Tell me, do you read used books? Does your book collection contain a patchwork of miss-matched series, or numerous, old, mass market editions? Mine does. My shelves are filled with books that are out of print, worn and torn with yellowed pages, stains and spills. Odd copies that contain hand-written dates, love dedications, and even an occasional scribble or two in the margins. Used books, to me, are like finding a buried treasure– a diamond in the rough. Finding that treasure requires nothing more than a bit of patience as you comb through miles of shelving, and a keen eye.
I must admit, most of the stories I come across are entirely a mystery to me. Never before have I set eyes on them, nor do I know what lies within. It’s a risk to choose such a book, but the thrill of discovery is too great to pass up. Without the familiar comfort of reviews, or recommendations, I have only my most basic reader instincts to rely on. The cover, the title, the feel of the paper in my hands– those simple things will determine the fate of the book. The little tome of bound pages must speak for itself, and it is up to me whether I listen to its voice, or not.
Despite the well-known saying, we all know that it is well-nigh impossible not to judge a book by its cover, especially when it comes to newer books. I won’t so much as breathe in their direction if I don’t fancy the cover. But when it comes to used books, I will pause and consider whether the strange colors, and illustrations on the cover are disguising some hidden treasure waiting to be found. Though I would never dare to crack a spine on any book, or mistreat a page, strangely, in old books, even those flaws cannot turn me away. In fact, when I see a book that is worn, and scuffed, annotated, or dog-eared, I find it to be a curiosity. It tells me that someone, somewhere, handled it, and maybe even enjoyed it.
Sometimes, I wonder if all the time it’d been left alone, unread, and covered in dust, was because it was waiting for someone like me to come along and give it another chance. Usually the books that find their way into second-hand shops are stories from bygone eras, or books that might have been underappreciated at the time of their release. Each has lived a long life, and I often wonder at the history of the lives they’ve led, and what brought them to the shops.
Books are much like people, too. Each has a character of their own, a personality that shines through the font on the pages, and the binding at their spines. And just like people, there is more than meets the eye at first glance. So next time you see an old, shabby cover on a book, perhaps you should pause for a moment, and look past all the dinginess. You may find a bright, and glimmering treasure waiting inside.
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.
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.
“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.”
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
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!
Greetings friends. I hope this entry finds you well, in body and spirit. I’m doing quite well, thank you. Fall has arrived, and I’m very happy about it. Most days are still in the upper 90s, but the morning’s and evening’s are so dusky and crisp, and I’m loving them. But I’m not here to talk about the weather (*again), I’m here to talk about books–my other favorite topic of discussion. It’s about that time when readers all over the world start to rummage around, and squirrel up some juicy reads for the remainder of the year. And since we are all eternally, foraging for good books to add to our lists, I thought it would be fun to share a few books that you may not have heard of before. In the book world there are many books circulated that nearly everyone has read, or has plans to read. But there is a vast library of hidden gems out there, and maybe your new favorite book is still waiting for you to find it. Today, I’m sharing a few books that you may not have heard of, that I really enjoyed, and that you might enjoy as well.
