Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Books I Read in July

Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris

Maddie elopes with a Japanese man shortly before the start of World War II. When he is taken away to an evacuee camp, she is determined to go with him, regardless of the cost.

I loved this book. My favorite romances are the ones when the lovers will sacrifice anything for one another. One of my favorite aspects of this book was the broad expanse of American experiences the author depicts. It's a comprehensive - as well as tragic and uplifting - look at what Americans of all races went through during WWII.

(This has nothing to do with anything, but I've mentioned in previous posts my dilemma in describing sex scenes. This novel is exactly what I was looking for. The scenes were brief yet satisfying, tasteful yet emotionally charged. I'm going to use this book as my standard from now on.)

A New Orleans Voudou Priestess by Carolyn Morrow Long

The most famous voudou priestess who ever lived has always been shrouded in mystery. In this work of nonfiction, Long pieces together what facts we do have to find the truth about Marie Laveau.

Writers often try to depict Marie Laveau the way they want to see her, at the expense of the truth. This book, on the other hand, supports every single fact with a reliable source, without pushing any vendettas. It's the best book on Marie Laveau I've read so far.

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

This classic novel is a bitter yet humorous look at the folly of mankind and the pointlessness of life.

I don't get the point in writing about how life is pointless, but whatever. Vonnegut's other famous novel, Slaughterhouse Five, is one of my favorites, so I was disappointed that Cat's Cradle just didn't speak to me.

Monday, July 30, 2012

I Have Written Off Wikipedia Completely

Up until about five minutes ago, I've been an avid supporter of Wikipedia. Obviously you can't cite it as a source in your homework paper, but you can get a general overview on any topic you want. It's always been the first place I go for information.

Not anymore.

I set a Google alert on "Vestal Virgins," which sends me an email every time someone online mentions the Vestal Virgins. That way if there are any new pictures or information, I find out. It doesn't seem to be working very well, though, because it never sends me links to my blog.

Today I followed a link that led me to the main Wikipedia page for the Vestal Virgins. I hadn't been there for five years, so I looked it over. As I was skimming through, I read this paragraph that wasn't there before: 

"At its peak the College of Vestals consisted of 18 girls and women, though only the senior-most 6 were termed Vestals and were full priestesses; the junior 12 were child-novices and maiden acolytes. During the Republic and Empire, 3 new novices would be chosen every five years upon the retirement of the 3 senior Vestals; these novices were almost always prepubescent girls."

There were only six Vestal Virgins.

My mouth dropped open because one of two things had happened: either one, I was the worst researcher in the entire world and was wrong about there only being six, or two, that entire paragraph was false. 

While I don't believe I'm the worst researcher in the world, it was enough of a possibility to make me panic for about five minutes. I skimmed through my books, looked up some sites, and whew! Everything says there were only six Vestal Virgins.

I found only two other websites that say the same thing about there being eighteen: here and here. Neither page cites any sources. T. Cato Worsfold, on the other hand, cited Plutarch and Dionysius saying there were only six.

You might think this isn't a big deal. I might read the Wikipedia article and gain some false information, but then I'll just read a book that'll clarify things for me. No harm done, right?

The problem is I've noticed in my research that whenever I run across two pieces of information that contradict, I always favor the first thing I read. All the information I have builds a picture in my head, and I try to make the rest of the information fit - sometimes, without even thinking about it, this means tossing out valid material only because it's unfamiliar.

I am a firm believer in being careful with the first place you research. Skimming the web is good at first because it sparks interest, but if you're serious about a topic, I highly recommend turning the computer off and getting a good book as soon as possible.

Even then, you're not safe. I've read some books on Marie Laveau that aren't just wrong; some of their facts don't make logical sense. (Yes, Tallant, I'm pointing a finger at you.)

When you start your research, I have three pieces of advice:

1. Be open.
2. Be suspicious.
3. Be thorough.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Becca Puglusi on Conflict vs. Tension

Today, I have the great privilege of hosting my favorite blogger, Becca Puglisi. (I was going to say "one of my favorites," but I realized that The Bookshelf Muse really is my favorite blog.) She and Angela Ackerman turned recently their brilliant blog idea into "Emotion Thesaurus," a resource to help writers show-not-tell how their characters feel, which is available for purchase.

I asked her to let me post one of her favorite articles from her blog and she sent me this little gem. Enjoy!

Conflict vs. Tension

I've had a writing epiphany that I'm DYING to share with people who won't stare blankly at me while I talk, then smile politely when I'm done. Lucky all of you.

