Preparing For the Leap

My writing is intensely personal.  Sometimes I want to explore a theme or idea.  Sometimes I’m writing through an emotion (usually panic).  Sometimes I write for control.  Always, my writing process is 100% about me.  


But my writing is not so self centered.  After the first explosion of words, I read.  If there’s value, I edit and revise the work to best stress what’s good.  For example: I wrote Nimgauana’s Undertaking because I was afraid after the election of Donald Trump.  I kept revising and working on the story because I enjoyed the message of hope in the face of cruelty.  

 Blood Moon also shares post election desperation.  This short work rocks because it features a female character owning her own persona.  In “Blood Moon” I hope others get a taste of the emotional state living next door to darkness and danger may provoke.

Many things inspired Follow Me: Tattered Veils.  It central action comes from a dream.  While ruminating over the dream, thinking of the full possibilities of that dream if played out, I saw how much I missed writing, and I realized how miserable I was in a job stealing over 60 hours a week from me.  I wrote Follow Me to take back my identity and to find my joy again.  Imagine my surprise when I shared parts of it and realized I wasn’t the only one who thought it was good.  My book could be so much more than my escape and that made me want things for it.  I think loving something like this and wanting others to see what I love in it, has to be deeply personal.


But Follow Me: Tattered Veils is about to live in two worlds.  On one side lie my hours of work, my emotions, my intentions, my joy and heartache.  On the other side, are the readers and they won’t have any relation to me or my book except for a cover (someone else designs) and a back of the book description.  


It’s like my book is all grown up and going on blind dates. 


This isn’t a plea for readers to be kind to my book.  Part of what’s exciting about releasing a published work is hearing feedback on something that’s lived alone in my head for so long.  It’s more an essay on how a book can mean something specific to its authorand readers can and should get something different when they read it.  To me, this is a cool phenomenon I don’t think we explore enough.  


Both readers and writers shut down the conversation by arguing who has the “right” to assign meaning to a work. Readers will tell a writer “if you meant X you should have been more clear.” and writers retort with “I wrote the thing, I know it’s meaning.”


Let’s end the debate on who has a right to interpret the book.  We’re both correct.  


As the writer, I created Follow Me: Tattered Veils and I could do a chapter by chapter review of what each line means and why it’s there.  I could tell you about all the other options I considered and why I discarded them.  While those kinds of conversations are interesting, they are not the definitive end all be all to what Follow Me: Tattered Veils could mean.  

How do I know this? 

As a reader, I’ve created essays on meanings of other people’s books.  I’ve gone chapter by chapter, line by line sighting how they built point x or built in a secondary plot y.  People bring their own viewpoint and life experience with them to any piece of fiction.  This combined with the words an author provided makes its own truth.  


And I can’t wait for Follow Me: Tattered Veils to go on that second journey.  We’ve traveled together for so long, but our paths are about to diverge.  While I work on my next story, I’ll look at a parallel road and see “Follow Me: Tattered Veils” traveling with new companions, and experiencing unknown response.  It creates a butterfly feeling in me that’s not quite joy or fear.  


What do you think?  Does an author release their “right” to the end all be all interpretation when they release their work?  How you you see reader feedback, is it meant for reader and writer to build something together, is it meant only for other readers, is it something else all together? Published authors/creators: what is your relationship with your readers/viewers? Does their interpretation of you work affect what you do next or how you approach other projects? Does it change how you feel about your own work?

 Do your feelings on the viewer’s rights/abilities to interpret creative work change based on the media (painting, sculpture, movie)?  Does who the person is affect their right to create meaning from a story?

Writing Prompts for Fors Fortuna

Queen of Hearts public domain via publicdomainvectors.org

Introduction: 


This series of posts has simple goals: provide some basic history on a holiday/event from the past and use that history to spring board potential writing prompts and themes. For some, the history on its own will be enough to come up with some story ideas.  For others, I offered some starting points with themes, scenes, and possibilities I see for the holiday at hand.  


Happy writing and please share a snippet or link to your inspired works ^_^ I’d love to read them.

