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Tax Return Season

  • Posted on February 24, 2016 at 3:53 pm

In the United States of America, we pay taxes every single day. On the money we make, on the money we spend, on everything, just about. These taxes pay for our roadways. They pay for our city ordinances and libraries and public schools. They pay for the indigent health care that is the only health care I currently have. These taxes give disability payments to those who cannot work and welfare payments to those who can’t find work. These taxes give food to those who cannot buy their own.

In short, these taxes help save lives. A lot of people disagree. A lot of people feel we pay way too many taxes. To these people, I ask, what do you expect? What can be done without money these days, and where is the government meant to get that money without our support as citizens. You don’t complain about the tax money when it comes to the properly-paved roads, only when there are holes in them. You don’t complain about the libraries that provide the homeless with places to be during the day, until they close down and the homeless stand on your street corners. You don’t complain about law enforcement, until they’ve pulled you over. To the people who complain about taxes, I say this:

When you check our a book at the library, you’re asked to return it on time, correct? And when you don’t you pay a fee. That fee then goes to the librarians salaries. The librarians who help you find and check out books. That fee goes to the lease on the property that library sits on. That fee goes to purchasing new books. That fee goes to holding classes for those too poor to attend college. That fee is useful. So I never complain about paying the fee on a book I kept out too long. After all, if I didn’t want to pay the fee, I just wouldn’t use the service, would I? Taxes are just like that. If you don’t want to pay the taxes, move somewhere else.

The bright side to taxes comes down to this, however. And this bright side is Tax Returns.

So basically, the idea is, you pay exactly your fair share in taxes. Sometimes, however, because of the way the system is set up, you accidentally over pay! So, the government, after you file your taxes, and they double check their math, sends you a check with your tax returns!

It’s a little like hitting the lottery. I knew a family that when they filed their combined taxes, they got a return of $3000 dollars. My best friend got a return of around $1500. I’m getting close to $1200 dollars back this year. Last year, I only got about $500 dollars back. But what do you do, when you have a ton of money coming to you in one lump sum?

Some people, like a girl I know from work, payed off her credit card debt, and then bought a $300 purse. My best friend paid her son’s tuition for his school, and then bought her husband a giant tv. (and gave me the smaller one! Yay!) I know one friend who is planning to save it until Comicon in the summer, and spend it there. So what’s the right strategy when it comes to using your tax return?

Personally, I intend to make sure my tax return works for me this year. I don’t want to fritter it away on purses or food or anything like that. I really want to make sure I spend this money wisely. So I consulted some articles. Some, like Money Crasher’s article, were filled with a few good ideas, but mostly bland options. Others, like TurboTax’s article, are filled with more whimsical ideas. Personally, I like the idea of funding a business.

For almost a year, I have been considering starting an Apiary. Often, with a $500 start up cost, you can get a decent 3-4 hive Apiary going. Enough to supply honey for a small shop. I’m thinking of it as a great way to make sure I have revenue coming in in the future. A second blade, if you will, were I to use terms from Assassination Classroom. It would be difficult, of course, to run a business, work full time AND attend College. Which is what my plans are for this year. However, it’s going to be worth it.

My other plan is glasses. My own are wearing down, and I can barely see. Glasses, when one doesn’t have insurance, generally cost anywhere from $500 to $1200, depending on your perscription and the frames you chose. I may just ask them to reuse my frames.

In general, however, this is how it always goes. I pledge to myself I will spend my return wisely, and then it’s gone before I know it. Hopefully, this year, my return season goes better than last, and hopefully, yours too. Tell us what you plan on spending your tax return on  in the comments! If you live in a country that doesn’t do tax returns, tell us how your tax system works! I’m very curious.

Weekly Writing Update – 05-22-15

  • Posted on May 23, 2015 at 2:42 am

As I predicted, my job is turning out to be more stressful than I had originally anticipated… I can’t write as much as I was hoping for, which is discouraging. I can, however pay my bills for the first time in months, and have food money, so that’s nice!

Word Counts: 

First Book of the Kurylian Saga: 1.5 sections rewritten (Current total: Unknown, hand written)

Kaimi Rowe Series: Seeker Born – Rough Draft – Restarted

Blue Roses – 9,971 words – Dystopian Love Story

An Asexual’s Guide to Dating – Outlined – one section handwritten

Blog Posts:

working on it…

Books Read

None finished this week, sadly…

Goals 

Set up a pinterest board for the kurylian saga characters

Two more blog posts for this blog this week!

Re-re-rewrite Kurylian Saga

return Summer at Tiffany’s by Marjorie Hart

Ipsy January Unveiling

  • Posted on February 25, 2015 at 9:44 pm

Alright, so you might not know this about me, but I am a beauty-holic. Basically, I’ve fallen in love with things like makeup, jewelry, hair-and-body-care things, and in general just girly things. This means that I, like so many others, have fallen prey to the Subscription Box charm. Specifically, Ipsy.

