My Spirit Animal

I frequently joke about spirit animals. The animal in question varies with the needs of the moment and I often find it helpful to visualize the persistence of a snail crawling over a rock, the stoic grace of a tortoise, the I-do-not-even-care attitude of a skunk moseying along its way, depending on my mood. When it comes to writing, I have decided to claim the Brown Capuchin monkey as my spirit animal. This remarkable monkey has the foresight and tool use acumen to keep harvesting palm nuts, prepping them, toasting them in the sun, and cracking them open over days of work. When I saw this documentary talking about this incredible monkey I thought, “Eureka! This must be my writing spirit animal!” I also thought it was rather cute. But still, cuteness notwithstanding, I am dang impressed with how this monkey literally always has another nut toasting in the sun while it is prepping the nut after that one. I wish I could say the same about my writing. Writing is an incredibly time consuming process for me. I also tend to fixate on a story and just keep polishing it and polishing it to the exclusion of all else. That is not a winning strategy if one is to make a go of being a writer any more than obsessively preparing only one nut would be a successful strategy for a monkey. I have notes and notes and outlines for my main WIP based on my flash fiction, Cinderella’s Ghost, that I have been plugging away at pretty steadily. This is is great but, that WIP is a long term project and if I want to be a good monkey…er…writer, I need to get another nut toasting pronto. So, in the spirit of the brown capuchin monkey, I set myself the challenge that I would finish a brand new piece of short fiction this fall. Not a re-polish of something else, no writing prompt involved, just me, my journal, and my fountain pen. By gum I did it. I finished a first draft at the end of August. The 22 pages of fountain pen scrawl turned into 28 pages of double-spaced 12 point manuscript at ~7100 words. I call that a pretty respectable first draft. Now, I’m chipping away at the second draft, trying to stick that ending. Pesky endings, always slippery things. But, I don’t want to lose my momentum. I believe that I will attempt one or both of the following challenges: Almost an Inkling Creative Writing Contest courtesy of the splendid Jubilare and/or The First Line Literary Journal’s Winter prompt. Anybody with me, dear pond readers? After all, it doesn’t have to be November to get some social writing spirit going. Thanks for stopping by the pond today. May your ink and your ideas flow freely!

Sky is the limit! by E.A. Schneider

Sky is the limit! by E.A. Schneider

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Raffle for a Cure! Nerd style :-) Now bigger than ever!

Raffle for a Cure! Nerd style :-) Now bigger than ever!

All the different prize options in a pile!

All the different prize options in a pile!

Hello, dear pond readers! I am doing something new in my pond in an effort to save my brain from multiple sclerosis. I was diagnosed in 2013 and I’ve written about it a little bit in another post, if you want to check that out. I am doing a raffle of handcrafted items to raise money for Walk MS-Waukesha to benefit the Wisconsin chapter of the National MS society.

Here are the directions: look through the items pictured below and decide for which of the twelve prize option(s) you would like to buy a virtual raffle ticket. UPDATE: All raffle tickets are now $2 per entry! You still have to specify which drawing(s) you want to put your donation toward by copying the comment text with each option, but there is no longer variation in price. If you already donated, fantastic, you just get more entries per prize option drawing than you initially thought you would. Also, I will always round up so if you donated an odd sort of number I will round up the number of entries you have. To buy a raffle ticket, go to my personal fundraising page, hit “Donate to Me,” donate in the ticket increment you want, fill out your full contact information, and, in the comment section, copy the text that corresponds to the desired item option(s) below. Your information is confidential, will not be sold, and will not be used for any nefarious purpose. Your full contact information of at least a name and an e-mail address is needed to contact you in the event that you win and so I can mail any item(s) you won. If you want to opt out of being contacted by the National MS society, there is a way for you to do that when you donate. I won’t contact you either beyond one thank-you-for-being-amazing note. All donations are tax-deductible in the United States. I have no idea if they are tax-deductible in other countries but you will get the same warm, fuzzy feeling of being amazing no matter what nation you hale from, if you donate to my fundraising.