History: 

Fortuna is the Roman Goddess of fortune (both good and ill).  Her name translates to “she who brings.”  The common people and the slaves found her cult appealing because she offered an escape from poverty.  They offered small works of bronze to her in hopes she would “change their fate.”  Her popularity extended to the Middle Ages where Saint Augustine wrote “How, therefore, is she good, who without discernment comes to bother the good and to the bad?…It profits one nothing to worship her if she is truly fortune…let the bad worship her…this supposed deity.” (except from City of God).  

Her popularity preserved her image.  They depict her with a ship’s rudder, a ball or Rota Fortunae (wheel of fate) and a cornucopia.  In ancient times they sometimes represented her as veiled or blindfolded, but these associations where handed over to Justice in the modern era.

Very little lore or worship knowledge remains of Fortuna’s holidays.  I suspect that the popularity of the commoners, that kept her imagery and idea in circulation long after the fall of Roman aristocracy but we’ve lost her rituals and lore somewhere in their oral traditions. 

Fortuna’s rein included Roman leaders.  One of her aspects was the Fortunat Publica (the official good luck of the Roman People).  On April 5th this term meant “everyman’s luck” and how each man has his own access to his fate (male idea).  But it had reaching impact on Roman leaders.  Fortuna in this guise became chance events tied to the virtus (strength of character), so public officials who lacked this virtue invited ill fortune on themselves and all of Rome.  

On June 24th (or perhaps Midsummer), a celebration on the anniversary of her temples’ completion took place.  Followers would float downstream on decorated boats and barges (or walk along the river) from the city to Fortuna’s temple.  When at the temple they would drink, play games of chance and place bets.  Scholars believe this was a holiday filled with mirth and joy.  

As the day closed, followers would row back home drunk and adorned in garlands.  Some speculate that Fors Fortuna was sacred to gardeners and florists.  They would go into market on this day with songs and prayers for Fors Fortuna and those celebrating her day would buy the flowers to decorate themselves, the boats, and her temple.  Minimally, it seems a lucrative time for gardeners and florists.  

Sources: 

Wikipedia org

Britanica.com

thaliatook.com

latinata.com

Writing Prompts

1. We all have lucky habits or superstions that bring good/bad luck to us.  Write a story that incorporates these newer superstions with the older practices of Fortuna.  

2. Luck is an ambiguous term.  Some people believe it’s the capricious nature of life and others believe one “makes their own luck”.  Which way do your characters lean?  Write an event that changes their minds.  

3. What would a character look like with maxed out luck stats?  Would that mean they had good or bad luck?  Would their life be full of extremes?  Would they have a relationship with Fortuna or another luck goddess?  Write an origin.  

4. Are casinos and gambling spaces modern shrines to Fortuna?  Would a day playing poker or roulette mirror the joviality said to happen on the 24th?  And if a casino is Fortuna’s temple and “the house always wins” what does this say about Fortuna and her relationship to her worshipers? 

5. How would Fortuna judge a modern leader’s virtus?  Or any leader’s virtus throughout history?  Does she have a hand in the rise and fall of empires or has she slacked on her duties? 

6.Fortuna’s name means “she who brings,” it’s an evocative start to any story.  What has she brought you or your character?

7. St Augustine makes an interesting implication in his writing regarding Fortuna.  He implies to be a god one must be “good” or at least to be a god worthy of worship one must be “good”.  But Fortuna, like God is capable of good and ill.  She has a code where the ill she offers men comes from their own weakness, much like the God Augustine worships.  Explore this dissonance further in a fictional story.  

8.  In her time, Fortuna was a lesser known, less powerful goddess, yet her name recognition today is stronger than many of the more common gods of the time. “Wheel of fate” is still a common expression.  What themes transcend time and space?  Write a story set in the future, the present, or the past and connect it to far-flung time relatives.  OR connect a theme across species.

9. What happened at the temple on June 24th?  Write “A Day in the Life” story regarding the celebration or worship. 

10. Did Fortuna ever change someone’s fate?  Write a “rags to riches “story.

Enjoy these prompts and looking for more try my post with prompts for Midsummer or Matralia

Churn and Burn

Prismatic gears from Public Domain

My fellow writer Zach Stanfield wrote “Addicted to Torment” where he discusses his struggles to produce a cohesive story.  It’s an interesting glimpse into one writer’s journey and I recommend looking at his personal struggle to get words on the page.  

