Mini-Achievement

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So, I actually had a semi-productive day yesterday! I wrote an article for the online magazine Fellowship and Fairydust, which will be released with their Spring 2021 installment, and I started rewriting my short story “The Undead Midwife” over from scratch. I’d only gotten a little ways into it the last time I tried to start, but it didn’t feel right. But after taking a walk and actually allowing myself to think rather than be distracted, I realized that I needed to write it from the midwife’s POV in first person. It isn’t done, but I at least started on it and was able to maintain focus for longer than a few minutes, which is a massive achievement these days. The rest of the day was spent giving my kitties lots of cuddles while lounging in the sunlight with the windows open, enjoying the breeze and the smell of spring. Hooray for mini-achievements!

Today, of course, is grey and cold and pretty much all the creative energy I had yesterday is gone. (But I did clean my bathroom, a major chore I’d been putting off for far too long.) This last week or so I’ve been strangely drawn to horror, a genre that I am not usually very fond of. But to date I’ve reread the story “SCP-087”, watched Markiplier play through both versions of the video game based on that story on his YouTube channel (SCP-087 and SCP-087-B), and rewatched both Alien and Aliens. I’ve also been eyeing the game Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, but can’t justify spending $80-200 on a video game that I probably will only play once. (I might just watch a playthrough instead.) So yeah, I don’t know what that’s all about. I prefer more subtle, psychological horror than gore-fests, so things like Hitchcock films and The Twilight Zone appeal to me far more than the majority of the modern horror genre. Maybe I’ll read some Lovecraft next…

I’m still struggling with what to do with The Cat’s Cradle. I’ve been writing this blog faithfully for ten years now with little to no engagement and I feel like I’m running out of things to talk about, especially since I haven’t been, like, writing. And it seems like the entries that I spend a lot of time time that delve into deeper topics get no engagement at all, while fluff updates like this one get far more attention. I don’t really know how to feel about this. On the one hand, I suppose entries like these are more personal, perhaps connecting better with people. But it feels pointless and self-indulgent to whine all the time about “poor me, look at me not writing, boo hoo hoo.” It makes me feel disgusted with myself for not having something more substantial to say. At the same time, it also feels like I’m a failure if I just… stop.

So, at the moment, I’m leaning towards the idea of having The Cat’s Cradle go on hiatus after June 2021 and only post when I have an actual writing update on my novels or short stories or whatever else it is I’m working on. The Cat’s Cradle will become more like Second Unit Reviews, which I only post on when I have something I want to write about. Maybe if I get my mojo back, I’ll be more enthusiastic about the blog and return to the bi-weekly schedule. And I can always use the time off from writing new entries to make Audio Editions of the old ones. But after doing it regularly for ten years, I think I’m due for a break and reevaluation of where my time and attention should be focused.

If you have any thoughts on this, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

“I Left Because…” How Fantasy Helped Me Become an Atheist

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A few weeks ago, I listened to an episode of The Thinking Atheist podcast hosted by Seth Andrews with Dr. Chrissy Stroop called “I Left Because…” It was a call-in show where people shared their stories about why and how they left organized religion to become atheists. Some were dramatic, but the majority were comprised of gradually drifting away as they learned more about about the religion itself and the world around them. My own deconversion was likewise a gradual process as I realized how little sense religious doctrine made. I went from being Christian (specifically Lutheran Protestant) to Deism (the clockmaker god), flirted briefly with Wicca and paganism, stayed agnostic for a while, and finally embraced the label of atheist and humanist (in part to help destigmatize the word “atheist” and to help show that you can be “good without god.”)

However, when I was telling this to a friend, I told them that I stopped being Wiccan because it was so anti-climactic compared to the fantasy novels I was used to reading. My friend expressed surprise that fantasy actually helped me leave religion rather than encouraging me to stay, since magical thinking is required to accept a lot of religious tenants. I hadn’t actually thought about this and decided to examine this idea further.

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Broken Record

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As Winter Storm Orlena sweeps through the northwest, I am comfortably ensconced in my library, watching the snow come down, with a stack of books from the James Asher series by Barbara Hambly beside me.

Since my last post, I have gotten even less done than the little I had managed to do before. Each week my living quarters dissolves into a chaos of dirty clothes and scattered papers. I spend the weekend putting myself back together only to repeat the process next week. This weekend in particular I spent mostly sleeping and haven’t even managed to get those basic tasks done. I feel like each week I need an additional week to recover, and I’m not sure how to break out of this insidious cycle.

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Derailed & Despondent But Not Deterred

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Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Soooo…. remember my post “Making Things Happen” from two weeks ago? Yeah, I’ve already been derailed. Kind of. I’ve been working on the Faylinn organization and upload to World Anvil, although it hasn’t been as regular. I’ve been lifting my weights, although that too has not been regular.

But honestly, right now, I’m an emotional wreck.

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Making Things Happen

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

While the New Year gives us a measurable marker for change and the passing of time, it doesn’t fundamentally mean anything. The calendar may have changed, but we have not. I’ve overloaded myself before with grandiose plans and meticulous lists that end up crushing me and coming to naught. That’s pretty depressing and I really don’t need any more of that right now. With the pandemic and unsettled political climate still raging, I can’t expect the chronic, low-level stress and anxiety to go away with the turn of a page.

