The people of the village have always hated us.

From We Have Always Lived In The Castle, by Shirley Jackson:

My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.

This is the opening paragraph: one of the best introductions to a novel and to a character I’ve ever read.


Representation matters

from Missed Her: Stories by Ivan E. Coyote

“Thanks. I really love your books a lot. Especially the one about the tomboy, cuz, well, the little girl in that story, she reminds me of me.” She paused for a second, met my eyes with hers, and held them there. “And nobody ever reminds me of me.”

There was everything

Silhouette of a Sparrow, by Molly Beth Griffin.

Isabella lifted my chin with one hand, the other gripping the railing so we wouldn’t fall, and kissed me, hard. Once, twice, three times, again and again.

I lost count of kisses and minutes and up and down and pain and joy and fear and loss and happiness and risk. I’d say there was nothing in the world except her right then, but that would be a lie. There was everything, and it filled me up to bursting.

Some kiss. ♥

The cliff.

My life is balancing on one of those edge-of-the-cliff moments. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had so many choices, or my life was so full of promise. And yet I’m paralyzed by the sheer vastness of it all: walk through one door, and you turn your back on a dozen others. I’ve stopped, turned around, and gone back so many times, I wonder…would I be able to start again? If I could, if I could go back to the very start and choose from the very beginning, is this the place I’d find my way to again? Is this the place I’d choose?

I went to work at the market today, and I didn’t want to be there. I’ve already let go of that place, and thank GOD. And all of my co-workers are so kind, and so happy for me: they tell me they’ll miss me, and I believe them, and I believe that I will miss them, too, but I can’t pretend, even a little bit, to be sad that I’m leaving. My friends there that I’ve been closest to, the ones that I’ve known the longest, that I’ll miss the most: they treat me like I’m already gone. And I am.

I left early today. My incompetent manager had schedule way too many people in the afternoon again, and though we were decently busy, there just wasn’t enough work to keep everyone busy. I hate that. It bothers me if I don’t have anything to do and I’m just standing around, and it bothers me if I do have something to do and I have to watch other people stand around and goof off without me. So I told the shift lead that if there were too many people working, I would volunteer to leave, and he let me go. (He’s one of my favorites. He almost never says no to me, and so I try very hard not to ask when I know I shouldn’t.)

I thought: “It’s Friday. Who cares if I need the money, I have better things to do.”

And I did. But I’m not doing any of them. I’m not going to the writer’s talk I signed up for at the library, or the lesbian supper group I joined on a whim. I’m not calling my friends to see if they want to meet me for a drink so they can fill out the reference form I have for Teach 4 Detroit. (I’m supposed to go to their training tomorrow. Someone tell me I have to go.)

I’m not doing anything. I’m sitting here drinking a glass of red wine and waiting for something to happen. I can feel the edge of the cliff start to give way beneath my toes.

I want to volunteer for Teach 4 Detroit. I miss tutoring, and I miss kids, and it’s been ages since I’ve had a proper volunteer opportunity. I need to make myself get up tomorrow and go. (And then I have to help my friend at the pool. She coaches swimming for Special Olympics, and I told her I’d get in the water and lend a hand.)

I’ll work at the market again on Sunday.

Next Friday, I have orientation for my grad program. I’m already registered for the spring/summer and the fall semesters. (I’m taking a class on web design in the fall that I’m very excited for.) I have applied for and been approved for my financial aid. At the end of the month, they’ll send me whatever is left after my tuition is paid, and I’ll use it to buy books and a new computer.

At the library, I am in charge of ordering for a book group. I have two different collections to order for and five different budgets to work with. I’m in the process of re-designing all the libraries printed intruction materials regarding the computers. My co-worker and I are in charge of the adult Summer Reading program. We have crafts organized, and lectures scheduled; I’m trying to arrange for Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist, to Skype with us as part of a workshop on gardening.

AND YET. The cliff.

