A Day in the Life

Homeschooling and Medieval Living

20 Books I Want to Read

  1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  4. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  6. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  8. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  9. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  10. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  11. The Stand by Stephen King
  12. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  13. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  14. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  15. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  16. The Timetraveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  17. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  18. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  19. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
  20. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
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My Top 10 Books of All Time

Photo Credit: stevehuang7 via Compfight

Photo Credit: stevehuang7 via Compfight

I have just started reading a new book. It is called Building Fiction: How to Develop Plot and Structure by Jesse Lee Kercheval. So far, it is pretty good. It is full of great writing exercises. I was putting all of my answers to them in a notebook. Then I figured I could just put them here to share with all my fellow writers out there. So here they are. Exercise number one is: “[Make a list of] your favorite books. Explore why you remember each one. Was it a particular scene? A character? A memorable phrase or insight into life?”

1. Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

I really like this story because the main character, Harry Dresden, is dead. He died in the last book. He spends the entire book (in ghost form) trying to figure out who killed him. This is very unique and wonderfully written. The entire series really changed how I saw fantasy and magic. Jim Butcher gave me the inspiration to write my own fantasy novel.

2. The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah by Stephen King

His characters spend a portion of the book looking for their creator – a writer by the name of Stephen King. It adds just enough surrealism to make it interesting. King appears several times in this book. It is both comical and thought-provoking. This showed me that the fourth wall can be broken successfully.

3. On Writing by Stephen King

This is both a memoir and a how-to book. It gives great insight into the man himself. The first third of the book is about his life before the accident that nearly took it . The second third is full of wonderful advice and writing gems. He tells the best way to find an agent and how to sell your work. He even includes some great book recommendations. The last third of the book concerns the accident and his recovery. He explains how writing, along with his wife Tabitha, saved his life. This is by far the best writing book I have read.

4. Thud! by Terry Pratchett

The main plot of this novel concerns the ongoing strife between the trolls and dwarfs and the Battle of Koom Valley. There is a small subplot that I enjoyed even more. The main character is Sam Vimes, Commander of the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork. Sam makes it a point to be at home by six every night so that he can read Where’s My Cow to his 16-month-old son. His love for his son carries him through the entire book. He even uses quotes from Where’s My Cow as zingers to the bad guys. The final scene will stay with me forever. I don’t want to spoil this for anyone so I won’t go into detail. I will say that it was so popular that Terry Pratchett actually wrote and published Where’s My Cow afterwards.

5. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

This book was the inspiration for the movie Apocalypse Now. It details the differences between barbarians and civilized society. Which side is actually more “civilized” – the British who colonized Africa or the tribesmen who where dominated and mistreated? I love how Conrad shows the fall of Mr. Kurtz through Marlow’s eyes. Marlow actually reveres Mr. Kurtz even through scenes of severe violence and domination. It is an eerie book and a must-read.

6. The Stranger by Albert Camus

I love the opening paragraph from this novel. “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: ‘Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.’ That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday.” During the climax of the book, the main character (Meursault) fights with and kills a man. Meursault is then put on trial. The trial does not concern the incident so much as Meursault’s apathy throughout life. He was judged for not crying at this mother’s funeral. How sad it is to have a life not lived – to merely exist.

7. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams was my introduction to science fiction. I was most fortunate to have listened to a lecture he gave at the University of Texas at Austin. He also signed a book for me. The man was very brilliant speaker and writer. Arthur Dent is one of my favorite characters in science fiction. He is a mild-mannered ordinary man who falls into adventure and chaos from time to time. And he never can get the hang of Thursdays. Douglas Adams is sorely missed.

8. Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice

I love the vampire Lestat. Rice wrote great vampire fiction before vampires were “cool”. Lestat is not cool or loving. He certainly does not sparkle. Vampires in this novel are blood-sucking monsters – and you can’t help but love them. The entire series is full of vampires portrayed the way they should be.

9. The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien

The work Tolkien put into this entire series is just amazing. He created an entire world – complete with it’s own languages and writing. It took him years to put it all together. He was a brilliant and very creative writer.

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

I like the last book the best. I love all the torment and angst of it. Teens are my favorite characters sometimes. I love how Rowling can start with a boy in dire straights and end with him as an adult in a normal tube station. The twists and turns are phenomenal.

