Monthly Archives: April 2014

Wanderlust

It’s such an evocative word, isn’t it? Wanderlust. It sounds so perfectly like it’s meaning that we don’t bother with an English equivalent.

I first learned of wanderlust when I lived in Austria and spoke German as a child. Though we moved back to the U.S. when I was seven, my kinship to the word has always felt stronger for that connection. Modern German usage actually tends away from the word wanderlust when talking about desire for travel, in favor of the word Fernweh. It doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but I love the translation: “Farsickness.” Farsickness! As in, the antonym to homesickness (Heimweh).

There are moments in my memory that are so fraught with this Fernweh—the longing, the ache, the sheer need to get away into some faraway, unexplored place—that to think of them stirs the feeling in me all over again. With summer so close, I’ve found myself daydreaming of my precious few days of vacation. And as I’ve been listening to Wild (Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of her trek along the Pacific Crest Trail) on my way into the office, I keep fantasizing about quitting my job and taking a hiking trip of my own. I’m forever asking myself, a little impatiently: What is at the root of this compulsion?

To escape the mundane, to explore the unknown, to discover, to uncover secrets. It’s the what, but not the why.

I find, too, that it’s the same feeling driving me to sit and write. I need to know what happens to my characters, I have to get inside their world, explore it, see it for myself, know what it feels like and why. And not just the physical world, but the emotional landscape too. Why is she throwing her life away for a cause she knows is hopeless? Why is he willing to trade family loyalty for a fleeting chance at success? How do they muster such bravery in the face of overwhelmingly bleak odds?

I can feel the seed of an answer when I sit still long enough with the why of it all: Is it possible that I’m trying to plumb the depths of my own spirit? Maybe in exploring the unseen corners of this untamed planet that is my home, and uncovering the hidden motives of my characters’ hearts, I’ll somehow glimpse more deeply inside the hazy, illusive mystery of my own Self.

I think that’s the long way around to answering the question, “Why do you write?”

 

I’ve scrawled Beethoven’s words on the inside of my writing notebook and I linger over them every time I open to a clean page:

“Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine.”

 

Are you an adventurer at heart? How does wanderlust manifest itself in your life or your art?

 

–Paige Duke

Flash Fiction Friday

Springtime is in our Hands, AquaSixio, deviantART.

Springtime is in our Hands, AquaSixio, deviantART.

The Witching Tree

By Paige Duke

Nowhere to run, children
Too late to flee
Youth is the thirst of the Witching Tree

Dylan smirked as Willa recited the words in an exaggerated, spooky voice, feeling them skip across his mind like mere pebbles across a pond. “That might be scarier if I couldn’t outrun every kid at school . . . I think I can hold my own against an old hag,” he said, not bothering to hide his contempt.

“An old hag who’s desperate for your youth. Don’t underestimate her,” said Willa, with that maddening superiority. This was what it always came down to with his cousin—he just had to prove her wrong.

“Ladies first,” he said with a little bow, gesturing up the hill to the old tree. Streamers of every color, garishly bright, were wrapped haphazardly around the trunk, strung from branch to branch, where baubles dangled like Christmas ornaments. “She’s even decorated the place for you, Wills.”

Willa forced a laugh, her breath blooming to steam in the cold air. She shrugged and took the first step up the hill, her thin braid trailing a line against her cherry red coat.

“Saw you comin’.” Dylan kept up his needling, “She knew not to waste her time on me, could tell which one of us was worth luring.”

Willa looked back over her shoulder, suddenly serious, “That’s not funny,” she chided. “God, can you imagine, being witch-food?” she shuddered.

“What? Come on. You don’t really believe that part?” said Dylan, scornfully.

She swatted him away, “It won’t be so funny when she pulls you into her lair and feasts on you to turn herself young again. Your precious little baseball cap will be her newest trophy!” she sneered. The names of missing classmates rang unbidden through Dylan’s mind, but he shook them off. He knew the witch was real, alright everyone knew that, but made young by the blood of wayward kids? No way.

The squelching of their boots was the only sound once they stopped their bickering. The calm of these woods was uncanny. Dylan looked at the tree looming ahead of him out of the gauzy mist, an enormous squat trunk charred black. Gnarled limbs spiraled outward in every direction like clawed hands and on their branches stood a murder of crows, alert as sentinels.