Like him, I plan to confess my “writer’s flaw”.  

I am the Johnny-types-a-lot of our NAWG group.  If you measure success in words on a page alone, I am the rapid pace rabbit you’ll hound.  I churn and burn words like a binge drinker pounds back shots.  And like all those party people, I care about the quality of the words on the page about as much as they care about the brand of vodka in their drinks.  

So when we come to writers’ group and go around the circle asking “have you written anything?”  

I can say “Yeah I sat down for three hours and pushed out five thousand words, I’m a thousand words away from resolution.” or “I sat down this weekend and wrote ten thousand new words on my novel.”

The looks I get—the surprise alone—I feel like I will turn into Kanye West.  “I am a creative genius and there is no other way to word it.” 


Lol.  I do not want to debate Kanye West’s claim, but I will say my claim to creative genius carries minimal weight.  More words means I have more editing to do than my peers do.  Over half of what I write is scrapped in the second draft. 


Take my efforts in Follow Me: Tattered Veils.  I wrote an 80,000 word first draft.  The second draft is 73,000 words and about half of those words are brand new words I designed for the second draft.  Of  the original 80,000 words, readers may see what 30,000 of them (and those also needed intense edits)?  


This doesn’t count story boarding or deleted scenes. To get that 80,000 word first draft, I have about 30,000 words in scenes no one but me ever read.  I needed to write those scenes, but as the manuscript evolved, I realized they couldn’t serve the story.


I can hear some people saying “You still came out of that with a novel.”  and yes, that’s true, but I would not say the volume of words I string together are why I have the novel.  My determination, my grit, my commitment.  These are things you need to have a complete manuscript.  A willingness to try something, anything, if the manuscript isn’t working.  Looking at elements you thought your manuscript would center on and culling them when it turns out those beliefs are wrong.  You need to endure painful change for the sake of creating the best work you can.  Mass producing a million words to a page will not bring a writer closer to the glorified novel.  


I’ll go further.  Writing in quantity forces me to spend a significant portion of time reading and editing my work.  This is time I could have written other things.  Most of my writers’ group has published a short story and I have not.  One reason for this is my obsession with my novel and my inability to write the right words the first time.  Maybe if I stopped and thought more, looked at the cursor blinking on the page as Zach does, I would realize on the first draft “my novel isn‘t going in this direction and these scenes are superfluous.”  


What I’m trying to get at: all writing styles have pros and cons. Inundating myself and others with heaps of words may look impressive, but it’s more bluster than you may imagine.  


Talk to me.  What’s your writing style?  What are your writing goals?  Give me a writing confession! I would love to hear more about others’ process or their current manuscript goals.

Writing Prompts for Matralia

Vector illustration public domain licence. Found at publicdomainvectors.org

Introduction: 


This series of posts has simple goals: provide some basic history on a holiday/event from the past and use that history to spring board potential writing prompts and themes. For some, the history on its own will be enough to come up with some story ideas.  For others, I offered some starting points with themes, scenes, and possibilities I see for the holiday at hand.  


Happy writing and please share a snippet or link to your inspired works ^_^ I’d love to read them.

History

The ancient Roman festival of Matralia takes place on June 11th.  


Matralia is a lesser-known holiday honoring Mater Matuta.  Free women who were single or in their first marriage would bring offerings of cakes or earthen cookware to the temple.  Their sisters’ children sometimes accompanied them (but never their own). 


While at the temple, the matron may lure a slave in, whom she would abuse (slap and drive from the temple), then she would place a garland around Mater Matuta’s statue and all the women there would pray for the safety and health of their sisters’ children.  

 
Mater Matuta is an indigenous Latin goddess the Romans considered like or the same as Aurora (Goddess of the Dawn) and/or Eos (Greek Titaness of Dawn).  Over time Mater Matuta also became associated sea harbors and ports.  She was sometimes confused with Leucothea (Greek sea goddess).  Considering both Aurora and Eos rise from Oceanus each morning to herald the coming day, it is easy to see how she could become connected to the watery realm. 


Sources:

Wikipedia

Britanica

Prompts: 
-Mater Matuta’s celebration centers on asking for favors for others, but the ritual includes cruelty to the most vulnerable in Roman society, what does this imply?  


