Reading Below Your Reading Level

Hey Everyone!

So this is my second post this week, so I won’t spend a lot of time on an introduction. But I’m really glad that you are reading this particular post. This is a topic that I have been wanting to talk about for a long time because I think it is very important.

When we’re in school, we are told to never read below our abilities – that we should always be looking for a book that is harder than the last one even if it’s only by a little bit. As an adult now, I am finding it to be somewhat of a challenge to have time to read at all let alone read something that is harder for me. I want a story that is entertaining no matter how easy the read is. As a writer, I think that reading is very important. I also think that everyone should be actively reading and looking for story tellers no matter how easy the books are to read.

Since working with elementary age children, I have found myself being drawn back to books that are meant for children between the ages of five and twelve. Books like: Box Car Children, The Hardy Boys, Junie B. Jones, and of course, the Warriors series. Which – is still one of my favorite book series of all time despite the fact that I am a dog lover and not someone who cares much for cats.

I believe that there is so much that we can learn from reading these kids books as adults – or more importantly – as writers. Books like the ones that I listed above show us the basics of writing in the genre. It takes a complicated and intense thing like – animal fantasy – and can simplify them in something like Animal Ark or complicate it into something like Warriors – which creates it’s own world.

Something that I want to start doing, is every other week reading and talking about one of these ‘lower-level’ books instead of one that is considered to be more my speed. I want to do a normal review on it and then examine the story telling qualities and skills that it presents and what some of the skills to learn from it could be. I want to read these books like a writer would.

Some of you may think that it’s kind of dumb, but I think that there is a lot to gain from reading books that we used to as kids. I mean, we read them as kids because they told a good story. They held our attention. Now as an adult I want to read these books and see what they do to prepare us to read more complicated books.

How does Goosebumps get us into horror novels later on?

How does Junie B. Jones get us into memoires and slice of life books?

How does Nancy Drew get us into mystery novels?

How does Magic Tree House get us ready for adventure novels?

I think that the things that we read as children really help us develop our writing styles as well as the kind of books that we like to read. So why not explore these books that helped to shape the way that we read and think about books now?

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this so drop your comments down below and I look forward to posting my next book review!

Till the next chapter,

Amanda

NaNoWriMo 2019 Debrief

Hey Everyone!

So last week was really bad cause I got super sick for no reason and I had a hard time bouncing back. I’m all better now though and ready to keep plugging along with work and I’ll actually have two posts for this week. One on NaNoWriMo and one on another subject that I have been really itching to get into.

NaNoWriMo was a great experience for me. I was able to write the 50,000 words in 29 days – which is insane to me. I have never written anything this long and having that time dedicated to getting something done – it has changed the way that I approach writing.

Even though I got the 50,000 words, I was not able to completely finish a rough draft of my book. I have quite a bit of story left to write, but I’m estimating that my book will be around 85,000 words before I will be ready to start drafting again, and I’m hoping to be completely done by the end of March.

Before this, I couldn’t talk much about what the experience was like, but like anything else, I think you get out what you put in. I decided at the beginning of November that I was going to try my hardest and it got to the point where I knew that I needed to write and that I wanted to. Now that the month is over, I miss writing every day. I fell in love with the story and characters that I had been working with and I just want to finish it so bad.

I have always had an active imagination and I love thinking about what characters in my favorite books would do in certain situations. I kept thinking that about my own characters and how I want to read about it and know what makes them, them. It hit me pretty powerfully that the only one that can write that is me. So I need to write the story that I want to hear. I found that to be very interesting.

Over the last few days I have revisited my goals and looked over what I wrote during November and there were times that I got mad. I tried writing mine in a linear fashion and that worked – until I hit a massive writers block where I wasn’t able to write more than a few hundred words a day. I was really worried at one point when I was 6,000 words behind that I wouldn’t get done what I needed to in order to finish.

There is an amazing sense of accomplishment to know that I stuck through this and was able to finish. I look forward to revisiting this later and working through it with the help of a friend. She has already started reading it and she already has things for me to fix on it. Makes me want to groan, but writing is never perfect the first time around.

Something that I found to be helpful to me while writing is to write out a outline of what I wanted to cover in each section or chapter. I was writing in four perspectives, so making sure that all of the perspectives got their time and that a linear story was coming out was important to me in this one. I know people say that outlines are good, but I don’t think that you should completely plan your novel from beginning to end and detail by detail. It takes away some of the spontaneity of writing.

