The top ten posts of 2020

I always look forward to writing this post every year. It’s a look back at what’s been on our collective minds for the last twelve months. And in a year as twisted as 2020, I was especially interested to see what posts resonated with you all the most.

This year I’ve limited the list to only posts that were written in 2020. I don’t know why I haven’t done that in the past but there it is. Here are the top ten most popular Paper Beats World posts for 2020, the year that shouldn’t.

The Middle Finger Project, The Book, Launches today!

I love that this post got so much attention because it means this book got a lot of attention. And it deserves it. No, you deserve to read this book. Because it’s life-changing.

The holidays are going to look different this year

I don’t think I was the only blogger talking about this. But it helped me to get my feelings out to the world. I hope that it helped you to see the good in the holidays even if they weren’t what we wanted them to be. 

Don’t forget when this is over

I’m going to keep repeating the message for this post. We can’t stop fighting in America. We’re too great a country to settle for what we’ve got right now. There are still babies in cages at our border. There are still people going hungry in one of the wealthiest countries on the planet. Don’t forget, and don’t stop fighting to make our country better. 

I’m going for a Milwordy

This was a big shiny goal that I had at one point. It didn’t go to plan. But more on that later. 

Should we even do Nanowrimo this year?

My answer to this was yes. And I think I wrote an awesome book I can’t wait to share it with all of you in 2022. Did you write a book in November? Tell us about it in the comments.

Why Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes works

I loved this book, as I’ve already mentioned. I guess a lot of you loved it too. I hope you learned something from this installment of Why it Works. I enjoy writing those and will keep doing so in 2021.

An interview with Madolyn Locke

Madolyn Locke is a writing buddy of mine and a great author. I’m so happy this interview got so many reads. If you like my work, you’ll love hers. Tell a friend. 

I’ve decided not to do a Milwordy, here’s why

Best laid plans and such. I thought a million words in a year would be no big deal with all the different projects I have going on. Turns out when you’re a professional writer you spend a lot more time editing than writing. Oh well, live and learn.

Things that irritate me as a fantasy fan

This post still riles me up. I’m glad you all liked it, and I hope you agreed with some of my pet peeves. 

Writing Medicine in Fantasy Books

This was the most popular post of the year by far, and I’m so glad. I love writing detailed posts about little writing tools, and I’m going to write more of them in the future. 

So that was it for 2020. I have some really exciting things planned for 2021 that I cannot wait to share with you. Let’s raise some champaign glasses and kick 2020 the hell out of here. 

My top ten favorite books of 2020

One good thing can be said of 2020. I read a lot of good books. Coming up with my top ten for the year was a bit of a challenge because of this. I mean, I read The Exorcist this year and it didn’t even make it into the top ten. But if I’m going to have a challenge, I can think of worse ones. 

Not all of them came out this year, this is just the first year I read them. This isn’t news to anyone who’s read my previous year-end round-ups. You’ll find all sorts of genres represented here. Some books I’ve done a full review on, some I haven’t. One I haven’t even finished reading yet, but it’s so awesome already that it had to make my top ten. No matter what differences these books may have, they all have one thing in common. They were damned good.

If you want to follow along with what I’m reading all year long, you can do so on Goodreads. Now, on to the list. 

The Middle Finger Project by Ash Ambridge 

If you need to get your life in order, this is the book you need to do it. I have never read such in your face realistic business advice. I cried multiple times while reading it.

Top of my lungs by Natalie Goldberg

Have you ever read a book and immediately knew you were going to reach for it again? That was what Top of my Lungs was like for me. The poetry is inspiringly beautiful. The artwork is soothing. I put this book on my in case of an emergency bullet journal page. If I’m in doubt, Natalie is there for me.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Yes, I know this show blew up on Netflix. No, I don’t know if I’ll be watching it. That’s not what I’m here to talk about. This book was good. This book was deep and thoughtful and felt way too real. It’s a reminder that we lose the rights we don’t insist upon. 

Savage Legion by Matt Wallace 

This is the one I haven’t finished yet. But the story is so good, I had to include it on the list. 

A young woman is sent to the front line of an unwinnable war as punishment for a barroom brawl. But it turns out she got herself sent there on purpose to find the one man who can stop this brutal practice and save the soul of their country. And I have loved every second of it. Expect a full review on that soon.

The War on Everyone by Robert Evans

This was an eye-opening book in a year that was quite eye-opening for everyone. It goes a long way to explain where we are in America and exactly how we got here. Of course, it’s written by the man who hosts a podcast called Behind the Bastards. So, be aware that this book isn’t for the faint of heart.