Well, there you have it. Those are my top ten favorite books of all time. I read and re-read them. I give copies of them to friends. I spout their greatness to the world. Feel free to comment below and let me know what your favorites are. I would love to hear about them. Or if you put them in a blog post, give me a ping back. I will definitely check it out.

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Writing Prompt #1

Softball pitcher

Photo Credit: 2stanley via Compfight

I just finished reading a book called What to Talk About by Chris Colin and Rob Baedeker. This book has many ideas for conversation starters. It had a really great thing on page 126 – conversation prompts. I took these and made writing prompts out of them. After all, what is writing but one long conversation between the author and the reader? So here is one of them. “I never saw it coming until…”

I never saw it coming until it hit me in the arm. It hurt like hell, even though it was a softball. The thirteen-year-old pitcher held an expression like she hated the world – or wanted to rule it. She reminded me of a James Bond villain, only younger (and way cuter). She smiled as I heard the umpire say “Strike three. You’re out!”

It’s just one scene but I kinda like it. I may have to put it in a longer story somewhere. What can you come up with? If you try it, feel free to give me a ping back and I will check it out. Happy writing!

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Meeting Demand

Hi there!

I have been thinking about you guys lately. I have become obsessed with stats. I look to see what is popular and what isn’t. But then I thought the best way to get in touch with my readership would be to put the question to you in a poll. So here it is. Let me know what you would like me to write more about. Any comments can be sent to me privately through a feedback form on my About Page. You can also add it in the “other” section if you aren’t concerned about privacy. 🙂

Please vote soon, polling ends December 26, 2014

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Writer’s Group

Tuesday night I attended a holiday party thrown by the local writer’s group. I called up the contact person to ask about where and when they met. She invited me to their annual holiday party – even though we had never met. I have been dying for some adult conversation with other writers so I accepted. She said I could bring someone. My husband was my plus one. We had a wonderful time. There were all sorts of interesting people there – published authors and newbies alike. I even found one woman who shares many of my views on life and politics.

While there, I found out the following about the group:
– Every meeting starts with each member reading aloud eight pages of his/her manuscript.
– The members can write/read about anything under the sun (no matter how offensive it may be).
– Any other member reserves the right to leave if they become offended (although, in the last six years, that has never happened).
– All opinions must be constructive and polite. Destructive criticism of any kind is not allowed.

I really love the group I have found. While getting ready for the next meeting, I have managed to finally finish and polish my first chapter. I intend to read it at the next meeting. I am so excited. I just cannot wait. I really look forward to getting reviews and advice from published authors. I think a writer’s group can be really helpful to new authors. They offer the advice and support that so many of us are missing. There are so many famous published authors who really hate writer’s groups (Dean Koontz for one). But I am willing to give this one a chance. I will attend my first actual meeting on January 6, 2015. They meet the first and third Tuesday of every month. So I will write more about this group that week. But at least for now, these people have inspired me to write more and love doing it.

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Creating Something from Nothing

Photo Credit: Sharon Drummond via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Sharon Drummond via Compfight

It is so hard for me to come up with inspiration. Sometimes, I need a writing prompt, others just a word or phrase from someone. I was hoping I would have more happening in my life that I could write about. Lately, it seems I have so little. I should be working on my novel. There are so many things that get in the way of that. I have homeschooling, driving my husband back and forth to school (he has no license) and taking my dear mother to her various doctor appointments. I have no problem with any of those activities. That is why my book suffers.
Then, when I do sit down to write on my novel, I am wracked with insecurity and perfectionism. I rewrite every paragraph I write. I really want to be able to write it and leave it – at least until the entire thing is written. I keep adding to the plot, changing characters and deleting whole chapters.
So, I come back to my blog. For some reason, my perfectionism doesn’t interfere here. I write and post – no problem. I will share some important writing resources with you today. In need of a writing prompt or two? Here are some places to get those ideas flowing.

Daily Post
The Daily Post has everything from blogging courses to daily and weekly prompts. I love it. I have used a few of the ideas for my own blog. There are also many articles about how to blog and how to reach a wider audience. They just started their Blogging University this year. The University has a new course – Blogging 101: Zero to Hero.

Daily Compass
The Daily Compass is full of writing prompts as well as spiritual introspection. There is always a question at the end of the posting that really gets you thinking. This is another one of my favorite sites. Many of my posts from January of this year are written from their prompts. Some of them have left me melancholy while others have helped me become a better person. It is well worth checking out, even if you aren’t a writer.

