David Copperfield: Contrast of Summer and Winter


Paragraphs can be so telling. Here, I’m going to compare two passages from David Copperfield that made their way into my reading journal because of their devastating depth.

Here is the first:

When my mother is out of breath and rests herself in an elbow-chair, I watch her winding her bright curls round her fingers and straightening her waist, and nobody knows better than I do that she likes to look so well, and is proud of being so pretty.

David Copperfield’s mother, Clara, was widowed before the birth of her son. The above paragraph shows she has not lost her energy and attractiveness, even when raising a son alone. When David grows old enough to observe, he notices this, but never thinks it will lead to great change. They have a good life, himself, his mother, and the faithful housemaid. What else do they need?

The reader knows better, though, drinking in these sentences. Young David has noticed that his mother is pretty, and that she likes being pretty. He does not realize that she’s open to the idea of finding love again. He doesn’t realize that their peaceful life could change at any moment.

Since he loves his mother in that innocent way in which children love, David notices that she is pretty and happy. He does not think his mother will marry again. He can never predict she will choose a cruel man who will actively work to put out this spark. Mr Murdstone will dull the glow that David notices in his mother; where once she twirled her hair and daydreamed, now she will lack life.

Clara’s new husband will subject both of them to emotional abuse. When David does not behave to Mr Murdstone’s satisfaction, the child is sent to boarding school. He returns to find his mother’s spark is gone, and when she later dies, her pride and will have both been destroyed:

He [Mr Murdstone] drew her to him, whispered in her ear, and kissed her. I knew as well, when I saw my mother’s head lean down upon his shoulder, and her arm touch his neck–I knew as well that he could mould her pliant nature into any form he chose, as I know, now, that he did it.

The paragraphs, placed side by side, tell a devastating story: the destruction of a beautiful person in a cruel way.

Dickens’ words go so far as to change the light in readers’ minds. The first paragraph feels like a summer afternoon, complete with flowers and a warm breeze. Then we find the second, which evokes a feeling of confinement, and I found myself fearing such bleak loneliness.

As a deep thinker, I wonder: who or what inspired Clara’s character?

This is the beauty of old books: they’re relevant. Clara’s story reminded me that, even today, men and women are tricked into cages very much like this.

Though they look dusty on the outside, old books contain the bits of humanity that never vanished, both light and dark. Read them–not because you were told to in school, but because they contain realistic people.

There are books set today, yesterday, and tomorrow. This means that, at any point in time, there will be a story in which someone relates to your struggle. Even if there isn’t a happy ending, this ancient sense of community gives me hope: people fought these battles. There have been losses, such as poor Clara, but there have also been victories.

There is a book for everyone and everything. Find the story you need–it’s out there.

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David Copperfield: Intro


david copperfield coverThe Personal History, Adventures, Experience, and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery. This is the original title of Charles Dickens’ eighth novel, published in serial form in the year 1850. Now sold as a 700-page book, it was originally released in 19 monthly one-shilling installments. This makes for a delightfully long story in which even the villains trigger a certain empathy.

Dickens himself called it his favorite among all his novels, and countless readers over the years have agreed; I myself found it to be moving, not only because there wasn’t a dull moment, but his word choice–as usual–took my breath away.

Based on Dickens’ own past, particularly the chapters which describe a troubled childhood, the story immerses you–as any good book should. Even if I had not enjoyed the story, I would have kept reading because of the style in which he wrote. His style is known to be vivid; he forms creative parallels to make readers feel emotions, even those of characters we don’t like.

Reading this book, I felt their anger, love, heartbreak, infatuation–and it took me a long time to finish, because I had the constant urge to stop and jot the paragraphs in my journal. Some scenes were so bold that I sensed I had lived them–they were part of my past–and I had to record them, borrowing words from one who was a master at using them.

As I wrote Dickens’ words, I couldn’t help contemplating them on a deep level, finding poetry between the lines–in the pauses–the things not said. They found new meaning as I took them apart from the rest of the book. I realized that, as a reader, there is little like the beauty of a paragraph: words, black ink, old or fresh, promising a tale, promising a description that our own minds wouldn’t have come up with.

