Posted in Adventure, life

A Summer Sweet and Somber

The atmosphere feels different today, and I think I know what has caused it. Summer has reached it’s final chapter and I can already see the end. The air, the sky, the ground, they all feel different somehow. I don’t think I’ve ever loved summer as I do now, thinking instead I was a cold weather creature, more at home with thick sweaters and fuzzy socks, than flip-flops and shorts. But something in me has changed, and I’ve grown to appreciate summer much more now. Though it’s blisteringly hot most of the time, especially here in the desert southwest, I can’t deny the beauty of the summer season as it explodes with life. There is nothing quiet or still about these warm days. Whether it be squirrels causing a ruckus in the backyard, birds busily chirping, children laughing and playing in the evening, or the neighbor with the constant weed-whacker running in the background, the sounds of summer life are all around me. As we are nearing the end of this season, I wanted to take a closer look at some of the things that make this time feel bright, even on a dull day.

We can’t talk about summer without first considering the sun. For without it, there would be no such thing as summer. Without that particular tilt, during that particular time in orbit, we wouldn’t even have the chance to experience summer, be it good or bad. Without it, we wouldn’t even be alive today. And by the way, how does the earth know to tilt, and become warm? How does it know to change from summer to winter? There is something divine that occurs, which can’t be fathomed, no matter how many scientists or textbooks try to explain it. I find it no coincidence that the word sun, sounds an awful lot like the word son. If you think about it, the very earth is a representation of humans, and the Son of the Most High God. Without the Son, life could not exist. There would be only a great vast, nothingness. The giver of light, and life, are they both.

I’m not sure why, but summer gives me the sense that it has a tiredness about it. The days are longer than ever, and you might think that means more time than ever. But it’s the same twenty-four hour cycle, only rearranged a bit. Summer is so busy with work, and play, and there is never enough time fit it all. And hard work is only made harder by the heat, yet it must be done anyway. By the time the sun goes down, and coolness settles in, you’ll find that it’s gotten late, and the only thing you have time left for is sleep. So you drop heavily onto your mattress, brain and bones seeking a brief respite from the day’s antics only to be met with a familiar foe that plagued even the ancients. The foe I’m speaking of is, insomnia. I don’t know why it happens, but on my most tired of days, I feel like I’ve used up my energy and ability to even sleep. Shutting off the light, as I shut my eyes, sleep refuses to come. The hours of the night tick past, and morning arrives all too soon, or maybe not soon enough. I think during the summer people might become solar powered, because I don’t know where else I get all my energy, if not through photosynthesis– since much of the time it is surely not through sleep.

And yet another summer is passing without any special trip, or event to speak of. I’m not sure where this invisible pressure comes from for us to make it “big” during the summer. Personally I see nothing wrong with a slow summer. Even if you don’t go out on some big adventure, there are plenty of ways to make the most of the season in small ways. For instance, summer is not summer in my opinion, without at least one late-night trip for ice cream. And I’m happy to report that I’ve accomplished that feat, a few times actually. And it would be a grave travesty of me, if I claim to have done nothing special this summer. It may not seem extraordinary or special to someone else, but to me, this summer has been of great interest. For one thing, I’ve taken up tennis. I’m no good at it, but who cares? I have no intention of competing in Wimbledon, so what’s the big deal if I miss the ball a few hundred times? I’ve also ridden a bike, on a ten mile excursion. I’ve waded in the the river, and watched the glittery ripples glide past. I’ve gone swimming, and experienced the horrors of public pools. I’ve had outdoor movie nights with my family and friends, and indoor movie nights at theaters. Summer has been fun, even without any big events to attend, or spectacular trips taken.

Of course the season hasn’t been without some rough times too– sad times, hard times, and times I don’t really want to think about. But I guess that’s the way of things, right? The simple, joyful moments might not even be recognized, if not for the challenging times we experience, to remind us. Optimism does not come naturally to me, so I guess that’s why I make an extra effort to remember and appreciate the happy times. I strive to see the good in everything, even if that sounds impossible at times. It doesn’t take much effort to see the bad, and the wrong with the way things are these days. So I think the best thing we can do for ourselves, is to find joy in spite of all the darkness around us. I look at it as a small form of rebellion in the face of that darkness that attempts to squeeze and crush us all. It reminds me of a certain bible verse, about heaping coals of fire onto the heads of those who seek to cause harm. Maybe we all aught to keep that in mind from now on.

Summer GIF Guide β€” New GIFs for 2021! | AWeber

So my friend, I hope your summer has been swell and I hope you’ve gotten lots of sunshine, and had an ice cream or two. I hope you’ve found joy, in the big things and the small ones too. And if there was anything special about your summer, please tell me about it. I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in writing

A Story in Song | Inspiration for Your Next Story

If there was ever a show of hands, I’m sure everyone in the room would admit they love music. Music is an incredible, magical, phenomenon that has the ability to spread light and love in an otherwise dark world. Some people love to make music with instruments, or even their voice, and others, like myself, love listening to it. Music can inspire more than just happy thoughts or fuzzy feelings, however. Many songs can instantly spark a story in your mind. After all, songs themselves are a form of story. Worthwhile songs are filled with thoughtful words, feelings, and ideas. I thought it would be fun to collect a few songs that have a particular feeling, or an ability to tug on our emotions, and possibly even inspire an entire novel. Let’s get started.

