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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Happy 4th Blogiversary! (Featuring a Giveaway)

Around four years ago, I sat down and decided I wanted to start another blog. A blog where I could write about my thoughts on books, inspired by discussions I had on literature while I was attending university. The word blog is a weird in and of itself. Then we have the word blogiversary. What has the English language come to?

I decided to ask the internet, yes, the internet, if anybody had any questions about my writing or blogging process. Here are the questions and my answers. Stick around because I’m running a giveaway at the end!


Why did you start Word Storm? And why a blog and not any other social media?


I started Word Storm because bookish discussions make me excited. When I was in college, I wanted to continue to talk about books outside of classes. Now that I’ve graduated with my degrees in English and English Literature, I’m glad I started my blog when I did.

I picked a blog because I’m not very outgoing when it comes to other forms of social media. I have a Twitter and an Instagram account, but I’m chattier in the blogisphere. Also, I prefer writing over talking, so you probably won’t hear/see me on YouTube anytime soon.

Read more about Why Word Storm? on my About page.


What inspired you to write blog posts?


It all depends on the blog post. When I started blogging, college classroom discussions inspired me. Now, I draw inspiration from the books I read, trends I see, you name it. My last blog post, A Guide to Getting Lost in Your Local Library, was inspired by my constant visits to my library where I like to volunteer and bring home one too many books.

Actually, I’d say fewer of my blog posts come from inspiration than hard work. Inspiration is a term that’s way overused. Maybe 1% of writing is inspiration and 99% is actual writing. And that inspiration? Its name is coffee.

Did your family play a role in your interest in writing?


Yes and no. Both my parents gave me a passion for stories and reading. My mom especially used to tell me many outlandish stories when I was a kid, so like Hiccup, at least I know where I get my dramatic flair from. But most of my interest in writing came from other writers like C. S. Lewis, who wrote fantastical tales, and Mary Elizabeth Edgren, whom I got to meet as a kid, and teachers who encouraged me to craft stories of my own.

What role does God play in your blogging?


Whatever I write, I do it for the glory of God. As such, I try to write without being overly preachy. Growing up as a chaplain’s kid, I know what a sermon sounds like. Still, I aim to prompt thought and discussion from readers, regardless of their background.

As a Christian, I like to talk about wholesome stories that uplift and encourage. I try to keep my blog PG, even if some of the books I read are not. All the same, I try not to shy away from topics that may be controversial. In fact, I wrote a whole series of posts entitled “Controversy in Fiction,” addressing topics like Racial Diversity, Feminism and Female Characters, Magic, and Christian Fiction.

Are you ever going to write more about the Memory Keepers?


Maaaaaaybe. I have some ideas. While I haven’t settled on a particular story line, if I were to write more in the Memory Keepers’ world, the story would most likely involve trains, explosions, and journalism vs. academic writing.

First I’d need more reviews for Last of the Memory Keepers. If you’ve read any of the stories, please consider writing a review and posting it on Amazon and/or Goodreads. It doesn’t have to be long, and I welcome honest feedback. Did you know more reviews means more exposure? So, if you like a book, leave a review!

When you start plotting a story, where do you prefer starting? Characters, settings, storyline, something else?


Ideas can come from anywhere. Sometimes they come in the form of characters, sometimes in the form of witty quotes. But my plotting is a little more structured. Before I start, I’ll give it a rough name, which can be anything from Story Idea 11 to Just Breathe (original title for Origami Swan). Then or simultaneously, I’ll pick a genre and a target audience. Both are vital for understanding how long the story will be and how much research I’ll need to do.

When I write my basic outline (inciting incident, turning point, climax), I’ll typically start with the characters. I need to know my main players. Who they are. What they want. How they influence the plot. I’ll write this bit in a notebook so it’s portable and so I can add details wherever I go.

Once that’s done, and sometimes even before then, I’ll put some meat on the bones by writing a complete synopsis. That’s when I figure out how the plot influences the characters. I write this part on my computer so I can rearrange, change, or add details if necessary. And that’s about it. I used to write chapter-by-chapter, but later found it was too tedious.


Slight side-note: I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo this year, camp or otherwise.