Teralyn (that's me!) recently critiqued my historical fiction YA, and she said something that made me think. She kept writing notes in my manuscript like Where's the tension? and This would be a good spot to add tension.

No tension? What's she talking about? The main character was just abandoned by her father. Her best friend was attacked by racist pigs. The family farm is about to go under. I mean, there is conflict ALL OVER the place, so how can there be no tension??

Well, after chewing on this for awhile, I came to realize that I was confusing tension with conflict. Although the terms are often used interchangeably (and they CAN be synonymous), they aren't necessarily the same.

Blake Snyder (Save The Cat) defines CONFLICT like this: a character enters a scene with a goal and standing in the way is an obstacle. That's conflict, and it's necessary to holding the reader's interest.

TENSION in literature is important because it evokes emotion in the reader. Think of it in terms of real-life tension--that tight, stretched feeling in your belly that makes you all jittery. This is what you want your reader to feel in every single scene of your story. Tension connects the reader with the character and most of the time will keep them reading.

How are the two related? Conflict should create tension. But it doesn't, not all the time. I think of the movies my brother-in-law likes to watch, where things are always exploding and I couldn't care less. Lots of conflict. No tension. Thank God for Teralyn, whose honest comments opened my eyes to this whole idea so I can a) fix my current novel and b) not write another book with this problem.

So how, you might ask, do we write a book that's chock full of tension? Three things:

1. Conflict in every scene. Yes, every single scene. It can be big and noisy (a fistfight) or it can be quiet (a person who wants two opposing things), but make sure it's there. Too many stretches without conflict and the story starts to drag. Your reader loses interest. Examine every scene to make sure there is a clear conflict. If there isn't any, either add some or just throw the scene out, because it's not moving your story forward anyway.

2. Primal stakes. In order for conflict to create tension in your reader, the reader has to care about your character. For that to happen, the reader has to relate to your character's struggle. To paraphrase Blake Snyder, a plot that hinges on primal drives like survival, hunger, sex, protection of a loved one, fear of death, revenge, love, etc. will connect with readers at a basic level because everyone gets those things. One of the problems in my story was that I was trying to push saving the family farm as the character's goal when I should have been pushing survival. In my head, the two were synonymous, but I focused on one and not the other, and the reader didn't make the connection. Make the stakes ones every reader will relate to, and you'll have the tension you need to keep them interested.

3. Clear emotional responses. Sometimes the lack of tension is caused when a writer doesn't clearly convey the character's emotional response to conflict. I've read these stories where something nasty happens to the character but their response to it is flat or understated. And I think, if SHE doesn't care that she just got kicked out of school, why should I? This must not be a big deal after all. Make sure your character's response matches the conflict, in appropriateness and intensity.

There you go. Light bulb on. This may be old news to many of you, but I figure if I'm struggling with it, maybe someone else is, too. Pay it forward, peeps, pay it forward.


Becca Puglisi is one half of The Bookshelf Muse blogging duo, and co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression. Listing the body language, visceral reactions and thoughts associated with 75 different emotions, this brainstorming guide is a valuable tool for showing, not telling, emotion.The Emotion Thesaurus is available for purchase through AmazonBarnes & NobleiTunes, and Smashwords, and the PDF can be purchased directly from her blog.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Creative Process for a HistFic Author

I've always been fascinated by how two authors can look at the same event in history and come up with opposite interpretations of what happened.

A great example of this is the contest I hosted where I picked an event from Marie Laveau's life (the MC of my new WIP) and asked people to come up with the most imaginative interpretations as possible. The answers were surprisingly unique!

This was the event: Marie Laveau's husband bought a slave named Juliette who was notorious for running away, so he sold her, but Marie bought her again years later and then sold her again. The question was why she kept running away and why Marie bought and sold her twice:

  • Kris Waldherr's response: Juliette was very beautiful and Marie was harboring her to protect her from her owners. A love triangle developed with them and Marie's husband, so she sold her. She realized the girl was done wrong so she bought her again, but sold her again because she still couldn't handle the situation.
  • Chessny Smith's response: Juliette was born with the gift of birthing perfect children, but was unable to keep them for herself. Everyone wanted to buy her for this gift, including Marie's husband. After the son she gave them died tragically, they bought her again in hopes of getting another child, but the magic only worked once per person.
  • Mike Keyton's response: Juliette had a spiritual gift that Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen, wanted to exploit. She wasn't running away from individual owners, but was running away from Marie the entire time.
  • Kim Renfeld's response: Juliette just wanted to be free, pure and simple. Marie bought her out of pity, but Juliette's dissatisfaction with her life made her impossible to live with.
  • My response: Juliette was trying to be with her lover, who was a very bad man. Marie took her under her wing in hopes of being a good influence on her, but Juliette only kept running away. She bought her the second time because Juliette promised not to run away again, but she does anyway so Marie resells her.
See how different these ideas are? This is a small event in Marie's life, but each of these answers tells mountains about Marie's character. The four of use could write individual stories about the same person.