Sometimes people just need to get shot to make the story go right. Sometimes the person who did the shooting – if changed – can make the book turn in the other direction. I like having a direction without being blinded by what I planned to have in each section. I have even broken sections into two because they got to be too long. Work everything the way that feels right in the moment, not in the way that it sounds good on paper.

The final thing that I wanted to leave you guys with on this post is a section from my NaNo 2019 novel “Assassin’s Fiend.”

Please enjoy!

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Blood spattered the ceiling and dripped down the walls. The silence was deafening as she tried to listen for the next blow. Today had been exceptionally bad. They had come back and begun fighting. One had left, but the other had decided to pick his favorite. Apparently, that had been her.

She had kicked and screamed, but nobody could hear her. Now she was chained by her wrists to the ceiling and blood was running down her arms in long streaks from where the cuffs dug into her flesh, tearing it away from the bone.

The others had been cleared out by a few of the other men. They were likely about to have their own “fun” with the other women. Nobody knew what that meant. For her, it meant being hit and cut with a razor blade. Off to the side she could see a table with knifes and hammers in varying sizes and weights. Each one made to do something different.

Tears ran down her face as he picked up the largest hammer, a sludge hammer, and walked towards her. He circled her like a panther does its prey and then he brought the hammer down, smashing into the side of her left knee. She could feel the bones break in her leg and she let out a glass breaking scream.

One.

Two.

Three more times. Each one was harder than the last. When he finally set the hammer down, she could no longer support any of her weight on either leg. They were utterly broken.

She sobbed out the pain and yelled for help. His laugh made her gut wrench. They had beaten her before, but never this bad. He seemed angry for some reason. That made her scared.

After a few moments, she realized that he was no longer in her line of sight. He had left the room. For a brief moment she thought that she might be safe for the rest of the night. The morning would be cruel though because she couldn’t walk. She knew that she was as good as dead.

Footsteps alerted her to his return. She saw that this time he carried a small case with him. Perhaps nothing bigger than a briefcase. He set it on the table beside the other knives and hammers.

“My father was a butcher. Did you know that?” There was a bit of sadness in his voice. That mixed with what he said only made her whimper.

“No. I’m sure you didn’t.” From the case he pulled out a new series of knives. These were much older, some showing rust along the blades.

“He had a lot of rules for butchering anything.” The first knife was picked up and he weighed it in his hands as if getting a feel for it. It was a small knife. No longer than an index finger.

“First the head came off. Then the animal would be cut from neck, to belly, where we would then have to dig out the organs and get them ready for packaging.” He ran the back of the blade from the base of her throat to be base of her stomach as if giving instructions to a new butcher.

“I never liked doing that though. You see, I liked cutting them open and taking the organs out while they were still alive. That way, I could see the pain reflected in their eyes.”

She let out a long whimper and he brought the knife up to the side of her face.

“Only once I finish cutting out the minor organs, do I start cutting open the skull. If I’m lucky, they’ll still be breathing at that point. I love the sounds that an animal makes when they are already so close to death.”

His eyes became level with hers and his sadistic eyes appeared almost satanic to her.

“They still hope for a rescuer when they know it’s too late. My only downfall is how sloppy I tend to make my cuts. I get so excited that my hands shake,” he beamed.

She began to cry heavily. She couldn’t stop her cries and whimpers from escaping. She didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of hearing her in pain anymore.

“Allow me to show you.”

With that, the knife plunged into her chest so hard that blood splattered his face. She screamed in agony as he raked the knife down her body, slicing through cloth, flesh, and muscle. When the blade got caught on something, he just pushed harder, allowing her blood to freely run down to the floor and pool there.

With the cut complete, from his bag he pulled large pruning shears. Her sobs came out in gasping wails. It was getting harder and harder to breathe. Nothing could describe the pain that she was in.

He leaned forward and whispered in her ear.

“You may want to die now. This part hurts worse than anything, but it’s more fun if you don’t. I like the screams.”

Digging his hands into the flesh of her chest and stomach, he tore it apart, making it hang open, allowing him to see her ribs below. Using the shears, he cut through each of her ribs until he was able to tear her sternum from her body, letting it fall to the ground with a thud.

Her screams could be heard by all the other women.

They lasted for only a few more minutes until the silence was once again deafening.

It was only broken by his maniacal laughter.

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Thank you so much for reading – I know this was a longer post, but you got to read some of my more creative writings – and I think that this part turned out pretty well. My favorite POV that I have been writing in has been the killers. I hope you guys liked it.

