Author Archives: Cedar Sanderson

About Cedar Sanderson

Writer, mother, reader, gardener, cook… artist.

I’m a Quitter

Hangs head, shuffles toe in the dirt.

So, um, yeah… About that.

I picked up the habit over thirty years ago. The deal is, once you start, you can’t stop. Not that anyone ever taught me that. They don’t say these things to your face. It’s just expected, you know? Once you crack one open, there’s no turning back. Later in life, especially my early adulthood, I’d have several going at a time. Because I couldn’t quit. Even if one was difficult to swallow, you just kept chugging until the end.

And I thought everyone was like that. I’ll tell you now, I was shocked the first time I learned that some people abstain. I mean, dang. Who could live like that? It had to be horrible. Like wandering parched in the middle of a river, unable to take a drink. What a barren lifestyle. And still, I couldn’t quit.

There were times I wanted to. Long, dusty, dry ones that seemed to have no end in sight. Weird ones that made no sense at all. Anachronistic ones I just wanted to hurl against a wall with force… But by gummy, if I started a book, I had to finish it. Them’s the rules, right?

It wasn’t until I was a young mother, and somehow found myself a volunteer Slush Reader, that I learned the dire necessity of quitting. Faced with an avalanche of reading material, a toddler, a nursing baby, and a budding small business to run, I had no choice. I read on the computer while the baby fed, but that time wasn’t unlimited, (days it felt like it was. She was a hungry kid, and now that she’s half a head taller than I and wearing a size twelve shoe, I know why)  so I learned to read three chapters in before quitting. Forcing myself to slog through to the end made reading a chore and painful. Far from being a trove of pleasures, I was learning the hard way that not all books can be read to the end, much less should.

What brought this on? Well,on Facebook Joshua Hocieniec, in a conversation about Neil Gaiman’s American God’s wrote: “I’m no quitter! Though I am feeling like I have a couple of better books that I could be reading instead.”

He’d been slogging though the book, hoping it got better, and finally asked online for some encouragement. I couldn’t offer him that – I’ve never read anything of Gaiman’s – but it made me think about quitting. I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading over the last week. Some of it was sheer escapism, after a grueling couple of months finishing up the degree. Some of it was the hope that if I prime the pump, my own stories will well up, and a little part of it was researching since I’ve been reading non-fiction and fiction. But as much as I am binge-reading, I’ve been quitting. I quit reading a series when it became badly edited, repetitious and mean-spirited (non-fiction set in a hospital ER). I quit reading a book when I was so bored I kept falling asleep on my tablet. I quit reading another book because it was so dated the cop procedures in it would only be useful if I were to write a historica.. coff, a book set in the mid-1970s.

In this day and age, with reading material so bountiful it’s almost unimaginable… Did you know you can find the whole Conan series for free on Amazon in one handy collection? Sherlock was free yesterday, too! Anyway, there’s no need to cling to whatever text is handy. Gone are the days you had to read the soap bottle (if you still must, I recommend Dr Bronner’s) or the cereal box. Now, I can prop my phone up next to the bowl (hm, I have a hankering for cheesy grits now) and access an unimaginable library to my ten-year old self. I’m living the science fiction future and it’s chock full of books!

This poses a problem, though. I’ve gotten old enough to confront my own mortality and recognize that I have limitations in life. I’ll never be able to read All the Books. I may not even be able to read all the books physically in my house as I write this. Certainly not all the books on my eLibraries in various places. I’ll die with books unread, and confronting that makes me react in way that may seem a bit childish to some. Faced with the bitter reality, I’ve become a quitter. I want to eat my dessert first. To savor the Good Books, and scrape the equivalent to dog poo sandwiches into the trash bin, then click the empty trash button. Life is short. Too short to waste my precious time on bad books. So yes, I’m a quitter.

But enough about my habits. What books are you addic… Er, overly fond of? Let’s bring in the New Year with joy, escapism, and shenanigans between the pages!

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Good Eve

Cedar’s disclaimer: I am not a poet. This is strictly for fun, and should not be considered a serious attempt at poesy. 

Disclaimer the second: I blame the Evil Muse for this. 

 

Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even my spouse.

I sat at the keyboard, fingers poised in the air,

Waiting and wondering if my muse would be there.