Why, you might ask? Well, it’s a great tool to establish discipline and to actually finish writing a book. But that’s the thing. I’ve written… eight? Nine? I don’t know. I lost count. Guys, I’m obsessed with writing. So much so that I have to be dragged away from my computer screaming, “You can’t turn it on and off like a tap!”


So… I’m taking July to do #31DaysofBunnies instead! That’s right. I’ve been trying to take up drawing for a while now, and I haven’t really sat down long enough to draw, unless you count during class once a month. As my next novel may include bunnies, I’m thinking of doing some of my own illustrations. That and they’re just fun to draw.

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Giveaway time!



Please keep in mind that because of shipping expenses, I will only be giving away a print copy to a person with a US address. If you happen to live outside the States, you may still enter for the chance to win a Kindle/Nook edition of the first three novelettes.


Let’s chat! Any other questions you might have about Word Storm or my stories? What’s been your top book(s) of 2018 so far?

***

Sunday, July 8, 2018

A Guide to Getting Lost in Your Local Library

Sometimes I feel like a bad bookworm. I wasn’t one of those children who came home from the library with twelve books tucked under my arm and finished them all in a week. (Though I did order books and frequent the bookstore a lot.)

In fact, my first recommendation from a librarian turned out to be a negative experience. Thirteen-year-old me ended up with a bunch of books I didn’t enjoy and other than the occasional check out, I didn’t speak to another librarian for—oh—seven years or so. That was before I learned that everybody has different opinions, and readers should consider who the recommendation is coming from as much as the recommendation. Now that I volunteer at my local library on a weekly basis, I go out of my way to check out at the desk so I can say hello to the librarians working there. (That and the self-checkout machine is evil.)

Since I spend a lot of time at my local library, I thought I’d give a quick overview of what it’s like. You can relax, I may mention the Dewey Decimal System, but I’m not about to break it down for you. Feel free to Google it if you so wish.


Help! I can’t find my book!


Sometimes it’s hard to find books, even when you’ve looked up the section and number. Books get misplaced in the oddest places. I’ve found nonfiction in the young adult section and children’s books in the middle grade section. It’s confusing as all get out. Then some books simply get moved over a shelf, or an author’s series is split up, so readers may think they’ve checked the whole shelf when they haven’t. Then there’s the time books get shoved behind other books and then hidden by the army in front of them. This last one usually happens with particularly popular shelves.

And librarians and library volunteers are there to help you. They know the shelves and the places books may disappear to. For the most part, anyway.

Worried about interrupting a librarian or volunteer to ask for help? Don’t be! As a volunteer, I can tell you, shelving can get pretty monotonous. Sometimes, I need a break. And helping a patron is the perfect opportunity. When I first started to volunteer back when I was living in Italy, the volunteer coordinator told me to imagine the patron I wanted to help while I was alphabetizing (aka sight reading) books.


In other words, whom do I volunteer for?

In my imagination, I volunteer for those college students who are looking for some light YA during their vacation time but don’t want to spend the entire day stuck in the library since they do enough of that at school. I volunteer for the middle schoolers who want a good, quick read but may not be familiar with the Dewey Decimal System. I volunteer for the parents who bring their young children in, who sit their kids in their laps and read them picture books, who listen to their kid tell them, “I love you, Mommy/Daddy.” And yeah, I guess I volunteer for the loud high schoolers as well.

Who in their right mind decided to split up the trilogy between the middle grade (MG) and young adult (YA) sections?


Did you know that young adult and middle grade aren’t actually genres? They’re just categories designed to help out readers. (Then there’s New Adult, but that’s so ambiguous, some librarians don’t even know it exists.) But… sometimes books get mixed up anyway.

When I was reading the Inkworld trilogy, back before I bought my own copy of the books, I found Inkheart (book 1) and Inkspell (book 2) in the MG section but Inkdeath (book 3) in the YA section. When I asked the reasoning behind it, the librarian informed me that sometimes, parents may request a certain book be moved up a level because of the content. Though it can still be a bit odd, considering Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is still in the MG section even though it reads like a YA book.

