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 (역도요정 김복주) –  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 life

Bits & Bobs, Odds & Sods – A Life Update

Hello, friends! Looks like we’ve reached the month of February. I hope the winter has been kind to you so far, and that you’re settling into the new year nicely. The weather here is still very cold, but there is a distinct note of spring in the atmosphere. Birdsong fills the air and the sunshine just feels different, somehow. For today’s post, I thought I would change things up slightly and give a little life update of sorts. So if you’d like to find out what I’ve been up to, pour yourself a warm drink, and read on.

How’s Things?

January has come and gone, (one of the longest months of the year). After the busyness of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the many, many, January birthdays, life has subtly begun to slow down and return to a normal pace. (Anyone appreciate your normal life much more than the hustle and bustle of the holidays?) Last month, I tried to take a step back, and use the time to re-evaluate a few things. I know that New Year’s Resolutions are a bit rubbish, (after all, we don’t need to wait for a new year to make new plans, or set new goals), but I can’t help making them anyway. So for me, I spent most of January trying to figure out what my focus should be this year. I didn’t come up with any real answers, only more questions, but I suppose that’s life.

Writing Life:

In terms of writing, January was great. For months I was stuck, and seemed to have hit a brick wall, and just couldn’t get passed it. I think it was partially due to the holidays, and all of the activities that come along with them, but also, I let myself slip into a slump without putting up much of a fight. Prior to that I was making great progress with my novel, writing daily, and then suddenly it all came to a screeching halt. I felt discouraged, uninspired, and overall blah, about writing. But a few weeks ago, I finally broke out of that mood. I’m not sure exactly what changed, but I’m glad something did, and I’ve since written about 10k words! (The most I’ve written in a very long time.) Granted, I’m a very slow writer, so hitting 10k is cause for celebration in my book, (no pun intended).

How’s the Weather?

I mentioned that I can feel spring approaching, and while I’m happy for warmer days, I can’t help but feel cheated. This winter has been incredibly dry and dull. Living in the desert, we don’t get much precipitation, (during the best of times), but we usually have at least a few snow storms during the season. This winter we’ve gotten next to nothing. A couple of weeks ago we got about an inch or two of snow, which isn’t much. And before that we had a freak snowstorm, in the middle of October, no less, and had around six inches of snow! It melted fairly quickly, and even now it feels like I imagined the whole thing. I guess the good thing about the dry weather, is that it offered plenty of good days to go for long walks. My sisters and I, (and my dog of course), have gone on many pleasant adventures out in the wilds of nature, a.k.a., along the river paths. We even had a strange paranormal experience in the woods, (that’s a story for another time).

What’s New?

Let me preface this next portion by saying that I’m not a very sporty person. I’ve never played organized sports, never learned to skateboard (like all my siblings have), I tried snowboarding (twice), and did not enjoy it. (In my defense though, I do in fact, know how to ride a bike.) When I was younger, I was more of tree climbing, mud pie making kind of kid. All that to say, I’ve turned over a new leaf. A couple of weeks ago, my sister convinced me that my true passion in life is roller skating, and that every other desire up till now has been but a childish fancy. Roller skating is what I was called to do. I heartily agreed, and visited a skate shop, and forked out $130 of my hard-earned, cold hard cash and bought some shiny new skates, and a set of knee pads. I’ve been practicing for about a week now, and I think I may be on to something, because for about 2.5 seconds, when my path is clear, and my wheels are gliding beautifully and straight, I feel like I’m flying! Until, of course, I attempt to turn or stop… then things can get ugly, real fast. Nonetheless, it’s been a fun challenge for me, and I’m excited to learn something new. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

What’s To Come?

This year I hope to focus more on my blog. I really enjoy writing, and connecting with folks over the blogosphere, so I want to spend more time here. It takes me a while to come up with posts, and work on them because, I’m a #slowwriter, but so far I’ve been able to commit to one post every other week. Maybe if I wrack up some newfound inspiration, I’ll post more often. But for now, you can expect to hear from me twice a month. I’ve also been working on a secret project… okay, it’s not so secret, but nothing is official yet. I’m hoping to open up an Etsy shop in the near future. I’ll share more details on that later, but for now, my blog friends get to hear about it first! I’m still working on the designs and what products I’ll be selling, so stay tuned for future updates.