My plan is to print out little squares of paper donation entries based on the donations, put them in a zippy bag for each prize option, and then, the day after the walk on September 21st, film a drawing of names and post that video here on the pond. Winners will be e-mailed and shipment arranged after the drawing. I will mail items at my own cost in the most economic fashion, which will probably be USPS first class, but, we’ll see, this is all new to me. People can definitely have their names in more than once for each raffle option and have their names in for multiple options but, your donation has to add up to that many virtual raffle tickets and you have to have the comment text for each option you want to have a chance at winning.

For example: Jane Smith really likes the pincushions, the Star Trek scarf, and the reading quillow. Jane wants at least two tickets for each option. When Jane donates, being sure to include her e-mail address, jane.smith@fictional.com, she donates $35 (35/2 =17.5, ~18, 18/3=6 entries per drawing!) and copies all three lines of comment text, so her comment box says:  I am a Technicolorlilypond SEWIST nerd for a cure!  I am a Technicolorlilypond READING nerd for a cure! I am a Technicolorlilypond STAR TREK nerd for a cure! And, just like that, she has paid for six entries in each of those three prize option categories and she will have the satisfaction of knowing that she has made a tax-deductible donation to help rid the world of multiple sclerosis. On the day of the drawing, Jane’s name will be in each pool six times, increasing her odds of being the lucky person to receive the nerdy item in the post. See how amazing that is? Together, all of this will add up to making the world a better place for lot of people who are really hoping that people like you will help fund scientific research into curing them of multiple sclerosis. That is some pretty amazing stuff.

Time for prize option pictures! As you can see, some options have multiple items whereas others have one. The way I envision this is that as an example, for the pincushion raffle there are four pincushions that you can potentially win. I will have one pool of pincushion entries and will draw names from the pool four times, once for each pincushion. I hope that that makes sense. I know that that means you might not win the exact item you want but, hopefully you know somebody in your life who would like that item and you’ll be ahead on your unbirthday shopping.

Raffle prize option #1: Wristlet style Phone case with E.A. Schneider photo-print! Raffle ticket cost is $2 per entry

Comment text to copy: I am a Technicolorlilypond PHOTOGRAPHER nerd for a cure!

Phone case with velcro closure and 4x6 photo print

Option #1: Phone case with velcro closure and 4×6 photo print

Raffle prize option #2: Pincushions! Raffle ticket cost is $2 per entry

Comment text to copy: I am a Technicolorlilypond SEWIST nerd for a cure!

Option #2: Pincushions homemade with cottons and buttons.

Option #2: Pincushions homemade with cottons and buttons.

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Raffle prize option #3: Dice Bags of Holding! With actual dice! Dice not pictured but two gaming dice come with each bag. Raffle ticket cost is $2 per entry

Comment text to copy: I am a Technicolorlilypond GAMER nerd for a cure!

Option #3: Dice bags of holding with 2 dice apiece (not all pictured)

Option #3: Dice bags of holding with 2 dice apiece (not all pictured)

Raffle prize option #4: Doctor Who Pillow! Raffle ticket cost is $2 per entry

Comment text to copy: I am a Technicolorlilypond DOCTOR WHO nerd for a cure!

Option #4: Doctor Who pillow handmade by E.A. Schneider. Made of cotton and polar fleece.

Option #4: Doctor Who pillow handmade by E.A. Schneider. Made of cotton and polar fleece.

Option #4: Doctor Who pillow handmade by E.A. Schneider. Made of cotton and polar fleece.

Option #4: Doctor Who pillow handmade by E.A. Schneider. Made of cotton and polar fleece.

Raffle prize option #5:  Wildlife pillow! Raffle ticket cost is $2 per entry

Comment text to copy: I am a Technicolorlilypond WILDLIFE nerd for a cure!

Option #5: Wildlife pillow! Made of cotton and polar fleece. 10

Option #5: Wildlife pillow! Made of cotton and polar fleece. 10″x10″ size.

Option #5: Wildlife pillow, back side, 10

Option #5: Wildlife pillow, back side, 10″x10″

Raffle prize option #6: Star Trek fleece scarf! Raffle ticket cost is $2 per entry

Comment text to copy: I am a Technicolorlilypond STAR TREK nerd for a cure!

Option #6: Star Trek Fleece scarf made of cotton and polar fleece, ~48

Option #6: Star Trek Fleece scarf made of cotton and polar fleece, ~48″ long.