Getting to knoooww me…

(Wherein I scramble for content and steal questions written by teenagers on Tumblr…)

There are 99 questions in all. Here are the first ten:

1: Do you sleep with your closet doors open or closed?
I do not have doors on my closet.
2: Do you take the shampoos and conditioner bottles from hotel?
No. I don’t typically stay in the types of hotels that have shampoo worth stealing.
3: Do you sleep with your sheets tucked in or out?
I don’t bother with a top sheet, as I just end up kicking it off the bed.
4: Have you ever stolen a street sign before?
5: Do you like to use post-it notes?
6: Do you cut out coupons but then never use them?
…who is this question for? I just show the coupon on my phone, HELLO.
7: Would you rather be attacked by a big bear or a swarm of a bees?
8: Do you have freckles?
Yes; mostly on my arms.
9: Do you always smile for pictures?
I do! Actually, I was randomly photographed for a local paper today, and I’m still a bit shaken up… ;)
10: What is your biggest pet peeve?
It’s best we not go down this road.

30 Day Literary Challenge: Most Disturbing Book (TW: sexual abuse)

  1. Your 10 favorite books of all time.
  2. Your 5 least favorite books of all time.
  3. Your favorite characters (and which books they’re from).
  4. Characters you hate.
  5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what five books would you take with you? Include one reason for each.
  6. The best book you’ve read in the last year.
  7. The worst book you’ve read in the last year.
  8. Your favorite quotes from books.
  9. Your favorite quotes about books.
  10. Name five absolutely great film adaptations of books.
  11. Name three absolutely awful film adaptations of books.
  12. Your favorite author(s).
  13. Your favorite book from childhood.
  14. A book you regret not having read sooner.
  15. A book you haven’t read, but is on your “will read” list.
  16. A book you haven’t read and have no intention of ever reading. (If you want, tell us why you don’t want to read it.)
  17. A book you want to like, but can’t get into for whatever reason. Why can’t you get into it?
  18. A book you think is highly overrated.
  19. A book you think is woefully underrated.
  20. The environment you most enjoy reading in.
  21. The most disturbing book you’ve ever read.
    When I was a child, I used to frequent the “young adult” section of the library. It was there I found books like Judy Blume’s Forever, and the Princess of the Chameln series that made me fall in love with fantasy.

    It was also where I found a rather frank and graphic book about child sex abuse. It contained an extremely moving, and very disturbing, account of a girl being raped by her father. I don’t remember the name of the book, and I’m not going to look for it, because to this day I can’t face that book again. I can still quote passages of it from memory, and it haunts my dreams.

  22. A book you once loved, but don’t anymore. What changed?
  23. A book you once hated, but now like. What changed?
  24. Your favorite series.
  25. The nerdiest book you’ve ever read.
  26. Your favorite type of non-fiction book.
  27. Your favorite genre.
  28. The first book you can remember reading on your own.
  29. An author you wish was more well-known.
  30. The book you’re reading right now.

Whatcha Readin’?

What have you just finished reading?
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. I…really need to talk to some people who have read it. All I can find are glowing reviews, and I had so many issues with this book. For one thing, the palpable air of misogyny that ran throughout. The book is narrated by two different characters: Amy Dunne and her husband Nick. No matter which character is narrating, there’s just a slew of misogynist language: each woman is a whore, a cunt, a bitch, or a slut. And it’s not just the narrators: every character quoted uses these words in excess, creating not a misogynist character, but a world in which women are promiscuous, duplicitous, and evil by nature. I found each main character profoundly unlikeable, and while the plot twists were satisfying and shocking in the beginning, in the end, I couldn’t help but wonder: what’s the point?

What are you reading now?
I’m more than a third of the way through The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. It’s about a mysterious circus that travels the globe, cropping up overnight to delight and enchant, and two rival magicians who have been brought up since childhood to compete for the glory of their instructors.

I have always been fascinated by circuses; I touch briefly on that fascination in “Lady Nadya Parts the Veil of Mists”. (A short story which can be found in the Sampler Plater section of this blog.) I am really enjoying this book, and it’s seamless weaving of fantasy and reality. The story is just on the edge of a cliff, I can feel it, and I can hardly wait to tip over tonight!

I am also reading Bad Science, by Ben Goldacre, on the recommendation of my friend LG.