I would like to share a few of the notes I made. In the next few days, I want to show anyone interested what I found beautiful and why I thought it so–not as complex analysis, but because I want to share. Perhaps you will find enjoyment in the passages. Perhaps they will encourage you to read the book, but it will be enough if they make you stop and ponder, as they did for me.

I do this because I hope to one day write something this powerful. I do this because I have deep love for words and the magic they create. I do it because I love Dickens’ work and wish he was not dead.

Most of all, I do it because words are beautiful. They ought to be appreciated. I believe they can uncover depths in us, timeless depths. Check back if you want to read my thoughts as I share them. I hope they will make you pause for one moment of your day.

On Dusty Bookshelves


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Last year in August, I started a reading journal. It is literally a list of books I read and when I finish them. As the list started to grow over passing weeks, I realized that when I pay attention–real attention–to what a book is saying, there is a lot between the lines that a skim would never reveal.

I began to take notes of passages I loved in my journals. Some things I wrote are so profound–a paragraph or an allegory–I could spend hours meditating on them. I could write essays on them. And I began to think, if only other people would see these beautiful words. If only reading were as popular as it used to be–the whole idea of reading together, discussing, and pointing out beauty.

I’m only one person, so I can’t ignite a fire for books. I can’t ask people to take the time and taste what they’re reading (instead of just seeing it)–but instead of keeping my musings to myself, I can find a way to share them. Someone somewhere might be interested in what I’ve found. They might realize how exciting it is to dig into the history of a novel, its impact on society, the influence of the author.

So today I created a Facebook page where I will share my thoughts on books, their history, why they are wonderful. I might occasionally share a paragraph, explain why I think it’s lovely, and hope that it’ll persuade someone else to read the book. It’s a little spark in the hopes of spreading a love for books that I’m afraid has started to die out.

If you want to read my thoughts–I, a simple fantasy author and obsessive reader–and discuss my findings with me, you can follow my reading blog here on Facebook. I’ll post longer musings here, because some books are larger than life…a Facebook post won’t cut it. Expect interesting historical videos and relevant links, as well.

Books are more than words on paper. Books are dreams that never die, and I think they are beautiful enough to merit discussion again. I hope you can join me–and if you don’t, I hope you’ll still find your favorite book again and crack it open!

New Plans for The Autumn Prince


This year has not been my greatest writing-wise.

I finished one draft of a novel I’m happy with; everything else turned out to be a mess. Perhaps 2017 has been too emotionally loaded for me to connect with characters. Maybe it’s more optimistic: it could be that I’ve improved so much, I can’t be happy with anything I wrote two years ago.

Edits for The Autumn Prince have become rewrites. There was no other option, as my writing style became too advanced to blend with older chapters. I could have forced myself to keep going; however, I asked friends for advice and did some contemplation. I realized I would be wasting my time sticking with a draft I couldn’t feel.

Someone told me that if I don’t want to write a story, readers won’t want to read it. Because of this, I decided to start over with a new plot. This time I created an outline, so I’ll have a map when I begin in January. The original Autumn Prince will soon be on Wattpad. I spent a lot of time on that story and don’t want to toss it out.

Reading is a wonderful way to improve your writing skills. I had always known that, but never experienced it so clearly until now. Though I am still fond of the original Autumn Prince, I’m relieved to not be forcing a storyline that doesn’t feel natural. With this outline, a new book will be finished in 2018.

I’m entering 2018 with greater drive and focus. My birthday wish was to write The Novel, and though I’m not sure what I meant by that, I’ll never find out if I don’t work hard.

What are your writing plans for the new year? Have your novels ever changed radically as mine did?

Adventures in French


They say to pay attention to what interests you most, because it is part of you. In the past, if asked what my passion was in life, I would likely have responded, “Writing.” I would have said without hesitation that I lived for story, nothing more and nothing less, but as we grow, we learn.

My recent interest in French seems to have come from a mix of things–the convenience of Duolingo, the lovely sound of the language, and my own stubbornness. I didn’t go into it thinking it was a passion, though: usually it doesn’t take long for me to quit a new hobby. This time, things were different.

