This week, I was able to participate in a special event over at Esther’s Ever After. Digitally speaking, I’m the first booth on your right. I got to write a nostalgic post about my favorite childhood book, and Brenna was kind enough to host a giveaway for one paperback copy of Titan Magic. It’s free! And international! I’m not entirely sure how long the contest will last, so if you’re interested, head on over, read about my childhood eccentricities, laugh at my inability to spell the author’s name, and enter to win!
You probably won’t believe me (okay, maybe you will), but I’ve been looking for an excuse to publish a post about the best lil’ beast in the world: the sloth. Maybe you’ve never heard of these creatures. Maybe you think they’re a deadly sin (for shame!) or a unproductive way of life. Not so! Sloths are so efficient, your boss wishes her whole company was a sloth. You wish your house’s heating or cooling system was a sloth. Hell, you wish your KIDS were sloths. It’s true. They use practically no energy to go about their day-to-day lives. And what do they produce? Must you even ask? They produce ADORABLE!
You may wonder, do they never speak? Of course they do! They speak the language of LOVE ME.
So I nominate tomorrow as the official Day of Sloth. Because yesterday was Gluttony (Thanksgiving), and today is Greed (Black Friday). Really, there ought to be Seven Deadly Sins to come before the Twelve Days of Christmas. And they should all be adorable—the sins I mean. We’ll use bonobos for Lust and kittens for Wrath.
And just in case you needed one more reason to respect the sloth…
It SWIMS! Good Lord, it swims like a champion. And while it’s casually outperforming your best Labrador Retriever, it turns to you and says, “Hey, just in case you didn’t know, slothfulness is not laziness; slothfulness is being awesome without effort.”
Once upon a time, there was a girl who worked in a public library. She loved her job, and with every book she put back on the shelves, she felt as though she had been briefly introduced to a new person. Occasionally, a book would catch her eye, and she would greet it every time she passed it, until she finally got around to reading it. One such book was The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff.
The Monsters of Templeton was so sophisticated, polite, and reliable that the girl always ended up reading more demanding books first—those that threatened absence, obscurity, or even that the girl might forget about them if she didn’t read them immediately. But The Monsters of Templeton was always there, quietly waiting in the exact same spot on the shelves.
One sad day, the girl moved away from her favorite library. She missed all those wonderful books—there were so many she had meant to read—but she knew the unlikelihood of running into any of her old favorites when she saw the public library in her new city. It was tiny, with only one short aisle for fiction. Just one? She had to check many times to make sure she wasn’t seeing things. But as she sorrowfully assessed her inadequate new browsing grounds, she ran into an old friend: The Monsters of Templeton. Oh small, wonderful, itty-bitty world! She checked the book out along with two others and took them home to read.
First, she tried a science fiction story that was interesting but ultimately felt like a video game. Next, she tried a period piece that reminded her why doctors once suspected her of having ADD. Then, finally, she picked up the book with the charming black and white cover.
The Monsters of Templeton seemed, at first, very straightforward. It was every bit as polite and smooth-talking as she suspected it would be. It was so smooth, in fact, that strangely gruesome descriptions and uncouth jokes would slip by without the girl having really noticed them. She would just chuckle or blush and keep turning the pages as she sipped her Jamaican hot chocolate.
Then the book began to spin other tales with other voices in other periods of time, and the girl would lean in, rapt, though these tales had only the barest connection to each other. The book was slow-moving but so full of mystery that, even though this was not the kind of story the girl would usually read, she just couldn’t stop.
When the book finally revealed its mystery in a predictable but satisfying way, it leaned back and puffed on its pipe, which the girl was sure it was smoking.
“Thanks so much for that story,” said the girl.
“But wait,” said the book, before the girl could close it. “There’s one more thing.”
So the girl settled back in her rocking chair, as the book told her one last story in one last voice. And that last story will haunt nightmares inside the girl’s nightmares until the day she dies. Because it was that… freaking… weird. It was adorable kittens disemboweling baby mice. It was teddy-bear suicide. It was fields of pretty daisies murdering bunny rabbits with poisonous aphids. It was beautiful, saccharine horror.
And the girl said, “Holy shit,” as the book took another puff off its pipe and grinned like a madman in a musical.
I have this memory I keep in the secret pocket of my childhood coat. I recall sitting in front of a rock wall, watching an egg sac hatch. They were spiders—little zebra-striped jumping spiders, I think. Even as a child, I saw that they were young and fragile, and I saw how they wobbled around on brand new legs and fearlessly explored their brand new world. They were, in a word, adorable.