Option #6: Star Trek Fleece scarf made of cotton and polar fleece, ~48

Option #6: Star Trek Fleece scarf made of cotton and polar fleece, ~48″ long.

Raffle prize option #7: Star Wars fleece scarf! This scarf glows in the dark. Raffle ticket cost is $2 per entry

Comment text to copy: I am a Technicolorlilypond STAR WARS nerd for a cure!

Option #8: Star Wars scarf scarf made of cotton and polar fleece, ~48

Option #7: Star Wars scarf scarf made of cotton and polar fleece, ~48″ long.

Option #8: Star Wars scarf scarf made of cotton and polar fleece, ~48

Option #7: Star Wars scarf scarf made of cotton and polar fleece, ~48″ long.

Raffle prize option #8: Doctor Who fleece scarf! Raffle ticket cost is $2 per entry

Comment text to copy: I am a Technicolorlilypond WHOVIAN nerd for a cure!

Option #9: Doctor Who scarf scarf made of cotton and polar fleece, ~48

Option #8: Doctor Who scarf scarf made of cotton and polar fleece, ~48″ long.

Option #9: Doctor Who scarf scarf made of cotton and polar fleece, ~48

Option #8: Doctor Who scarf scarf made of cotton and polar fleece, ~48″ long.

Raffle prize option #9: Reading Quillow! Raffle ticket cost is $2 per entry

Comment text to copy: I am a Technicolorlilypond READING nerd for a cure!

Option #10: Reading Quillow! Made of cottons and quilted in the ditch. The throw is a micro-plush throw.

Option #9: Reading Quillow! Made of cottons and quilted in the ditch. The throw is a micro-plush throw.

Prize option #9: Reading quillow, unfolded back-side of pocket and throw

Prize option #9: Reading quillow, unfolded back-side of pocket and throw

Raffle option #10: Woodcraft Bangle Bracelet! Raffle ticket cost is $2 per entry

Comment text to copy: I am a Technicolorlilypond JEWELRY nerd for a cure!

Prize option #10: Woodcraft bangle bracelets crafted by Wisconsin artist, Steve Ripp.

Prize option #10: Woodcraft bangle bracelets crafted by Wisconsin artist, Steve Ripp.

Raffle option #11: Bottle Openers! Raffle ticket cost is $2 per entry

Comment text to copy: I am a Technicolorlilypond SPIRITS nerd for a cure!

Option #11: Bottle Openers crafted by Wisconsin artist, Steve Ripp!

Option #11: Bottle Openers crafted by Wisconsin artist, Steve Ripp.

Raffle option #12: Kitchen Accessories! Raffle ticket cost is $2 per entry

Comment text to copy: I am a Technicolorlilypond COOKING nerd for a cure!

Option #12: Kitchen Accessories!

Option #12: Kitchen Accessories! Pictured are (from left to right) a mortar and pestle, a pizza cutter, and an ice cream scoop all crafted by Wisconsin artist, Steve Ripp.

Option #12: Kitchen accessories! Pictured is a nutcracker.

Option #12: Kitchen accessories! Pictured is a nutcracker crafted by Wisconsin artist, Steve Ripp.

You may start donating and get your name in the pool today. All donations that include the comment text from this blog post will be eligible for the raffle drawing until 12 PM CT on Monday September 21st, 2015. On the 21st, I will film myself drawing the names, post the video, contact the winners, and thank everyone who donated. If you do choose to donate, please leave a comment below. Thank you all for spreading the word to your friends. Should you have any questions about any of the options or the Walk, please leave the question below and I’ll do my best to answer. Thank you, dear readers, for reading all of this. Your readership and support mean so much to me.