Suffice to say, books are shelved where they are for various different reasons. 1) Fiction vs. nonfiction, which should be obvious until you delve into poetry and plays and nonfiction books on fictional worlds. 2) Target audience. Some books are marketed for certain audiences, and even if they’re targeted wrong, that’s how they’re shelved. 3) Content. If a later book in a series is more mature, it may be moved to a section for an older target audience. 4) Other. Take a wild guess. I once found the first book in a series in the YA section, and the second in the MG. Maybe the librarian didn’t know it was a series?

As a volunteer, it’s my job to put the books back in their proper place so readers can find them easily. But I am considering a degree in library science so I might better understand libraries and one day work at one.

All things considered, the Dewey Decimal System may be confusing at first, but it’s not bad. If anything, it’s much more convenient than organizing an entire library by book color. While fun for personal shelves, I can only imagine the chaos that would ensue from that in a public venue!


What on earth is nonfiction?


Poetry is shelved under nonfiction. Unless it’s a novel in verse, then it’s under fiction. Unless it’s a novel in verse based on someone’s life. Then it’s under biography, a subsection of nonfiction. Because poetry.

To truly understand nonfiction, you must first become a dragon and then decipher the human psyche. (Then tell me how it goes because I’d like to hear what it’s like to fly!)

All joking aside, you could probably just ask a librarian. And to decipher this question, I tried asking several librarians, but they have been unable to answer my question about the logic behind the nonfiction section. (I lean more towards the fiction spectrum. Sadly enough, you don’t find many books on dragons in the nonfiction section, except perhaps books on dragonology.)

The way I see it, the nonfiction section follows more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.

Looking for like-minded individuals?


Libraries are more than just a way to find new books. They’re also a great way to connect with people. *gasp* Before you introverts duck behind your bookshelves, let me assure you that you only have to interact with other people if you want to. My local library happens to have an adult writing group, a young adult writing group, a LEGO group, a young reader group, a WWI fiction group, you name it!

So if you’re a writer looking for somebody to talk to about stories or looking for a critique partner, check out your local library. If you’re a reader tired of reading books and sharing your thoughts with nobody… You guessed it! Visit your local library.

And if your library doesn’t have a particular group, why not ask a librarian about starting one? If you even take the initiative and offer to coordinate the meetings for librarians who are particularly swamped, the librarian will likely be more than willing to help connect you with like-minded bookish friends!


Read Books


To truly get lost, as my sister would say, “Open a book and never leave.” Ever.

Let’s chat! What are some of your tips for traversing a library? Where’s the strangest place you ever found a book? Are you a part of any groups at your local library?

My 4th blogiversary is coming up this week.* Squeee! As a result, next Sunday I’ll be answering any questions you might have, whether they’re about Word Storm, books, or my stories. Ask away!

That and I’ll be hosting another giveaway. So be on the lookout!

*Today I’m celebrating 150 blog posts!

***


Literary references: Cornelia Funke’s Inkworld trilogy and J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Poem: The To-Be-Read List

Reading and gardening are two of my favorite things. I like the way that books make me feel emotions, but I also enjoy the texture of dirt beneath my bare hands, the smell of recently watered tomato plants, the feel of the noonday sun on my face.

But I don’t get to garden very often because my family moves so much. It’s hard to plant something knowing you’re going to be leaving in a couple months, and the next tenants might just kill it. Or maybe I lived in an apartment, and I was limited to house plants. Either way, I try to make the most of my garden while I have it. I enjoy quiet afternoons where I can sit on the porch and just read a good book surrounded by my potted plants.

Should it be any surprise that when I wrote a poem about reading, plants sprung up in between the lines? Probably not.


The To-Be-Read List

Picking up my next book
is more random than I would
have planned.

Flowers bloom in their own time—
daffodils at the start of spring,
tulips near the middle,
and chrysanthemums signal the end
of the final growing season.

Yet the leaves of a book
spring up
of their own accord—
a snow-filled novel pops up in spring,
collections of summer poems warm me in winter,
and autumn stories mimic the trees outside.

When I plan to read a novel—
hooked by the blurb
or drawn by the cover—
I can never tell if or when it will happen
upon me
whether in the library or at the bookstore or online.
Maybe I cannot find it.
Maybe I cannot stop finding it,
and I forget I wanted it at all.

But when they come,
the flighting books—the annuals—
are here,
then gone.
And the perennials last like dandelions—
no matter how many times
somebody tries to dig them up,
they always come back.