In Conclusion:

I just wanted to check in, and have a little tête-à-tête about what’s been going on in my life. I realize I don’t share a whole lot of that type of stuff here, so maybe I’ll continue to check in like this from time to time. How have you been lately? Is the new year going well? Are you excited at the prospect of spring? Leave me a comment, and let me know. I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in Book Reviews, reading

Reading Wrap-up: 2020 Edition

Hey there! Welcome to a brand new year, and my very first post of 2021. I can’t believe it’s already mid January, time really does fly. Today, I’ll be sharing my completed reading list for 2020. It wasn’t the best of reading years for me, but it wasn’t the worst either. When I compiled my list I realized I’d actually read more than I thought, and even surpassed the previous year’s record, (by the skin of my teeth). I tried to include a wider variety of genres, but of course, fantasy and sci-fi won out for the most reads. I had pretty good luck with the non-fiction reads I chose, but as for fiction, most of the books I read weren’t great. With the exception of a few, it seemed like most of the novels I picked up last year were just average, and didn’t capture my attention. Which led me to feel very uninspired about my TBR. But looking back, it turned out to be a rather decent reading year, despite my lack of enthusiasm.

Now let’s get to the list:

Ratings: 1-5

Favorites in bold

Non-Fiction

  1. The Universe Next Door, by James W. Sire – 4
  2. Beyond Brilliance, by Lucas Miller – 4
  3. Writing Your Story’s Theme, by K.M. Weiland – 5
  4. Reversing Hermon, by Dr. Michael S. Heiser – 5
  5. True Legends, by Steven Quayle – 5
  6. Herbal Home Healthcare, by John R. Christopher – 5

Sci-fi/Fantasy

  1. Fireborn, by Rosaria Munda – 4
  2. Beyond the Deep Woods: The Edge Chronicles 1, by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell – 5
  3. The Christ Virus, by Dave Slade – 3
  4. Starsight, by Brandon Sanderson – 4
  5. Into the Fire, by Kim Vandel (re-read) – 5
  6. Among the Flames, by Kim Vandel (re-read) – 5
  7. A Time to Die, by Nadine Brandes – 3
  8. The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater – 5
  9. The Malamander, by Thomas Taylor – 2
  10. On The Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, the Wingfeather Saga book 1, by Andrew Peterson – 4
  11. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, by Christopher Paolini – 3
  12. The Dark Hills Divide, The Land of Elyon book 1, by Patrick Carman – 4
  13. The Lost Colony, Artemis Fowl book 5, by Eoin Colfer – 4
  14. Paranormia, by Paul Regnier – 5

Classics

  1. The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins – 4
  2. The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff – 4
  3. The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy – 5

Contemporary/Historical

  1. The Heart of a Samurai, by Margi Pruess – 5
  2. The Scent of Water, by Elizabeth Goudge – 5
  3. Rose Cottage, by A.K. Madison – 4
  4. The Penderwicks book 1, by Jeanne Birdsall – 5
  5. A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness – 4

Total : 28

Top 4 Mini-Reviews:

Beyond The Deep Woods, by Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell

In this story, we follow a misfit boy who was raised by an adoptive family in the Deep Woods; a dark and dangerous place filled with all sorts of strange, and ferocious beasts. He sets out all alone on a journey through the wilds, and has many curious encounters with some very odd characters. This is a Middle-Grade book, but it can be read and enjoyed by anyone looking for an adventure. The storyline was very original, and I was surprised to find out that it was not a modern publication, but was published over twenty years ago.

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Steifvater

Taking place on the small, windswept, isle of Thisby, we follow Puck Connolly, and Sean Kendrick as they prepare for The Scorpio Races. A yearly event where racers compete for a grand prize—and sometimes to the death—atop the violent, and wild, water horses called, capaill uisce. This book had me staying up late into the night, and reading for hours to reach the end. I actually found this book at a thrift store a few years ago, and left it sitting untouched on my bookshelf for so long! I’m happy that I finally got around to reading it. I loved everything about this book, and I think it’s my favorite book of the entire year.

