Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In Which I Wax Philosophical

If you’ve watched Batman Begins, you’ll know young Bruce Wayne suffers a justifiable phobia. Rather than simply conquering that fear, though, he uses it as a weapon against his enemies. (I wonder how well that would combat my aversion to escalators.) In Star Trek:  Voyager season 2, episode 23 (The Thaw), a personification of fear threatens to kill B’Elanna and Harry. Obviously those characters’ struggles are just the tip of the iceberg, because let’s face it, there’s plenty in this world to dread. Ebola for instance. (Bet you didn’t see that coming.)

As a child, I read and reread Z for Zachariah. Fahrenheit 451 always brightened my day. Stories like After Earth, City of Ember, The Hunger Games, and Divergent are right up my alley. With tastes like mine, you’d think I’d be Dauntless. (See what I just did there?) Yet when I was younger, I feared getting eaten by a tiger (because we all know large cat attacks are very common in Maine). A shark patrolled the undergirdings of my bed, and it was necessary for me to sleep curled in the fetal position because a giant lobster shared my sailboat sheets with me. So how could a girl who fears answering the phone possibly enjoy living vicariously in a shattered world?

Some people chase fear—they love the adrenaline that reminds them they’re alive. They love the defiance of speed and the pushing of boundaries and the straining of limits. I admire them—I really do. I applaud them from my perch on the couch with my feet tucked up so the spiders can’t get me. And while I’m busy chewing my nails at the thought of public speaking, some poor bloke in Australia is getting eaten by a crocodile.

Right now there’s nothing more dangerous in my life than crossing the street (although there’s the occasional tuna salad left over from last week and the questionable lunch meat, but you get my drift.) And I’m not complaining. I’m perfectly content watching the ceiling to make sure no workers crash through their re-shingling job and smush me.

On that note, here’s where I let you in on a little secret. Unlike some brave, brilliant souls, I have to write my blog posts at least two days in advance, and I usually spend around three hours editing. Maybe I could be better and faster if I tried, if I pushed myself and took a few more risks. But you know what really holds me back?


It’s not that I’m afraid my readers will judge me. But I do fear failure. I dislike the idea of putting my worst foot forward, giving a bad impression, writing something dumb. More than that, I dread the time when I will have nothing left to say, the time when I will have to quit. And I hate looking like a quitter. Which is silly, if you think about it, because I don’t even know half of you. I wouldn’t know if you were judging me any more than I would know what you ate for breakfast or how many times you change your socks on a given day.

Maybe I fear myself, not you. Maybe I fear the heavy-handed editor looming over my inner shoulder, the monster at the fringes of my mind growling that I’m not good enough and never will be. Maybe I’m so focused on pleasing this tyrant, I hardly notice when I’m strangling myself.

Remember that short story collection I told you I was writing? I started it just to pass the time until I can resume my actual work-in-progress in November. And I began this experimental project with one simple rule. I can write anything I want, fill the pages with anything I dream, no reservations—but I must not limit my imagination. Mental restrictions are strictly forbidden (except, you know, where common sense applies.)

And do you know what’s happened? Has the universe exploded? Have I failed miserably? Have I written charming and beautiful prose?

I don’t know, because I never reread until I’m done. But I do know that I’m having more fun than I’ve had in a long time, and I’m remembering once more, why I started writing in the first place. Even if the work I produce is rubbish, at least I’m defying my fears. At least I’m living.

So, now that I’ve amused myself with that little tangent turned pep talk, let me resume my original trail. Reading is escapism. I need something to keep my mind from stagnating. When I’m bored, I choose something scary or interesting or cheery. When I’m depressed I indulge in something tragic, to distract myself with another’s problems.

But then the real world comes along and crashes my party. Sure, I could spend hours crowing about sunrises and sunsets and leaves and snowflakes. I could extol the virtues of pumpkins and rodents (though I figured I’d spare you that…for now.) But those are just the wrappings, the pretty bow and the pretty paper masking the not-so-pretty truth of existence.

Life bleeds mercilessly into prose and poetry. Ever read a sad story and wonder if you can hear the author crying? Art is the translation of pain. And writing is a symptom of reality, not the cure. Horrors like Ebola ravage us, and we get scared—so we write something. In our fragile minds, we create worlds we can control, where we set the rules of physics, and no one gets hurt who isn’t supposed to. Hope is easily manufactured—we could sell it in bottles if we liked. And fear becomes fun. Isn’t that how we cope?