***

Let’s chat! What did you think of the poem? Is your To-Be-Read List random or planned? What is something you might compare your reading habit to?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Guest Post: Writing and Abandoned Projects by Faith René Boggus

Welcome to my latest guest post featuring Theme: Abandoned. Today, I’m featuring a post by a dear friend of mine who just got married! (CONGRATULATIONS AGAIN, FAITH!!!) 

Please welcome Faith René Boggus and her post on picking up old, not-quite-forgotten projects.


Piles of papers and notebooks slowly collecting a layer of grey particles. A thousand words hidden as a million zeros and ones stashed in a forgotten part of a hard drive. Every writer has abandoned projects. Sometimes it’s that you realise you don’t like the piece any more or that you just can’t figure out how the big plot points come together. Other times it’s that you love the project so much that you don’t want it to end or that you’ve gotten so busy that you don’t think you can justify spending time writing. There are so many types of works that are left behind.

The What Was I Thinking

These are the stories that leave you wondering if you were high on painkillers or writing after being awake for over 24 hours. The ones that don’t make any sense or are so bizarre that they catch you off guard. The ones that cause you to sit in stunned shock or laugh until you cry because the plot is just so strange or poorly tossed together. You set it aside after a while, thinking that you might be able to salvage it eventually. But years later, you end up finding it and having another session of crying laughter or shocked confusion.

Most of the projects that I find after abandoning them are this type. I start writing or plotting with just a character and a specific scene in mind, and then try to form the rest of the book or short story around it. And golly, does it lead to some interesting finds. One of which being a book about a girl who lived in a retainment camp in the future and managed to escape because of a promise she made to a friend. That promise? To save a pet frog that hadn’t been seen for over ten years. Somehow this escape led to the revolution needed in that country. Excuse me as I go ask my 13-year-old self what I was thinking.

The Does It Have to End

These are the types of projects that you set aside because you just aren’t quite ready to finish them yet. And then you just wait. And wait. And wait. And you’re still waiting, years later. You enjoy the characters too much. You love the setting. You smile when you think about the plot. But you still don’t finish it.

If you wait too long, this might turn into a What Was I Thinking. The plot becomes confused in your mind, and something you once love then becomes dreaded or comical. Be wary of setting works that you love aside. If you do, you may not ever finish them.

The Can This Be Over

These are the writings that you’ve just worked on so hard for so long that your brain can barely function when you need to think about it. It’s the kind that you were once excited about, and you became determined to finish it. Then the excitement faded, but the determination stayed. At least for a little while.


You eventually set it aside because you just can’t think about it anymore. And for years, you leave it because of the negative memories tied to trying to write it and getting bored, tired, frustrated, or even angry. So instead of finishing it, you just ignore it, hoping it will finish itself.

The I Did This

These are the books that you look back on as you are writing with pride and slight awed confusion. You love how they are turning out and want to keep writing. But you’re so amazed with what you have written and aren’t certain if you can continue with such wonderful writing or plot or characters that you slowly lose confidence, even though the evidence that you can write and think like that is directly in front of your eyes. So as you lose confidence, you slowly stop writing. Making sure that the piece remains un-marred.

However, you still get excited when you think about the plot or the writing. You dwell on the characters and the scenes. You daydream about the settings. You live in the story a little bit still, even though you aren’t working on it. Go ahead. Pick it up. Keep writing. You can do it.

The I Completely Forgot

These are the collections of words and thoughts that you enjoy writing and can’t wait to finish. But as you keep writing, you realise that you can’t remember where the book was going or who the characters are or what the plot was. The pieces just don’t fit together. Your memories and thoughts about the project are just out of your grasp, and you start to get tired of trying to reach them. So you put it away to try and figure it out another day.

But then you just don’t get it out again. You think about it on occasion trying to remember tiny pieces, but they still elude your grasp.


But there are ways that you can pick these pieces back up and recreate them or finish them, whatever type of abandoned project it is.

Here are some of my reasons why you should pick up your old and forgotten writings and how you can use them or finish them.

Rereading your work can show you how much your style and writing have changed.

