Bet It and Regret It | Halloween 2020

English proverb: "The best throw of the dice is to throw them away."I lost a bet.

For the record, my parents taught me that gambling is wrong and nothing good will ever come of it, and they were 100% right. Don’t gamble. You will regret it.

The Bet Backstory

Five years ago in a fit of cynical self-reflection, I told my sister that I had reached market-saturation with my books, that I fundamentally lacked the skillset needed for successful indie authorship, and that I should quit and pursue another degree. (You know things are bad when Academia provides the most attractive safety-net.)

I love writing, but I’m terrible at marketing, and expecting my readers to word-of-mouth me into a higher degree of success was illogical. I needed to fish or cut bait, and since I knew nothing about fishing, the choice seemed obvious.

It was time to cut bait.

And she, in true caring-sisterly fashion, said, “No.” We went back and forth. I cited my dismal track record, my six obscure books, and my reluctance to publish in the first place. She cited nothing more than her unfounded optimism.

In the end she said, “Keep going, and five years from now you’ll see I’m right.”

Then she proposed a bet, and with all assurances of my looming literary failure, I agreed to her terms.

I even tweeted about it to mark the occasion.

Tweet thread from September 22, 2015: @katestradling said, "My sister and I just made a bet. One of us has to dress up as Lady Kluck for Halloween 2020. The Internet never forgets, @Krissyloubird."

The Bet Progression

This bet should have been an easy win for me. All I had to do was EXACTLY NOTHING.

Or so I thought.

2016 was a quiet year. I didn’t publish. Instead I vented my literary biases, through Average Everygirl, on this obscure little corner of the internet. To this day, I don’t know why my sales started picking up.

Was it the mysterious Amazon algorithm? Or some truly faithful readers? Did the simple act of blogging get my name in more people’s heads?

Regardless, by the time 2017 hit, my sister was like, “You know you already lost that bet, right?” And my mom would pipe up with, “I’m already planning to make your costume!”

So helpful and supportive.

The Fulfillment

On the surface, my life looks exactly like it did five years ago. I didn’t change houses or even tax brackets. I didn’t buy a shiny new car or receive a windfall of sweet, sweet cash.

And yet, by every metric publishing-wise, I’m better off. More sales, more page reads, more reviews than my cynical 2015-self could ever foresee.

So to all my readers—those who were with me in my pre-2016 doldrums, and those who have found me since—I can only say this: thank you.

I lost a bet, but the truth is, you lost it for me.

May the next five years bless you as the last five have blessed me.

Happy Halloween, all.

Lady Kluck-for-a-night

Lady Kluck costume courtesy of my mom and a $5 sheet from Walmart

First time in my life I’ve worn a stuffed bra. Figures it would be because I lost a bet.

Procrastination in the Time of Quarantine

Procrastination quote: “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.” —Mark TwainIn honor of the ongoing stay-at-home order in my state (now extended to May 15!), I bring you procrastination at its finest. And by that, I mean Kate’s List of Best Birds (now updated).

Kate’s List of Best Birds

#1: The Urutaú (Nyctibius griseus, aka Kakuy or Common Potoo)

Topping our list since 2018, this cross between an owl and a hand puppet finds its home throughout Central and South America. It doesn’t build a nest, but simply picks a post or upright trunk and lays an egg. Its finest feature is the self-satisfaction it displays when it tips its head skyward and pretends to be a piece of wood. While it doesn’t have the same spine-rattling moan as its cousin, the Great Potoo, its throaty little whistle is enchanting in its own right.

#2: The King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa)

This beautiful scavenger silently judges you from a distance. Noted for his bright face and dignified plumage, he recently auditioned for the role of Hades in Disney’s upcoming live remake of Hercules. You may feel an unsettling desire to hug him, but resist the urge: his beak and talons can tear through human flesh. Like the Urutaú, he lives in Central and South America.

#3: The mockingbird who sings outside my window at night (Songus beautificus)

In a surprise upset, this humble singer rises to the third spot on our list. For the past week he has chirped his feathery heart out for hours on end, surrounded by darkness and an overwhelming desire for a mate. There’s something magical about birdsong at night, and since only the bachelor birds perform these little concertos, I’ll enjoy his musical etudes while I can.

