ray bradbury’s lists for creative writing

Ray Bradbury suggests in Zen and the Art of Writing, to let a writer’s mind list “random” words (he listed nouns) to help fuel their imagination. From the list, he suggests one might glean insight into where your passions lie and where your next story might be hidden. He writes,

These lists were the provocations, finally, that caused my better stuff to surface. I was feeling my way toward something honest, hidden under the trapdoor on the top of my skull.

The lists ran something like this:


I was beginning to see a pattern in the list, in these words that I had simply flung forth on paper, trusting my subconscious to give bread, as it were, to the birds. Glancing over the list, I discovered my old love and fright having to do with circuses and carnivals. I remembered, and then forgot, and then remembered again, how terrified I had been when my mother took me for my first ride on a merry-go-round. With the calliope screaming and the world spinning and the terrible horses leaping, I added my shrieks to the din. I did not go near the carousel again for years. When I really did, decades later, it rode me into the midst of Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Brain Pickings even wrote a great article about Bradbury’s list-making and how it fosters creativity.

While easing back into writing from the crazy land that has been my life for the last six months, my girlfriend suggested I read Bradbury’s book and within the first few pages, he outlines this technique. I decided to take a break and try it out myself (adding verbs, adjective, and other phrases beyond just nouns). It’s supposed to be off-the-cuff, word association style, with little to no thought so your subconscious can run with it, so here we go.

my bradbury list (7/16/19)

  • The Coatroom
  • Long Fingers
  • The Centipede
  • Over the River
  • Where it Dies
  • Lightbulbs
  • The Overcoat
  • The Back Forty
  • Meadowgrounds
  • Lockland Street
  • Back Alley
  • The Bar
  • Floorboards
  • The Windowpane
  • Out the Window
  • The Cooler
  • Cut and Dry
  • The Medicine Man
  • Devine Intervention
  • Roanoke
  • The Key
  • The Curtain
  • Chimes at Night
  • Cochlear
  • Seaglass
  • The Dunes
  • The Reef
  • The Storm
  • The Mizzenmast
  • The Attic
  • Box
  • Tape and Matches
  • The Red Dawn
  • The Sickness
  • The Sewers
  • A Wristwatch
  • Beyond the Fence
  • Tall Grasses
  • Fungi
  • Crying
  • The Foxfire
  • Golden Garbage
  • Up and Away
  • Digging
  • Button Holes
  • The Moon
  • The Old Woman
  • Peach Pit
  • The Rats
  • The Copper Fish
  • Garden Growth
  • The Hatchery
  • Under the Skin
  • The Example
  • The Test
  • The Croaker
  • Intubate
  • Landslide
  • Presque Isle
  • Lake on Fire
  • Chitter
  • Cat Trap
  • Warm Milk
  • The Oakley Farm
  • Behind the Barn
  • Milk Can
  • Blacksnake
  • Cattail
  • Black Fingers
  • Wrought Iron
  • Firestick
  • The Drive
  • The Bush Feast
  • Malfeasance
  • Tuberculosis

I think I can already feel the stories locked in there.

That list contains the summers I spent on my grandparent’s farm, as well as pieces of my childhood, crossing rivers and sneaking through my neighbor’s fields. My penchant for the dark and macabre snuck in there, as did a little of my love for William S. Burrows. 

That’s a pretty handy list of prompts right there since they all mean something to me. I should have done this a while ago. 

Thanks, Ray Bradbury. That was insightful.

the collected writing advice of kurt vonnegut

(Photo:  Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library)

The last place you’d expect to find writing advice is in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ journal Transactions on Professional Communications. Yet, there it was.

In the 1980 issue, Kurt Vonnegut dispatches advice on “how to put your style and personality into everything you write.” What’s even more interesting, is that he does it in an ad, part of a series from the International Paper Company called “The Power of the Printed Word.” It was a ploy, a decree, or call to arms urging all of us to “read better, write better, and communicate better.”

Below you will find that advice, as well as other snippets about writing from the prologues of his novels, interviews, and his memoir of essays, A Man Without a Country.