 

The teens were all quiet with earphones on heads,

The pre-teen was napping  with dog in their beds;

And the spouse was all settled with Kindle in hand,

so I could finally write my book’s last stand.

 

When out in the drive arose such a clamour,

I sprang from my desk to see who had the hammer.

I swore to myself as I ran to the door,

Wond’ring how my family such a noise could ignore.

 

I grasped the doorknob and felt it melt away

At my touch, revealing a landscape so gray

My eyes strained to make out any detail at all.

Slowly, I could see something through the mist, so small

 

And then it was there in front of me, so quick

I jumped back and knew it wasn’t St. Nick.

It must be my muse! Finally, he had come

And I whistled, and shouted, and offered him rum.

 

He was riding in a convertible sleigh, jet-powered

And when he landed in front of me it towered

Over me and the door hissed out on hydraulics

Making me rub my eyes and wonder about alcoholics.

 

He was dressed in a space suit, a chrome one that made me gulp

And I opened my mouth to point out I wasn’t writing pulp,

But he laid his finger alongside his nose with a wink,

And I shut my mouth again and wished for a drink.

 

His eyes – full of starlight and empty as the universe – twinkled brightly

The cheeks were pale, the lips turned up tightly.

The helmet concealed any sign of a beard,

Overall, I decided, my muse was quite weird.

 

He held a bag in one hand, and now that he’s down,

He held up the other, and opened it with a frown.

From it he pulled, with a shake and a wiggle,

Something like an anemone that just made me giggle.

 

He looked up at me, and gave me a shake of his head

Before putting it back, then pulling an envelope out instead.

Without a word, just a wink of his eye,

He handed it to me, and leaped back to the sky.

 

I stood there, gaping, and ere he was out of sight

I heard him call out: To all a good night!

I looked at the card in my hand and unsealed,

Opening it slowly to my eyes it revealed…

 

The plot to my novel! I sprang back to my desk,

My husband, befuddled; my teens, statuesque.

My fingers were flying, and I shouted ‘Thank you!’

As Christmas was coming and my muse had come through.

 

Now that that’s out of my system… I have a question for you, gentle readers. As the New Year is approaching, what would you like to see more of here at the Mad Genius Club? Any how-to’s you are in need of? Tips, tricks, and ideas? Let us know in the comments! And if you’re looking for a last-minute gift, remember, ebooks are easy to give, and don’t require a dedicated ebook reader, they can be read on a phone, or a tablet, or a computer, or… 

 

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An Interview with Fanfiction Readers

So I see my teen daughters reading, a lot, on their phones. Turns out the stories that keep them riveted are fan fictions. One is sixteen, and her nom-de-blog is Otaku Princess, and the fourteen-year-old is my Junior Mad Scientist.

Me: So what site are you guys usually reading on?

OP: normally fanfiction.net.

JMS: sometimes on Tumblr.

OP: Tumblr is more of a ‘everything about life’ site.

Me: So why do you like fan fiction?

OP (speaking at the same time as her sister): Because… oh, hi, do you want to talk first?

JMS: same.

JMS (seeing me writing): Mama, no!

All laugh (honestly, there was a lot of giggling all through this. We were having a blast)

OP: I read fan fiction because it expands upon an idea you’re already familiar with, it’s also easily portable and you don’t have to buy them. It’s easier to read something on your phone since you have to jump from class to class and I’m already carrying a phone and more books… well,my backpack is already heavy enough.

JMS: Basically the reason I read fan fiction is that I enjoy reading shorter stories, and you can have one-shots in fan fiction. It’s also a little bit because I really enjoy the characters, and you can put two characters together. I can put them together in my head and play out little scenarios, but I like reading when other people do that. You get different styles of writing, different points of view

OP (muttering): Some suck.

JMS (ignoring her): people have different experience. With all that, you can have an entire ‘nother thing. For example Gravity Falls, it’s written mostly by this guy, Alex Hirsch, and I know he has like female coworkers that put in…

OP (speaking indignantly): female? He has multiple different coworkers not just female! Wait, are you talking about writing, drawing, or acting?