Till the next chapter,

Amanda

Book Review: The Raven

Hey Everyone!

So, I just can’t seem to get the hang of much of anything because I literally wanted to have this review done a week ago – the book has been finished, but God forbid I get the opportunity to actually write the review. Between doing more job applications this week and being sick for three days I haven’t really had time to just sit at my computer and do anything – including talk about my NaNoWriMo news. But that is for Monday.

Anyway – let’s talk about The Raven.

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Title: The Raven

Author: Jeremy Bishop

# of Pages: 290

Genre: Action & Adventure, Fiction, Horror, Thriller

Published: August 2013

Total Read Time: 3 Days

Rating Out of 10: 7

Summary:

Jane Harper started out as an undercover whistleblower among a group of radical activists butting bulkheads with whaling ships in the Arctic Ocean. She ended up shipwrecked off the coast of Greenland and teamed yup with a pair of father-and-son whalers to destroy their own six-hundred-year-old Viking ancestors – resurrected as zombies by an insidious race of intelligent parasites. Quite a lot for even a tough-talking, two-fisted, former military brat like Jane to handle.

But winning their battle against the undead Vikings was just the beginning of the war against the parasitic Draugar now that the relentless creatures have escaped their island prison… and seek to turn the earth into a planet of the living dead. With a sturdy vessel under her feet, a do-or-die crew at her side, and weapons of mass-monster destruction in both hands, Jane takes to the hellish high seas to face down zombie whales and an armada of seafaring ghouls.

Review:

All in all, this was an amazing book. It did take a little bit of time to get back into the story since there was a lot of review in the beginning as well as a lot of personal information that you learned about Jane. I think it was important, but it was also something that made the book a little harder to get into.

Jeremy Bishop did another great job with this book. The imagery that he used made so much of this clear and an exciting story. I didn’t feel the horror aspect of this as much – but that may have been because I already knew quite a bit about the monster that was being presented. I still stick by the idea that this is a great introduction to the thriller and horror genre because it doesn’t have a lot of the same gore factor that I think Stephen King would have. I also think that this book didn’t have a ‘convenient’ character that showed up. Willem was kind of lucky person in the last book, but in this one, all the characters seem like they would have been a legit addition to the crew.

My favorite aspect of this book I actually can’t talk about because it would be a huge spoiler for anyone planning to read the books, but I will say that it was something that tore me up inside, but I could see coming from the beginning of the book no matter how much I wished that it wasn’t true.

I gave this a 7 out of 10 because it was a little harder to sink into this book, but once I was it was impossible to put it down. At the end of this book I was left with more frustrations then anything else because there is not a third book nor are there any plans from the author to write another book for this series. Personally, that is a huge problem for me. The way that the book ends is fine – but only if you intend to write another book. Without the other book, there is too much left up to the imagination. I didn’t like that at all, but it didn’t take away from the book enough for me to want to drop the rating on it.

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Thanks guys for taking the time to read this. I’m sorry that it is taking so long for book reviews to come out, but one way or another my work schedule is evening out after the first of the year which is very important to helping me get stuff done.

Please read these books – they’re fabulous and really deserve attention. The author abandoned the series in pursuit of works that he believed would be more successful, but I think that this is one that he should have stuck with longer.

Happy reading!

Till the next chapter-

Amanda

Fanfictions

Hello Everyone!

This week as I promised last week, I will be talking about fanfictions! This is one of my favorite genre’s to read and write.

Fanfictions for those who don’t know is someone who writes a piece of fiction based on another authors story. This could be as simple as writing your own character into the same timeline, or changing the story completely to support a new character. Not all fanfictions have new characters even – sometimes they are just “what if” stories.

One of the reasons that I like reading these kinds of stories so much is because you get to take a look at how someone else views a character. Sometimes they even fill in some of the blanks that an author leaves wide open.

There are a lot of people who discredit fanfictions because you are using a world that was created for you. Personally, I have never had a problem with fanfictions because it still tests the skills of a writer and the knowledge of the world that they are inhabiting. If they mess something up, then the fandom with correct them.

I have written several fanfictions over the course of several years, none of which that I still have. I think that fanfictions can be a great place for writers to start with and for them to build a writing habit with. If you are someone who is wanting to write, but don’t know where to start, a fanfiction might be a good place to begin. It gives you a timeline, a set list of characters and you can practice building your own character with the added bonus of maintaining the story line. Yay fanfictions!