Endurance Activity

Toad closeup by E.A. Schneider

Toad closeup by E.A. Schneider

Let no one tell you, dear pond readers, that writing is not an endurance activity. In the past 48 hours I have emptied three fountain pens worth of ink writing 36 pages of text, filling my favorite journal in the process. I have an angry red callus and a persistent dent in my index finger, which I incidentally cannot feel, from writing as fast as I could. I have had ideas for two new projects rocketing around in my head for the last few weeks and I have finally been able to put pen to paper on them. One idea is well sketched while the other has 26 pages of bona fide hand written text to transcribe to computer. Phew!  I feel shockingly productive. I credit finding out that one of my stories is under final consideration for publication as a major motivating factor in getting some inspiration energy activated. My mom always said that an artist is only as good as their next success so I feel that if my next success is in fact potentially imminent, I had better get my rear in gear on the one after that as soon as possible. We’ll see if my life cooperates in this attempt and whether I can keep laying out ink on these projects. How are you doing on your WIPs, dear pond readers? Are you struggling to keep up? Are you digging deep to get started? Feel free to leave a comment below and thanks for stopping by the pond!

Ancient cedars clinging to older stone by E.A. Schneider

Ancient cedars clinging to older stone by E.A. Schneider

Please, Walk with me

Leaves and river by E.A. Schneider

Leaves and river by E.A. Schneider

Hello, dear readers. I’m writing to appeal to you for help with something that is really important to me: multiple sclerosis. In 2013 I was diagnosed with this disease. In oblique terms I wrote about my experience in four previous posts: Spring Crafting, Flash Fiction: Flight, Creations, and 2013: Reflections. Most of my heaviest emotions were in “2013: Reflections” wherein I used words and capsule reviews of stories to grapple with my new reality. I didn’t want to make a big deal about my disease here at the pond, and I still don’t, because I want to be defined by how I live my life rather than a disease I happen to have. However, someone really smart told me once that you can make more of a difference with one good interview or article than you can with years of quiet work, and I really want to make a difference.

I realized just before Lent this year that the reason I didn’t want to tell people, in person or online,  about my disease wasn’t because I dreaded their remarks (though I do in part) or because I am a little shy (though I am) or because I’m afraid of discrimination (though I most certainly am) but rather because I didn’t want it to be true. I don’t want to be facing this. I don’t want this shadow in my life, and if I had a magic wand and a time machine I would seriously ponder making this just go away. But that’s not how life works.  Due to whatever mysterious combo of genes and environment that occurred in my body, I am stuck with this for the rest of my life. However, I have a choice. The choice I have isn’t any different from the choice that everyone has every day, mind you, but, it is perhaps a smidge extra poignant: I can turn inward and hide or I can be brave and live my life. I am choosing to live and I am choosing to fight for my life by being a team captain in Walk MS for team Nerds for a Cure.

This is the second year I’ve been a team captain. 2014 was the inaugural walk for team Nerds for a Cure and it was a wonderful experience. I am hoping to make the 2015 walk an even better experience by training harder, raising more money, and raising more awareness about multiple sclerosis. Research is the way forward, research is the only mortal hope I have, and I know that together we can find both better treatments and a cure for multiple sclerosis if we feed the researchers the money they need to do the work they are passionate about doing: science. I am excited to be doing this and it would mean an awful lot to me, dear pond readers, if you could help. Please, check out my pages and, if you can, please walk with me in spirit by donating and sharing the links. Every single person, every connection, counts more than you can know.  Thanks for hearing me out, dear readers, and thanks for stopping by the pond today. If my posts, my words, my crafts, and my pictures brighten your day at all that makes me happy.

Macro bird by E.A. Schneider

Macro bird by E.A. Schneider

One Word At A Time

Blueberry flowers by E.A. Schneider

Blueberry flowers by E.A. Schneider

I am making steady progress on my WIP based on this piece of flash fiction.  As of tonight, I am up to page 60 and 16,670 words. My momentum on this novella, which I’ve written about before, has been fantastic. I am so excited to be making progress, and I feel like I’m learning a lot as I go. Working on this project it has struck me anew how much work is involved with writing. I realize this might sound facile, but, I think the work of writing is something that gets overlooked all too often. For me, I am locked in daily combat with my schedule to get in a minimum of 10 minutes of power writing a day on this project. Then, if I manage to achieve the time, I find myself plugging away, word after word, to get through a scene so that I can eventually get to the big moments. Those ten minutes of laying down words like so much track for a train are an effort that leaves me pleasantly tired in that way you feel tired after climbing that last steep bit of hill. Part of me is bored by the basics of someone going across a hallway or opening a door and I’m tempted to skip ahead, but, then I remember, if I do that, I risk missing nifty moments and losing logical continuity that will make revising an unholy headache. So I have to force myself to be disciplined, stick with the story, follow the logic, and see what happens next. This is tough stuff, but when I look at where I am on my page count and my outline, I find myself grinning like mad, just itching to write more. I’m getting there, dear pond readers, one word at a time.