Willa came to a sudden stop, a motionless flare of red against the gray world. Dylan prodded her, “Chickening out already, Willa?”

“You wish,” she said. But her voice held a tremor and Dylan saw why as he came to stand beside her. Dwarfed by the tree’s huge arachnoid roots, the two cousins stared up to find that the streamers weren’t made of paper as they’d thought; the baubles were no mere trinkets. The tree was strung with children’s things: merry scarves and jolly hats, furry earmuffs and patterned tiny tees. Some enchantment protected them from wind and rain; they were unstained and vivid.

Dylan felt a twinge of fear, and Willa’s words replayed ominously in his head, your precious little baseball cap will be her newest trophy. With feigned bravery, he jumped onto a nearby root. “Beat ya,” he said to his grim-faced cousin.

“Dylan!” she shrieked. She pointed a trembling finger to his right, “I just saw a black cat—it disappeared under there.”

His bravado was back now and he doubled over, laughing, “A black cat, Wills, really? Come on.”

But Willa wouldn’t budge. Dylan shook his head, “You’re making this too easy, I won’t even have to race to the top now. I’ll just take my sweet time then.”

He turned to look for a first foothold in the tree. He was two limbs up when he heard Willa’s scream, a bone-chilling wail that brought real fear banging into his chest. When he turned, his cousin was nowhere in sight. There was only her coat, pooled in a red crescent.

“Willa.” He called, searching frantically for any sign of her. Clever, thought Dylan, praying this was just a trick. But all was still and deathly quiet. He saw only the black beady eyes of the crows and the tassels of a scarf blowing in the breeze, heard only the faint rattle of branches.

“Willa! Come on, don’t be stupid . . . fine, I’m not even going to the top, I’m just gonna pick one of these scarves. They’ll all believe me anyway—” he’d been descending while he talked, starting to unwind an acid green scarf. But it wouldn’t come loose. Must be stuck, he thought, tugging harder. But then the thing tugged back. So gently at first, he was sure he’d imagined it. But the next time was a violent pull that thrashed him against the trunk, and now he was stuck, his foot caught in a knobby root.

Annoyed, Dylan shifted his weight and tried pulling his foot free, but it wouldn’t budge. He was unlacing his shoe, so that he didn’t notice the acid scarf winding its way around his wrist. Only when a lemon yellow one grabbed his other hand and yanked it upward did he realize what was happening. His arms were being stretched wide, the bright things had become absurdly alive, pinning him to the trunk. His mind was spinning, his thoughts clouded; there was only the mad need to get free and run far away.

Out of his peripheral vision, Dylan saw movement against the dark ground. A hand emerged from beneath the tree, but it was not an old witch’s withered claw. It was a thing of terrible and timeless beauty: flawless and milk white, adorned with the braided bangles and flowered rings of a child.

Flight of the Wharlbat

by Dani Nicole

There was little oxygen in the cloud-town of Nym, but thankfully the people there did not require much. It was young Piper and Nate who were near the barren tree at dusk, winding ribbons round and round, singing songs of the Wharlbat.

The Wharlbat would come, at least they hoped, flying in at dawn. He’d sit atop the tallest branch, and take perch on his throne. Only then would Nym be what is was, before the Wharlbat fled and left the cloud-town gray, confining all color to dreams.

“I want to see yellow again,” said Nate.

“And orange for me.” Piper tossed a long ribbon over a very tall branch. It tangled and hung, pulling the ribbon taught. “Do you think we could swing from these?”

“The Wharlbat wouldn’t like that, you know.”

Piper couldn’t help but agree. “What if he doesn’t notice the ribbons?”

“The Wharlbat does not forget easily. Remember what Modge told us, there’s a song he sings. ‘This Earth, this Earth is mine you see; Everything can be conquered from the tallest tree; And my feathers brush the highest clouds–; The Wharlbat’s reign has come around.’

“How does he rule all of Nym from a tree?” Piper asked.

Nate shrugged and threw a pink ribbon over a low branch.

Piper was about to chuck another ribbon, but paused and looked at her hands most solemnly. “What if the Wharlbat doesn’t like his tree?”

Nate came to Piper’s side and rested a hand on her shoulder. “Surely he will.”

“He left the world colorless. What if he doesn’t like the colors?”

