I write, therefore I…what?


This post could just as easily be titled, “Why I Am Uncomfortable Being Called A Writer.”

I admit it’s an odd quirk, what with the two novels, three novellas, four novelettes and assorted short stories available for purchase or download. Add in this blog and my old livejournal, three more complete novels in various stages of revision and one consigned to Limbo abandoned on Wattpad, and it’s obvious I write. A lot.

Ay, there’s the rub. I write. Writing is a thing I do. It is an activity I enjoy…well. True confession, I don’t always enjoy it, but I do always love its results, and often it is joyful work. Sometimes writing can consume my every waking moment.

But WRITER is a term of identity, and I don’t meet the minimum metrics. This is not a case of impostor syndrome. It’s more of a semantic issue. I do writing. I also do gardening, but I don’t call myself a gardener. I bake, but I do not claim to be a baker. I work in a library, but I am not a librarian.

The writing & publishing community packs a lot of baggage about personality traits, habits, likes, and dislikes onto BEING a writer that don’t fit me.  I’m okay with that–except when people refer to me as A Writer. Then I feel the squeeze and start to squirm.

How can I be sure I don’t fit?  I’m so glad you asked. I’m sure because I know many wonderful, talented, inclusive people who do identify as writers. These days it’s simple to find and bond with a tribe of like-minded folk online.

Let’s take a look at the attributes these writer-souls share. The internet is full of helpful materials. There are memes galore. Check this image search here:  You know you’re a writer when

Or check out the multitude of lists in the blogosphere

Oh, and QUIZZES!  I love quizzes.

How did you do?  Me, I scrolled down four lines’ worth of image memes  before I found a single one applicable to me. Lists are no better. I rarely match more than one or two items. And the quizzes? “Not a good fit.” “Not your strength.” “Writer probably isn’t a good career choice.”

(Hah! Too late.)

I do match a few writerly qualifications.  I read a lot. I can get lost in writing. I could happily be a hermit. I adore blanket forts and office supplies. But I don’t buy pens & journals and such, and that’s just the first of the long list of writer traits I do NOT have.

Thusly by the standards of identity, I am not a writer.  I can rove with writer wolves, I can howl and hunt and play with them like a labrador retriever who got loose and was adopted by the pack, but I am unmistakably Not The Same.

I  am…me. I am not a thing I do. I am a collective of ALL the things I do and remember and learn and more. Being is its own verb. I am Karen Elizabeth Morris Herkes.

What do I do? Among other things, I write. And that’s more than enough to bring me happies.

otter things header

The latest in etcetera with occasional SHOUTYCAPS


A little of everything in this last go-round.


One Last Quest M. A. Ray. I bought this short on Amazon and gobbled it down that evening, but it’s also being released as a serial on menyoral.com so I’ve been  re-visiting it there. Because it’s that good. If you have not yet ventured to the world of Rothganar, make plans now. (I really need to get better about listing the indie ebooks I read along with the print ones. Memory like a steel sieve, that’s what I have.)

Nature’s God Matthew Stewart.  Chewed through it. Dense, immense, packed with mind-blowing historical and philosophical material.

The Royal Sentinel L Davidson. It’s the sequel to the Redwood Rebel, which I reviewed on this blog ages ago. (obligatory link here)  Royal Sentinel being released as a serial too. Follow it on the author’s blog or on Wattpad.

The latest in fluff: Lady Claire Is All That Maya Rodale, The Trouble With Dukes & The Heir Grace Burrowes

Side note: I logged a bunch  o’ books into Goodreads. (go, organization!) I’m at 60% of last year’s total already, and the year isn’t half done.  (35 books to last year’s total of 50, for the numbers people.) Kinda highlighted for me  how bad last year truly was. And how much time I was wasting on channel-surfing the internet.  I mean, I knew, but…yeah. Doing more feels better. Yay.

TV & Movies

Moana. Loved it. LOVED IT. So many quotable lines. I didn’t even mind the songs. The song Shiny is a fabulous David Bowie homage. And Maui at one point says, “If you start singing, I’m going to throw up.”

