I mentioned this once before, but somehow in the midst of all our other madness, my family is currently fostering a very good kid dealing with some very heavy things. Just getting him to all his appointments throughout the week means at minimum four hours of phone time and five hours of out-and-about time, and he needs a lot of individual attention just to keep him from going to pieces at the drop of a hat (or a bagel). I knew foster kids took a lot of time/energy/attention, but holy Cheez Whiz, I had no idea.

All in all, it’s been a busy year. The animal woes have ceased (for now) and the medical emergencies have stabilized, but we’re still not sure about my husband’s health, and we’re still fostering. The timelines both of those adventures have big question marks at the end of them. With that in mind, I think that I need to lighten up on myself a bit for next year’s goals, which I will tell you all about next week. (You know, after I figure out what they are.) I have a lot going on, and it is all worthy of my attention.

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I’m a big proponent of writing daily, of having goals, of working hard to keep the writing career moving forward. I am in no way dropping this part of my life. But I cannot sacrifice the well-being of children for this. I can’t sacrifice supporting my husband. I can’t sacrifice my flock of birds to starve out in the cold. And so these last few months have been pretty detrimental to my writing stuff. I did all three sessions of NaNo (November and the two camp sessions) and have kept the blog updated, but have otherwise largely stopped writing work since last spring.

Guys, it is seriously crushing my soul. So I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to figure out a new balance. I’m excited to share my conclusions with you next week. Thanks for sticking with me! Until next week, happy writing, and happy New Year to everyone on the Gregorian calendar! Whee!