Now, for those of you who don’t know (and probably don’t care) Ipsy is a makeup subscription service that you can get for $10/mo, and it sends you four or five makeup-items. It’s rather nice, actually, because there’s a quiz you fill out and then you get makeup based on your profile. Like having a personal shopper do it for you, you get the goods, without all the fuss.

Now, why am I, an author, writing about this on my author-y blog? Because, ladies and gentlemen, if you want to make money in the writing field, sometimes, you’re going to have to do things outside your normal range of writing! It’s a lesson in expanding your abilities. So, in my case, I’m going to provide a review of the items I received in my January Ipsy Bag.

Starting with:

The Glam Bag itself:

 

 

As you can see, this cute pink bag has a lovely diamond pattern to it. It’s made of an interesting material, most likely a poly-blend. The pink and the gray offset each other nicely, and it’s a decent size if all you want to do is carry a small amount of makeup. I have to carry some outside of it, because I am a pack-rat, and use a lot of makeup. The cute Ipsy pull makes for advertising in a cheeky way.  Way to go, Ipsy, for putting yourself out there!

 

 

Cargo Cosmetics Mini-Lipgloss in Anguilla

This lip-gloss is one of the best lip-glosses I’ve ever had. Despite having a stick-applicator with that fuzzy-tip that I hate, it’s still really easy to put on. It does have an odd sort of almost-tacky leftover feel, but it glides on smooth. The color is fantastic as well, when mixed with a Nyx Simply Red Lip Creme (in Candy Apple) it does the most amazing pink-ombre on my lips ever. It does smell a tiny bit funky, but other than that, it’s lovely! Definitely a recommend.

 

 

 

Model co BLUSH cheek powder in Peach Bellini

A blush for the ages. I adore this thing, no doubt about it. This blush gives me the rosiest cheeks, and makes me look five years younger, it’s great. I can’t wait to try out more from this company. It even comes in a nice round container, without being overly large! It fits beautifully in the Glambag, and in my hand!

Luxie Beauty Large-Angled Face Brush 504

This brush is mainly what I was buying this Ipsy subscription for! I had been hoping for an angled eye-shadow brush, but this beauty is just AMAZING. It’s great for applying the BLUSH we talked about earlier. Plus, it is soft as a button! It’s survived two weeks in my purse now, and I think it’s going to survive a lot longer! The pink handle is absolutely darling too. I have NO complaints.

 

Pencil Me In cosmetics Natural Eyeliner in Amethyst

Oh where was this eyeliner when I was eighteen and going through my emo-phase? It’s a lovely purple color, just like the name implies. Although I do find this particular eyeliner breaks at the tip pretty easily, the natural formula really entices. I have to admit, however, this one lives on my dresser, and I rarely use it.

And last, but most certainly least:

Eva NYC Up-All-Night Volumizing Spray

This one was the let down of the whole bag. I honestly didn’t get to try it! It broke open on transit, dousing the rest of the bag. Thank goodness it didn’t damage anything. However, since I had stated that I didn’t really WANT any hair-products in my bag (I have a pixie-ish A-line, as you can see in my photos), it was more a blessing in disguise. I let Ipsy know about the situation, and they were more than happy to send out a replacement. I haven’t received that replacement yet, but I’ll be happy to update this review once I do, if anyone is interested!

 

 

 

 

All in all, I’m really satisfied with the first Ipsy bag. The makeup is nice, the lip-gloss to die for, and I found everything else quite happily living in my purse during the week. Not only is much of it useful for my daily apply-makeup-on-bus schedule, but it looks GREAT on me too!  I am a little disappointed that one of the products was damaged, but I couldn’t really blame Ipsy for that. I blame the postal service! Damn postal workers.

Look at him. That smile is so fake. I’m watching you.

(All pictures (except mr. Mailman) courtesy of the Ipsy website. No offense meant to our fine national postal workers, they work hard, and I couldn’t help making the joke. Sorry!)

Weekly Writing Update – 01-02-15

  • Posted on January 2, 2015 at 12:20 pm

Alright, so this week, with New Years Eve and Christmas all in it didn’t work out too well, but hey! I tried! XD However, I’ve recently found a bit of a kicker in the organisational department, and hopefully, with that, will come the energy to fight off my demons and get some editing done! <3

Also, this week, I have been asked to help a good friend out with writing up her Wikipedia page, which has been a challenge and a half, let me tell you. Any help whatsoever, or good articles you all might know about Wiki pages, please do let me know!

Word Counts: 

First Book of the Kurylian Saga: 22,205 words

Kaimi Rowe Series: Seeker Born – Rough Draft – Restarted

Blue Roses – 9,971 words – Dystopian Love Story

Blog Posts

A Day In the Life of a Saleswoman

New Page – Writing Samples

New Years Resolution Bloghop

Ulysses Bucket List

Books Read

 Start Where You Are by Chris Gardner

Goals 

Finish The Well Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman (Published 2000)

Finish Real Money Answers by Patrice C. Washington

Start The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner

Start up Bullet Journaling

Two more blog posts for this blog this week!