Paranormia, by Paul Regnier

Chris Loury is young, broke, and kind of a nerd. Struggling to find his way in life, and hoping to land a contract for his original comic, he ends up in a strange accident. After that fateful night, he is swept into a series of wild encounters, and has several run-ins with a lunatic who claims to be an angel. But as events unfold, and Chris finds himself digging deeper into trouble, he starts to believe the lunatic is actually who–or rather what he says he is. I appreciated the way the supernatural elements were handled in this story, and I thought Chris was a very relatable character, especially to all of my fellow twenty-something’s out there, who are trying to make their own way in the world. Overall, a solid read.

The Scent of Water, by Elizabeth Goudge

The perfect, cozy British tale to curl up with under a blanket, and a cup of tea. This story centers around Mary, a woman who retires to a small English village, and becomes acquainted with the inhabitants there. Learning to love the quiet of the countryside, Mary also finds herself becoming involved in the many joys, and heartaches with her new neighbors. This was one of the few books I was actually sad to finish. I’ll likely be reading more books, by Miss Goudge in the future.

Most Disappointing:

Unpopular opinion here: I was actually very disappointed in, A Time to Die, by Nadine Brandes. I’d read so many great reviews of this book, (and I enjoyed her other books,) but after reading, A Time to Die I don’t really get the hype. For starters, it felt sort of like two books squashed into one, with so much going on. I never connected with the main character, Parvin, and I thought it a little unrealistic how much trauma she went through, and still survived. (Though that was kind of the point of the story.) In general, there were many aspects of the story that I found very unrealistic, and slightly annoying. I wanted to like this book, but I just couldn’t, and as of right now I don’t think I’ll continue with the series.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, by Christopher Paolini

Firstly, I loved the cover, and this title is exactly what I like to see from sci-fi novels. I was a big fan of the Inheritance Cycle, by Paolini, but unfortunately I didn’t love this book. This is not a YA book, nor does it pretend to be, but I felt like I went into it a little blind. Especially for younger Paolini fans, I’d warn them about the amount of profanity, and adult themes throughout. It was an interesting story, and read like any space epic, but, I didn’t find it out of this world fantastic. Die-hard sci-fi fans would probably enjoy this book, but I’m not adding it to my favorites list. Also, it’s nearly 900 hundred pages, so beware.

Thus concludes my list, and a few reviews, for all the books I cracked open during the year 2020. I may have forgotten a few, since I didn’t keep track very well. There were also a few DNF’s (Did Not Finish), throughout the year which I didn’t list here, but that’s for the best. This year I’m hoping to read more, since I feel like I’m finally in a good reading mood, but then again I say that every year, and things don’t always pan out. I would like to continue to expand genres, and read more non-fiction. And in general, just read outside of my comfort zone, because I feel a bit like I’ve read those genres dry, and I know I’ll find some new, unexpected favorites, if I’d only look to new avenues.

What about you? How many books did you read in 2020? What was your favorite read of the year? Leave me a comment, and let me know!

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in Adventure, nature

All the Fall Feelings

Guess what? Fall is finally here, like really here. The sky is wide open and blue, all of the trees are turning orange and gold, the nights are chilly, the birds are starting to migrate, and the list goes on. Fall is one of the most beloved seasons, and it’s for a good reason. Seldom is a change in the earth felt so keenly, as when the end of summer approaches–the temperature cools, and a rainbow of colors burst forth from every green thing, transforming the landscape. Back in September, we got a sudden cold snap and for a couple of days it was actually freezing. In only a matter of days, the temperature went from upper 90s F, then dropping below 40 F. I thought winter had decided to come early and skip right over autumn– but it was only a false flag as a few days later the temperature shot back up to 80/90 degrees. But those two days served as a wake-up call, signalling that the end of the Summer was nigh.

Now that we’re over halfway into October, the weather is much more mild, and it feels like a proper autumn. A few days ago, I went shopping and came home with eight giant pumpkins for the front porch. Before that, it had been suffering from a rather disappointing lack of orange–but I took care of that and now I can rest easy. (Alas, I had to give most of them away. I mean, eight giant pumpkins on my front porch may have been a little excessive.)

October is a peaceful month, with no major holidays to overshadow, or steal away these quiet days. It’s a wonderful time to just be, and sit back and enjoy the beauty around us. So today, in honor of this most favored season, I thought I would gather up some of my favorite fall-time things, and share them with you.

