Boozy Books Friday: Comfort Round-up!

Friday. Ah, Friday. It’s here.

Unfortunately, my internet is not. I moved this week, and Comcast is being Comcast (re: dicks), so I’m using the other half’s mobile hotspot to log on and not go insane from lack of connectivity.

On the positive sign, I get to do a LOT of reading. The first thing I always unpack is the couple of boxes containing my most precious books; the books I turn to for comfort, reading again and again whenever I need, well, comforting. My world is in chaos right now — life is always chaotic when everything is in boxes — and I always use books to soothe the anxiety.

Given this combination of reading old favorites and not having a lot of internet, I thought this would be a great time to do a round-up of old entries. We’ve been around for over a year now, and most of you lovely readers have joined us within the last six months, or so. So…here with my ABSOLUTE FAVORITES, is Nerd Cactus’ first official round-up!

American Gods by Neil Gaiman: I’ve talked about this one before, probably enough that you don’t want to hear about it anymore, but this is the book that made me want to be an author… and that’s important. Also… you should read it before it becomes a show on Starz!

Persuasion by Jane Austen: “Oh God… is she talking about Austen again?!” Yeah, sorry. I did say this was a comfort read list. Most people would recommend Pride and Prejudice, but I like Persuasion better. Quite simply, it’s Austen’s best book.

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore: I haven’t talked about this one in a while, but it is, without doubt, one of the funniest books I have ever read in my entire life. Plenty of books make me giggle, but this one makes me laugh out loud. Fair warning: it also seems to attract Onion Ninjas.

The Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde: One of the most imaginative series I’ve read in a long, long time. Probably ever. Ever dream you could go inside books? Well… this is as close as you’re going to get.

The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson: This one probably seems strange. It’s hardly a comforting series. But sometimes I find a great deal of comfort in epic worlds, complex plots and philosophies, characters you hate becoming the ones you love the most, etc. Erikson is a trained anthropologist and archaeologist… and that’s reflected in EVERY page of this amazing series. (Anomander Rake 4eva!)

The Peter Grant/Rivers of London Series by Ben Aaronovitch: A new favorite I often re-read for the main character. A London cop who finds out he’s a wizard and gets to investigate all the “weird stuff”. The best is how he reacts to it. And it really is such a refreshing voice; Peter is not a natural at the magic stuff, but he does have a great deal of heart.

And, last but certainly not least…

Middlemarch by George Eliot: The book I re-read once a year whether I want to, or not. Well… I always want to. I love it so much. You will, too.

So. A round-up of all my favorites. They’re all awesome and I think you should read them. I mean… would I lie?

(No. I wouldn’t.)



Monday Muse: Be a Style Maven (Sort-of.)

Heyo! Welcome to this week’s Monday Muse!

So. Style. We all have it. It’s in the way we dress, the way we speak, the way we interpret and interact with everything around us, all the time. It is a large part of the definition of each of us as individuals. A person’s style is their calling card, like leaving a rose at the scene of a crime.


That rose thing might have just been an excuse to use this…

For crazy writer-types like me, style isn’t just my calling card, it’s who I am. It’s the definition of C, Author. When it comes to telling stories, your style is how you interact with the literary world; it’s how you land a publishing deal (if you want to go the trad-pub route, of course, but that is a discussion for another day) and how your readers will come to know you. The compact you create between yourself and your reader — the writer writing and the reader, well, reading — is based pretty much entirely upon your style. Take Neil Gaiman, for example; that’s a man with style. It doesn’t matter if he’s writing for kids, adults, the crustacean market (I’ve been reading Thursday Next…sorry)… you know you’re reading a Gaiman. Even when writing superhero comics (check out his Marvel 1602), Gaiman is Gaiman.

And his fans love all of it. People who don’t usually read comics enjoy his comics. Well, everyone loves SandmanThey’re amazing. But I digress. American Gods is not Neverwhere is not Coraline or The Ocean at the End of the Lane. But they’re all Gaiman, and his fans follow him for it.

That’s the style I’m talking about.

