Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Bookish Q&A Tag

Usually, this is the time of month where I post a book review. But March has been a rather slow month for me (I’ve only read six books), and I haven’t quite found a book to recommend. Other than Bridge to Terabithia, of course. That. Book. Is. Brutal! And beautiful. But oh, so brutal.

Instead of a book review, I’ll be participating in a book tag, more specifically the Bookish Q&A Tag! Thanks for the tag from the lovely S. M. Metzler who writes over at Tea with Tumnus. If you’re looking for book recommendations, feel free to take any from this post unless otherwise specified. And even then, feel free to read them if you want.

1) What books do you remember reading that kick-started your bookworm habit?

I was fortunate enough to be influenced by several readers as a child, and there are too many books to name. So I can’t say if a particular one got me hooked on reading. Here are just a couple:

My dad likes to listen to Focus on the Family audio dramas in the car, from Adventures in Odyssey to The Chronicles of Narnia. He also read The Hobbit to my brother and I over the course of a couple weeks while we watched our triops (three-eyed fish) grow and assert dominance over one another until one remained. Animals are brutal.

My mom introduced me to the Anne of Green Gables audio drama, often took me book shopping, and ordered the books from the school catalogue that interested me.

My third-grade teacher used to read to the class a lot. I remember listening to Junie B. Jones, Methuselah’s Gift, and A Wrinkle in Time. The first book I remember picking up on my own was The Black Arrow. Even though third-grader me didn’t understand most of it, I liked the title. I still have yet to finish it.

2) What genre, or genres, would you normally choose?

In no particular order, I like to read fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, poetry, and various nonfiction. For a complete explanation, check out my posts 7 Reasons I Enjoy Fantasy Novels7 Reasons I Enjoy Sci-Fi, and 7 Reasons I Enjoy Historical Fiction.

3) Do you eat while you read and if yes, what exactly?

If I didn’t eat while I read, I would probably starve to death. Okay, that’s probably an exaggeration. I’m not always reading! I like to write in the mornings, and when I do, I refuse to eat. In this sense, I’m like Sherlock: “Digestion slows me down.” Come lunchtime (anywhere between noon and three), I like to settle down with a good book and some food, usually some pasta or a salad.

4) Are there any scenes from your favorite novels that you remember vividly?

Code Name Verity: when Verity is flying with Maddie over England, and they see the sky alight with green, a rare but beautiful occurrence.

The Scorpio Races: anytime the characters are standing by the water and the narrative description is just so pretty!

The Silver Chair: where Puddleglum tells the Lady of the Green Kirtle that he’s on Aslan’s side no matter what and then proceeds to stomp on her magical fire.

I’m going to stop now because there are too many scenes and too many books to describe.

5) Were there any least favorites?

Are we talking about least favorite scenes or least favorite novels? One particular scene from This Present Darkness where the demons were attacking one of the main characters has haunted me for years.

Or is it least favorite scenes from least favorite novels? I’ve tried so hard to delete those memories. *clears throat* We do not speak of those. Moving on.

6) So, as you’re a bookworm, what are you reading currently today? (Optional)

I am currently listening to Cornelia Funke’s Dragon Rider in the car. Brendan Fraser is a great narrator. I didn’t know he could do so many accents and sound effects!

I’m also reading A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros, which is fascinating. It makes me want to take to the woods and mountains and never come back.

Wednesday I started reading Nikki Katz’s The Midnight Dance. Basically, it’s a fantasy story set in Italy based off the twelve dancing princesses, and so far, it has a Phantom of the Opera feel.

A Philosophy of Walking
Yes, the title is tiny. But it's a pretty cool book!

7) How’s it getting along for you? (Optional)

Dragon Rider: progress is slow. There are, like, ten discs, and I don’t drive a lot because it stresses me out.

A Philosophy of Walking: slow progress. I can only read a couple of chapters a day, and sometimes I don’t want to read it that day. But that’s okay. The book is about leisurely paces anyway.

The Midnight Dance: quick. I read 40 pages the first day, 60 the next. By the time this post goes up (I schedule most of my blog posts at least a day in advance), I may have even finished it!

8) Have you then got a large bookshelf, or do you plan to?

Do I have a large bookshelf! Hahahaha! I may have absconded all the bookshelves in the house and deemed the room The Library. Here are just the big ones:

The lawyer’s bookshelf (above). My grandpa on my mom’s side built this one. 
It’s fun, but the top shelf doesn’t sit properly. Maybe I put it together wrong?

We’ve had this monstrosity forever (above).

My mom bought this one (above) at a bazaar, and I claimed it.

The landlord owns this one (above), but it’s the perfect kid lit shelf.