How to Write with Style: An ad

1. Find a subject you care about
Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.

I am not urging you to write a novel, by the way—although I would not be sorry if you wrote one, provided you genuinely cared about something. A petition to the mayor about a pothole in front of your house or a love letter to the girl next door will do.

2. Do not ramble, though
I won’t ramble on about that.

3. Keep it simple
As for your use of language: Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. “To be or not to be?” asks Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long. Joyce, when he was frisky, could put together a sentence as intricate and as glittering as a necklace for Cleopatra, but my favorite sentence in his short story “Eveline” is this one: “She was tired.” At that point in the story, no other words could break the heart of a reader as those three words do.

Simplicity of language is not only reputable, but perhaps even sacred. The Bible opens with a sentence well within the writing skills of a lively fourteen-year-old: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

4. Have guts to cut
It may be that you, too, are capable of making necklaces for Cleopatra, so to speak. But your eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.

5. Sound like yourself
The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child. English was Conrad’s third language, and much that seems piquant in his use of English was no doubt colored by his first language, which was Polish. And lucky indeed is the writer who has grown up in Ireland, for the English spoken there is so amusing and musical. I myself grew up in Indianapolis, where common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanized tin, and employs a vocabulary as unornamental as a monkey wrench.

In some of the more remote hollows of Appalachia, children still grow up hearing songs and locutions of Elizabethan times. Yes, and many Americans grow up hearing a language other than English, or an English dialect a majority of Americans cannot understand.

All these varieties of speech are beautiful, just as the varieties of butterflies are beautiful. No matter what your first language, you should treasure it all your life. If it happens to not be standard English, and if it shows itself when your write standard English, the result is usually delightful, like a very pretty girl with one eye that is green and one that is blue.

I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am. What alternatives do I have? The one most vehemently recommended by teachers has no doubt been pressed on you, as well: to write like cultivated Englishmen of a century or more ago.

6. Say what you mean
I used to be exasperated by such teachers, but am no more. I understand now that all those antique essays and stories with which I was to compare my own work were not magnificent for their datedness or foreignness, but for saying precisely what their authors meant them to say. My teachers wished me to write accurately, always selecting the most effective words, and relating the words to one another unambiguously, rigidly, like parts of a machine. The teachers did not want to turn me into an Englishman after all. They hoped that I would become understandable—and therefore understood. And there went my dream of doing with words what Pablo Picasso did with paint or what any number of jazz idols did with music. If I broke all the rules of punctuation, had words mean whatever I wanted them to mean, and strung them together higgledy-piggledy, I would simply not be understood. So you, too, had better avoid Picasso-style or jazz-style writing, if you have something worth saying and wish to be understood.

Readers want our pages to look very much like pages they have seen before. Why? This is because they themselves have a tough job to do, and they need all the help they can get from us.

7. Pity the readers
They have to identify thousands of little marks on paper, and make sense of them immediately. They have to read, an art so difficult that most people don’t really master it even after having studied it all through grade school and high school—twelve long years.

So this discussion must finally acknowledge that our stylistic options as writers are neither numerous nor glamorous, since our readers are bound to be such imperfect artists. Our audience requires us to be sympathetic and patient readers, ever willing to simplify and clarify—whereas we would rather soar high above the crowd, singing like nightingales.

That is the bad news. The good news is that we Americans are governed under a unique Constitution, which allows us to write whatever we please without fear of punishment. So the most meaningful aspect of our styles, which is what we choose to write about, is utterly unlimited.

8. For really detailed advice
For a discussion of literary style in a narrower sense, in a more technical sense, I recommend to your attention The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. E.B. White is, of course, one of the most admirable literary stylists this country has so far produced.

You should realize, too, that no one would care how well or badly Mr. White expressed himself, if he did not have perfectly enchanting things to say.

How to Write With Style, published in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ journal Transactions on Professional Communications in 1980.

Construct Short Stories with Purpose

Kurt Vonnegut’s rules for writing short stories from the intro to Bogombo Snuffbox:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them – in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964). She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.

Brian Collins at The Writing Cooperative did a great write up on each rule and what they mean.

Have Other Interests

I think it can be tremendously refreshing if a creator of literature has something on his mind other than the history of literature so far. Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak.