#4 The Superb Lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae)

I mean, “superb” is right there in the name. This Australian native brings new meaning to the practice of mimicry as he struts around his rainforest. His tail feathers, when raised upright, resemble a Greek lyre, but he can also extend them over his head like a useless umbrella. He is currently in contract negotiations with Lucasfilm to provide sound effects for the next wave of Star Wars titles. Well done, little bird.

#5 The Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)

These unassuming gentlebirds inhabit much of North America, including my local riparian preserve. Smaller in size than their cousin, the Great Egret, they present a delightful, dignified form that includes bright yellow feet and a long neck that disappears when they tuck it close. Almost hunted to extinction in the 1800s they now thrive thanks to protections enacted on their behalf. This fortuitous conservation has enabled them to continue their long-running cosplay contest to see who can best impersonate an albino Frédéric Chopin.

Honorable mentions:

Not All Procrastination

For the record I’ve also added 30K words to my current work-in-progress. That number should be higher, but I’m writing in 1st person POV, which I hate and which requires me to comb over a scene multiple, multiple times to make sure it’s not just talking heads and hand movements.

Hence, procrastination.

Did I mention I hate 1st person? I do. I can’t even stay present in my own brain for more than 5 minutes, let alone a fictional character’s. But, this story wouldn’t be the same in 3rd, so.

Anyway, which feathered friend tops your List of Best Birds?

(If it’s a shoebill, you can show yourself the door, and take that nightmare fuel with you.)

Discipline in the Year of Hindsight

Discipline: in each of us exists both creator and consumer, and we thrive when we strike a balance between the two.At the beginning of the month, people on my social media feeds started announcing their word of the year. I’ve never done that lovely practice, but it got me thinking: “If I were to pick one word that embodied my hopes for 2020, what would it be?”

Ever so softly, the vast ether whispered back, “Discipline.”

And I laughed. Hahahahahahaha!

If there’s one thing I have lacked throughout my life, it’s discipline. In large part, my body has been a convenient vehicle to get my brain from one place to another. And since my brain’s favorite “location” is its daydream-du-jour…

Yeah. Exercise, sleep, and meals all take a back burner to whatever thought pattern I’m engaged in. I mean, I get to them eventually, but they’re not scheduled or anything.

Still, as much as I lack discipline, I idealize the concept as well.

Discipline: An Etymological Dichotomy

Discipline sounds austere, like a schoolmarm with a critical eye and a ready ruler. However, it also exudes wisdom, like an ancient sage who has mastered body and soul.

The word shares its root with “disciple,” both of them coming from the Latin discipulus, “pupil/student.” Earliest English usage had to do with the “punishment” sense of discipline, but as an outward sign of seeking self-control. People would discipline in order to invoke obedience to a certain discipline.

Thus the word speaks to a broadening of the mind through strict adherence to a study or process.

One who has discipline is learning and growing. They understand and honor boundaries, physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional.

And ultimately, when I considered making it my 2020 theme, it begged the question, of what disciplines am I a student, and how well does my self-discipline reflect that?

Ideal Versus Reality

In my ideal, I’m a disciple of writing. In reality, I’m more accurately a disciple of YouTube. Much as I love daydreaming about scenes and characters and plots, the process of connecting the dots and developing all of those in a believable (or at least passable) manner is HARD WORK. It’s so much easier to pull up social media and see what their algorithm has to feed me.

So, in my quest to find self-discipline, I took a hiatus from the internet.


Last week, I had about four approved websites I was allowed to visit. Two of them were dictionaries. It was lovely and, yes, oddly liberating to say, “No, I can’t go there. I’m not doing that today.”

And what was the effect?

First and foremost, I got to bed roughly 2 hours earlier most nights. I had nothing to do in the evenings, so why not sleep?

Second, I found time to exercise (four days and a total of 150 minutes, up from zero the preceding week).

Work-wise, I re-typeset Goldmayne for its transfer over to Eulalia Skye. There’s a few tweaks left, but the book is basically ready for its cover. (And it’s going to be a fat book. 474 pages. Yikes. But the original typeset was in 10-point Garamond, and I’m not playing that space-saving game anymore.)

I also wrote about 1K words on Eidolon. Still wading through the weeds on how to connect all my plot-points there, but I ain’t gonna sneeze at what little progress I can make.

Long story short: internet bad, discipline good. So, for now, I’ll be keeping my online time to a minimum.

