[insert Eminem lyric here]

Guess who’s back?

Yes, I know, it’s been awhile. A lot has changed since my last post (pretty sure that should just become this blog’s tagline).

  • My husband and I moved back to Reno.
  • Oh, yeah, I have a husband now.
  • I won first place in the Institute for Writers “Scifi First Pages” contest!
  • I have some stories out on submission (fingers crossed).

Yep, I’m still in pursuit of that golden writing apple. I’ve finished a second book in December 2017 (which promptly went in the drawer), and I’m at work on book #3, which decidedly will NOT go in the drawer. Except for a brief two-month period before revisions. Then it is definitely going out of sight for a while.

I’m still here. I still have Thoughts about writing things that will get recorded for posterity. I still want to foster a writing community, so friends, please don’t be shy – drop a comment to say hello!

Here’s to fresh starts and pushing that rock up the mountain. May we meet each other at the peak. (And may it not roll back down.)

-LH

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Summer in the light, winter in the shade

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” —Charles Dickens

I had a professor who believed that March was a cursed month for her. Many of the worst moments of her life happened over the course of several Marches. She often speculated whether her doubt had become a self-fulfilling prophecy: now that she entered each March with wariness and fear, she noticed every hint of bad luck, giving it more weight than perhaps she would in September.

I have another friend who believes in the power of birthday personality forecasts. He is otherwise very logical, intelligent, and scientific, so it surprised me to discover this more “astrological” side of him. He looked up my birthday, March 31st, and apparently learned that a child of that day would excel in careers of writing and teaching.

If you asked me point-blank whether I ascribe to their thinking, I’m not sure I would give an unwavering “yes” in answer. However, I do feel a spiritual kind of connection to my birthday. (I know, I felt weird even typing it out.)

March is not a peaceful month; it is a riotous one, full of bright daffodils and buffeting winds. It is a month of in-betweens, of ominous hintings. “Beware the Ides of March,” hears Caesar, and promptly ignores the warning. “In like a lion, out like a lamb,” they say of Marches, and in the days leading up to my birthday, I look forward to the bite and playful kick of both.

Born on a 31, just at the tail-end of something, right before the Fool’s Day – that’s me. Not quite of March in full, but neither still of April. I am of a pair with March 1st, St. David’s Day, and the Welsh lover in me delights in that. And, like March, I am a person of contrasts.

I have days when a wind inside me blows and howls and screams. Like the March wind, it is wordless and, sometimes, uncontainable. But I also have days when the sun comes out and lines everything in soft gold warmth. Trees bud. Tenacious flowers bloom. They may be frosted away tomorrow, but all the same, they live and hope today.

Four ways to cure a book hangover

 

For all you book lovers, I’m sure it’s a familiar sensation: when you turn the last page, close the book, remember that there is a world beyond the cramped and uncomfortable circle of your reading space, and then instantly wish to forget that one and return to the one in your book instead. The Book Hangover.

I have suffered from many Book Hangovers of varying severity in my life. Unlike real hangovers, which make me want to curl up and forget how to move, Book Hangovers fill me with an unsettling, restless energy. They make me want to Do Something, capital D capital S, but they often neglect to supply me with exactly what I’m meant to do. They leave that bit for me to discover on my own, which is why frustration is another common symptom.

My current Book Hangover comes courtesy of the Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson. (This has been a warning. And also a recommendation. Go read them. Now.)

I’ve tried a few treatments for the Book Hangover:

  1. Read the next book in the series, if available. 
    Okay, this is the most obvious medicine. If you’re a responsible reader, you’ll have that book queued up and ready to go. (Also, if you’re taking my advice re: Shades of London, this is particularly important with Books 2 and 3. DO NOT READ SEPARATELY. Trust me on this.) However, these things aren’t always within our control. See my Shades of London example above – no Book 4 available yet. (Alas.)
  2. Read a new book.
    A less elegant but admittedly effective solution. Warning: side effects include a Book Hangover spiral that gradually increases in intensity and desperation until you have read ALL THE BOOKS and they start to blend together in your memories like a fever dream. Or is that just me?
  3. Join a fandom.
    Ooh, my child. My sweet summer child. Your situation is grave indeed if it has brought you to this. Before you walk down this road, just know you can never look back. Not at all. Not even once. If you try to turn your face to the land of the living, your soul will be left behind forever in the spirit world of the fandom.

Yep, I’m already several leagues down the Soulless Road due to my frequent partaking of #3, but that’s for a different post. My main purpose today is to discuss the possibility of a fourth option, one which I’ve only just discovered:

4. Fuel your creativity.
Remember that restless, frustrating feeling I mentioned above? Well, I’ve lately discovered another word for that, which is inspiration. Whatever you just read got under your skin so much that it stretched you out a bit, re-molded you, settled you back into your normal spaces with a little bit of difference. The key to re-orienting yourself is to find that difference and figure out why it matters to much to you. Can’t stop thinking about that one scene where the characters are facing down a wall of fog-monsters in The Shadow Cabinet? Yeah, me neither. I’ll probably see it in my dreams tonight. That’s because it’s so gorgeously unsettling, both creepy and real, in a way that my own battle sequences and fictional monsters could only hope to be. Keep thinking about it. Decode what makes it so good. Apply those qualities to your own work. Repeat.

This isn’t just a lesson for writers. Every bit of entertainment that lingers with us can be the fuel for some other aspect of our lives, whether it’s art, music, dancing, crafting, knitting, baking, or socializing.