Technically, this is the only bookshelf I bought (above), 
but I like to imagine that the others are mine as well.

9) Do you have a liking to indie or traditional books?

I typically read traditionally published books, but as an indie author, I try to read indie books as well. It’s hard living abroad in a country where the native language isn’t English.

Whenever I want free books, I either check them out from my local library, which only carries traditionally published, or I wait for free e-books.

When it comes to buying books, I’m terribly picky. I don’t like to buy books (unless it’s an e-book) that I’ve never read because my spontaneous buys tend to be the worst. So I’m pretty hesitant about buying print indie books. That and they take three to five months to ship. Not fun. Every now and then, I’ll take a chance on buying a print indie book, though I buy more traditionally published ones.

10) And lastly, do you plan to promote reading in some way, or already are?

Considering I run a bookish blog, I’d say I do a good deal of promoting books. For those unfamiliar with my schedule, I typically post a bookish post on the second Sunday of the month and a book review on the fourth, with some exceptions like today.

And now for the tagging:
Faith Boggus (A Boggus Life)
Cait (Paper Fury)
Daley Downing (The Invisible Moth)

If you haven’t been tagged and you want to take part, consider yourself tagged. Thanks for sticking with me to the end. Happy reading!

Let’s chat! What are some of the best books you’ve read this March? Any least favorites? When’s the last time you participated in a book tag?


Literary references: Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey, C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia and The Silver Chair, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, Barbara Park’s Junie B. Jones, Mary Elizabeth Edgren’s Methuselah’s Gift, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Black Arrow, Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity, Maggie Steifvater’s The Scorpio Races, Cornelia Funke’s Dragon Rider, Frédéric Gros’ A Philosophy of Walking, and Nikki Katz’s The Midnight Dance

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Stages of a Plot Bunny

For many readers, stories may begin with the age-old phrase “Once upon a time,” but for writers, the story takes on a different phrase: “What if?” This question often sparks an idea, or more specifically, feeds a plot bunny.

Such bunnies may vary from story to story and from writer to writer. Just like you have various types of rabbits, from cottontails and lops to the mythical jackrabbit, you also have various types of budding story ideas, from a simple image or a character to plot points or hypothetical questions.

Dear writers, here are just a couple of the stages you can expect from your plot bunnies. Maybe you’ve experienced them all or just a couple. Either way, each stage comes with its own perks and drawbacks. And for my dear readers unfamiliar with the writing process, here’s just a satirical glimpse of what it’s like trying to raise a plot bunny.*

*All bunnies and rabbits hereafter will be referring to the story form rather than actual animals. I’ve never actually owned a rabbit, so all references are speculative and lean towards the writing craft rather than rabbit raising.

Stage 1: Discovering the Bunny

Like some people are drawn to adorable babies, and dog-lovers are drawn to puppies, writers are drawn to plot bunnies. Or rather, they are drawn to us. Unlike puppies, which you’d usually find at the park, out for a walk, or cuddled up on their person’s lap on a train, plot bunnies can be found in the most unlikely of places.

They attack writers in the shower.

They creep up on writers while they’re in the middle of loading the dishwasher.

They especially like to show up whenever the writer should be doing something else, like homework, work, or concentrating on the road so nobody in the car dies.

Not that the plot bunny has ever cared about timing.

When plot bunnies first show up, writers may be overjoyed. “Look at this fluffy, brand-new idea! Isn’t it the best? I must adopt it immediately!”

But if the writer isn’t careful to capture the idea right away, it may disappear.

Stage 2: Absent Bunnies

Sometimes, however, writers go through life without an idea of what to write next.

I’m not just talking about a writer lacking inspiration but an idea or a story in general. Sometimes, a writer finishes a project they’ve spent years pouring their time and effort into only to find that once they’re done, they’re left alone. The characters are gone. The setting is fading from the forefront of the mind. And all the plot bunnies are absent.

As much as I write, I have experienced this a lot. Sometimes, I’ll be in the middle of a project and start to panic when I don’t have a new plot bunny to adopt next.

When I first started blogging, I had maybe two ideas for blog posts. Thank God, I was only posting once a month back then, or this would have been the shortest-lived blog ever. So I talked to one of my vlogger friends, and he gave me one of the best pieces of advice a writer could here, “Just keep writing. The ideas will come.”

Stage 3: Chasing the Bunnies

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” —Jodi Picoult

There are many ways to find inspiration or plot bunnies, but there’s only one guaranteed way to beat writer’s block (if it even exists at all), and that’s to write. Even if you don’t know what to say, write the first thing that comes to your head. Act like you have a plot bunny, and the real plot will bunnies will get jealous.