 

Weekly Writing Update – 12/18/14

  • Posted on December 18, 2014 at 7:02 am

It’s that time again~! Unfortunately neglected for a long time, my Weekly Writing Update is starting up again! NaNoWriMo kinda knocked me out a LOT. My sleep schedule got fucked over, my writing schedule got fucked over, and for almost two weeks, I couldn’t write a word, not even to get this blog up and running again. But! I am hopefully recovered, and going to start writing again!

Word Counts: 

First Book of the Kurylian Saga: 22,205 words

Kaimi Rowe Series: Seeker Born – Rough Draft – Restarted

Blue Roses – 9,971 words – Dystopian Love Story

Blog Posts

Guest Post – Chat With A Kitchen Witch

Imagine Your Oc – Practice Drabbles 1

Guest Post – Let’s Talk about Karma with a Kitchen Witch!

Asexual Awareness Week

NaNoWriMo Spotlight 2014!

Halloween Bloghop!

ISWG 11/5/14 – NaNoWriMo Anxiety

Winter Spirit!

Books Read

Little Red Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer

Normal Gets You Nowhere by Kelly Cutrone

Goals 

Finish The Well Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman (Published 2000)

Finish Real Money Answers by Patrice C. Washington

Finish Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Polish up Blue Roses for submission to this contest

Two more blog posts for this blog this week!

 

October IWSG – A Hard Lesson

  • Posted on October 1, 2014 at 9:53 pm

Today, when I woke up, I was excited. At my work, we get to put on special events every so often, and I’ve always been told that these events are the easiest way to make my monthly quota on sales. So, since there had been two and a half months before this particular special event, I worked my tail off, getting appointments set up, prospecting buyers, and making sure the merchandise would have what I needed to make my quota.

I ate a small breakfast, and coffee, and dressed in one of my best dresses. I put on my warpaint, and smiled my sweetest smile. I rode my bike to work, and when I got there, I put my best foot forward, trying to make sure everything was perfect for this day. You see, I had a goal. My goal? 15 grand in sales. This goal, clearly, was WAY over the top, since my bosses goal for me was only 2500 in sales.

You probably want to know what this has to do with writing books, and I’m getting to it, I promise. But first, you have to understand. I was pumped. I was confident, happy, absolutely sure that my work was going to pay off. That I was going to end up in the big leagues. For the last two months, my manager had filled my head with stories about how he made 34k once at one of these special events. How he’d managed to put his name on the board. I was looking forward to finally proving I was GOOD at something in the working world.

When the time for my first appointment passed, I found a sinking feeling growing in my stomach. I knew the next six hours would be tough, because the rest of my appointments were scheduled AFTER my normal six hour shift. You see, on special event days, we’re allowed to stay until our last appointment leaves. I was set to leave at three, but my next three appointments weren’t until five, five thirty, and six thirty. Which meant I’d be cutting it very close to my deadline to catch the final bus home, instead of having to ride my bike the four and a half miles home in the soon-to-be-winter cold.

Tensions rose, as more and more appointments passed and no one showed. My manager started coming down hard on all of us, and morale was low. I will admit, I’ve had issues with panic attacks at work before, and when under this sort of pressure, I tend to hide how absolutely wrecked I am. I had to take small breaks in the break room to avoid bursting into tears under the dark cloud of failure. As my appointments passed one by one, I had to accept the fact that all of my hard work had been for nothing.

The guests never showed. I didn’t get to sell the great big amounts I had hoped to sell. I sold perhaps 200 dollars today, and that doesn’t feel like any kind of victory to me, when, in order to hold up my end of our team, I needed 2300 more than that. I left my store feeling like a failure. And then, to find out the bus had already gone? Well, let’s just say, my bike ride was even colder thanks to my tears.

Now, you ask me again, what does this have to do with writing? Well, more specifically, it has to do with perseverance. Because writing, being an author, and getting published? Oh, you can bet there are times when they feel just like I felt on that bike in the cold autumn wind. There is nothing more heart-wrenching then putting your heart and soul into something, really breaking your back over it, only to find that all that work was for nothing.

Whether you’re choosing independent publishing or traditional, it doesn’t matter. You ARE going to experience the sort of heartache I describe here in vivid detail. Months without sales on your amazon account. Rejection letter after rejection letter in your inbox. These things WILL happen. Nothing can stop them. No one is a success overnight, despite what the tabloids say.

I bet you’ve heard what I’m going to say next many, many times. But I have a precursor to it. I’m not going to just jump into the ‘you have to shoulder it and move on speech’, because honestly? That’s the most emotionally bass-ackwards poppycock I’ve ever heard. NOTHING should be tossed aside like that, when you have put so much effort into it. Mourn it! Throw yourself a small pity party! Whine about it to friends and family members. Post about it on Facebook. Eat ice cream until you feel sick, all the while crying into your favorite blanket! Do what you need to do to get over that sick feeling in your heart.