-Write a slave’s perspective on this celebration.  

Do they have a supernatural experience or is it more cruelty they endure?  

Does this day stand apart from other treatments they’ve received or is this another day in their life?


-Scene: Two sisters who’ve always gone together to Mater Matuta’s temple and brought each other’s children, this past year one of the sister’s husband died in battle and she remarried.  The other sister must go alone to the temple, leave her children behind, and take her sister’s children. 

Write either sister’s perspectiveWrite from the perspective of one child.

Write from the perspective of one husband.

Write from the perspective of Mater Matuta, why the one sister is lost to her now and how the other sister’s children suffer for it.

 
-Explore Mater Matuta’s motivation for calling on only single or first marriage women to worshipIs this a purity issue?

Is Mater Matuta looking out for the women and killing husbands (perhaps at sea) who mistreat their wives but she can only intervene once.

Both Aurora and Eos are known for sexual liaisons with mortals, maybe they use these festivals as an opportunity to scout out new bed mates? 


-Why does Mater Matuta take in her sister’s children?  Is she a patron for the motherless?

 
-Does Mater Matuta answer all the women asking after their sisters’ children? What does she want for the children she blesses?  


-When does Mater Matuta hear these prayers or bless these children?  What is the festival like from her perspective?


-Do we have a similar custom in today’s society?  While many values family ties, is there a day where you seek only your niece or nephew’s wellbeing and what does that day look like?  What would the supernatural force look like?


-If people were to celebrate Matralia today, what is the desired outcome and what are the rules you’d follow?  

Do your characters omit cruelty to slaves or substitute it?

Do your characters maintain a temple or do they create a makeshift one? 

Do your characters keep the old rules and only allow single women or women in their first marriage to participate?

Do it involve any of the traditional elements of the day or do they transform the practice?

When you Love Too Much

by jxj! the total bastard is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0  sourced from CreativeCommons.org

About a month ago, a man robbed my friend and I.  He wanted our valuables, the only problem was, among my valuables was my laptop with draft components of my manuscript Follow Me: Tattered Veils.  


Jessica, a man had a gun in your face!  He was close enough you could have reached out and touched the blasted thing.   What the fuck is wrong with you that your first thought isn’t for your life, or your friend, it’s for your book,” I imagine some of you may be saying. 


Valid point.  Once I confirmed my friend was unharmed, it was the first thing I thought too.


All my training failed me.  As a kid, my parents drilled me to throw my purse at a robber, run, and scream “Fire.”  As a college student my “Self Defense for Women” course STILL recommended the “throw your purse” step, but they followed it up with a karate chop to the neck.


I never wondered “what would I do?”  I knew I would throw my purse and run.  It’s a joke among my friends, how they would defend me and I’ve always said:

“No I’m running.”

 
“You‘d abandon me,” they tease.


“No, you‘re welcome to run with me.”


Que laughter, Jess is a self-proclaimed coward and not in the least ashamed.


It was a shock to learn that the running part held true, but my primitive brain would not relinquish my manuscript.


What does that mean? Who cares about anything that’s not alive so much they will risk their own safety for it?


I guess I have to add vanity to my list of sins.  I love my book.  I’ve said: “I love it more than life, more than loved ones, more than breathing.”  and believed it was hyperbole, but now I have to face whether this is a core truth about me.  Am I so conceited that what I create means more than life?  What responsibilities do I hold if this is true?  


First, I can’t keep drafts without back ups anymore.  If I can’t trust myself to be sane, then I’ll photograph my handwritten notes, same my written copies to the cloud.  Whatever it takes to secure both my manuscript and my friends.


Second, my laptop will have to stay home or I will review my entrance and exit into public space with it.  Yes, cloud backups are fine, but my laptop is an expensive key piece of equipment in my pursuit of publication.  


Third, can I learn to care less?  I know I can’t control how my brain responds to an emergency.  But the correct answer to “Give me all your money!” is NOT “No, and I will leave now.”  That’s not possible. 


The experience leaves me wondering: what does it mean to love writing or my finished writing more than life?  Do I love it too much?  Is there some program for people who are too passionate about their work I should enter?