I had a hard time choosing which answer deserved the prize of The Emotion Thesaurus, so I put the entries in Random.org to pick the winner. The winner is... Chessny Smith!

There are published books about Marie Laveau that also have opposite interpretations. For example, Marie's first husband, Jacques Paris, disappeared a year or so after their marriage. There are no death certificates for him and there are rumors that he left her. Some time after his disappearance Marie started to refer to herself as the Widow Paris. What happened?

  • Robert Tallant's The Voodoo Queen: Jacques leaves her because he disapproves of Voodoo, he takes a job on a ship, and a storm kills him.
  • Francine Prose's Marie Laveau: Jacques is possessed by a Voodoo spirit on their wedding night and the spirit takes him as her own.
  • Jewell Parker Rhodes' Voodoo Dreams: The conjurer Dr. John, Marie's lover and arch enemy, turns Jaques into a zombie.
  • My version: Marie and Jacques have a difficult marriage but are willing to stick it through. One day he doesn't come home. Everyone believes he left her, but Marie believes he must have been killed. If she had been practicing Voodoo she could have protected him and helped their marriage, so this inspires her to become a priestess.

I don't know about you, but I think doing this - piecing together facts, reading between the lines - is loads of fun.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Interview with Dori Jones Yang, Author of "Son of Venice"

Today I have the privilege of welcoming back Dori Jones Yang, author of "Son of Venice." I enjoyed interviewing her about the first book, "Daughter of Xanadu," a story of the daughter of the Great Khan Khubilai and her relationship with Marco Polo. The sequel continues the story of Marco Polo and Emmajin after the Great Khan sends them on a voyage to the West.



 In what ways is Son of Venice different from Daughter of Xanadu? In what ways is it the same?

Son of Venice is the sequel to Daughter of Xanadu, so it continues the fictional story of Emmajin and Marco Polo. Originally, I wrote them as one book. But that book got to be too long, so I divided it in two. In Daughter of Xanadu, Emmajin resists her growing attraction to Marco because she is set on achieving her goal of becoming a legendary warrior. By the end, she has altered her ambition and clearly chosen him. But in that era, her imperial family and her fellow soldiers could not possibly approve of such a choice. In Son of Venice, she tries to have it all: both Marco’s love and the respect of her family. But those two desires are in direct conflict. Unlike Daughter of Xanadu, which is told in Emmajin’s voice, Son of Venice alternates between her voice and his. Honestly - what was he thinking, pursuing the granddaughter of the world’s most powerful ruler?

In Son of Venice, the two main characters are on a journey to the West. What locations do they see? Were you able to travel to these locations?

I don’t want to give away the ending, so I can’t say all the locations that they pass through and visit, but their journey takes place along the Silk Road, the trade route connecting East and West. I visited many of the locations along the way, including a lovely grape-growing valley called Turpan. It surprised me because the local people are Muslims who love singing, dancing, and drinking wine! Other important locations in Son of Venice are much harder to visit, including Lake Issyk Kul, and huge saltwater lake where some crucial scenes take place. I really want to go there some day!

Is this a sequel you can read it without having read the first book, Daughter of Xanadu? Or do you highly recommend reading both of them in order?

Son of Venice is the sequel to Daughter of Xanadu. I worked hard to make it a standalone book, but it probably would not make much sense to a reader who had not read the first book.

The first book was written exclusively from Emmajin's point of view - the female love interest - but in Son of Venice, you switch back and forth between Emmajin and Marco. What made you decide to use the two points of view in the second book but stick to only Emmajin's in the first?

I chose to write Daughter of Xanadu in Emmajin’s point of view because I wanted to turn history on its head. Usually, we read the white male perspective; I wanted to look at history through the eyes of an Asian woman. But in Son of Venice, Emmajin and Marco are separated for parts of the story. When I wrote only in Emmajin’s viewpoint, I wondered: What was Marco up to, offstage? So I rewrote the book in alternating viewpoints, and I came to understand Marco a lot better. As a storyteller, he longed to plunge into the action and be a hero himself. So by the end of the book, we get to see Marco Polo acting in ways that are bold and daring. It’s tricky having two protagonists; both must make decisions and take action.

