may the odds be ever in your favor

The beautiful month of October draws to a close today. In Celtic tradition, if I remember correctly, today also marks the end of the year, which in some ways seems more fitting to me than December 31. The trees, having celebrated the bounty of harvest and the changing seasons with an unbelievable cacophony of colors, now stand nearly bare. Yes, let's begin the year with cleansing snow. God plants in the autumn, after all.

For some of us, tomorrow heralds in something entirely different--a month-long sprint of insanity, you could say. Some of you are eyeing your keyboard or pen with anticipation and something akin to fear, and you know exactly what I'm hinting at. Others of you are wary of the acronym I'm about to type, and may even be ready to unfollow any blog on which you read it, for fear of being overwhelmed by writing updates disguised by incomprehensible flailing in the coming weeks.

NaNoWriMo. I think I knew all year that I would do it, yet the decision to participate in my second National Novel Writing Month still came with some uncertainty. Do I really have the time? No less than I did last year, I suppose! I still plan to trudge forward with my reading challenge--I read before bed to wind down, so writing won't affect that--and I promise that I won't write another NaNo-centered post until the end, when I will probably do a wrap-up post. Before last year, I became very tired of seeing "NaNoWriMo" plastered on blogs every November, so I try to strike a balance with my own blog now that I participate in this madness.

I'm working on the same book again this year, since I haven't hardly touched it since last November, when I wrote about 26,000 words. My working title is The Hippogriff, and after "pantsing" my first NaNo, I scribbled out a skeleton of an outline a few weeks ago in hopes that I can get the story moving forward.

Being a slow writer, and not wanting to greatly affect my normal responsibilities, I'm also keeping my same humble goal of 25,000 words. Some may say that I'm not a true NaNoer if I don't aim for the full 50,000, but I say that while it's good to stretch yourself, it's also important to respect your limitations.

Speaking of limitations, I currently live in a yurt(!), so my access to electricity (not to mention internet) is a bit limited. This means, of course, that unlike last year, I will be writing my novel by hand over the coming weeks. Who knows . . . maybe I'll find that I prefer it this way!

If you're also doing NaNoWriMo this year (or if you're simply interested in more frequent updates), please add me as a friend on the NaNo website or follow me on Twitter! Good luck, and happy writing!

From the Editor's Desk {Tip of the Week}

How many times should you hit "enter" after a paragraph, or the space bar at the end of a sentence? If you're writing a manuscript, the answer to both questions is "once." There should never be two spaces between sentences, and paragraphs should be indented, not separated by a blank line.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, what is your book about? If not, how do you feel about blogs that post constant writing updates throughout the month of November?


I am here

I grew angry last night
screaming, crying,
turning nothing into everything and
defiantly stuffing down countless chocolate cookies

but then, as I lay awake in bed
--having calmed myself in the pages of a book--
my muse landed gently on my soul
and said

I am here
I am here
I am here

and suddenly the world righted itself
and I was me again
the me I had found years ago and
established so firmly at the center of my core
the me who wrote and sang and loved and lived
so passionately that she ached physically

and as the rain drummed its fingertips
softly on the deck
I chanted

I am here
I am here
I am here

I Am is here


Harry Potter and the Unexpected Dragon {bookshelf love}

Last month, I challenged myself to read 10 books by Christmas. In order to keep myself accountable--and because I'm sure you're dying to know my progress (ok, you probably forgot about it entirely. . . .)--I thought I'd post monthly updates. Obviously, since I'm a bookwyrm with a voracious mental appetite, I've already devoured half of the stack.

Nope. Just kidding. At the rate I'm going, I might finish the stack by February. . . .

Airs Beneath the Moon by Toby Bishop
The Unexpected Dragon by Mary Brown*
Falling from Horses by Molly Gloss
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
City of Dragons by Robin Hobb
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

*in progress

Although I often read two books at once (no, not one with each eye--you know what I mean), I typically pair nonfiction with fiction, not fantasy with fantasy. What I'm doing now is alternating between two different series, since The Unexpected Dragon is actually a trilogy in one volume. Mostly, I'm doing this because I have no self-control when it comes to books, and I checked out The Prisoner of Azkaban before I was ready to read it. I also might have curiously snatched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at the same time.

On a similar note, I'd probably be farther along if I'd stop reading books not on my Bookshelf Love stack.

If you'd like to join in the fun (please do!), or if you're wondering what in the world this Bookshelf Love nonsense is, visit this post for more details and to sign up!

From the Editor's Desk {Tip of the Week}
Fewer vs. Less

Don't they mean the same thing? Not quite. Use "fewer" when referring to a quantity and "less" when mentioning a volume.

She had fewer potatoes in her soup than he did.
He had less soup.