The Dark Lord of Derkholm, by Dianna Wynne Jones (Middle-Grade Fantasy)
I’ve mentioned Dianna Wynne Jones on my blog many times before, since she is one of my favorite authors. But apart from Howl’s Moving Castle, not many of her other books get much attention, which is a shame because she’s written a lot of books. One book that I truly adored was, The Dark Lord of Derkholm. This is a fantasy book, with a premise that’s almost too convoluted to describe. It takes place in the same universe as all her other works–which consist of many different worlds. In this novel, there is an event which takes place each year, where those from across the worlds can take part in a Pilgrim Party–an all expenses paid trip to a neighboring world where “pilgrims” a.k.a. “tourists” can take part in a rehearsed adventure. These so-called pilgrims get to defeat dark lords, and dragons, and experience a “real” adventure. And for this year’s event, Derk, and his eccentric family are chosen to host it. We follow our main characters as they endeavor to put on the show of a lifetime, and create a convincing experience for the good paying tourists. The book is hilarious and completely enthralling.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë (Classic Literature)
We are all familiar with the Brontë sisters, and their widely acclaimed books, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights–but you don’t often hear about the third sister, Anne. If you haven’t heard about this book, I’d just like to say that in my humble opinion, the The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, far surpasses the two aforementioned, both in plot and writing style. Wildfell Hall, centers around a reclusive young woman, and her son, and their mysterious past. When a young gentlemen takes a liking to the woman, he makes it his goal to befriend her, and find the truth about the unfortunate events that lead her to the quiet, secluded cliff-side town. This is one of the most honest, and poignant works of fiction from the 18th century, I’ve ever read.
Blur, by Steven James (YA Thriller)
Occasionally, I like to pick up a story in the thriller, or paranormal genre. I read this book on a whim, when I wanted something gripping and dark, and I was pleasantly surprised by the story. It takes place in a small, quiet town in Wisconsin, where the body of a teen girl is discovered. The death is ruled an accident, but the main character Daniel, soon comes to believe that may not be true after all. He tries to get to the bottom of the case, while strange and unexplainable things begin to happen in his personal life. For anyone interested in a chilling, and mysterious story you might want to pick this book up. Oh, and Blur, is the first book in a trilogy, but I didn’t really like the other two books as much as I liked the first.
The Forest of Wool and Steel, by Natsu Miyashita (Contemporary, Slice of Life)
This year I’ve been delving into some Japanese Fiction. I decided to pick up The Forest of Wool and Steel, and the title is what initially drew me to this story, but I then stayed for the characters. This story is about a young piano tuner, apprenticing at a piano shop in a small mountain village. The main character Tomura, was someone I really related to in many ways. The book managed to make the challenges and difficulties he faced while pursuing his dream, somehow feel like my own struggles in life. This is a heartwarming and true to life story about a young man forging a path for himself, while walking in the footsteps of great teachers.
The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery (Classic Literature)
As a self-professed member of the Lucy-Maud-Montgomery-Fan-Club, you can imagine my surprise when I found this book, while doing some online book shopping. I knew Miss Montgomery wrote other books besides her famous Anne series, but somehow, The Blue Castle slipped by my radar. As soon as I read the title, I immediately, ordered the book. I might be the only one living in ignorance of this book, but in case you too have not heard of it, don’t worry, I just fixed that problem. It was interesting to read a more modern book by L.M. Montgomery, and a story very unlike that of Anne of Green Gables, or Emily of New Moon. Our main character, Valency, is only months away from turning thirty when she receives shocking information that spurs her to break free from her overbearing, and stifling family. Much to the chagrin of several aunts, uncles, and cousins, Valency casts public opinion aside, as she chooses to live the life of her dreams. This is probably my favorite read of the year, and is one of those books I know I’m going to want to read over and over again. So if you’re in the market for something humorous, uplifting, and heartfelt, I think this is just the book you’re looking for.
Thus concludes my list of lesser-known masterpieces. Searching for hidden gems in the book world is one of my favorite hobbies, and something I intentionally seek out. The mainstream book market dominates nearly all of social media, yet when you take the time to find books outside of that realm, you may be pleasantly surprised by the treasures that are out there.
Tell me, have you heard of any of these books before? What are some of your favorite lesser-known reads? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!
Have you any treasure? Is it something special, or rare? Perhaps it is in a wooden chest, hidden away from prying eyes? Deep in the shadows, clothed with cobwebs and dust, I have such a box. I revel in the thought that only I know what is within, and where it is kept hidden. But today, I make an exception and invite you to come along with me, as I uncover this secret treasure, and let the sun shine upon its precious contents.