While researching this novel, did you run into anything that surprised you?

Oh, yes, many things! One of the most important was gunpowder. I found out that the 13th century was a turning point in warfare, when gunpowder was used in battle for the first time. Before that, the Chinese used it only as a noisemaker for celebrations. It’s an urban legend that Marco Polo brought gunpowder—and noodles—from China to Italy. Marco never mentions either in his book. But it is true that gunpowder first came to Europe during Marco’s era. Since it might have been him, I had to put this aspect into the book. I did research about fireworks and how Marco might have learned to set them off. Son of Venice ends with a big celebration and fireworks –but that scene contains twists and turns that will surprise you. I hope!

If you could invite five historical people of your choice to a dinner party, who would you choose?

I would not choose Khubilai Khan, because as Emperor he would expect to dominate the conversation. We would all have to stop speaking every time he took a sip of airag, fermented mare’s milk. If he could speak English, I’d invite Marco Polo because he was a very entertaining story-teller – and I’d want to know the truth about what love affair(s) he had in China. But frankly, I’d most want to invite Han Suyin, Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), Beryl Markham, and Pearl Buck. They are all women writers – and all born before 1920, so that makes them historical, right? All wrote about their life stories in distant countries – China and Africa. They all wrote beautifully.  When I grow up, I want to be like them!

Thanks for the interview Dori, and good luck with your book!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Working on Two Books at Once: Advantages and Disadvantages

I had what I thought was a stroke of genius when I decided to start researching my next book while I finish up with Sacred Fire. Turns out there are a lot of advantages to working on two books at once, but there are also disadvantages.

Advantages

Recently, I got stuck on a part in Sacred Fire I didn't know how to fix. The best thing for me was to take a step back and give myself some time to think about it, but that meant my whole day was shot. 

I twiddled my thumbs trying to decide what to do when I remembered a book I got for Christmas, "A New Orleans Voudou Priestess: The Legend and Reality of Marie Laveau." I spent two fun-filled days reading that book, taking notes, making time lines, and when the two days were over, I finally decided what I wanted to do with Sacred Fire.

Even after going back to Sacred Fire, it's nice after a few long hours of revision to switch over to reading a book. (I think research is a million times easier than revision.) It gives variety to my day and makes it more productive.

Disadvantages

The next time I sat down to work on Sacred Fire, all I could think about was Voodoo Queen. 

The first book has taken buckets of my blood, sweat, and tears, not to mention five years of my life, and has caused me much frustration. The second, on the other hand, is new and shiny. Voodoo Queen and I don't have a history together. I can have a fresh start.

Starting my new book is more alluring than finishing my old one because it's my escape when times get tough. This is bad because I don't want to escape; I want to finish Sacred Fire and get it into the hands of an agent already.

Working on two books sometimes makes me feel like my head's going to explode. Most of the writing process takes place when your mind wanders - while doing dishes, driving, lying awake in bed. When I work on two books at once, my brain works twice as hard.

Do you sometimes work on two books at once, or do you strictly stick to one at a time?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Help Me Solve a History Puzzle and Win "The Emotion Thesaurus"

I've started researching my next novel about Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen of New Orleans. Much of her legend is completely false, like stories about snakes named Zombi who eat babies and storms blowing houses away with priestesses inside.

Then there are facts that are proven but don't add up. One such mystery has me scratching my head so much that even though I don't think I'll use it in the book, it's going to bug me if I can't come up with any theories. 

I thought we could make a game of it.

Whoever can come up with the most imaginative answer to this question will receive a free PDF version of Emotion Thesaurus by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman.

Let's get our thinking caps on!

Marie Laveau's husband bought an eighteen-year-old slave named Juliette whose contract stated she must be freed at 24-years-old. He resold her within the year because she kept trying to run away. Her next owner sold her within a year for the same reason. Juliette continued swapping hands until Marie Laveau purchased her again, then sold her again. The girl was owned by ten people before she was finally freed at the age of 25.

What was Juliette running from? Or what was she running to? What was so urgent that she couldn't wait until she was 24? Most importantly, why did Marie Laveau buy her again after things didn't work out the first time?