  • Erik Satie – GymnopΓ©die No.1
Once Upon A Time In Paris | Travel Between The Pages

Lately I’ve grown a deeper appreciation for classical music. This composition in particular has such a nostalgic, melancholy, yet whimsical feeling, and I often listen to it on repeat. If I close my eyes, I can just see someone walking alone in the rain. Maybe they’ve forgotten their umbrella, or perhaps it’s late at night, or maybe they’re just going for a leisurely stroll in the afternoon. Whatever it is, this song is perfect to set the mood for your writing, or maybe even inspire an entire scene.

Listen here.

  • RM – mono.
RM 'forever rain' MV - YouTube

I’m cheating a little here, since this is an album, not just a single song– but I had to include it. I’m not sure how many times I’ve listened to this while writing. Somehow, it’s always the perfect soundtrack to the scenes I’m working on, and I’ve become very attached to each of these songs. Again, they have a slightly melancholy, lonely feeling, which often fits in well with the struggles my characters are experiencing.

Listen here.

  • The Civil Wars – Pressing Flowers
The Civil Wars - Poison & Wine - EP - Amazon.com Music

If you are writing a story that’s a little creepy, or mysterious, then this song is just what you need. Filled with haunting harmonies, and soft melodies, everything about this song makes me want to know more. What’s the meaning behind the garden? Why must they meet secretly? Maybe someone out there can write a story to answer all of these questions.

Listen here.

  • Seori – Running Through the Night
Breakthrough Korean artist Seori set to make her mark on the world stage

I really like this next song, and in fact, until I added it to this list I had nearly forgotten just how much I like it. Seori’s voice, accompanied by the strange tempo, and the visuals in the music video are the perfect combination of science-fiction and fantasy. This song, along with the others in this album are very much a story all on their own. The album art, and theme of the lyrics makes me want to write a sci-fi story about a lost princess on a faraway planet in some distant galaxy. If such a story calls to you, I think you’ll enjoy this song.

Listen here.

  • twenty one pilots – Leave The City
Leave The City/Two/Truce/Two - twenty one pilots (Flash Warning) - YouTube

Twenty one pilots are the kings of dark, and moody music, and if you’ve never given them a listen, I would highly recommend you do so. This song in particular is achingly sad, and beautiful at the same time. The lyrics play out like a movie script, and I can picture the scenes so clearly in my mind. This song is the epitome of dystopian, or fantasy tales, and the inspiration this song provides is just waiting to be called into action.

Listen here.

****

That’s it for my short list. You may have noticed a theme in each of these songs. None of them are very cheery or happy, but I think that is why they spark so many ideas in me. These songs evoke questions and mysteries in my mind, and they make me want to climb into their world and discover the story within them. I hope you enjoyed this little collection of songs and I hope they even inspired you in some way. Do you find inspiration in music? What’s one song that you think could inspire a novel? Let me know, and we can chat in the comments.

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in life, WORDS

A Page From My Journal

Do you keep a journal? A super secret notebook for your eyes only? Or maybe a notebook where you collect stray thoughts and ideas before they escape into the ether? Journaling has always been a part of my life. Even when I was very young, writing daily was always encouraged by my mom, and through the years I’ve filled up dozens of notebooks. Sometimes I write about the adventures I’ve had, or milestones in my life, but most often I write about the ordinary, everyday things that can often slip by as seemingly unimportant. I don’t write in my journal as often anymore, but I still try to keep up with it even if it can sometimes feel like a chore. There is just something calming and therapeutic about writing like this, and when I’ve reached the the end of the page my hand may feel sore but I usually come away feeling calmer and more at ease.

Back when I was younger, there were some days when I just didn’t know what to write. I would stare at the blank page, too uninspired to think of anything to say. That was when my mom would bring out a certain list of journal prompts to get me writing. I recently rediscovered the list and I wanted to try it out again. It’s been years since I used this list, and it brought back so many fun memories from my childhood. The prompts are simple but they serve as a great conversation starter. Just a little nudge, or suggestion to get your brain into gear, and get the words flowing.

So what is on this list? Let’s take a look.

Outside my window…

I am thinking…

I am thankful for…

From the kitchen…

I am wearing…

I am reading…

I am hoping…

I am creating…

I am hearing…

Around the house…

One of my favorite things…

Plans for the weekend…

I think its a pretty good list and now I’ll share a “page” from my journal. I wrote it by hand, to make the experience feel more authentic, and then I typed it out here for you to read. It’s always fun to look back on old journal entries from a few weeks, months, or even years back. And sometime it’s even more fun to read from the pages of someone else’s journal. So let’s have a read, shall we?

* * * * *

Outside my window, the sky is a mix of strange phenomena, and odd weather patterns. It’s terribly hazy from a distant forest fire and a little cloudy from a rainstorm that must working its way here. I am thinking, of how incredible it is that the sky changes so quickly. In the space of an hour it could be completely transformed by an approaching storm or a cloud of dust and smoke, only to clear again shortly after to make way for a bright sunset. I’m always thankful for such sights.

From the kitchen, I’ve pilfered a bag of trailmix. The day is well on its course, but I’ve yet to have a proper meal. Eating what I can here and there when I get a chance is my motto, but we’ll have to wait and see how the rest of the day unfolds. I am wearing, my summer uniform today, which as it happens, changes daily. Today that uniform is shorts, with a large T-shirt. Air flow is essential, so I tend to base my fashion sense on the suggestions of breath-ability, and aerodynamics.

These days I am reading, a great many books about a great many topics. One of them is about the search for a lost Welsh king, in the small town of Henrietta, Virginia. And yet another book spends much time explaining the harrowing, yet heroic partnership between vast forest systems and and friendly fungi. I am hoping, for an afternoon rainstorm, so that I can have an excuse to hunker away with one of my books. Because when it rains, it is absolutely imperative that you drop everything you are doing and pick up a book immediately. You don’t even have to read it, you can just hold onto it and gaze moodily out the window. Trust me on this.