—“An interview conducted with himself, by himself,” for The Paris Review

Art for Art’s Sake

If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

—A Man Without a Country

I used to teach a writer’s workshop at the University of Iowa back in the 1960s, and I would say at the start of every semester, “The role model for this course is Vincent van Gogh—who sold two paintings to his brother.” (Laughs.) I just sit and wait to see what’s inside me, and that’s the case for writing or for drawing, and then out it comes. There are times when nothing comes. James Brooks, the fine abstract-expressionist, I asked him what painting was like for him, and he said, “I put the first stroke on the canvas and then the canvas has to do half the work.” That’s how serious painters are. They’re waiting for the canvas to do half the work. (Laughs.) Come on. Wake up.

—The Last Interview

The Shapes of Stories

Loosen Up

I don’t have the will to teach anymore. I only know the theory… It was stated by Paul Engle—the founder of the Writers Workshop at Iowa. He told me that, if the workshop ever got a building of its own, these words should be inscribed over the entrance: “Don’t take it all so seriously.”

—“An interview conducted with himself, by himself,” for The Paris Review

Confronting Plot

I guarantee you that no modern story scheme, even plotlessness, will give a reader genuine satisfaction, unless one of those old-fashioned plots is smuggled in somewhere. I don’t praise plots as accurate representations of life, but as ways to keep readers reading. When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away—even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time. One of my students wrote a story about a nun who got a piece of dental floss stuck between her lower left molars, and who couldn’t get it out all day long. I thought that was wonderful. The story dealt with issues a lot more important than dental floss, but what kept readers going was anxiety about when the dental floss would finally be removed. Nobody could read that story without fishing around in his mouth with a finger. Now, there’s an admirable practical joke for you. When you exclude plot, when you exclude anyone’s wanting anything, you exclude the reader, which is a mean-spirited thing to do. You can also exclude the reader by not telling him immediately where the story is taking place, and who the people are [and what they want].

And you can put him to sleep by never having characters confront each other. Students like to say that they stage no confrontations because people avoid confrontations in modern life. “Modern life is so lonely,” they say. This is laziness. It’s the writer’s job to stage confrontations, so the characters will say surprising and revealing things, and educate and entertain us all. If a writer can’t or won’t do that, he should withdraw from the trade.

—“An interview conducted with himself, by himself,” for The Paris Review

Tread Lightly with Love Lest You Lose

So much of what happens in storytelling is mechanical, has to do with the technical problems of how to make a story work. Cowboy stories and policeman stories end in shoot-outs, for example, because shoot-outs are the most reliable mechanisms for making such stories end. There is nothing like death to say what is always such an artificial thing to say: “The end.” I try to keep deep love out of my stories because, once that particular subject comes up, it is almost impossible to talk about anything else. Readers don’t want to hear about anything else. They go gaga about love. If a lover in a story wins his true love, that’s the end of the tale, even if World War III is about to begin, and the sky is black with flying saucers.

—“An interview conducted with himself, by himself,” for The Paris Review

Don’t Light the Candle in your Ass

I get up at 7:30 and work four hours a day. Nine to twelve in the morning, five to six in the evening. Businessmen would achieve better results if they studied human metabolism. No one works well eight hours a day. No one ought to work more than four hours.

—An interview with Robert Taylor in Boston Globe Magazine, 1969

Learn the Rules, then Break Them

Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.

[Then, later in his book …]

Those of us who had imagination circuits build can look in someone’s face and see stories there; to everyone else, a face will just be a face.

And there, I’ve just used a semi-colon, which at the outset I told you never to use. It is to make a point that I did it. The point is: Rules only take us so far, even good rules.

—A Man Without a Country

unleashing natural creativity

“Being stuck on one [project] is an opportunity to work on something else.”

Recently, this Ted Talk gave a name to something I’ve been thinking about for months: slow motion multi-tasking.

It’s the reason why my upload speed on my major projects has slowed. It’s the reason why I trashed or logged out of my social media accounts. It’s why I can’t respond to comments for days, weeks, months.

I am working on three major bodies of written work: each fiction, each varying styles, and each developing at different rates.