Because once you’re finally over it. Once the hurt has settled, and you can look back on it and begin to analyze it carefully, you’ll see areas where you can improve. Where you can move beyond what USED to be your hardest work, your most effort, and turn it into more. You’ll begin to see the moments you can turn from sand into diamonds. And there is nothing in the world more valuable than that moment of clarity, after the tears, after the sorrow. So yes, today, I was a VERY insecure writer. However, after this important lesson, and a good bout of tears and apple crisp, I have found myself even more devoted.

Because the goals I set myself are just that. Goals. Things to work towards, no matter how far I fall flat from them for now. A mistake here, a failure there, these aren’t things to fear. These are things to persevere.

thanks to www.fanpop.com for use of their autumn background for this poster.October IWSG – A Hard Lesson

For more Insecure Writers giving you good advice, please visit the Insecure Writers Support Group.

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group – 09/03/14

  • Posted on September 4, 2014 at 1:00 am

IWSG badgeI only recently found out about the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, so forgive this post being a few minutes late.  Basically, from what I can understand of the website, it’s a group meant to bolster and support those going into writing as a career, by helping them see that others have similar insecurities, and by talking them through them.

To be completely honest, I have more insecurities than triumphs, right now, and that’s not something to shake a stick at. I’ve triumphed a lot in my life, to get where I am now, and so when I say the insecurities way me down, I mean it, truthfully.

The thing about it is, however, that you can’t let that sort of thing hold you back. Several of my fears are completely valid. Being the type of person I am, I compartmentalize, and then end up completely disorganized through out the entire process, which just leads to chaos. So, in an effort to help you through some of the things that I’m suffering through, I’m going to organize a little.

Worry one: I’m not going to make it. 

My mother is an author. My best friend is an author. My Mentor is an author. All of these people, I hold dear. But each in their own way, they struggle beyond what is possible for me to feel comfortable with. My mother has one book published, and is working on her second, and honestly, I’d give anything to be nothing like her. That’s a whole seperate story. My best friend has written five books, and none of them are published because he is waiting for one specific publishing house to recognise his works. And my mentor, possibly the most successful of all of us, has two books published, and still is not earning enough to support himself yet.

None of these are my idea of ‘making it’. Of Succeeding. My idea of succeeding is the type of fandom and fame that people like Neil Gaiman, Andrew Hussie, and J.K. Rowling have. And my fear is that I will never reach that level of success.

But that’s wrong. To worry about that so early in the game. The only way I will ever make it, is if I put my all into it now, if I give everything I have to succeeding. I can’t allow this worry to cripple me, the way I’ve allowed worries like this to do so in the past. I have done so much in my short life, and this will not be something that I don’t cross off my bucket list. So please, don’t let the high pole of your own idea of ‘making it’ hold you down.

Worry number two: The things I’m writing will perpetuate horrible things.

If there is one thing I want more than to be the next J.K., it’s to make sure that my writing MEANS something. That it gives someone who didn’t have representation before, that representation. That it allows people to feel more comfortable being themselves.

So I worry and fuss and drive myself nuts over my books and blogposts and writing, to make sure that they don’t hurt those I’m trying to help. It’s a lot harder than one might think to avoid internalised misogyny, or misandry. To fight off homophobia that I didn’t realise slipped into the way I write. To tear away anything that might make someone feel worse about themselves than they already do. And I’m scared that I might never be able to do what needs to be done to make the world a better place.

To combat this worry, I’m trying to learn as much about the world as possible, so that I might end up helping, instead of hurting. I’m attempting to make sure that nothing is left out. That I leave no stone unturned. Honestly, there are some who would tell me not to worry about this, but it seems to me that not enough people worry. So I try my hardest.

Worry number three: I’m afraid I’ll decide this is a waste of time someday, and quit.

I have picked up a habit over my years on earth, and it’s a bad one. I start something, put a lot of work into it. Hard, fun work, that leaves me breathless and wanting more. And then suddenly, as if nothing ever happened, I just… can’t do it anymore. I can’t pick up the pen. I can’t make myself write that next reply. I can’t tell myself that I need to continue it.

Knitting, Final Fantasy Eight, Gardening, Drawing, Painting, Manga-writing, BDSM, Domme-ing, Relationships, and numerous, numerous story ideas. All thrown to the wind, on a whim. I have come to accept that I am a fickle creature. And what worries me, is that after all this effort I’ve put into working so hard on this, I’ll just… give up.

I don’t know how to combat this worry. I don’t know how to get rid of it, or change it, or make it work for me. The best I can do, the best anyone can do, is take it one day at a time, and try their hardest. That’s why I write as many blogposts as I can, that’s why I read so many blogs on my Feedly. That’s why I twitter more now than I ever have before. That’s why I search for blogs and talk to other writers, and try desperately to tie what I’m doing here into my other areas of interest.