(But we loves it, precious, we does!)

For Discipline We Strive

In each of us exists both creator and consumer. We work, and we play, and we thrive when we strike a balance between the two. Right now, I need that balance.

So that is my word for 2020: discipline.

Wish me luck. And for those who have also chosen a 2020 word, good luck to you!

Swift September, Waning Year

Title plate: Month in Review, September 2019September, that lovely transitional month, has come and gone. I knew it would be busy, and I planned accordingly. Just, with everything else happening, I neglected to set up a blog post in advance.

So here’s the official announcement: Annals of Altair Book 3, OLIVER INVICTUS, is now available on Amazon. It dropped back on the 18th, and it is, apparently, more high-tension than I realized.


One of the problems with the whole pre-order process is that it’s easy to set up a title and then walk away. In this case, though, that “problem” was a blessing. Here’s what’s been happening.

Early September

I had a doctor’s appointment to evaluate a treatment plan I’d been on for the previous 3 months. Without going into a lot of details, basically I have a chronic (and genetically caused) folate deficiency. Because it was undiagnosed for most of my life, and because I had put myself into a cycle of ill health in the months prior to diagnosis, my system was haywire until I sought treatment.

The good news: most of my numbers vastly improved. Like, cholesterol down 30+ points, blood sugars back into normal ranges, vitamin D in double digits again (and nicely high double digits, hooray!).

The bad news: one of my numbers was worse. I kind of expected it. There’s family history involved, and I’ve lived my whole life knowing it was a possibility. Essentially, the damage at this point was too far along to reverse. So, my doctor tweaked my treatment plan, and I am now officially tied to a prescription.

(I’m also tied to a methylfolate supplement, but that’s over-the-counter. If you feel like you’re living life with your brain wrapped inside a lead blanket, maybe consider getting tested for an MTHFR mutation.)

After spending most of September on this new plan, I FEEL AWESOME.

Relatively speaking. I’m waking up alert instead of feeling like someone poured a load of mud into my skull while I slept. I have a happier, more hopeful outlook. Life has possibilities again.

It’s amazing the difference a couple of little chemicals can make.

Middle September

I celebrated my birthday. I’m now 39, for anyone who is nosily curious. Not sure why, but I’ve loved that number since I was a kid (it’s triple-thirteen, plus 3²=9; just some beautiful patterns happening). It was a good day, quiet but spent with people I love.

That same week, I attended the annual ANWA Writers Conference. I went with some of my specific writerly roadblocks in mind and got some excellent insight for how to maneuver through them. Plus, I got to reconnect with some of my favorite fellow authors and friends, amazing creatives who are bringing light and laughter and beauty into the world.

It was good times.

And, of course, the middle of September saw the launch day for Oliver Invictus. Thank you to everyone who pre-ordered, and to those who have since bought, read, rated, and reviewed. You people are the best.

End of the Month

The main reason Oliver had such a low-key debut is that I was leaving the country shortly thereafter, on a trip whose plane tickets I bought last February before I knew I’d be finishing a book. While his story uploaded into readers’ kindle clouds, I was slowly compiling my necessary supplies and wrapping my brain around the prospect of traveling for a week.

Mostly I was worried about my cat. Would she be here when I got back? Would she drive my mother insane during the interim?

Yes to both questions, as it turns out.

I went to the UK with the ever-intrepid Rachel Collett. We visited Bath and Welshpool, and had an overnight in London before flying home. I think I successfully converted her to travel by train. (We don’t do trains in the desert southwest. I mean, they exist, obviously, but the only passenger trains are specialty ones like the Grand Canyon Railway or the light-rail that runs through the Phoenix metro area at 25 mph.)

Drinking the Bath Water

Roman Baths in September

Living my best life in the Roman Baths. Yes, I drank the water, but not from this crusty pool!

Bath is phenomenal. Some highlights:

  • The Bath Abbey
  • The Roman Baths/The Pump Room
  • The Jane Austen Centre
  • No. 1 Royal Crescent (now a museum)
  • Basically every street and park and river walk

Netflix was filming their upcoming Regency series, Bridgerton (based on the Julia Quinn novels, which I have not read), so some streets were off-limits to visitors. It was fun to catch a glimpse of actors in period clothes, though, and horses and carriages and an entire street covered with gravel to hide the modern pavement. One of the buildings had a green screen up the side of it so they could modify the setting in post.