There is only one time that I think that a fanfiction would be completely inappropriate and it has to do with publication. There are some personal rules that I would want to follow when it came to that, but I won’t get into that right now. Let’s face it though – most people write fanfictions for the fans and for themselves, so this normally isn’t an issue.

I love writing fanfictions, I’ll never stop. I have a plan in the works to actually work on a collection of fanfictions that explore what would have happened if a single event was changed in the story. I’m currently trying to figure out how I want to pursue it and if I’ll actually bind it into a chapbook, make it a book arts piece, or just post it on here for you guys to read.

Anyway, fanfictions are a staple in my family. Most people that write in my family have done one fanfiction or multiple. The thing to remember with these is that it’s about having fun and trying something different.

Well, that’s all for this week. I will be working on getting The Raven finished and the review posted by Friday. Because of the holiday, I am leaving Washington and driving 12 hours east to visit my family in Montana. I leave tomorrow but will be coming back home on Saturday.

I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and a safe week!

Till the next chapter,

Amanda

Staying Motivated

Hey Everyone!

We are a little half way through 2019’s NaNoWriMo and for once I am on track to finish with everyone else! (Knocks really hard on wood).

I have found myself getting overwhelmed with working, writing for 3 projects (NaNoWriMo, Blog, and my MFA application material), that I am having a hard time motivating for writing. It is something that has been making my stress levels rise a lot. I have been trying out out ways to keep up with all of my writing except for my blog. This has been the one place that I have been least wanting to write for.

I am doing a lot of stuff right now and most of the time my blog posts end up slipping through the cracks – last week it was Wednesday before I remembered that I hadn’t made my post for Monday. A lot of this has to do with my schedule being really new to me still and my trying to set up a routine.

It feels like lately I have been doing a lot of “update” posts, so next week I am going to cover one of my favorite topics – Fanfictions. I personally love fanfiction and I think that it is a highly underrated genre in all ways.

Another thing that is coming next week is the book review for Raven which I know I said would be done a long time ago, so that is going to be a priority for next week.

This week is going to be a very short post since I have quite a bit of work piled up at the moment, but next week I’m making a routine schedule and we’ll see how it works out. I have found that the easiest thing to do when trying to incorporate writing as a main focus in your life is trying out a new way to write. Try a schedule. If one doesn’t work, then try again. I’m on my third or fourth attempt at a schedule and I’m still not making it work. So fifth times the charm hopefully.

Since this is a shorter post, I will also include a poem that I included in my NaNoWriMo project called Assassin’s Fiend.

As always, I’m very appreciative for everyone who has been following along with me and understanding that transitioning into a “writing first” lifestyle is one that takes a long time especially when you are trying to build your life from the bottom up again.

I hope you guys enjoy this poem and I’ll have a post up next week on Fanfictions!

Till the next Chapter,

Amanda

Assassin’s Fiend

Panic comes like a wave
It comes when the heart is soft
When the soul is tired
And when life is at its richest

It settles deep into our subconscious
Sticking needles into our very being
Making raw wounds
That seep with despair

Panic comes as pain
Swathed in black
Robbed of feeling
Writhe with malice

Thoughts become dark
Time stands still
Color turns to grey
Black becomes the sun

Cast aside your inner truth because
Agony is a friend
Love is a fiend

NaNoWriMo 2019

Hey Everyone!

This week is going to be short, sweet, and to the point. I have been very tired with trying to figure out how to get my posts working and coming out a little more steady, but a lot of that will come with a schedule that is more set. Which has finally arrived (I hope).

Anyway, this week we have started NaNoWriMo which is a challenge that many writers do because it is National Writing Month! I would really like to know why writing month has to happen this close to the end of the year, but I think it just helps to challenge people further.

Once a year, thousands of writers come together and write 50,000 words in a month. That equates out to about 1667 words a day. A normal challenge for a writer is 500 words a day. This is hard. But they say if you do 500 words a day for 3 months you will have a novel finished. This is that… only much, much faster.

This is my first time competing, but it is my third time trying to get to the 50,000 words. Let me tell you, many people drop out during the second week because it is difficult to keep the momentum going for the entire month. I will say that I am working on something that I am very excited about and I may even share part of it over the next few weeks. It is a novel idea that I’ve had for a long time. I am often told that murder mystery/crime novels are something that people do when they’re older, but I’m going to try and accomplish it now… while I’m 20… and only have short stories and cross genre work under my belt…. it’ll be fine. Hopefully.

