The Writer’s Best Friend

The Writer’s Best Friend

Stack of Notebooks
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Mid-May means that the school year is starting to wind down. Colleges are celebrating graduations and sending their students out into the workforce. (Or, you know, handing them back into the hands of their parents) Other schools are gearing up for major testing. At least, that’s what happened when I was in school. Now that standardized testing rules, I have no idea what actually goes on. And since my kids don’t attend educational programming (something that’s for the best, because NO ONE wants to see Tonks’s evil mind guided into further intelligence), you’d guess I don’t have much interest in such doings. But you’d be wrong. The end of the school year means one very important thing:

It’s almost time for back-to-school sales!

Yes, I know, it drives the school-age population nuts that they barely set foot in summer vacation before stores start cranking out supplies and clothing to send them back. But I LIVE for those sales. There’s nothing more exciting for a writer than aisles and aisles of pens, pencils, and NOTEBOOKS – all put on sale. It’s literary Christmas! And in Virginia, if you can sit on your hands and restrain yourself, the beginning of August brings Tax-Free weekend. So you can stock up on all of those supplies without needing to pay pesky sales tax. Plus, they don’t make you prove you have a child. ANYONE can go into their store of choice and walk out with a giant stack of notebooks and twenty packs of pens. The cashiers don’t even bat an eye! (Well, they might – it depends)

I admit, I’m the first person to recommend turning to handy programs to help you organize your thoughts when you’re writing. As publishers function in the computer age with the rest of us, odds are pretty high that you’re working in a word processing program on a laptop or desktop. So it makes sense that you’d turn to a form of technology for your notes. And that’s fine. I do the same. But I also have notebooks – TONS of notebooks. And they perform the same organization function.

Because sometimes? You need to set pen to paper.

Call me old-fashioned (don’t call me old), but there’s something inspiring about watching ink flow from beneath your hand. It sparks something in the brain. When everything else is locked up in your mind, sitting down and scribbling out a dozen scenes that go nowhere feels more accomplished than hitting “Delete” over and over again. You can actually SEE what you attempted to do. When you “Undo” something on the computer, all you get for your trouble is a blank screen (and the vague knowledge that you made an attempt at a scene 42 times). Even if I end up with crumpled paper balls on the floor around me and one sentence for my trouble, I have physical proof that I made an effort. It’s more satisfying for me to struggle through writing in a notebook than it is to fight with writer’s block on a computer screen.

But I have notebooks for other reasons, too. One of my oldest is where I have story ideas. Some of them have early starts as novels in my terabyte drive. Others? I’m still letting them ruminate in my mind. But I don’t want to throw out that notebook simply because I have Evernote now. Why would I? The notebook isn’t “broken,” for all that it’s “ancient” technology. It’s covered in multi-colored ink, with tabs dividing the type of work, and Post-Its with potential character names. There’s HISTORY in that notebook. When I flip through it, I remember what was going on in my life each time I sat down and scribbled those notes. Some came from dreams, others phrases in other books, and one or two from something I saw when I was sitting on the train. I can’t transfer those impressions into a computer; it would lose something – the depth of the pen in the paper, the slant of the writing that shows my emotions.

I have notebooks that track the posts I make here, ensuring I don’t repeat myself (at least, not too often). And there’s another for Silentio Sonante. When I write up my white board schedules for work, I take the time to come up with post ideas for both blogs, too. Then I divide the topics up between the notebooks. And while it might be easier to run a “Find” on a program, I like getting to flip through pages and see what I’ve done in the past year. Again, it’s a history thing. I can touch pages and count “steps.” Dragging a mouse down a screen? It doesn’t provide the same feeling.

And, yeah, there’s more.