If It Bleeds by Stephen King

I did a whole review of this book over on Haunted MTL, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time on it. Let’s just say it’s worth a read, and for more than just the title story. Especially if you were a fan of King’s The Outsider. 

Now, then and everywhen by Rysa Walker

It’s hard to do a time travel story right. It’s even harder to do it when you’re working between a trilogy you already wrote. But Walker has done this, as well as providing a great story. There’s fighting racism in this book, exciting adventures, fun characters, funny shout outs to real-world fandoms. And I have to admit, I didn’t see the ending coming. The sequel is coming out in January, and I’m stoked.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Everyone was looking forward to this book, and it caused a lot of dust-ups among nerds. I loved it. It was a great story that didn’t humanize President Snow as much as I was worried it would. Again, I’ve done a whole review of it here, if you’d like to read it.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Again, I reviewed this book on Haunted MTL and you can read my review here. If you haven’t read Mexican Gothic, do it right now. It’s a rich, atmospheric read that I just lost myself in. 

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green

This was, by far, my favorite book of the year. You might remember that last year the first book, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing made my list. So it’s no surprise that the conclusion made it onto this year. It’s a difficult book to describe, but I attempted to here in my review of it. Do yourself a favor and read it now if you haven’t. 

So that’s it for my top ten list of books in 2020. I’d love to know what made it onto your list. Let us know the best book you’ve read this year in the comments below. 

Give this gift to yourself today

This post is going live on Christmas Day, 2020. As I write this I’m looking back at the year we’re getting ready to leave behind. 

I don’t need to tell you what kind of year it’s been, you know. We’ve all lived it together. And it’s hard to not come to today without some amount of regret. 

We regret that we couldn’t be with our families. 

We regret that there’s not a lot of gifts under the tree.

We regret that maybe we’re just barely making ends meet. 

We regret that we might have had to take another job. Or leave a job because it was just unsafe. 

Insert your regret here. We’re going to do something together today. Grab a piece of paper and a pen. Maybe grab a cup of tea, too.

Now, write down everything you wish you’d have done better this year. Everything you regret doing or not doing. Every single thing, big or small. 

Do you have your list? Great. Now you need a candle and a fire-safe container. Fold your paper up, and set the damned thing on fire. Let it burn, then flush the ashes.

Because we need to let that shit go.

This is the gift I’m giving myself today. I’m letting go of my regrets from 2020. It was a hard year and we got through it. Now, it’s time to leave all our baggage behind and move into 2021 free from it. 

2021 can be a time to learn. We can be better as a community, as a society, as individuals. We can choose to make 2021 brighter.

Let this be the gift you give yourself. Forgive yourself for doing what you had to do to survive. Let it go, and thrive now. 

Last minute gifts you still have time for

It’s December 18th. We’re a week away from Christmas Day. And it’s 2020. Going to the store is a bad idea. Ordering online is a great idea, if you did it several weeks ago. Now it’s too late to to be sure of shipping. At least without ensuring gouging shipping fees and the eternal hatred of your mail carrier. 

Alright, so what are you supposed to do if you haven’t gotten something for someone yet? You can order something and just accept that they’ll get it late. That’s fine, absolutely nothing wrong with that. You can pretend it got lost in the mail, but that’s a dick move. 

But those aren’t your only options! You can still get your loved ones a gift that they’ll love. Here are four ideas. 


Subscription services are awesome, and they’re great gifts. They’re something that can be appreciated all year long. Spotify, Netflix, Hulu. For story lovers there’s Serial Box. No matter what your loved one is into, you can find a subscription for them. 

Homemade gifts

Not just for children! As adults I think we forget that homemade gifts can be treasured just as much as store bought. 

Now, I’m not suggesting this is the time to get out the knitting needles. If you didn’t start a big project like that in September you’re probably not getting it done. 

That being said, there are some great things you can make. Sea salt with some lavender buds, sage, orange peel or rose petals is a lovely gift. If you’ve got little ones you forgot, you can whip up a container of homemade play dough. Or just make the dough yourself and make some handmade ornaments. 

If you’re a fan of baking, a batch of cookies or a cake might be a great gift. Clutter free, too. 

Printable gifts

If you’ve got a printer, look into this. I spent some time on Etsy and found some of the cutest things. Printable games, gift tags, paper dolls. And I mean like really awesome paper dolls. Like, I might get some of these for me dolls. (I’m thirty-four, I can play with dolls if I want to.) Seriously, the imagination put into these things is just amazing. 