I am creating, a whole host of things lately. You’ll see remnants of them everywhere in my room. An unfulfilled summer to-do list, a half completed crochet project sitting on my desk, half-written stories in notebooks, and computer files. I think it’s about time I stop creating, and start completing.

I am hearing, the ever present hum of the air conditioner that has become synonymous with these summer days. But underneath all of that, there is a lo-fi playlist adding a bit of aesthetic ambiance to this decidedly un-aesthetic environment. Around the house, there are ceiling fans, and swivel fans, and probably some other type of fans valiantly working together to rid the house of stuffy, heavy, swampy air. But despite their best attempts, it is a losing battle.

One of my favorite things, to do in the summer is sitting outside and watching the sky. Sometimes at night, I’ll climb up onto the roof and stargaze, or search for the milky way streaking across the sky. And if I have the opportunity, I’ll sit out under a shade tree and watch big, fluffy, cumulus clouds trudge across the horizon bringing with them a summer downpour or maybe even, some mighty thunder and lighting. The weekend, is always lurking around the corner, and I do not have any plans to fill it just yet. A funny thing happens though, when I try to make plans. For some reason, they usually do not come to pass, no matter hard I try. So I’ve adopted a new philosophy when it comes to the weekend. Instead of me, making plans, I simply wait for plans to make me. So far this method is working out swimmingly.

But I guess that’s all I have to say today. Time is pressing, and other tasks are calling my name. It was nice chatting with you, and I thank you for your time. Hopefully we can do this again sometime. But until then, have a great summer. Ciao!

* * * * *

Moving Sunny Day Sticker By Christine Polz

If you want to play along and try out these prompts for yourself, go right ahead! You can pretend this is a tag and that I’ve tagged you! Or, just have fun with these prompts and play around on a piece of paper, or your own journal. If you do try this out please be sure to let me know! I’d love to read your responses. Thanks again for stopping by.

Yours truly,

Lady S

Posted in writing

The Writing Diaries pt. 7: The Dragon Called Hogwash

Once upon a time, there was a young writer who discovered a mystical element called “theme”. The little writer learned of the great power this element held and its ability to transform story craft. The notion of “theme” did in fact seem logical but the wide-eyed little writer paid no heed. The little writer surmised that by the process of osmosis, or more accurately, diffusion, this very important element would somehow take root and settle naturally into her little writer mind. But alas, the little writer was soon met with the great big dragon called, Hogwash. This great and terrible dragon was too fierce a match for the writer and it sent her packing, all the way back to the drawing board, where she pulled out her dusty old books and began her study anew.

I hope you enjoyed that little allegory about a certain writer and her misconceptions regarding theme. And in case you had any doubts about the true identity of the little writer, well, it’s me. Theme is something I have struggled with throughout my writing journey and for a time I thought the idea of theme was even a little exaggerated. I knew theme was important and I knew every story had one, but I failed to understand how to implement theme into my own works. I had assumed that my subconscious would weave together a coherent theme into my story and things would all work out in the end. But as I was trudging deep into yet another writing project, many of the same issues began to crop up on the page as they had in most of my previous projects. I had a niggling suspicion in the back of my mind that the root of my problems was theme, or the lack thereof.

I examined all of my notes on the subject and reviewed what other writers had to say on the topic and it all began to make sense. All this time, above all else, theme had been what was hindering my writing process the most. To be honest, I think the entire notion confused me a bit. With so many technical terms and methods discussed by writers like, experiment in living, and poetic justice, not to mention, story theme, in contrast to story idea/message, my understanding became murkier and murkier. It was also a little embarrassing, since theme is reinforced so rigidly on writing advice websites, like Story Embers. I’d even read entire books discussing it.

I think I’ve finally reached a point where I can comprehend the idea in a more straightforward, if somewhat simplistic way, (which is how people like me tend to think, per K.M. Weiland’s teachings).

Theme, is the unifying subject or idea explored via recurring patterns–what ties everything together. (i.e. Power Corrupts)

Another way to think of it is by the definition of synchronicity:

The simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.

Theme has always been hard for me to grasp because when I first begin to work on a new story, my ideas are generally very broad. In the plotting and planning phases, my thinking tends to be too big when I should be thinking much smaller. With world building, and character arcs being developed, I find it extremely difficult to narrow my focus to the very essence of my story. I began to ask myself, if all of the scenes, and dialogue were stripped away, what would my story really be about? What message would remain? For a long time I agonized over this problem. So I tasked myself with a challenge, what if I had a clear theme in mind from the very beginning, would it change or affect my writing process? You may recall the experiment I talked about a few months ago, when I endeavored to write a first draft entirely by hand. What I didn’t mention back then was that I also used that same story to test out my new understanding of theme.

I had a few of the basics down. I had an intro, a few characters in mind, and a few names and places to begin with. But I did not yet have a theme. I was at a loss on how to condense this broad story idea into a single, cognizant message. So I did what any writer in doubt does, I went to google. I couldn’t really believe that I was scrolling through lists of generic themes to carve my story around. But to my surprise I found just what I was looking for. I found a theme that worked with my story and in fact, was exactly what I needed to fill in the gaps and join everything together seamlessly. Never had an outline come together so quickly or easily before.

