2016 Reading List

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Yesterday I announced my plans for what 2016 will hopefully look like around here. In preparation for the book I’ll be working on and the posts I want to share here, I’ve created a reading/research list for myself.

On my Goodreads account, I’ll be setting a goal of 80 novels read for 2016, which means I still have plenty of wiggle room to add more novels to this list as I go along.

Based on my list, can you guess some of themes of the book I’ll writing? What is my list missing that you would add?  I can’t wait to hear your suggestions!

1. On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft– Stephen King

2. Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories– Chuck Palahniuk

3. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life– Anne Lamott

4. Eats, Shoots and Leaves– Lynne Truss

5. Wiccapedia: A Modern-Day White Witch’s Guide– Shawn Robbins & Leanna Greenaway

6. Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy– Melissa Milgrom

7. New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and Their Families– Colm Toibin

8. House of Leaves: The Remastered Full-Color Edition– Mark Z. Danielewski

9. A Witches’ Bible: The Complete Witches’ Handbook– Janet and Stewart Farrar*

10. The Book of English Magic– Philip Carr-Gomm & Richard Heygate

11. Witch Hunt: The History of a Persecution– Nigel Cawthorne

12. The Witchcraft Sourcebook: Second Edition– Ed. Brian P. Levack

13. The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography– Simon Singh

14. Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner– Scott Cunningham

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15. The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York– Deborah Blum

16. A Room of One’s Own– Virginia Woolf

17. Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing– Mignon Fogarty

18. Writing from the Senses: 59 Exercises to Ignite Creativity and Revitalize Your Writing– Laura Deutsch

19. A Short History of Nearly Everything– Bill Bryson

20. Blog, Inc.: Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create Community– Joy Deangdeelert Cho, Meg Mateo Ilasco

21. Grimoires: A History of Magic Books– Owen Davies

22. History Of Witchcraft– Jeffrey B. Russell*

23. Signs and Symbols– Miranda Bruce-Mitford*

24. The Book of Codes: Understanding the World of Hidden Messages: An Illustrated Guide to Signs, Symbols, Ciphers, and Secret Languages– Paul Lunde

25. The Black Arts– Richard Cavendish*

26. The Dictionary of Demons: Names of the Damned– Michelle Belanger

27. Cat’s Cradle: A Novel– Kurt Vonnegut

28. Slaughterhouse-Five– Kurt Vonnegut

29. Witches of America– Alex Mar

30. Fight Club– Chuck Palahniuk
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*-denotes books I still need to add to my bookshelves

Following my dreams

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Since the days when it was still socially acceptable for me to wear pigtails, I’ve dreamed of becoming a writer. I’m sure my fantasy of this profession is much more magical than reality but I figure it’s about time I live out that dream. I’m holding onto hope the adult-life I envisioned as a frizzy-haired kid is somewhat accurate.

My plan – take one year to write. I’ll continue freelancing and plan to blog 3-4 times a week, and the best part, work on a book! I’ve had an idea for a book floating around for a longer period of time than I’m willing to admit and I hope to finally give it the attention I’ve longed to for so many years. I’m free-Slurpee-day-at-7-11 excited!

What this means – well according to my husband, it means a year of me embracing my weird self and living that life as honestly and fully as I can.  According to me, well, I like his description, but it also means a few other things…

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Anyone who knows me, knows I thrive on a full schedule. Photography has provided me with that for a number of years now and it’s incredible. I feel so fortunate for everything it has brought my way and allowed me to experience. A huge part of my heart is nestled in my photography business and that isn’t going to change. What will change though, is the amount of photography I’ll be doing, but this is a good thing, promise! It means I’ll have a bit more time for writing and that’s amazing news!

My Dad has always been adamant that I just need to follow my heart and everything else will fall into place from there. I know he’s right because living those words has led me to where I am today. However for the last three years in a row, “Write!” has been at the top of my New Year’s Resolution list and it’s always the item that remains on there without ever being checked off. I’m excited, nervous, and a little nauseous, but I know I’ll regret it if I don’t give that goal an honest effort. I’m utterly clueless as to the steps I take from here. The only thing I’m sure of is that to be a writer, I must write.

If you’re interested in hearing more about this journey please feel free to follow along! Over the next few days I’ll be sharing more hints as to what my “Year of Weird” will look like and some of the things I’ll be exploring.

I’m so excited for 2016 and hope that you’ll stop by often to keep me company!

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New York, No Thanks

I already wrote about my time in New York, I know. However, I wanted to expand on it a little in more of a story form, hence the second post! I’ve also included a handful of images from my trip that I haven’t shared before now.  I hope you enjoy!