To be a better writer, we are told to write in any way, shape, or form but also to read. Everything and anything. Consume the written word and it will flow through us.

So when I am stuck, I work on expanding my library of knowledge by reading collections of short stories, my favorite novels, modern classics, Oscar Wilde …

The inspiration comes easier now as I spread my attention between these things, not at the same time, but giving each one my fullest attention in turn.

No Tumblr notifications, no AO3 hit counts to see, no Twitter twitting in the background. Just me and Scrivener, or my headphones and Kindle, and a hot cup of tea.

Yesterday I wrote 3000 words for Charm City. Today, I opened my Unhitched file for the first time in months and edited it. Last week I finished two books, Ishmael by Daniel Quinn and Trigger Warnings by Neil Gaiman. Next week, I will begin two more, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the new edition of American Gods when they are both released as audiobooks on Scribd.

When I cannot do any of that – listen to a droning narrator, or write for one of my many versions of the same men in hostile, bloody, or psychologically strained environments – I work on my new novel in the style of J.M. Barrie. It is light. It’s refreshing. It’s resetting to me and I listen to classical music while I do it.

This blog is my collection of cardboard boxes, keeping my inspiration organized and my tasks filed away.

So, thank you, Tim Harford, for helping me justify bouncing between pages and books without publishing my work in a timely manner. It’s opened my eyes to what I have already accomplished and how my process of creativity is not scattering my brain or being used as some sort of avoidance tactic, but rather allowing me to slow down and move past blocks while still maintaining creative productivity.

rest stop [personal]

While cleaning out my Google Docs, I found my original chapter one of Unhitched. It was in a file called trucker!Hannibal and titled Rest Stop, and was a whopping 712 word. It was created on Mar 1, 2017, whereas chapter one of Unhitched was published on August 6 of that same year after I had about eight chapters written and lined up in the queue.

If you want to see how someone’s writing ability and style can vastly change over a couple months (and then years), read on. I warn you, though. It’s rough – so rough. I left every error for posterity, but I think it makes me even prouder of what Unhitched is turning into.

“Excuse me, ma’am! Hey!” he snapped, gritting his teeth. The waitress tensed her shoulders, slowly turning to stare down at the middle-aged mustached man in the booth. “Um, these eggs,” he said, pointing at his plate, “are they supposed to be ice cold?”

Her face reflected each regretful minute of the twelve hours she’d been at the diner. “Yes, sir. Ice cold,” she barked. “Says so on the menu.”

He hesitated, his voice growing soft as he stared back at her blank expression, “Okay then. Uh, thank you.” He averted his eyes from the woman as he scanned his area of the diner for any potential eavesdroppers. Satisfied that his exchange went unnoticed he began cutting up his cold fried eggs. The waitress had meandered away and now stood behind the bar, rolling her eyes at the crazy man in her section. Will, of course, noticed this, but returned his attention to his slimy eggs.

“Ice cold,” he mumbled to himself. “Supposed to be ice cold. Menu says so,” he mocked. “Why bother to cook them at all then?” His agitated voice was elevating as he spoke. “Should have just given me a couple eggs right out of the damn refrigerator!” he emphasized with a scream. Several other diners looked up from their breakfasts and gawked at the man clearly losing his mind.

“What are you looking at?!” he angrily questioned, his eyes darting around the restaurant. Women were whispering and glancing away and a few men were simply ignoring his outburst – save one. Will glared at the bearded man at the far end of the bar. The man’s piercing eyes bore holes through his skull. Will’s gaze aggressively locked on him until his mind finally buckled under the pressure, his eyes returning to his rubbery breakfast.

“Ice cold,” he whispered, keeping his voice low. “Tastes like shit,” he sneered throwing his fork down. He violently pushed away his plate and cradled his face in his hands, sighing deeply as his anxiety began percolating behind his eyes.  

He was suddenly no longer alone. He dropped his hands and stared at the face across from him at the table. The bearded man had invaded his booth and was now intensely eyeing him. The man leaned on his fist and continued to stare at Will.