There are two kinds of people who write: planners, and pansters. People who plan things, and people who fly by the seat of their pants and see what they can do. I am a mixture of the two. Even with that, I feel like I was thrown a bit into the writing this month and I am really going to struggle to continue to put out posts, but I will do it!

I am also challenging myself to read a book a week. I am working on finishing up The Raven which is the sequel to The Sentinel and then I have a crime and murder mystery series that I have been dying to get to.

Finally, I will begin putting together my book arts project, meaning that I will have a youtube channel that will have each project’s reveal as well as the steps that it took to get everything done. I am not someone who has ever done video editing before, so it will be interesting. Those video’s should be posted by the beginning of February and I should have my next chapbook coming out in the Winter (so in March or April).

Writing takes a long time, so it is something that is often anticlimactic until it comes out.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my post. I truly appreciate it and I promise that things will be picking up soon here. If there is anything that I can do to make things more interesting here or to liven things up, let me know! I am very open to suggestions and would love to hear from you guys.

Till the next chapter,

Amanda

Draft No. ______

Hey Everyone,

So there are a lot of things going on around my house and Halloween is just around the corner. I have finally been able to find a job (2 actually) so I’ll finally have some stress relieved in that department. On the flip side, I am falling behind in my posts here as well as in my rough draft which is never a good thing.

This week I have a lot of work related anxiety since I’m starting both new jobs practically tomorrow, but for now I just wanted to talk about something really simple. Drafts.

Everyone has a different way that they go about writing, but no matter who the writer is, nothing comes out perfect the first time. No matter how good you think it is, it’s not the best that it can be. You may need to read through it and make corrections 2-10 times. I put 10 times on there because I have drafted something that many times and it is so tedious, but so necessary.

My current piece that I am working on is actually in it’s third draft phase. I have been expanding, cutting, and mostly clarifying what it is that I’m writing. Having a shitty first draft is better than having a blank page staring back at you.

I also think that people don’t realize how important drafting is. In college I would often write something, read through it once for grammar and flow, and then turn it in without really bothering to rewrite any of the parts that could have given me better clarity. It was something that I didn’t want to take time for.

I had a friend in high school and in my first two years of college who was ashamed of how long it took him to put out a decent version of a short story that he was writing (this was back when I was following a more… self destructive course for schooling rather than doing what I wanted. He mentioned how easily people seemed to be able to write their stories and how he was going to only have one while they had several.

Originally I had blown him off saying that there was no reason that he should feel uncomfortable with how long a draft was taking. He had probably 20 different iterations of his one story and wasn’t happy with any of them. He stopped drafting about a week later and ended up being able to squeak out a couple more short stories to save his grade. I was happy for him. Happy for the fact that he passed the class.

Now, I’m more devastated at the fact that he put out work that he wasn’t proud of. As writers, it’s easy to have this inferiority complex and to feel like we will never be good enough. I feel that that comes from the way that we were taught to write early on in school. Write an entire essay in 90 minutes and use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Writing was about deadlines and having something done in a certain amount of time.

I’m not going to be that writer that says that you have all the time in the world to get your piece right because I live in the real world. Deadlines do exist. I have a deadline of Feb. 1st to have a writing piece done as well as it’s accompanying book arts project. I had originally planned to have 2 pieces, like that done, but there was no way that that was going to happen – Unless I had decided to put out work that I’m not proud of. I’m applying for my Masters! If I can’t put out work in my application that I’m proud of, then I feel like I’m selling myself short.

Word to the wise: play with it until you’re happy with it, have someone else read it, and then play with it some more.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read this. I promise that I will be getting my head on track and putting out posts at a more scheduled time on Monday. Book Reviews as always are just kind of happening whenever I get the chance to finish a book, seems like Fridays are my thing right now for that.

Finally I wanted to do a check in. I posted a similar thing in a post about 2 weeks ago I think. It was mainly to see how people were feeling about how the blog is going, if there were things that I needed to change, or if everything was going pretty smoothly. I’m open to any and all suggestions.

Till the next chapter,

Amanda

It’s been awhile since I posted a picture, but I have recently been talking with one of the exchange students that I have hosted in the past from Japan. Making me really want to go out and see her. We had a total of 3 students, Miku, Suzune, and Hiromi and also one teacher named Aiya. All of them came out at different times except for Suzune and Hiromi who both came out together.