Posted in life

Dreams and Disasters

It’s the beginning of a brand new year, the time when many of us are buzzing with new goals, resolutions and dreams for the future. That’s usually me as well, but for the first time in a long time, I don’t have any serious New Year’s resolutions.

branch4-motif - Smock.

In years past, I would glumly review the previous year, evaluate all the ways that I had failed at my goals and pledge to remedy them in the coming new year. For me, the new year always came with a feeling of dread, and fear of the unknown. I think I might have confused “end of the year” with “end of the world”. But the last couple of months of 2021 were such a whirlwind of events and emotions, that I wasn’t left with much of an opportunity to think so far ahead. Maybe that’s why this year, when the clock struck midnight, 2022, those old feelings weren’t there. It came as a bit of a shock to me when I actually felt calm. Perhaps it was due to the tumultuous couple of years we have all endured that lead me to a state of apathy, but I’d still like to give myself at least a little credit for this new outlook.

The other day, I was writing in my journal, and I wrote down these words, “It wasn’t what we planned, but it all worked out in the end, which is a recurring theme in my life.” I could list a hundred, maybe even a thousand times in my life, where I had envisioned something to go one way, when it ended up going in a complete different direction. Even though it wasn’t what I had planned, somehow, it still worked out. I usually try to view those moments with humor, and not take it to heart, but I was astounded when I realized how accurate that statement was–in all aspects of my life. So my resolution this year is not to plan so rigidly that my world may crumble if things don’t happen, just so. I could use the term, “go with the flow”, though that phrase is a little overused and doesn’t entirely convey what I mean. Another way to put it is, “trust the process”, which, for me, is trusting in the Lord.

You know the bible verse that says, “His ways are higher than our ways”? I’ve probably read it a dozen times, but I think it has finally struck a cord in me. I think it’s God’s way of letting us know that when something goes wrong, it’s still part of the “grand plan”, so to speak. It doesn’t mean that we should just give up on our plans, or our dreams. To me, it says that we don’t need to agonize so much over the future. It can be very intimidating to consider all the steps that will lead us from point A to point B, or ultimately Z. What I realized is that, right now, in this moment, even if my day goes awry I can still do small, even seemingly tedious things that can eventually lead to bigger things. My goal is to become a published author. Right now that prospect seems so very big, and scary. I don’t even have a polished manuscript yet that I can consider publishable, but I’m not going to fret over all of that. What I can do right now, and most importantly, is to simply–write. Sounds like a no-brainer, but contrary to popular belief, that’s a whole lot easier said than done.

In other words, I’m telling myself to take a metaphorical, deep breath. Relax. I can’t skip to the end. I have to follow the path that is laid out before me, and however that turns out in the end is anyone’s guess. But I have decided to walk that path calmly, with a joyful heart, and most importantly, trust the process. Life doesn’t happen in leaps and bounds, it happens one day at a time. The sun rises, and the sun sets, again and again. I think we should live as the sun does. Each day we are given a chance to simply try our best. And if we wake up on a cloudy day, that’s okay too. We can try again the next day, and the next, and the next, for as long as the world keeps turning.

Dove Flight by Phil Earnshaw on Dribbble

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in Book Reviews, reading

2021 – A Year in Books

Hey friends! We have arrived again at the end of another reading year, where we look back at all the of the wonderful worlds, and words, that crossed our paths in 2021. This was a much better reading year for me, than the past couple of years have been. It felt so good to get back to the joy of reading and immerse myself in so many amazing story worlds. So without further ado, it’s time to share my completed reading list for 2021. Let’s see how I did.

Rating: 1-5 stars (Favorites in bold.)

Classics:

  1. The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux – 5
  2. Dracula, by Bram Stoker – 5
  3. The Epic of Gilgamesh – 4
  4. The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery – 5
  5. Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy – 4
  6. Old Herbaceous, by Reginald Arkell – 4
  7. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson – 4

Non-Fiction:

  1. Bach Flower Therapies, by Mechthild Scheffer – 5
  2. A Different Shade of Green, by Gordon Wilson – 4
  3. The Right to Write, by Julia Cameron – 5
  4. The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben – 4
  5. The Successful Author Mindset, by Joanna Penn – 5
  6. Successful Self-Publishing, by Joanna Penn – 5
  7. As Far As You Can Go Without a Passport, by Tom Bodett – 5
  8. The Unseen Realm, by Michael S. Heiser – 5