When I got older, I learned to be afraid of spiders, but it was never an innate fear. It was taught. So, after I became an adult, I decided to overcome it. The best way to overcome any fear is through education, so I started learning all I could about the different kinds of spiders, until I could identify the ones I found around my own home. Then I started giving them names (Amelia, Copernicus, and Incitatus) and treating them like visitors. They were the cats of the arachnid world—perfect, agile hunters—and they earned their keep the same way cats do: by preventing a potential infestation of other, invasive insects.
Some people wonder how I can love an unlovable creature. But honestly, they’re only unlovable because we’ve been programed to hate them. We’ve seen Arachnophobia and learned that spiders are viscous, horrible creatures that will suck the life out of you until you are a mere husk of a person as soon as look at you. But that’s just not true. The vast majority of them are completely harmless, even beneficial creatures.
This is what most of them are:
Start with the jumpers, if you really want to learn to love spiders. They’re curious and super cute. You won’t regret befriending them, as long as you show them the proper respect. Even now, there is a spider living near the window just over my desk, and it’s taken down every bothersome fly that’s gotten into the house so far. Plus it’s interesting to watch.
And if you liked the above video you should check out the creator’s youtube channel. It’s surprisingly chill and fun with a myriad of jumpers to see. Also, have a look at the What’s That Bug website and learn a little more about which creatures are harmful and which are actually beneficial. You may be surprised at what you find. I know I was.
There is no such thing as a fear of heights. Anyone suffering from it can tell you it doesn’t exist. The fear is real, absolutely, but it isn’t a fear of high places; it’s a fear of falling from them.
Last summer I stood at the highest point of a most likely unimpressive cliff and stared down at the little pool of water I was meant to aim for. No way was I going to hit that bullseye the way everyone else seemed to. Not me. I would be the one person who tripped on a rock while leaping and fell headlong into the cliff face. I fully expected to get beaten to a bloody pulp by rocks and shrubs on the way down. I stood there far too long convincing myself of the inevitability of it.
I felt the same way over the last several weeks or so, standing at the edge of another cliff: publishing. The fear of falling is just so intense. I often feel like a complete coward. (Jas had to get it from somewhere, right?)
I didn’t jump off that literal cliff last summer. I backed away and gave up. I slid off the waterfall instead, which was awesome, by the way. But the new cliff—the one that has terrified me for years—I just hurled myself over the edge.
I finally listed Titan Magic for sale at Amazon, and I’m working on getting it up at Barns & Noble, too. You can read the first chapter here, and decide whether you want to find out what happens next.
I hope you do.
Also, The Other Lamm wants me to assure you that the waterfall pictured above is only a tiny fraction of the one I actually slid from. I was shaking too much to get a picture of the big one. Just so you know.
I had my next blog post all planned out. No really. And then something happened that made me toss it out the window.
For secret reasons, The Other Lamm and I have been searching through boxes and boxes of old paperwork. It was unbearably tedious work, until he tossed me an old, deteriorating folder and said, “This looks like yours.” At first I didn’t recognize it. Then I opened it.
You know that feeling you get when you smell the musty scent of your grandmother’s basement again as an adult, or you find your mother’s panda-shaped cake mould that hasn’t been used since your fifth birthday, or you hear a song you used to wake up to every morning for the first time in years? That’s how I felt when I opened that old folder and found, among a collection of treasures from my childhood, the story I wrote the day I decided I wanted to write down stories for the rest of my life. All of a sudden, I remembered finding the book that drove me to it.
I saw it for the first time in my elementary school library. As a child, I had a secret love affair with dragons that my parents didn’t approve of (“too dark, Jodi; try collecting unicorns instead”), and this book’s cover had a fiercely beautiful dragon on it. It was love at first sight. Though I was much too young to understand the story completely, I devoured it. I even memorized where it was on the shelves so I could go back and read more the next day without checking it out and taking it home to my potentially disapproving parents. When I finally came to a scene that made me cry for the story’s villain, I decided I wanted to create a story, too. I folded paper into a little book and began to write. I imitated my secret love as best I could. I had just learned to read and write, but I was determined to make something as beautiful as that book. When I finished my first attempt, I moved on to the next. I haven’t stopped since.
Finding my little homemade book brought back the experience of getting lost in a story for the first time ever—how I treasured that well-worn library book like it was pure gold in my hands. So when people ask me who my first love was, even though I usually answer Darth Vader, the truth is my first love was Dragon of the Lost Sea by Laurence Yep. Darth Vader was second.