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I’ve visited my fair share of over-populated cities. However, being the type of person who prefers company with four legs opposed to two, my opinion of these crowded centres isn’t typically one which will sell travel guides. So, when my husband Aaron and I told our families the next trip we were planning would include half a week in New York the look on their faces was nothing short of confused.

“Ok…” my mother said hesitantly, “but, why?” Our response, “Well, why not?” We figured, while we’re ‘in the neighbourhood’ we might as well see what the city has to offer. Plus, there was a sandwich shop that Aaron promised me would be worth the trip. What I didn’t tell him was that I was just as excited to see a location where a scene from National Treasure was filmed. We both had a mixture of good intentions, ulterior motives, and a sense of adventure.

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As part of our trip, we decided to take the train from Boston to New York. Watching the coastal views breeze by our window above the rails would be romantic. In reality, the majority of the scenery conjured up images from 28 Days Later opposed to When Harry Met Sally. “It’s all part of the experience” I told myself; and it was.

We left Boston and a few hours later our train pulled into Penn Station. We quickly gathered our belongings and made our way above ground. The lights, traffic, and skyscrapers swallowed us. It took mere seconds to surmise what this city was all about. It screamed its intentions loud enough so that even the hard of hearing couldn’t mistake it for being quaint.

We claimed our precise three inches of personal space and joined the masses in the ever growing lineup for a taxi. Nearly all movement in New York is done in the form of lineups. Bodies of flesh and metal sardined together, shuffling and jolting like characters from The Living Dead. And for those who were wondering, hailing a taxi isn’t always as eloquent of an experience as it appears in Sex In The City. There are individuals who I’m pretty sure would gnaw off an appendage of anyone who dared to skip the line and try one of Carrie Bradshaw’s fancy moves.

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After a $40, eight block taxi ride, we were deposited at our hotel, the lights from Times Square glowing in the background. The first thing on the agenda was to check out the neighbourhood. Aaron and I are relatively well-travelled adults, but I don’t think it’s possible to prepare for Times Square in any other manner than to simply experience it. I’ve seen photos and videos, but I must say, it’s comparable to dressing a pig in a bowtie. No matter how colorful that bowtie is, it isn’t going to mask the foul-smelling mud the pig has been rolling in all day.

As Aaron predicted though, the sandwiches, beer, musicals, and shopping did indeed make up for the scent of hot, rotten spinach rising from every sewer grate our feet crossed. We combated the filth with copious amounts of hand sanitizer, and the crowds, we let them carry us, making the task of walking the hectic city just a tiny bit easier on our weary feet. We completed the obligatory boat ride out to Lady Liberty, ate our fill of cheesecake, and shopped the 5th avenue boutiques. After a warm afternoon in Central Park the city was starting to grow on me. It wasn’t until later that evening when we began to experience exactly why it has been giving the nickname of ‘the city that never sleeps’ did my opinion slide steeply downhill.

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I didn’t realize it was possible, but the number of shocking events that can happen while walking no more than two New York blocks is considerable higher than I thought. We witnessed an age-old transaction taking place with little concern for the very public corner they were standing on, an elderly man entering into both a verbal and physical altercation with the front of a city bus, and a trouble youth, assuring me that “It’s all happening again”, I was ready to return to the safety and slow pace of my small-town home. A quick glance toward Aaron and I knew he was thinking the same thing.

Hand-in-hand we quickened our pace back to our hotel, made our way through a lobby crowded with flight attendants and tourists, all seemingly stuck in a never ending checking in and checking out cycle, and pushed through to the elevators. We found sanctuary in the golden box and just as the doors were closing, separating us from the chaos, a woman’s voice yelled, “Stop! Hold the doors!” I should have known our escape wouldn’t come that easily. I rolled my eyes at Aaron and then pushed in the ‘open door’ button to hold the elevator for the passengers too desperate to wait for the next lift.

A teenage boy pushed his wheelchair-bound mother over the threshold and onto the elevator. I smiled at the pair and inquired which floor they were headed too. With an exasperated sigh the woman responded, “I don’t even care, as long as it’s away from all of… that” she flipped her hand toward the hoard of people outside of the elevator. “I tell ya,” she said to me and Aaron. “This city is beyond ridiculous.”

“I couldn’t agree more.” I replied with an empathetic smile.

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Christmas Gift

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It started out as research. Well, that’s what I told my husband. The reality though, was that I have always been interested in taxidermy and skeleton articulation. And, being unwilling to harm an animal in the name of research I had to practise patience, and wait for nature to run it’s course.