How are you doing on your WIPs? Please, leave a comment below and thanks for joining me here at the pond, dear readers.

Spring Iris by E.A. Schneider

Spring Iris by E.A. Schneider

Epic reading: my 2015-2016 Reading List

Epic reading: my 2015-2016 Reading List

Hello, dear pond readers, thanks for joining me here today. This is an exciting day because I am going to reveal my ambitious epic reading list for 2015-2016. Is it long? Yes. Is it highly improbable I will actually read everything? Hellz yes. Is it going to be a fabulous adventure of the mind going to all these fantastic places? Absolutely.

Amazingly enough, as a side-benefit to terrific illness this winter, I am actually farther ahead on this reading list than I expected to be. Yay! Without further ado, here is my list in no particular order:

  1. Ubik by Phillip K. Dick<–Done! 🙂

    Shells by E.A. Schneider

    Shells by E.A. Schneider

  2. A Knot in the Grain by Robin McKinley<–Done! 🙂
  3. Dune by Frank Herbert
  4. Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut<–Done! 🙂
  5. The Dispossesed by Ursula K. LeGuin<–Done! 🙂
  6. Codex Born by Jim C. Hines<–Done! 🙂
  7. The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines<–Done! 🙂
  8. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  9. Almanac for the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko
  10. Landfill Meditations by Gerald Vizenor
  11. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
  12. Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man by James Joyce
  13. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  14. Kwaidon translated by Lafcaido Hearn
  15. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Trillium by E.A. Schneider

    Trillium by E.A. Schneider

  16. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  17. House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday
  18. Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy
  19. King Lear by William Shakespeare
  20. Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
  21. A Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
  22. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
  23. Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher
  24. These High Green Hills by Jan Karon
  25. The Flamingo’s Smile by Stephen Jay Gould
  26. The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick<–Done! 🙂
  27. Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
  28. Bluebeard edited by Heidi Anne Heiner
  29. Cinderella edited by Heidi Anne Heiner
  30. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  31. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  32. Moon Over the Back Fence by Esther Carlson<–Done! 🙂
  33. 100 selected poems by e.e. cummings
  34. Bully for Brontosaurus by Stephen Jay Gould
  35. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  36. Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
  37. The Prelude by William Wordsworth
  38. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  39. Once On A Time by A.A. Milne
  40. Lavinia by Ursula K. LeGuin

    Field of lace by E.A. Schneider

    Field of autumn lace by E.A. Schneider

  41. The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals by Charles Darwin
  42. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  43. Bonk by Mary Roach
  44. Gulp by Mary Roach
  45. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  46. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  47. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
  48. The Story of the Treasure Seekers by Edith Nesbit<–Done! 🙂
  49. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  50. Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand by Samuel R. Delaney
  51. Nova by Samuel R. Delaney<–Done! 🙂
  52. A Time for Trolls by Joan Roll-Hansen
  53. Female American by Unca Eliza Winkfield, edited by Michelle Burnham
  54. Frankenstien by Mary Shelley
  55. Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach
  56. Mangaboom by Charlotte Pomerantz<–Done! 🙂
  57. Star Trek Vanguard by David Mack<–Done! 🙂
  58. Around the World in 72 days and other writings by Nellie Bly<–Done! 🙂
  59. Thirteen at Dinner by Agatha Christie<–Done! 🙂
  60. Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie<–Done! 🙂
  61. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline<–Done! 🙂
  62. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson<–Done! 🙂
  63. Virtual Light by William Gibson