Let’s start with one of my personal year-round favorites: tea.

Homemade Ginger Cinnamon Tea

Ingredients:

  • 2 cinnamon sticks (make sure they're the edible kind!)
  • ginger root (about 2 inches)
  • honey, sugar, or maple syrup
  • 2 1/2 C water
  • Directions:
  • Fill a medium sauce pot with water. Peel your ginger nub, (spoons work great for this), and slice it into discs. Place ginger, and two cinnamon sticks in the pot. Turn heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low, cover partially to reduce evaporation, and simmer for 15 minutes. (Simmer only 10 minutes for a more mild infusion.) Let cool slightly, pour into cups and add sweetener of choice. You can also add milk or cream, if that's your thing. (Makes 2 cups)
  • Enjoy!
  • *When using fresh ginger, it can be quite strong, so adjust amount to your preference.

Ginger is incredibly warming, so it’s great to drink on cold nights. It’s also an immune booster, and a powerful anti-viral/anti-bacterial, which is perfect for all of the nasties that come along with colder weather. Cinnamon is also very warming, and useful in improving digestion, and circulation–plus it’s pleasantly tasty. I’ve been drinking this tea in the evenings, when I want something warm, and comforting.

Now that we’ve got our drink covered, I think we should sit down to enjoy our cuppa, and do some reading. I wracked my brain, and came up with a few titles to recommend for your autumn TBR. These books aren’t specifically fall-ish, but they have that certain wistful feeling that often reminds me of fall.

  1. The Scent of Water, by Elizabeth Goudge

You can’t spell autumn, without the word British…wait, that doesn’t make sense. What I’m trying to say is, there is nothing more cozy or heart-warming, than good ol’ British fiction. The Scent of Water, is about a woman who inherits a cottage in the country from a distant relative. We follow Mary, as she gets to know the villagers, and transitions to country-life. Isn’t it everyone’s dream to receive a letter, saying that a distant relative has left you their entire estate, which just happens to be in the country?

2. The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Steifvater

On the small windswept island of Thisby, the capaill uisce are beginning to wash ashore before the Scorpio Races–the only place in the world where the ravenous water horses are trained to compete. Puck Connolly finds herself a contender for the prize in the deadly races, the only girl ever to do so. I read this book during the summer months, but even then, it transported me straight to October, and I could almost feel the sea spray on my face. This story is intense, and the atmosphere is so vivid, I can’t think of a better autumn read.

3. Into the Fire, by Kim Vandel

Kate is an ordinary college freshman, until one day she receives a calling to become a Guardian–chosen by God, and given supernatural abilities. It’s a call she must accept, and her life is changed forevermore. Set in Seattle, with gloomy days, and drizzly skies, Into the Fire has the perfect fall vibe. This is one of my all-time favorite books.

4. The Dark Hills Divide, by Patrick Carman

Twelve-year-old Alexa Daley, has found herself caught in the middle of a dangerous scheme which threatens the entire Land of Elyon. With strange forests, and talking beasts, Alexa must solve the dark mystery before it’s too late.

5. The Maine Woods, by Henry David Thoreau

A collection of letters, and journal entries, Thoreau writes about the times he would would visit and explore the yet-unknown parts of the Maine woods. He recites stories from his guides, records moose encounters, and offers much wisdom from his experiences. It’s been a couple years since I read this book, but I still think back on it fondly, and it’s one of my favorite non-fiction reads.

One of the first ways I notice the changing of the seasons, even when the days are still long and hot, is by the stars. The Bible says the stars are for signs and seasons, and I never understand that so well as when I see constellations like the Big Dipper, and even the Milky Way inching their way across the sky as winter approaches. Winter is a great time to stargaze, though it’s usually too cold to do so. But even in autumn, the stars are so clear, and nearly every night I see something spectacular, like planets and “falling” stars. If you are able, I highly suggest doing a bit of stargazing yourself.

By this time of year, most of the garden has either died, or been pulled up, save for a few tomato plants still clinging to life. But as the cooler months settle in, you have an opportunity to start up a whole new crop. Things like carrots, peas, lettuce, and kale rather prefer the not-so-hot days. A couple of weeks ago, I planted some bush beans from seeds I saved in the spring. They took a while to break through the soil, and I was starting to get nervous they weren’t viable, but one morning I noticed a tiny green shoot poking out, and now they’re growing by leaps and bounds. I’m hoping we’ll get a couple of harvests in before it freezes too hard. Which reminds me, I still have potatoes to harvest… I’d better get digging.