Unable to find the right words to properly question my intentions, my husband’s cautious laughter said more than anything he could have spoken. Knowing better than to get between me and my ideas, he stepped aside as I fished a dead bird from our pool. I was upset I hadn’t found my feathered friend early enough to save his life, but I wasn’t going to let the bird’s death go to waste. My husband watched in silence as I buried the frail body in a shallow grave in our backyard. I reassured him the dogs wouldn’t dig there, that they would know better. Foolish promises, surely.

Pleased with my actions, I envisioned the story I would write. A story about a killer who also enjoyed skeleton articulation. I wasn’t sure of the details beyond that, but I figured that instead of taking the critters who had passed on out to the dump, I would give them a new life through my research. I would allow nature to do its work and then articulate their bones. Preserving their beauty instead of disposing of it.

As it turns out, I never gained the nerve required to actually go through with my research, but I found the next best thing. Online shopping has opened up an entire new world. A world that allows one to order ethically sourced animal skeletons from the comfort of their home office. Pants optional. So, with Christmas looming in the near future, I planted the seed in my husband’s ear.

Snow fell, Christmas trees were erected then decorated, and wrapping paper shredded. My husband, who has a flawless gift-giving track record, surprised me with an articulated cat skeleton. It was quite possibly the least romantic gift one could receive, but likely the most excited anyone has ever been to open a package and find a dead animal beneath the festive gift wrap.

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We gathered with friends and family to celebrate the season, eager to share decedent appetizers and the stories of our spoils. My sister sparkled from every appendage as she modelled the jewels she received. We gushed over the beauty of each piece, expressing our jealously of her treasures. Our ‘ooohs’ and ‘ ‘ahhhs’ swam harmoniously on the air as my husband entered the kitchen, questioning what all of excitement was about. My sister did a little spin, her jewels sparkling as brightly as the lights in the trees. My husband let out a loud laugh, turned to me and said, “And all you got was a dead cat!”

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***DISCLAIMER – This is an ethically sourced articulated skeleton.***

Concrete Jungle

2015-04-11_0003This is another piece I wrote for my creative writing class.  I was envisioning the same character I wrote about here.  This piece ended up being almost  continuation of that piece as well!  Please feel free to share your thoughts/opinions 🙂

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The heels of her black leather boots clacked against the wet pavement; a wordless militant mantra. A wet breeze lifted her wild curls, wrapping them around her face as she made her way down the cement steps and into the tunnels.

Trains filled with passengers entered and left the station. “Instead of concreate jungle, where the living is harder.” A young boy singing Bob Marley atop a plastic milk crate drum could be heard, the hard surroundings spreading his soulful sound. Strategically weaving through the dense crowd, she made her way to her platform. From the corner of her eye she spotted a man pushing a collection of what she knew was stolen jewellery, into the face of anyone within an arm’s reach. Desperately, she fought his efforts to make eye contact. She had been on both sides of this con.

“Miss, miss!” He called out to her. She had no patience for men like him today. Men, like her father.  “Miss! Come, come and see. You’ll like, I promise. Look, this piece will bring out those beautiful eyes.”

Annoyed, but always eager for a challenge, she forced her lips into a smile. She raised her chin and the grated lights transformed her eyes into faceted emeralds. Ensuring the man saw just how beautiful her eyes were, she locked his gaze and confidently walked over. The worn folding suitcase around his neck was filled with gold chains swaying from tiny hooks. A vulgar smell emanated from his down-filled jacket, screaming insults at the air around them. The stench clawed at her nostrils; she hid her disgust well.

“You like?” he questioned, raising the squalid caterpillars above his eyes.

“Oh, they’re beautiful,” she flirted, “but much too rich for my blood, I’m afraid.” Her Prada bag and Burberry jacket mocking him more loudly than her words.

She ran her manicured merlot nails across the ornate necklaces, flashed him a smile that made men kneel at her boots, turned, and walked away from the man as her train approached the platform. It was a game for her and she enjoyed every second of it.

She joined the flow of bodies making their way onto the train and found a seat near the door. While she waited for the doors to close again she reached into her pocket and gently ran the garish gold trinket through her fingers.

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I Can Barely Take Care of Myself – Jen Kirkman

This is not so much an book review as it is a conversation. A conversation I was too scared to have on my own so I’m using Jen Kirkman’s words, as a buffer of sorts. A pillow, to soften some of the things that I want to say, to talk about. There really shouldn’t be anything to be scared about, but for some reason, having this discussion without wording it around Jen’s book makes my voice shake, ever so slightly.