Seventh Sanctum
The Seventh Sanctum is a generator of massive proportions. I have used it for writing prompts, name ideas, character generators and D and D campaigns. It has so many uses. There is the What-if-inator that generates scrambled histories, Quick Story Ideas, and the Symbolitron (that generates story ideas with meaning) – just to name a few.

Rory’s Story Cubes
Rory’s Story Cubes are actual physical dice. Each six-sided die contains several pictures on it. There are nine dice in all. Roll the dice for some interesting story ideas. If you don’t want the actual dice (for fear of losing them), you can also download his app from the App Store or Google Play. I have the app for Android. I love it. I have used it for ideas and for fun. Whenever I am in line at the store or just want a giggle with the family, I pull it out. The kids like making up stories with it.

RPG Character Generator
The RPG Generator by AC Arcana is great for generating characters. I have reviewed this app in my blog before. I even included screen shots.

Well, that should be enough to get you started. I am currently creating pages for resources. I hope to have them up soon. I will have one for writing resources and one for homeschooling resources. If there is anything you think I should include in this list, please let me know in the comments below.

Happy writing!

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Hope is Overrated

Because every time you see them happy you remember how sad they’re going to be. And it breaks your heart. Because what’s the point in them being happy now if they’re going to be sad later. The answer is, of course, because they are going to be sad later.

– The Doctor (Matt Smith), Doctor Who

I have a big problem with the word hope. I hate it. I really do. Every time I apply for a job, I hope I will get it. Then, I don’t. Then I get angry for getting my hopes up. My husband always says the same thing to me “Don’t worry. It will all work out.” I get so angry at him every time he says that.

It used to be different. I used to hope anyway. I am not really sure when that changed. I know my depression has A LOT to do with it. I just don’t seem to care much anymore. My husband and I had an in-depth discussion about this just last week. I am becoming more and more like Eyeore. I tend to look on the not-so-bright side. He is the opposite. I told him to stop saying things will always work out. “Why must you be so optimistic and hopeful?” I asked him for the millionth time. I told him there was no point being hopeful or happy about a possible outcome. He then looked me straight in the eyes and paraphrased our favorite fictional character. He said, “You should always be hopeful and happy because you may be sad later.” This startled me. I had never thought about it that way before.

You see, my husband is the king of irony. He takes things in an entirely different way than most of society. He has ADHD and he has an above average IQ. So, he is different. In fact, his personality reminds me so much of Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) in Sherlock. He takes things quite literally, he lacks empathy and he rarely gets the nuances in what others are saying. He looks at things logically. He is more thinking whereas I am more emotional. Sometimes it is so difficult to explain his thought processes to others. He comes across as unfeeling and harsh. I know he doesn’t do it intentionally. In fact, he has no intention at all behind his words. He doesn’t think as the rest of us do. This trait forces me to think outside the box more often than I ever thought I would.

So, it really came as a shock when he said something that actually made sense to me. I didn’t have to look at it from a different angle. It just made sense. So, I should be happy because I may be sad later. I will try to take him up on that challenge. It will be difficult, but I will try. Maybe hope is not so overrated after all.

This post is in response to the Daily Post‘s Writing Challenge of the Week – Oh, The Irony.

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Jeff Goins Saved My Life

I sat at my computer as I normally do – stressed out and lacking in thought. I stared at my blank page of MS Word and growled. This was not going to be a good day for writing. “Why is Microsoft torturing me – again?” I thought. Three times I had re-written my 3,000 words. I moved them about the page. I copy/pasted them into OneNote (for more sharing capability). Nothing was working. Since I was not going to be writing, I turned to my second love – reading. I like to read blogs. They inspire me. The one I chose yesterday was no exception. I turned to Jeff Goins.

The first headline that caught my eye was “Why I Will Never Use Microsoft Word Again”. Since I was really feeling that pain, I decided to give that post a go. In his insightful post, he described his trials and frustrations with the dreaded word processing software. He had been using it for years and was fed up with it. He said that he had “finally seen the light”. He had found Scrivener. Many authors use this handy piece of software, including Michael Hyatt and Andy Traub. And now, so do I.