Fiction:

  1. Dust, by Kara Swanson – 4
  2. Before the Coffee Gets Cold, by Toshikazu Kawaguchi – 4
  3. Dearest Josephine, by Caroline George – 5
  4. Hood, Stephen R. Lawhead – 5
  5. Greenglass House, by Kate Milford – 3
  6. The Forest of Wool and Steal, by Natsu Miyashita – 5
  7. Storming, by K.M. Weiland – 5
  8. Cinder, by Marissa Meyer (reread) – 5
  9. Scarlet, by Marissa Meyer (reread) – 5
  10. The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater – 4
  11. Blue Lily, Lily Blue, by Maggie Stiefvater – 4
  12. The Raven King, by Maggie Stiefvater – 4
  13. Dark Souls, by Paula Morris – 3
  14. The Rise of Kyoshi, by F. C. Yee & Michael Dante DiMartino – 3
  15. The Songkiller’s Symphony, by Daeus Lamb – 4
  16. At Night I Become a Monster, by Yoru Sumino – 5
  17. The Alchemyst, by Michael Scott – 3
  18. Six Crimson Cranes, by Elizabeth Lim – 5
  19. An Enchantment of Ravens, by Margaret Rogerson – 4
  20. Liar, Liar, You Are Hired, by Devin Joubert – 4
  21. Ignite, by Jenna Terese – 4
  22. Knight from the Ashes, by Shari L. Tapscott, and Jake Andrews – 5

Total: 37

Q & A Time.

Q: What was the biggest book you read in 2021?

A: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, coming in at 480 pages. This year I didn’t tackle anything over 500 pages. It wasn’t intentional, and I didn’t even realize until now.

Q: What was the shortest book you read in 2021?

A: Liar, Liar, You are Hired, by Devin Joubert. Sitting at 90 pages, this is actually the first part in an ongoing serial novel.

Q: What was the most surprising book you read in 2021?

A: I Would have to say, Hood, by Stephen R. Lawhead. This book surprised me in a number of ways. I thought it was a fantasy novel, so I was anticipating some form of magic, but as I reached the end of the book, there wasn’t an ounce of magic among any of the pages. It turned out to be more of a historical fiction, and I actually learned a lot about a time in history I knew very little about.

Q: What was the most disappointing book of 2021?

A: There were a few books I found rather disappointing this year, but if I had to choose one, it would be, Greenglass House, by Kate Milford. This book is quite popular in the book-community, so I felt let down when I finally read it. For a middle-grade book, I thought it was a little boring, and felt like it was written for an older audience despite being labelled for kids. It could have been a good story, but by the end of the book, it just felt dull to me.

Q: What book left the biggest impact on you?

A: Definitely, The Right to Write, by Julia Cameron. I read this collection of essays slowly throughout the year. Each time I read it, I found a new little nugget of truth, or inspiration to take away. Her writing felt like a hug and encouragement to a struggling writer. At times the author put me off by some vulgar references, and I considered giving up on it, but I’m so glad that I pushed through. I think this is a book I will return to again.

Q: What was your favorite book from 2021?

A: I would have said my favorite book from 2021 was The Blue Castle, but since I already raved about that book in another blog post, I’ll choose a different one. And since I also ranted about how much I loved The Forest of Wool and Steal, in the same post, I won’t choose that one either. I read a lot of books that I loved this year, but for the sake of this post, I’ll choose just one, and that is, Dearest Josephine by Caroline George.

I’m not quite sure how to label this book. Contemporary? Historical Fiction? I suppose the genre doesn’t matter, when it’s a book you really love. Dearest Josephine is told through letters, emails, and a shifting time-line that alternates between Josie De Clare, a girl from 2021, and Elias Roch, a boy from the year 1821. Dearest Josephine is about two broken-hearted souls that become strangely connected to one another, though separated by a span of 200 years. It’s a rare thing when a story can make you feel something so bittersweet, and heartfelt. I came away from this story with so many emotions, and warm feelings. It’s one of those books that after you’ve finished reading it, you just have to sit still for a moment, and appreciate all the little details that made you adore it so much.

Aside from that, my honorable mentions would have to be, At Night I Become a Monster, by Yoru Sumino. A fascinating story about a boy who becomes a monster when night falls, and a classroom overshadowed by bullying.