    Toad by E.A. Schneider

    Toad by E.A. Schneider

  64. Idoru by William Gibson
  65. Otherland by Tad Williams
  66. Pleasing the Dark by Richard Powers
  67. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman<–Done! 🙂
  68. Lockin by John Scalzi
  69. The Continent of Lies by James Marrow
  70. Fatal Enquiry by Will Thomas<–Done! 🙂
  71. Suspicion at Sanditon by Carrie Bebris
  72. The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde<–Done! 🙂
  73. The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlof
  74. Cradle in the Grave by Sophie Hannah<–Done! 🙂
  75. American Born Chinese by Gene Luch Yang
  76. Prairie Evers by Ellen Airgood
  77. Giraffe by J.M. Ledgard
  78. The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
  79. Postcards from No Man’s Land by Aidan Chambers<–Done! 🙂
  80. The Smartest Kids in the world and how they got that way by Amanda Ripley

As you can see, I have included a lot of titles from my 2014-2015 reading list but I did leave off several this year. Unlike in previous years, this reading list doesn’t include too many books that are longer than 600 pages. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to read most of this list over the course of the next two years but I also know that I’m sure to add titles to the list as new books come across my path. Hopefully, I will post some capsule reviews of the books I’ve read so far in 2015 soon. What about you, dear readers? Are you reading anything particularly interesting so far in 2015? Any big reading plans? Feel free to comment below and thanks again for joining me here at the pond.

Still water by E.A. Schneider

Still water by E.A. Schneider

A Sand County Spring, A Whale of a Summer, a Utopian Autumn, and an enchanting winter: my 2014 seasons of books

A Sand County Spring, A Whale of a Summer, a Utopian Autumn, and an enchanting winter: my 2014 seasons of books

It is time, dear readers, for a wrap-up on my reading list progress from 2014. I did pretty well in 2014, reading 33 books is no joke, but, I wish I could’ve read more, as usual. As I’ve discussed in previous posts about books, I feel that there are seasons of reading and that when I think of a year I usually think of one or two particular books first. For me, 2014 was definitely the year of Moby Dick, Aldo Leopold, and Herland. Because I didn’t manage to blog as I read, I don’t have previous posts with reviews to link to, I just have the original list I made. Instead, I will endeavor to do some super-duper short capsule reviews for each book below with an extra sentence or two for the books I feel really stuck with me.

Coneflowers by E.A. Schneider

Coneflowers by E.A. Schneider

  1. A Sand County Almanac  by Aldo Leopold
    This book was profoundly special for me. Leopold’s vision, wisdom, and accessible prose were a delight. This should be required reading for every conservation class. There were so many quotable passages that I have pages copied out in my reader’s journal. I hope to put these quotable quotes up on my blog later this year. Even though I haven’t been much of a gardener, his essays in here really felt like a call to spades and have inspired me to try to turn our own little plot of land into more of an oasis of native plants, even if it will be a tiny one.
  2. Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance approach to Punctuation by Lynn Truss
    Witty, charming, and educational this book is a must-read for everyone who loves language and clear communication.
  3. Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
    Another enchanting entry in their canon of fairy tale anthologies, I love this collection of gas lamp fantasy.
  4. Orison by Daniel Swenson
    The adventure of a young thief named Story who is trying to survive in the city of Calushain after her brother gets them in a bind, while simultaneously avoiding the notice of the Dragon gods, is a page-turning piece of sharply crafted narrative that left me wanting more. The pacing is perfect, the characters feel real, and the world clearly has deep roots that you can feel supporting every page. I can hardly wait for the sequel.