If you’re anything like me, your style and writing change from project to project and even from scene to scene. Looking back on things that I wrote growing up to the things I wrote in college, or even the things that I wrote as recently as earlier this year, I see a huge difference in my wording and tone. I find it very refreshing and even comical or exciting to reread my past works and see how much I’ve changed. Sometimes I even find a style that I want to return to. I want to dip my feet back in that pond and feel the cool reviving water swirl around my feet. And then I want to take off, leaving it’s trail behind me as my wet footsteps leave words and stories in my wake.

You can find amazing quotes that you want to use in different projects.

Far more often, I find quotes that I hate rather than find ones that I love. However, whenever I stumble across a quote that I enjoy in a project I just plain don’t want to use or finish anymore, I think of the projects that I do want to finish and try to find a place for them there. Sometimes these little phrases even spark something entirely new, and I form a brand new story or poem around the once-forgotten words. Perhaps the same will take place for you.

You might like the premise or idea even if you don’t like the writing.

Rereading works that I left by the wayside has led to this discovery more times than I care to admit. I have so many short story and novel ideas or even entire plots figured out from projects that I had started but didn’t truly enjoy at the time. Most of the time, when I’m no longer enjoying a project, you can easily tell in my writing. The writing becomes sloppy and difficult to understand or just very dull and bland. So I scrap all the writing, but I keep the plot or the premise and save it. I tuck them safely in folder to ensure I don’t lose them. Eventually, I dig them out and start writing. And I enjoy them much more than before.

What type of abandoned project is the most common one for you to find in your writing folders? How often do you look back over your old writings? Let us know in the comments below!

Also, thank you so much Azelyn for letting me be a part of Word Storm!

***

Meet the Author



Faith René Boggus is a linguist obsessed with European culture, particularly when it comes to France and England. She likes to collect mugs, create art, experiment with words, and drink tea. You can read more about her and her stories on her blog, Abogguslife.

Previously in Theme: Abandoned!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Author Interview: Hannah Heath

Welcome back to Theme: Abandoned!

As I continue to (willingly) go without internet, I’ve conducted an author interview for your enjoyment. I’ve been following her blog for a while now, and a couple of years ago, I wrote a story review for my blog of her first publication.

Please welcome Hannah Heath, indie author of “Skies of Dripping Gold” and “Colors of Fear.”


Welcome, Hannah! It's good to chat with you. I hope you're having a lovely spring. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hey, Azelyn! I’m so excited to talk with you! Thank you for having me on your blog.

I’m an author of YA Christian Speculative Fiction. My goal is to write encouraging and inspiring Christian fiction that is accessible to the religious and non-religious alike. I spend most of my time reading, writing, or science-ing (that’s not a word, but it should be). I have an intense love for all things nerdy: particularly Batman, Harry Potter, Marvel, and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I covet a good cup of chai tea and a serious conversation, but am also always down for copious amounts of sarcasm and nerd references.

Do you prefer mountains or the ocean or both?

Hmmm. That’s hard. I grew up by the beach, but also spent a lot of time camping as a kid. So I’m going to have to go with both, particularly the type of mountain that looms right over the ocean. I want to build a house on one and just admire the view all day. Which is largely impractical and unproductive, but still. That sounds amazing to me.

That does sound amazing. Who are some of your favorite authors? How have they inspired you?

My favorite authors are varied and often change, so I’ll just pick my current main three: C. S. Lewis, Douglas Adams, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. A weird list, I know. Let me explain: Lewis and Adams encouraged my love of sarcasm and irreverence in fiction (and real-life). Dostoevsky and Lewis taught me that no question is too big or too dark to tackle. And all three of them showed me that strange, honest, out-of-the-box stories, while scary to write, are often the best kinds.

Do you have a writing schedule? If so, what does it look like?

My schedule varies each semester and often has to be very flexible due to College Student Busyness and Lyme Disease Tiredness. However, when a schedule is possible, it usually involves me writing every day at around 10 AM. I write for at least 30 minutes… Sometimes more, but rarely less. I light an incense stick or a scented candle, put on some music (usually electropop or EDM), and fill up a cup of water that I will inevitably forget to drink, then I dive right in.

Can you tell us a bit about your published stories?