JMS: Writing! He’s writing female points of view and they help him. But then you can read a fanfiction written by a girl, about the girl parts, and you can see a different point of view. And you can see a different take. I’m in love with angst. So, like, I love angst and you can get so many stories about angst. And it’s [Gravity Falls] a show for children. Fan fiction can go deep into the angst with the blood and gore and stabbing people, and people dying and…

OP: Gravity Falls is pretty disturbed, fam.

Me: Guys, back to why you like fan fiction. I get that it lets you explore other parts of the story.

OP: No, it lets you explore the what-ifs of the story. So like, if you have characters that are, like One Piece where all the characters are pirates and that’s the world they live in. So you can say what if they were born in the world we live in. It lets you explore the other possibilities that the storyline can’t because it’s chained to its storyline and continuity. There are some great fan fictions, some awful fan fictions, some of them let you explore the gaps in storyline that happen.

JMS: Like Young Justice, where there’s a five-year gap.

OP: We know nothing about what happened in those five years, so we can go on about what might have happened.

JMS: we know a little about some characters, but…

OP: we’re going off on a tangent again.

JMS: Maybe we should go off on the smutty side of fan fiction.

OP: No, we should talk about shipping.

ME: I think we should talk about how you avoid smut, not find it.

JMS: Smut is easy to avoid. On Fanfiction.net there’s way to sort by ratings from k (which is the lowest) through teen (which is the second highest). Teen tends to have swearing or mild violence. Mature has sex, extreme violence, stuff like self-harm that can be triggering. I think you can flag it if you find sex in Teen rated.

OP: Or sexual themes.

OP: On Archive of Our Own (AO3) they have more settings, K-through-Teen, but then there’s Mature, which isn’t always smut, it really depends on what people think is the necessary rating. Some people are more lenient, others are like ‘ah, geeze, man.’ Mature is normally where the dark themes come in. Explicit is almost always smut.

JMS: The thing I like about AO3 is that they have archive warnings and tags on the outside, so I know I don’t want to read that. Not all authors choose to tag it thoroughly, so you have to be careful.

OP: I want to go on about the tags. You can have have specific tags on fanfiction.net, but AO3 lets you tag whatever you want.

JMS: on AO# I’ve run into stories where it’s all tags and no summary.

ME: Can we move on to shipping now?

OP: YES!! I get to go first because I won Roux chambeaux for this one.

JMS (catching my mention of their contest): Mama, NO!

OP (laughing and chanting): shipping, shipping, shipping, shipping…

All laughing. Some squeeing from the younger set.

OP: So first off, not all ships are gay, despite what everyone says. Shipping is great because like, two characters that don’t get together in the show… it bothers me when it takes people out of canon ships. No, just no.

JMS: Incest bothers me.

OP: Incest is gross. Oh god why?

JMS: Even if they are adopted siblings it’s still weird.

ME: So you like the romance in fan fiction?

OP: It depends on the romance. There are some really weird definitions of romance out there.

JMS: I can barely find a well-written yandere.

OP: yandere is basically like Japanese for one person that is in love with this other person, but this other person does not know that they are in love with them. The one that is in love with them will kill, or stalk, or do anything to make sure that person stays theirs. It’s kind of like they will kill them if they can’t have them.

Me: I’m redirecting this a bit. Do you have much interest in reading original fiction?

JMS: There are some people who write original fiction and all they use is the character’s names. They are so OOC that they are not related to the original story.

OP: define OOC.

JMS: Off Original Character. They are still really good.

Me: I actually meant like, books.

OP: Like original original? I am interested in them, but I don’t have time to sit down and read a novel. I don’t know about Freshie over here, but as a Junior I don’t have time to read a novel that isn’t assigned for class.

JMS: You have time when you stay home sick.

OP: I haven’t been to the library recently.

ME: Can I blow your minds and tell you there is such a thing as short original fiction, too? (laughing)

OP: Yeah, but they are hard to find. It’s hard for me to go look it up.
ME: so basically fan fiction is easier to find?

OP: Yeah, it’s all condensed on one website.

JMS: creepypasta!

OP: Creepypasta is different. It’s all one genre and I’m not a horror person.

JMS: I tend to go on Taptastic, which is all webcomics, but it’s really good.

OP: There is also Wattpad. Wattpad is, technically, you can put any kind of story on it, but it’s hard to deal with. On a phone, you can’t even go from chapter to chapter.