Since the days when I was still wearing one piece pyjamas I have told anyone who would listen that I didn’t want children. My Mom always reassured me I would change my mind but I would defiantly stomp my foot and tell her she was wrong. Thankfully I’ve grown since those days and am able to use words to explain my decision opposed to foot-stomping

I never played with dolls. Luckily I had a little brother who is close in age and we shared a love of animals and ninja turtles. I never understood why most of my girlfriends enjoyed playing house and carting babies around, it just wasn’t appealing to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I like kids. Between my husband and I, we have some pretty amazing nieces and nephews and I love them dearly. Nearly everyone around me has little ones of their own and I thoroughly enjoy watching their babies grow into toddlers and celebrate every milestone along the way. I work with children often and I adore the time I get to spend with them. So trust me when I say, it’s not that I don’t like children, I just don’t think that kids are for me.

I’ve never felt that maternal drive that I’ve heard so many women describe and I’m finally realizing that that is ok. It does not mean there is something wrong with me, it just means that my version of ‘family’ is a little different than societal ‘norms’. I’m still a ‘mother’ of sorts to my adopted “children” (aka pets), and for me, it’s fulfilling.

This conversation about being childless by choice is becoming more prominent, more accepted, and less questioned. Just yesterday Humans of New York posted a portrait of a childless by choice woman and it was shared and ‘liked’ thousands of times. And, there are countless novels, like Jen Kirkman’s which celebrate a child-free life.

In her book I Can Barely Take Care of Myself, Jen talks at length about the countless times she’s been forced to explain herself and fight for her decision to live childless and not be made to feel guilty about it. She comments on how many have called her selfish for her decision to not have children and her response is, “I don’t go up to parents and say, “You know what you guys should do in addition to what you’re already doing? You should start a small charity that helps birds that can’t read. What do you mean you don’t want to do that? How come you don’t want to add that to your schedule? Isn’t that selfish?””  I love that she is confident enough in what she wants to know that she doesn’t have the time, nor does she desire to make the time to raise a child, and that she, nor any other person who has made that decision, should be made to feel guilty for their choice.

Jen also discusses how she is often told she would be an amazing Mom after reassuring people, numerous times, it’s not what she wants. While I don’t really mind when people say this to me, I couldn’t help by laugh at her response. After being told she would shine as a mother she comments, “This statement is at best condescending and at worst patently false and potentially dangerous. It’s like telling a friend who you know has a paralyzing fear of wild animals that she would make a great game warden. Seriously, she should just shake off her deep-seated anxiety about being around rhinos and lions and just go out there and guide some poor, innocent family on a safari. I’m sure you’ll do fine!”

Pregnancy, childbirth, children, and fertility are all extremely sensitive topics yet they seem to be commonplace, often with near strangers. And, while I don’t feel it’s appropriate for anyone to mercilessly question a woman about her actions and decisions regarding these things, I am glad that it’s becoming more commonplace to have open and civil discussions about living child-free by choice.

 

Shatter the Void

2015-03-09_0002Our house is as still as the Queen’s guards. Unblinking, unmoving.

Our dog’s chest rises and falls rhythmically and her breath fogs the glass panes that are usually shaking timidly from her bellows. Her short coat reflecting the warmth that creeps in through the sheer curtains.

Our cat, with a voice which would get her kicked out of any library is laying loaf-like and uncomplaining. Her pregnant, yet kitten-less stomach isn’t protesting her empty dish.

Our rabbit, mimicking a sixteen-year-old boy in both actions and attitude is laying corpse-like in his bed, nursing a banana hangover. His mane, as wild as a Joplin groupie, masks his eyes. I’m tempted to poke at his soft form to ensure he’s still earth-side.

I’m nearly positive both furnaces have stopped working because I can’t hear the whir of warm air filling the vents.

The feathered tenants occupying the large trees surrounding our home aren’t performing this afternoon. The outside of our home is mirroring the inside.

Buttons aren’t making music in the dryer and the persistently dripping faucet is as dry as stale bread. My shallow breath hangs on the air, suspended and soundless.

The man wielding a knife with intentions of making my liver his next meal isn’t pacing over the squeaky board in our living room. We have yet to meet face-to-face, but I’m certain he lives in our attic.

Steam silently rises from my freshly poured cup of coffee and I slurp the first mouthful to shatter the void.

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**Photo by TJ Romero**

 

Book Club vol. 1b : The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

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I’m a few days late with this post, sorry! I said I would have it up on Tuesday but due to a few illnesses, our book club gathering was postponed until next week. I had intentions to include everyone else’s thoughts and opinions as part of this post, but you’re stuck me and me alone.

