483px-Emily_Dickinson_daguerreotypeThe last post with A.A. Milne’s poem Daffodowndilly has gotten me thinking about poetry again. Since it’s National Poetry Month, I thought I’d post another poem.

This time, on my favorite American poet, Emily Dickinson. She’s a fascinating story: mostly unpublished during her lifetime and something of a hermit, she nevertheless wrote 1800 poems using the verse of hymns, which she broke up with her famous dashes.

Fun fact, her poems generally share the same verse as Amazing Grace, House of the Rising Sun, and the theme to Gilligan’s Island—which means you can sing them interchangeably. (Amazing Grace does lose a little something when sung to the theme of Gilligan’s Island, of course.)

Here’s one of her great poems, and one of the few poems I know by heart.

The Brain—is wider than the Sky—
For—put them side by side—
The one the other will contain
With ease—and You—beside—

The Brain is deeper than the sea—
For—hold them—Blue to Blue—
The one the other will absorb—
As Sponges—Buckets—do—

The Brain is just the weight of God—
For—Heft them—Pound for Pound—
And they will differ—if they do—
As Syllable from Sound—

Yellow_Daffodil_Narcissus_Closeup_3008pxDid you know that an old word for daffodil is Daffodowndilly? What a great word! You can practically hear the softness of the flower.

It’s a beautiful spring week here in Tacoma–the week after the Daffodil Festival, no less, so I’m thinking of spring and flowers.

It also calls to mind a nice poem from A.A. Milne, much more famous for Winnie the Pooh than he is for this poem. But since it’s National Poetry Month, I think it’s very appropriate to share today.

Daffodowndilly

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour:
‘Winter is dead.’

Along with the Mariners home owner, these days above 60 degrees, and the Daffodil Parade (and Marine Parade next week!) spring is finally here.

‘Winter is dead.’

(Total side note: I love how close to Game of Thrones that last line is.)

thirddegreebundleHere’s something fun I’m trying out. I was invited to work with two other authors to package our mysteries together into a single bundled download. We called it “The Third Degree Bundle.”

The idea was that you get three books for the price of one. And maybe find some new authors to check out! It’s a low-risk way to fill your Kindle with 885 pages of mystery and thrillers!

Here are the three books:

The Saints Go Dying, by Erik Hanberg
A computer hacker turned detective is hunting a serial killer in Los Angeles targeting modern day saints.

Project Moses, by Robert B. Lowe
Reporter Enzo Lee uncovers a bioterrorism plot that he must expose before time runs out for him and a lovely target of the conspiracy.

Dire Means, by Geoffrey Neil
A vigilante decides to end homelessness by terrorizing a coveted beachside city, making flagrant public kindness the only way to avoid being targeted.

Thanks for the chance to partner with you on this, Geoff and Bob!

Here’s the download link on Kindle if you missed it.

I wrote my first “novel” when I was in the seventh grade. It was 80 pages long and I thought it was a masterpiece. I was going to be the first middle-school bestseller. I later wrote a sequel in eighth grade. Then another sequel in ninth grade. Finally I realized I had an actual novel, and put it together as a single book.

Since then, I’ve written another ten novels, and self-published four of them. Having been through it that many times, I think I’ve discovered that the biggest challenges with writing are not about the writing itself, but the habits we form around writing.

Here’s a very short guide to the habits that will help you write (and finish) your book:

1) Open a Word document and write something. Anything. Most likely, if you think you want to write a novel, you have some idea about what it is. Maybe it’s just a scene, a title, a character, or a first line. Maybe it’s not even that, but is just a feeling you want the reader to experience when they finish your book. Get it on paper. Even if it’s not the novel itself, seeing the words on paper and not just in your brain will help you. Many of my best ideas comes to me in the process of writing. You have to have the document started, though.

2) Make the time. Don’t just find the time to write, make it. Act out scenes in the shower and then write them down at the breakfast table. Pass on watching TV a night or two a week so that you can write. Write during part of your lunch break. There is always time if you make it.

3) Accept that it will take a long time. Below is a chart that shows the two years it took for me to write my most recent novel. At the end of each day of writing, I charted the word count. This is how long it too. Notice the plateaus when I didn’t get any work done. And the spikes when I was inspired and was on a tear. But also, notice the gradual little rises—25 words here, 300 words there. That’s where the real work is in writing a novel: having the courage to open up the document again and try to get anything down, just so you can say you got something today.

 totalwordcount600

4) Try hard not to edit as you go. This is difficult advice, so I’m not going to say absolutely DON’T EDIT. Of course you will. You’re human. My advice: don’t edit anything more than the last chapter you wrote, and don’t do it more than once. A lot of people have really well polished first chapters, but nothing more. It’s important to keep the momentum going. Know that you can always go back and change it later.

5) Change your inner critic. We all have a little voice that tells us our worst fears. For a lot of people, this inner critic tells them that their writing is terrible. Instead of getting rid of the criticism, try to change the critique. My little voice tells me, “You finished a novel in middle school, why can’t you finish this one now?” A critic who tells you that should be further along is more useful than one who thinks your writing sucks. Work to change your critic.

6) Find a reader. Choose someone you trust who will be kind. Give them chunks of your book, in whatever segments it takes to keep you motivated. This is not about asking them for criticism or improving your writing. This is about finding someone who wants to find out what happens next. My writing pace picked up substantially after I self-published my first novel in 2010. Suddenly I had readers. And knowing someone likes what you’ve written and wants to read more is incredibly motivating.

If you follow this advice, I think the actual act of writing will be much easier. Good luck!

thequeensgambitNormally I post book reviews on Goodreads, but I wanted to make an exception for this one, since it fits with the posts about games this year.

The Queen’s Gambit [that's an affiliate link, btw], by Walter Tevis, was just a joy of a book. A young orphan named Elizabeth Harmon is discovered to be a chess prodigy at age eight, and the book follows her story as she developers her talent. You don’t have to know chess to enjoy the book, although I was glad to discover it while in the midst of several games.

If you’re familiar with the Paul Newman movie The Hustler, based on another book by Tevis, you might have a good idea about the book: a young person who is the astoundingly good at something (whether chess or pool) fights hard to become the best, while battling personal demons at the same time.

Tevis might have a formula, but man does it work. Really enjoyed this book.

As for other reviews, go ahead and friend me on Goodreads if you want to keep up on what I’m reading on a day-to-day basis. Goodreads is a great example of a niche social media site: it’s useful even if you don’t have a lot of friends on it, but it gets even more useful if you do. I find the structure of the site really frustrating sometimes, but it’s great to have a record of what I’ve read recently.