Sometimes I entertain another fear—that the job I’ve chosen isn’t worthwhile. I love to write—but what if that isn’t enough? What if I never do anything to benefit the world? Worse than quitting is the notion of wasting my days as an eternal kidult, growing fat off the labors of others, making money off their pain. What’s the point if that’s all this is, just another case of, “I get to live my dream while life robs you blind.”

Often it feels like chasing after the wind.

But then I imagine a world without movies or music or books. I imagine an age where everyone works and nobody plays. I imagine a society so riddled with the holes of propaganda and brainwashing that all the love has spilled out into chasms of nothingness. I imagine a starry sky, devoid of music; a crimson sunset with no one to notice; the last few strains of poetry rattling around forgotten in the cranky recesses of a decaying brain.

And that scares me more than anything else.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction


Math of the Day:  Traveling + Power Outage = Lateness in posting. (My apologies.) 
Welcome to the land of spoilers.   

Whenever I read a book or watch a movie, I automatically edit the story in my head. Most of the time, it’s not because I’m trying to be an elitist—art is a matter of style and preference as well as rules. Usually, my goal is to notice anything that just doesn’t jive in order to avoid it in my own work. Let me show you what I mean.

I’ll admit right off, I’ve seen none of the previous Transformers—not the movies, not the shows, just the previews—so jumping right into the middle of a franchise and reviewing it might be a bit snooty of me. That said, before I launch into my critique, let me list what I liked.


ü  The protagonists. Cade Yeager is relatable in his optimism and persistence. Optimus Prime’s struggle is understandable, and his conduct is regal and admirable.

ü  The humor. Never underestimate the power of comic relief.

ü  The antagonists. There’s always a bigger fish. I like stories that don’t just settle for the overly-simplistic, lone villain. And I especially appreciated the conflict and complications introduced when Joshua switches sides.

ü  The Lamborghini—need I say more?

Now, let me point out what I didn’t like.

The Beginning

·         With the arctic location and the mysterious find, it totally felt like Captain America all over again. ‘Course, that might just be me.

·         I realize the whole single father/teenage daughter dynamic is a common theme in life, and some of you may appreciate the representations of these struggles. I’m not undermining that. But the concept is…stale. So many stories use it. Right off, I had a pretty good idea of what the character arcs would look like. Not good. Writers, you want to surprise your readers, give them something fresh. Don’t let them roll their eyes and moan, “Not this again.”


The Middle

·         I actually don’t have much dirt on the middle except that the plot rode heavily on awesomeness factor, which is more a matter of taste than of skill. (And who am I to turn my nose up at cool cars?)


The Ending

·         Here’s where my ignorance may come in. I don’t know—were those dinosaur Autobots introduced before? Because if they were, then just ignore my nitpicking. But if they weren’t, the point still stands. Deus ex machina is basically Latin for cheating. (Okay, so that’s a loose translation.) Come on, you’re professional writers, and this is a superhero(ish) movie, for goodness sake. Viewers like to see the characters get themselves out of predicaments without receiving random help from sources with little previous significance.

·         In case anyone noticed, they totally stole from the whole King Arthur/Excallibur plotline.

·         Tessa and Shane. Period. Exclamation point. Basically, this girl’s been lying to her father for several years, directly defying his no-dating-before-graduation policy. Furthermore, her boyfriend hasn’t honored her father’s desires in any way. Seriously, though, lying isn’t cool, and Dad’s make rules for reasons. Tessa never apologizes or owns up to what she’s done to hurt her father. She never admits that perhaps he, the mature adult, may understand more about life than she, the reckless teenager. But in the end, after much action and many emotional, near-death experiences—with no reconciliation and not much character change—they’re all suddenly one big happy family. Where did that come from? Now, I’m an avid proponent of forgiveness, don’t misunderstand me. But no one grows as an individual unless they realize that some actions have consequences. If you stick your finger in an electrical socket, you will likely get shocked. If you get shocked, you won’t do it again. Simple as that. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Yet Tessa’s just learned that she can get away with defying her Dad. And in real life, kids who do whatever they want are usually spoiled brats. Also, if habitual lying doesn’t bother Tessa and Shane, what’s to keep them honest to each other in the long run? Rant over.