So talk to me.  Have you been in a life-threatening situation?  How did you react?  Did your reaction times surprise you?  What did you do after?  Do you ever wonder if you love your creative work too much?  Do you consider it a vanity or conceit to hold the work in such high esteem?  What steps do you take to protect your work?

#BeBold Sharing Critical Content

image from openclipart.org from J4p4n

“I think it would be therapeutic for me to write a post for our blog where I tear the shit out of movie x.” Zach said.  

I smiled and nodded, happy he planned to contribute to our NAWG blog.  

“But would a negative post benefit our blog in the long run?”  I wondered.  

Another group member and I resolved we would keep our blog a positive constructive place.  Then again, Zach is our resident curmudgeon, if anyone can get away with a grouchy post, it’s him.

As I‘ve been viewing more content, I keep coming back to wondering if critical content is part of a healthy blogging habit.  And if “negative” or “rant” content has a place, what’s the correct ratio to add it into a blog?  Should ever blog or blogger share all opinions whether negative or positive?  Am I as positive as. I portray, or is that a persona shown for approval?   Even in some of my perky posts, on the edges lingers this acknowledgement of themes I don’t like.  

Today there will be no dodging the question.  Should we blog critical, negative, snarky, or tea spilling posts?

The Concerns

-Being seen as petty/mean/opinionated/loud/aggressive/bossy

-Being seen as a person who views writing as a competition and your review as a way to tear down the competition

-Risk of hurting the feelings of another human being

-Burning through the community’s goodwill for you

-Bringing you own work forward for scrutiny as you’ve scrutinized others

-Making an error or oversight in your analysis could cause you being on the end of critical content.  Or you may see your own oversight, go to adjust your post and learn you’ve created an audience not open to evolving opinions.

-Negative attention is still attention and if a book/technique is damaging, you may choose not to mention them at all so you don’t accidentally drive sales to something you don’t support

-Closing venues for conversation and becoming a place to come bash an idea

-Crossing the line and getting personal in an attack (and this is NEVER) good.  

-Depending on what you don’t like, risking the chance you’ll stand in the company of other opinions you find offensive or wrong

The Pros

-People love drama/controversy.  There is a reason videos and posts labeled “spilling the tea” or “throwing shade” rank so high and it’s because everyone loves to watch a fight.  

-As Zach said, rants are therapeutic

-Sometimes critical or negative reviews are a person’s truth and I believe authenticity is more important than being nice. 

-Others can misinterpret silence as approval and I don’t want to support something I didn’t like.

-Bringing critical opinions forward presents a whole and balanced person.  Not someone full of eternal praise

-A negative element of an otherwise good work should be called out.  A person can love something that isn’t perfect and acknowledging flaws is part of a full discussion

-The things I didn’t like may help a crowd of people who like those elements find a new favorite.  What I didn’t like might be something you love about a book

The Outcome 

This conversation is more personal than the other #bebold articles because I present as a positive person.  Get to know me better and I’ll spin out into a rant on X or Y and I like to think it’s funny.  People laugh, whether from the shock of me going from sunshine to dark in a blink of an eye or because I have a strong delivery, is hard to tell.  The thing is, I like to read a room before sharing, and you can’t read a room in the internet.

Unlike the “silence is approval school” I’m from the “if you have nothingnice to say, then say nothing” school.  I’m sensitive to even small gestures of disapproval in others and worry over their reactions if they find out I don’t enjoy their favorite show.  In the past, I’ve compromised under the guise of kindness.  I post all reviews to Goodreads but don’t make blogs from bad books.  Recently I’d considered writing a bottom 5 books of 2018 and dismissed the idea.  Three of the books were from a single author and it struck me as excessively mean spirited to single out an author this way.  

 I’m dipping my toes into critical reviews while blogging.  First, I wrote a post on why I stopped reading Daily Science Fiction.  It’s not mean, but it expresses that I didn’t like the site or most of the stories on offer.  My 2018 book year in review shares both positive and negative thoughts on books.  Even then, most of my critical feedback revolves around non-fiction books that present bad/dangerous science.  I feel like giving them lower scores is a public service.  Do your research world!

  I wrote a critical review on a writing class I took.  There I spoke out because I’d paid money for the class.  If it had been free, there would be no post. The posts gathered the low end of average views.  