Ben Goldacre has made a point of exposing quack doctors and nutritionists, bogus credentialing programs, and biased scientific studies. He has also taken the media to task for its willingness to throw facts and proof out the window. But he’s not here just to tell you what’s wrong. Goldacre is here to teach you how to evaluate placebo effects, double-blind studies, and sample sizes, so that you can recognize bad science when you see it. You’re about to feel a whole lot better.

I’m a longtime skeptic, and so haven’t encountered anything new so far, but Goldacre’s writing is both compelling and concise, and I’d recommend this book to pretty much everyone, science afficianado or not. We are all presented with scientific information everyday and expected to make choices: this book will help you make better ones.

What will you read next?
Probably one of the many books off the “Essential Sci-Fi Reading List” put together for me by my friend JD. So many sci-fi books I need to read, and she is a damned good salesperson.

I’m also open to other suggestions! I like to read what other people are reading: it makes me feel a part of something. :)

New Book: “Show and Tell” by Kate McMurray


One of the few joys in Dan’s life is the TV show Junk Shop, a reality show about antiques hosted by the handsome and charismatic Malcolm Tell. Then an old music box turns up, and Dan’s sister encourages him to try to get on the show and meet the object of his affection. He does, and his life changes completely.

When Dan and Malcolm first meet, they have a sudden vision of a couple from the past. Is it a glimpse at a past life or something else entirely? They agree to work together to figure out what is going on, and they stumble upon a forgotten Celtic myth that may explain everything. If the myth is true, then Dan and Malcolm could be a pair of lovers who have been reincarnated over and over again over two thousand years. That seems impossible, but it’s hard to deny that something very strange is happening.

As Dan and Malcolm work to find the truth, they fall for each other hard. But searching for who they really are puts them both in grave danger, and they find themselves racing against time to keep their happily ever after.

Potential Future Band Names.

Despite a severe lack of any degree of musical talent, I figured it might be prudent to brainstorm future band names, should I ever find myself in a musical group. (It could happen. Ok, no it couldn’t: but maybe I’ll write about a band someday? Then I’ll be prepared!)

All of these names are totally copyright me, Amy Gaertner 2013, all rights reserved, whatever, etc. (You could, however, buy ones of these names off me for a million dollars. Or a thousand. I don’t know: make me an offer.)

Obviously, the names are all best-suited to different types of bands, but I leave it up to the reader to discern which types.

In no particular order:

Potential Future Band Names

  • Boner Patrol
  • Slap Bang Sally
  • Uncle Bo’s Electric Jug Band
  • The Hayseeds
  • Midnight Carnival
  • VHS
  • Kitten and the Whiskers
  • Chupa Cadabra
  • Little Gray Mouse
  • Wanderlust
  • Burning Bushes
  • Pity Party
  • Fizz
  • Under the Moon
  • Pyro Pyro Pyro
  • Cheeky Monkey
  • Red Lead Balloon
  • Action Figure

Lines I Love: Agatha Christie

Lines I Love

Favorite quotes from my favorite books.

“The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.” (Murder on the Orient Express)

“Everything must be taken into account. If the fact will not fit the theory—let the theory go.” (The Mysterious Affair at Styles)

“Every murderer is probably somebody’s old friend.” (The Mysterious Affair at Styles)

“Words, madmoiselle, are only the outer clothing of ideas.” (The ABC Murders)

“The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to seekers after it.” (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd)

“It had come about ex­act­ly in the way things hap­pened in books.” (And Then There Were None)

“A woman who doesn’t lie is a woman without imagination and without sympathy.” (Murder in Mesopotamia)

“I’m sorry, but I do hate this differentiation between the sexes. ‘The modern girl has a thoroughly businesslike attitude to life’ That sort of thing. It’s not a bit true! Some girls are businesslike and some aren’t. Some men are sentimental and muddle-headed, others are clear-headed and logical. There are just different types of brains.” (Appointment With Death)

“What I feel is that if one has got to have a murder actually happening in one’s house, one might as well enjoy it, if you know what I mean.” (The Body in the Library)