Readers of this here blog know a bit about my style. You see it every time I post. And I’m not talking about voice, though that is part of it. The way I write when I’m writing this blog is my “conversational” tone. It’s exactly the way I would write if I were chatting with you on social media… and quite possibly in person. My voice when I’m writing a novel/play/short story/what have you changes based on the story. I did not write Killing Mercutio (the novel, in case anyone managed to forget) the same way I’m writing Sci-Fantasy Brigadoon (which is a working title that…really is quite fitting), but Merc has a lot in common with Fall the God. It depends on whether I feel the need to get super serial up in this… uh… whatever. Moving on.

What does this mean? It means you’ve got to find the thing that makes you…you. The element of yourself that will infuse everything you write, even if the stories themselves could probably go in different sections of the bookstore. The thing that makes people go, “Oh yeah, that sounds like _____! I love *insert pronoun of choice*!” Here at Nerd Cactus? It’s a flair for literary fangirling. All of our ideas have literary backbones (well, OK, there’s the TV show and the one novel…). Mercutio is obviously Shakespeare, but loads of our favorite classical authors find their way into our stuff. Me as a solo writer? Some combination of history,  politics, fantasy, and mythology (and sometimes folklore) will inevitably end up at the heart of my stories. Sometimes, as with Fall the God, they’re all there and I can make up really pretentious-sounding genres like mytho-historical political fantasy. Isn’t that fun? I love it.

So… just like that guy who always wears the coolest hats or the girl who has a signature pair of red pumps (or reversed, I’m cool with whatever)… all us writers gotta find our inner style maven and let her out.


So. Give it a think and get back to us. What’s YOUR personal style?


ps- I want to thank my wonderful writing group for this topic. Discussing it earlier is what inspired the blog. Y’all are awesome!

pps- Everybody ought to have a maid writing group. They really are indispensable!

Silly Sunday: Superhero Landing!

Happy Sunday! If you haven’t seen the trailer for Captain America: Civil War that was released this past week, please watch it now…

It is excellent isn’t it? I’m beyond excited! Spider-Man appeared! He’s finally in his rightful place in the MCU! WOOOOO! Hopefully this appearance of a fully realized Spidey means we won’t have to watch yet ANOTHER origins reboot movie… Yes, we all know with great power comes great responsibility. Now, please, give us a good Spider-Man stand alone.

Anyway, the reason I brought you all here today is because of an excellent Gif that appeared in the wake of the Civil War trailer. It sums up my reaction to the video perfectly and continues to expose the world of superhero cliches. Also, Deadpool. ENJOY!



Shakespeare Saturday: So You Think Your Handwriting Is Bad?

Are you a nerd? Do you like Shakespeare?

Do you wish you could look at documents from Shakespeare’s time ABOUT Shakespeare, or even — gasp — written in his own hand?! (There’s so little, which is sad.)

Do you want to feel better about your atrocious handwriting because, really, who actually writes things by hand anymore? (Lots of us, actually.)

OK. Then you want to go here:

Shakespeare Documented

Seriously… if you’re at all into primary sources or period research, you want to click on that link. It’s part of the 400th death day anniversary for our beloved Bard. They’re only about halfway done with the descriptions now, but they’re adding more each week and almost all the images are already up.

Dammit, guys… why am I too poor to visit England right now? *pouts* Oh well…at least my inner historian can salivate over documents.

Glorious, glorious documents…

I’ll see you on Monday! Maybe. There’s a good chance I’ll be lost forever in the glory of primary sources…


Boozy Books: Little Children

Happy Friday everyone! It’s time for Boozy Books so get ready for some good old fashioned reading and drinking!

This week I’ve chosen a book which I read for a college course and absolutely devoured. Little Children by Tom Perrotta surprised me with its fresh, engrossing take on suburban life. It’s mostly the story of two stay-at-home parents in desperate need of adventure while feeling trapped by their marriages, their responsibilities and the raising of their children. It’s funny and poignant as the boring suburban lifestyle opens up to reveal secrets and inspirations that would otherwise be hidden. It contains several character studies, exploring the many facades of maturity.

Todd and Sarah are the main characters in this tale, becoming involved in an affair that seems unlikely at first, but blossoms into a fascinating look into their mentalities. Todd’s wife envies his connection with their toddler and Sarah’s husband doesn’t seem to know their kid at all. The clear distances in these relationships set up Todd and Sarah to end up seeking solace in each others embrace. The whirlwind of their elicit affair seems to have the power of a natural disaster, finding a similar end.