I went on over to the link above and checked out Scrivener. I noticed the 30 day trial that is offered. So, I downloaded it, watched the how-to videos and read their in-software tutorial. I have one word to say – amazing. It was totally love at first sight. I immediately imported everything I have written into it. I moved words from Word and OneNote. I even moved all my research into one place. Scrivener will hold just about anything. It now houses my wiki links, PDFs, sound files, video files, pictures, manuscript, notes – everything. The best thing is, if I don’t like Scrivener, everything will export right back to its original format. I can also save my manuscript as a PDF or Kindle format.

OK, so this isn’t an ad for Scrivener – I promise. It is about Jeff Goins and how he saved me. Well, after using Scrivener for a couple of hours, I could feel the stress levels plummeting. So, I went back to his blog and read some more. I read “10 Steps to Finding Your Writing Voice“. In this article, he explains that you should find your voice in order to “set yourself apart”. It will make you stand out from the crowd. It will also keep you from getting burned out. After completing his exercises, I think I am finally finding my voice. I was always afraid to use my voice. I found that riding the fence does nothing for your readers and it makes the work stale. I really need to stop that. I looked through my blog and studied the statistics of each one. I found that the post I wrote during my depression was the most popular – because it is real and in my own voice. I wrote it from the heart. Afterwards, I was afraid that it would get some negative feedback (mainly from my family). Some of them can be rather harsh. But I left it anyway. I am glad I did.

Thank you, Jeff, for inspiring and enriching the bloggosphere. You are an amazing writer. I look forward to many more posts.

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NaNoWriMo – Help or Hindrance?

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It takes place every November 1-30. It started in 1999 as a motivational tactic for a group of young writers. It has since blossomed into a national non-profit organization. Today, there are over 300,000 participants who all agree to write at least 50,000 words by 11:59 pm on November 30. According to their website: “Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.”

The good about NaNoWriMo:

1. It encourages adults (and youth) to write. During the first couple of years of homeschooling, my kids absolutely hated writing. This would have been a great tool to use with them. Since I found out about it last year, I have used their tools and resources to nurture a love of writing. My daughter now writes fan fiction – and loves doing it. I am still working on my son.

2. It creates inspiration. At the beginning of 2013, I had a dream of writing. It didn’t have to be a novel. I had already written several short stories. A friend of mine introduced me to NaNoWriMo late that October. I signed up that November and wrote my little heart out. As hard as I tried, I could not finish that novel. I just cannot write crap intentionally. I have to revise as I go. Then, I revise again. And again. I finally made it to chapter three. Yay me! That is still a far cry from a complete novel, but I digress…

3. It helps my depression. Up until November, I was depressed and had no energy. I normally love to read and write. But, the depression had a strong hold on me that year. NaNoWriMo and my friend J helped me out. I signed up and sat down with J. We put together an outline for my novel and I began to write. I talked with the NaNoWriMo community and I had a goal. I tend to become obsessive over things and this was no exception. I wrote like a gal on fire. I still revised like crazy. I re-wrote more than I wrote. But it was all good. I had purpose and I was ecstatic.

The bad about NaNoWriMo:

1. It encourages bad writing. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to simply write. This allows a lot of drivel to make its way to the page. Revision usually culls the crap. But, revision is not encouraged. Participants are told to simply write – anything. Some writers become so obsessed with meeting the 50,000 word deadline (and, thus, winning NaNoWriMo), that they forget all about revising.

2. It sets the writer up to fail. It encourages writers to write, write, write. This is good. Then, the writer finishes that novel and sends it off to a publisher. The publisher will either accept it or not. Rejection letters are a common thing among new writers. But let’s suppose that it is actually accepted by a publisher. Now you have a book out there that is not being read. So much emphasis is put on writing, that reading takes a back burner. What was the last novel you read? I think I may be the exception. I just finished reading my fourth novel in a month (and that is a bit low for me). Getting a book published doesn’t really mean much if there is no one to read it. For more on this subject, check out Laura Miller’s article at Salon.

3. It makes my stress/depression worse. OK, so I was really manic for a month. I didn’t finish my 50,000 words. I spent so much time revising that I felt like a failure. I had little to show for all my hard work. I had spent a month of writing furiously and I only had about 3,000 words to show for it. December saw me spiraling downward again. I felt so low – again. It has taken me months to really snap out of that feeling of failure and hopelessness.