    Trees over the Centaur shoulder by E.A. Schneider

    Trees over the Centaur shoulder by E.A. Schneider

  5. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
    This was the longest book I read in 2014, the densest, and it took me the longest to read, From the beginning of May to the end of August Moby Dick consumed most of my reading energy, a whale of a summer indeed. Moby Dick was very rewarding to read. Melville’s prose is beautiful, his attention to detail is acute, most of the book does not involve whale hunting per se, but rather talks about every detail surrounding the work of whale hunting including the whales themselves.  I was as engrossed as Ishmael by the enormity and wonder of the sperm whale by the end. Also, considering the incredibly long climb of rising action, the final crisis and conclusion of the novel seems so abrupt, so quick, with such closely paced final chapters, that I found my heart quickened during the chase, visualizing every moment. I finally found myself blinking in confusion and thinking “It’s already over?” at the end, so long had I been reading the book. I was also surprised at how many passages were laugh-out-loud funny on purpose, even after 100+ years. If that isn’t good writing, I don’t know what is. I understand why this is an essential American novel now and I will re-read it someday to better discuss it with my kids.
  6. Deerskin by Robin McKinley
    I tried reading this book once before years ago, before I knew about the Perrault story, Donkeyskin, and I was just getting really into McKinley as a writer. When I reached the crisis point of the first section of the novel I was horrified and put the book down like a hot rock. Sexual violence is a tough thing for me to face in a book or movie, especially when I am not expecting anything of the kind. But this book haunted me. I learned more about the Donkeyskin story type and read more McKinley novels. I felt like a wuss for putting this book aside and I am not a wuss. In 2014 I picked it up again and I am so glad I did. Yes, the material is challenging but it is supposed to be. The point is that with love and friendship, in this case between a girl and a dog, any wound, any trauma, can be overcome and life can continue. It is a beautiful story that is so much more than a romance or a fairy tale and I am really glad that I finished reading it.
  7. That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis
    The end of the Space Trilogy, this book makes sense and Lewis makes some compelling arguments about the nature of evil, he always does, and while I still find his Victorian sexual/gender politics wearying, the ending at least makes sense for the characters.
  8. Aristopia by Costello Holford
    An interesting vision of an alternate history/utopia, I found this to be a great thought experiment to ponder even though the protagonist is an annoying twerp and it is a sausage-fest of racists.
  9. Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
    This is splendid, page-turning, bibliophile fun. I am so excited to read the rest of the series, particularly because I loved how Hines chose to end this book for the characters because it was unconventional, brave, and true to the characters he developed.
  10. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
    This is a charming romance that actually made me laugh aloud, highly recommend it for some quality fun reading.
  11. Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
    Splendid read that makes me want to grab a pen and get busy writing something Datlow and Windling would want to publish someday.

    Shy Green Frog by E.A. Schneider

    Shy Green Frog by E.A. Schneider

  12. The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter
    I was disappointed in this book. It was uneven, Carter couldn’t decide if she wanted her tale to be gritty & realistic or magical & enchanting so she succeeded at neither. I thought it wound up being an odd combination of the ugly and the lyrical with singularly unappealing characters.
  13. The Iron Heel by Jack London
    At first, I did not particularly like this book. It is singularly depressing as one might expect from a dystopian novel but the unremitting grim atmosphere was wearing. But, the transformation of the narrator Avis Everhard from mild-mannered housewife into international woman of intrigue is absolutely fascinating. Spoiler alert though: the ending is abrupt, almost Python-esq, and it left me laughing for reasons that I’m pretty sure weren’t intended.
  14. Beastly by Alex Finn
    This was better than I thought it would be and left me pondering the entire Beauty and the Beast fairy tale type. I hope to write a more extensive post on this train of thought sometime this year.
  15. Beauty by Robin McKinley
    I have long loved this novel but re-reading it in light of having read Beastly, and having re-evaluated my thoughts on the fairy tale as a whole, left me with mixed emotions. I hope to write more later this year on this topic.
  16. From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne
    It is entertaining to read Verne’s picture of Americans and our priorities with his dry humor while poignant to read the results of the voyage the protagonists take.

    Hand in bronze by E.A. Schneider

    Hand in bronze by E.A. Schneider

  17. Round the Moon by Jules Verne
    Ditto above, really it is hard to think of the books as separate works.
  18. Skin Game by Jim Butcher
    I really like this book. It is a great entry in the Dresden series that continues Harry’s adventure as the Winter Knight in a logical way that still had me gripping my nook with white knuckles, reading as fast as I possibly could. I look forward to the sequel.
  19. Od Magic by Patricia McKillip
    Fantastic book, this one meant a lot to me because I felt that it not only had a lot of craft but that it also had something real to say about power and intellectual freedom. It feels like one I will definitely re-read.
  20. The Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
    I liked this sequel. I like the world Card creates with “the Piggies,” and the colonists as well as the portrait of the adult Ender. The ending is beautiful.
  21. Xenocide by Orson Scott Card
    This book is beautiful in many ways with a lot of creative ideas, particularly the concept of “philotes,” but I feel like Card was trying to do too much at once and dropped a lot of narrative balls in the process as a result. I found the story of the “god-spoken” and their world more compelling than the primary plot line in the end, I think because it was more focused. I will read the sequels eventually but this book did sap some of my momentum to do so.