Worry number four: I’m worried that this will take over my life, and kill my other dreams.

I want to open a Manga Cafe. The first Manga Cafe in Colorado. I want to have children. I want to travel the world. I want to be financially stable and own my own home. All of these things… None of them are mutually exclusive. But I’m afraid that all the work, all the effort, all the energy I have to put into this whole author-business, will take away from the energy I’ll have for these other dreams.

How can I run a cafe, a business, when I have to spend so much time writing, just to be a mediocre author? What will my children think when I have to tell them I can’t take them to the park because Mommy has to write? Travelling the world costs money, and since it looks like I’m going to be an indie-author, I can’t afford that kind of expense. My money, my life, my energy has to go towards my career as an author.

This is a simple fix, though. This is all just a matter of perspective. If I can wire my writing into the rest of my life, as well, then maybe, just maybe, I can have it all. Why not write while travelling? It’ll make my books more realistic! My cafe can give rise to whole new book ideas, as well as a place to sell my books, and others! My children will see me working hard towards my dreams, and gain a work ethic themselves. I can do it. I can do this, and I WILL make my dreams come true!

Worry number five: I’m worried that I’ll succeed. 

Now, bear with me here, because I know one of my worries up there was that I WOULDN’T make it. But, making it, succeeding in becoming the type of author I want to be… Well, that’s just as terrifying. The kind of fanbases that J.K. and Hussie and Gaiman have are amazing, but also, dangerous. People have Andrew Hussies’ BABY pictures online. I would have no privacy. Not only that, but these people would be hanging on my every word. I would be responsible for a part of their world view. That’s a horrid responsibility.

And there would be my close friends. What of my best friend, who is still waiting for that publisher to call him back? The jealousy there might ruin our friendship. I would rather die than lose him as a friend. And what of my mother? I love her, but what if she thinks this is some kind of contest? We barely have a tenuous relationship as it is. I’d rather not turn into Rose Lalonde, thank you.

The only balm I can soothe this worry with is that I won’t let success change me. Not really. I will still be friends with those I love. I will still be me. And I know I’ve never intentionally hurt a person. And I’ve never withheld an apology when I knew it was really needed. So I can only hope that responsibility will sit with me easily.

Does anyone else have these worries? How do you soothe yours? Please tell me, because I’d love to hear.

Breaking Down Nemesis: Part Two

  • Posted on August 17, 2014 at 11:36 am

For those of you just joining us, here’s a link to part one. For those of you who aren’t, we’re working on chapter two this time, of Miss Marple’s mysterious adventure in Nemesis. In chapter one, Miss Marple read in the newspaper about the death of an old friend. Now, we get to continue!

Chapter two: Code Word Nemesis

We pick up a week later, when Miss Marple receives a letter. Correspondence, we’ll find out later, turns out to be a really important thing to the lovely Miss Marple. And in fact, pretty important too.

She again, notes the details of the envelope. Good quality envelope, London postage, that sort of thing. Broadribb and Schuster, Solicitors and Notaries of the Public. We’ll meet these gentlemen later, I get the feeling. Yay, more characters! So far, we have five characters, one post-humous. So far, the Code is starting to look pretty reasonable. I know I’ve been drawn in. How about you?

The “Courteous and Legal phraseology” asks her to meet them at her earliest convenience, which turns out not to be Thursday the 24th like they suggested. You’ve got to love the thought that Agatha puts into these thought processes. What character have you ever known to DELAY THE DAMN CALL by attending a meeting at a women’s college about adding some new classrooms.

After a quick discussion with Cherry, who seems to enjoy caring for Miss Marple the same way some people teach children to read, Miss Marple decides she’s going to visit them. If only because Mr. Rafiel might have left her something. A very organic thought process, here, something I might think myself. She hopes not for money but for a rare book on flowers, or a nice cameo broach.

Instead of waiting, we are treated to a quick flash forward to a discussion between Mr. Schuster and Mr. Broadribb. As with Cherry and Miss Marple, we learn about these two through their conversation rather than through a flat out description, or even an introduction. The very first bit we hear is this:

“Wonder what she’ll be like,” said Mr. Broadribb to Mr. Schuster, glancing at the clock as he did so.

“She’s due in a quarter of an hour,” Said Mr. Schuster. “Wonder if she’ll be punctual?”

“Oh, I should think so. She’s elderly, I gather, and much more punctilious than the young scatterbrains of today.”

“Fat or thin, I wonder?” Said Mr. Schuster.

Mr. Broadribb shook his head.

Already I like this Mr. Broadribb MUCH more than Mr. Schuster. But maybe that’s just because I really like Miss Marple, and Mr. Broadribb is being nicer. Then, after their impromptu discussion on what they thought she would be like, they fall into a discussion of their employer. Or rather who and what their employer WAS. As of course, Mr. Rafiel is dead. He seems to be considered a very shrewd man. They say he had “Flair” for what he did, as well as a “Great financial brain.”