Historical Clues:

My gut reaction says Marie bought her the second time out of pity, and perhaps the first time as well. It's an easy idea to support; Marie was known for being a philanthropist. Almost all of her slaves were in situations where they needed her help: an eight-year-old girl and two pregnant women who already had infants. It's possible that these purchases were all service projects.

If Marie bought Juliette out of pity, it meant she thought she could help the girl somehow. Since the girl was sold again only nine months after her purchase, whatever Marie planned on doing with her - helping her, keeping her safe, using her as a maid - didn't work out. 

Or perhaps Marie planned on owning her for only nine months from the beginning. That doesn't make sense to me, especially since the girl ran away again shortly after Marie purchased her.

There are rumors that Marie Laveau was a procuress of prostitutes, which would lead you to believe Juliette was running from sexual slavery. This is impossible to support. While Marie Laveau was openly criticized for many things in her lifetime, this accusation was only made against one voodoo priestess - Betsy Toleano - who was arrested multiple times for "illegal" mixed-racial gatherings. This is most likely outrageous libel, but even if it was true, no one suspected Marie Laveau of any such misconduct until long after her death.

Modern Marie Laveau enthusiasts say she fought for civil rights, so one might think she wanted to help Juliette earn her freedom before she was 24. This is ridiculous. While Marie owned several slaves, she never freed any of them, and if she was concerned with Juliette's freedom, she wouldn't have sold her twice.

Let the creative theorizing begin!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Using God as a Writing Tool

Writers have an abundance of resources at their fingertips: books on writing, classes, blogs, other writers, conferences, seminars... the list goes on. If someone asked what writing tool has been the most helpful for me, I would say God.


It might sound sacrilegious to say I'm using God for anything, much less as a tool, but hear me out.


God is the greatest creator. The Bible says we're supposed to be godlike. Ergo, I believe He wants us to create. Whether it be something as important as children or something as unassuming as writing a novel, He is invested in not just our happiness but our success as creators.


When we look at it that way, it's easy to feel greater confidence in our writing. We have angels rooting for us. They cheer when we complete projects. On the reverse side, the Adversary wants us to believe we suck and we'll never be good at anything. Whenever you feel down on your writing, you can rightfully say, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" (Matthew 16:23) This outlook gives us purpose, and purpose is the greatest motivator.


But there's more to it than that.


Starting my writing sessions with prayer and scripture study improves my work. It lifts me up above my problems and insecurities by giving me more of an eternal perspective in my life. It clears my mind and inspires me.


There's more to it than that, too.


When I say God is a writing resource, I mean it in a very literal sense. Not only does He want me to write, but He's willing to assist me. I notice when I pray for help in writing my novel, I'm guided to the right beta readers, helpful blogs, useful books, and other things that make a world of difference. Things I have trouble with will suddenly click for me.


I don't believe He makes me a better writer; that's work I'm supposed to do on my own. I believe when I ask Him, He helps me with the things I can't do by myself.


If you're religious, I highly recommend using God as a partner in your writing. If you're not religious, He's there if you change your mind.

Friday, July 13, 2012

How Much was Your Day Worth?

When you're a stay-at-home writer, some days are more productive than others. Sometimes you're on fire and work until only hunger can drag you away from the computer. Occasionally a day gets away from you completely. 

I've started using my Work Diary to not just keep track of how much I write but everything I do (cleaning, reading, screwing around on the internet). That way in the evening, I can answer the question I ask myself too often: What on earth did I do all day?
Once my entry in my Work Diary was pretty sparse. I frowned and thought of how much money I used to make per day at my job and decided, "Well, this day wasn't worth the money I gave up for it."

I don't think that way very often. Never once have I pined over my lost salary (mostly because there wasn't much to pine over). I have zero guilt about staying home to write, (though I do feel like I have to keep the house clean and the fridge stocked to earn my keep).

However, the thought that my time wasn't worth X amount of dollars changed the way I look at my days. 

There are other ways of looking at your days beyond their monetary worth. It can be hard to view your time as limited, especially when you're young, but we don't have forever to waste on dawdling. Was what you did today worth giving up 24 hours of the little time you have left?

One thing I like to focus on is how I'll feel at the end of the day if I'm not productive enough. If I don't get anything done, in the evening I feel sluggish, grumpy, self-deprecating, and I'm not someone my husband wants to come home to. Enough days of that can make your whole life feel pointless. Every month I look back on the things I did, and if I ever wasted an entire month of my life, imagine how awful I'd feel.