I have non-writing notebooks, too. One keeps track of all of my weird medical crap. Because trying to remember which doctor needs what report at my appointments? My brain can come up with new worlds and story ideas without a problem. But asking it do that is impossible. So I have a notebook where I write everything down, complete with times (since my atypical migraines do seriously odd shit at times). Then I can take it with me and skim what’s important. The animals have THEIR medical notebook, too. (When you have three cats, trying to remember who threw up a hairball when is impossible)

Don’t get me wrong: technology is great. But (so far as I know), you learn to write for a reason. And a writer NEEDS to remember to connect with that part of their craft. What are you going to do if you’re ever in a situation without a computer or phone? (Don’t laugh – it might happen) Are you going to just REMEMBER your brilliant line? You know that isn’t going to happen. Wouldn’t it be a better idea if you get in the habit of keeping a notebook with you – just in case? (Why, yes, I have a tiny notebook in my purse – it has kittens on it) Even artists don’t stick to one strict medium when they work. Why should we?

So this summer, when you hear about those sales, consider dropping by for a peek. Touch those pages and remember what it felt like to set a pencil or pen to them. Then go look at the pens. (You know you have a favorite) Pick up at least one of each and go home. Write something – ANYTHING. Odds are pretty high you’re going to find yourself going back for more. Because it’s addicting. But it also helps with the writing process. (Besides, you can always type whatever you write with little trouble)

Review of Harley Quinn Vol.6: Black, White and Red All Over

Review of Harley Quinn Vol.6: Black, White and Red All Over

Harley Quinn, Vol. 6: Black, White and Red All Over by Amanda Conner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


And here it is, the end of an “era:” the final volume of Harley that I had yet to read (written by Ms. Conner and Mr. Palmiotti, at any rate). And at least I can say it doesn’t disappoint. Red Tool’s grand entrance is every bit as hysterical as his existence in the remainder of the comic series. And you can’t help but love him – on some level. He’s the perfect comedic foil for Harley. (At any rate, his heart’s in the right place) In a lot of ways, having read ahead, it makes his motivation that much easier to comprehend. The nuances of his character pop out. And, of course, the introduction of Chief Spoonsdale is perfect. (I had wondered when he was going to make an appearance) This tied together all of the loose threads in a way that made me sitting back, satisfied that I’d found the remainder of the story.
(Well, perhaps one loose thread is still hanging. But since I have a related volume sitting on my shelf as I speak, I’m going to guess I’ll have that answer shortly)



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Review of Harley Quinn Vol. 5: The Joker’s Last Laugh

Review of Harley Quinn Vol. 5: The Joker’s Last Laugh

Harley Quinn, Vol. 5: The Joker’s Last Laugh by Amanda Conner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Ms. Conner and Mr. Palmiotti delivered one of the best volumes to date. (And, yes, I realize I’ve read things out of order. I read what I get when I get them) Harley’s confrontation with the Joker is everything it should be – and probably not what most people would expect. The emotional (and psychological) growth is phenomenal. You want to cheer (and then scream all the more when you realize those silly “Harley Loves Joker” volumes appear in the Rebirth collections). And to cap things off with a Harley-version of the “three wishes gone wrong” trope? Priceless. It settles the world down – particularly for those of us who know what’s coming next. (And, seriously, the flaming dogs running around the loft – how do you not burst out laughing?)



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Review of Shannon Messenger’s Keeper of the Lost Cities: Neverseen

Review of Shannon Messenger’s Keeper of the Lost Cities: Neverseen

Neverseen by Shannon Messenger

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


While Ms. Messenger did plenty that was interesting and even beautiful with this installment of the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, there were also plenty of failed opportunities. And it made for, I suppose, a well-balanced book that failed to provide much in the way of excitement or trouble. I don’t think that’s what her intent was, however. When you have a plague, two rebel factions, and the first forays into Exillium? A reader expects more. And it wasn’t delivered. Rather, it wasn’t delivered with the potential punch it could have been.
Instead, you anticipate every “surprise” revelation a mile away. There are no red herrings to lead you astray. The clues take your hand and walk you down the path. It’s frustrating when other volumes have provided the occasional surprise. The reader does get to encounter new Talents, which was a refreshing change. And the deeper probe into the cracks and shadows beneath the surface of the Elvin world adds color and depth to Ms. Messenger’s creation. Not to mention the introduction of Calla and glimpses into the gnomes and their history. Those items alone make the book worth reading. But the excitement factor falls flat. With luck, it’ll start to pick up once again. (Particularly as I’ve already purchased the next two volumes – and I hate to spend money on books I don’t intend to read)



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