And lastly, to truly set the mood for any occasion, one must have music. In autumn, I tend to listen to more acoustic genres, or songs that are a bit melancholy. Maybe it’s the chill in the air, or the crispy leaves, but I often listen to songs that are even a little creepy, (like the classic Goosebumps theme song). I listen to lots of different styles of music, and I’ve put together a playlist of songs that I think suit fall-time well. Give it a listen, if you’re looking for something new. Check it out

I’ll conclude this post here, before I go on any longer, and you start getting sleepy. I hope you enjoyed this post, and maybe feel inspired to try some new ideas this autumn. Thank you so much for reading all the way to the end. May you enjoy this season, and all of its changes. I’ll see you on the other side.

What are some of your favorite fall things?

Lady S

Posted in Adventure, nature, photography

A Little Bit of Adventure

Do you ever like to hop in the car, and go for a drive? Leaving the city far behind, just to enjoy the passing scenes of nature? Sometimes, if you travel far enough and the last remnants of civilization are no longer visible, you can gain a new perspective on life. No houses, no people, and not many cars. Only endless hills, and mountains stretching out farther than the eye can see. When you are suddenly outside of your normal environment, many things in life feel trivial. Arguments, grievances, or unpleasant matters feel so small compared to the vast expanse before you. It’s a lovely feeling, especially when society is pressing so hard on every side and clouding our vision, doing its very best to control our emotions, according to what it says matters. Sometimes you need to break away from all of that, and steep yourself in the beauty of God’s creation. It can help reorient your heart and mind. A few days ago, my family and I did just that. We piled into the car, and headed West for a bit of good old fashioned exploring.20200823_122112

We went to an area I’ve never visited much, so everything felt new and interesting. And after leaving the city behind, the great wide nothingness of the desert opened before us. It was a grand, beautiful nothingness, which is my favorite thing to see. After driving for nearly two hours we finally came to a town. It wasn’t a big town, just a little blip in the middle of the desert. Sadly the boarded up windows, and old crumbling architecture showed the tragic state of small towns these days. As cities grow wider and wider, the little ol’ towns that once thrived are slowly becoming extinct.

By this time, everyone was starting to feel hungry, and a little cranky (if I do say so). But in such a small town, we didn’t have many options. I’m quite a staunch McDonald’s hater, but if there is one thing I know, when you’re hungry in the Middle of Nowhere, USA, McDonald’s is pretty darn good. Needless to say, our bellies were filled, and our hearts lifted for the rest of the journey.20200829_091001

After a few more miles the terrain became steeper, and more foresty. We passed a sign that said, Ice Cave This Way, so of course we had to go. After turning off the highway onto a dirt road, we came to a stop outside of an old trading post, turned gift shop. Tall pine trees surrounded the grounds, and a few little cabins dotted the area. It was the perfect little forest getaway. I explored a bit, nabbed a couple of pine cones because I just couldn’t help myself, and enjoyed the mountain air before starting on the hike to the cave.20200823_111506(1)

“Four-hundred yards, and seventy two steps down,” the lady at the front desk said. That sounded like a breeze, until we remembered that it was summer, and there would be no breeze. Nonetheless, we ambled along the path, strictly adhering to the rules to not leave said path at any time. Even though I desperately wanted to climb across the lava rocks. Oh, did I mention the lava? Before arriving at the cave, we drove for miles through a sea of lava rock. At one point, I had to wonder if the massive volcanic eruption was what caused the dinosaurs to go extinct all those years ago. Volcanoes are fearsome wonders to be sure, and I’m glad whichever volcano once existed there, is no longer active. (For the time being, anyway.)20200823_111604(1)

After traversing some four-hundred yards, we arrived at the cave entrance. I wasn’t sure what to expect because it was allegedly an ice cave… in the middle of the desert. Pushing doubts aside, we began to descend the seventy two steps. The creaky old wood was a bit questionable, but I tried to ignore that, and seventy two steps didn’t sound terribly hard. (More on that later.)