I should probably add a caveat, since I've laid on the pressure pretty thick: while it's good to look at your time as precious, feeling guilty over lost time will always - always - drag you down and make you even less productive. Do. Not. Feel. Guilty. Just think about how you can improve in the future and try again tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"The Help": an Example of Building Tension

I once wrote an article on Creating Tension where I said questions and choices drive stories forward better than anything else. (Also see my article on How to Not Create Tension.) After watching the movie The Help, I realized Kathryn Stockett’s book was an excellent example of this concept. I believe that's why it met with phenomenal success.

For those of you who haven’t read it, the story takes place in the 60’s in Mississippi. It’s about a white woman named Skeeter who wants to write a book about the experiences of black maids. This is illegal, however, and the maids could lose their jobs and even their lives.

I didn’t think a book about maids would be a page-turner, but it’s one of those novels where you’re itching to pick it up again to see what happens next. The book was fantastic for many reasons – it’s an all-around good read – but it was the questions that compelled me to finish it.

I highly recommend reading The Help not just because it’s a good book, but because it taught me a lot about strong story structure. Every character has a personality, goals, and backstory, and the novel is full to the brim with intrigue and plot layers.

I made a list of questions made it impossible for me to stop reading. Until I wrote them all down, I didn't realize there were so many!

Skeeter: Will she be able to publish her novel? Can she protect the maids? Will she and Stuart end up together?

Mrs. Hilly: Whom will she hurt next? Will she stop Skeeter’s book from being published?

Constantine: Why did she stop working for Skeeter’s family? Why won’t anyone talk about it?

Stuart: What happened between him and his ex-fiancé? Will he be able to love again?

Mae Mobley: How will Abileen protect her from her neglectful mother?

Celia: Why does she keep sneaking off upstairs while Milly’s working? Why won’t she tell her husband she hired a maid?

Milly: What was the “terrible awful” thing that she did? Will she get in trouble when Celia's husband finds out she's been working at his house? Will she ever escape from her abusive husband?

Charlotte: Will she and Skeeter ever have a healthy relationship? Will she die? Why won't she tell Skeeter what happened to Constantine?

Does your novel have that much tension? If not, don't feel too down on yourself: most novels don't! But it's a remarkable achievement that Kathryn Stockett could make such an unassuming plot so completely engrossing. If she can do that with a story about maids, I'm sure you can do it too.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Books I Read in June

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford


Henry is a Chinese boy just trying to get through World War II whose life is complicated by a charming girl whose Japanese heritage makes her an enemy to his family.


What struck me most about this story was the innocence of the relationship between Henry and Keiko. They're so sweet and pure during a time of such darkness and turmoil that you want it to work for them, especially since nothing else in the world does.




Room by Emma Donoghue


Jack has lived his whole life in an eleven-by-eleven room with his mother. He doesn't know anything exists outside of the room until his mother shares an escape plan.


When I first started reading this book I didn't expect it to be so disturbing, and then I didn't expect it to be so uplifting. In the end, it's a story about healing and finding your place in the world. Using Jack as the narrator makes the story interesting, and I grew to really admire the mother.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Will Smith's Motivational Speech

I love this little speech Will Smith gives about how running and reading are the keys to life, so I wanted to share it with you lovely people.



Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Why Blogging is Always the First to Go

I figured after working from home for a full month, I would have a long list of insight into a writer's lifestyle that I could turn into many mind-blowing blog articles. 

Instead, I'm here in front of the computer not sure what to say. I'm still trying to wrap my head around things. I've noticed when I go through life-altering events, it takes so long to process that I can't summarize my experiences into tidy posts for my readers.

Ergo, every time a big change happens to me and I need to resort my priorities, blogging is the first thing to go. For the past month keeping up with my blog has been a struggle. I've more or less squeaked by on drafts of articles I wrote months ago.

I think it's natural to take time to adjust to big changes. When I quit my job, I mapped out a schedule for myself that I planned on following meticulously, but everyday I decide to do things differently. I thought I knew how long everything would take, what things were most important to me, and how much energy I would have, but I keep re-calibrating what I do. I think I'm also re-calibrating who I am.

I have zero complaints. Everything about working from home so far has lived up to my expectations. The only thing that's surprised me is I don't start my mornings full of excitement and enthusiasm for the day ahead like I thought I would. Those days will come, I'm sure, but I didn't think I'd have to work for them.

To sum up, I have yet to gain bits of wisdom to share with you about my new life. Maybe later I'll have tips about budgeting time, setting priorities, motivation, and things like that. Who knows, maybe I'll even have a light-bulb moment tomorrow. For now, though, I'm still learning.
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