At first it felt like cheating to use a theme I had found on the internet, but I realized that tons of other people probably do that as well. I don’t mean to say that google is the ultimate cheat-sheet to solve all of your problems, but I am saying that theme doesn’t have to be something so abstract or unique only to one story. There are actually a finite number of themes and truths to express in your story, but there are infinite ways to deliver them. What matters most is the way you deliver your truth.

I’ll close with a bit of advice I wish I had known a long time ago and that is, theme matters, a lot. But your theme doesn’t have to be so complicated you can’t articulate it with a few words. You can have a simple theme and still have a broad and expansive story to express it. It’s better to develop your theme before you begin your first draft, as I have learned the hard way. Also, don’t get caught up in all of the technical jargon thrown your way while you’re still figuring things out, you can worry about that stuff later. Google can be a friend, (sometimes) so don’t be afraid to use the resources at your fingertips.

16 Cute little green dinosaur emoji gif – πŸ”₯100000+ 😝 Funny Gif Emoji  Emoticons Box 😘 Free Download πŸ‘

I’m still trying to figure things out for myself, and just wanted to share some of my thoughts on this subject. If you’re also trying to make sense of all of these writing terms and elements, try not to worry, lots of us out here are right beside you treading those very same waters. And if you’ve already braved the rapids, perhaps you could share some of your thoughts and experiences with the rest of the class? We would all appreciate it.

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Helpful Resources:

Story Embers – Guiding and Inspiring Christian Writers

Writing Your Story’s Theme, by K.M. Weiland

Posted in writing

A Lesson in K-Drama | 5 Tips for Writers

If you know me, you know that I love K-drama, a.k.a Korean drama series. It was a few years ago when I first became curious about these foreign films and TV shows. I decided to give them a go and it didn’t take long before I was hooked. I never knew I could become so attached to characters on the screen or root so hard for them. And in many ways they surprised me by their depth, complexity, humor, and ability to draw you so deeply into a story. The more I watched and became familiar with the genre, the more I found certain elements that I wanted to include in my own stories. And after watching hours upon hours of content, I realized there were a few things many of them had in common. I compiled my notes and came up with five key elements that make K-dramas so darn good.

1: Vicious Villains

If there is one thing K-drama does best it’s villains, or at least the opposing force. There are times when the villain will move against the protagonist and I find myself filled with a burning rage, and other times when the villain feels so real and so honest, that I’m often empathetic towards them. When any work of fiction, (books or film), can get you to feel so intensely toward a villain, you know that character is done well. And when villains have realistic goals and/or purposes their impact is much greater than a character who is simply bad in order to cause friction in a story. I’ve also learned that a villain doesn’t have to be an evil Overlord, reigning terror upon innocent citizens. Sometimes it’s a classmate, a neighbor, a brother, someone who wronged you years ago. What matters most is the emotion and the selfish motivations driving them forward. (My recommendation: Tale of the Nine-Tailed)

Good Ol' Review: While Fun, "Tale of the Nine-Tailed" Falls Short of Epic  Potential - DryedMangoez.com
Hmm…. Who could the villain be?

2: Tropes Done Right

Whether we admit it or not I think we can all enjoy a good trope, when it’s done right. I’m sure you know the silly, sometimes cheesy stereotypes often found in film and books. A common one you’ll find in K-dramas is Rich Boy/Poor Girl. As often as I think I’m going to get tired of this trend, I don’t, because the character development isn’t so shallow as to end there. The personalities, motivations, and emotions are more real and affecting than the character’s job description. I have found myself able to relate to the billionaire, C.E.O. of a conglomerate company, from the humble walls of my suburban house. K-drama has the ability to remind us that we’re all human, no matter our social standing. (My recommendation: My Shy Boss)

Club Med Cherating Beach (Malaysia) – Korean Dramaland

Another common trope you will find, is love triangles. (Cue the cringe.) Not everyone can pull this off, but it is through K-dramas that I was introduced to the term, ‘Second-lead Syndrome’. Which means exactly what you think it means. It’s a strange and often painful phenomena where you find yourself rooting for the second lead instead of the main lead. Going down this road will most definitely end in heart-break, but it’s oh-so worth it. </3 (My recommendation: True Beauty)

Webtoon Artist Yaongyi Says She Fell For SeoJun In Drama "True Beauty" |  Kpopmap
“Nice guys finish last”

3: Internal Struggle External Conflict

Another aspect that K-drama does exceptionally well is internal conflict. Typically within the first episode you will catch a glimpse of the inner struggle the protagonist is faced with on a daily basis. Each character has a very real and often relatable challenge that most people can understand. K-dramas are mainly character-driven stories but that isn’t to say the outer conflict isn’t just as deep and pertinent. Trying to predict the twists and turns of a K-drama is almost as complicated as brain surgery. Okay, maybe not that complicated. These two different forms of conflict will surprise you when they culminate in an often epic clash at the end. (My recommendation: He is Psychometric)

He Is Psychometric - Episode 5 | Rakuten Viki

4: Moral of the Story

The moral of the story or what the writing world refers to as theme, is never left out of any K-drama. Most K-dramas are fraught with drama, as their name implies, but by the end of a series you’ll come away with a valuable life lesson or even a tough moral question to ponder. Many of them have a strong family element woven into the storyline with complicated relationships and consequences for all peoples. Sometimes they will focus on positive character transformations, and other times they will highlight the consequences of allowing darkness to take root in one’s life. So next time someone asks why you’ve been watching a K-drama for four hours straight, you can tell them it’s not just entertainment, you’re also learning some very important life lessons. For example, maybe the friendly neighborhood assassin down the street is just misunderstood, and his actions are actually justified? Hypothetically speaking, that is. (My recommendation: Kill It)