JMS: On fan fiction.net you can download a story on your phone, it has an app. AO3 it has all those tags, so you can see what you are getting into. Wattpad is the hardest to use out of the three of those.

OP: it’s harder to find stories on it, and there are a lot of twelve-year-olds who make mistakes on there. No offense to twelve-year-olds, but it’s not good.

ME: Have you tried reading from the Kindle library? You both have access to mine.

OP: Yeah, I’ve read everything I was interested in on there. Most of those are yours and not up my alley.

JMS: I’m particular about what I read, and I like fan fiction better.

OP: It’s not that I won’t read any books, it’s just that there’s nothing new for me to read. There are continuations of series I’ve been reading and need to finish. There might be novels out there that are perfect for me, but they are hard to find when I can get fan fiction.

JMS: I’m going to go read some fan fiction.

And that’s about it from our house about fan fiction, at least for today. I wanted to get the teen insight into what works for them. I don’t know if it comes across in this, but both of them are raving fans of it, and it’s very difficult for me to get them ‘into’ books I recommend. So they read, and read a lot, but it’s in a style I find very different. As a writer, I feel that I need to explore this – these young readers like my girls are going to dictate what becomes of fiction, in the coming years, and I want to find the rhythm they enjoy to incorporate some into my own work. I’m not inclined to write fan fiction, for one thing I plan to earn money with my work. But it’s important to see that styles change, and how they are doing so.

JMS pops back into the room: I think I found my least favorite type of fan fiction. The kind where the writer forgets how to use the Enter key.

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Housekeeping… In Space

I woke up this morning to hair all over my face (not an unusual occurrence, since it’s mid-back length) and a shock of memory. I’d meant to do MGC yesterday, with a special interview I’ve been planning for weeks, and again I’d let myself get sidetracked into life’s minutiae and it didn’t get done. So I was lying there in bed wondering what I was going to write for you, and then because my nose was cold, I got up and went down to check on the wood furnace. While I was doing that, it came to me.

The First Reader, who is a remarkably patient man, considering, had complained about something the night before, and had made a joke a couple of weeks ago, and it coalesced into this: what do you do about hair in space? I’ve read many books about spacers who keep it very short, but total depilation would not be attractive – until it was, and then hair would probably look gross to a community that had only known bald. Here in this house, I get teased about hair in the drains (it’s not only mine) and the amount I shed. No more than most, but when each strand is over two feet long, it’s easier to see. No, he wasn’t complaining about my hair (although I’m sure he’s woken up with it in his face, too) it was lack of space around the bathroom sink. Easy enough for me to tidy up, it was simply a matter of putting some things in their proper place. He apologized, explaining that I was getting the brunt of stuff others have done – women who kept so many cosmetics and doo-dads there wasn’t room to so much as wash your hands.

temporary-dutyAnd all this daily tidying and washing and putting away made me think about space travel, and space stations, and times in the not-to-distant past when people simply didn’t have as much stuff. In many stories, this doesn’t have much of a place. But there are times when inserting a few tiny details can really bring a tale to life. And there are stories which are great reads, and focus on the cooking and cleaning and processes that support the Glorious Warfighter Hero types. The superb Temporary Duty by the late Ric Locke, for instance. Or the first part of the Trader’s Share series by Nathan Lowell, which begins with Quarter Share and how to make proper coffee. Maybe it’s because I spent so many years as Suzy Homemaker that these things matter to me.

On a military ship, it’s easy enough to see that pushing broom is an assigned duty. On a trader’s ship, similar things with cabin boys. On a family ship? It could get quite variable. A passenger liner might be a luxury, or a scow full of refugees. The First Reader points out that under close quarters, personal odors could become a serious offense. “You could kill someone over bad breath,” he pointed out. Actually, he thinks a story with a plot point over court-martialling for not brushing someone’s teeth could be amusing. Or perhaps a man who signs onto a ship, and persists in wearing perfume until he is busted down to the lowliest rank possible (side-note: last year the young students on campus were all wearing a cologne (ok, not all, but a lot) which smelled to me just like Deep Woods Off. Made me giggle. None of them were the types I knew were out on the weekends hunting and fishing, so it had to have been some new scent that was all the rage).