    Jaguars by E.A. Schneider

    Jaguars by E.A. Schneider

  22. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  23. Catching Fire  by Suzanne Collins
  24. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
    Let me just condense my thoughts on the Hunger Games trilogy as a whole. It was splendid. I loved the character Katniss. I liked that Collins wasn’t afraid to engage tough issues of political authority, freedom, surveillance, public performance, allocation of resources, and ultimately the consequences of the environmental and political choices made by the people. Collins covers all of these issues with approachable characters that feel real and I applaud that. I also applaud that she wasn’t afraid to let characters die or afraid to have a bittersweet ending that I thought made sense in the context of the world.
  25. Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
    This book is still very relevant today even though in many ways our society has integrated genders and reached more equality than Gilman could probably have ever expected. It is well-writen too with some quotable and many thought provoking passages. The eugenics in the story with its emphasis on quality Aryan characteristics left me cold, even though I know that was the progressive/intellectual attitude of the day. I’m glad the eugenics left me cold, there are some things in stories that ought to make you feel uncomfortable or you need to seriously re-think your values. Of all the Utopian novels I read in autumn 2014, this was my favorite and it is the one I am most likely to read again someday.

    Willow in the sun by E.A. Schneider

    Willow in the sun by E.A. Schneider

  26. The Big Four by Agatha Christie
    Jolly good fun with a delicious over-the-top, un-ironic conspiracy of n’er do wells that Poirot handily defeats. I love it.
  27. Elephants Can Remember  by Agatha Christie
    I love stories where Poirot actually does nothing but talk to people and think but the addition of Ariadne Oliver makes this book extra fabulous.
  28. Black Coffee by Agatha Christie
    An old favorite, I had fun re-reading this Poirot adventure adapted from a play.
  29. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
    Another old favorite that I have not indulged in re-reading for years, this read was beautiful. I appreciate the way this book extorts benevolence and charity without demanding a dimming of delight while also not losing sight of the Christian nature of the Christmas holiday.
  30. The Wood Beyond the World by William Morris
    This book was a disappointment. The plotting was all over the place, like a mad-libs game for fairy tales. Morris uses female archetypes rather than characters and the journey of the protagonist from no-nothing to wise king makes zero sense. Also, a lot of threads were left dangling. Considering how much I adored The Well at the World’s End with its complex characters (yay! Ursula!) and tightly plotted story, this book was a deep disappointment.
  31. Furry Fantastic edited by Jean Rabe
    This was a delightful read with some very entertaining stories I will probably re-read when I need a palette cleanser.
  32. Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James
    The language James uses is superb for capturing the time period with such a wonderful vocabulary, I was beside myself with word nerd joy. The story is told from Mr. Darcy’s point of view and followed Lizzie very little with hardly any conversation between the Darcys and no witty repartee to speak of, that was the only disappointment for me. The mystery was fine but there was no suspense to speak of either, it was all very restrained and mannered as one might perhaps expect. Mostly I enjoyed the way P.D. James imagined a post Pride and Prejudice life unfolding and I appreciated the way James seems to delight in picking at the uncomfortable realities of Regency England societal ethics when it comes to paying off blackguards.
  33. Neuromancer by William Gibson 
    This was a fun book with which to end 2014. The world is very film noir with that great grittiness only a future written during the ’80s has. So many terms we take for granted now appear in the book like “matrix” and “cyberspace.” I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I look forward to reading more Gibson.

While I did not put these capsules into any particular order, I realized as I went through my reader’s journals for 2014 that there were certain patterns. As the title implies, I spent the spring inspired by Aldo Leopold, then the summer was consumed with reading Moby Dick, then the autumn reading a lot of Utopian fiction, and the winter reading more fantasy stories and anthologies before ending the year in a cyberpunk adventure. It was a great year of books. I hope this year to read 40 books and I am planning to post my revised reading list soon. What about you, dear readers, did you read anything special in 2014 that has stuck with you? Are you reading anything splendid in 2015? Please, comment below and thanks again for joining me here at the pond.

Autumn oak leaves in the sun by E.A. Schneider

Autumn oak leaves in the sun by E.A. Schneider