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Tsundoku – The art of reading too little

  • Posted on May 16, 2016 at 6:20 pm

Tsundoku: (n) buying books and not reading them; Letting books pile up unread on shelves, nightstands and floors.

Every writer has been given the talk about how in order to improve your writing you should do one thing above all else. Read, read, read. And how many of us end up in tsundoku? How many of us leave these words to sit on the page, undiscovered, untapped, unlearnt? However, I’m not here to talk about how much we should be read, read, reading. Today I’d like to talk about joy.

Specifically, the joy of discovering a new word. You see, I had never known tsundoku had an actual word tied to it. I had just thought that letting books you meant to read sit and collect dust required just the whole thing said as I have just said it. To have it broken down into three syllables, a few hiragana, a few kanji, and to finally learn it, it’s a sort of joy I’ve only recently found.

As with my absolute favorite word, sonder, I found a sudden sense of wonder at the world around us, and the words in which we use to describe it. Since, I have added a list in my bullet journal that I call ‘New Words’. In this, I have collected several words that have caught my interest and that I’m attempting to use in every day life and in my writing. Along with it, I’ve included a few other lists. “Word roots” to teach myself more about the roots of these beautiful words we use to communicate. “Daily details” to record the symbolisms and tiny beauties in my daily life. “Six word stories” to begin practicing brevity.

These are things I want to incorporate into my life so that I never lose the childlike wonder I had when I first cracked open a book and then devoured it in a single afternoon. I hope to never lose the wonder my child-self felt, but sometimes I feel it slipping away. In those moments, little discoveries like this bring it back forthwith.

I leave you with a list of places to search out new words:

Weekly Writing Update – 07/13/15

  • Posted on July 15, 2015 at 11:24 pm

This is a really hard post to write. Recently, my anxiety lead me to lose my job. This lead to an extreme downswing in my depression. A lot of my self-worth is tied into how I can support myself, and it’s very hard to have any self-worth at all, when you know you are the cause of losing your own job. I can’t blame the work. It was exactly what I was told, and knew, to expect. All I can blame is this disease in my head that makes it impossible to pick up a phone without my heart beating terribly fast.

This should have been a triumphant month for me. I finally finished Knight of Kuryle, and I’m in the editing stage, before I can give it to beta readers. However, because of my downswing, I have had no energy for anything other than basic survival. There have been days where I cannot get dressed. There have been days I have eaten only one meal. My job search has turned up one part time, temporary position.

I have been plagued with doubts. How am I going to keep my apartment? How am I going to keep from inconveniencing those I care about? How am I going to get food? These are things that circle in my mind.

Word Counts: 

First Book of the Kurylian Saga: 1.5 sections rewritten –

  1. Knight of Kuryle – 31,379 words – Draft complete – Editing started

Kaimi Rowe Series: Seeker Born – Rough Draft – Restarted w/new concept

  1. Snippet can be seen in Bruises and Broken Bones

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

Blog Posts:

IWSG – The Green Mile

Books Read

None finished this week, sadly. Would love to see some reccomendations for this one!

Goals 

Edit Knight of Kuryle

Two more blog posts for this blog this week!

Read all of Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer

Start Dialogue by James Scott Bell

Start The Prince by Machiavelli

 

Weekly Writing Update – 06/16/15

  • Posted on June 16, 2015 at 1:46 pm

After much fiddling, and quite a bit of fuss, the new element is fitting in quite nicely, and adds a detailed nuance to the story that is QUITE entertaining <3 I’m working hard not to have to extend my deadline, but if there’s anything this world has taught me, it’s that sometimes things happen!

Also, I’m looking into switching lines of work again. Call centering has begun to take it’s toll again, in massive migraines and almost-panic-attacks. I’m thinking about taking up fortune telling. What do you think?

Word Counts: 

First Book of the Kurylian Saga: 1.5 sections rewritten –

  1. Knight of Kuryle – 23,946 words – roughly two-thirds rewritten.

Kaimi Rowe Series: Seeker Born – Rough Draft – Restarted w/new concept

  1. Snippet can be seen in Bruises and Broken Bones

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

Blog Posts:

 

Books Read

None finished this week, sadly. Would love to see some reccomendations for this one!

Goals 

Finish rewriting Knight of Kuryle

Two more blog posts for this blog this week!

Read all of Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer

Start Dialogue by James Scott Bell

Start The Prince by Machiavelli

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!

A is for Alice (in Wonderland)

  • Posted on April 1, 2014 at 12:07 pm

One of the few things I remember from childhood, with any sort of depth, is the sense of absolute WONDERLUST that overtook me when Alice fell down that hole and into Wonderland. The White Rabbit had taken her somewhere beautiful and amazing and strange. It made me want, so badly, to join her. Which was, perhaps, one of the things that later developed my greatest joy and deepest sorrow.

It seems to me as if we are always, always yearning for something better, stranger, newer, more exciting. Or atleast, I am, and it drives everything I do. It is the reason I draw, the reason I write, the reason I walk down dark alleys in the middle of the night, staring up at the stars. That yearning, that deep rooted want for adventure sits in all of us. And if you say that it doesn’t sit in your chest, whispering in your ear, then you are lying, my friend.

Embrace it. Love it. Nurture that sense of wonder and joy. Pretend that you are peterpan, and play tag with the wind. Tell yourself little stories while you do the dishes, and spend time chasing down the fleeting dreams that run away when the sun peeks into the world in the morning. Let that need drive your actions. Let it teach you that risk has reward.

Because not every falling star is an angel fallen from heaven for you to find. Not every garden-door leads to a secret that must be kept. Not every seed will grow into a great vine to climb. And not every new person you meet is a friend.

But what if they were? And what if you missed out on the one great adventure in your lifetime, because you played it safe, and didn’t follow the White Rabbit’s call? Sleeping in the Garden with Dinah all day does nothing for one’s mind, nor one’s soul. Listen to the call of wonderlust in your veins, and do something amazing, something wild, something strange today.

You won’t regret it.

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