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 writing

The Writing Diaries pt. 5: Let’s Have a Conversation

As humans, we are blessed with the capability to have conversations with one another. Some of those conversations may be dreaded, others may be eagerly anticipated — and some conversations may be unexpectedly fascinating. Given the right circumstances, even the most introverted of introverts can find themselves invested in deep conversations at times. And whether we think so or not, the words we say, and the way we say them, say a lot about us. Tones, inflections, and word choice all play a huge role in how others perceive us. And that is especially true when it comes to novels.

Here’s a transcription of an interesting conversation I had, with my three-almost-four-year old nephew.

(Cat enters the scene.)

Nephew: “Can I pet him?!”

Me: “Sure you can!”

Nephew: *pets cat* “He’s so soft and crunchy!”

Me: “Um, yeah.”

Nephew:*pets cat again* *sniffs hand* “He smells like some kind of problem.”

Ouch. Sorry Rusty, you’ve been called out.

This conversation tells us a bit about what’s going on inside of my nephew’s head. He doesn’t dance around his words, but gets straight to the point, and tells us exactly what’s on his mind. (I’m kidding. I just thought the conversation was funny, and wanted to share it, lol.)

Back to the topic of today’s post which is — conversation, a.k.a., dialogue.

Dialogue is one of my favorite parts about stories. But what makes good dialogue? Inner monologue, thoughts, and prose, can tell us a lot about the characters or the story, but dialogue is how our characters interact with one another. And it can be tricky to write dialogue that feels authentic. I know we’ve all read the books with cringy, or overly-witty dialogue that no real person would say aloud. And then there are the long-winded lectures, usually found in older works. But among them all, thoughts and feelings are expressed. Just as in real life, our words carry weight, so it stands to reason that, in fiction, our words should be just as carefully chosen.

There are many ways to have engaging, and interesting dialogue; such as tones of voice, or a sense of sincerity behind the words. In one of my favorite books, The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater, there is actually very little dialogue, but when a character speaks, it usually matters. Each character has a unique, and distinct voice, and you almost always know who is speaking without having to be told. Much of this has to do with word choice, or certain phrases. But this approach of less is more, is greatly due to subtext, a.k.a. the unspoken implications in books. (This element is something I’m still trying to grasp fully, to put to use in my own novel). When a character is depicted vibrantly enough, readers don’t need things to be over-explained and there is an understanding between the reader, and the character on the page. When your characters are well developed, and words aren’t necessarily spoken explicitly, we can still have empathy and understanding of the character, adding another layer of depth to the character’s interactions.

Something I’ve learned from my own projects, is that I must listen very closely to my characters. Until I’ve actually begun writing the story, I may not know if my character is one of few, or many words. One I may have thought more subdued, might surprise me, and end up being the comical one. And a character I may have thought more talkative, may end up being reluctant to give too much away. Another thing we all should be doing, is taking note from real life. When we’re talking to our parents, our friends, or listening to the way others are talking to one another, we should pay close attention. Try and listen for the subtle cues that keep the conversation flowing, or the ones that stifle it or turn things awkward. In other words, the best way to craft authentic dialogue is to take from our experiences in every day life.

Dialogue is probably one of the funnest parts of your novel to write, but it’s difficult too. Being a person of few words myself, I sometimes struggle to keep the conversations on the page flowing easily, (kind of like in real life, too). So I have to really dig down, and get deep into my character’s heads. While I may be the one writing out their words, I have to remind myself, that I’m not the character on the page. I think the best way to write great dialogue, is to become familiar with your characters so as to be true to their voice. I love to read honest conversations between characters, and see the way they interact with one another. One of the hardest jobs of being a writer, is to find that connection with your characters and to be honest and sincere on the page.

In closing, dialogue is something that can be overlooked when you begin working on a story, but it has the ability, and potential, to be a master tool in crafting deep, and impactful stories. So I just wanted to share some of my thoughts, and have a little chat on the subject. What is your approach when it comes to writing dialogue? Do you have any tips or tricks to share?