·         The quasi-philosophical blurb at the ending didn’t really cut it for me. Sorry. The movie didn’t lay down enough precedent for the jump from action to “depth”. Perhaps they were building on previous works, but even in a franchise, each movie needs to stand under its own merit.

These are the problems I look for in all my books—the parts where I’m unoriginal or untrue to reality. I try to see beyond the fluff to what’s beneath the surface. Because I don’t want my lovely sentences to be nothing more than empty echoes. Value beyond beauty—that’s art. The greatest stories are special and popular because they have meaning. And the deeper and more complicated they get, the longer they last.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Unsolicited Advice--Part Three: In Which I Further Abuse My List-Making Rights

Fun Fact of the Day:  Check out Black Ivory and see what horrors are enacted on the face of this earth. I may be a coffee enthusiast, but even I wouldn’t go that far. To each his own, I guess.

Folks, the blessed month of November is almost here, and if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know what has me so excited. NaNoWriMo!!! *cue the excited happy dance that leaves people questioning my sanity.* Relax, no need to worry—we already know I’m crazy.
During the lovely month of pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin muffins, and even more pumpkin (October for short), I have drawn anchor and set sail across the perilous ocean of NaNo prep. For the sake of consistency, I will once more arrange my thoughts in a list.

1)      Since I harbor some ambitious goals, I need to warm up my writing muscles. I recently finished editing my last work, which means I haven’t drafted anything in a while. Jumping into NaNoWriMo cold turkey might not be the brightest plan. So I’m gathering all the ideas that sprang into my head as I wrote The Interesting Book, and I’m recording them in short story form. Maybe then they’ll leave me in peace.

My only problem here is that I am notoriously bad at keeping short stories short. Once upon a time, I started a brief piece that transformed into a trilogy and ate me alive. Which is why I must practice this skill. Granted, an accidental novel isn’t a weakness—it simply means that you have more meat to work with than you thought.

2)      Since I plan to generate an obscene amount of fiction in just thirty days, I should make sure I have all my ducklings in a row. Now, I’m not the planning type. I can outline until I’m blue in the face, but I invariably wander off on tangents. However, it will help if I have a theme in mind, as well as characters, some idea of the world, and definitely the conflict. This will be easier for me, because I’m going all NaNoRebel and finishing a draft I’ve already begun.

But even if I were to start NaNoing with no conflict in mind, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I’m a panster, so I’ll think of something. Probably. But I run the risk of losing traction and time if I’m not even sure about the inciting incident. Plus, if I have at least a vague notion of where I’m headed, then I won’t have to backtrack so much when I’m editing later on.

3)      Since I will be relying heavily on caffeine during November, I am…cue drumroll…quitting coffee. Say what? I know—you are free to admit me to the nearest mental hospital at your convenience. But remember how I talked about moods and taking care of myself? Well, I’m not quitting coffee for good. But after a while, those customary two-plus cups a day become commonplace—no longer quite so satisfying. And half the effect of coffee is its surprising newness—at least for me.

So I’m quitting for the rest of October, because I want November to be a clean slate. And I want my handy brewable muse to be fresh and exciting, (but not like Black Ivory.) I need to take care of myself, and part of that is training my body to avoid addictions and hang-ups. Frankly, I want to drink coffee because I love it, not because I need it. Since I stopped four days ago, it’s been difficult. But I never want to slip into a rut where life is boring and nothing sparks of energy. That said, you are free to judge my sidewalk philosophy at your leisure.

Like working out, writing is hard and demanding, and though I don’t always enjoy each moment, the exertion is always worth it—no matter the outcome. But I also need to avoid overstressing myself and pulling a muscle. If I’m not careful, I could cause serious damage. November is a crunched month, whether you aim for 50K or more (or less). Which is why I made a list of ways to remind myself that sanity and health are also important.
(Oooh, another list!)

1)      Exercise—every day. I don’t have to run 7.3 miles or do 56.8 jumping jacks or 391.4 sit-ups. But extricating myself from my recliner every now and then is a good idea. If you find you’re sitting and staring blankly at the computer, sure that some virus has turned your brain into a piece of slimy, wet duct tape, you might as well take a break and get your blood flowing. I’ll read or listen to music while walking, or I’ll wander outside in the fresh air. If I don’t stay active, I get depressed, and ideas don’t come, and words don’t flow, and writing is pointless. Don’t be a slave driver. Remember why you loved writing in the first place, and work to hold on to the warm fuzzy feelings.