Will incredulously stared back, unappreciative of this blatant disregard for his privacy. The man across from him pulled a toothpick out of nowhere and slowly worked it between his teeth as his gaze remained fixed on Will.

“Can I help you?” Will finally snapped.

The man pointed at him with the toothpick, “You’re a rude little man,” he mumbled matter-of-factly. His voice was low and gruff and accented in a way that one couldn’t quite place his origin or discern his level of education.

Will scoffed, his face contorting with disgust at the insult. “Is it not also rude to be served shitty eggs?” His voice was tense and emphatic. “I’m paying money for warm eggs, just like everyone else.”

The gruff man smiled and sat back in the booth. “You’re twitchy,” he snickered.

“And you’re dirty,” he retorted, unsure as to why he was resorting to name calling. This was all ridiculous. “And who-who’s rude now? Calling me twitchy …” He scoffed again and leaned back, crossing his arms.

“Where’re you headed?” asked the mysterious man.

Will’s voice remained agitated. “Yeah, I’m not discussing anything with you,” he hissed. His eyes darted around the room, searching for his waitress to refill his now ice cold coffee.

“Why not?” the man wondered. He was quiet and placid, not even particularly threatening.

“Do I seem interested in talking to you?”

“Not particularly.”

Will shook his head in disgust, “They why are you continuing to bother me?”

“Curious.” The man continued to chew his toothpick, occasionally clicking his tongue.

Will furrowed his brows. “Curious about what? About me?” He glared at him. “Buddy, I’m not into whatever you’re looking for, so move on.”

The man chuckled at Will’s assumption. “I think you’re exactly what I’m looking for.”

“Oh … wonderful,” he mocked. “And what the hell would that be?”

The man slowly leaned on the table, a menacing smile creeping across his face, “A man with nothing to lose.”

Notice how it’s in third person and past tense? I think that was the first thing to go on draft two. If you want to compare, here’s chapter one of the final version. It’s 2742 words, if you’re curious.

Oh, the magic and majesty of a little patience and a lot of practice.

gratitude vs attention bait [personal]

On Tumblr, an anonymous question was asked of ao3commentoftheday:

I wanted to talk about the authors’ feedback and how important it is for the reader either. It is often discussed how crucial are comments for the author and their desire to invest their effort into their new works. But authors’ replies to the readers’ comments are also important and they influence readers’ commitment and willingness to leave comments. Dear authors,please don’t ignore,please acknowledge us and our comments on your works with replies,bc it goes both ways. Please and thank you!

ao3commentoftheday left a fairly standard response stating that “everyone has reasons why they do/don’t leave comments and do/don’t reply to comments,” but it opened up that age-old discussion as to what readers feel owed when they comment and what writers are obligated to do if and when comments start rolling in.

There is one camp of that states, “I wrote the fic and charitably gave it to my fandom. If I am expected to respond to the gratitude my readers have for my gift, is it really gratitude they are sharing with me or just attention-seeking bait?” It does end up being more work for authors in addition to the laborious task of writing.

The other camp is, “Of course I will show my gratitude to readers by responding to every comment!” And those authors take time out of writing to reply.

Unhitched has over 800 comments.

If 1-10 or so comments are left per reader, assuming they comment on multiple chapters (most do not), that leaves 400 comments to be written by me, which is, of course, in addition to the (current) 171,852 words of the actual fic. That’s a lot of writing!

I’m not complaining. I’m just stating that expecting a reply is sometimes not physically possible, especially if the author has multiple fics in a very active fandom, and I’m not sure I like the idea that readers will only comment if they think they will get a reply. I have heard that elsewhere and it rubs me the wrong way. Refusing to acknowledge the fact that you consumed something the author produced simply because you don’t get the added bonus of being thrilled when the author responds, seems a little greedy … or maybe a lot greedy.

If readers knew how much time goes into the free entertainment they so quickly and happily consume, they would never again ask for a reply. It is a hellish amount of work to keep up with.

That said, I applied all these thoughts I was mulling over to Hannigram, of course, because it makes for a fun writing challenge.