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in Adventure

A Year in Review: 2020

Well, friends, we made it to the end of 2020. I think we should all get an award. This has been a stormy year like no other and I think we’re all still reeling. The months swept by so fast, yet not quite fast enough. So much happened, for the better and of course for the worse. But I’m not going to talk about the bad things—especially, that-which-shall-not-be-named, because if 2020 taught me anything, it’s that there is a silver lining to everything. Even in something as mundane as the sun rising up over the mountains, that’s a powerful reminder that light still exists. Or when a bird sings from high atop the trees, that too, is a reminder that joy still exists. God’s wonderful creation still exists, and we can find solace in that. So join me, as I look back at some of the events of this year that still make me smile when I remember them.

The year started out feeling new, but not so different from any year before it. I made plans, hoped to travel, pledged to be more disciplined, etc., etc., the typical New Year’s resolutions. Many didn’t end up happening, but one of them actually did. Early in the year, during that brief window when things were still normal, I scored tickets for… (you guessed it–) a concert! It was a spur of the moment decision—which are the best kind of decisions, in my opinion. (I think my family is getting used to me springing these ideas on them.) The concert venue was several hours drive away, but it wasn’t too bad as we’d driven that way dozens of times before. So in February, my mom and sisters, (and me, of course), hopped in the car and sped off for another adventure. The trip was a short one, but we managed to pack in everything we wanted to do; mainly, shop at IKEA. (Does anyone else stay in there for hours and hours?) Oh, and did I mention we went to see Stray Kids, in concert? Another one of my favorite K-Pop groups.

Remember when crowds were a thing?

Just before we entered the venue, a disaster struck! I’d handed out everyone’s tickets in the car before we arrived, which was a big mistake on my part. The line to get into the building was HUGE, wrapping around an entire block. After standing in the never ending sea of people, my older sister realized she didn’t have her ticket. We panicked, and everyone left me alone and went back to the car to find it. They searched and searched and were really beginning to lose hope. Meanwhile, I remained in line all alone among thousands of strangers, wondering who would have to stay behind?
Finally, when all hope was nearly lost, at the last moment before entering the building, my sisters came running back…with the ticket! Thankfully, the crisis was averted, and we were able to enjoy a great show. The drive home turned out to be a treacherous journey, as a blizzard decided to sweep in. But we made it home safe and sound, and for that, we were were grateful.

I’m so happy I got to see them live! ❤
“Stray Kids everywhere, all around the world.”

Fast forward to late spring, when I finally finished my first novel! To be honest, I felt like that day would never come. (Since it took me over three years to complete.) I progressed like a turtle, but that’s okay because I did finish it after all. And not only did I finish writing it, but I actually allowed other people to read it—which was the most nerve-wracking part of it all. I’m usually one of those people who guard their writings like a fierce dragon with its horde of treasures. But I knew that I needed feedback, and I needed to get comfortable with other people reading my work. Thankfully, my family was very supportive about reading my work, and my sister was excited for the job of “editor”, and left me several notes throughout. I’m proud of the accomplishment, but I was more excited to be free of the story, and move on to new ones.

I said I was only going to talk about good things this year, but I have to mention one of the biggest disappointments for me, and many, many, other people—but even still, it wasn’t without a silver lining. Remember last year, I talked a bit about the struggle trying to get tickets for a BTS concert? Well, we planned to go again this year, but we weren’t going to be so naive during the ticketing period. If we were going to score tickets, we had to be aggressively, proactive this time. The tour was to take place in early summer, but in January we entered a drawing for a chance to be chosen for the pre-sale. We weren’t guaranteed a slot to participate, but we took our chances anyway. Unbelievably, the night before the sale, we found out we were chosen! Not taking anything for granted, we knew it was too early to celebrate, as we still had to get the actual tickets. The next day arrived, and we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. After another harrowing hour-or-so battle against unseen, online foes, we secured the tickets, in our ideal section! We couldn’t believe our success!

We had big plans for this concert, and the trip we would take, but as you probably know, most concerts were cancelled this year. A sad ending to our hard fought victory, but as I said, there was still a silver lining. The Bangtan Boys came through, and held not only one, but three online concerts throughout the year. I had to wake up at 3 a.m. to watch them because of the time difference from South Korea, but every minute of sleeplessness was worth it. And even though nothing can mimic actual, in-person events, it still meant a lot to me, and countless others, that BTS held these concerts. And in a small way, we were still able to feel connected, even miles and miles apart.

3 a.m. concert time!