Inferno. Based on a not-so-good Dan Brown novel. (like most Dan Brown novels, the plot pivots on a premise so flawed I cannot stomach the rest of it.)  The movie? BADDER. SO BAD.

Ben-Hur: The Remake. AKA Ben-Hur the Cliff’s Notes edition with God voiceover, Ben-Hur the Pretty People version, Ben-Hur re-imagined by committee…  It was horrible. The plot is less historically accurate, less theologically accurate, AND less true to the original book than the Charlton Heston movie, a feat I didn’t think possible.

Still watching Grand Tour with Spouseman. Episode 4 is the big winner so far. Silly, silly, fun. And Jeremy Clarkson admitted that Porsches are fantastic. So there.


Spent a half-day off on a celebratory “Woo-hoo, Spouseman is done with radiation treatment” trip to the botanic garden. Results: many pretty pictures, fresh air, exercise and actual appetite, and (later)  wipeout exhaustion. Deli overload celebration meal was also a success. I took zero food pictures, and the leftovers made for delicious lunches and dinners.


Spring means I start eating pickles with everything. I don’t know why.  I crave pickles and fresh mushrooms too, actually. Luckily Makes me glad almost any veggie can be quick-pickled (except greens. I would not recommend pickled kale. Or spinach.) ANYway. Green beans, peas, corn niblets, red peppers…all of ’em go in the fridge jar.

Scones.  I have made so many different kinds of scones lately. So. Many.  Why haven’t I made chocolate chip cherry ones yet?  That will have to happen soon. <cue music>


How I celebrate that it’s almost Real Spring: I bought my summer bulbs. Dahlias and gladiolas, mostly.  I know I could dig up glads and the dahlias in the fall and overwinter them, but…I never do. I picked up a big bag of mixed Asian lilies this year too. It’s time to bump up the color variety. They come back every year, but every year more and more of them are orange. I thought I might be mis-remembering, but no. I checked old photos. Yellows and pinks and white. Last year. ORANGE EVERYWHERE. This year I am going for a bit more variety.

And that’s a wrap.

Not tired of my words yet? You could always buy something I wrote. Check out this page to judge all my books by their covers. Or head straight to Amazon, if that’s your preference.



Legos in hats

A friend who knows of Spouseman’s LEGO fixation and my passion for silliness found us a beautiful bit of fun to share: A 3D printed a LEGO-sized version of the Women’s March pink pussy hat.


This installment of Bad Phone Photography: a selection of himself’s mini-figs (as all the cool kids call ’em) wearing the pink pussy hat. Most of these figs did not come standard with female options. So I improvised.Lots of temporary decapitation and re-capitation was required. And I included allies of course. Ming is my favorite.

Someday perhaps I will make teeny little signs for them all to carry and set them up for a parade. I would need a lot more hats first.

Lego grandmablurry lego builder allyLego scientistLego knightLego sheriffLego dancerLego serverLego cavewomanLego Ming AllyLego SamuraiLego zombie cheerleader

That’s it. Nothing more to see. Move along. Maybe read another thing.

Sad Confession & Funny Story

Confession: I am not good at friending.  It isn’t that I am a total curmudgeon. I enjoy peopling. I like people. I see value in pretty much everyone I meet. People are cool.  Fascinating. Amazing.  It isn’t some self-doubt issue that holds me back either. If I could alter certain core traits I would be a much better person in the eyes of Society,  but I don’t want to change. I like myself as I am, flaws, quirks, and all. Or to be more precise,  I like myself more than I want to try to change.

The real problem is twofold:

  • One:  I am an intense, intelligent, opinionated person whose baseline personality is as subtle as Limburger cheese, which makes polite interaction damned difficult work for me.  I’m happy being me, but when I relax, I quickly wear out my welcome.
  • Two: I  don’t have a good grasp on the practical concept of nice, which means I have limited capacity to make the gestures that keep friendships strong.