Nate shook his head. “The Wharlbat has never known color like this. When he sees his tree he will change the world back. The sky will be blue again, the sun will be yellow.”

Piper seemed only slightly convinced, though Piper was always worried about breaking the rules.

“These are not just any ribbons, Piper. Modge said there’s power in them.”

“What kind of power?”

Nate smiled. “You’ll just have to see.”

They fell asleep on the cloud near the barren tree, decorated in colors the city of Nym hadn’t seen in three years. The children slept with their heads upright against a bridge, so that their ears would be open to hear the Wharlbat.

But the Wharlbat had learned to move silently. It was near dawn when he found his barren tree, no longer black and white like he’d left it. Rather, this was dazzling– red, pink, orange, yellow, more colors than the Wharlbat remembered taking from the world. He perched among the tallest branch, his talons brushing against the ribbons.

That’s when the Wharlbat smelled her scent.

He could not contain the tears that welled up in his beady eyes. He let out a screech of agony that jolted the children awake.

“Did you hear that, Piper?”

“It’s the Wharlbat!”

They ran to the tree and stood at its base, looking up into the gray sky.

“Excuse me, Mr. Wharlbat,” Piper called up, “but I do hope you like your tree.”

“Why, child, why have you done this to me?” The Wharlbat’s voice was piercing, and Piper very much wanted to cover her ears.

“We only hoped you would like the colors,” Nate said, taking Piper in his arm who was beginning to cry.

“It is not the colors, child. It is the smell. Where did you get these ribbons?”

Nate looked at Piper, who only nodded at him, for it was all she could do to keep from sobbing.

“We purchased them from a woman named Modge.”

“Did she tell you, child, the power they held?”

“Well. No.”

“And do you think it polite to decorate someone’s throne with ribbons of unknown power?”

“Well. No.”

“And do you think a Wharlbat such as I would let an ignorant child get away with something so foul?”

Nate was taking a few steps back now, with Piper under his arm. He didn’t like the way the Wharlbat looked at him, as if he might swoop down and pick them up in his talons.

But the Wharlbat jumped from the tree as Nate took his next step, picking Piper up by the arm. Nate held onto her feet and pulled against the weight of the Wharlbat. He struggled until he could not pull anymore, and the nasty Wharlbat picked them both up and flew them through the cloud town of Nym.

It was Piper’s cry that awoke Modge in her cloud cottage. She slipped on her slippers and opened her door to see the Wharlbat carrying two orphans through the gray sky.

She smiled to herself, then grabbed a single ribbon hidden in her sock. She pulled on the material until at last the whole length of the ribbon was free.

She walked the ribbon to the barren tree, and wrapped it round and round the base. She stepped back and admired her work.

The ribbon she’d wound was a shimmering midnight black.

She waited.

The ribbons shivered on the tree as the tree began to turn. It spun round and round until at last all of the ribbons flew off into the sky, chasing after the Wharlbat.

She heard the Wharlbat’s cry and the black beady body came into sight, twisted in a rainbow of color.

He dropped the orphans and Modge caught them and set them on their feet. Piper was crying and Nate was holding her, and all three looked up at the tangled Wharlbat.

The ribbons wound around him and his whole body shook.

“The ribbons will release their power any minute,” Modge said.

“But what will happen to the Wharlbat?” Piper asked, because Piper was always asking questions.

Modge only pointed to the sky, where the ribbons tightened until there was a popping sound, and colored dust fell to the clouds.

The Wharlbat stood atop the tallest branch of the barren tree, his feathers multicolored and magnificent. He was orange, yellow, red, pink. He was more colors than he took from the world.

“Now,” said Modge. “You will bring color everywhere you go.”

“No more black and white?” Piper asked.

“That’s right.”

As Modge spoke the sky turned a brilliant blue, the sun sparkled yellow, and the barren tree bark turned a rich brown. Leaves sprung up on the branches, a brilliant green, and some yellows.

It was the most color the children had ever seen. More color than before the Wharlbat fled and left the cloud-town gray, confining all color to dreams.

She Said, She Said… Dots of Doom

She Said, She Said… posts are actual conversations taken place via instant messenger between authors. All names have been changed to protect identities, keep us out of trouble, and otherwise clear our names.