Hannibal Lecter invites you to dinner and serves a delicious human leg all done up nicely with assorted fruits and nuts. You partake of the leg and find it unquestionably rich – divine – your mouth has never tasted anything so decedent. Without hesitation, you thank him for the invitation to dinner.

Being a man with ample time, skill, and a love of both compliments and fine dining, Hannibal Lecter would probably serve you dessert for your politeness. Sanguinaccio dolce. You could consider it a “thank you” for joining him and fawning over his leg.

Will Graham, by contrast, is nervous around new people, but he doesn’t want to appear standoffish, so he invites you fishing one afternoon. The stream is beautiful, the sun-dappled ground peaceful, and Will shares anecdotes about the flora and fauna. You are enraptured. After a few hours, you sit by a fire along the bank of the quiet stream and he plates some pan-fried trout caught by his own rod and reel. The fish flakes like nothing else. It’s light and fresh and melts in your mouth. You thank him, which he wholeheartedly appreciated, but given his demeanor, doesn’t even nod in reply.

Will didn’t bring dessert, unless you count the smashed granola bar under the seat of his car. He brought a tackle box and wants to get back to fishing. You are free to sit on the shore and watch, but if you only went fishing with Will Graham so that he would serve you pudding, then you had no business agreeing to join him. Will Graham is not Hannibal Lecter.

One man is about the sharing of a meal – the give and take – watching you eat human flesh while you give praise and adoration of his efforts; the other is about sharing a single experience that means something profound to him and that is all. 

Hannibal appreciates thank-you notes, fine wine, and long-winded conversation where he can preen. He will gladly play that game; he has the time, the patience, and the desire to do so.

Will Graham will give you what he can, but that’s it. The trip was what he offered, nothing more than a nice view, a tin plate with fish, and a thermos of coffee.

Some authors can offer a five-course meal with all the trappings, including replies to comments.

Others pour their time into the fic itself and are drained by the end of it, unable to scrounge up even a granola bar.

In the end, authors range in their abilities to cook, fish, and socialize. Some look at writing as a smorgasbord – a buffet of delight – and reply to all comments without question. Other’s took you fishing and shared a warm afternoon with you, and that is where the lovely day ended.

In the end, writers are all adorable cannibalistic murderers, but since a reader can never tell which kind, it is best not to expect things. A simple “thank you” after a nice day out or a fine meal is all that is needed. To expect anything else might just be considered rude, and rudeness is not looked at favorably by certain someones.

2019 writing goals [personal]

  • Finish and post Charm City – 24/26 chapters completed
  • Finish and post Scarwood – 2/17 chapters completed
  • Write and post four chapters of Unhitched:
    • chap. 36 – Tear-streaked with Laughter (12/28/18)
    • chap. 37 (written, to be edited)
    • chap. 38 (mapped)
    • chap. 39
  • Complete 52 pieces of writing: fics, short stories, novel chapters, drabbles, AU concept write-ups, prompt-fills, etc
    1. the wyrm [short story]
    2. Unhitched ch 36: Tear-Streaked with Laughter
    3. stolen fruit [fic]

2019 reading list [personal]

Books I would like to read or reread this year for personal reasons or because of upcoming writing challenges. I’m not following this list of 100 Modern Must-Read Classics, but I am pulling a few titles from it.

Books I’ve Finished:


  • Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie – 1/15
  • Bagombo Snuff Box* by Kurt Vonnegut – 1/22
  • Alices Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – 1/28
  • Ishmael by Daniel Quinn – 1/29


  • Trigger Warnings* by Neil Gaiman – 2/6
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – 2/10
  • Armageddon in Retrospect* by Kurt Vonnegut – 2/18
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess – 2/19
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson – 2/21
  • 1984 by George Orwell – 2/26
  • A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut – 2/27


  • To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee – 3/1
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – 3/4
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – 3/6
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button & Other Stories* by F. Scott Fitzgerald – 3/8
  • Minority Report and Other Short Stories* by Philip K Dick – 3/12
  • Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs – 3/19
  • Slaughter-house Five by Kurt Vonnegut – 3/27
  • The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells – 3/30
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – 3/30