2)      Take breaks. I realize this sounds redundant. It isn’t really. Sometimes, I’ll be writing, and I’ll think, Hmm, fudge would be delicious right about now. Granted, it may be my inner procrastinator taking a dive for the steering wheel. But sometimes I get my best inspiration over a pot of fudge that is destined to be either too mushy or two hard or too granular, but never too perfect for words. (I also like cookies—but who doesn’t?) Go to the sea shore, smell the salt, and imagine you have wings like the seagulls. Or take a drive. Paint a picture—maybe one of your characters. (I drew a storyboard for TIB.) Live.

3)      Read. I know that seems irrelevant, just a bit of no-brainer advice inserted like steroids to bulk up this list. Writers read—it’s why they write. But I personally forget, in my excitement over my own words, to glance over another’s. Partially, it’s because my inner editor does not discriminate and will tear apart anyone’s work, not just my own. But how can I be expected to produce anything exciting if I’m not feeding my mind? (Be careful, though, that you don’t accidentally plagiarize.)

4)      Watch movies. Maybe I’m the worst writer ever to suggest this. Others will tell you not to. But here’s the thing. If you’re working hard for however many hours a day, pounding on your keyboard and drinking far too much caffeine for your own good, reading a book can be miserable. It takes too much thinking when all you want to do is veg. Movies give you a chance to see, in a couple hours, an entire story arc with all the themes, moods, plots, and subplots. I call it intravenous inspiration because it’s so effortless. And I can’t say enough about cramming your head with brain fodder to keep the writer’s block at bay.

Well…that concludes my outpouring of unsolicited advice. Thank you for bearing with me. I wish you a very happy and productive NaNo prep.

As an aside, I feel I need to apologize for the formatting errors that keep popping up. Rest assured, I have done my best to correct them and will continue to do so. Please bear with me, though, if glitches persist. After all, I am only human, and the internet is indomitable. *smirk*

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Unsolicited Advice--Part Two: Spock

Status:  Cooked breakfast for the loveliest couple—and had to break out my French. Why should I travel to Europe when Europe will simply come to me?

When I was younger, I spent approximately three years writing DSS (which does not stand for Dumb Stupid Story), and like I said before, it was chock full of tiresome clichés, overworked metaphors, and loads of pretentious foppery. Of course, during that time, I spent hours poring over writing advice and editing advice, and I loved learning about what I hoped would one day become my job. But my research hardly made an ounce of difference. All those well-meaning words—they passed through me like souls on their way to the other world.

I did tell myself that I wanted to make my book as good as possible—my problem was that I didn’t see any faults to begin with. How could I perfect something that was already perfect? My maternal feelings crushed my inner editor. When I got feedback, I invariably disagreed. Every line struck through one of my beautiful sentences was hateful, written by someone with little literary taste and questionable parentage. How could a mere reader know anything of writing and art? Believe you me, Spock would not have approved. (And yes, I realize he’s not a real person. There’s no need to rub it in.)

For those of you who aren’t Trekkies (for shame), Spock is Vulcan—a race known for its logic. He sees everything as black and white, and is not prone to sentimental human error. Why does this matter? you must surely be asking by now, as you slide your cursor toward the exit button. What on earth does this have to do with writing?

Well, I’m getting there.

After I realized DSS was going nowhere fast, I decided to take a temporary hiatus from fantasy and revive an old science fiction flame that had been brewing in my mind since birth (or something like that). In the space of a single, highly-caffeinated NaNoWriMo, I wrote TIB (and no, it does not stand for The Interesting Book). It clocked in at 160,060 words, and it was both ungainly and imprecise, much like this sentence. At that point, I had two choices:  I could go ahead and edit—polish the sentences without touching the structure—or I could gut the unseemly creature then and there. For such an obvious decision, it was surprisingly difficult.

In order to progress, I had to sit down and write a list, which I will share in modified form because I love lists.


1)      My dearest Lizzie, if you are not pleased with the bulk of your work, even after preliminary edits, maybe there’s a reason why. Never pass up on the chance to doubt yourself.

2)      My dearest Lizzie, this isn’t the time to be lazy—hard work now means less work later. (Yes, I’m just full of pithy quotes.)