There’s nothing wrong with a gift card

Honestly, this is a tried and true gift. This is what I got my best friend’s kids a gift card for Hanukkah. Do you remember being a kid and getting a gift card? How fun was that? It’s a little credit card that you can spend on what you want like a grown up!

All hope is not lost. You can still get a great gift for your loved ones. It just might take some thinking out of the box.

I hope this helps you guys have a great holiday season. If these tips were helpful, let me know in the comments. 

The best holiday specials ever

One of the things I look forward to during the holiday season is watching all the holiday specials of my favorite shows. Being the huge nerd that I am, this should be no surprise. It’s not even that they’re all good. It’s more that it’s part of the holidays for me. I watch almost nothing but holiday specials from December first to the twenty-fifth. Well, this year I’m also watching The Mandalorian and His Dark Materials. But we’ll talk more about those later.

I thought it would be fun today to share my favorite specials with you. These are listed from worst to best. Most of them you’ve probably already heard of. But maybe you haven’t. Or maybe you forgot all about them and now you remember you can’t wait to see them. Maybe you just want to read the list then tell me how horribly wrong my taste is. That’s fine. I would love for you to leave a comment below telling me your favorite holiday special from any winter holiday.

A very special family guy freakin’ Christmas

Family Guy was really good for the first three seasons. And this Christmas episode in particular is just perfect. It embodies the worst and best of Christmas.

Lois is the sort of person who makes Christmas happen for her family. But when one mishap after another ruins all of her hard work she snaps. She ends up climbing the Quohog Christmas tree, hell-bent on destroying the star on top.

I like this episode because it throws the old fashioned Christmas special on its ear. While we’d all like to soar through the holidays making cookies and special family memories, I think losing our shit after one too many fuck ups is way more relatable.

The Bleakening

Bob’s Burgers is a show that’s worked its way into my holiday viewing. Especially their Thanksgiving episodes. There just aren’t a lot of good Thanksgiving specials.

While there are a lot of Christmas episodes, my favorite is The Bleakening. Linda loses it a little when someone steals her Christmas tree from the restaurant. This action leads the kids to think that a Krampus like creature called The Bleaken is coming to steal all their gifts. So they go out at night to hunt the creature down.

A Very Sunny Christmas

It’s Always Sunny is an acquired taste and not for the easily offended. And this Christmas episode was especially awful. Frank ruins Christmas for his children every year by buying the thing they’d like most for himself. This is the year he goes too far. Dee and Dennis decide it’s time to teach him a lesson. As I’m sure you can imagine, nothing goes to plan and everything is a horrifying hot mess. It’s also one of the funniest damned things I’ve ever seen.

I want a dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown

This isn’t the best known Charlie Brown special, which might be why I like it so much. Rerun wants a dog, but his mom doesn’t want him to have one. He borrows Snoopy, but it’s not the same. When Snoopy’s brother Spike comes into town Rerun gets his mom to let him stay until he’s in better health.

In true Charlie Brown fashion, Spike doesn’t stay. He goes home to live with Joe Cactus and Rerun never does get his dog. But that’s sort of why I love Charlie Brown. The kids don’t usually get what they want, at least not the way they want them. But Rerun still has Snoopy to borrow. If that’s not an allegory for life, I don’t know what is.

Rugrats, Chanuka

I never learned about Hanuka as a child, so this is where I first learned about the celebration of lights. It’s a good explanation for kids and grownups who didn’t grow up in super-diverse neighborhoods.

The kids are taken to a Hanuka play at temple with Grandpa Boris. He ends up in an on-stage spat with an old rival, and the kids are read a story about the meaning of Hanuka while trying to get the ‘Meanie’ to fall asleep.

As always, I love seeing the hilarious misunderstandings that the kids fall into. I also love the way the show explained why this beautiful holiday is celebrated.

Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas

This is maybe the best episode of Community ever. The whole thing’s in stop motion, and it centers around Abed having sort of a mental break down. He drags everyone along for a journey to find the meaning of Christmas.

This episode is especially fun when you consider that all of the magical stuff is happening in Abed’s mind. Everyone else is sitting in the study room, just talking. I love it.

Futurama, X-mas story

There’s a line from this my husband and I quote to each other at any opportunity. “I’m gonna get you so many lizards.”

In the future, X-mas is celebrated with palm trees because pine trees have gone extinct. Oh, and Santa is a homicidal robot why deems everyone naughty and slaughters people every X-mas Eve. Fry and Lela are caught out late and have to run for their lives.

Hilarity ensues.