  • The Country of the Blind* by H. G. Wells – 4/1
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac – 4/3
  • The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells – 4/5
  • The Remarkable Case of Davidson’s Eyes* by H. G. Wells – 4/6
  • Tales from Edgar Allan Poe Vol 1* (L&LA) – 4/7
  • Tales from Edgar Allan Poe: Vol 2* (L&LA) – 4/7
  • I am Legend by Richard Matheson – 4/9
  • The Metamorphosis* by Franz Kafka – 4/12
  • The Time Machine by H. G. Wells – 4/15
  • The Dark Worlds of H. P. Lovecraft Vol 4* – 4/18
  • Anthem by Ayn Rand – 4/19
  • Welcome to the Monkey House* by Kurt Vonnegut – 4/27
  • The Road Virus Heads North* by Stephen King – 4/27
  • The Curious Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson – 4/27
  • The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell – 4/27
  • Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk* by David Sedaris – 4/28


  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – 5/3
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – 5/7
  • The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen – 5/9
  • Mr. Spaceship* by Philip K. Dick – 5/11
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding – 5/13
  • The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H. P. Lovecraft – 5/16
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame – 5/19
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov – 5/21
  • Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut – 5/22
  • The Dunwich Horror* by H. P. Lovecraft – 5/23
  • Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne – 5/25


  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – 6/7
  • Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx – 6/11
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving – 6/15
  • Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell – 6/16
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin – 6/20
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – 6/21
  • The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – 6/22


  • The Giver by Lois Lowry – 7/16
  • More than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory by Eve Rickert and Franklin Veaux – 7/18
  • Zen & the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury – 7/19


  • Animal Farm by George Orwell – 8/27
  • The Nameless City* by H. P. Lovecraft – 8/31


  • Men, Women, and Worthiness by Brené Brown – 9/10
  • Let’s All Kill Constance by Ray Bradbury – 9/12
  • Junky by William S. Burroughs – 9/20


  • Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury – 10/1
  • Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope by Mark Manson – 10/4
  • Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman – 10/7
  • Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds – 10/7
  • The Grownup by Gillian Flynn – 10/7
  • The Prophet by Kahil Gibran – 10/8
  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy – 10/10
  • Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life by Gary John Bishop – 10/12
  • The Breast by Philip Roth – 10/14
  • Futuria Fantasia, spring 1940 (Bradbury’s fanzine) – 10/18
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson – 10/20
  • Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind by Annaka Harris – 10/22


  • Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman – 11/1
  • How to Think More About Sex by Alain de Botton – 11/29


  • The Nose by Nikolai Gogol – 12/5
  • The End We Start From by Megan Hunter – 12/10
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick – 12/17

Currently Reading:

  • Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
  • Not So Much, Said the Cat by Michael Swanwick
  • George by Alex Gino
  • The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch

Current Audiobook Podcasts:

Books suggested to me:

  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
  • Something Wicked Comes This Way by Ray Bradbury
  • Howl and Other Poems* by Allen Ginsberg
  • The Dark Worlds of H. P. Lovecraft Vol 1*
  • The Dark Worlds of H. P. Lovecraft Vol 3*
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • The Wonderful Visit by H. G. Wells
  • Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  • Human Cuisine by Albala & Allen
  • American Gods (the 10-year revised edition) by Neil Gaiman
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  • The Beginning Place by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Beloved or The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • Carrie by Stephen King
  • IT by Stephen King
  • The Folk of the Air by Peter S. Beagle
  • The Inkeepers Song by Peter S. Beagle
  • Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C Clarke
  • Everything’s Eventual* by Stephen King
  • Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Frogs by Aristophanes
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  • The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
  • I Thought It Was Just Me (but It Isn’t) by Brené Brown
  • Gerald’s Game by Stephen King
  • Sophie’s Choice
  • The Scarlet Letter

*short story, a collection of shorts, or poetry

waiting for godot [personal]

Sometimes, I’m at a loss for words when my kind readers reach out to me. Whether in public comments, private messages, or through liking and reblogging, it means the world to me.