I’m pairing this one with a Malbec. I think a deep, bold, lusty red is absolutely perfect for this book because of the many layers of intimacy depicted along with humanity’s flaws. A sexy, complex red is the perfect complement to this interesting, fast-paced read.

See you tomorrow for some Shakespeare!




PS apparently a movie was made that is based on this book. While I haven’t seen it I highly recommend READING it. The writing is intense and powerful and, based on reviews, I have a feeling the movie doesn’t capture that…





Monday Muse: Write Something. Write Anything

Hello, friends! Welcome back to Nerd Cactus for yet another Monday Muse. Today is my first day off in a week, so forgive me if my writing betrays how fried my brain is. 

Last night I began thinking about what today’s topic might be and I have yet to settle on a fully developed topic. I considered writing about the sins of half-assery when it comes to exploring your creativity, but the danger of half-assing an entire post on the subject was too great given my current level of rehearsal fatigue. What about writing a piece on the appearance of the James Patterson Masterclass ads that keep popping up unsolicited? “Do you have a novel inside you?” It’s getting a little silly… At around 2:30am I considered writing about the pros and cons of floating around half-baked ideas to friends whose advice may or not be of any help. I currently have several such concepts, but given that they are merely ghosts of ideas it isn’t really an applicable topic yet. Also, whether to share story possibilities before having a clear picture is a matter of preference and not really worthy of a post.

So, no, I did not start this post with a clearly defined topic, but at least I’m writing. C has said it before and I’ll say it again, “always be writing”. Write to-do lists, write things you overheard your boss say, write love letters. Even if it’s just some gibberish to practice your grammar. Hell, I barely understand the concept of a comma. Well, I do… but I often write faster than the natural pauses in sentences tend to happen (i.e. I tend to write according to an inner monologue that has no sense of how sentence structure works). Also, my mom is German and those people sure love their long, run-on sentences. Go ahead. Check my comma placements. I know it’s bad. C knows it’s bad. C probably knows better than anyone. That’s why she’s getting a “Comma Police” T-Shirt for Christmas.

Now, I’ll admit that I don’t do as good a job following that advice as I’d like to… Sitting down to my computer and setting aside time for words is often easier said than done. But I do have a full-to-the-bursting OneNote that speaks to my resolution to put down my thoughts instead of letting them float away like so many strands of freshly brushed hair (Yes, I’m a shedder). Anyway, just remember that if you are busy or tired or feeling super meh, you are not alone. Maybe scheduled writing doesn’t work for you and a notepad is your solution. Doesn’t matter. Just write whatever comes to you whenever you have a scrap of paper and a pen. Hell, write with lipliner if something compelling comes to you.

The point is, you don’t always have to be writing the next New York Times Bestseller. Don’t hold yourself up to crazy standards and don’t impose criticism on everything you set down. It doesn’t all have to see the light of day. It’s ok if you write a shitty haiku about Zac Efron’s body just don’t admit it was you… (PS this is actually a real thing



Silly Sunday: Seasonal Silliness

Greetings! Ciao! Aloha! Salve! Merhaba! Other words meaning hello, welcome, and/or yo! (I’m on coffee right now…forgive me, dear readers. Also, that reminds me…my streak on Duo Lingo is…well, let’s just say there is no streak. I’ve been packing for my move and, well, Italian has gone by the wayside. But I shan’t give up! I SHAN’T!)

Anyway…today is our day of silly. Sunday funday and whatnot. Now, lately…I haven’t been silly so much as fun, interesting and/or wickedly awesome. And for that, I truly apologize. Well, no…I don’t. But I feel like I should deliver something truly silly to make up for bending the theme so often.

And, believe me…this is truly silly. Truly, desperately, giggle-inducingly (so many adverbs! Bad, bad adverbs!) silly.

I present to you…

Benedict Cumberbunnies!

Oh, yes. Now you too can eat *insert favorite Benedict Cumberbatch character here* made out of chocolate on Zombie Jesus Day. I truly believe this is what Josh* would have wanted. I really, really do.

Anyway, that’s it from me. Tomorrow A gets her Muse on!


*There’s no way Jesus name was actually Jesus. He wasn’t Greek. So it was likely Yeshua, or Joshua. While we’re at it, you should really read Lamb, which is a really, really funny book.