I need a plan.

But I am also very bad at planning.

Continue reading “Making Things Happen”

2020: The Year in Review

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So. Here we are. It seems appropriate that my final Cat’s Cradle entry for 2020 falls on the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, and on the day of the Great Conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn. Pretty epic, right?

Like most people, 2020 has not been a particularly good year. Mine has been filled with relatively minor annoyances and constant low-level anxiety, so I’m not comparing it to the true horrors that far less privileged folk have faced. I’ve had it easier than many, but that does not mean it was easy. I learned a few things I wish I hadn’t. The level of physical and mental decay that I’ve sunk to came into stark relief. And my creativity and focus pretty much collapsed into a black hole.

The bright side is that I think I can crawl back out of it. It’s hard to make changes when you have no energy. It’s hard to plan for a future when you aren’t convinced that you’re going to have one. But there is still a small spark of resistance guttering somewhere inside me and with a few well-placed twigs and kindling, I may get it started again.

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NaNoWriMo 2020 Recap

So, if any of you read my last Cat’s Cradle entry “Writing During Covid-19” or follow me on the Legendary Novel Writing Challenge blog, you’ll already know that National Novel Writing Month did not go very well for me this year due to a variety of factors. However, I did finish with 40,000 words out of my 50,000 word count goal, and the majority of it did stay on topic. Many thanks to everyone who followed along with me, giving likes, comments, and encouragement!

Also, there was something kind of fun that I did want to share in the aftermath:

I work in a public library, and because of the pandemic, all of our programs are currently virtual. For November I ran a series of NaNo writing events on our Facebook page, and while I got almost no engagement on the posts, it was something that I did keep up with every day during the month. Our library Facebook page is changing soon, so I wanted to preserve those posts and their pictures here for posterity. (Note that “LTN” is an abbreviation for my library, so “LTNWrimos” refers to folks from my library who are participating.) All pictures that are not personal photographs came from either Pinterest or the National Novel Writing Month Pep Talks.

Enjoy!

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Writing During Covid-19

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I thought I could do it.

And for about nine days I did. Consistently.

But then the fatigue set in and the stress from external pressures began to mount and so here I am, in the final week of National Novel Writing Month, 8000+ words behind where I should be. A few times the writing has been fun or enjoyable, but mostly its been a slog and I’ve used scraps of “author laments” to pad out the word count enough so that I am updating my word count every day, even if I don’t reach the goal.

Why has this been so hard?

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Endings

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Sometimes the hardest part of writing a story is where and how to end it. Unless you’re doing something really risky and experimental, most readers want an ending that is satisfying, something that ties up the loose ends and fits both the tone and the theme of the story. If most of the book has been light and happy, then ending with something grim or terrible will feel jarring and out of place. On the contrary, if you’ve been writing something that is heavy and realistic, then ending with a fairy-tale-like happily-ever-after will likewise feel out of place and perhaps even cheapen the sacrifices and suffering of the characters.

Which brings me to Animorphs.

Back in July 2020, I wrote an entry on the Animorphs book series by K.A. Applegate for my Obscure Books From Childhood blog series on Second Unit Reviews. This prompted me to reread the entire series, which consists of 62 volumes (54 regular books, four Megamorphs books, the Andalite, Hork-Bajir, and Ellimist Chronicles, and Visser, plus two “choose your own adventure” books called Altermorphs, but I don’t count those because they don’t contribute to the main story). I just finished the final book very early this morning and… I have some feelings.

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Falling Down, Reaching Up

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Autumn is here, a time of year that I’ve grown increasingly fond of, despite my aversion to the cold. I enjoy the colors more, the justification to wear heavy sweaters and buy cold-weather items like blankets, mugs, tea, hot chocolate, candles, and fuzzy socks. We’re also only two weeks away from National Novel Writing Month, which I’ve been part of for the last ten years (although I’ve technically only participated nine times. I did the Camp NaNoWriMos for 2013, but skipped the November NaNo for some reason I no longer remember.)

Due to my lack of focus, I don’t think I’ll be able to work on anything too heavy or serious this November. So I’ve decided to work on a lighter, more fun and childish book that’s been kicking around in my brain for a long time: DragonFriend. This is one of the stories that I used to play out parts of with my toys, so there’s a bit of absurdity to it, but also a lot of exploratory wonder, which is something I need right now. Not that there isn’t dark stuff that happens in this story (because there is) but the overall feel is more like going on an adventure than a dramatic epic. Here’s the description:

A Fairy Tale for Grownups (Or Anyone Else Who Likes To Sneak Into the “Adult” Section of the Library and Read Whatever Interests You)

This is the story of Hagan, an innkeeper’s son with a talent for languages and an interest in magical fauna. After an encounter with dragons, he decides to become a wizard and study these fantastic beasts. His travels garner him many friends, some foes, at least one reluctant ally, and a motley collection of tales from the beings he encounters.

I swear, I came up with this idea long before Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them was a thing. I might have read the first Harry Potter book at the time, and both the name of the main character and the look of the toy he’s based on bear some superficial similarities to Hagrid. But aside from their looks and a love of magical creatures, they are very different people. At least, I think so. DragonFriend will allow me to meander among all kinds of different characters and their stories, weaving them all together, so it should be a fun book to write. (And I desperately need something fun right now.)

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