How do you answer an existential question in your plot that you haven’t answered for yourself?
I’m doing some basic outlining on a story & have found the root of my conflict. I’m working through the characters’ reasoning. But then I hit a point where I’m thinking, “Wait, is that really the answer? Is that the right answer? Is that the answer I’m committing to? Is that what I really think? That’s what this struggle is & I’m going to try to sum it up in this way?”
If this was nonfiction, I would feel much more comfortable showing these insecurities, because the nonfiction I love the most touches on uncertainties in subtle, interesting ways & I want to emulate that. But with this fictional piece, containing things I’ve thought about & carried around with me since I was a kid. . . I feel much more uncertain, unprepared, like, at nearly 37 I should have all these answers by now. That some things shouldn’t still haunt me at this age, although I logically know better.
I really just need to finish this story so I can stop carrying it around & worrying over it. This is not some great cultural epic—hell, it probably won’t make it into the world much past my friends. Oy.
I don’t wander over to the YA section that often, but when I do, I always keep my eye out for something interesting. Simply reading the jacket copy that mentions an alternate Civil War history with zombies & race exploitation screams “Pick me up!” Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation takes something like Guns of the South & turns it completely on it’s head. Jane is a biracial girl who’s sent to a school that specifically trains non-white Americans to protect white citizens against the overwhelming zombie menace. While helping a friend try to find his sister, she stumbles upon a plot to create settlements in the West that will recreate antebellum laws & norms & is shipped off unwillingly as a recruit for the new border wall. A harsh reality becomes grimmer as she attempts to survive & take advantage of the various alliances buried beneath the new “City On A Hill”.
The above premise takes a while to explain & there is a fair amount of world-building. Ireland takes her time showing some of the different fascets of this new America, but things really get moving once Jane gets shipped off to the West. Everything that’s been introduced takes on new stakes & new meaning, so readers would benefit being patient through the first section. Ireland also clearly has many ideas & hopefully more books on the way to explore them, but I was so ready to keep going! Once the action started, I was transfixed & didn’t realize just how quickly the end came. Definitely a recommendation simply because its story ambitions pay off.
You GUYS! Another FCBD has come & gone, but I’m still super happy with my finds this year. I unfortunately had to work most of the day, but once I was off of work, I headed down to Velocity Comics to see if they had anything special this year. Unfortunately, having gotten there late in the day, the two freebies I really wanted were already gone: Brian K. Vaughn’s Barrier & the Fantagraphics sampler. But we can’t dwell on sadness—not on Rex Manning D—I mean, Free Comic Book Day!
Despite missing out on the freebies, I was SO EXCITED to find that my wonderful little store had FINALLY gotten in the first issue of local comic, Innsmouth by Megan James. This comic has been in such high demand that reprints of the first issue has been back-ordered since earlier this year. I’d been waiting patiently, collecting the other issues as they came out, waiting for that first issue so I could finally start reading it. And now, here it was! Binge-reading time!
I looked around a little bit more & also found that Hard Case Crime is putting out comics as well. So I picked up Normandy Gold, a comic done in the style of exploitation films from the 70s. I practically bounced up to Patrick at the counter & told him breathlessly that I’d been looking forward to visiting all day & finding cool stuff. I think I made him a little nervous with my enthusiasm, but then again, the store was still pretty busy despite the late hour, so maybe he just thought I was another weirdo.
All in all, a pretty fantastic FCBD. Soooo, if you’ll excuse me, I have a bunch of stuff to go read now. . .
3.5 instead of 4. Like many other readers, I picked this book up looking forward to seeing the passion project that McNamara had been working on at the time of her death & to support those who were determined to see her work in print. This book is an amazing testament to the friends & loved ones who wanted to do right by McNamara & preserve her legacy as a writer. With that said, this is also a manuscript that is still very much in draft stage & is not easy to read on its own. The placeholder text & McNamara’s thorough research give clues as to what could have been a phenomenal work of true crime reporting. The fact that interest in the case has helped lead to a suspect finally being taken into custody after these many years is also cathartic & I’m sure helps being closure to many. But without this context, the book is not a good standalone read. Instead, it is a poignant monument not just to a compelling writer who is gone, but also to cases that are forgotten & our own vested interest in some sort of justice.
Seasons change; focus changes. With spring’s arrival, there has been a lot of shifts and opportunities coming, not just for me but for many people that I know. One thing that has been coming to the forefront of my mind is my writing. I’m no longer as content to sit & let myself while away the hours with needle & thread. That doesn’t mean that crocheting or sewing or any other craft isn’t as important to my peace of mind; it just means that my attention has moved on.
Some of this is seasonal. When the weather is cold, my impulse is to be still & passive; to fill the hours in a warm place with someone familiar doing not much more than focusing on the work between my hands. Quiet activity in a quiet season. Writing is lonely & it’s hard to imagine sitting at a desk under a single lamp with the dark on the other side of the curtain, much less stare down the inner critic with pages in hand while my husband is in his kitchen making cookies & humming along to the radio.
But some of this is self-criticism too. After long years of not believing that I could make a “proper” living from writing, that I wasn’t worth listening too, that making something physical was practical, but that no one “needed” to read my words, my head is clearing. & while the idea of making writing my job (which has been my not-so-secret wish since childhood) is still scary, last week I decided to stop separating the things I create onto utilitarian & esoteric categories.
I decided to picture my writing career as a fiber work in progress. Each step, each choice, each class I take or group I run or commission I get is all built on top of each other.
I’m sure that the idea sounds really obvious & it is hard to admit that the realization took me this long. But, when I believed that I couldn’t actually succeed as a writer before, my perception was that I just kept chasing goals or stumbling into chances & every good thing that happened was just chance. I couldn’t control whether or not an editor would like my piece & if things went my way, there was no way to reproduce that success. If they went badly, then clearly it was proof that I was wrong & didn’t deserve anything anyway.
But I don’t believe that any more. I don’t want to believe it any more. & I can see where one choice leads to another & I’m free to make a way for myself just as I’m free to make something out of a needle and thread. At the very least, my writer’s brain is eager to run with the metaphor & find the foundation chain & trace the progress forward. Seasons change; focus changes.