As I was making breakfast, and talking to my son about the finer points of how to mop a floor, it occurred to me that I know what the next crisis in my work in progress should be. And it will involve the biggest mess I can think of, and a clean-up. What better way to forge a team and test the mettle of new crew?

Or how about this – who really knows your ship? The captain and officers, or the janitors and technicians who keep the equipment running? Unlikely heroes, but fun to bring into the mix.

Speaking of which, it’s time for my family to get ready for an incoming load of firewood. We don’t have to split it (thank goodness) but we will have all hands on deck unloading and stacking it. Team-building, character building, and where are my work gloves? LOL

 

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Reading on a Budget

As we were working on the family budget last night, I looked at the line item for Kindle Unlimited, and pondered canceling it for a moment. I haven’t been reading since… August. Maybe even since late June. I just haven’t had much time. The First Reader shrugged when I asked him what he thought “I don’t use it.”

Actually, he does, he just doesn’t always realize it. The man reads whatever I put on the kindle account, if it catches his eye, he just doesn’t often ask me for specific titles. But it did get me thinking about a couple of things. First isn’t really related to books. Well, sort of.

Reading time is usually important for me. It’s how I retreat from the world, relax, and come back refreshed and ready to go again. I haven’t had much of that (up until very recently and more on that later) for months, which isn’t a good thing. The First Reader reads for much the same reasons, and his reading has been on lunch breaks, mostly. He also goes through kicks where he’s reading one author, and we mostly own those books in paper. Both of us are, normally, voracious readers, which is why Kindle Unlimited seemed to have been a good idea when I signed up for it a year or so ago. If you didn’t know, you can borrow up to ten titles at a time. Once you read a book, you can return it and immediately borrow another. In other words, unlimited reading material and yes, the author gets paid (although reviews per read are lower, please keep in mind reviews matter if you want to keep books coming from a favorite author).

Reading seasons, at least for us, fluctuate. I’ve not been reading much. The First Reader and I, talking a while back, discussed these dry spells where reading (and I should clarify that this pertains to fiction, I’ve been reading massive amounts of scientific papers and textbooks) is difficult. It feels weird to us, like we’re somehow ill and it’s unsettling to not be able to read. I discovered that my ‘dry spell’ was broken once we were moved into the new house, by a small thing that wasn’t possible at the old house. We have a proper bathtub. So I can sit and soak in the tub and read. I can’t indulge often – perhaps weekly – but I have confirmed something else by doing this.

My fiction creative well is somewhat linked to my reading. I’ve been getting flashes of stories since I was able to do this. Not much, yet, I don’t have the time to let it be more than the illumination of scenes in a flashbulb moment. But they are coming. I was beginning to wonder if I was broken.
But back to the kitchen table discussion. We try to sit down now at the first of the month and formally plan out what will be spent that month. With the kids here, and the move to the rented house (and the long-term plan of buying a home in a few years), we’re trying to be intentional about money. It also makes me think ahead, and realize that with school ending in less than two weeks, I’ll have reading time again. And writing time! And… actually, it’s a bit scary, the whole school-done thing. I need to ramp up the job search, but I also want to write like heck to get some income rolling in down the line.

I’m rambling. I think my point, lost somewhere in the weeds up there, is that I can’t be the only reader who has to justify their book habit in a budget meeting. I even have the advantage that as a writer, I can argue it’s necessary for business reasons. As that businesswoman, I am acutely aware that my readers won’t even look at my ebook if it’s 9.99 or more. Well, they might. If it’s available through their local library. So I scrutinize my pricing, and I put my work in the KU library, and as a result even though I haven’t put out a new novel in well over a year now, I have a steady trickle of people reading my stuff, and buying it. I imagine if I looked around at promo sites, and put some money in advertising, I could swell that trickle, but until I’m ready to push the next book, that’s not in the budget either.

So for me, Kindle Unlimited is worth the ten dollars a month. It’s a fairly large pool of reading material, and as with any book marketplace, Sturgeon’s Law applies. You will have to look to find the good stuff, although for me the alsobots help with that. And there are scammy books in KU, which offend me not just as a reader but a writer. The scam is that someone figured out Amazon calculates pages read not on each click of the page (good news to the privacy conscious) but on where in the book you are when you sync with wifi again. So the scammers put in TOC links, or other links, which when the reader clicks, take them to the back of the book. Voila! KU is tricked into paying out for hundreds or thousands of pages read. This kind of crap makes it harder for real authors, and in some ways is almost worse than the poorly-written crap that just makes people give up after a few pages. (hat tip to George Phillies for the article link).

Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, shameless promotion. I do get a little ad money if you sign up for the free trial through this link, in interest of full disclosure)

Oh, and I don’t read on my tablet in the bath, although I could (large Ziploc in case of splashes or sleepy author dropping), instead I’m working through some of my paper TBR pile. Having just moved, I can see all my books again. And it makes me aware of how deplorably disorganized they are… nope. Not touching that until after graduation. The list of to-do-while-I’m-supposed-to-be-writing is growing ever longer.

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Invent your own Genre

Men’s Action-Adventure Fantasy.

This started when my First Reader and I were plotting in the car. It’s a favorite way to pass the time while making the trek over the hills and through the woods to Grandmother’s House, and yesterday as we were on the way home I started talking about what I’m hoping to write in the upcoming time when school is over. I have to finish the science fiction (Jade Star is the prequel, although Jade herself doesn’t show up until two-thirds into the novel), but the next book planned is The East Witch. And yes, that is another book in the Underhill universe I created with Pixie Noir. We’ve actually roughly plotted three more novels, loosely connected, in that world, and I’m really excited about them.

But as we were talking about what the Pixie for Hire series is becoming, my dear husband informed me that he thinks it should be called men’s action adventure fantasy. I protested that technically it’s Urban Fantasy (despite very little of the setting being anything like urban), and I’ve also been told it’s Dark Fantasy. Nope, he told me. Correia’s MHI series, the Dresden Files, and my books are all part of a different genre – action adventure fantasy. I still protest lumping my books in with Butcher and Correia, but he has a point. They aren’t easily encapsulated in an existing genre (except the Dresden Files, which I suspect define Urban Fantasy). We’ve talked before about genres, here at the Mad Genius Club. In the new world of Indie Publishing, we authors are free to invent our own genres. We can mix, match, and crossover. If I want to write men’s action adventure fantasy (and frankly growing up I loved men’s action adventure books, like the works of Alistair MacLean and Louis L’Amour) I can.

The problem comes in helping your reader find your books. Genres are useful to readers. Me? I’m not a fan of High Fantasy – too much Tolkein pastiche for my taste (I loved his work. All else is a pale imitation). However, I do enjoy some Urban Fantasy, except where it ought to be labeled Paranormal Romance (which is fine if it’s written by Amanda Green. I highly commend her recent Witchfire Burning as a good example of that genre). I’m not a big fan of whiny main characters (they aren’t all female, but it seems that way sometimes) so I’m cautious of that genre. And then there is Low Fantasy, and Dark, and Light, and… and what is Sword and Sorcery in all that, anyway? I did decide that Correia’s Son Of the Black Sword is an excellent modern example of that blood and thunder genre, though. I’ve written about Science Fantasy, which isn’t a genre but probably should be.

Which brings me back to inventing your own genre. You can, but you need to be familiar with the existing delineations, so you can tag or categorize your book in such a way that the reader can find it. And it shouldn’t fall so far outside the parameters of the genre as to give your readers mental indigestion – like how I react to Urban Fantasy now. Which of course means you ought to be reading in your genre. I’ve run into writers that insist they can’t read in their genre – or read at all, which just boggles the mind – and frankly, it’s a fatal mistake. Yes, you can stop reading it for a time while writing. I have to, since I pick up ‘flavor’ from whoever I’m reading, and while that can be useful (I binge-read Spillane and Hammet and other pulp authors while working on Pixie Noir and sequels) other times it can mean that your work sounds too much like someone else. Which I don’t want, since I do want my unique voice to come through in my work.

I could sell my books (well, not the science fiction, but you know what I mean) as simply ‘Fantasy’ but that is a very broad brush to paint with. If instead I can find a niche market of readers who like my style, that is more likely to lead to consistent sales of other books in the same vein. And sometimes out of it, since I also write other things, up to and including the Western romance under a pen name. As we were moving and I was shelving books in the new house, I realized we own books by Sarah Hoyt writing under at least three, and possibly four pen-names, for instance. Because if you’re going to go that far out in left field, it helps the readers to have a banner hung over you saying ‘read this, not that! Unless you really want to, but don’t get mad if it’s not what you expected from this author under another name.’