Jang Ki Yong | Kill It | Selebritas, Fotografi, Aktor
Still not over this one. </3

5: Laughter is Medicine, Too

If you’re ever feeling down the surest way I know to lift your spirits is a little K-drama pick-me-up. When you’re feeling gloomy or just want a little distraction from the world, humor is the best remedy. Just press play and you’ll soon be laughing, (or crying), along with the characters on the screen. Sometimes comedy can be over-done or even cringe-worthy, but when you find the right drama your belly will soon be aching from all the laughter. But even the seemingly lighthearted and cute dramas can be quite complex, and serious at times. It’s easy for jokes to fall flat in film or TV, but K-dramas sure know how to make you laugh, or at least smile. (My recommendation: Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo)

Currently Watching; Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo (μ—­λ„μš”μ • 김볡주) –  Kdramasanonymous

***

I could go on and on about why I love K-drama so much, but I’ll end it here for today. I find it hard sometimes to classify K-drama’s as a thriller, or comedy, etc., because they also have the unique ability to bend genres. They will take you on a roller-coaster of emotions and plot twists as you follow the characters along their journeys. I have learned so many story-telling techniques from K-dramas, that I think it’s safe to say that all those hours invested might just pay off in the end. And if you’re not too intimidated to cross the threshold into the territory of subtitles, I don’t think you’ll regret it. You might even find a new way to spend your free time.

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in life, writing

Turtle vs. Sloth – A Writing Update

Hello there, how are you? I hope your spring is getting along well. You may have noticed that I’ve been absent for a bit. I’m still here, just fell behind on posting because I’ve been so busy with work and life, that everything else has gone out the window. I’m another year older, and maybe even a bit wiser. The years come and go, whether we want them to or not, and hopefully we continue to grow and blossom, just like the plants and gardens we tend. The weather here is warming up nicely, or so it seems, until winter swoops back in and reminds us that it’s not ready to move on just yet. Spring is strange like that though, almost like a battle of the seasons. Reminds me of myself too, hot and cold, summer and winter all at the same time. But before I blather on any longer about the weather, or my own existential crisis, let’s move on to the topic at hand– my writing progress.

I’m in the middle of two projects right now, and they are coming along nicely, for the most part. Sometimes I feel really motivated to write, and I make good progress, and other times I don’t feel up to writing anything for several days. I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself, but at the same time, I have that nagging feeling that I should be. I’ve been working on my short story and it’s up to 4k words. I’m quite pleased with how it’s turning out, but progress has been slow, and I feel the need to give myself a little push. Be it my job monopolizing all my time and energy, or procrastination, or writer’s block, or all of the above, I’m not entirely sure, I just know that I can do more. I’ve been trying to remind myself of the words from the author in The Right to Write, by Julia Cameron. After reading numerous essays, the point she’s driven home the most is–just write, and the words will come. I tell myself that often, but somehow I always have a very good excuse not to heed her advice.

As for my novel, don’t tell my characters, but I’ve been avoiding them. Due to many of the previous reasons I mentioned, but even more so because I’m getting very close to the midpoint. I can feel myself bucking under the weight of concerns that I’m not going to do it justice, or I won’t be able to pull it off. I know that’s a silly thing to worry about but I can’t quite shake it. I know that this novel is not going to be perfect, and that no novel ever is, but the pressure is starting to pinch a little. The good news is, I’m still very excited about the story. I love the characters, and the world, and I really want to explore it more deeply. The bad news is, it’s turning out to be quite hefty. I haven’t even reached the actual midpoint, and I’m already passed 50k words. If my math is correct, the final story should be in the range of 100k words. I’ll probably have to dig out my axe, and do some serious trimming in later edits. Or maybe a chainsaw would work better.

Me at work!

Beyond those two stories, I’m fairly bursting at the seems with excitement about my next projects. I have two in particular that I can’t wait to work on. I’m not sure when I can start seriously working on them, but I’m slowly gathering information and inspiration for later. One is a fantasy trilogy, and the other is a paranormal short story. Hopefully I can begin the short story sooner rather than later but only time will tell. Overall, I’m happy that I haven’t run out of ideas or inspiration, but again, I’ve come to realize that I need to be a little more strict with myself. Or at least try to find a routine, and practice more self-discipline.

So that’s where I am lately in terms of writing. And if you’re wondering about my reading habits…let’s just say, they’re even worse. (I am blaming that all on bed-time procrastination.) Work has been busy and long, so I don’t have much time to read during the day and all I can manage is a page or two at night before my eyes drop shut. It took me about four whole days to get through one chapter. But progress is still progress, no matter how small, right? Isn’t there a saying about eating the elephant, one bite at a time? Some days, are tough but keeping a positive mindset and continuing to aim towards improvement, can help to see us through the rough patches.

Where are you, with your writing these days? Have you been accomplishing much, or maybe just taking things one day at a time? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in Book Reviews, reading

To Read or Not to Reread – 5 Books I’d Like to Read Again

Are you a re-reader? That wasn’t a stutter, I’m curious to know if you read books over again. There are so many books in the world, and even more are getting published every day. Most of us have an ever-growing list of dozens and dozens, if not hundreds of books we’d like to read in our life-time, so it probably sounds counter-productive to go back and re-read a book. I don’t often allow myself the pleasure of a good re-read, but a good book is a good book and should be worth re-reading shouldn’t it? It’s like sitting in that most comfortable chair, in your favorite corner, with a warm cup of tea and an old friend to chat with. So I gathered up a few books that I read years ago, that I feel are due for a re-read.

1. Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones

I consider this one of my favorite books, though, I confess, I can hardly remember the plot line. I’ve seen the Miyazaki film dozens of times, and the two have somewhat blurred together in my memory. The book, and Studio Ghibili adaptation are quite different, and I feel like I underappreciated the book when I first read it a few years ago. Dianna Wynne Jones fills her stories with so many unique, and funky details, it’s sometimes hard to take it all in. And since Dianna Wynne Jones is one of my favorite authors, and Howl’s Moving Castle is one of her most legendary works, I must give it a proper re-read.

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I’m not exactly part of the Austen fan club, but I have read most of her books. Some I enjoyed, others, not so much. One that I did enjoy, as far as can I remember, was Pride and Prejudice. It’s been, seven…? eight…? maybe even nine…? years since I read this book, and all that I can remember is a certain Mr. Wickham dashing off with a certain daft younger sister. I know that is but a smidgen of what occurs in this book, and not at all the main plot, but for some reason that is what stuck in my memory. I’m terrible at remembering what happens in books after I finish them, which is probably why I like re-reading, because it’s almost as if I’m reading them for the first time…again! I’m hoping that that is the case with this book. I’d love to dive in with fresh eyes, and experience the story all over again. And since this book is so highly acclaimed, I feel it deserves closer look.

3. Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

Kudos to anyone out there who knew that C.S. Lewis also wrote a sci-fi series. I wasn’t aware of that fact, until I chanced upon the series while sifting through the bookshelves at a thrift store. But I digress… where was I? This book is yet another case of, ‘I’m sure I read that book, I’m just not sure what happened’. This book too, went by rather under appreciated by my youthful brain. What remains of my foggy memory are strange, gorilla-like creatures, on this far-out planet, (and that much is evident by the cover). Anyway, I’d really like to read this story again with a more mature perspective.

4. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

First off, a sci-fi retelling of Cinderella definitely deserves to be read. Second of all, The Lunar Chronicles is probably one of my favorite series ever. I have so many fond memories of reading this series, and waiting eagerly for each release. I remember reading each book as fast as I could, so that I could pass them on to my sisters after I’d finished, (I always insisted on reading them first). I want to read these books again, simply because I miss them. I miss the world, and all of the colorful characters, the moon castles, cyborgs, lonely satellites, a certain prince, and so much more. One of my sisters and I have been talking about re-reading Cinder for a while now, and I think the time has finally come.

5. The Blood Race by K.A. Emmons

What should I say about this book? The premise is so unique, and I’ve never read anything else like it. I really enjoyed this story and all of the deep, gut-wrenching moments, I absolutely couldn’t wait to read the second book. But for some reason, I never got around to it. I’m not sure what held me up for so long, since it’s still high up on my to be read list. So before I strike up part two of this series, I feel that I should go back and reorient myself with the first book. This is an indie published novel, which is awesome, so I want to continue my support of the rest of the series.

~ ~ ~

There are so many more books I’d like add to this list but I don’t want to keep you here all day. For me, re-reading books is a lot of fun, and its kind of like catching up with that old friend, taking a trip down memory lane, back to some of my favorite worlds, and favorite characters. There are certain books that I could read over and over again, but I chose a few books that I haven’t read in a long while, and that I don’t ever want to forget about.

What about you? Do you ever re-read books? What are some books that you’d like to read all over again?

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in life

A Week in the Life: Quiet Days & Gloomy Nights

Hello everyone, how are you? Welcome to another installment of A Week in My Life, where I bring you along to share a few days in my life. I wanted to break up my usual content, so I thought this would be fun. The last time I shared one of these posts was almost a year ago and I thought this would be a good time for another round. I’m continuing this series in a journal style format, so get comfy, and let’s get started.

Monday, March 22, 2021 8:23 P.M. MST

I woke up to a very gloomy world today. It was so dark this morning, that I almost didn’t wake up in time for work, (at the greenhouse). It turned out to be a very busy day, but it was a good kind of busy. We’re getting into full swing for bedding season, and so very many flowers, and vegetables are being readied for planting, (hundreds and hundreds, and hundreds).

Despite the busyness I got off a little early, which is always nice. I tried to get in some writing, but I was too tired to focus. So instead, I did some reading. The clouds finally cleared away by evening, and I headed outside to catch the sunset while I read. Dusk is one of my favorite times of the day, when everything is silhouetted against the pastel sky and a quietness settles in.

I’m hoping to get to bed a little earlier tonight, since I’m still getting used to this whole time-change business, but we’ll see if I can follow through with my plans. I’ll check in again tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 10:07 P.M. MST

Well, I didn’t get to sleep as early as I had hoped, but I did wake up on time, so it all worked out in the end. And I guess I was feeling ambitious after work, because I decided to do some baking. I’ve probably spent half of my life watching cooking and baking videos on YouTube, so I thought I might as well try one of the recipes for myself. I made custard buns, something I’ve always wanted to try. They weren’t perfect, but I had fun making them, and I think they were pretty good for my first attempt.

After all the action in the kitchen, it looked like a tornado had swept through. Why does cooking have to be so messy? I pushed up my sleeves and dove head-first into “Mount Dirtydish“. When I finished, the place was sparkling, and for some reason I felt as if I had reached the summit of Everest. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but not by much.

I’m going to start reading a new book tonight, after I finish writing here. I don’t think there’s any other feeling quite like reading the first sentences of a new story. A certain nervous excitement always sets in at the prospect of entering new worlds and new adventures. The book is called, The Forest of Wool and Steel, by Natsu Miyashita.