2020 was the year I planned to write my next big novel. I say big, because this story has been developing on the back burner for a very long time. And when I was able to set aside my previous project, I could finally run full force with my new story. I’m currently about 40k words into it, and this process feels so much different than my last, though not without it’s own struggles. In honor of this this new chapter, (no pun intended), I wanted to bring you along with me so I launched my first ever series here called, The Writing Diaries. I wanted to document all of the triumphs and tribulations I experience over the course of this new novel. Writing is a very long, and evolving process, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I’m trying to embrace the struggles, instead of fighting them.
You can check out part one here.

During the summer months, my family and I went on a couple of mini “road trips” in our home state. Since traveling far and wide is a bit out of the question, we stayed close to home and found new places to visit. We found two beautiful lakes, (reservoirs, technically), that I’d never even heard about before. (We also visited an “ice cave” in the middle of summer. Read about it here!) It was so nice to spend the day under the blue sky, and appreciate the calm stillness of the water. I was so happy to find such lovely places not so very far from home.

Of course, the year was also filled with all of the little mundane moments that we don’t pay much attention to, yet still make each day special. Take-out became the new dine-in, online shopping became a regular hobby for me, and my favorite evening activity was still watching K-Drama’s. (Some things will never change.) Despite the horrors and heartaches, the sun still shone, alarms still woke us up each morning—and life went on. Things are harder than they were, but that only makes them more valuable. The little everyday things we may have thought meaningless, are the very things still holding us together. That cup of coffee this morning that burnt your tongue, that late-night snack you regretted the next day, and those other small moments are reminders that we’re still okay. And we will continue to be “okay” even if things go south. Because there is one constant, that never left us this year, nor will it leave us in years to come. It’s something so simple, yet we tend forget it underneath the clamor of the world’s groaning. I heard someone talk about it in a video a few months back, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

My grace is sufficient for you.”

I’ve read those words before, but they have never quite hit home like they did, this year. No matter what the world throws at us, or takes away, the one thing that can’t be taken from us is the love, and sacrifice of Christ. And because of that, His grace is sufficient for me, (and you). For what else is there?

I hope that you were still able to find joy, and light this year. Thank you so much for reading this far, and sticking with me this year. Tell me, what are some of the bright, silver-lining, moments you’ve experienced this year? I’d love to hear from you. Oh, and before I forget—have a Merry Christmas!

God bless,

Lady S

Posted in WORDS, writing

The Writing Diaries pt 2: In The Beginning

Hello friends, how are you doing? I hope this post finds you well.

I’d said that I would be posting each month, but with all that is going on these days, my blog has slid down the list of my priorities. But after much thought and consideration, I see that was a mistake. Sitting at my desk, chin in hand, staring out at the blue sky and bemoaning my existence – I realized something that had been staring me right in the face. I saw plainly that life is not on hold, contrary to what we’ve been told. The sun is still shining, birds are still singing, and life is brimming just beyond the front door. With that in mind, I built up the courage to finish up the draft that had been sitting untouched for over a month.20200315_191259

I bring you – The Writing Diaries: In The Beginning.

In this second installment, I’m going to cover exactly how I began my outlining process for my new novel, and what worked for me. As the title states, I’m taking you back to the very beginning…

In late 2018, as I was finishing up my [then] current novel, I felt that it was time to prepare for the next one. One day, I was wandering among the many notebooks at Michael’s craft store, and I figured it was the perfect opportunity to buy myself a shiny new notebook for my new outline. I love writing on smooth paper, so I chose a Rhodia dot pad. (My favorite, by the way.)

I took my treasure home and opened it up to the first page, ready for the story that had been building inside of me for years, to unfold across the silky pages. But with my pen poised above the paper, no words came. I had decided that it was time to officially begin, but I didn’t know where, or even how to start. Should I begin with chapter 1? The first plot point? The ending? Since it was only my second novel, I didn’t have a proven method for getting my brain into gear. (And I still don’t.) I knew that many authors like to list numerous possibilities, all with a what if attached to them. So I gave it a shot, but it wasn’t giving me the answers I needed.20200411_155059

I knew the general direction of the story, but I was having trouble conveying that idea on paper. So I wrote a short opening scene. It wasn’t much, but it was the first real glimpse I got of my novel’s world. For the very first time, sights and smells were described through the senses of my main character. Colors and feelings came to life in just a few sentences. Somehow, that small scene provided me with enough inspiration to get my creative juices pumping. Though it was more like a vitamin shot, which gave me a little boost, yet left me hesitant to start on the actual outline. I got a look at the surface skin of my story, but I needed to go deeper and work on the skeletal structure.