Okay, so some days are not the best writing days and the bunnies are off annoying some other writer. And that’s okay. Just write! Do it. It’ll be fun!

After all, if you don’t write, you’re more likely to lose motivation. The more you write, even if it stinks, the more ideas and the more plot bunnies you’ll have.

Stage 4: A Plethora of Bunnies

No seriously.

Keep writing and all five-hundred-and-thirty-eight of them will show up and bombard your brain and jump on your current story, demanding your attention.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to adopt them all! They’re so pretty. You may want tell all your fellow writers. You may even consider abandoning your current story because how could any writer resist?

Stage 5: Choosing a Bunny

But before you abandon your current rabbit, your work in progress, be sure to take careful consideration. It’s best to know your strengths and your limitations. While some writers can raise multiple bunnies at once, others can only handle one or two. A lot of this knowledge, though, comes from experimentation.

Personally, I can handle two, maybe three bunnies at once and all in different stages.
This blog, Word Storm, is like a mature rabbit. Sometimes, it takes minimal effort, almost like the posts write themselves, while other days, it tries to bite back. Lately, it’s been acting like a rabbit hyped up on coffee. (I’ve had the last three months of posts scheduled because I wrote most of them in January.)

My other bunny would be my latest novel, Just Breathe. As I’m working through yet another round of rewrites, this bunny can’t decide whether it wants to eat carrots or to bite me. Sometimes, I have to set it aside.

But I’m also working on a not-so-secret short story, which is one sleepy and lazy bunny let me tell you! And I’m considering adopting a new bunny when my novel is done. We shall see which one it turns out to be.

Before writers choose a plot bunny, whether they’re abandoning another or not, they should ask themselves how much time and effort they are willing to dedicate to the plot bunny. Will the excitement wear off after the first month? I’ve had a couple plot bunnies that I adopted for National Novel Writing Month that I ended up letting go after draft one. Both these bunnies were ones I adopted on impulse and by the time they made it past the first draft, I didn’t like the way they were turning out.

Choosing the right plot bunny can be difficult, but it’s not impossible.

Stage 6: Full-Grown Rabbit

There are many different types of full-grown rabbits. A blog, for example, may be mature, but it still requires constant attention. A novel, on the other hand, is slightly different. While the release of a mature novel-rabbit means excitement for readers because they get to read another book, it can mean heartbreak and fear for the writer. What if the readers don’t like the novel-rabbit? Why does it have to be so hard to say goodbye?

Sure, writers still have to market their novel-rabbit, but it’s like they’re putting up flyers for potential adoptees. Publishing a novel isn’t just putting a story into the hands of a reader—it’s the writer letting go.

Once writers release their full-grown story out into the world, the cycle begins all over again. Or it jumps around.

Stories are like rabbits after all. It’s not like they’re set in stone.

Let’s chat! Readers, did you know writing had so much to do with rabbits? Writers, what stage of plot bunny is your latest story in? What’s your favorite stage? How many plot bunnies do you typically take care of at once?


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Why this Bookworm Enjoys Book-to-Movie Adaptations

You may have heard me complain about movies. You may have even heard me say I don’t like films. I am a bookworm, after all. Perhaps it comes from being raised with a family obsessed with movies. I can’t tell you how many movies my family likes to watch in a given week or how often we talk in movie quotes.

Sometimes, though, it’s relieving not to be surrounded by fellow bookworms. I don’t have to worry about spoilers. I have the freedom to summarize and give away plot points just so I can talk about a book. But still, it can be disheartening to pick up a book, thoroughly enjoy it, and know that I’m one of the one people nearby who will be able to appreciate it for what it is…

… until the movie comes out.

Book-to-movie adaptations help connect readers with non-readers.

There’s always going to be the debate between the movie fans and the purists who have read the books. Laying aside the controversy, can we just take the time to appreciate how people who might not read can be exposed to the story?

When I was studying for my undergraduate, every time I came home for Christmas Break, my dad and I would go out to see the latest Hunger Games film. Between the first two movies, I read the books, and could talk with my dad about his theories. The only bad part came when my dad and I were talking about dystopian book-to-movie adaptations, and I accidentally spoiled the end of Allegiant (book 3 in the Divergent trilogy). Whoops.

Movies help readers discover more books.

There are sooooo many books I discovered thanks to the film industry. Without having seen the latest musical adaptation (and my slight obsession with) Les Miserables, I wouldn’t have picked up the book. Without my dad’s obsession with sci-fi movies, I probably never would have started reading Ender’s Saga. If my brother hadn’t ended up seeing The Help and ranted about how good it was, I might not have discovered the book.

The list goes on.

