Adventures with Words – November 2023

Adventures with Words – November 2023

During the summer, the day fades slowly into twilight where it lingers for a while before turning things over to the night. The sun doesn’t want the day to end any more than the rest of us. Winter is completely different. In the winter, night falls. Abruptly. Without warning or fanfare. One moment it’s day and when you look outside a moment later, it could be anywhere between 5 pm to midnight. Winter sun doesn’t hang out, it heads home to slip into something comfortable underneath layers of fuzzy blankets and lounging cats. 

Not gonna lie, y’all, this dark season is kicking my butt. I’m feeling less resilient and more like napping and going to bed early. Which isn’t a terrible thing except I have to do a job most days and there are things to do in the evening as well.  

Maybe I should get out this weekend and put up my holiday lights. They always cheer me up. 

Elephant Ears Update

Editing, writing, reordering some scenes, repeat. I’ve moved the novel into Scrivener and now I can see the order of scenes and their chapter containers. This has made it easier to see places where a scene or information reveal should happen earlier or later. It also looks more like a book this way, which is awesome.

There is an opportunity through a podcast I follow to be paired with another writer working in the same or similar genre. The idea is this gives you and the other writer a beta reader and a potential long term writing partner. The podcast is The Shit No One Tells You About Writing, and co-host Bianca Marais offers the program, The Great Beta Reader Match Up, where she tries to pair people up by genre of their works in progress and geographic area. The deadline is November 30th and I need to have up to 3,000 words to submit (not polished, not perfect, that’s why you find someone to read and give you feedback). I am going to take part in this for multiple reasons. First is the obvious – getting more feedback will help me make my novel better. Giving feedback is also part of growing as a writer. Networking with other writers and learning from them is a great opportunity for growth. Becoming more known within the community of the podcast will benefit me as well.  

All of this is whipped cream on top of my fabulous writing group, the Page Turners and our south sound lit community. 

A couple of weeks ago, I met with Jenny Bartoy in a zoom call to talk about the manuscript evaluation she did for me and what my next steps would be. I asked her if it was normal to hate your beginning pages. She assured me that it was completely normal and not to worry about finalizing it until I’d gotten the rest done. That way, she reasoned, I’d be able to coordinate my beginning with my ending. What made me laugh was that three or four days later, I was rewriting my first pages again. *shakes head* probably won’t be the last time.

The top-value take away from our conversation was about the stakes. I told Jenny I’d been having a hard time articulating the stakes for my protagonist. By the end of the hour, my understanding of what Erika is hoping/dreaming/working for and what they have to lose made a lot of things clear to me, like what the opening should look like. And some ways to increase the drama, and the struggle Erika deals with to get what they want. Because making it harder makes it more interesting. Knowing that belonging is one of Erika’s needs and something they don’t think they can find in their hometown makes the involvement of Larry and the other queer kids even more important. I need to give them more page time. Truly, understanding this aspect of the story makes it easier to decide a lot of things about where to add and subtract.

Here’s what I wrote in my notes

I personally resonate with all of this because I am a big believer in the power of friendship and community. I love my queer chosen family. They are critical to my health and happiness, and I want Erika to come to that realization as well. 

Erika’s stakes –

internal – belonging, identity and wholeness 

external – justice for WW, saving the park

Erika denies the need for friendship, because of past hurt. 

Erika is blind to any chance of queer community in Fairview  – so doesn’t look

Erika takes on the solo / hermit approach a little too seriously sometimes

Erika is going to find out that the keys to success are the opposite of that

Larry knows the power of friendship and belonging

Larry is adept at finding and weaving friendships together

Larry is Erika’s gateway to true friendship and belonging 

Local Lit News

Blue Cactus Press is celebrating their new brick and mortar place of business with a housewarming party that I’ll be attending. I’m looking forward to seeing Christina Vega and other friends. The physical address is is 1901 Jefferson Ave, Office #105 (Tioga bldg), Tacoma, WA 98402. From Christina, founder and publisher: 

Now, we can come together for literary workshops, storytelling events, and publishing opportunities. Our space already includes a large meeting and workshopping table. It also has a full display of the books we’ve published, as well as a selection of books from small and independent publishers who make positive social change within their communities.

Burl Battersby, a fellow Page Turner, is deep into a really big project of bringing together poets for a collection of poetry related to Tacoma. I feel privileged to be able to watch from the beginning all of the planning, dedication, conscientiousness and passion Burl has invested in this project. Even if the project doesn’t match all of what he envisions, it’s going to be an amazing book when it’s completed. If you want to know more, or want to get involved, check out A Gathering of Poets.

Creative Colloquy is back to their monthly reading and open mic events after the October pub crawl. Monday, November 20 at Shakabrah on 6th!  Featured readers so far include: Jack Cameron, Meghan Feukvand Katie MK Scott. Doors open at 6:30. Come grab a bite to eat, drink and get settled in. Reading starts at 7:00.

Jenny Bartoy hosts a lunch conversation on the first Wednesday of the month where she leads a conversation about editing, writing and everything in between. I’m always happy to hang out with writers and others involved in the writing world. If you want to check it out, this page will give you info about Lunch Edits with Jenny Bartoy.

Recent Reads

The YA amateur sleuth murder mystery, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, was a fast read, lots of fun, and the plot points and challenges are similar to some I’m working with in Elephant Ears. One choice the writer made that throws me off a bit – a large part of the novel is presented through entries in a project journal, which is in first person from the protagonist’s POV and there are sequences of text messages and then there are third-person close passages that are jarring to me. I’d prefer it all to be first person because the journal entries are the most dynamic and alive parts of the novel. The third-person parts feel much flatter. I liked it enough to order it and the other two in her trilogy from Orca Books Co-op so I can read and dissect them at my leisure.

I’m in the midst of reading the Good Neighbors: The Full Collection by Stephanie Burgis. I only know about this book because the author herself recommended it in a thread and I got the Kindle version. What is not to love about the ‘falls in love with the neighbor’ plot where the neighbor is a necromancer in a castle full of his undead minions? And of course, he’s dashingly handsome and has a troubled past and is deeper than he appears to be at the outset. Our protag is a metal worker but not just a metal worker like her talented father – she’s got a rare ability to do magic with metal. She resists the charms of her neighbor and reluctantly joins forces with him when the nearby townsfolk show up with literal pitchforks and torches.  I won’t spoil the rest. It’s fun, I love the protag’s personality and the way the author reveals depth as we move through the stories. 

Making Contact

Here’s where you can find me online:

  • – my blog
  • @CKCombs_author – Instagram and TikTok – and now Mastodon! (I’m hardly ever there, are you?)

Leave a Reply