I drew a little map of what my world looked like, physically. Next, I wrote down some bits of information about the technology used there, the way people lived, and how the social structure was aligned. Then it was time to get to the actual story, but I still couldn’t find the traction to prompt my characters into action. It was then that I realized I needed to go back – years – and even centuries before my novel takes place. You may think it’s unnecessary to go so far back in time, when your characters weren’t born or even thought of yet, but that was exactly what I needed.20200411_155238

I knew that backstory was important, but I didn’t realize how necessary it was for getting my own brain into motion for developing the future of my story. Taking a moment to go down history lane, tracing all the way back to the exact domino that will effect the course of events for years to come, is vital for building a firm foundation under your story. And most surprisingly, the words did come – flowing easily from my pen.

As I traversed the past, I was amazed at how much information I gathered. I found answers and explanations I would need later on, that I may not have known about if I hadn’t gone back in time. If you’ve hit a road block, and you’re having trouble moving your story forward – why not go back? Even if only a fraction of that backstory makes it into your novel, that knowledge will keep your feet grounded as you wade through a sea of new ideas, and concepts.

What about you? What is one thing that helped get your story off the ground? Leave a comment down below, I’d love to hear from you!

 

Thank you so much for reading,

Lady S

 

Posted in WORDS

The Writing Diaries pt 1: A Brief History of Me

Hello, and welcome to the start of my new series– The Writing Diaries, wherein, I’ll be sharing my writing process through an ongoing blog series, specifically during my next project. I’m a little nervous about sharing this publicly, but by documenting this process, I thought it might inspire anyone out there interested in writing, or publishing. I hope to show that there are others out here, struggling along that path, and working toward that same goal. If that sounds anything like you, climb aboard, because this ship is just setting sail.20200208_150315

To give you a bit of insight about the person behind the keyboard, I’ll start with a little intro on my writing history up to this point. I’ve mentioned this story before, but as this is the first part of the series, I thought it would be good place to start.

I first got interested in writing at around age twelve, when my mom discovered a website designed to showcase the work of young, Christian writers; Kingdom Pen. Before then, I used to write short stories here and there, but it was only after finding Kingdom Pen, that I really began to invest in my writing. From there, I wrote story after story, and even had a poem published in Kingdom Pen’s, e-magazine.

After a couple of years, my inspiration seemed to fizzle out. And thus began a hiatus that lasted 3 years! Slowly but surely the spark began to reignite, and I felt compelled to get back into writing. But in order to do so, I needed a story–and that is when things got rough. I can’t even remember how many different stories I started, that led me nowhere. Over and over, I thought I had found  The One, only to give up, when it Wasn’t. It was disheartening, to say the least. But I did not give up.

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It was at this time that I discovered the wondrous work of K.M. Weiland. I read through many of her articles, and finally her book, Outlining Your Novel. From then on, I had a better understanding of what a proper story should look like. And to make a long story short, I crafted my first ever outline. It wasn’t great, but it was something. And that little something, led me to actually writing, and completing my very first novel, though it did take me an entire year to get it written. (Did I mention I’m a slow writer?) After that, it took another entire year to edit the second draft. (Did I also mention I’m a procrastinator?) But the important part is that I wrote it, and my first novel is officially behind me.

Thus concludes my brief history, which brings us to 2020, where I’m a little more knowledgeable than I was a decade ago, when little ole’ me first thought it would be fun to write stories.20200208_121011

In the next installment, I’ll go into more detail about my new outline, which I wrote in 2019, while editing that first novel. This story has been growing, and evolving along with me, for over six years. Already, this new outlining process has been the complete opposite of all of my previous works–in a good way. I’m actually amazed at how this story is unfolding, both, in depth, and in structure.

Right now, I’m transcribing my notes, and trying to organize them in a linear fashion, that I hope will make sense later, when I begin my first draft. I’ve made it all the way through part one, and I’m making good progress on part two. But, I’ve still got a lot of work ahead in part three.

So stay tuned, and subscribe for my next update!

Thank you for reading,

Lady S