This makes me want to meet him even more. Too bad he’s already dead. I wonder what finally killed him?

Miss Marple arrives, and Mr. Schuster excuses himself, thank god. We finally get a description of Mr. Broadribb, and it turns out he’s rather melancholy and long of face. Which just makes me like him more, honestly. Good lawyers should be rather down-trodden, otherwise they aren’t doing their job. Anyway, they begin again, by opening the discussion with Mr. Rafiel. I find myself in a state of constant tension. I just want to find out what he left her already, despite knowing that it was a job, thanks to the description of the book.

Miss Marple is then given a letter. She reads it through, and then rereads it. Then, she has this to say to Mr. Broadribb:

“This is hardly very definite. Is there no more definite elucidation of any kind?”

Apperantly, all Mr. Broadribb was supposed to do was give her the letter, and then tells her that the ‘sum of the legacy’ is 25000 pounds. Now, for my american viewers, who may not understand this amount, that’s a little over 41,000 dollars. Which is quite a lot of money for an old lady. In fact, they go on to discuss what she might do with this money, while Miss Marple is in a bit of a shock over it. Or maybe she’s just trying to figure out the letter already.

Then, Mr. Broadribb asked her if the word ‘Nemesis’ meant anything to her. And she explained that she said it once to Mr. Rafiel, and he was amused at her calling herself that. Again, I really want to read that damned book. Both Mr. Broadribb and Miss Marple are left thoroughly confused by the events, and so am I, until a page or so later, when we FINALLY get to know the contents of the letter.

“To miss Jane Marple, resident in the village of st. Mary Mead.

This will be delivered to you after my death by the good offices of my solicitor, James Broadribb. He is the man I employ for dealing with such legal matters as fall in the dealing with such legal matters as fall in the field of my private affairs, not my business activities. He is a sound and trustworthy lawyer. Like the Majority of the human race he is susceptible to the sin of curiosity. I have not satisfied his curiosity. In some respects this matter will remain between you and myself. Our code word, my dear lady, is Nemesis. I don’t think you will have forgotten in what place and in what circumstances you first spoke that word to me. In the course of my business activities over what is now quite a long life, I have learnt one thing about a man whom I wish to employ. He has to have a flair. A flair for the particular job I want him to do. It is not knowledge, it is not experience. The only word that describes it is flair. A natural gift for doing a certain thing.

You, my dear, if I may call you that, have a natural flair for justice, and that has led to your having a natural flair for crime. I want you to investigate a certain crime. I have ordered a certain sum to be placed so that if you accept this request and as a result of your investigation this crime is properly elucidated, the money will become yours absolutely. I have set aside a year for you to engage on this mission. You are not young, but you are, if I may say so, touch. I think I can trust a reasonable fate to keep you alive for a year at least.

I think the work involved will not be distasteful to you. You have a natural genius, I should say, for investigation. The necessary funds for what I may describe as working capital for making this investigation will be remitted to you during that period, whenever necessary. I offer this to you as an alternative to what may be your life at present.

I envisage you sitting in a chair, a chair that is agreeable and comfortable for whatever kind or form of rheumatism from which you may suffer. All persons of your age, I consider, are likely to suffer from some form of rheumatism. If this ailment affects your knees or your back, it will not be easy for you to get about much and you will spend your time mainly in knitting. I see you, as I saw you once one night as I rose from sleeping disturbed by your urgency, in a cloud of pink wool.

I envisage you knitting more jackets, head scarves and a good many other things of which I do not know the name. If you prefer to continue knitting, that is your decision. If you prefer to serve the cause of justice, I hope that you may at least find it interesting.

Let justice roll down like waters.

And righteousness like an everlasting stream.

Amos.” 

And with that, we are at an end for chapter two. Now, I am a fangirl at heart, and usually, in fandoms, when this sort of accord is reached between two people, we start shipping them. Which means that I thoroughly believe that, had circumstances been different, Miss Marple and Mr. Rafiel might have been paramours. Lovers. Sweethearts. Soul-mates. But then again, it might just be me. Either way, these two characters have a great respect and care for each other. They know each other inside and out.

It’s a rare thing to see two characters connect like this. It’s something to emulate, for certain. Also, the characters themselves are really relatable. I seriously want to meet this Mr. Rafiel. I’m also kind of hoping he’s faking his death. I doubt it, because this doesn’t seem that kind of book, but I hope.

Another thing, I find the use of “Cloud of Pink Wool” to be the beginning of our recurring themes. Check number two on the Agatha Christie Code list. I’m close, guys. I’m close. But this is important. Recurring themes have been shown to be very addictive. Memes. Episodic plot-threads. Recurring characters. Simply enough put, Miss Christie is onto something here. Because everyone seems to put these recurring things into their work. Or at least, the smart ones do.