Kind of crazy. Totally fascinating.

People kept apologizing for the weather, but it was honestly lovely.

Tromping through Castle Grounds

Just over the border from Shrewsbury, England lies the town of Welshpool, Wales, home of Powis Castle and Gardens. I’ve followed the Powis Twitter account for a few years now, so actually visiting there was an awesome treat.

Powis Castle September 2019

At the Powis Castle entrance, ready for adventure. Ignore my derpy face.

Everything in the castle is authentic, right down to the 2400-year-old Etruscan vases sitting demurely atop the 14-foot shelves in the library (which is stocked with, among other things, much of Empress Joséphine’s personal book collection—just a minor souvenir the family picked up from the continent after the Napoleonic Wars, nbd).

Robert Clive, aka Clive of India (a regular pirate if ever there was one), had a son who married into the Powis family (the Herberts), so his collection of artifacts—bought and plundered—passed to this estate. The Clive Museum on the castle grounds displays many of these items, along with an acknowledgment that some were ill-gotten spoils (which is a step in the right direction, I guess).

The family lived there until at least the mid-1900s, but the castle and grounds now belong to the National Trust. Hence, conservation is the name of the game. Light sensors in every room record daily UV exposure, and one of the volunteers disclosed that if they exceed their yearly quota, they get shut down until January rolls around. So, blinds are pulled low, and castle visiting hours are set, and absolutely NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY allowed.

Between the castle tour and exploring the gorgeous gardens, this excursion merited a full day. The bi-polar weather went from sunshine to rain and back again half a dozen times, and I sang silent praises for the pair of duckboots I wore.

When you’re mucking about the loam of Wales, appropriate footwear makes all the difference.

Powis Castle and Grounds September 2019

A view of the castle from across the grounds

And that’s how I spent my September.

I don’t usually cram so many events together, but that’s the way things converged this time. Now it’s back to the proverbial grindstone for me.

2017 State of Kate: Business and Other Musings

It’s that time of year again, when I rehash the business of being. (Actually I’m a month later than last year, but who’s counting? No one, that’s who.)

Let’s get to it, shall we?

First Quarter: Ends and Beginnings

January 1, 2017 brought an end to my stint as Executive Secretary for the American Night Writers Association (ANWA). As much as I have missed working alongside an amazing Board of Directors and Executive Committee, I happily passed my duties off to my successor and started the year fresh.

Also in January, my critique group founded a blog, Novel Three. It’s supposed to update weekly. We get at least 2-3 posts a month for sure.

In February (-ish), ANWA put out a call for class proposals for the annual conference in September, and I submitted one for typesetting, firmly believing it would pass under the radar. It didn’t. They invited me to teach, and I spent the next six months convinced that someone somewhere had made a horrible mistake.

(Me. I made the horrible mistake. Haha.)

I finished the draft for Namesake, also in February, and wrote a novella, Brine and Bone, in March.

Second Quarter: Business Takes Over

I created an imprint, Eulalia Skye Press. This process included days upon days of brainstorming a name (it’s amazing how many odd combos are already in use). I registered it with the State of Arizona, bought up the corresponding domain name, and saddled myself with a block of ISBNs.

Looks like I’m in this publishing business for the long haul. Theoretically.

Third Quarter: Masquerading as a Professional

Typesetting business, yay!

Some font samples for your viewing pleasure. Also, a graphic I had to cut.

In July, I nailed down my class presentation info, but it was 40 minutes too long. Over the next two months, I whittled away everything but the most essential information.

I took Namesake through the publishing process, with an August release. It wasn’t all that different than what I’ve done with previous books, except there were more forms and registrations so that it looked all official.

(I probably did something wrong. Haven’t discovered it yet, though, so.)

September was ANWA Conference. A dear friend from Florida attended, which marked our first IRL meeting. (And neither of us ended up catfished, yo.) This was my fourth year in attendance, so a lot of familiar faces. Even so, I was grateful for my little nest of close friends there.

I wrote a whole blog article about my teaching experience, but I published an Average Everygirl post the following week instead. Long story short, my class attendees were wonderful. They didn’t scold me for speaking a mile a minute to get through all my info. I didn’t die. Hooray!