As soon as I have access to a good scanner, I’ll post a scan of my first efforts in an “About the Author” section of this website, so you can laugh with me at my atrocious spelling and awkward plot, and so you will believe me when I assure you that storytelling is something I have always done. It’s not a new hobby I’ll likely drop in a year or two; it’s part of who I am. And I am just so incredibly excited to finally be able to share it with you.
There are some things in writing I’d rather not touch. I’m not particularly fond of description that makes my stomach turn. Graphic abuse, torture, drowning kittens: things like that. And there are some things I won’t touch simply because I KNOW I will inevitably screw them up. One of those things is time travel.
The trouble with time travel is it’s a plot-hole magnet. No matter how careful or brilliant you are, you will dig a great big plot hole in any time travel story. Either that or your characters will have to be “too stupid to live” in order to make it work.
Even if you’re the most talented, awesome, lovable author in the world (let’s say… J.K. Rowling), and you’ve only included one little time-travel device in your world, you’ll most likely have a plot hole on your hands. Of course, J.K. Rowling is the Grand Empress of World-Building and the Immortal Overlord of Awesome Characters. She can overcome the time travel curse. But I can’t. At least, I don’t think I can.
So I’m not going to play with time travel. It’s too dangerous. Here, I’ll show you… What? You thought I came here without evidence? Never! I have evidence. Time travel is dangerous. Observe (it should be noted that all these reviews/videos contain spoilers for their respective films):
Or just watch the movie Timecrimes and you’ll see what I mean.
Of course, mostly this post was just an excuse to share with you two awesome Harry Potter spoofs and my favorite reviewer of bad horror movies. Still…
I WILL NOT PLAY WITH TIME TRAVEL
I WILL NOT PLAY WITH TIME TRAVEL
I WILL NOT PLAY WITH TIME TRAVEL
I WILL NOT PLAY WITH TIME TRAVEL
[SPOILER ALERT: This post shares some secrets from the film, The Ring. If you haven’t seen it yet, go do so, and then come back here and tell me how awesome it was. You’re welcome.]
Blogging is not at all like riding a bicycle. You completely forget how to do it once you’ve stopped. Although, for someone like me, riding a bicycle is not at all like riding a bicycle either. So there’s that.
Still, not to be dissuaded, I asked The Other Lamm what I ought to write about in my new blog, and he said, “Why don’t you just write about writing? Or publishing?”
“But there are already a million blogs on writing and publishing,” I said.
So I’ve decided to write what I know, and also what I don’t know, and also what I imagine I know but most likely don’t. The first question I should probably address is why I am choosing to self-publish.
To begin with, here’s something I learned about storytelling (not writing, since there is a difference): if no one gets to enjoy your stories, you’re doing it wrong. Storytelling is, remarkably, about telling stories. To other people. Of course, you can tell them to yourself, but you can do a lot of things to yourself and we all know what most people call that. So, yes, in order to tell stories, you have to find an audience, even if that audience consists of one slightly distracted person.
For years, I had no audience. I hid my stories in a dresser drawer (I didn’t need the space for clothes, being so fashionably unfashionable as I was). And maybe I escaped some humiliation by doing so—God knows I’m no A.S. Byatt—but there comes a time in most people’s lives when getting out there and risking humiliation is better than hiding in the dark. So I plan to step out into the light and suffer the usual bleary-eyed confusion until I’ve learned to adjust. Or not. Maybe I’ll never adjust. I don’t know, but I’m willing to try. And I’ve decided to try with Titan Magic.
Why self-publish? Because every story deserves the chance to be loved. I did introduce the manuscript to quite a few kind professionals who said it was attractive, well-mannered, and clever enough, but they just didn’t feel that marry-me-now spark of enthusiasm. Still, I thought, someone out there might love this story. And a story’s purpose is to be told.
So it’s settled. I’m going to tell you a story. If you don’t like it, I will cry bitter, bitter tears. If you take some enjoyment in it, I will dance the dance of the supremely happy. And if you fall in love with it, I will consider you a kindred spirit and adore you forever.
Now I know there are a lot of people who say self-publishing fiction is a terrible idea, and they may be right. I may be sabotaging myself. On the other hand, what if my characters are like Samara from The Ring? What if they can only exist in the minds of others, and if I don’t pass them on, they’ll crawl out of my book like proper Japanese ghosts and terrify me to death? Huh? Has anyone thought about that? I mean, on the one hand, I could get some bad reviews, but on the other, I could SCREAM UNTIL I DIE. Not a difficult choice, as far as I’m concerned.
And that’s why I’ll be publishing Titan Magic through Amazon and B&N this fall.