Adventures With Words, December 2022

Adventures With Words, December 2022

Adventures with Words, December 2022 – from CK Combs, Author

Hello! Welcome to the second newsletter. Thank you for coming along for the ride. I hope you’re doing well. I’m keeping my head above the water, though the pace of December activities and the dark and cold make me want to hibernate under cozy covers with my cats.

How do I stave off the seductive call of fleece blankets and felines? 

Doing Things with Other Writers

I hosted the third Writer’s Chat on Monday, 12/5. This time six of us met at Beerwerks and had a great conversation about writing process, different styles of plotting stories, short story writing, and other related topics. The January chat will be held on Monday 1/16, which is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. 

The Page Turner’s writing group is going strong, navigating new job schedules and holiday obligations. During our recent get togethers, we’ve done 10 minute writing sprints based on prompts created by one of us. It was my turn recently and I got silly with Mad Lib style prompts:

1. Just then ___ adj noun _______ appeared on the horizon, blocking the sun.

2. Grandfather pointed a calloused finger toward the back door. “Go feed the __ noun  _______ and then you can have breakfast.”

3. He came out of the kitchen, wiping his hands on a filthy apron. “Are you hungry? I just made some ___ noun ___. It’s always better fresh.”

4. Angry __ noun __ filled the __ noun __ making it impossible to __ verb __.

5. I was finally at the crossroads but instead of the devil, I found __ noun __.

The results were hilarious. If you try any of these, I’d love to hear about it.

Update on WiP

Even though I’ve had a rough time getting into the flow of writing regularly, there have been some bright spots. I’ve been fighting revision paralysis, overwhelmed by the many changes I want to make, and how that ripples out to impact the whole manuscript. And really the ripples are more like tsunamis. I finally realized that what I needed to calm the storm was some structure. I busted out a stack of sticky notes, wrote down all the scenes I need to have happen in the story and placed them on my plotting board. Act 1, Act 2, and Act 3 had form and content. Then I spent some time looking at it, reading through it, thinking about the flow of the story, and also the critical mystery elements – suspense, clues, suspects and red herrings. I moved them around, scribbled additional notes on them, pulled some to the side as optional. I did this 3 or 4 times until it felt close enough to work from.

Some of the decisions I made were informed and fueled by the essays I read in How to Write a Mystery. Advice about withholding information reinforced something I’d read in a previous writing book – give the reader enough information to move the story forward, and always hold something back for later. This is important for any kind of page turner – part of the trick of keeping those pages turning is to leave something unsaid – something your reader wants to know and will keep reading to find out. Based on that idea, I decided to delay some of the revelations and give just enough information to feed my amateur sleuth’s fire but not enough to give away critical information before its time.

And now I’ve followed my advice by delaying the reveal of my novel’s title, a little detail that had been stubbornly avoiding discovery until now. 

If Elephant Ears Could Talk

I have never struggle-bussed this long for a title… I started this thing in 2020 and have been calling it ‘The Amusement Park’ ever since. \Now I have a title that is memorable, goes with the setting and has context within the story. Voila!

Reevaluating my Social Media Environments

In an effort to reduce my intake of online assholishness, I’ve dropped Twitter and reduced my posting on Facebook. Not that I connect with much of that on Facebook, since I curate my connections. Still, the platform has a way of increasing my stress so I’m giving it less time in my life. 

There are people I followed on Twitter that I want to continue to hear from and about – writers, queers, trans people mostly. I made a list before I unfollowed everyone. Some of them have blogs or newsletters that I can subscribe to through Inoreader (rss aggregator) and others have migrated to Mastodon, or both. I’m on the wooly mammoth, too. My handle is @ckcombs_author, in case you’re there and want to connect.

One of the great things about Twitter had been connecting with like minds and getting insights into writing, publishing, what queer, trans and BiPOC folks were doing. It sucks that it now belongs to a racist, ignorant billionaire who is all about enabling others like him. It means we all have to figure out new online hangouts where we can continue to connect and get word out about our creative product. I’m open to ideas if you have them.