For sure! I’ll start with “Skies of Dripping Gold,” which was my first publication. A YA Christian dystopian short story, “Skies of Dripping Gold” is set in an urban world where the air is poison and mysterious elevators all over the city are rumored to take worthy people to Paradise. The main character’s sister is dying from the poisonous air, so he sets off to climb the elevator tower and figure out exactly where it leads, a task that nobody else has ever successfully completed. It’s a very personal story for me, as it deals with topics such as illness and faith struggles.

“Colors of Fear” is the first short story in the YA Christian Fantasy series, The Terebinth Tree Chronicles. It tells the origin story of a young, fearful desert elf who will one day lead a band of assassins to kill the most powerful sorcerer in their world. I’ve been writing The Terebinth Tree Chronicles universe for almost ten years, so I’m excited to get to share it with you all.

How many stories are in The Terebinth Tree Chronicles? Have you set a release date for the next one?

There will be five stories and “Colors of Fear” is currently the only published (or even completed) story. The second one, titled “Flames of Courage,” will hopefully be released on 07/07/18, but I’m not sure. I probably should be, given it’s my story, but I can’t ever tell these things because my life is messy and my thought process is even more so.


Your covers are pretty awesome and vibrant. When did you decide you wanted to design them yourself? How do you choose what kind of image you want for each cover?

Thank you! I’m so glad you like them. I decided to design my own covers when I peeked into my bank account and saw the sad numbers sitting in my checking’s. I’m also a bit of a control freak, so I wanted to be able to design the covers myself to make sure it looked the way I wanted… bright, simple, and eye-catching.

Currently, the process for choosing a cover design is two parts loving symbolism and bright colors and one part having very limited artistic skills. I like each of my covers to showcase an important part of the story (the colors in “Colors of Fear,” the symbolic dripping sky in “Skies of Dripping Gold”) and I try to make sure the colors match the mood/feel of the writing. I also choose images based off of artistic skill: my talents are fairly limited in the drawing realm, so I mostly end up drawing landscapes and silhouettes.

One last question, just for fun. Do with this what you will. Pick three random characters from any of your short stories? Got them? Okay, now imagine they are all trapped in a cave together. What happens?

Oh. So much fun. I’m going with Gabriel from “Skies of Dripping Gold,” Jayel from “Flames of Courage” (she appeared briefly in “Colors of Fear” as the nameless half-blooded she-elf with fiery hair), and Wanderer from “Colors of Fear”:

Gabriel and Wanderer would start hammering on the cave wall while Jayel would make fun of them. Gabriel would get annoyed with Jayel and Wanderer would get annoyed with both of them, so they’d all sit down in separate corners. Then, as time passes, Gabriel would take charge and formulate a plan to get them out. They would all quickly realize that Gabriel’s plan sucks, which would end in a lot of swearing on Gabriel and Jayel’s parts. But, eventually, Wanderer would put his foot down, shut everyone up, and divide up their supplies so that they could survive until somebody finds them. It would end with everybody being good, though vaguely annoyed, friends.

Such a great answer! I laughed.Thanks for the opportunity to chat! (And for putting up with my internet scheduling difficulties.) Have a great week!


Meet the author!


Hannah Heath is an author of Christian speculative fiction, college sophomore, and regular comic con attendee. You can read more about her and her stories on her witty and nerdy blog appropriately named Hannah Heath or hear her talk about books and writing on her YouTube channel.

***

Lets chat! Have you read any of Hannah’s story’s yet? If not, what are you waiting for!? Be sure to say hello!

Theme: Abandoned
Up next: Writing and Abandoned Projects by Faith René Boggus

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Guest Post: Abandoned by Daley Downing

Welcome to my first guest post featuring Theme: Abandoned. I’m taking a writing hiatus for the month, but I’ve scheduled some wonderful guest posts for your enjoyment. They even fall within my regular schedule of poem, bookish post, and writing post!

Please welcome my first guest writer, Daley Downing, who wrote a lovely poem to start off the month.


Abandoned

Abandoned – ghostly, cold, alone
Or, abandoned – peaceful, solitude, freedom

A world left behind, will we ever know why?
Out of necessity, or simply taking a risk?
Do they reminisce of the place they walked away from,
Or does it never cross their minds, tug at their heartstrings, haunt their dreams?