3)      My dearest Lizzie, cultivate a logical viewpoint, like Spock. Recognize your story’s weaknesses, but don’t be overwhelmed by them. It doesn’t matter how much you’re in love with a given scene—if it doesn’t add any value, then it has to go. To borrow a Spockism, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”


I know it’s hard—it’s wicked hard to take criticism, to find fault with your work, to look at your best and realize it isn’t good enough. (All aspiring writers should have their heads checked—we are undoubtedly insane.) Under all the pressure—under all the strain of destroying my darling—I almost snapped. I almost cut my losses and moved on. But what helped me was a child’s game. I slipped out of the role of proud author and into the role of Spock. I played pretend. Hewing my manuscript down to size became a game (which makes me sound a lot more violent than I actually am). Now, I’m not recommending a total break from reality—but swapping my viewpoint with another for that brief space of time was the best choice I could have possibly made. Sure, my sentimental side screamed in agony…until I stuffed her face with chocolate. And my distractible side was ready to write something newer and shinier. All in all, though, holding the nine-millionth draft of my manuscript—after seemingly endless bouts of searching for those nasty little typos that go around adding themselves when I’m not looking—was well worth the agony. And now, my mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Unsolicited Advice--Part One: My Two Personalities

So today I’m going to talk about the artist’s temperament, and I know some of you may look at me funny, with my chipper posts and my tomato-scented hands, and wonder what on earth I have to say. Maybe not too much—but I’m going to say it anyway. And here’s why. This is stuff I learned the hard way when I was younger, stuff I had to figure out myself. And maybe even if I’d been told, it wouldn’t have made any difference—maybe it’s something that people only incorporate through experience. But why turn up an opportunity to offer unsolicited advice? That said, here goes. *takes deep breath*

Writers live on a spectrum of emotion apart from normal people, which is why others look at us like we’re crazy—they just can’t relate. Frankly, even last year I didn’t understand myself well enough to care for Liz Brooks as well as I could have. Long hours would pass unnoticed as I stared at my shelves, imagining my book crammed in between Ally Carter and Ray Bradbury. Seriously, though, who could really blame me if they cared to stand in my shoes? Creating a world and peopling it with characters—it’s intoxicating. It’s no wonder I was drunk on my two thousand plus words a day. I would lovingly print my work at the end of each session—snatched between classes and supper—and I would add those sheets of paper to my binder. As the days went by, I developed more and more endurance—I could write larger quantities at a stretch. It was exhilarating. So I’d reread and make comments and revisions and plans; and I’d track word count and thickness and page numbers. Truth be told, I wasn’t committing any great writerly sin—after all, I hardly think you can call shooting yourself in the foot a sin. But you still wouldn’t do it on purpose.

Here’s where I went wrong. I spent those moments reveling, letting the pumpkin spice coffee get to my head, letting the achievement get to my heart, letting the future get to my nerves. I had a countdown (and I’m not dissing countdowns, but more on that later). I had a count-up. I measured weekly progress and monthly progress. For someone who hates math, I did an awful lot of calculation. This much closer to getting finished. This much closer to revising, and querying, and publication, and sequels. *hyperventilates* It wasn’t healthy. It wasn’t healthy for me, it wasn’t healthy for my mind, it wasn’t healthy for my career. Because the more I got myself all worked up before supper, the harder I crashed before bed. It took me the longest time to realize that I was making those natural emotional swings that come with being a writer much worse.

And you know what happened? You know what the end result was of all that calculating and measuring and rereading? I burned out. Summer came, and I was done. I’d so well acquainted myself with the flaws in my book, I couldn’t see any hope. Like a kid given a barrel of candy, I had eaten myself sick. Fortunately, I was working away from home for the summer months—I wouldn’t have had time to write anyway. But still, it was the principle of the matter. It was the way I left it. Because I told myself that I would get back to DSS—that after three plus years of dedication, I was not going to restart that old cycle of quitting. I had lasted this long, I couldn’t fail now. But all the while I knew deep down that the same pattern would reassert itself just like it always did. I would reach a point where I could go no farther, and I would give up and start again, and I would never succeed. Never ever succeed.

What it boils down to is that I let my personality—I let my weaknesses—control me. I didn’t know how to fight it—I didn’t know to fight it. I just knew that it got harder and harder every day to ride that roller coaster. And I knew that I was miserable.  Writing was like a sick frantic joy that wasn’t a joy at all—like the high you get from drugs that leaves you lower than when you started. Was there something wrong with me? Was I going crazy?