There were fewer people at the market today.
There was less of a crowd today.


harmony of autumn {poetry thursday}

laughter in the forest,
faeries swirling, twirling, dancing to the ground
in joyful golden skirts
--a flutter, a falling, shimmering curtain--
landing breathlessly on the ground
with a whisper to the sunset leaves

and in the contagious excitement the trees--
the trees join in, begin to sway
to the harmony of autumn
their verdant boughs transforming
for the glorious masquerade
in celebration of the sleepy, silent, cozy months to come


horses and city folk {mini reviews}

The God of Animals
by Aryn Kyle

This gritty, character-driven, captivating coming-of-age story is the perfect book to truly lose yourself in—and yet somehow I found myself within it. The people are real, the land is real, the struggles are real. Only on a few occasions did a detail stick out to remind me that I was reading fiction. Alice is a wonderfully observant, likable protagonist, but she also acts like the twelve-year-old that she is, which I find refreshing in the face of the many too-mature youth in novels.

And despite the fact that Alice fears the creatures her father raises, the author's knowledge of horses shines through. She clearly knows how it feels to ride a horse—to compete on a horse—and she's masterfully captured that in words.

There was, unfortunately, quite a bit of crude language, but it fit the personality of the characters who used it, so I tried not to dwell on it as a negative aspect. Otherwise, the book is fairly clean.

4/5 leaves

Mud Season
by Ellen Stimson

Although full of hilarity, this memoir also elicited quite a few incredulous facepalms from me. The beginning is a love story of Ellen (and family) and Vermont—this is what hooked me, as it is beautifully written and I related very well. As the story moved along, I appreciated Ellen's ability to laugh at herself and to recognize that her family was a group of outsiders/city folk/“yuppies” moving into a rural area with deep roots.

I understood and laughed at (often out loud) many of her unfortunate incidents, but a lot of them left me shaking my head and wondering just what in the world they were thinking. Some of the humor even felt a bit forced, with repeated phrases like, “Well, of course I did!”

Though the book over all left me with some mixed feelings, the “After Words”—a collection of mouth-watering recipes—not only made me (very) hungry, but also was fun to read.

3/5 leaves


From the Editor's Desk {Tip of the Week}
Dialogue Tags: Commas and Capitalization
Punctuating dialogue tags can be tricky. As a general rule, separate tags from dialogue with a comma. If the tag follows, begin it with a lowercase letter (even if the quote ends with a question mark or exclamation point). You should almost always begin a quote with a capital letter.

Tricky spots: Action phrases like “he sighed” or “she laughed” should be treated as separate sentences.

“I can't believe it.” She sighed.
“What?” asked James.
Looking up, she replied, “He forgot again.”


a soul in type {book review}

The Map of Enough by Molly Caro May

Molly and her fiancé Chris suddenly move to 107 acres in Montana, land her family owns but rarely visits, with the idea of staying for only a year. Surrounded by tall grass, deep woods, and the presence of predators, the young couple starts the challenging and often messy process of building a traditional Mongolian yurt from scratch. They finally finish just on the cusp of winter, in a below-zero degree snowstorm. For Molly it is her first real home, yet a nomadic one, this one concession meant to be dissembled and moved at will.

Yurt-life gives her rare exposure to nature, to the elements, to the wildlife all around them. It also feels contrary to the modern world, and this triggers in Molly an exploration of what home means to the emergent generation. -from Goodreads

The Map of Enough is a soul in type. Its beautiful, flowing, earthy prose is almost poetic, and it's so relatable that I feel like Molly and I are the same person--like we've shared experiences. And in a sense, I suppose we have. Molly is just a step or two further down the trail. As I read the book, I felt her story--shared her thoughts and emotions--as if I'd climbed inside her skin to dwell there within the covers of the book.

Molly writes about the beauty of slowing down, of living within a round, canvas "membrane" instead of sound-muffling walls, of smelling the thawing water in the creek even before seeing that the blue ice has melted away. Her story is one of soul-searching, self-defining, and question-asking--discovering the right questions and letting go of the wrong ones. I wanted to devour and savor it all at once.

The writing style is something akin to stream-of-consciousness, easing from present to past and back again, seamlessly including internal thoughts and distant memories with the narrative. One potential stumbling block for readers is the lack of quotation marks for the sparse dialogue. Rather than annoying, however, I thought it made the text flow more like a memory, which is essentially what it is.

If I've made this sound like a complex, philosophical book, I apologize. It is not. It's a smooth, enjoyable read, and, boiled down, the story is quite common. In the process of defining herself, Molly discovered (among many other things) that she was far from the only person struggling with identity and purpose, and that we are not so different after all.

"But maybe all we really wanted, every last one of us, was to be loved."

This is the perfect book for curling up with on a cold day. It is full of humor, wisdom, and nature, and it's simply a good story! I highly recommend it.

5/5 leaves!