Currently I’m brainstorming a series of posts called “Writing Cliches” where I discuss overused techniques in genres and why they bother me/what else you can do.  I think it will be snarky fun with a goal of helping writers avoid played out scenarios and offering other ways to move the story. 

Should you write a critical post?  I don’t really know.  

  I love reading critical posts where the writer explores what worked, where they suggest how idea x could come across better, or where they pitch a “better” story.  Occasionally, I even enjoy a certain level of mean snark.  That said, I’m not comfortable with the format.  Even as I enjoy consuming some of this style of content, I prefer to create the helpful, glass half full kinds of posts.  More than the other posts discussed in this #BeBold series, I suggest moderation.  A few critical posts go a long way after all.  

Looking for more like this? Try the other #BeBold posts “Posting Metrics” and “Sharing Fiction for Free

New Year’s Resolutions: Would a Writers’ Group Help?

 

image from openclipart.org by j4p4n

Welcome to January’s resolution time!  Two weeks is enough time to reflect on 2018 and decide what you might want in 2019 right?  That’s right, I’m talking writers’ goals!  It’s that fun and dreaded time to commit to completing story X, writing Y amount of words a day, seeking and learning from critical feedback, improving weakness C in your writing, ect.  What’s your writing resolution(s)?


It’s been a year since the North Alabama Writers’ Group posted in this blog, and I opened our first post with New Year’s Resolutions.  It seems fitting that 365 days later, I offer a reminder that a writers’s group can help you reach those goals.  

Why Join a Writers’ Group?  


People join writing groups, classes, and programs for many reasons.  I think the two primary reasons to join/meet is:


-Improve writing.  We are looking for someone to suggest skills and styles we don‘t have.  We may need proofreading.  We are looking for others to help us past writer’s block.  Or maybe we just need another person to tell us we’ve “jumped the shark” or lost reader’s interest. 

 
-Motivate us to keep writing.  A constant struggle whether a hobby or full-time is to keep writing and maintain commitment to the one project.  We may love that work as we’ve loved nothing else in our lives, but it is difficult to keep working on it and striving for completion.  Whether you struggle in the first draft or the second, there is a point where you think “I can‘t do this, no one will see what I’ve done as I do and that‘s the best gift I could give my creation”.  A group either through feedback or encouragement helps us get through this struggle of sorrow and ambivalence.  They help push us.  


A third, perhaps lesser reason to join a writers’ group is to become part of a community.  Writing is a lonely journey.  It’s nice to get together and speak to others who have the same struggles and maybe the same thought process.  

Are There Different Writers’ Groups?


Yes.  Some exist to work together on group projects.  Other’s give out weekly assignments, like a class, and they ask everyone to produce something from a related theme.  Still others are more open and each writer pursues their own project, sharing as they are ready.  In some writing groups, no one shares any work at all, they gather to commiserate over the process and perhaps hold brainstorm sessions for each other.

Can one writers’ group accommodate all these different goals?   

Maybe?  In the North Alabama Writers’ Group we struggle to balance differing expectations of our growing group.  It’s hard because all writers go through periods of low creativity.  Writers also have varying temperaments and accommodating everyone at one meeting can be a challenge.  

To help with some conflicting desires, sometimes it’s good if a larger group breaks out into sub groups.  We do this at meetings when those who would like to take part in our blitz round robin break off from other writers who would prefer to discuss their own ongoing works.  
We always allow time for those who want to read their recent works aloud to share, but we force no one to read out loud.  

We have multiple online spaces.  Google document sharing happens between writers looking for more structured commentary.  This blog is a space for general writing conversations and topics we may not always explore in the face-to-face meetings.  Our Facebook group allows for link sharing in a less formal format.  

That’s great, but this post should tell me how a Writers’ Group helps me reach my goals!  

A good writers group wants to support each of their writers goals and ambitions whether it’s a hobby or it’s something the person is seeking to pursue professionally.  While balancing different levels of expectation and production is difficult, it’s important you take the time to get to know the people in a group and see if what they are offering will help you in your process.

Do you leave filled with creative energy and the desire to write?  Does the group’s feedback present new avenues for you in your story or future re-writes?  Are you able to co-author works with your group or perform a writing exercise at your meeting that helps get your process started?  Does the group link you out to other writers, editors and publishers and can you grow through networking and differing perspectives?


