A disabled woman survives a soft apocalypse in an overgrown mall and impacts her community by sharing a candle-making recipe stored in her old email inbox.
As this is December, the most final of months in the year, I'm doing a quick roundup of books I enjoyed in 2022. It just so happens I didn’t read much this year. Probably because I spent more time writing and editing, but also because I tended to DNF books more often than be swept away by them. A handful of books did grip my imagination and demand reading in one day, though, and all of those appear here.
So here we go!
You’d thought nothing could overpower the smell of cattle on a warm, wet night, when the scent of money imbued the still air for miles around the feedlot. But something had spooked the herd. Lowing echoed as hooves thundered away from the southeast corner, bringing a peculiar, fruity scent along with them.
One charm of both growing older and practicing writing craft for many years has been gaining the skills for dealing with my more annoying writing proclivities. The bad habits that hold me back. That hold many a writer back, in fact. Specifically, in this case, the vicious cycle of starting a project, then jumping to a new project before finishing because the new idea looks both shinier and easier than the current one.
I enjoy a challenge, but only to a certain point, so if a task feels beyond my skills to overcome, I will simply walk away. This habit comes from playing puzzle-based video games when I was a kid. I found that instead of bashing my head against a room I couldn’t solve, I could put the controller down, do something else, and chew on the problem in the background. Once I returned, often the answer came to me immediately. So when I run up against a plot problem, I tend to do the same thing.
Only there’s always a new idea bubbling in the back of my brain, ready to pounce the second I look away from that original project. I’ll work on this instead. I’m sure I’ll finish this one.
On and on.
I don’t notice the difference in beguiling flattery coming from your mouth right off. You always turn to wheedling me when you want something. I’ve learned to shut down the listening part of my brain when you get going. But tonight, the shadows have grown long across the prairie, yet still you haven’t given up asking. I can’t imagine you’d want to visit the corner store with your friends this bad.
Signing up to my Patreon's lowest tier grants you access to a month(ish) of collected survival prompts that I wrote for my writing org's 2023 anthology. Sign up and try your hand at them!
One memory about my time as a member of the Writers’ Club in my high school sticks out to me. The English teacher who organized the club had reached out to a local writer, asking her to meet with our group at the local coffee shop in the tiny town where our school was located. My area oozes writers—probably because of some cosmic vortex that churns them out of the dry dirt, reaching hands up toward the vast, impossibly vast blue sky overhead for literally anything beyond a monotonous high plains landscape—so she could’ve been anybody. I didn’t catch her name because I was a teenager and bad with names.
I’m still bad with names but no longer a teenager. I wish I’d remembered who she was.
My friends and I met with this writer in the evening, early enough in the school year that the weather hadn’t yet changed to nasty, blustery cold. We sat outside, where we could barely hear each other every time a train rumbled past on the nearby tracks. We held our notebooks poised, ready to jot down any writing wisdom she thought to dole out.
Our last day of sunlight dawned and faded almost at once as you reaped the final drop of ripened energy from our sun. We could do nothing to stop you. Your strange, mercurial ship flew circles around our, by comparison, primitive technology. All without needing to pause your theft.
You used to fear the bathtub drain as a child, until you’d happened to watch a cartoon demonstrating the irrationality of…well, drainophobia. No part of you could fit down a drain. You couldn’t be sucked down, even if you tried.
But there are bigger drains.
Hunger haunted the hollows of your heart where my absence left you empty. You wanted attention. Views. Likes. Comments. At first, these from anyone would do. Admiration from the masses filled the gnawing emptiness within you.
Until you got my attention.