[On Paige using the dots of doom in her edits on Dani’s short story]

Dani Nicole: Back to feedback on your edits, you used the DOTS OF DOOM
Dani Nicole: You were like here’s a suggestion………………………..
Paige Duke: What?
Dani Nicole: Dun dun dun
Dani Nicole: Have I not told you about the Dots of Doom?
Paige Duke: No
Dani Nicole: I hate when people use …
Dani Nicole: Because I feel like something is implied
Dani Nicole: Or it’s like sarcasm
Dani Nicole: You’re pretty…
Paige Duke: Ohh yeah, I know that part. Sorry I forgot
Dani Nicole: lol
Dani Nicole: It’s ok I’m just giving you a hard time…
Paige Duke: Trying to soften the blow
Dani Nicole: lol
Paige Duke: I’ll try to be more sensitive about that in future
Paige Duke: I’m gonna start sending you all the sanctioned dots of doom now. Starting with this one
connecting
Dani Nicole: That makes me think it’s not connecting
Dani Nicole: “Connecting”
Dani Nicole: Connecting…
Paige Duke:
typemessage
Dani Nicole: Contradicting the thumbs up
Dani Nicole: It doesn’t want you to type a message
Paige Duke: Why you gotta be such a cynic? It’s a universal nicety
Dani Nicole: No it’s not
Dani Nicole: It means something is left out
Dani Nicole: Ellipsis
Paige Duke: In prose
Dani Nicole: So it’s up to the reader to FILL IN THE BLANK
Dani Nicole: COMPLETE THE UNSPOKEN

 

Cast your vote now. Where do you land on the great ellipsis debate?

Let’s Get Personal

What kind of animal would you be, if you could be any animal?

I’d be a bear. Think about it. Bears are like the honey badger, before the badger was a guy who didn’t give an F. Bears binge eat, binge sleep, kill anything they want and are never hunted. Plus they have fur that keeps them cozy and claws that keep them deadly. Bears don’t care what you, or anyone else thinks.

What do you think is your biggest weakness?

Mortality. Hands down, the fact that I can die makes me super vulnerable to well, dying.

If you could only do one thing for the rest of your life what would you do?

It would probably involve eating. See bear answer for reference.

If you were a car, what kind of car would you be?

I’d be a big truck with about a thousand wheels, zebra stripes and a bedazzled hood. Because if you’re not going to make a statement, what are you going to do? (#YOLO?)

If you could be any book character, which would you be?

I would be Katniss Everdeen’s badassery with Jane Eyre’s eloquence and Elizabeth Bennett’s ever after.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

If I could see myself in five years I would have the gift of prophecy. If I had the gift of prophecy I would probably be out and about giving people vague fortune-cookie fortunes — “Something irreversible is about to happen,” “You’ll learn in a few minutes,” and “What you lost will be found.”

-Dani Nicole

 

Tell us your favorite personality question!

Flash Fiction Friday

Night Butterfly by AlexandraVBach, deviantART

Night Butterfly by AlexandraVBach, deviantART

The Enchantress’s Gift

By Paige Duke

I was a child when my mother first took me to the Midnight Masquerade. So enthralled was I with the women’s finery and the men’s charms, that I sensed nothing morbid in their masks. Innocence blinded me, for I didn’t yet know that my people bought the Master’s favor with their silence. No, I trembled with delight when my mother put my own mask in place, “The Master has found a bride,” she said, with something strange upon her face. I know now it was a smile tinged with regret.

The Master’s ballroom was a whirlwind of color and light. Feathers and lace, bangles and ribbon, whiskers and claws and fangs bobbed and jostled to the music. In my delight and terror, I lost my mother and sought a safe place to hide.

I crawled into a corner occupied by only one other soul, an old woman. I could see she was shrunken and shrewd, for she wore no costume or mask. She smiled and bid me sit beside her, studying me. “We two are alike, I think. Only here for the Master’s bride?” she guessed.

I nodded, too shy yet to speak. So we sat for a time until my curiosity won out. “Why don’t you wear the mask?”

She patted my hand, “I have no one to charm and nothing to hide,” she said gently.

I pondered her words and looked out across the frolicking crowd. Charm abounded, that was plain to me, but my eyes knew not how to see hidden things. “What do my kinsmen hide behind their masks?” I ventured.