I was also completely blown away by Dracula, a classic that had been on my list for quite some time. I was not prepared for such a deep, and impactful story. This is another book I want to read again, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything the first time around. The memory of this story still haunts me.

In conclusion, I read a lot of great books, and found some that have become my forever favorites. I realized this year, that reading is a give and take activity. In years past, I wasn’t giving it enough time or attention, and so my attitude towards reading reflected that. This year, I made an effort to make more time for reading, and be very intentional about it, and in the end, I enjoyed it all the more.

9 Reading ideas in 2021 | book gif, animation, reading gif

I hope you read lots of great books this year, and I hope you read even more next year. What was your favorite book from 2021? Tell me a little about your year in books, I’d love to chat with you.

Happy reading,

Lady S

Posted in life, writing

I’m Back! NaNoWriMo & Other Things Too

Hello friends, I have returned at last from my unintentional blogging-break during the month of November, and much of December. Things in my life got a little hectic over the past few weeks, and in November I was completely consumed by NaNoWriMo. I thought I’d be able to squeeze in a post before now, but as you’ve probably noticed, I couldn’t make that happen. Before I fill you in on all things NaNo, let’s have a little chat about the weather, shall we?

I was under the impression that we were going to have a very cold winter this year. Autumn was chilly, and so I thought that as November and December rolled around it would be frosty and cold. But so far we’ve been having very mild weather and the sky is blue nearly every day. This weather does have its benefits, but these endlessly blue skies in the middle of winter are making me wish for snow.
There, I said it. I’m actually longing for snow, though I say it with some apprehension, for if I wake up tomorrow with sub-zero temperatures, and a foot of snow, I’ll wish I had held my tongue.

If you’re wondering how my very first NaNoWriMo attempt went… I won! I reached my goal of 50,000 words with a day to spare. I kept my expectations low when I went into this challenge, but consistency was key for me. It was very difficult, and most days I really didn’t want to write at all, but I persisted. Honestly, my writing was very bare, and the draft feels more like an extremely long and detailed outline. But at the end of the day, it’s 50,000 more words than I had before, and now I have something tangible to work with, to reshape, to improve. Not to mention, I received a ton of experience points along the way. I’m not sure I want to attempt this every year, but I’m happy that I pulled it off at least once in my life.

Oh, and by the way, I wrote it all by hand! In my last post, I mentioned that I was going to try writing it completely by hand, and I did. I think that’s one of the main reasons I was able to complete this challenge. I didn’t have to face that cursor blinking back at me on a blank screen; there was no deleting, no editing and for the most part, I didn’t even worry how my words came out. I was forced to commit my story to the page, be it good or bad. It was a very valuable experience, and I’m so glad I chose to write this story by hand.

Thanksgiving came and went. It was a nice, quiet day, though very unlike the holidays I’m used to. Due to a number of reasons, my family wasn’t able to gather together like we normally do, but given the circumstances, I was still grateful for the day. I made eight pumpkin pies, and I watched my first Hallmark Christmas movie of the year. Despite what the naysayers may think, Christmas simply isn’t Christmas without watching a few cheesy, Christmas movies. Right?

In November, I wasn’t able to read much of anything, or do any of my normal activities, but I did manage to listen to a great audio book, Six Crimson Cranes, to be exact. (Thanks for the rec, Alicyn!) Now that NaNo is over, I’ve jumped back into reading with both feet and I’ve read two books so far this month, and hopefully I’ll get to a couple others as well. And I have a couple half-read books that I want to finish before the year ends, so I can start the new year with a clean slate.

Christmas is right around the corner, and I can hardly believe it. Christmas always sounds so far off, until you realize it’s just days away. Luckily, I did all my shopping early, so I don’t have to worry over shipping delays, or anything like that. So far, this Christmas season feels different, and strange. But I guess after a weird year, it’s to be expected, right? Though it has caused me to intentionally seek out those little moments, and little ways to celebrate. I’m not the biggest fan of Christmas music, or Christmas decorations, but when everything was feeling sad and dark, I found a little spark of Christmas spirit. I decided to be fully immersed in this season, even if it was simply a mindset. I worked on Christmas cards with joy when, in years past, I did it with drudgery. I strung lights on my house to add color, and brightness to these long winter nights. I did small things, but it was those little changes that had the biggest impact on me, and others, too.