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Something strange began to happen the lower I went.

During the first few steps the sun was beating down on us, and it was very hot—but as I stepped down one peculiar, particular step…WHOOSH. We suddenly felt an arctic wind blow over us. It was so shocking, I had to step back up and come down again. As we went down the remainder of steps the temperature kept plummeting. I don’t know exactly how cold it was, but apparently the temperature in the cave never exceeds 31 degrees (Fahrenheit), thanks to the thick rock walls, and perfect shape of the cave to capture the frigid air. When we arrived at the bottom, the cave opened up before us and there was a hug slab of green ice. Yes, green! According to the information pamphlet it’s apparently caused by Arctic algae. There’s a lot of history regarding the cave. Ancient Indians once mined the ice, and made their dwellings in the caves of the other lava tubes nearby. (Did I mention the cave was actually an old lava tube?) Many years later, settlers also mined the ice until the practice was stopped to preserve the cave. 20200823_113137

Also according to the pamphlet, the circular walls of lava rocks we noticed along the path in some of the other lava tube/caves, were remnants of the Anasazi Indians who lived in the region many hundreds of years ago. (And if you’ve never heard of the Anasazi, there are many mysteries related to the ancient tribe.) After basking in the glorious arctic air, it was time to head back to base camp. Remember when I said seventy two steps wasn’t all that bad? Well that was going down. I had forgotten that in the mountains the elevation was a bit higher than at home, and boy did I feel it. Seventy two steps never felt so far or  so painful. When I reached the top, I had to take a break and remember how to breathe normally again. My poor heart was pounding out of my chest.20200823_112145

Back in the car and on the road again, we continued our excursion into the wilds. We came to yet another town, this one even smaller than the last. My dad said there was even a lake there. But after seeing no evidence to support that fact, I doubted that his memory was serving him correctly. We searched and hunted and followed some dilapidated signs and finally found the parking lot for this evasive lake. We parked, and still saw no sign of a lake. But I knew that it must be somewhere hidden behind all of the brush, and shrubbery, so I took it upon myself to hunt it down. This time I brought my water bottle, and again, headed out into the blazing sun.

As my steps took me deeper and deeper into the thicket, I couldn’t help but wish I was back inside that dark cave where I could be nice and frozen like the ice. But just as I began to lose all hope and call this lake search a farce, I climbed up a steep embankment, and behold! A lake! A big, shiny, glorious lake! (Reservoir, to get technical.) It truly exceeded my expectations. It was still blisteringly hot, but just the sight of the water made me feel better. It smelled very swampy and, and looked a bit gooey, but I’ll take what I can get. We took lots of pictures, explored the rocky shores, imagined what it would be like to jump in, and then decided to make the trek back to the car. I’m glad I didn’t give up on my search for this hidden place, because it was a treasure indeed.20200823_132005

By this time we were all pretty tired and still had a couple hours on the road to get home so we decided to head out. But alas, we took a wrong turn on a dirt road, and ended up on someone’s “private” property. The owners were none too happy about it. We apologized as best we could, then left as quickly as possible. But not before getting chewed out for allegedly running over some plants, (which looked suspiciously like weeds, if you ask me). Unfortunately, the hostile encounter left a bad taste in our mouths, but we tried not to dwell on it.20200823_134726

Speaking of dwelling, just when we thought we’d seen all the interesting wonders there were to see in one day, we spotted some “prehistoric Indian dwellings” high up on the cliffs. A little plaque said they were some 800 years old! (Yet more remnants of the Anasazi, a.k.a., Ancestral Puebloans.) It’s fascinating to imagine what life looked like back then. To think there were whole civilizations that once thrived in these lands, and people who lived just like you and me is amazing to consider.

Eventually we made it home, and I was grateful to have air-conditioning once again, since I don’t have the luxury of an arctic ice cave in my backyard. It was a long day, but I’m grateful for all the sights and sounds I was able to experience. 20200823_130843

I hope you’re enjoying the last bits of summer, and spending time with your family, and maybe getting out of the city to enjoy the majesty nature has to offer you. It really is good for your soul! Blessings to you, my friend.

Have you gone on any adventures this summer? Or explored any ancient wonders lately? Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading,

Lady S