X-Files, How the Ghosts Stole Christmas

I do love a good ghost story, especially for Christmas. Mulder and Scully find themselves trapped in a house that’s messing with their heads. Rooms move from place to place. They’re tortured by visions of each other dying. They see the spirits who live there but are not able to put them to rest. Though, in fairness, the couple seems quite content to spend eternity together. And who wouldn’t? They’ve got each other and some living people to torture on Christmas Eve. They’re set.

The ambiance of this episode is just amazing. Warm fires, old books, dead bodies. It’s just like A Christmas Carol.

Simpsons Roasting On an Open Fire

Finally, my favorite holiday special. Homer’s crushed when he doesn’t get his Christmas bonus. Things get even worse when Marge has to spend all their Christmas savings to remove a tattoo from Bart. He tries to get a second job as a mall Santa to try to get gifts. When that too falls through, his last hope is betting on a dog race.

This episode is heartwarming and never fails to make me laugh. It’s a fluffy blanket and a cup of eggnog. It just feels like Christmas when I see little Maggie dressed up in her star-shaped snowsuit. It’s not unusual for me to watch it a couple of times.

So that’s it. Those are my can’t miss holiday specials. Now I want to hear what you think? What’s your favorite holiday special? Let us know in the comments below.

Building new traditions

Holidays are often built around traditions that are passed down from year to year, generation to generation. The ornament that your mom put on the tree when she was little, that your son is putting up now. The movie you watch with your dad. The book you read with your grandmother. It’s part of what we all look forward to. 

We didn’t have a lot of traditions for the holidays when I was a kid. It’s no one’s fault. We moved a lot and my mom had to work. Somehow ornaments and decorations got lost in the shuffle of the moves. And most of my movie watching was done alone. But there were some traditions. 

My mom always did the twelve days of Christmas, letting me open one gift a night up until Christmas Eve. We opened everything that night because we were going to visit my grandmother and great grandmothers on Christmas day. My mom always told me I’d opened everything. But on Christmas morning there was also one last gift. Usually the best one.

We always made potato candy and fudge. The cats always hid in the tree and attacked us while we put up ornaments. And we always always sang together.

I don’t do any of those things now. My family moved away and I was left on my own. So I made new traditions. 

This year, most of our traditions are going to be unsafe. We can’t get together with our family. We can’t travel, can’t go to parties. I usually go holiday shopping with my best friend, but we’re sure as hell not doing that. Another buddy and I always get coffee together for Yule. Another thing that won’t be happening. Ditto Light up Night in Pittsburgh. I don’t have to tell you that this is hardly the first time we’ve faced this in 2020. 

Fuck you, 2020.

That being said, this isn’t the first time I’ve had to build new traditions. And I’m far from the only one. 

There are holidays after the death of a loved one. Holidays after a move across the country, after a divorce. On a less depressing note, there are births and weddings. Buying new houses, getting new jobs that require moves to exciting new cities. 

Life changes, it evolves. We change too, and our traditions change with us. Sometimes it’s going to be painful. Life is painful sometimes, and that sucks. Nothing I can say will change that. 

But life goes on. This holiday won’t look like other years. It can still be great. This might be the year you find a new tradition you love so much you do every year from now on. It all depends on how you do it. 

To help you out, here’s a list of things I’m doing this year that cost little to no money. You can do them alone, or with family and friends in your bubble. 

Please note that I celebrate Christmas and Yule, so these ideas are kind of all from those holidays. If you celebrate something else, I would be thankful and honored if you’d share some of your own quarantine friendly traditions. 

Since I can’t go to a coffee shop, my buddy and I are doing a virtual coffee day. Zoom and coffee while we (hopefully) open Yule gifts that arrived in the mail. 

I do lots of mailed gifts since most of my family doesn’t live near me. I love that so many places can just deliver right to my loved ones without me ever having to touch them.

Of course, no holiday would be complete for me without a few books. I read A Christmas Carol every year, starting on Black Friday. Spoiler, you can usually find A Christmas Carol as a free e-book download. It’s a beautiful story read either to your family or on your own.

I love collecting ornaments for my tree. So one gift I get myself every year is a new ornament. Only one, though. Otherwise, it’s way too hard to stop buying them.

Since we’ve been home so much more, I’ve been crafting a ton more than I ever have. Wooden stars covered in silver and gold. A new crochet tree skirt, glass jars turned into candle holders. Several handmade ornaments. I’m painting a box we got from Hickory Farms as a gingerbread house. All together I bought some yarn, wooden stars and battery lit candles. It’s been fun, and my house is just filled with decorations. I can’t recommend getting crafty enough. 

We might have to spend this holiday season apart, but doing so will help ensure more of us are here to celebrate next year. Let’s make some new traditions and have a wonderful holiday season apart, together.

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