The season isn’t over yet, and I’m hoping to cross a few more things off my list; like going downtown to see the big Christmas tree, and all the decorations. I’d like to see the Christmas light display at my local botanical garden. I want to watch more Christmas movies, drink hot cocoa, and eggnog and spend time with loved ones. I want to do the things you can’t do any other time of year, and I want to enjoy these last few weeks of 2021 with peace, and joy. Because if Christmas time offers you anything, it’s a chance to quiet your soul, and listen closely to the truth that is often just a whisper, in the midst of all the ruckus.  

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Christmas Star Gif posted by Sarah Mercado

It’s been a while since we last spoke, what have you been up to? Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? Have you read any good books lately? What are you looking forward to this Christmas? Let me know, I’d love to chat with you down below!

Merry Christmas,

Lady S

Posted in life, writing

The Writing Diaries pt. 8: A Writer Rambles

Greetings fellow humans, how goes things? How have your days been? Are you busy with work, school, or writing? Has the autumn chill crept in yet? Have you dug out your collection of fuzzy knits, or woven wools? We had our first freeze a couple weeks ago and it’s been a little colder than it usually is this time of year. But that means it’s the perfect sort of weather to get some use out of my extensive sweater collection, and that makes me happy. My days have been pretty well occupied by a number of things lately. I’m not working at the greenhouse through the winter, and my list of to-do’s is much shorter now that we’re nearing the colder months. That gives me a little more freedom so I decided that it’s the perfect time to enroll in an online class. I haven’t mentioned it here on my blog, but herbal medicine is something I have become very passionate about. I love the study of herbs, the amazing qualities they have, and the ways they can improve our health in gentle ways. This will be my second online herbal medicine class, and I’m feeling pumped to learn all the things.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’m considering participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time. For those that don’t know, NaNoWriMo, stands for National Novel Writing Month. A yearly challenge, where writer’s from all over the world take on the challenge of writing an entire novel during the month of November. The goal is to reach 50,000 words, (roughly 1,600 words everyday), which is the technical length for a novel. Every year I watch the excitement and hype leading up to it, from afar. I’ve been much too intimidated and unprepared to even attempt such a feat. But this year, I am happy to say that I’m a lot more confident in my writerly abilities and I already have a decent outline worked out. I even went to a coffee shop, like all of the posh writers do, and hammered out some of the important details. I have no doubt that it will be a huge challenge, but it’s one I’m ready to accept. Oh, and I’m also planning on writing it all by hand.

Over the summer, I wrote a short story, and as I mentioned in a previous blog post, I wrote the first draft entirely by hand. (Prior to that, I wrote mainly on the computer.) I was amazed at how different the writing experience was. Writing by hand, seemed to lift the invisible pressure I had placed on myself, though one would think the opposite to be true. And writing by hand actually brought back a joy to my writing, that can be so easily lost. Needless to say, for this new project, I am prepared with a shiny new notebook for a shiny new story.

I’m still in the editing phase of my short story and am hoping to finish it very soon. Maybe I’ll even let somebody else read it. Truth be told, I’m one of those writers that hordes their writings and guards them with their life–not even letting a single sentence be read by prying eyes. I’m trying to break out of that habit, but it’s easier said than done. I’m also still working on the sci-fi novel I started last year. I’m actually really close to the climax, but progress is still slow-going. As with my previous novel, I again, hit a wall near the midpoint. It seems that that is the most difficult hurdle for me to get over with my stories, but if I can make it through that midpoint, I can make it through all the other parts too! At least that’s what I tell myself. That’s one of the main reasons why I’m going to write my next novel by hand, and try not to follow any of the same patterns I usually fall into. I’ve accepted the fact that this story is just going to take a little longer than I had planned, but I have faith that I’ll get to the end in good time.

Besides all of that, I’ve been making the most of the fall season. Fall is really the shortest time of year and winter seems to swoop in all too soon. I love the cool air, and deep colors of fall, and it’s an almost mesmerizing effect. It’s always so sad when I have to see them go. This year, I started celebrating early, by doing a spooky photo-shoot in a corn field with my sister, visiting a haunted house with some friends, and I’ve had some form of pumpkin spice drink, nearly everyday. In short, I’ve been embracing the quiet calm of the season–the here and now, and trying hard not to think too much about what is ahead. So often I can get preoccupied with thoughts and worries and plans for the future, that I end up missing all of the special moments right in front of me.