The dance of human bonding is too complex to distill down to the behavioral formulas I use to govern casual and/or professional exchanges. (I have those down pretty well. A few decades of practice and all that. It isn’t easy, but I manage.) Take away structure, and I flounder. And panic, I’ve learned, follows fast on floundering.

Is calling intrusion or inclusion? What about emailing? When are gifts right? How much gifting is too much? Too little? Sharing versus oversharing –what is too much? Too little? Unwelcome? Repetitious?  Oh, geez, have I told this story? What one person enjoys makes another uncomfortable, but not always…and all that assumes that other people are nakedly honest about their feelings at all times. Big assumption. Big. HUGE.

Friendships have SO MANY variables —  not only who the friend is, but the circumstances, the occasion, their state of being, their state of mind. First there’s recognizing which of a zillion situations is in play, and then trying to remember which situational variants call for what reaction…

When in doubt about a proper relating behavior, I default to no behavior.

Be invisible is my conditioned response to overload, and that is lousy friending. (even I know that much)

A friend steps up in times of need. I’ll be the one off standing in a field, totally oblivious or wholly paralyzed. I do wish it wasn’t true. I do try. Often the best I can do is be honest and say, “I can’t.” Or else, “To help you, I need  you to tell me what you need. Specifically. Concretely.”

But see, that isn’t good friending either, because sometimes what people need is the freedom to not have to explain what they need on top of whatever concrete need they have. The best gift is often the one that arrives unasked. I know this. I just…suck at it.

Without direction, I will guess wrong and hurt feelings often deeply. That isn’t insecurity talking, it’s experience.  It is  also not a case of “I could get better at it if I tried harder.” I can point to dozens of burned bridges to illustrate the consistency of my failure.  Trying the same thing over and over expecting different results…what do they call that, again? Ah, right. That’s the facetious definition of insanity.

I’ll take sanity with a small side order of guilt over driving myself crazy. Call me selfish. You won’t be the first. It’s a bit awkward being me.

I’m good at disappearing, though.  I got tons of practice growing up because invisibility was a survival skill. I was one of those perfect bully magnets. Physical awkwardness, emotional difficulties, and academic achievement all flagged me as a target. That’s when I learned how not to be seen. I  was so invisible in middle school even the teachers didn’t see me.

True story. Funny one.

Sure, each teacher knew I was in their class, but none of them saw me. I liked it that way. Thus in the fullness of time my mother found out I was not nominated to the Junior National Honor Society by any of my teachers. (Some of whom were Mom’s friends and knew my whole family well.)

Cue major parental outrage. Mind you, I did qualify for NHS membership. I was carrying a near-perfect GPA on an overloaded course schedule and involved in a ton of extra-curricular activities too. My records were identical to other children with multiple teacher sponsors.

But it never occurred to any one teacher that I might be acing ALL my classes. I “didn’t stand out.” Or so my mother was informed. KA-BLOOIE ensued. Apologies were made. I was inducted into JNHS. Life went on. Scholarship money eventually resulted.

And that’s how I learned being visible had an upside. I also learned (slowly) how to mimic basic social behaviors until they became habitual practice.  It took a lot longer to learn how to tell fake friends from from real. But that’s a tale for another time.

As often happens, I’ve reached the end of a post with no particular point made.  What’s a good wrap-up? Hmm. Oh. Buy my books, they’re awesome? Yeah, that’ll do.

Or you can hit the Shiny Baubles menu up top and check out the free reading selections and links. It’s all good either way.

glitter butterfly

March things roaring and bleating

I’ve been posting these media consumption updates at least once every couple of weeks for more than a year now. It’s almost a feature. I’m possibly more pleased about that level of consistency than I should be, but pleased I am, all the same. Here’s the latest.


Silence Fallen Patricia Briggs. Many books into the series, I’m still enjoying it.   Even switching from first to third person between chapters was tolerable,  made fun by chatty explanatory blurbs from the main character. True confession: I cheered when a new POV character showed up 3/4 of the way into the book. I do that even though writing guides all say it’s a huge no-no, but guess what?  It works great.

Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins Of the American Republic Matthew Stewart. I may be gnawing on this one for a while. 450 dense pages with another 125 pages of footnotes. Super fascinating “things that get glossed over in American History Class” stuff. I read a certain page count per day like homework, but I always go over my quota because it’s hard to stop once started.

Spoiler alert: digging into the writings & the formative readings of the Founding Fathers reveals they were mostly not big fans of Christianity. To paraphrase a couple of paragraphs (the prose is super dense) The American ideal freedom of religion traces back to the Founding Fathers’ desire for freedom from religion, specifically from Christianity.  Amazing stuff. Packed with enough citations to give me lots of further reading too.

And some fantasy Victorian-era romance fluff to balance out the Tome Of Learning: So You Want To Start A Scandal, Tessa Dare. Phenomenal dialogue and pacing.


Deepwater Horizon. LOTS better than I expected, especially after the disappointment of Sully. It stuck to the event, not the aftermath. They took a tremendously complicated scientific & engineering situation and explained it well,  portrayed people present for the crisis as flawed but sometimes also heroic, and then skipped out before the backstabbing and finger-pointing started.. Could it have been a huge screed against corporate greed and a saga of ecological disaster? Surrrrrrre, but Humanity vs Nature made a much better movie.

Captain Fantastic. I have no idea why I reserved this one. Oh, wait. Viggo Mortenson. Right. I won’t analyze its premise or message. It wouldn’t stand up well to analysis. I enjoyed it all the same. I can enjoy problematic things.  The casting director is brilliant for finding six kids of varying ages who could all hold their own on-screen with Viggo. Names to watch.

Hell & High Water.  It was…well done. Not my kind of story for fun, but holy catkins, Chris Pine is not just chiseled and pretty, he can act. That’s a thing I know for sure now. He more than held his own with Jeff Bridges. Bridges & Gil Birmingham were an epic cop buddy pair. And that is all I will say.


Grand Tour. Spouseman and I have embarked on a new  “watch TV together” series. Car fun. Vrrrroom. GT is the new Amazon-Prime version of BBC Top Gear with the original hosts, who got fired/resigned (it was a Big Thing, google it) Unlike American Top Gear, which I found unwatchably dull, this show keeps the lighthearted spirit of the original with a fun twist of changing locations every week. I think the title acronym being GT is no accident since it’s a car nerd reference, a nod to the world-traveling aspect, AND the initials for Top Gear backwards.

I hope they lose the NASCAR driver replacement for the Stig, not because he’s bad, but because he’s obviously Jeremy Clarkson’s running stupid-Muricans joke and it was grating on my nerves after one episode. Clarkson’s bullying obnoxiousness gives me heebie-jeebies in general, but he’s hiding the meanness a little better in this incarnation than in later seasons of TG. So far.

Feud. I didn’t turn off the TV fast enough after watching some recorded show and got sucked into this mini-series. I regret nothing. It’s delicious. Bette Davis & Joan Crawford and the production of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?  Period costumes, dramatic spats, and tons of scenery-chewing = great goodness.

Series of Unfortunate Events. Hee. I don’t care if it’s targeted at children. It has Patrick Warburton as a narrator, and a fabulous parade of talent hamming it up in heavy makeup and wild costumes. Then there the storyline wreathed in glittery vocabulary words, Dahl-esque social commentary, and pointed lessons about human frailty. Best of all, it never assumes its audience is stupid, which is one of the things I loved best about the books.

And that’s a wrap on my creative-things intake summary. Of course there’s creative output too. All this inspiration has to be exhaled. I put it in books mostly. You can order my published work on Amazon and at all the other usual online retailers, or  take free peeks at all of it under the blog menu mysteriously labeled Books.

SF thrillers, SF romance, and straight science fantasy, full length novel or shorter, so many choices…