Anyhow, the night is not getting any younger, and neither am I, so I’d better get on going. Signing off.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021 7:56 P.M. MST

I’ve been fooled! I was silly enough to think that spring, meant warmer weather. Last weekend it was gloriously warm and sunny, but today I woke to gloom, wind, rain, and SNOW. It wasn’t a lot of snow, but enough to make things cold and soggy. (Although, nothing a cup of hot tea couldn’t fix.) Whenever it snows, the mountains in the distance become even more majestic than usual. Sometimes I pretend they’re the Misty Mountains, that the dwarves used to sing about in The Hobbit.

In the afternoon my brother and his family came over, and it was nice to spend some time with them, and get clobbered by my nephews for a couple of hours. But now that the evening is drawing to a close, I’m going to settle in and work on my short story. I’ve been writing late in the day, during that awkward space between dinner and bed-time. I’m still really enjoying this hand-drafting experiment and each time I get to sit down and write, I’m excited. But I guess I had better get busy before I run out of time. I’ve got my chamomile tea steeping, and it’s calling my name. So long for now.

Thursday, March 25, 2021 9:18 P.M. MST

Frost covered every surface this morning. It was so, so, cold out, but sometimes the cold feels nice. In the morning, when you’re still feeling stiff from sleep, the brisk air can send the blood rushing through your veins, assuring that you won’t be tired for long. Once in a while I can appreciate the frigid air, instead of loathing it all the time.

After work, I had to do a grocery run with my sister, then we went over to see my grandparents. We walked through their garden, and admired all the blossoms beginning to peek out–daffodils, quince, and apple, to name a few.

A heavy gloom settled in again this evening, so I huddled up at my desk with a cup of Lady Grey tea, while I worked on more inventory for my soon to open Etsy shop. It’s tedious work, but I’m taking my time to ensure that everything turns out nicely. It took me a bit longer than expected, and it’s starting to get late. I still have to wash up, and do some reading before I can head to bed. I’ve got to start my night routine early, or I’ll get to sleep way past midnight, and then I really won’t wake up on time for work.

I can hear police sirens in the distance, and my dog is howling something terrible. Whenever I hear ringing sirens, I feel like I live in a big city, just like you see in the movies. Anyway, it’s almost Friday, which means it’s almost Saturday, which MEANS I’ll get to stay up late, and then sleep in late. I already can’t wait.

Friday, March 26, 2021 9:47 P.M. MST

Friday, at long last. Okay, so this week wasn’t terrible, but I’m always happy when Friday rolls around. All week I anticipated staying up late this weekend, having snacks, and throwing a party. But by 7 P.M. I’d already switched into my PJ’s, and could have gone to sleep. But I knew I would regret it, if I didn’t at least have some instant ramen, and watch a little K-Drama. Because nothing goes together like ramen, and K-Drama’s. My sister and I are starting a new series, and I’m pretty excited.

In hindsight, I had a good week. I was able to squeeze in some writing, I accomplished a lot at work, and still had some time to rest and relax at home. There was nothing special about this week, but that’s not to say it wasn’t time well spent. Living life in a quiet way, is special to me. I find that simple, peaceful days are rare, and valuable, so I cherish them. Sometimes I wonder why people don’t embrace them more fully. Anyway, I hope your week went well, and that you found a few moments of stillness, and quiet.

What was your week like? Tell me all about it.

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in writing

The Writing Diaries pt. 6 : A Handwritten Letter

When was the last time you sat down with a pen or a pencil, and just wrote? Allowing the words to guide you across the page, instead of a rigid outline? It could be in the form of a letter, a journal entry, or anything in between. If you’re a writer, then it might not be so long ago. But in the age of modern convenience, we likely don’t “write”, by hand as our forefathers once did. I know that I have given in to the kings of convenience, despite my fondness for simple, pen and paper. Technology has managed to sneak its way into nearly all forms of writing, and even reading for that matter. For today’s post, I want to consider the different ways that writing by hand, or through a computer might affect the writing process.

In the early stages of the story process I always opt for a pen and a notebook, to capture those first few details and snippets, as they unfold inside my head. I’ll use sticky notes to jot down random names or topics needing more research. I might even write pages and pages of backstory that will likely never make it into the final work. But when I feel ready, I leave the paper behind and open up a “Pages” document on my computer, and let the real story begin. It’s exciting to start filling the empty space with words, and quotation marks, and chapter titles. To me, that’s when the real story begins and it starts to look and feel like a proper book.

Occasionally though, as time goes by and the story begins edging towards its climax, I can feel discouragement set in and the flow of writing can come to a halt. I become frustrated and feel that my efforts no longer look or feel like a “proper” book. It might start to feel like a jumbled mess, and I can experience great disappointment. It feels like all the hours and days poured into the project have resulted in nothing more than a wilted bloom, barely clinging to life, instead of the vibrant flower I had first envisioned.

Lately, I’ve been asking myself this question: “Does writing the first draft on a computer add more pressure to my writing process?”

On one hand, I can say that writing the first draft in a word document is genius. It’s easy to pound scores of words out by the minute, it’s easier to make changes, easier to recognize mistakes, and most of all, it’s easier to read computerized fonts than the scribbled chicken-scratch on paper. You can send a snippet to a friend for feedback, or even delete an entire section if you so choose. But could that be where the trouble lies? On a computer, nothing is permanent, and anything can be altered or changed at any given moment. Instead of plowing ahead with the story, it might be tempting to work backwards, and edit as you go. Perhaps a bit of permanence is helpful, or dare I say, even needed.