Ok, maybe that’s too long. Short and punchy. Something. I dunno. What do you think about genres, and how would you define your favorites?

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Filed under CEDAR SANDERSON, WRITING: CRAFT

Miscellany

First order of business. I want to apologize for missing last week. No excuse, but I will explain that we were moving, and that weekend was the bulk of the move. I have now moved an entire household with a small SUV and a 4’x8′ utility trailer. I don’t remember how many trips I made that Saturday (it’s about a 15 min trip from the old house, to the new) and although I’d intended this move to be a slow, leisurely one, there was a point where external forces expedited it… On the other hand I’m happy to be sitting at the new house, in front of my big desk, knowing that the only boxes yet to unpack are the ones full of miscellany. Even had I remembered what day it was, and written something, I’m not sure it would have been coherent. It was late when I sat down and sent a message to a chat, making sure that friends knew all was well, when I was reminded I hadn’t posted here.

Routines are important. Disrupting them can lead to forgetting a little something, which can cascade into the whole situation we’re familiar with from the elementary school history lesson of ‘for the want of a horseshoe nail, the kingdom was lost.’ Order is also important. I was reminded of that, not only in my own internal pressure to get my house unpacked and organized (so I could actually find things like my socks, and my husband’s underwear, and forks in the kitchen), but as I told my teens that this weekend we will work on getting their room ship-shape. As soon as I said that, I wondered internally if they knew what ship-shape really meant. Living on a moving dwelling, one that doesn’t have much space to sprawl, dictates a whole ‘nother level of tidiness.

None of this, perhaps, is related to writing. Except inasmuch as the author wants to throw little obstacles at her characters, along with the big ones. I found myself perturbed at this move – it ate my time, it ate my brain, and I was desperately trying to keep up with homework (and gave up on blogging, sorry y’all) while we were undergoing the shift. It was really, really difficult. I found myself wanting to ‘play house’ and get the rooms unpacked, when I ought to have been studying (like now, when I have to memorize the dratted Krebs cycle, enzymes and all). I don’t know if it is because I am older – I was, after all, a military brat and we had moved a lot by the time I left home. Then, early in my marriage, there were again several moves before I finally settled on the Farm for 11 years of stillness. Something about being a middle-aged woman is different than where I was before.

Age really does make a difference, not only in writing, but in reading, I’ve noticed. Weirdly, this was not only part of my musing about the move, but listening to classmates present on a paper about aging in Drosophila and how it affects their ability to recover from environmental stresses. The study subjected the flies to a shock (elevated heat) and then saw that they were unable to fly again. However, younger flies (4 days. I’m not sure how that translates to a human lifespan, but they did say that the flies can live for up to ten weeks) would recover from the shock without losing any physical abilities. Fruit flies and humans are nothing alike, yes, but they are used as an initial model in studying humans (and then mice, and so-on). As we get older, we are less able to recover from shocks and changes. And as my knee and back are telling me this morning, we’re less able to lift and tote like we used to. I did have a giggle-worthy moment in this move, though. We have two furnaces in the new house, one propane, the other wood. I went to pick up a trailer load of wood, and was met by am elderly Japanese gentleman, who wanted to know how I was going to get the wood on my trailer. After a couple of minutes of watching me pitch firewood (unsplit) he mumbled ‘you strong’ and went back inside. I put too much wood on the trailer. Poor little thing won’t carry much in a load.

I’m rambling. It’s been a really long couple of weeks, and just as I’m looking forward to settling into a routine, next week is the Thanksgiving Holiday. For which I am giving fervent thanks. I’m grateful we found this little house out in the country with room for all of us. I’m grateful that I can write for this blog, it’s a good outlet for me. I’m grateful that while we were sitting around the table having family dinner night before last, my whole family was helping me plot a book. That was… I needed that. I’ve been really worried I’d never write again. But I’d had a flicker of story coming to me while driving, and when I mentioned that, my family ran with it. And while that story is not first in line, there will eventually be a third Children of Myth book, because my children demand it. And there will be a baby elephant in it.

What are you thankful for?

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Filed under CEDAR SANDERSON, WRITING: ART