Adventures with Words, July 2024

Adventures with Words, July 2024

I started writing this back in June, when I was visiting Mom in Chewelah, spending my mornings stacking firewood. When I got back home, I went full-press on finishing the Elephant Ears manuscript version 6 or 7 or billion – I’ve lost track. My goal was to get everything done and out to the next round of beta readers by the end of June and I sent it out to twelve folks on June 2nd.  Close enough for me to call it a goal met.

What three mornings of wood stacking looks like

My feelings about the quality of the book are in a catfight between “this is so good, they’re going to love it!” and “I hope it doesn’t suck…”.  

A friend asked if I knew what I was going to do next. Well, I could sit around waiting for feedback while my confidence crawls into a corner to rock and chew its nails while humming off key – instead I’ve decided to work on a short story. The story is about Merton, the murderous toddler from Playing in the Sandbox (Creative Colloquy Volume 8), and takes place 30 years later. If it’s good enough, I’ll submit it to CC and we’ll see what happens.  

My goal is to query in early fall. I’m currently researching agents by looking at their pages and wishlists and stalking them on social media. I set a goal to research 2 or 3 a week, and I’m falling well below that. In my defense, I’ve spent time gardening. And baking.  Anyway, back to the agents. Jenny Bartoy compiled a list for me and additionally I have been ‘collecting’ agent and editor names from the books I’ve been reading to get a feeling for who’s doing what with whom. I’ve researched 5 out of around 40. Though that number is probably closer to 30 or 35 because my original list includes agents that don’t fit in some way.

Summer heat doesn’t mean I stop baking

I brought a loaf of homemade bread with me on the visit to Mom, leaving nothing at home. Driving home from Chewelah to a house with no bread, I broke down and bought a loaf. I haven’t bought bread in months, ya’ll.  As a result, I was reminded that store bread is okay – and mine is definitely better both in flavor and texture. Speaking of which, I’ll need to make a loaf tomorrow or the next day.

In addition, I have an announcement to make – I am now a person who makes bagels.  We’ve done 3 batches and none of them have been duds. Experimenting with toppings is a lot of fun and everyone can participate in making their own custom bagels.  The other frequently made new recipe is garlic pull-apart bread. These two recipes use some sourdough discard along with yeast. These recipes are from This Jess Cooks and the sandwich bread recipe came from Sally’s Baking Addiction. Both sites are treasure troves of recipes I’m looking forward to exploring. Both provide well written instructions and suggestions, resulting in zero failed baking projects.  That’s my endorsement. Go check them out.

Front Yard Farm updates

The Front Yard Farm is bursting out all over. We’re harvesting lettuce, collards and broccoli. We’re snacking on the tiny strawberries from the tastiest ground cover ever and getting a few raspberry snacks, too. We’ve started picking peas and freezing them. Tomatoes, potatoes, and green beans in various stages of maturing. Today, Mol and I stuffed a crock full of sauerkraut-to-be with cabbage and garlic grown on the Front Yard Farm.

Our columbine bloomed this year and now the cosmos are taking over. Mol has expanded the back deck herb garden so that we can grow everything they use in the seasoning salt we love so much. Along with the herb garden, we’ve been working to make the back deck more inviting for hanging out and entertaining.

What I’ve been reading

I’ll finish this up with some words about what I’ve been reading. My reading rate has been much slower this year due to time spent working on the novel. So, Mom, I’m still way off my pace for hitting 50 books this year. 

I’m currently reading two non-fictions and one fiction novel.  

Stories are Weapons: Psychological Warfare and the American Mind is the latest nonfic by Annalee Newitz. I’ve talked about them before – they write some of the best science based non-fiction and science fiction recently published. I’m taking this one in small portions at a time because I want to be able to focus and because this is the book describing how we got to a place where people are swayed by stories that are really military-grade psyops focused on us. This is a well written guide to ‘WTF is going on’ (and has been since the beginning of colonialism on this continent), and based on the table of contents, ends with some ‘WTF we can do about it’, which is good. Best to end our real-life horror stories on a hopeful note, yes?

You are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience, edited by Tarana Burke and Brené Brown. I checked this one out of my agency’s Inclusion library and I’m also reading this one slowly – one essay at a time – so that I can fully digest each writer’s offerings. This is a very good collection and the conversational intro by Tarana and Brené is an excellent example of support and allyship. This collection is a source of ‘own voices’ witnessing that those of us who are not Black can benefit from reading.

Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve, LGBTQia+ urban fantasy involving magic and magical creatures. This story is well written and the characters are relatable, and interesting. The situation is very relatable and that’s what makes this book challenging to read. Published in 2019, this story unfolds in Salem Oregon where the modern equivalent to witch burning is focused on werewolves and zombies by people whipped into a panic by the same kind of panic mongering we see now that supports the felon running for presidency. Our two main characters are right in the cross-hairs of the campaign to ‘purify’ and ‘cleanse’ Salem – one is a zombie kept alive by a spell conjured by their now dead mother and the other is a werewolf. Both find each other a refuge among peers who reject them for various reasons – pretty standard YA set up and effectively done by Schrieve. 

Those are the current in-progress reads. I recently finished the adorable Ruby Finley vs. the Interstellar Invasion by K. Tempest Bradford. This sweet middle-grade fiction is about a young Black girl who happens to be a science whiz. 

Woods All Black by Lee Mandelo, another super suspenseful and creepy-dark queer offering by this author. As I’ve said before, Mandelo knows how to set a scene and a mood. Historical horror, satisfying and bloody queer revenge set in 1920s Appalachia.

And one more, something lighter to cleanse the mental palet: Bookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree. I will read anything this author writes. This story predates the one published first – Legends & Lattes –  so if you’ve not read it, I suggest reading them in reverse publishing order. What I noticed in addition to the fun story and great characters was that Baldree’s storycraft has improved – the stakes are higher and don’t stop increasing until the climactic, big-boss showdown, everything I loved about characters, relationships and setting got better.  Cheers to you, Travis.

Thank you all for your support. I encourage you to read from a diverse range of authors and publishers, buy from small bookstores – most of them can ship to you. Fight the homogenizing menace of capitalistic empires. While we’re at it, continue the fight against book bans and other attempts to stifle diverse voices. I’m doing my best not to have a full-blown anxiety attack about not finding a place for my book because publishers are too afraid to push back against conservatives.

Take care y’all.

Making Contact

Here’s where you can find me online:

  • – my blog
  • @CKCombs_author – Instagram, BlueSky, and Threads 

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