A few years ago, I was given this wooden chest. It is heavy, and quite old, with a metal latch securing it. Long before I called it mine, it belonged to my mother, given her by her mother. I have always had a fascination with the box, and would peak inside it whenever I could. Like a pirate’s trove, it encased its precious jewels well. Since it has become mine, I’ve endeavored to keep it the way it has always been–tucked away safely in the shadows. But every so often, I will bring it out into the light, brush away the dust like an old pirate, and lift the lid to marvel at my riches.
Inside, are several, worn and aging books, resting between layers of crisp white paper, (novels, to be exact). Each of them ranges from ninety, to even one hundred and twelve years old. Very gently, I lift them from their paper nest and sift through the yellowing pages. Fading floral embossed covers, and swirling script, display the titles of each one. I count the number of volumes that I have read, and finger through the number of those I have yet to. The sight of them, calls to mind the stories within and the voices, and feelings they convey. Stories of struggles, and heartaches, but also of triumphs, and reconciliation.
Each one carries a message that can be heard through the ages. Sometimes a hard truth, or just a tender reminder; stories of young orphans, a distant mother and daughter, a couple drifting apart, or a small girl awaiting the return of her brother, and so much more. Peppered among these tales, like blossoms in spring are beautiful details of nature and earth. One mentions the unique call of a songbird, another, the magnificent colors decorating the wings of the Emperor moth, and still another reflects upon the manner in which one should walk through a still, and quiet forest. While their words enthrall me with tales of life, and longing, the subtle call of nature pervades them all.
In The Keeper of the Bees, a soldier battling illness takes up residence in a cottage by the sea for rest and healing. While there, he finds infinitely more. An old man and his garden, bursting with flowers, and honeybees, teaches him to treasure the simple things. And the little girl who enters his life, teaches him that no one is too small, to befriend.
In A Girl of the Limberlost, a lonely girl endeavors to capture and record the vast number of moths, and butterflies residing in the swamp near her home. In the process, the rift grown wide between her, and her mother begins to close, and love and friendship blooms instead.
In Michael O’Halloran, an orphaned boy, delivers newspapers to scrape together a meager living for himself. No more than a child, he manages to rescue a poor disabled girl from going away to an orphanage. His courage and honor inspires those he encounters in his young life, to live life freely and with love.
I read these stories to remember the times of old, and the way of things long ago. But in the sea of plots, and prose, there are truths that slip beyond the realm of time, and reach into the present. For a truth spoken once, will be true always. If you’ve grown tired of the tales and woes of today, perhaps, you would like to step back into the pages of days gone by. You may find these tales more captivating than the newest, or most popular fables of today. Miss Gene Stratton-Porter’s stories have impacted me greatly, and have remained close to my heart in the years since I’ve read them.
“To my way of thinking and working, the greatest service a piece of fiction can do any reader is to leave him with a higher ideal of life than he had when he began. If in one small degree it shows him where he can be a gentler, saner, cleaner, kindlier man, it is a wonder-working book. If it opens his eyes to one beauty in nature he never saw for himself and leads him one step towards the God of the Universe, it is a beneficial book, for one step into the miracle of nature leads to that long walk, the glories of which so strengthens even a boy who thinks he is dying, that he faces his struggle like a gladiator.” -Gene Stratton-Porter
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Recently, my bedroom has gotten a major makeover — fresh paint, new floors, the whole shabang. As a result, I had to completely empty out all of my belongings, including my bookshelf which was a major undertaking, due to the fact that it’s a hefty floor to ceiling structure, (custom made by my brother, I might add ;p). It was easy enough to empty all of my “junk” a.k.a., shove everything in storage bins. But when it came time to unpack it all and return everything to its proper place, boy oh boy, was that a challenge. It took me several hours to complete the job, likely because I spent most of the time sitting on the floor staring dismally at the piles and piles of books, instead of delivering them back to their designated place.