Now, I make it my policy to read the book before I see the film. That means, if a film is coming to theaters, I have to get a head start and check it out from the library before everybody else. Otherwise, I’ll wait a year or two before all the hype dies down and then check out the books.

Watching your favorite characters be brought to life on screen is exciting!

What more is there to say? Movie posters, your favorite actors, your favorite quote made into a gif—they’re all exciting. Sure, you may have some inaccuracies. These are actual people you’re dealing with after all, not the characters themselves.

Another fun element is, of course, the setting. Honestly, sets tend to be far more detailed than my imagination is capable of.

The hype can be fun.

Whenever I’m super excited for a movie, I will re-watch the trailer over and over until I can quote it, annoying my sister whenever we see the trailer in theaters. I started this terrible habit a long time ago, before Prince Caspian came out. I replayed the trailer because I wanted a glimpse of King Miraz’s face, which they never actually showed in the trailer.

Even more recently, my sister and I have taken to wearing the colors of our favorite characters whenever we go to see a movie we’re excited about. For Captain America: Civil War, she wore red, I wore blue. For Thor: Ragnarok, we both wore green. You get the picture.

However, too much hype can lead to high expectations, which can lead to greater disappointment if the movie doesn’t meet them. It’s always best to remember that the movie probably won’t be accurate to the book.

Well-written soundtracks are fun to listen to over and over again.

I particularly enjoy writing to soundtracks, and I especially like picking certain soundtracks for certain stories. This is probably the writer in me speaking, but music is great for students as well. Not only do soundtracks help me concentrate on writing, but they also let me relive the experience of watching the film.

Just a couple of my favorite book-to-movie adaptations include Anne of Green Gables; The Book Thief; the most recent Bridge to Terabithia; Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (actually adapted into a BBC series); the latest version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; The Lord of the Rings; To Kill a Mockingbird; and Wonder.

I’m not denying that there are downsides to book-to-movie adaptations. A lot of times, the director will change the plot, cut out certain important characters, you name it. Whenever it comes to books-turned-movies, readers are bound to be disappointed in one way or another. But let’s at least take the time to appreciate it for what it is—an interpretation. Whether it’s a good one or not, movies can bring bookworms and non-bookworms together. Readers unite!

Let’s chat! What are some of your favorite perks about book-to-movie adaptations? What are your least favorite aspects? And last but not least, what do you consider the best book-to-movie adaptation?


Film references: The Hunger Games; Allegiant; Les Miserables; Ender’s Game; The Help; Captain America: Civil War; Thor: Ragnarok; Anne of Green Gables (1985); The Book Thief; Bridge to Terabithia (2007); Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005); The Lord of the Rings; To Kill a Mockingbird; and Wonder.

Literary references: Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy; Veronica Roth’s Allegiant; Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables; Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Saga; Kathryn Stockett’s The Help; C. S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables; Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief; Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia; Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell; J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings; Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird; and R. J. Palacio’s Wonder.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Poem: Rocking Chair (Audio)

It’s always an experiment—sharing form poetry via Blogger. I sure hope this one turns out. I realize it may be different for each device, so I apologize in advance if the form doesn’t make any sense. For clarity’s sake, the first stanza is supposed to resemble a rocking chair, the second an hourglass, and the third a scattered mess.

This particular piece is inspired off a piece of furniture from my living room. Doesn’t sound very inspiring? Maybe not. But take into consideration the things in your life that hold meaning and that bring up old memories.

The other night, I was sitting in our antique rocking chair by the fireplace, listening to the popping of sap bubbles and feeling warm for a few moments in this dreadful winter. I just so happened to be reading another book (surprise, surprise), and when I got up, the rocking chair groaned, as it always does whichever way it moves. It irritates my sister to all degrees when we’re reading the Bible aloud, and I so much as lean forward or, I don’t know, rock. Heaven forbid I should rock in a rocking chair. How dare I!

That being said, this poor piece of furniture has seen a lot. It’s been with my family from Washington State to Germany to Hawaii to Kansas and more. It’s felt packing tape on the wood where it shouldn’t have been, and it’s been recovered and cleaned at least once.

To you, it may be just a chair. But to me, it’s a piece that’s shared my memories.

Rocking Chair

In memoriam of the siblings I never knew

She   creaks
like   an
old woman,
shifting on
her antique bones
as she stoops forward
                        sits back
and rises on her legs,
joints      popping.

Would that I may be so loved
        should age settle in
           like a silk layer
                of dust,
           like the sand
  sinking in an hourglass.

She first changed her dress
when I was but a child, still
playing hide and seek behind her bosom—
later my mother lost
            my sibling—
            would she or he
have been?
Now I sit and turn the pages
o’er and o’er while the fireplace
                        sweeps up
the forgotten summer days.