The ravages of war, the demise of a way of life
But it always means we get to start again
New crops will grow on land left to rest,
Rivers will once more run clear and deep

Can we just forget? Is it safe to let go of all we knew, all we were?
Do we need to always carry these pieces with us?

Abandoned – the shell of a building, the shell of a human spirit
Empty space, a chilled heart
Broken hopes, lost roots
A blank slate, a fresh start
Find so much love to fill that aching place

Let go, reach out, plant seeds of grace, growth, trust
Stay strong, move on, or go back
Never allow your faith to be abandoned

***

Meet the Author


Daley Downing is a blogger, indie author, stay at home parent, former dance teacher, and cat whisperer. When she’s not glaring at her computer or wrangling special needs children, she’ll be found reading, attempting to write more than she did the day before, or listening to Celtic music. You can stalk her at her website, The Invisible Moth.

Let’s chat! What was your favorite part of the poem? Don’t forget to say hello to Daley!


Next to come in Theme: Abandoned!
Author Interview: Hannah Heath

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Book Review: The Astonishing Color of After

“Once upon a time we were the standard colors of a rainbow, cheery and certain of ourselves. At some point, we all began to stumble into the in-betweens, the murky colors made dark and complicated by resentment and quiet anger.  At some point, my mother slid so off track she sank into hues of gray, a world drawn only in shadows.”

This book hit me in the feels like a semi-truck.

Usually, I read good books at a faster pace, but I could only handle this book little bits at a time. It was so intense. Leigh’s mother struggles with depression, which hit so close to home. I have struggled with depression at times—including one point when I was reading this book, so I had to set it down for a week. But while it was difficult to read, after I read another book or two in-between, it was very well-written. And I like it when authors write a note at the end talking about mental illness instead of just leaving readers alone with the story.



Book: The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan
Genre: Magical Realism, Mental Illness, Contemporary, Young Adult
My rating: 4/5 stars
Awards: None (yet!)
One-word description: *internal screaming*

When I first opened the book, I found myself groaning like the kid from The Princess Bride: “Is this going to be a kissing book?”

The magical realism elements of the book were particularly mysterious. More than once, I was left wondering if Leigh wasn’t just imagining everything. Other times, she held physical evidence, and even though I’ve finished the book I still have my doubts. Magical realism, at the end, should leave readers wondering what’s real and what’s not, even if they’re used to reading fantasy, and the author, Pan, did a wonderful job!

The story takes place both in America and Taiwan, which I found to be excellent because usually multicultural books deal with one or the other. And Leigh was easy to relate with, as she loves her parents and her art, despite all the difficulties. Though there were times she wasn’t perfect, it actually made her easier to relate with.

I also particularly liked the book’s dialogue. At times, the characters spoke their minds but other times, they had difficulty speaking and communicating at all. Most often, I didn’t feel like I was reading a book at all. It felt so real.

However, there were times when the book got repetitive, repetitive, repetitive. I’m not sure repeating certain words again and again and again was really necessary, though I did like the use of the phrase “I want you to remember”. Another problem I had was that I took so many breaks, I actually started confusing this story’s characters with another story’s.

Reaching the end of the book was almost like the end of The Princess Bride:

Grandpa: And as they reached for each other... *closes book* 
Grandson (aka ME): What? What? 
Grandpa: Ah, it’s kissing again. You don’t want to hear that. 
Grandson: I don’t mind so much. 
Grandpa: Oh, okay. *continues reading*

In all, I gave The Astonishing Color of After 4/5 stars for an excellent story, well-developed characters, and great themes. I would recommend this book to fans of young adult books, magical realism, and accurate stories about mental illness. However, I would strongly caution readers who may struggle with depression and/or readers who know somebody who does. While this book addresses suicide and depression in such a way that had me silently thanking the author at the end, it can be rather intense.

Doesn’t The Astonishing Color of After sound intriguing? Have you read it yet? You might also enjoy these booksStarfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman, Tell Me Something Real by Calla Devlin, and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

Let’s chat! Has The Astonishing Color of After made it to your to-be-read list yet? Anybody out there read it? Have any book recommendations featuring characters with mental illness?

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Similar book reviews: Goodbye Days, A World Without You, and The Snow Child