It can be very hard to let books go, but I realized I had so many books that I was never ever going to read, and even books that I disliked but was still hanging onto. I was determined to minimize, and be honest about the books I didn’t want, so I buckled down and weeded out lots of books that simply did not spark joy in my heart. (Marie Kondo, anyone??) I was able to eliminate a whole bin full of books that were taking up very valuable space on my shelves! Clearing things out not only cleared my mind but allowed room for my future acquisitions.
While sorting through almost every book I’ve collected in the last ten-or-so years, I was able to rediscover so many books I’d forgotten about. And today, I wanted to share with you some of my most epic finds from the depths of my little library. Some weird, some awesome, and some slightly eccentric books I didn’t even remember that I owned. Let’s start with…
Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart
Let’s just call this one book research. Yeah, that sounds reasonable. Plants and herbs have the ability to do amazing things from healing wounds, and disease, to becoming a valuable tool for sabotage. Because you never know when you might find yourself in a situation where you need to poison your enemy– I mean, when your characters need to poison their enemies, you know, in fiction. ;p
When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt
Next, we have a middle-grade book, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. This is one of the oddest books I’ve ever read, about a strange boy who appears in a small town in a camper trailer which he is unable leave, for reasons I’m not going to tell you. Some of the other children in town visit him regularly, and try to get to the bottom of the mysterious predicament the boy is in. If you want to find out more, and don’t mind reading something a little wacky, you’d better get yourself a copy.
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
I stumbled across this series at a thrift store, and it sounded interesting so I snatched it up. I found book 1 and 3, but I was missing the second book, so I waited patiently and lo and behold, the next time I went thrifting there it was, just sitting on the shelf waiting for me, (a major success in my book). Honestly, about 90% of the books I own came from thrift stores, many of which I knew nothing about before I purchased them. Sometimes they can be a flop, but sometimes they are true winners. This is an extremely underrated series, that I think a lot of people would enjoy if they knew it existed! It’s a sci-fi/dystopian retelling of Alice in Wonderland, and it’s totally epic.
The Milagro Beanfield Wars
A lot of the books on my shelf were inherited by me, from my brother when he moved out, and thus I have no idea how, or why he acquired some of these titles. The perfect example, would be these books right here. I don’t know much about this series, other than it being a historical, and possibly magical tale. It looks so strange and creepy I just have to keep it, and perhaps read it one of these days.
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
I’m sure a lot of you have heard of this book, and probably read it, as it is the rightful bearer of the Newbery honor medal. I’m not someone who cries easily, but this is the one and only book that has ever made me shed actual tears. Heartwarming, and heartbreaking, this is a touching story of a young girl on a journey to her mother. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve read this book, but it left a lasting impression.
Michael O’Halloran by Gene Stratton-Porter
I love to collect vintage books, and read them too. There’s something so captivating about cracking open an old book with yellowing pages, and a creaky spine. Not to mention, the musky old-book smell, that generally accompanies such treasures. The thrill of diving into a story from days gone by is priceless, and Gene Stratton-Porter is one of my all-time favorite authors, and I’m slowly reading my way through all of her works. She has a unique talent for making somewhat simple stories, flow so deep, and tug on your heart-strings. I would recommend any of her books.
Back in the day, my brother was quite the magician, always showing off his newest trick and such. He used to guard his secrets with his life, but no longer… Looks like his secrets are about to be exposed. What do you think? Should I try out some of these tricks on my own, or keep his mysteries hidden?
Dune by Frank Herbert
I bought this book more recently, and I read it only last year. It’s considered a classic in the sci-fi world, so naturally I wanted to give it a go. While I did find it interesting, and somewhat entertaining, it was just a little too weird for my taste. It had some very dark, and slightly occult themes which admittedly, turned me off. Though I must say, I did like the sand worms, and thought they were absolutely terrifying. I would describe this book as Star Wars meets Tremors. There are many more books in this series, so I can’t say if/how my opinion would change if I were to continue on with with it, but as of now I’ll call it a done deal.
Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel, book 2 of the Airborn Series
This is another one of my favorite underrated trilogies. I borrowed this series from the library, so I don’t own all of the books, except for book two which I happened to find at–you guessed it–a thrift store. I would really like to re-read this series if I ever get my hands on the other two books. From airships to spaceships, this story takes you on a wild ride, and really gives you that “steampunk” vibe. Fun fact: I found out about this series from Adam Young, (a.k.a, Owl City), after I learned that one of his songs was based off of a line from book two. All I can say is, Adam never let’s me down and if you like adventure you’ll like these books.
So there you have it, the conclusions of my discoveries for today. It took a lot of work to get my books looking all nice on the shelf, and my back surely paid a fair price. It was a lot of fun to remember many of the books I had forgotten about, and fawn over my favorites. And it was surprising to find that I have so many awesome, yet underrated books that I don’t think many people have heard of. If you’re interested, I can do another post dedicated to some of my top underrated books, and series. Let me know.
I hope you enjoyed exploring my bookshelves with me, and maybe added a few new titles to your TBR. Do you have any strange books on your shelf? Do you like to search through your shelves for old and forgotten books? Tell me about it down below, I’d love to hear from you.
As always, thank you for reading,
P.S. If you’re curious, this is the Owl City song I mentioned. Give a listen.
Everyone talks about this elusive creature called Time, but has anyone ever found it? What does it even look like? Is it some sort of genie, that grants all of your wishes? Or is it a nasty troll, that steals moments away from you before you can get to them? Joking aside, my question today is, how do you find time to write?
As writers it can be difficult to find the best writing time. A time when your brain is fully functioning, and ready to be let loose onto the paper, or when the hundred-and-one other things you do are taken care of (for now). I usually tell myself that after I finish this thing, or before I do that thing, I can write. But before I know it, the end of the day is looming and I realize it’s too late for writing. The whole day has gotten away, because I was too busy waiting for the right time.
But what is the right time? So many authors have tried to tackle this issue with their own tips, suggestions, and schedules, but none of those things have stuck with me. And lately I’ve been struggling with fitting writing into my day. Even though I don’t have a full-time job, the day easily gets filled up with so many other tasks, chores, and projects.
But here’s the thing; there’s always going to be dishes that need washing, or laundry waiting to dry, or a million other things on your to-do list. It’s a never ending cycle. So I’ve learned that the perfect time to write is now. In between all of those endless tasks, you might have ten, twenty, or even thirty minutes to spare that can be used to make progress on your writing. You don’t need to set aside a whole afternoon to write, you can write now.
I know there are some days that writing is just not going to happen, and that’s fine. It’s important to allow yourself space to breathe. But there are other times when you want to write. You wake up and tell yourself that today is the day! You’re going to sit down, and work on that exciting scene… But first you just have to do this little task, or that little chore, and then the day will be yours. The hours will tick by, the sun will go down, and then it’s time to head to bed. You’ll sit there baffled, wondering what happened, because you were supposed to write today.
When you rewind all the moments of your day, you’ll see the moment when you finally sat down at your desk, with a few minutes to yourself. And what did you do with those minutes? I haven’t checked Instagram for a while. Oh! A new video was uploaded, I should watch it. And so on, and so forth, until the window closes, and it’s now time for you to make dinner. This kind of thing happens to me a lot, and it’s something I’m trying to work on. Maybe you feel this way too, or maybe you have much better time-management skills than I, but I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one.
A daily reminder I tell myself, is that life doesn’t follow a pattern. Some days are busy, some days are slow, but through all of it, there’s always a few minutes free to be used at your will. And if writing matters to you, you can use those minutes for all they’re worth. I’m learning that to be a writer, you don’t get to spend endless hours building up your word-count; you might only get a quarter of that. Every day is new, and different, and should be treated as such. And chances are, even on the busiest of days there will come a moment when the opportunity arises to write. So seize that moment, before it’s too late.