And I don’t remember at what point I realized I could change my circumstances. But somehow I figured it out before it was too late. I needed to do (or not do) several things. (And here’s where I get to break out my dubious list-making skills.)


1)   I needed to take a step back from my work. I didn’t need to stop, I just needed to remove myself emotionally. Fine, write for a while. Print your work even. But then file it away and forget about it. Eat supper, enjoy your family, read someone else’s novel instead of your own WIP (without comparing the two in your head), and then get to sleep at a decent hour.


2)      I needed to not over-evaluate my work. Enjoy it, yeah. And be honest with yourself about its merits and faults. But don’t go around telling yourself you’re a genius and you’re bound to be a bestseller. It may happen—it may not. You don’t know the future. So don’t set yourself up for a harder fall than you have to. But also don’t be too down on yourself. If people tell you you have talent, then believe them, whether you see it or not. One thing I learned about singing that really fits here is confidence. When I’m singing and I’m nervous, I sound bad. But I hit notes I don’t even know I have when I just act like I can. Look at your work through the corner of your eye, but never straight on, if that makes any sense. (If it doesn’t, just pretend I said something about puppies.)


3)      I needed to not compare my work. DSS is fantasy, so I mostly spent my time appraising Eragon and Inkheart and similar volumes. But I wasn’t limited to those victims. I think I can safely say I spent at least thirty minutes a day reading snatches from just about every novel I own, telling myself that I was just as good as them (or better). And most anyone who has read DSS would agree that I wasn’t.


So this is me—this is what I wish I had known. And you might be very different. Perhaps what I said is irrelevant. To which I say, good on you. But remember that your opinion of your book is going to change more often than the position of the minute hand on one of those maddening analogue clocks—you’ll do better if you remain objective.

But there’s something else you should know about the artist’s temperament. It may seem like the worst Achilles’ heel out there, like a curse that every creative person is doomed to bear. Here’s the reality though:  it’s not a curse—it’s a tool. (And I learned that this year, so I’m sort of reminding myself as I prepare to query.)

When I’m writing a rough draft, my first instinct is to keep reviewing my progress. And I inevitably get down on myself. But if I blithely plunge ahead through the tangled jungle of my thoughts, remembering scenes the way I intended them and not the way they stumbled onto the screen, I begin to grow arrogant, convinced that my work will be the best and that it will hardly require any polishing. And if I keep this arrogance in check and don’t indulge it, it masks itself as confidence and insulates me from the truth that I’m merely producing junk that will take eight times longer to polish than it did to spew out.

If I work in a quick enough time frame, say NaNoWriMo, I can ride those arrogant fumes and avoid major bouts of writers’ block as well as the times when I question my sanity in choosing a career I’m no good at. But then, once the novel is finished and I set it aside to let it rest, the arrogance fades and I am ready to be a little more objective about my intellect. I reread my word-puke and notice all those glaring faults right away. Right then and there is the hardest part, because I can literally feel myself sinking, and no matter how much I see it coming, it’s still terrible. So once I’m finished rereading, I take a step back, wait a day or two until I level out a bit, and begin revising.

Chopping and fixing and restructuring aren’t fun at first. It takes a while to get used to tearing my baby apart in order to make it better. But my low gives me the objective view point that my high cannot. Suddenly my beautifully crafted sentences reveal themselves for what they are—what I couldn’t see before past my pride—ugly little bits of pretentious foppery. Out they go, replaced with something better. (Hopefully.)

Writing is a lot like surfing. You ride the waves of your natural emotional highs and lows. You learn to predict them by feel, like Bethany in Soul Surfer. Even though they are incredibly dangerous and some literary shark is bound to chomp your arm off (sorry), it can be a wicked great ride if you do it right. And like Miss Hamilton, you start at a disadvantage, but you don’t have to stay that way. But believe you me, it takes ages of practice and hard work. In fact, I’ve been at this for ten years, and it’s only clicking now. So be patient.


Note:  About graphs—I am in no way implying that they are evil. So you can put away your pitchforks—they’ll be no tar-and-feathering today. In fact, I recommend graphs. They can be very encouraging, and I really enjoy visualizing my progress. My problem with DSS was that I was obsessing over the graphs, on top of other things. Basically, just remember, all things in moderation except moderation.