Mostly, I’m finding other ways to spend time instead of scrolling. And I like it.

The Sourdough Report

Yes, I’m still fermenting flour and turning it into bread. I now have two starters – the original whole wheat starter Mol and I named Wil Wheaton, and a spelt flour starter I named Tori Spelting. Any guesses what I’ll be naming the upcoming rye flour starter?

The latest iteration was a recipe for a ‘sandwich loaf’ from Maureen Diaz. It proofed spectacularly overnight and now I know I need more loaf pans to accommodate all the bread it can produce. The bread is definitely sandwich worthy – crust strong enough to hold it all together, but not difficult to bite through, and a bread that was tender and also dense enough to contain the sandwich contents without breaking when I picked it up. I tested it today for lunch.  Yummy.

Is it 4:30 or Midnight?

This is the time of year when we have dimly lit days that are wet and cold even when it’s not actively raining. If I woke up in the middle of the day, without any clocks around, I wouldn’t be able to tell you if it was morning, afternoon or evening. My cats, always eager to see me open the cat door in the morning, nevertheless spend most of the day inside, curled up somewhere, sleeping. I wish I were a cat, curling up and being cozy seems really smart right now.

To counteract the gloom of the season, I put up lights. I’ve got colorful LED lights along the front and back of the house and I keep them on all the time. I keep my tree lights on all day, too.  The Christmas holiday has always been my favorite, with favorite foods we only have once a year and the chance to gather with family. This year, Mol and I will be trekking over to Mom’s house in Chewelah to get cozy and enjoy serious amounts of snow. This will be Mol’s first Combs Family Christmas and I’m looking forward to introducing them to our traditions. 

However you get through the winter months – by celebrating a holiday, putting up lights or hibernating – I hope you get a lot of joy out of what you do and who you do it with. And definitely treat yourself to favorite foods – food is love and comfort, so take seconds!

What I’m Reading

Mol and I watched all of Wednesday in two sittings. Ohman, that was fun. If it was a book, it’d be a definite pate turner. 

Books read recently:

Night of the Living Rez, Morgan Talty

Sea of Tranquility, Emily St. John Mandel

When We were Birds, Ayanna Lloyd Banwo

― Wish You Were Here, mystery by Rita Mae Brown

I wrote down a quote from Sea of Tranquility because it made me sit back and think:

“Because we might reasonably think of the end of the world as a continuously and never-ending process.”

To know the context in the book, I recommend reading it. St. John Mandel is a very good writer, storyteller and web-weaver and this book highlights all those skills. 

In addition to how it worked for the book, this quote aligned with some end-of-world thoughts I’ve had over the years (more so recently, I have no idea why). Unless the end of the world arrives with an explosion, or a sudden alien invasion or something else definitive and obvious, how does one know when the world ends? And what do we really mean when we talk about the world ending? Most of the time, I think we’re really talking about the end of a specific culture and civilization. The fall of the Roman Empire was the end of the world  for that culture. REM had it right – the apocalypse is ‘the end of the world as we know it” – rather than the end of the planet. So any of the great kingdoms, dynasties, ancient cultures that waxed and waned, experienced their own apocalypse. 

Some word-nerd stuff about ‘apocalypse’ – the Ancient Greek word apokálupsis means ‘revelation’. Many of us have at least a passing familiarity with the apocalypse as described in the Book of Revelations in the Christian bible. But there’s more than that to see here. Revelation is an act of revealing or uncovering. Or ‘to pull the lid off something’. So what are we pulling the lid off of when we talk about the end of the world?

Food for thought. Maybe we are taking the lid off the pot where tasty stew has been cooking but that wouldn’t be the end of the world, would it? It would be a mouth-watering reveal, however. Yes, it’s true – most roads lead back to food.

I hope you are all fairing well. This is a rough time of year for season depression, so do what you can to bring in more light, care for yourself and rest. The plants and the animals know to rest when the weather grows cold. We should learn from their example.

Take care, eat delicious stuff,  read good stuff, write amazing stuff, buy local when you can.  See you next month – CK

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