That said, a human being – a real living, breathing person – messaged me, quite politely on Tumblr, to say of Unhitched (ch 27):

At times I am reminded of Beckt’s Waiting for Godot where seemingly nothing happens but there’s an undercurrent of meaning. Chapt 27 was all poetry I believe. And well done too.

As I am one to consume any and all things and use them in my writing, I present a link to the two-hour play which is as hilarious as it is existential.

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

There is nothing left to say about this except everyone should watch it. It’s as Nietzsche-esque or Vonnegut-ian as it can get.

To find out that I reminded someone of such a famous and glorious piece of work is truly an honor.

birdcage [personal]

With every second that ticks by, I feel like I’m disintegrating into the pages of a story that will never be bound, but rather left to fade with time, lining the bottom of a birdcage.

I will blog every day of 2019, I tell myself, a New Years resolution. Every day I’ll write a little something – nothing crazy, 200-300 words – and I’ll make sure to document it on my brand new blog.

It’s already January 2nd and I failed.

Day one.


Why must I have such grandiose ideas about what the new year will bring? It’s not a magical time of the year when the veil thins and our willpower to succeed is suddenly heightened. It’s like any other day … filled with appointments, late dinners, dirty clothes, and if we’re lucky, a fresh pink gin.

If we wait until the new year to implement lifestyle changes, do we really care about them? Wouldn’t we start reading more as soon as the idea strikes rather than on some arbitrary date? Saying you’ll start that diet bright and early tomorrow is already setting you up to fail. If you were mentally ready for the change, you would start your new diet that second, not tomorrow, not after vacation, not when life “calms down.”

There are dear-sweet-god moments that motivate us: seeing a friend succeed, watching a loved one die, suddenly noticing the passing of time when your three-year-old scoffs and insists that growing up takes forever. They kick us and get us moving. Dates are not dear-sweet-god moments.

So what’s a resolution I will stick to?

There isn’t one.

I don’t want timers and schedules telling me that I’m a failure when I skip a day or life becomes too hectic. I don’t want to feel boxed and caged and unable to change my goal without feeling like I’m cheating.

So my resolution is simply to not regret wasted time in 2019.

My kids are older (off the breast and out of diapers) so I feel oxygen rejuvenating my pores again. I can stretch. I can leave. I can start to remember who I was before my son was born seven years ago.

I wrote last night – 800 or so words for Unhitched. Considering I haven’t written anything for Unhitched in two months, that’s not too bad.

Charm City is still stalled at 110k words, but hey, those 110k words are pretty choice as far as I’m concerned.

Yesterday wasn’t a waste. I wrote. I figured out how to make a cool new gallery on WordPress. I recategorized all my blog posts. I started reading a book. I made a few friends laugh when I ranted about my failed eBay purchase.

Today wasn’t a waste either. I blogged, damn it. I taught my son what The Great Wall of China is. I composted eight pounds of chocolate (okay, that was sort of a waste).

Do you know what a dimberdamber is? It refers to a clever rogue who excels his fellows or, I guess, the chief of a gang. As an adjective it means very pretty.

I learned that today.

I also learned that damber is the album name for California punk band dimber (pronounced like the switch). Their music is not my cup of tea, but boy howdy check out their website. Seeing a Spotify link in that mess almost ripped open a wormhole back to 1996.

I want to write.

I want to read.

I want to feel like a human, but not just the parts of a human that feel the guilt and pain and depression of not living to its full potential.

I want to check off boxes, send my friends gifts, and find a vintage egg cup to eat breakfast out of (a real egg cup this time).

I want porn back on Tumblr, but that’s not happening, so I will settle for spending less time on social media and more time on drabbles and reading obscure dictionaries.

I’m not going to finish Unhitched this year – I may not even finish Charm City – but I refuse to think of the time I do spend on fanfiction as a waste.

Happy January 2nd.

My Current Fixations

Pexels – a site for high-quality royalty-free stock images. I use these in photo manipulation and for blogs. I’m also going to start a visual inspiration log, similar to the gallery I’ve already set up here. Probably with drabbles attached in the captions.

Phrontistery – A dictionary for rare or unusual words. This is not where I found dimber-damber. That was actually on my new Grandiloquent Word-of-the-day calendar from Kickstarter.