I’m reading through a book right now about the “writer’s life“. In it, the author shares many writing exercises to practice. One of them is to sit down and write three pages of longhand everyday on any topic you choose. She calls it “morning pages”, but it can be done at any time of the day. The idea is to cultivate a habit, and commitment to writing each day. And to show yourself that you can indeed write anywhere, anytime, anyhow. It doesn’t matter how messy or mixed up your words come out. The exercise is meant to allow your words to flow freely, and uninterrupted.

In the past, I have tried many times to write the first draft by hand, but I inevitably give up after only a few pages. Quick and convenient, always seems to trump slow and steady. I know that many authors write their first draft entirely by hand, and that has always astounded me. Writing by hand takes a lot of time, and to me, the story feels closer to being done when I can see it all typed out on a screen, (even if it’s very far from actually being done).

Recently, I’ve decided to try something different, an experiment if you will. For starters, I’ve decided to write a short story–something I haven’t done for quite a while. I’ve felt that my writing habits needed some livening up, so why not turn my usual routine on its head? I pulled out a new notebook, filled up my fountain pen with ink, and simply began writing. I’m not worrying too much about when I should write, or even if I feel like I’m in the right mindset to write–I’m simply writing. So far it’s been fun, really fun. Granted, I’ve had to stop myself at times, from the “not good enough”, thoughts that try to interrupt my progress, but for now, I’m trying to tell that part of my brain to stay quiet.

I’ve found that writing by hand takes away much of the pressure I usually feel when writing. And I’m learning to write without the imaginary critic hanging over my shoulder, and to simply write to tell the story that wants to be told. And that notion, for me, had gotten misplaced somewhere along the way. Until I complete my little experiment, I may not know if my writing habits will forever be changed, but for now, I’m enjoying the process and I think I may be converted. (Which means I’m going to need some more notebooks.)

What about you? Do you like to write on a computer, or are you more old-fashioned, preferring the pen and paper method? Tell me your thoughts.

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in WORDS

Treasure Hidden Away

Have you any treasure? Is it something special, or rare? Perhaps it is in a wooden chest, hidden away from prying eyes? Deep in the shadows, clothed with cobwebs and dust, I have such a box. I revel in the thought that only I know what is within, and where it is kept hidden. But today, I make an exception and invite you to come along with me, as I uncover this secret treasure, and let the sun shine upon its precious contents.

A few years ago, I was given this wooden chest. It is heavy, and quite old, with a metal latch securing it. Long before I called it mine, it belonged to my mother, given her by her mother. I have always had a fascination with the box, and would peak inside it whenever I could. Like a pirate’s trove, it encased its precious jewels well. Since it has become mine, I’ve endeavored to keep it the way it has always been–tucked away safely in the shadows. But every so often, I will bring it out into the light, brush away the dust like an old pirate, and lift the lid to marvel at my riches.

Inside, are several, worn and aging books, resting between layers of crisp white paper, (novels, to be exact). Each of them ranges from ninety, to even one hundred and twelve years old. Very gently, I lift them from their paper nest and sift through the yellowing pages. Fading floral embossed covers, and swirling script, display the titles of each one. I count the number of volumes that I have read, and finger through the number of those I have yet to. The sight of them, calls to mind the stories within and the voices, and feelings they convey. Stories of struggles, and heartaches, but also of triumphs, and reconciliation.

Each one carries a message that can be heard through the ages. Sometimes a hard truth, or just a tender reminder; stories of young orphans, a distant mother and daughter, a couple drifting apart, or a small girl awaiting the return of her brother, and so much more. Peppered among these tales, like blossoms in spring are beautiful details of nature and earth. One mentions the unique call of a songbird, another, the magnificent colors decorating the wings of the Emperor moth, and still another reflects upon the manner in which one should walk through a still, and quiet forest. While their words enthrall me with tales of life, and longing, the subtle call of nature pervades them all.

In The Keeper of the Bees, a soldier battling illness takes up residence in a cottage by the sea for rest and healing. While there, he finds infinitely more. An old man and his garden, bursting with flowers, and honeybees, teaches him to treasure the simple things. And the little girl who enters his life, teaches him that no one is too small, to befriend.

In A Girl of the Limberlost, a lonely girl endeavors to capture and record the vast number of moths, and butterflies residing in the swamp near her home. In the process, the rift grown wide between her, and her mother begins to close, and love and friendship blooms instead.

In Michael O’Halloran, an orphaned boy, delivers newspapers to scrape together a meager living for himself. No more than a child, he manages to rescue a poor disabled girl from going away to an orphanage. His courage and honor inspires those he encounters in his young life, to live life freely and with love.

I read these stories to remember the times of old, and the way of things long ago. But in the sea of plots, and prose, there are truths that slip beyond the realm of time, and reach into the present. For a truth spoken once, will be true always. If you’ve grown tired of the tales and woes of today, perhaps, you would like to step back into the pages of days gone by. You may find these tales more captivating than the newest, or most popular fables of today. Miss Gene Stratton-Porter’s stories have impacted me greatly, and have remained close to my heart in the years since I’ve read them.

“To my way of thinking and working, the greatest service a piece of fiction can do any reader is to leave him with a higher ideal of life than he had when he began. If in one small degree it shows him where he can be a gentler, saner, cleaner, kindlier man, it is a wonder-working book. If it opens his eyes to one beauty in nature he never saw for himself and leads him one step towards the God of the Universe, it is a beneficial book, for one step into the miracle of nature leads to that long walk, the glories of which so strengthens even a boy who thinks he is dying, that he faces his struggle like a gladiator.” -Gene Stratton-Porter

Yours ever,

Lady S