I can‘t promise that all writers’ groups will help a writer.  And I won’t promise that the North Alabama Writers’ Group is a good fit for everyone, but I would encourage all writers to find a group/person that supports and drives them forward.  You may have to create the content in solitude, but you don’t have to travel through the whole journey alone.

Looking for more like this? Check out: “Stuff I Love About Writers’ Group: Pitch Sessions” or our About North Alabama Writers’ Group page.

My 5 Favorite Reads of 2018

2018 was a wonderful reading year. I beat my goal of 36 books by about 10. 17 of these books were nonfiction and not eligible to make this list. Out of 30 books, these are the top five fiction reads. Starting from least favorite to most treasured read.  For an in-depth look at my 2018 reading check out Books Read in 2018.

image from Goodreads.com

5. Traitorborn–  Has everything I like about “Hunger Games” in it but tells the story in a fresh, compelling way.  My favorite aspect of this series is that there are not “good” characters (at least from my perspective).  Most of the characters, our hero included, have a piece of the solution for their dystopian society and they are also holding on to part of the problem.  It’s refreshing to have a complex group of characters I can empathize with some times and despise other times.  Where so much conversations happening around me are polarizing, it’s nice to read a book that reaches for full open conversation and understanding, without surrendering one’s agency.   For more on this series check out my Kindle Unlimited post.

Image from Goodreads.com


4. Dragon Ridden– Don’t let the cover fool you, this was just fun and well written.  There isn’t any messaging in it, it’s just an immersive fantasy read and sometimes that’s enough.  Pure escapism, a well-developed fantasy world distinct from earth, and a cast of well-rounded characters.  It’s enough. For more on this series check out my Kindle Unlimited post.

image from Goodreads.com


3. End of Days– Dark, thoughtful work with a great balance of action and tense “waiting”.  Left me wondering about the conclusion all the way to the end and it leaves just the right amount open ambiguity to make me think about it for days afterward but still find satisfaction with the close given to us.  I’m sorry “Traitorborn” is on its second book while “End of Days” is a complete series because I think if I could compare the conclusions of both books, it may flip their positions on this list.  Still both books are wonderful.  Sold to young adults but they hold positives for all age groups.  

image from Goodreads.com


2. Card of Chaos–  Complex, excellent execution, everything I look for in the retelling of classic fairytale/folklore.  It begins with humor and ends in affection.  I like how the author draws the reader in and connects us with this strange if familiar world.  Loved the beautiful scenes, the deep philosophy and the language.  It may be my second favorite book of the year, but it’s my first recommendation to others.

image from Goodreads.com


1. The Book of Etta– Enjoyed every second.  I know this is a polarizing book because it explores gender roles, what gender is, and whether sex and gender can be two separate things.  The beauty of this book: it can explore the internal struggle being genderqueer/trans/gay/bi ect  often brings and ignore all the political bullshit that’s happening in our own world.  Here we can enjoy a human vs self moment.  We can see all the factors in the book which exacerbate the struggle and rail against them without hating our own culture.  Sometimes the call to action in a book can cut short a person’s thoughtful introspection, but The Book of Etta lacks this baggage and I’m beyond grateful.  Where the first book took a premise, I didn’t feel was true but expounded on it in a way that pushed me to read on, Etta felt right from the first words.  I knew Etta, I’d been Etta, and I sometimes still am Etta.  I knew Flora and have been her too.  Heck, there was a part of me that felt like I’d been Alma before and that I knew her.  The beauty of this book is that it allowed me to feel and it allowed me to celebrate so many aspects of who I am as a person.  Everyone will have a different time reading it.  But, it’s the jewel of my 2018 reading list.  


Happy New Year!  What were your five favorite reads of 2018?  Was your reading list similar?  Do you have any recommendations for me?  What are your reading goals for 2019?   