Fourth Quarter: Frolicking in Creative Chaos

I started drafting a sequel to Namesake. The working title is Eidolon. You can read an excerpt here, if you’re interested.

Serious sycamore business in the UK

Sycamore Gap, located along Hadrian’s Wall

I also went to the UK again, and again didn’t die on a British Highway. But I made my traveling companion (the lovely Rachel Collett) drive. We visited Haworth (home of the Brontës), hiked to Sycamore Gap, tromped through Edinburgh, and stopped off in Gretna Green. 10/10, would go again.

The first two weeks of November, I worked on NaNoWriMo. I promised myself that I would keep writing once I hit the 50K mark, but the day after I got it, my brain was like, “Nope. We done.”

(I’ve written since, but mostly on Eidolon rather than the NaNo project. Oh well.)

Brine and Bone lingers in publication limbo. The book is typeset, but I don’t have a cover or a blurb. I’ve considered outsourcing the former, but none of the portfolio styles or pre-mades I’ve come across seem to fit. I’m normally meh about covers, but I keep getting scolded for phoning things in on that front. So now I’m gun-shy. Yay.

The blurb is just… I don’t know. It’s a retelling of “The Little Mermaid,” you guys. It shouldn’t be difficult, but everything I brainstorm is so obvious. Like, “Yeah, yeah, the prince washes up on the shore. Some girl finds him. Yadda yadda yadda.”

If I had gone full horror-genre like I was so sorely tempted, it might be different. But I don’t write horror, and I couldn’t venture into those waters without bungling it.

So it might be 2018 before that one gets its day in the spotlight. Or 2019. Or never.

(After I die, they’re going to find dozens of unpublished manuscripts under my bed, and I’ll be up in heaven laughing with my new bff Emily Dickinson. It’ll be lit.)

Looking Forward: 2018 and Beyond

I’m dedicating December to the business of creative organization. The weekly critique group keeps me writing regularly, so I should be able to knock out something in the coming year. But I’m slipping back into my non-goals state of mind, so that’s my main obstacle going forward.

My own worst enemy, as usual. Bring it, 2018.

The Official Un-obligatory Project Update

2017 project title plate: Namesake

I finally finished my experimental manuscript. I’ve battled this beast for over a year, and my brain wanted it done a long time ago, so the last stretch took a lot out of me. I typed “The End” on April 4, exported the text to Word, and closed the Scrivener project file.

And I haven’t opened it again.


I’ve learned enough of my writing patterns to expect a creative depression to hit me after I finish a draft. The focus required in that end-game sequence of tying all my plot elements together really jacks up my everyday life. I forget how to live outside of my craft, and when the project closes and I have to come back into the real world, I experience a loss of purpose and become despondent for a spell.

Not so this time around.

The Boondoggle Project

When I started into Namesake, I didn’t think much of it. I had jotted the idea down almost a decade ago. I even sketched out some scenes, gave some characters names, and outlined a couple of major events. But I did it almost flippantly. The concept seemed too predictable and the conflicts too trite, so I hadn’t considered further development a good use of my time.

I can’t remember why I picked it up again. I think the throes of real-life drama made me want something brain-candy-ish to experiment with. It was an escape. I changed the POV from 3rd Limited Omniscient to 1st Lyric Present and made my protagonist a sarcastic little punk. I wasn’t going to do anything with it, so why shouldn’t I play?

The plot merited a novella, a quick there-and-back-again adventure where my bitter protag could get some perspective knocked into her. For kicks, and because I wasn’t working on anything serious, I brought it to my critique group.

And that’s where I ran into trouble.

The Questionable Joys of Critique

Critique groups are awesome. They make you accountable for your work and help you refine your craft. And sometimes—sometimes—when you phone in a brain-candy draft, they demand that you get your act together and develop it properly.

I didn’t want to. Rachel and Jill insisted. When I told them last summer that I was five chapters away from the end, they looked at each other in alarm and said, “No you’re not.”

I balked. They lectured. I revised characters and scenes and villains and plot points and lived in dread of that weekly meeting.

(Sometimes accountability really bites, y’know?)

But the process refined me. I had to take my craft seriously instead of flouncing through self-indulgent mediocrity.

And the end-result? This story is wayyyyy better than I ever expected it to be. Color me pleasantly surprised.

 The Moral

My grandfather used to say, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right,” but in the literary world, “right” can be subjective. The road from Mediocre to Fantabulous requires slogging through a lot of hard work. It definitely helps to have course checks along the way.