The woman’s eyes grew round and steely, “The guilt of the terrible price they pay for their luxury.”

All around me was merriment and revelry, nothing that spoke to me of dishonor. Perhaps this old woman was mad. She must have seen my doubt, for she sneered, “What has your mother told you of the Master’s bride?”

“Only that she is beautiful and fortunate to have caught the Master’s attention.”

“Fortunate,” she spat. “If only you knew, as do your kin. They all conspire to deny the truth. Judge for yourself this day, dear child, before they draw you into their deception. Do you know the tale of the lovers of the forest?”

I laughed, “Of course! Every child knows the story.” I stood tall and cleared my throat. “There were two lovers who sought out an enchantress. They paid her all their gold to gain everlasting life. ‘No man may be immortal,’ she told the young lovers, but gave them instead a second life upon their deaths. The man grew ill in time and died, only to transform into the most regal of birds, the mighty peacock. And thus, the woman and beast lived in loyal love.”

The old woman’s eyes burned me, “They’ve taught you well, my pet. But they shroud the truth in children’s tales. I tell you, your Master slew the mighty peacock and made a bride of his poor lover.”

Now I knew she must be mad, I tried to laugh, “But it’s only a fairy tale. There are no ill-fated lovers. There is no old enchantress, no second life beyond first death.”

Suddenly the sound of a bell, clear and deafening, rang above the raucous crowd. The band halted their merry tune, the dancers froze in their turns, and every eye looked to the front of the room as the Master stepped into view. The old woman whispered fiercely in my ear, “See for yourself then, dear one.”

A gasp rose from the assembly and from my own lips. The Master’s form was regal and commanding, and he wore his mask with pride. His face was hidden behind the bluest peacock’s crown and his words rumbled from beneath the bird’s beak. “Behold, the bride I have won.” My faith wavered and I felt a stirring of fear at the sight, could the old crone’s words be true?

I stood on tiptoe to see the woman emerging from a darkened hallway. Her steps were slow and deliberate as they bore her through the sea of guests. She was pale as moonlight with obsidian eyes and cornflower hair. She wore not the color of a bride but the deepest shade of mourning. From her collar rose the jet-black feathers of a peacock’s pelt and she carried no flowers, but a fan with the sign of a mighty peacock in flight. Were these a token of her loyal lover? On her face, the bride wore a delicate mask, the lustrous wings of a dark butterfly.

What if the old woman’s claim was true? I half hoped a brave soul would come forward to oppose the Master, but not a man or woman stirred. They were all a sea of veiled faces, obediently still before their lord.

The bride strode stoically up the aisle to face her groom. As she gazed into the vacant eyes of the glorious bird, a single tear slid down her cheek. The Master started forward to claim her. But far too quickly, there was a swish of lace and a flash of silver as a thin blade sliced the air.

The Master froze. Cries rent the silence. For the woman had pierced her own pale breast.

As a plume of bright blood welled from the wound, the Master recovered and reached for his bride. But she slipped through his grasp in the flurry of a butterfly’s wings.

The crowd erupted at once into chaos. The feathered and bejeweled guests wailed and staggered, every soul trying at once to flee. In my panic, I turned to my companion. But I was alone. The old woman had gone.

The Gate of Second Chances

by Dani Nicole

He counted the minutes in butterflies, and she had sixty-one.

The Butterfly Collector turned these fluttered things into fleeting moments–moments that Agatha purchased for a second chance.

She caught each one with the Jar of New Hope. And he bowed when she presented them, one at a time, until at last he gave her the key.

She hesitated for a moment, then took it, feeling the pain of old age in her joints. Soon she would be young again.

“Sixty-one minutes are yours, my sweet,” said the Butterfly Collector.

Agatha bowed back and turned toward the iron gate barricading the garden she had never entered.

“Your time will end at exactly sixty-one,” the Butterfly Collector called after her.

She nodded and twisted the key in the Gate of Second Chances. Agatha stepped through the shimmering translucent veil that linked the present and past.

She was young again. She felt it in her hips. In the way her spine stood tall as her black evening gown spiraled up her neck. The paint on her face was sticking, the corset over her ribs, stifling. But Agatha had only felt so alive once before, on this very night sixty-one years ago. And this time she had a secret.

She heard a flapping near her ear–a butterfly, blue as the afternoon sky. And another. And more. There were sixty-one. A minute later, there was a pop and a butterfly disappeared.