Yes, that’s right, I said socializing. Socializing is this new thing I’m trying out. It means two or more people talk or do things together in the same place at the same time. It’s pretty all right sometimes. It gets even better when you can talk about the book that gave you a hangover, or the show that you can’t stop thinking about, or the movie that made you question who you are. Once you get going, it’s hard to stop, and then more and more people are reading things or watching things and wanting to talk about them with you. It’s great.

I highly recommend it.

But first, I have to dash back to the Spirit Realm. The fandoms are calling. Shades of London fans – where my shippers at?

 

The writing process through the eyes of a child

My writing journey began when I was a young girl – maybe eleven or twelve years old. I was deep in the thrall of Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, and Lloyd Alexander, my head full of my own take on those wonderful stories. My relationship with writing started when I asked, “What if?”

What if Harry Potter had been Harriet Potter? What if *I* attended Hogwarts? What if I lived on Prince Edward Island at the turn of the century? What if I lived in a kingdom like Prydain, surrounded by magic and cauldrons and prophetical pigs?

Now, I’m not saying the stories that came out of those questions were any good, but it sure was fun to try answering them. And more questions came up in their place, questions like “What would life be like for this character instead of me?” and “What if I were to invent my own kingdom? What would it be like?” Before long I was filling notebooks with my pretend kingdom’s name, geography, history, and culture. I was drawing characters (very badly) and naming them things like Spellsong and Chrysanthea.

While my drawing ability has remained much the same (i.e. horrible), I like to think my stories have improved since then, asking more complex questions and peopling their worlds with more complicated, interesting characters (sorry, Spellsong). Over time, though, it has also been harder to keep hold of the thrill I felt when planning a story as a kid.

Back then, it was all pure, unbridled joy and excitement at asking myself, “What if?” Now, after that first initial flash of inspiration, I find myself asking other “what if” questions instead: What if this story has already been written before, and written better? What if I can’t do justice to the idea in my head? What if these characters, this plot, this setting is boring, familiar, overdone?

What if I fail?

Not only do these questions make it extremely difficult to get words on the page, they tend to make those words stilted and horrible. They are a self-fulfilling prophecy, these doubts. So this year, I’m making a concerted effort to silence those questions, starting before the writing even begins.

Time to borrow back the excitement of planning a story from twelve-year-old me.

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Fabulous February

Dear old world,

Well, here we are in February! It’s hard to believe that 2016 is already over one month old. This is about the time that New Year’s resolutions get abandoned or put on hold for another year. Ironically, mine are just getting started.

I’ve made a few writing goals for myself in 2016:

  1. To write over 100,000 words total this year.
  2. To submit at least one story for publication.
  3. To update my blog at least once a week.

Yes, you read correctly. I’d like to go from posting every 6-7 months to updating every 6-7 days. This should be fun… 😀

What are your 2016 writing goals?

To make up for lost time (since, after all, it’s already February 7th), I’ll be making a few writing-focused posts this week, starting with: Gardener or Architect? Planner or Pants-er? What is your pre-writing ritual? Tune in over the next couple of days and find out!

Transplanted to Chicago!

Dear old world,

It’s been a hectic… several months… since my last post. This year has been a year of change, not just for me but for lots of people close to me. It’s taken a while for the dust to settle, but now I’m finally able to focus some attention back on this blog and my purposes for starting it: one part writing practice, one part writing escape, and two parts because, well, I thought it would be fun. 🙂

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Because I can’t keep silent about last night’s episode of Game of Thrones.

I am so filled with anger, despair, and frustration. These are not uncommon emotions to be feeling after an episode of Game of Thrones. But last night’s episode, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” has taken the suffering to new heights. And as if that weren’t bad enough, the reactions of the show’s creators, writers, and producers are what really pushed me over the edge.

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Period drama round-up: Falling for a Dancer

Okay, so as I’ve previously mentioned, I love period dramas. I love the history, the costumes, the drama, and, yes, the romance.

At this point, however, I’ve watched through the “known favorites” and I’m having to do a bit more hunting to find new, good material. I thought I would start sharing my adventures in case anyone else out there is having the same problem. Plus, as a storyteller, it’s fun to pick apart and analyze other stories.

So, Period drama round-up #1: Falling for a Dancer.

This 1998 BBC miniseries was filmed in West Cork and takes place in Ireland in the 1930s-40s. It stars Elisabeth Dermot-Walsh as Elizabeth, Liam Cunningham (aka Davos from Game of Thrones) as Mossy, Dermot Crowley as Neeley, and even a very young Colin Farrell as Danny. After seeing those names in the cast, I was already interested. (One of my favorite parts of period dramas is finding familiar faces in unexpected cast lists.)

Click for a spoiler-free review and link to watch on YouTube

In which I introduce myself

Hello friends, Romans, countrymen!

So, this blog has been on my mind for some time. I decided I wanted to start a catch-all for my rambling posts about being (or trying to be) a writer, about books, travel, food, movies, history, sports . . . memes (I’m being honest here) . . . what-have-you. Thus was born Dear Old World.

I’m not very good at introductions, so I’m going to keep it brief. I’m Leanne, 24 and 1/4. Outside of my Work life (study abroad advising), I have my “Someday” life and my “Fun” life. In “Someday,” I am pursuing my dream of being a published writer, which includes taking the odd grad writing seminar, working on short stories and my one (recently-completed!) novel, researching, and reading great books/watching great movies that inspire me. The latter somewhat frequently overlaps with my “Fun,” life, during which I read, binge-watch period dramas, enjoy the beautiful outdoors of Northern Nevada or wherever else I happen to be, relax, laugh, and un-ironically argue the merits of the first three Star Wars movies. Yes, I mean Episodes I-III. Okay, maybe a little ironically. But I do love them. Well, the first two.

For those of you who are still with me . . . Let’s do this!