(And yes, “Mediocre” and “Fantabulous” are both subjective as well.)

Further Reading

Curious about Namesake? I’ve posted a couple of excerpts over on my critique group’s site, Novel Three:

From Chapter 1, here.

From Chapter 6, here.

Look for the book sometime this summer. If I get my act together, I should announce more specific dates soon.

2016 State of Kate

This post is 100% self-indulgent. If you’re coming to the table hoping to learn anything linguistic, move along, little bronco.

If, on the other hand, you’d like a little insight into the resident author’s neurosis, pull up a chair.

(Sadly, I’m not being cute with that comment.)

The Year in Review

I have semi-jokingly referred to 2016 as my “sabbatical year.” My original goal when I started indie publishing was to put out a book a year, and from 2010 to 2015 I did exactly that. At the end of last year, I looked at my work, saw that it was good, and thought it might be nice to take a rest.

Clouds, because I can. (Also, light and shadow in beautiful interplay.)

Clouds, because I can. (Also, light and shadow in beautiful interplay.)

Not that I actually rested, mind you.

The real issue going into 2016 was that, although I had several completed manuscript drafts, I didn’t have any I was aching to publish without first performing major surgery on their plots and/or structure. And I couldn’t make up my mind, and I was busy with a million other things, and I’d already absolved myself of my usual June deadline.


First Quarter

I was blogging three times a week—which I knew was unsustainable, but when you have a demon to exorcise, you get that sucker out rather than scheduling its extraction forward into measured deadlines—and I was participating in two weekly critique groups, in addition to twice-weekly volunteering and two separate duty-heavy leadership positions. Plus, you know, the occasional freelance job and four active book projects.

The nervous breakdown hit me sometime in March, as best I can recall. It disrupted my sleep, affected my health, and rendered me constantly on the verge of an anxiety attack. I was Lucy trying to keep up with the accelerating assembly line of chocolates, and falling short in my efforts.

So, I “cut back.” I withdrew from one of my critique groups and saw my doctor to confirm that there wasn’t anything chemical going on.

(There wasn’t. My body just reeeeally doesn’t respond well to stress.)

Second Quarter

On my mother’s advice, I put all of my book monsters back in their cages, with the rule that I would only take one out at a time. I semi-broke the rule by keeping a second and sometimes third project window open in Scrivener, but I didn’t look at them… often. I continued forward with my single project and single critique group and scheduled a break in my thrice-weekly blogging near the end of the quarter, so that I could do a formal project inventory and maybe get my bearings.

The project inventory came back with this result: “Kate, you have way too many active projects to be blogging three times a week.”

Unfortunately, it seems that if I don’t keep to a rigorously insane schedule, I don’t keep to any schedule at all. Hence the sporadic posts since that inventory. (Sorry, but not really, haha. Sanity first, guys.)

In June, as my two-week hiatus was coming to a close, my grandmother died. This event was 100% expected, as she had entered the end-of-life care phase at the start of the year. She has lived down the street from me since I was a teenager, and was mentally sound until the end. My sainted mother basically moved in with her and acted as a primary caregiver to allow her to pass within the comfort of her own home.

My inheritance, purchased at the family estate sale. Because what better memento than an adorable blue hat?

My inheritance, purchased at the family estate sale. Because what better memento than an adorable blue hat?

If you are familiar with end-of-life care, you know it is mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting. My secondhand experience—trying to support my mother as she supported hers—revealed a whole slew of weaknesses and frailties within me. I wish I had been better than I was, but under the weight of all my other responsibilities, I did what I could.

My grandmother passed peacefully in her sleep, a blessing for her and for all of us. She wanted a concert instead of a funeral, so we gave it to her. She is now hard at work on the other side, reunited with her sweetheart and countless other souls.

Death, however peacefully it may come, brings with it a somber weight of perspective for those left behind. I will shamelessly admit that I said, “Aw, screw it,” to all non-essential activities for the next six weeks.

Third Quarter

For the last two weeks of July, I holed up in my house and wrote 20K words. It was the most I had written in a long spell, and I thought I was wrapping up that project until I took it to my critique group and informed them that I only had five chapters left in the draft.

They informed me that I was wrong, and that I needed to go back to my plotting board.