So, your turn! Tell me about the recurring themes in your own work. Memes, inside jokes, the kinds of things that you think your future fandoms will latch onto and turn into an indoctrination method.

Breaking Down Nemesis: Part One

  • Posted on August 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Welcome to a new series of articles centered around breaking down, and understanding Nemesis, a Miss Marple Mystery, by Agatha Christie. If you’re curious, and wish to follow along, you can purchase the book here! (or make use of your public library, of course! <3) We’ll be breaking down several things, focusing on the Tension, the Characterization, and the Plot Threads, while searching out this mysterious Agatha Christie Code that I’ve heard so much about!

Nemesis is a story in the middle of the Miss Marple Mysteries, a series about an old woman, Miss Jane Marple, who happens to solve mysteries in between gardening, knitting, and enjoying her golden years. At twenty two chapters, we’re going to be breaking down each chapter and looking over it. At the end, I’ll give a final post about what I’ve learned from the intrepid Miss Agatha.

In the afternoons it was custom of Miss Jane Marple to unfold her second newspaper.

The cover for the copy I am reading. Clicking will take you to Miss Christie’s Wikipage.

This is the first line of the novel. Odd choice, honestly, but it works, because it shows off a certain oddness about Miss Marple in the first place. Then, odder still, Miss Marple goes off on a tangent about how often her paper is late because the boy delivering it is either late, or has handed off his route for a little while, or has been sacked.

Strangely enough, this drew me in immediately, if only because I really felt like I was listening to the mental ramblings of an old lady. But another part of it shows just how very AWARE Miss Marple is about EVERYTHING. She knows more than just ‘oh the paper’s late, I can’t read it with early morning tea.’ She knows WHY her paper is late, which is something few people even bother paying attention to.

The pacing so far is unbearably slow. I haven’t figured out anything other than what this old woman is doing with her afternoon. Which appears to be reading a newspaper she’s nicknamed “The Daily All-Sorts”. Then, we are treated to another rant, this time about being unable to find anything in the Times. This rant seems devoted to her lamenting how things have changed from when she was young.

A wonderful way to show us her age, and also an intriguingly clear indication that perhaps the so-called Agatha Christie Code is correct. She seems very intent on describing Miss Marple’s thought process in larger-than-life detail.  Here, we find out another odd detail about Miss Marple.

“It’s sad really, but nowadays one is only interested in the deaths!” – Miss Marple

Miss Marple discovers the Internet

She seems to be looking to see if anyone she knows has died, or perhaps given birth, or gotten married. An odd passtime, but when one has all the time on her hands that Miss Marple seems to, I can see why it would become interesting. Everything about Miss Marple at this point seems to be just this side of odd for an old woman. Miss Christie is leaving us hints as to just how odd Old Miss Marple is underneath. This is wonderful examples of characterization. But still, nothing has happened yet.

Finally, Miss Marple comes across a name that stirs some familiarity. Jason Rafiel, listed in the obituaries. She can’t seem to remember who it is, but she has no doubt it will come to her. In fact, we are treated to a long process of her figuring it out. She begins by looking out the window, lamenting that the doctors refuse to allow her to garden. Another hobby we find she enjoyed that now she is restricted. Poor Miss Marple, her old age is catching up to her. Turning away from the window, she picks up her knitting, which appears to be a pink jacket, just missing the sleeves.

Now pink wool, this triggers something of her memory. As we can see:

Pink wool. Now wait a minute, where did that fit in? Yes- yes- it fitted in with the name she’d just read in the paper. Pink wool. A blue sea. A Carribean sea. A sandy beach. Sunshine. Herself knitting and- why of course, Mr. Rafiel. That trip she had made to the caribbean. The Island of St. Honore. A treat from her nephew Raymond. And she remembered Joan, her niece-in-law, Raymond’s wife, saying: “Don’t get mixed up in any more murders, Aunt Jane. It isn’t good for you.”

Do you see what she did there? Miss Agatha Christie just took us through a perfect example of how the mind ACTUALLY works! After scent, touch is the closest sense to memory, followed by sight! Now, Miss Marple didn’t just remember this up, as if it were a scene, no, it’s broken down into actual recollections, actual thoughts. Instead of a flashback, we get a disjointed connection through various memories.

And like any of us, Miss Marple doesn’t just remember everything about that trip at once. No, she has to tease it together, starting with the names. She remembered the elderly Major, whose name continued escaping her. Then she remembers the kind of man Mr. Rafiel had been. Not perfectly, as some people are want to do. She remembers him being an obstinate man, as well as strong, as well as rich. Difficult, irritable and shockingly rude, she remembers. Clearly he made an impression on Miss Marple. And, not only has she remembered Mr. Rafiel, but others too.

