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 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 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 writing

The Writing Diaries, pt. 4: Flopsy, Mopsy, and the Runaway Bunnies

“Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were– Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter. They lived with their Mother in a sand-bank, underneath the root of a very big fir-tree.

‘Now my dears,’ said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, ‘you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor. Now run along, and don’t get into mischief. I am going out.’

Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail, who were good little bunnies, went down the lane to gather blackberries: But Peter who was very naughty, ran straight away to Mr. McGregor’s garden, and squeezed under the gate!”

Bunnies are cute, I think most people can agree. But if you’re a writer, the word might trigger something a little different in your brain. Plot bunnies are story ideas that appear from out of nowhere, and refuse to go away until they are written. I’m sure all writers have dozens of stories and ideas swirling around in their heads, which is that magical brain fodder used to craft new and exciting stories. But what if you’re knee deep in a project, with a couple of K’s written down and all of a sudden…out pops a cute little plot bunny—bright eyed and bushy tailed? You’re then caught between two differing ideas, each demanding your attention.

I don’t know how other writers deal with the notorious plot bunny, but that saying about rabbits multiplying has never been more true. I’ve reached a bit of a rough spot in my current project, and I’ve been feeling stuck. But since I’ve run into a wall with one project, ideas for new stories seem to be cropping up everywhere. A few weeks ago, I was flipping through an old notebook, and stumbled across a story idea I’d completely forgotten. After I read the short scene, whoosh, my imagination started running on double time. I had to wrangle in my impulses, not to dive blindly into a new story so spur of the moment. Especially since I’ve already committed to another.

My question is this—how do you manage those shiny new ideas when you’re already working on a big project? As of now, I don’t feel equipped enough to juggle two stories at one time, so I’m trying to keep my focus on my main project. But that doesn’t change the fact these new ideas are growing, and evolving each day. I can try to ignore the characters inside my head all day long, meanwhile I’ll still hear them bickering amongst each other.

Right now, I think I’m suffering from a bit of the, grass is always greener on the other side syndrome; I’m struggling with one story, yet these new ideas sound so much better, and more intriguing. While working on my last novel, I experienced the same thing, during one of my many rounds of edits. I’d grown tired of that story, so I started plotting for my next project. I remember thinking that my next novel was going to be amazing. The ideas were flowing so easily, I couldn’t wait to begin writing. Now that I’m actually writing that novel, the rose-colored skies have begun to gray a little. I’m not going to give up though, or cave into the new ideas—especially since I’ve already written 40k words. I think it’s just a matter of forging ahead and pushing through the tough times.

My current project has so much yet to develop, and I’m actually I’m looking forward to it. But I need to find a way to match the excitement I feel for these new ideas, with the project I’m already working on. I’m going to have to dig deep, and rediscover those little nuggets of inspiration that encouraged me to first begin this novel. When I have a moment or two to spare, I’ll be jotting down those new little treasures that pop up (when I’m least expecting them). So if you’re looking for me, I’ll be out in the garden setting traps for some very naughty bunnies. But don’t worry, I shan’t be making any pies…at least not yet.

~

What do you do when you’re feeling bored with your story? How do you manage when a brand new story comes knocking on your door and says, “hello, may I come in?”.

Leave a comment to share your thoughts with me!

Thanks for reading,

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

Posted in reading

5 Books on my TBR for Summer

Hey, everyone!

How goes it? Are you keeping afloat in this sea of uncertainty? It feels like monsters, mayhem, and certain death is lurking around every corner…or so we’re told. Besides all of that though, we’ve made it into the thick of summer – which means swivel fans running nonstop, long lazy days too hot for anything, ice cream, and cold drinks all around. It’s supposed to be monsoon season here, but one little rain shower, doesn’t qualify as a monsoon, does it? So this heat-wave has me feeling more like a puddle, than a person. And to make matters worse, there isn’t a single beach within five-hundred square miles of me, or even a pubic pool open to wade in, so I’m left with many, sweaty afternoons to fill. And what’s better than to fill my time with books?20200712_150346

As with all readers, my TBR (To Be Read) list is ever growing and expanding, while the list of books I’ve actually read is criminally short. But amongst the eternally broadening TBR, there are some titles that are calling out to me louder than all the others. Some of these books have been on my list for ages, and others are newly added. I am hoping to cross these titles off my list very soon, so I thought I’d share with you the top five books I’m so looking forward to reading this summer.

1. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

In this “utopian” future, humans are genetically engineered, socially manipulated, and pharmaceutically anesthathized to become docile, and uphold the authoritarian ruling order… all at the cost of freedom, humanity, and our very souls. Is it me, or does this sound a little too, familiar?20200718_123801

I’ve known about this book for a long time, but my curiosity was first piqued when I heard from someone that they preferred this book, to 1984. (Not that I’ve read 1984 either, but that’s beside the point.) A couple of months ago, I got this book as a gift for my birthday, so now that I have it in my possession, I’m going to be reading it very soon.

2. The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy

Set in the year 1792, this story takes place in France, during the Reign of Terror. Sir Percy, and Lady Marguerite Blakeney find themselves targets, at the center of a deadly political scheme. And only one man can help them–The Scarlet Pimpernel— a master of disguises who leaves only a calling card behind, after his covert rescues, emblazoned with the infamous red flower.20200721_111236

This book is relatively new to my list, but when I heard about it, it jumped straight to the top. I was at a book store and saw this book sitting on a table, so I snatched it right up. I think the themes, and content of this book could be especially valuable in today’s world.

3. Heart of a Samurai, by Margi Preus

 In 1841, Manjiro and his four friends are castaways on a deserted island. Beyond the island are countless unknowns – demons, monsters, and barbarians, or so they’ve been told. One day, an American whaling vessel passes the island, and brings the castaways aboard. Together, they sail across the high seas, and visit places they never could have dreamed exist. But years later, Manjiro wants to return to his home in Japan–to become samurai.20200721_111017

First off, can you think of anything cooler than samurai’s? If I could be anything, I think, I’d become a samurai. So as you can imagine, when I read the title of this book, I knew I had to read it. I’d seen the book floating around the book world, at libraries and such, and I got lucky and found a copy at a thrift store. So I’m excited to dive into this story very soon. (Also, this book has pictures. Bonus points!)

4. Shirley, by Charlotte Brontë

Centered around two young heroines, this story takes place during a difficult time in history. With the Napoleonic wars raging, Luddite revolts, and industrialization of England, this story covers many social struggles of the contrasting characters.

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I’m a huge Brontë fan, so this book was a given, for me. I’m ashamed to say though, this book has been sitting around, gathering dust on my shelf for far too long while I waited for the right time to pick it up. But there’s no time like the present, right? Charlotte usually writes very deep, and profound books, so I can’t wait to start Shirley.

5. The Wingfeather Saga book 1: On The Edge of The Sea of Darkness, by Andrew  Peterson

“Once, in a cottage above the cliffs on the Dark Sea of Darkness, there lived three children and their trusty dog, Nugget.”IMG_20200713_085140_255

Just about everyone and their grandma has read this book and loved it – and I’m starting to feel a little left out. I’ve heard such great things about this series, so I am really stoked to read it. And if there’s anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s that the so-called middle-grade books can truly be some very impactful stories.

*

So that’s the list. This year hasn’t been a very good one in terms of getting books read. I’m sure it has a lot to do with procrastination, and the threat of extinction hanging over our heads, so its understandable that I’ve been reading less than usual. But in June, I decided I was going to make more time for reading, and spend less time endlessly scrolling on social media. And happily, it’s been working. The more I read, the more I want to read, and I’m feeling ambitious about crossing these books off my TBR. So wish me luck, friends, and I do the same for you!

What are some books on your TBR? How is your reading year coming along? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.

 

Thanks for reading,

Lady S