For almost a month now I’ve been obsessively learning words and phrases in French, using not only Duolingo but Memrise and even Tumblr. (Of the three, Tumblr makes learning more enjoyable; it helps to see regular people blog in their native language.)

Though I cannot speak it aloud with ease yet, I’m getting the hang of reading it, and if I keep going at this rate–well, I can feel very optimistic. I already know Spanish because my mother is Peruvian, and she taught me. It will be nice to speak a third language now. This makes the world so much bigger for me, and also makes me wonder if my passion really was story all along.

chris-coudron-133542.jpgCould it be that my passion is really language–that I am in love with the art of words, and not the stories they tell? Do I have the heart of a writer or a linguist? Am I a storyteller, or do I collect vocabulary used in lovely poems?

I have no plan on what I’m going to do with my French. I hope to learn well enough to write short pieces in the language; I most certainly hope to read French classics in their native languages. I enjoy meeting people who speak it–I’ve made many good friends since my journey began.

In the end, do we really need a reason to learn new things–to explore and see the world differently, even if it’s through the way things are said? I have no reason not to learn a new language, and as I slowly piece words together in the form of sentences, I feel myself changing as a soul.

I am growing, and the French might not be the only reason, but it certainly shows how I as a person have become stronger. I’ve lost 13lbs since August and I wrote a new book; I’m learning a new language and enjoying the process. For the first time in a while, I am comfortable with myself.

C’est la vie. I will keep you updated–and maybe one day I’ll have a blog in French!

In the Pages of a Dream Journal


Where do you go when you fall asleep? Have you ever wanted to know more about your dream land?

We writers encounter plot bunnies in bizarre things while awake. We find something that catches our interest and store it away for later, usually forgetting it–there’s no way for us to write all of our ideas.

Most of the time we overlook adventures we have while sleeping. Anyone who remembers their dreams will be baffled by the odd things that happen. Are your actions things you secretly hope for, or mere dust as your mind clean itself?

photo-1489703197108-878f05f4b31bWhatever the case, dreams deserve attention: they’re unpredictable. Dreams are special adventures that reveal colors we never encounter while awake.

Most of the time I remember dreams, but only recently have I taken up the challenge of recording them. My dream journal is unique because they’re stories I came up with–me but not me, uncharted territory of my brain.

It can be hard to hold details of a dream while I scramble for my journal, so I don’t record them chronologically. This journal isn’t organized like a novel; events and details are tangled. What matters is having as much as possible on the page for reflection.

This will become a collection of journeys that will one day puzzle me. I wrote this–yet I didn’t–it’s me but is not me. These are people I know doing things they probably wouldn’t in real life.

Maybe some of these entries will become proper tales.

I’ve only been keeping this journal for a few days, but it’s already worth the effort. Should you decide to take up the challenge, keep your journal somewhere you can reach it upon waking.

Be patient if events slip through your fingers, because there are no rules in dream land. The point isn’t to write an award-winning story, but to know yourself and have fun.

It is therapeutic to keep a journal, digging into the corners of your own inner wonderland. Have you kept a dream journal? What has it taught you about yourself?

Is it Writer’s Block?


Recently I asked myself why I never update my blog, even though I have so many ideas. Writer’s Block is portrayed as blankness; it’s the absence of a muse, staring at a notebook without hearing her sweet whisper.

We claim the Block as a reason why we have nothing to say. I wondered, Do I keep silent because I can’t say things perfectly? Is it Writer’s Block or fear? Does perfectionism keep words in my heart because I am apprehensive?

photo-1505682499293-233fb141754cThere’s a difference between having nothing to say and having much to say that you can’t phrase. You might be full of thoughts that make you speechless. Ask yourself if you have the Block or are afraid to brainstorm.

The only way to know is by starting!

I might have Writer’s Block on one topic, but can’t have it for all of them. I need to stop letting Writer’s Block become an excuse not to write anything.

We’re able to write lovely words; we have freedom to express ourselves. We even have the means to communicate them instantly! I don’t think we should waste this–I certainly won’t.

The next time you have Writer’s Block–for novels or for blogging–ask if you truly have nothing to say. You might find that the muse never left–she got bored and moved on to another topic. Follow her and keep writing!