I spent August dragging my feet on their well-reasoned advice.

Cosplaying as Penelope for the ANWA Writers Conference Character Gala. Costume courtesy of my amazing and talented mother.

Cosplaying as Penelope for the ANWA Writers Conference Character Gala. Costume courtesy of my amazing and talented mother.

In September I attended the ANWA Writers Conference for a third year running. The conference was phenomenal. I hit an energetic high of associating with like-minded authors and friends, I learned some lovely tips on harnessing better productivity, and I broadened my sense of the writing craft. I was extremely choosy in which classes I attended, and that worked to my benefit, anxious introvert that I am.

My one regret is that I didn’t spring for a headshot, because the photographer they had was outstanding. I am totes jelly of the beautiful profile pics some of my author friends now sport.

Fourth Quarter

October is upon us. I am still slogging away at the same project I selected back in April. My critique group is still pressuring me to refine it. If I’m lucky, I’ll finish the draft by Christmas.

(It was supposed to be done by now, if only people would let me have my crappy way with it.)

I’m on the fence about NaNoWriMo. It’ll be the first year since 2008 that I haven’t participated if I decide to forego the experience, but I’m past the point of doing things for the sake of tradition. I reached my 50K words last year, but I have yet to finish that draft (another monster waiting in its cage) and the last thing I need right now is to add to my list of unfinished projects.

They scream at me from the corners of my mind: “Work on me! You can’t leave me in this state forever!”

Mentally, I feel like I’m emerging from a fog, where I can maybe sort of manage having goals again. I still have a billion things on my plate, but by the Grace of God alone I can handle them now. Throughout this year, He has been ever patient with and watchful over me. Where He wants me to go from here is a great mystery, but it’s always fun to see His work unfold.

I can say this, though: 2017 looks to be a beautiful year. Here’s hoping I can contribute to the beauty of it.

When Someone Has an Axe to Grind



We find one of the longest battles in English linguistic history in that simple, problematic word “ask.” You wouldn’t think that three small letters could cause so much trouble, but you would be wrong. Nowadays, someone using the pronunciation of “aks” (or “ax,” as it’s commonly written) gets painted as ignorant or lower class.

When really, it’s been a dialect issue from the beginning.

If you look up “ask” in the Oxford English Dictionary, the etymology section will provide you with 40+ different spellings that have been used over the past thousand years. Old English used both acsian and ascian (but note that it’s also generally accepted that “sc” was pronounced like modern “sh” rather than “sk”). Middle English, true to its nature, has a dozen or more variations, depending on which dialect of English the written work comes from, and a good number of them use the letter x.

In other words, over the course of English history, it has not been at all uncommon to axe someone a question. In fact, for a good stretch in the Middle Ages, it appears to have been the standard.

Tell this to a modern Grammar Nazi, though, and you’re taking your life into your hands. (I did once. All I got in return was a hard stare and a single word: “NO.” I still get the giggles thinking about it.)

When two sounds in a word switch places, it’s called metathesis. This is a natural linguistic phenomenon. It’s the reason people sometimes pronounce prescribe as “perscribe” or nuclear as “nu-kyu-lar.” And, oddly enough, it probably has less to do with the speaker’s education and more to do with the ever mysterious brain-to-mouth process.

Nuclear is a fun one to look at. One of my professors back in the day pointed out that there are only, like, three words in the English language that end in that particular sound combination (the two-syllable “KLEE-er” as opposed to a one-syllable “KLEER” or “KLIR”), and that the other two are obscure. (I still don’t know what they are, so I can’t tell if he was being hyperbolic or literal; I can only report the anecdote.)

Meanwhile, you have particular, molecular, ocular, circular, spectacular, and dozens upon dozens of others than end in –cular: a quick Google search yields a list of 105, many of which have the scientific/medical context that someone might associate with nuclear.

In that respect, metathesis to “nu-kyu-lar” doesn’t seem so far-fetched. The sound cluster is a common linguistic pattern. (And this professor was a pioneer for Analogical Modeling, so patterns played a huge part of his research.)

Similarly, pronouncing ask as “ax” isn’t such a stretch either. The consonant cluster “sk” occurs less frequently than “ks”—so much so that we have a single letter in our alphabet that can represent the second cluster (much love to you, letter x), while the first is always two letters or more. Plus, “sk” requires slightly more effort to articulate.