Mrs. Walters, a widow and Mr. Rafiel’s secretary. Mr Rafiel’s Masseur-Attendant, Arthur Jackson, who she thought was a rather doubtful character. But instead of being sure of Jackson’s name, she continues to question it. This is a very organic process of tracking down what the thoughts and memories of this time were. And clearly she is remembering the people specifically, not the events. I assume this was Miss Christie’s way of not rehashing the entire events of the previous book, but instead teasing us along into remembering it as well.

Then comes Miss Knight, who was once Miss Marple’s own companion, a young woman she’s rather happy to get rid of. But for some reason, she keeps messing up her name, thinking of her as Miss Bishop. She even quips about it:

“Oh dear,” said Miss Marple again, “I always get all the names wrong. And of course, it was Miss Knight I was thinking of. Not Miss Bishop. Why do I think of her as Miss Bishop?” The answer came to her. Chess, of course. A Chess piece. A knight. A bishop.

I’ll admit, at this point, Miss Christie had me hooked as a writer, although perhaps not as a reader. Such an organic transition, and a clear definition of this character’s mind. Already I am aware that she notices things others don’t care about, and she puts together odd connections, forming them in her mind to remind herself of things. I haven’t even had to read the rest of the series, and I find myself feeling like Miss Marple is an old friend.

She gives us a rundown of how she and Mr. Rafiel had been partners, for a time, but she never gets around to explaining in what. This makes me want to track down the book previous and read it. Well played, Miss Christie. We find out that Miss Marple was quite excited about these events, and it makes us excited too. Already, we’ve found ourselves enthralled by the way Jane Marple sees the world.

Then, we get to meet Cherry, who is now Miss Marple’s Companion. It seems that Miss Marple uses Cherry as a bit of a sounding board. Also, the voices between Miss Marple and Cherry are quite different. I find myself seeing Cherry as perhaps african american, if only because of the vernacular she chooses.

“You did have it in for little Gary Hopkins I must say,” said Cherry. “When you caught him torturing his cat that day. Never knew you had it in you to go for anyone like that! Scared him stiff, you did. He’s never forgotten it.”

“I hope he hasn’t tortured anymore cats.”

“Well, he’s made sure you weren’t about if he did,” said Cherry. “In fact I’m not at all sure as there isn’t other boys as got scared. Seeing you with your wool and the pretty things you knits and all that- anyone would think you were gentle as a lamb. But there’s times I could say you’d behave like a lion if you was goaded into it.”

Also, a wonderful choice there, to show us Miss Marple’s sense of rough justice through the eyes of Cherry, her companion. At this point, I’m also hoping to see more of Cherry. Their interaction seems quite natural, that of a companion and someone of an age beyond adulthood.

Let’s pause for a moment and talk about the syntax of Miss Christie’s work. So far, I’m seeing quite a large number of ‘said’s, and very little added description. She was clearly a follower of the ‘no adjectives’ rule, as well as a detractor from the ‘said is dead’ forum of discussion. However, I don’t feel it takes away from her work. The dialogue itself is well written, as well as showing us little glimpses of what we need to know about Miss Marple. There isn’t a word wasted here. I can see why Agatha Christie is said to be the single best-selling author in the world.

There’s a small break away from the heavy thinking to have a conversation with Miss Bartlett, a companion-gardener to one Miss Hastings. Then, her mind turns back to Mr. Rafiel, and gives us a wonderful description of their relationship. Ships that pass in the night. After that, she resolves that she will probably never think of him again. She’d look out for an obituary, out of what seems an honor for his passing, but she isn’t very hopeful about it. As a final thought, she notes that he hadn’t been anyone of major importance in any industry.

He had just all his life made enormous amounts of money…

All the money. Obsene amounts of money.

What I wouldn’t give to make enormous amounts of money. But on another note, clearly, the foreshadowing here is pretty thick. On the second read through, I found things I hadn’t noticed, such as the Mrs. Hastings reference. Already we have so many characters to follow, and Miss Marple at the center of it all. Red herrings everywhere for a mystery that hasn’t even been introduced, and I’m excited about this book that literally NOTHING HAS HAPPENED IN. All Miss Marple has done is read her newspaper, think about old memories, and talk to two women for five minutes each!

Breaking it down, just a bit, we see already how Miss Christie built up the character for us, showing through thought and action just what sort of woman Miss Marple is. We know she has just a little lion inside her, and is the kind to beat a child senseless for torturing an innocent creature. We know that she has an impeccable memory for detail, although sometimes it takes her a minute and some odd associations to get there.

This entire first chapter was spent introducing the main character. But it wasn’t wasted at all. We weren’t bored to tears by a flashback of what happened in the Caribbean. We weren’t shown her beating the boy, we weren’t even shown her doing anything other than normal things. THIS is an introduction chapter. This is the type of first chapter that will get you published.

Here’s a challenge, then. Take the first chapter of your book, or first paragraph of your short story, or any beginning at all. And have the main character do nothing, but think. Explain who this character is, show it, by their thoughts and actions. Give us a snippet of your results in the comments! And don’t be afraid to tell me what you think about the article either!

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