So here’s to peace and goodness, right now. I hope you’re living wholehearted today, and worrying less about tomorrow. May we all have faith that tomorrow will take care of itself. I hope you have a blessed fall, my friends. Stay well.

via GIPHY | Nature stickers, Powerpoint background design, Backdrops  backgrounds

What’s your favorite part of autumn? And are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year?

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in Book Reviews

The Songkiller’s Symphony – A Review

Hello, everyone! Today I have a special book review for you. I was fortunate enough to receive an Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) of the first book in a brand new epic fantasy series by author, Daeus Lamb. I received the novel early, in exchange for a review with my honest thoughts and opinions. I’m excited to talk about this book, so let’s get started.

Official Blurb:

You may hate me when this ends. For the crimes I committed. For crimes I couldn’t dare commit. I have seen the face of God a thousand times and buckled beneath his blows. But I made him bleed as He bled my heart.

I am a hero. They say.

Have you ever run in terror from your perfect past?

Do you yearn for redemption for the time you failed your dying mother? Will you sever immortal evil’s head to get it?

Are your dreams filled with damnation, or has the offer of a free wish broken your soul?

No?

Then let me tell you my story. Venturing with a world-weary bard, a battle-hungry ranger, and a best friend who soon doubted me, I set off to destroy the Songkiller. It is only in looking back that I perceive the devilry of the song that made us fools. The monsters we fought bore our faces.

My Review:

The first thing that struck me, was how this story hit the ground from the first page, and kicked into high-gear. The cast of characters were as wide, and as varied as the differing lands, and cultures that were explored. In particular, I thought the unique race of the Ublideck’s, and the swampy environments they inhabited were an interesting, and refreshing change from the typical dwarves, and elves most often seen in fantasy novels.

The story begins with our main character Exton, during a secretive meeting with his father, and a legendary, if somewhat mystical bard. Bards in this world are something similar to a wizard–a person with special abilities–and in this story, that ability is called “Songweaving”. Exton’s two closest friends arrive, and they are presented with an incredible challenge, and something Exton has been waiting for his entire life. Along with his two companions, Exton agrees to the daunting task and sets off with the bard on a dangerous journey, bringing them to the brink of death, and their very sanity.

Ventar the bard, was probably my favorite character. I admired his straightforward, rational way of thinking, and I was fascinated by his past and his role as a bard. I only wish we had spent a little more time exploring the magic system–the Songworld–and how the act of Songweaving worked. I had a general understanding of the system, but a bit more of an explanation would have been nice.

In contrast, Exton, our main character, was a wild card–young, passionate, and a little reckless. He tended to be over-confident which led him into some difficult situations, but he did persevere despite the setbacks. By the end of the book, it was clear that he still had much to learn, and his true journey was only beginning.

The Songkiller’s Symphony boasts an incredibly large cast of characters and alternating points of view. At times that made it difficult for me to navigate through the story. New POVs appeared throughout the book, and while they each shared an important detail, I wasn’t thrilled when I had to acquaint myself with so many new characters.

I enjoyed this story, and writing style, but I never felt a real connection to the characters. I felt that I didn’t have the chance to really settle in, and get to know the characters as much as I would have liked. The fast pace kept things interesting, but I missed having some slower moments with the main characters instead of hopping around between POVs.

This story tackled some difficult topics, like morality and war, and they were handled well and didn’t avoid the ugly consequences. The Songkiller’s Symphony, is a promising start to the series, and I’m curious to see where the characters will find themselves next. Lastly, I’ll leave you with a few lines from the book which perfectly capture the essence of this story.

“Do not lose your light, nor let your heart run dry. Run wild, but not too far. Stop before you can never regain your innocence. Don’t touch the night too closely, or it will consume you.”

Books Open Reading - Free vector graphic on Pixabay

You can check find out more on Daeus’ website: www.thescratchingquill.com

And you can purchase this book online now, wherever books are sold.

ebooks

Physical copies

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

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 — 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 – Gymnopédie 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 – 🔥100000+ 😝 Funny Gif Emoji  Emoticons Box 😘 Free Download 👍

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 (역도요정 김복주) –  Kdramasanonymous

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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 journey’s. 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