Go on. Say the two sounds against one another.



I’m not going to say that people are linguistically lazy, but we all slur letters and drop syllables. I mean, really. Who’s vocab’s perf? Obvi erryone’s had this awks convo wi’ th’r fams, amirite?

The Path of Least Linguistic Resistance is almost a birthright, and metathesis is one of its many variables. If chronic mispronunciation really is a brain-to-mouth process issue, calling someone out for it would be akin to mocking someone who has a speech impediment.

But whatevs. Do what you want.

(Just remember, though: on the Grand Scale of Time, you might be the one who’s saying things wrong. Language change is funny like that.)


When Resistance Really Is Futile



True story: “its” as a pronoun didn’t come around until Early Modern English. Up until the late sixteenth century, the 3rd-person gender-neutral possessive pronoun was “his.” (“Thereof” served the same function, though it appeared after the genitive object rather than before it: e.g., “the tail thereof.”)

Even better: when “its” finally did enter the language, it was frequently spelled “it’s” (including by Mr. William Shakespeare himself). Chew on that, high school English teachers everywhere.

Every time I see someone correcting someone else’s grammar, I instinctively think back to this and the many other changes our exquisite English language has undergone. And then I wonder how such people would have functioned in previous eras where those changes were more distinct.

But actually, prescriptivism probably didn’t exist in the 1500s—at least, not in the form with which we are most familiar. In the Early Modern English period, anything of value was written in Latin or French; the first English grammar wasn’t even published until 1586 (hat-tip to you, William Bullokar), and for a century afterward, successive English grammars were written in Latin.

Yes, Latin. English was a vulgar language. Only boors used it for scholarly writing.

Starting in the late 17th-century, scholars began to give English a little more credit. At that point, grammarians swept through and codified everything and tried to pattern our rules after Latin instead of Germanic structure. English words derived from Romance languages took on more prestige than those that came from good Old English (a belief preserved to this day in such mundane issues as “writer” vs. “author”: an “author” is so much more important, don’cha know, even though the only real difference between these two words is their etymology).

This is the era that chastised us for for splitting infinitives. (You literally can’t split an infinitive in Latin. It’s a single word instead of two.) It’s the era of inkhorn terms, those delightful absurdities. It is the great-grand-pappy that bred all the millions of self-appointed grammar gurus in the world today.

(The poor souls.)

Language changes. Trying to control that change is like trying to dam the Amazon with a handful of twigs. You can’t.

But that sure as heck doesn’t stop people from trying.

(Which is nice in its own way. I need a good laugh every now and then.)


Season of Gratitude

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others. ~Cicero

In honor of Thanksgiving this week, I’m taking a short hiatus from The Adventures of Average Everygirl. Every November, my schedule gets packed with deadlines, plus NaNoWriMo, plus all of the mundane responsibilities of life. This year has been no different.

(In fact, it’s something of a miracle that I’ve weathered through everything with my mind mostly intact. Yes, mostly.)

So, I’m giving myself a breather from the non-essentials.

I love the Thanksgiving holiday with its focus on gratitude. (I also love its secondary focus on pie, but that’s because I’m grateful for pie. Really, really grateful.) I have been very blessed in life, and I am grateful for it.

I’m grateful for the sacrifices of those who came before me, for grandparents and great-grandparents who have left me a legacy of hope and diligence. I’m grateful for a father who provided a stable home, and who serves as an example of faith, patience, and wisdom. I’m grateful for a mother who provided and continues to provide incredible emotional support and who helps refine me into my best self with her guidance. I’m grateful for my three brothers who are good, upstanding men and for my two sisters who are kind and generous women. I’m grateful for all my nieces and nephews, who bring such joy into my life and into the lives of their parents and grandparents.

I have been richly blessed with family. I won’t get to see most of them this Thursday, which is an odd change from past years, but they will be in my heart.

Above all, I am grateful for my Heavenly Father and for His Son, Jesus Christ. I am grateful for their perfect example of unconditional love. I make a lot of mistakes. I’m grateful for a Redeemer who loves me so much that He was willing to die for me, so that I may repent, so that I may improve, so that I may return to God’s presence one day. When I ponder His goodness, a sense of sheer and utter awe overwhelms me.

Truly I am blessed most in this life because of Him.

And for that, again, I am grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!