I hope this post inspired you to keep going, even when things are rough, and it feels like writing is getting further away from you. Take heart friends. Keep calm and write on.
Welcome to part three of the Writing Diaries. (If you missed the first/second post, you can start here.) Today, we’re going to discuss how you tell your story.
When you think of your favorite story, what comes to mind?
Often, when I think back on stories, whether it be in the form of a book, a TV show, or a movie, the first thing that comes to my mind isn’t necessarily the plot – it’s usually everything else. Essentially, story and plot are one in the same, but I consider plot to be the black and white road map, whereas, story is the rainbow of color that makes it unique.
Say you’re planning a road trip – your plot is the destination, and your story is the route in which you take to get there. You might take the scenic route, or you might take the highway. Either way, the path you choose is up to you. While the plot is still the ultimate destination, how you get there is what really matters. You have the freedom to expand, and explore across a vast variety of landscapes. And if you happen to stray too far from the path, you always have your road map to get you back on track.
Here’s an example of plot vs. story – if someone asked you to describe the plot of a particular book, or movie, you could probably do so in just a couple of words, and it wouldn’t sound very exciting.
Someone: “Hey what did you think of the plot for The Lord of The Rings?”
Me: “The usual, hero must destroy the evil thing to save the world.”
Not all that gripping.
But if you’re asked to describe what the story is like, the imagery, and nuances require a bit more detail.
Someone: “Hey what did you think of The Lord of The Rings?”
Me: “It was awesome. The hobbit, Frodo, and his friends, had to battle evil forces, on their journey to Mordor, in order to destroy the One Ring, that held great powers, in the fires of Mount Doom. They had to go through the terrifying, Mines of Moria, and I’ll never forget how real the dank cold, and darkness felt. Oh, and I loved it when they visited the elves in Lothlórien. I wish I could live in a tree house like they do.”
That statement still describes the plot, but it also shows a glimpse of the route, that brought the characters to their destination.
To bring this back into context, my novel right now, could similarly be condensed into a short statement; hero must stop bad guy from doing bad thing. Sounds pretty generic, right? A dozen stories with the same problem probably popped into your mind when you read that. But if so many stories fit that idea, what sets them apart? How you choose to tell your story, a.k.a., the path you take, is what truly matters. The places, the faces, and everything in between are what makes each story unique, and memorable.
While the ultimate goal in many novels is to defeat evil, we don’t necessarily read stories just to find out if good will triumph over evil. We read stories to experience new worlds, and see life through the eyes of the characters who live there. Through books, we are able to see things we may have never imagined, and feel things we never knew we could feel.
It’s our job as writer’s, to bring our characters to life, and open the door to their world, to create lasting images, feelings, perceptions, and experiences that readers will remember for some time. As a writer, I’m still learning, and like anything else, storytelling takes practice to fine tune your skills and expose your flaws, along with determination and a certain amount of vulnerability, to do better on the next round.
By taking time to develop and explore your story world, you might find that it opens your mind up to new possibilities that may have gone unnoticed, if you’d only taken the highway. And if you’re like me, and lean more towards the pantser side of the street, you may find this idea of exploring your world to be an unlikely key to fleshing out your plot as well. At one point, I was struggling with how to move my plot forward, but I was able to find the answer I needed hidden in one of the physical features of my world. (The answer to my struggle, came from within the story itself!)
Remember, a story is more than the plot. It’s the people you get to know, the places you get to see, the life you get to experience – all through words on a page. Don’t be afraid to explore new avenues and leave no stone un-turned. If you want your story to affect readers, you’ll have to give them something to remember. So be sure to infuse your story with as much richness of life, and character as possible.
“Hey Siri, let’s take the scenic route.”
This little series is dedicated to exploring, and documenting the different threads and shreds it takes to write a story worth reading. So thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you next time.