I have a degree in English yet this was my first encounter with Mr. Gaiman. I can’t believe I waited this long, I loved this novel! When I picked up a copy of this book I also purchased The Ocean at the End of the Lane and I’m really glad I did, I can’t wait to read more of his work.

I’m not sure what other editions of this book look like, but my copy had illustrations by Dave McKean. Being a visual person, I thoroughly enjoyed reading a book with illustrations. His art compliments the story beautifully.

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I’ve been told numerous times I would love Gaiman’s writing because I love description. Stephen King is one of my favorite authors specifically for that reason. I must have a lot of people who know me pretty darn well because this introduction to Gaiman’s work did not disappoint. The Graveyard Book was rich with visual imagery and satiated my desire for near photographic writing.

“You might not have seen a pale, plump woman, who walked the path near the front gates, and if you had seen her, with a second, more careful glance you would have realized that she was only moonlight, mist, and shadow. The plump, pale woman was there, though. She walked the path that led through a clutch of half-fallen tombstones towards the front gates.” – Neil Gaiman

My girlfriend read this novel at the same time I did and made the comment that each chapter felt like a new story. I can’t disagree with her, it does read that way. I don’t think this appealed to her, but I quite enjoyed it. With this novel being intended for a younger crowd, I imagine that reading through one chapter at time would be quite satisfying as they are almost reading short stories within the novel as they make our way through its entirety.

Overall, I loved the time I spent with this book. It opened up an entirely new (to me) author and I’m excited to make my way through many more of Mr. Gaiman’s novels. I really enjoyed the graveyard setting of this novel and grew quite fond of all of the characters, with the exception of a few men, but I won’t spoil it for those of you who have not read it yet.

If you enjoy description-heavy writing and are looking to get lost in a great story I highly recommend this book!  For those of you who have read this already, did you like it? Who was your favorite character (I have a few!)?

*****

I’m going to start ‘hosting’ book club right here, once a month. If you’re interested in joining along, we’ll plan to meet her on the 1st of every month to chat about that month’s novel. If you feel like throwing out novel suggestions, please do! Let’s set our next book club meeting for Wednesday April 1st, and next time, we’ll discuss The Beach by Alex Garland. I’ve been promising my brother for weeks that I would read this book next so now I’m holding myself accountable and I hope you’ll join me!

 

Dole Whip

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A few months ago I traveled to California for a workshop. When I found out I would be LA bound the only thing that came to mind was – Disneyland! How could I possible be that close to the Magic Kingdom and not go? I was hesitant though, who goes to Disneyland alone? Isn’t that kind of weird? Or sad? Turns out, it’s neither…or maybe both?

Admittedly, I was a little scared. I have never taken a solo vacation before, especially not to a destination which is best known as a ‘family’ getaway. I love travelling and spending time alone, but I was worried I would feel lonely watching everyone around me bonding with their loved ones. This is, however, not what I saw. Well, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but that was not the prevailing scene playing out at the park each day.

I’ve been to Disneyland before, and don’t remember any of these things happening. Some of my fondest memories were made in that park. Travelling there alone though, is an entirely different experience. Because I didn’t have someone by my side to share in the excitement as darkness fell over the park and the lights on the Haunted Mansion began to shine, I was left alone to observe. I had the time and freedom to sit back and soak it all in. The good, bad, and ugly. The magic in the park seems to be easily dusted off when you’re travelling solo. I saw cast members rolling their eyes the fairy dust obviously scratching at their retinas opposed to wrapping them in a glow of overwhelming joy, cleaning crews stealthily sneaking through hidden panels to clean up the lunch a child just lost after riding space mountain (unfortunately I had the pleasure of walking through this scene before mops had a chance to do their work), and children crying, everywhere. Long weaving lineups held masses of hot sticky families, lost in their conversations and excitement while they waited for the never-ending loops of boats, trains, and caterpillars. It’s evident this scene had grown increasingly monotonous for many of the cast members.
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Don’t get me wrong though, travelling to Disneyland solo definitely had its perks. I ate Dole whip for lunch, more than once. Gripping my single rider pass tight, I rode the Indian Jones ride four times in a row, every single day. I wandered in aimless loops around the park for hours at a time doing nothing more than soaking in the atmosphere. I browsed every single shop, even though most of them carry 90% of the same stock, and there wasn’t a single person moaning over my choices. I sat by myself and laughed at the electronic seagulls and went on the kiddie rides alone even though I felt everyone was staring at me. It was refreshing and somehow, liberating.

But, I think I’ve had my fill of Dole whip.

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