January Open Calls for Submission Round Up

Jan 13th 

Grump Old Gods: 3,000-4,000 words “We’re looking for stories about mythical Gods who are waning, reborn, retired, or otherwise AWOL from their assigned post.”  speculative fiction pay is royalties

Jan 15th 

Electric Spec: 250 and 7000 words “speculative fiction elements. We prefer science fiction, fantasy, and the macabre, but we’re willing to push the limits of traditional forms of these genres” pay is $20

Would But Time Wait (New England Anthology): 4,000-6,000 words “Ulthar Press is seeking original, unpublished short stories for an anthology of folk horror with New England ties, scheduled for release at Necronomicon-Providence in 2019. For the purposes of this project, we are defining folk horror as horror literature in which the present (in the story, not necessarily current day) collides with the history, folklore, traditions, and psychogeography of a region. The term “folk horror” came to prominence in describing a subgenre of film represented best by the “unholy trinity” of Witchfinder General (1968), Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) and The Wicker Man (1973). In general, themes include:” pay is $75 flat

Slice Magazine: up to 5,000 words “The theme is “Birth.” All submissions during that time will be considered for Issue 25, which will be released fall 2019.” pay is $250

Outlook Springs: Flash and short stories “Send us your weird, wobbly wordwork: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. See genres for specific submission guidelines,”pay is $10 for flash and $25 for short stories

Jan 18th

Superior Shores Press: 1,500-5,ooo words “The Best Laid Plans, which will include stories of mystery and suspense with an overarching theme of “the best laid plans” pay is$25 flat fee

Jan 20th 

War of the Worlds : Absolute War: 4,000-20,ooo words a lot of details on this but basically looking for same universe as “War of the Worlds” a different take on the invasion or prep for the invasion pay is 5% gross profit

Enchanted Conversation: Fairytale, Folktales & Myths: up to 2,000 words “explore the different aspects of love set within the fairy tale, folktale, or mythic templates. Work can either be re-tellings of established stories or use original characters. Be bold, traditional, lyrical, or experimental in your storytelling and enchant us with stories set in a variety of locations around the world and time periods from ancient to modern.” $10 flat rate

Jan 27th

Monsters Out of the Closet-Gothic: length varies “From haunted manors, repressed secrets, and horrifying leaps of science and faith—this episode celebrates the tradition of Gothic literature and film.”  pay varies based on length but is at least $.01 a word

Jan 28th 

Our Write Side: Steampunk short stories: 3,500-10,000 words “Steampunk began as a literary genre loosely inspired by the real or imagined cultures, events, and technologies of the Industrial Era. It can take various forms, from an alternative history, to a dystopian future, to a complete fantasy world untethered to our sense of time and space. In more recent times, Steampunk has leaped from the pages of books and into people’s lives in the form of special events, elaborate costumes, and dedicated “sports.”” pays a percentage of sales

NAWG 2018: A Year in Review

from openclipart.org by purator

This year the members of the North Alabama Writers’ Group made huge strides in our writing life and I’d like to have one post celebrating our successes.  


As a group we broke ground in creating this blog and a Twitter account to promote it!  Our audience is consistent and seem most interested in reading our original fiction.  Our group self-published our first writing round robin, and we published Halloween flash stories.

 
We have 6 new members.  This doubles our group size (but don’t worry, we‘re never a huge crowd, our biggest meeting had 5 of us in attendance at any one time, getting writers to do anything, including meet is hard work).
Personal Accomplishments: 


-Caleb Darnell shared light satire pieces with our writing group while outlining his latest series.  He has a detailed map of his new world and many world building notes and plot points worked out.  


-Jessica Donegan worked on 8 stories.  She has four short stories she’s seeking publication for.  She self-published two works to this blog.  Most of her time dedicated to maintaining an active blog presence she has a little over 80 blog posts this year.


-Patrick O’Kelly worked on 7 stories this year.  One got traditionally published while one was self-published to our blog.


-Christopher M. Palmer worked on 18 stories this year.  Of those 18, Chris completed eleven works.  He had two were chosen for published and two were self-published on our blog.  Christopher was also instrumental in keeping up our blog.  He took part in the comments, shared our posts with his friends, and offered articles of his own.


-Ashley Sanders worked on something super secret this year we await the opportunity to share more details.  She was a busy rock star, you must take our word on it.


-Zachariah Stanfield has 5 stories he worked on this year and two older stories published.


Happy 2018!  Does anyone have accomplishments they want to share with us?  Comment below, and thanks for hanging out with us this year.  I hope to see you all next year!