A Writer is Never Finished


One is never truly finished writing a story.

I’m not an expert on technique; my attention span does not allow me to study complicated books on style. My muse shies from the idea of outlining, flash cards don’t help me at all, and I follow the 7-point method very loosely.

The one thing I know for sure after all these years writing is that an author is never quite done. I’ve spent weeks pondering the meaning of imagination, how humans can take an idea—a goblet or a stream of water—and then write universes surrounding it.

You can play with object size and volume (you cannot contain the stream in the goblet; if you throw the goblet into the stream, it will disappear.) You can play with the history of the object (where does the stream come from? Did the goblet once belong to a king?) You can explore creatures that dwell in the water, gemstones on the side of the goblet, the craftsman who made the goblet.

A writer can do all this until there is a web of facts and lore. When it’s a character we’re dealing with, things become more complex, because—as the old cliché goes—each person is a universe. For those of us who write the story, we are never done and never want to be. However, there’s a contradiction, an instinct when we must find a place where imagining stops and story makes it onto paper.

Most writers have the desire to see our story bound as a book on someone’s shelf. This means we have to work out when to stop imagining the words, instead forming them with ink. It seems I’ve not figured that out yet.

I’ve been thinking of my ideas and characters, some of which you might know, wondering how they got where they are. Rereading my novels, I realized that even the secondary characters would have epic tales. Like most protagonists, they start out in a low place; I want to know how they got higher. I want to know how they succeeded.

Because I am the writer—because ideas are loud—I have been exploring the hows and whys of the universe I created. The answers are surfacing in the form of a new story. I’m not far into it and haven’t a clue whether I will finish, but writing from a new perspective has unlocked different parts of my imagination.

If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to think about your stories—your characters—their hobbies and their favorite objects. Delve into their histories and explore qualities you never thought were important. Petty things like this will help you get to know your universe.

Elizabeth Gilbert and Madeleine L’Engle wrote of writing as if it were a religion or magic. Storytelling helps us create things that, to us and our readers, are very real. A dedicated reader, when engrossed in a good story, will reach a point where they forget they are turning pages.

When you reach that depth, you have made magic.

Read Walking On Water by Madeleine L’Engle and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I know there are other books about storytelling, but again, I don’t spend much time reading technique.

Though I recommend these books, remember we only learn so much from the discoveries of others. An artist’s joy is in the complexity of our own ideas. Consider these great writers as guides to help you on your own journey.

Take time today to think on your own, exploring your worlds in a new way. I promise it will be worth the effort to bask in the eternity of a brainstorm.

The Forest of Heldbreath


Imagine your mind is a forest. The edge of the forest is a place where you pause and get distracted–a place of heldbreath, of course.

Sometimes we wait at the edge of heldbreath for days, months, or years. I’ve been lurking there for several weeks, skillfully talking myself out of a very important task.

Should I start editing now? I asked myself, then laughed and shrugged it off, eager to examine the next tree.

Some writers enjoy edits more than they do writing. I have never been one of those writers; in my haste to move on and write other stories, I put off edits again and again…and again.

In the forest of heldbreath, it’s easy to pretend we aren’t procrastinating. This isn’t the first time I’ve been in that place; the only difference now is that I’m writing about it, giving this place a name and personality.

Heldbreath is procrastination.

I inched away from editing until it was a small place hidden by the trees. I know where it is! Somewhere in that general direction – between two oak trees – it might be that hollow, or perhaps the one after?

Two weeks ago I searched the forest of heldbreath, looking for the corner where my manuscript for The Autumn Prince was. I found myself surprised by the short length of the novel, and thought this couldn’t take long.

It would be quicker if I would keep walking and stop procrastinating.

It’s easy to get distracted while searching the forest of heldbreath; we can convince ourselves we are where we’re supposed to be, when it’s quite far. I want a decent, clean version of The Autumn Prince this summer; I will wander the forest heldbreath in circles until I make it.

Have you been to the forest of heldbreath? Of course you have, we’re both human! Let’s meet at the edge and talk about the goals we will meet someday.