The Butterfly Collector does not lose track of time.

“You wear his mark,” said a man’s voice behind her–the voice which she had come for.

“Then you should know my intentions,” she said, turning toward him.

“He always costumes his collection in his finest dresses, his finest masks,” the man glanced up, “and of course accompanied by his precious butterflies.”

As the man spoke another butterfly disappeared.

“I am not something to be collected,” Agatha replied, feeling the fire of youth in her voice.

“Are you not? Tell me, what did he take from you in return for your second chance?”

Agatha did not answer.

The man pulled a gun from his belt and pointed it at Agatha. “Should we start where we left off, then?”

Agatha smiled at him, her butterfly mask shimmering under the moonlight. “I hoped we could.”

Agatha moved quicker than she thought she could, quicker than she remembered. She swerved as the first bullet fired and ran behind the man who held the gun. She escaped down an alleyway and took a sharp left, then right, praying she could remember the way.

And after several turns, and several dodged gunshots, Agatha saw the house at the end of the cobblestone street.

She knew she was not allowed to be seen.

The Butterfly Collector does not forget the rules.

Agatha stopped on the doorstep of the cottage and looked behind her for the man with the gun, the one who had prevented her from opening this door sixty-one years ago. He was farther behind, so she had just enough time to twist the doorknob.

Another butterfly disappeared.

Agatha heard her high-pitched cry coming from upstairs. She took the stairs two at a time to the room at the end of the hall with the door slightly ajar.

Another butterfly disappeared.

Her minutes were fading and the baby’s cries swelled within the house, grating at Agatha’s heart. She thrust open the door and saw the baby’s father standing over the crib with a malicious smile on his face.

“Leave her alone,” Agatha said, reaching for the fan clipped onto her dress, the one she had hidden from the Butterfly Collector.

The man was surprised to see Agatha, and his surprise was matched with Agatha’s when several butterflies popped at once.

“Agatha? What… how…?”

Several more.

She did not let him speak.

The butterflies were fading faster than minutes.

She spread the fan and wafted the air with it, which began to emit a purple mist. The mist filled the room as the butterfly popping crescendoed. She did not have much time left, and she had to kill the man who had killed her daughter sixty-one years ago, while his friend held her hostage in the alleyway.

The mist coiled across the room and circled the father’s neck. He began to suffocate as the purple mist grew hands and began to strangle him. Agatha did not want to watch. She had once loved that man who traded his family for crime, who traded his own daughter for a significant sum of money. But she could not love him anymore.

The father fell to the floor and stopped breathing.

Three butterflies popped, then five more.

Agatha braced herself for the unknown. She had broken the rules.

The Butterfly Collector does not forget the rules.

As the last butterfly popped, Agatha’s daughter cried, “mommy,” and Agatha faded towards that blissful strip of oblivion she had avoided all these sixty-one years, carried in a flurry of butterflies.

What We Read (in 2013)

Being a writer means being a fan of words, books, and recommendations of what to read next. Like most writers, we here at Pass the Prose love to get our hands on the next best works of literary art. Here are a few of our favorite reads from 2013.

Paige’s List

Recommended

Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell

If you’ve read my previous post about how much I love Rainbow Rowell‘s books, you won’t be surprised to see this in my list. But Eleanor & Park is such a gem of a book that I’d recommend it to just about anyone. Rowell writes such entertaining, loveable, but unflinchingly honest characters, that this story will sneak through the chinks in your armor, right to the deepest parts of you.

 

Out of Genre

Vicious

Vicious, by V. E. Schwab

Vicious, by V. E. Schwab

In contrast, the characters in Vicious couldn’t be more different from E&P. This is a story told in hyperbole, of supervillains and antiheroes. But it’s so masterfully written that you won’t be able to put it down. This may have been my first time reading a supervillain story, but it certainly won’t be my last, thanks to V. E. Schwab’s storytelling prowess.

 

Favorite on Audiobook

The Night Swimmer

The Night Swimmer, by  Matt Bondurant

The Night Swimmer, by Matt Bondurant

The Night Swimmer is written in that rare style of prose that is both accessible and beautiful all at once. I lost count of how many times I paused and rewound the audio just to listen to a phrase, sentence, or passage over again. I hadn’t read Matt Bondurant before, but I was really captivated by both the story and his carefully crafted writing.