I have thought long and hard about NaNoWriMo. Do I want to participate this year? I think I will but not to the extent of last year. I will not even register this time. Instead, I am just going to write a little every day (and revise, revise, revise). I will not try to finish that novel in a month. I will work on it. I still only have 3,000 words. But that is just fine with me. It will get finished eventually. I have my own goals in life. I have taken on a couple of freelance writing gigs. That is way more than I had last year. Since writing is my only income, it makes a world of difference. That novel is not going to pay my electric this month. So, I will work on it between actual paying gigs. I think it helped me begin my writing career but I won’t rely on it entirely anymore.

What do you think of NaNoWriMo? How has it helped you? Feel free to comment about your experiences with it. I love to be enlightened.

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RPG Generator Adds Life to Novel

Hey there guys and gals!

Do you suffer from writer’s block? Have you found more than one character standing as a cardboard cutout with no depth? Do you want to add dimensions to your characters and fill them full of life? I have some really great news! There is indeed and app for that!

AC Arcana’s RPG Character Generator is just amazing. I sat for almost a month with writer’s block. I really needed a new character to make a scene work. Also, most of my other characters were just pieces of furniture – you know, not comfy and made of wood? So, I went online and looked for inspiration (as you do). I found many things I could purchase: writer’s dice, story dice, etc. None of them seemed to fit what I needed. I then went to my daughter (who writes lots of fan fiction) and said “Man, I wish I knew Java or C++. I would then create this really cool app that would generate a character based on certain parameters.”

“But there’s already one out there,” she announced.

“You have GOT to be kidding me!”

“No, really there is. See? Take a look.”

A few minutes later, I had an awesome character drawn up and a new subplot added to my novel. Yay me!

First of all, there is a free version with ads and a $1.49 version without. Right now, I have the free version. I will be buying it today because it is just that great. Although, this review is based on the free version for Android. I downloaded it from the Google Play Store.

RPG Character Generator - screenshot

The first thing you notice when you open the app is an array of character attributes. They are broken down into the following categories:

  • Role
  • Appearance
  • Personality
  • Birthplace or Home
  • Past
  • Religion
  • Family
  • Sexuality

For example, Role has the following drop down menus:

  • Role
  • Archetype
  • Preferred Weapon
  • Alignment

Even archetype has oodles of choices in a drop down menu: alchemist, assassin, brute, cavalier, craftsman, defender, diplomat, enchanter, entertainer, inquisitor, magus, monk, naturalist, necromancer, paladin, peasant, priest, ranger, sage, scout, sharpshooter, sorcerer, swashbuckler, thief, warlock and warrior. And if you don’t like any of these, you can always add your own by choosing “other….”

Once you make a choice in the pull down menu, a description appears under your choice. For instance, for Paladin it says “Choose a class geared towards protection and healing.”

There is a lock beside each of the drop down menus. This allows you to choose from only a few of them and lock your choices in place. Then you can hit the randomize button to get rid of the ones you don’t want.

Many of them are geared toward gaming. But, it can be used for other characters as well. My favorite Personality menu is “Quirks”. It lets you add just about anything (some examples are: activist, addicted to a Narcotic, arachnophobia, drama queen, schizophrenia, touchy feely are just a few) . You can add multiple quirks and you can even make up your own.

Once you have created your character, you can then save it (with his/her name that can be generated as well) in one of ten slots.

Here is the character sketch I created last night.

Dak is a tall, runty, young adult human male with spiked purple hair and green eyes. He is a priest who carries a quarterstaff. His alignment is neutral good. He is clean shaven and likes to wear chains, studs, leather coats, and bandanas. He seeks to know all the secrets of the universe and has a tendency to come up with strange and surprising ideas.  He always wants to ask about every detail about everything. He goes out of his way to find libraries, rare books, wise men, and sages alike to learn their secrets. He finds matter-of-fact, casual humor the most amusing and he keeps a lucky charm. He is an avid reader, tea lover and inventor. He was born in a small mountain village that was quickly built as temporary housing for a gold rush or mine. The village community all know each other well and are interested in each other’s lives. In his past, he was once married. He managed to find and fall in love again (after his marriage fell apart).  He devotes more time than most to matters involving his faith. His religion puts emphasis on the traditions regarding multiple gods. His faith has a local following only. He has an overall average sized family (with three siblings). He has family members who are addicted to some kind of mind altering substance. He is a member of the lower class with an average reputation.

All of that came from one little app.

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