 

Made Me Cry

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

In true John Green fashion, The Fault in Our Stars is equal parts comedy and veracity. It’s a beautiful love story that looks the tragedy and indignity of cancer in the face. I’m so grateful this story is part of our cultural conversation. (If you don’t already know, it’s being made into a movie!)

 

 

Inspired Me to Write

Why We Broke Up

Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler & Illustrated by   Maira Kalman

Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler & Illustrated by
Maira Kalman

Couched in this quirky breakup story is some of the most stunning use of simile and metaphor I’ve ever seen. I shouldn’t have been surprised, having read Daniel Handler’s (a.k.a Lemony Snicket’s) other fabulous and educational books, but I’ve gone back through these pages again and again to learn from him. I always come away with that maddening sense of being both inadequate and inspired at the same time. Why We Broke Up is such a treasure; the story and the artwork will keep you turning the pages long past your bedtime.

Dani’s List

Recommended

Salvage the Bones

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Salvage the Bones was given to me for World Book Night. It was the National Book Award winner in 2011. The book is set in Mississippi just before Hurricane Katrina hits. The tension of the literal brewing storm carries the reader through the whole novel, growing deeply attached to the characters. Jesmyn Ward is a fantastic storyteller.

 


Out of Genre

A Million Suns

A Million Suns by Beth Revis

I don’t always read sci-fi, but when I do it’s Beth Revis and it’s fantastic. A Million Suns is the sequel to Across the Universe, a story about a teenage girl who’s frozen aboard a spaceship and is woken up before she reaches her new planet. Equal parts tension, romance, and oddly disturbing elements make this a quick read with beautiful language.

 

Favorite on Audiobook

Insurgent

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent is the sequel to the highly popular Divergent and is, in my opinion, even more tense, romantic, and riveting than the first in the trilogy. Listening to this one in the car was a bit dangerous. Before I knew it, I was so caught up in the action that I had my foot pressed down too hard on the accelerator. The action is just wonderful and the ending left me breathless.

 

Made Me Cry

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was my first Sherman Alexie novel to read and I absolutely fell in love with the main character and his identity crisis. The themes of this novel are specific and yet wildly applicable and relatable. I found myself feeling every emotion Junior felt, even the tears.

 

Inspired Me to Write

Delirium

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Delirium by Lauren Oliver

I listened to Delirium on audiobook and found myself lost in the beautiful language. The premise of the book–that love is a curable disease–is profound and riveting. I loved seeing such a powerful theme in a YA setting, and who doesn’t love a little bit of dystopia sprinkled with forbidden romance? After reading this novel, I sat down and started plugging away at my own novel.

 

 

Have you read any of these from our favorites list? What did you think? What were some of your best reads from 2013?

 

Happy Birthday!

Happy birthday to The Paige Duke! She is thirty and flirty and thriving today.

30 things I love about Paige:

1. She loves coffee like I love coffee.

2. Fellow HP nerd.

3. I can talk about writing all day.

4. I can talk about boys all day.

5. We both get excited about words.

6. She’s an editor too.

7. I can text her pretty much any time of the day.

8. I can ask her about em and en dashes, the reason for their existence and the cause behind the torture that is known as deciphering their use. (No serial comma here 😉 )

9. She will read anything I write.

10. She will let me read anything she writes.

11. She is in my writing group!

12. She is fashionable.

13. She has a “hot husband.” (These are not my words.)

14. She has the world’s most adorable daughter.

15. She lets me babysit.

16. Her daughter likes Play-doh as much as I do.

17. Her daughter likes Hello Kitty as much as I do.

18. Did I mention coffee?

19. We both love chocolate.

20. Turtles!

21. She doesn’t judge me for eating a bunch of white chocolate pretzels.

22. She cheered me on as I dieted and lost weight.

23. She reminds me that I don’t have to do life alone!

24. She always asks me how I’m doing.

25. She always wants to talk to me.

26. She is a wonderful mother.

27. She is a wonderful wife.

28. Look up grace in the dictionary. Her picture is there.

29. She tells me I’m pretty/skinny/talented/smart when I need to hear it.

30. SHE’S MY BEST FRIEND!

 

-Dani Nicole