Writer, Christian, SEO/Social Media Marketer, Book Reviewer, Deaf and Loud.

Monthly Archives: November 2015

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Image Credits: GoodReads

I decided to read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore after hearing my friend talk about it and spotting it at the library. A book about a bookstore? Well, I love books, so this must be something I’d love, right?

I was not disappointed.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour bookstore is more than just a bookstore. It’s a bookstore filled with magic and secrets just waiting to be decoded. The bookstore simply needs the right person at the right time to decode the messages. Clay Jannon is that person.

Clay begins working as a clerk at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore after losing his job in marketing at a bagel shop, NewBagel. However, it turns out to be more than just a job and more than just a bookstore. Clay becomes friends with the bookstore owner, Mr. Penumbra rather quickly and soon learns that the bookstore is far from ordinary. He is given some rather unusual instructions such as the importance of keeping a logbook and not to read the books from a specific corner of the store — books that are placed on the Waybacklist.

It doesn’t take Clay long to realize that these books aren’t the same as regular books and that the “customers” that come to Mr. Penunmbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore aren’t really customers at all. Rather than buying books, Mr. Penumbra’s most frequent visitors all borrow books from the Waybacklist, and the books are filled with strange codes that they spend years trying to comprehend or decode.

Clay soon learns from Mr. Penumbra that these codes are written and read by members of a society known as the The Society of the Unbroken Spine, the leaders to be exact. They are known as their Codex Vitae, which are like memoirs of their lives and they possess wisdom and knowledge on key elements of life, one of the biggest of which is the secret for longevity or perhaps even immortality. How will you live on even after you are long gone?

Clay may not be an expert at cracking codes, but if there’s one thing he is good at it’s marketing and technology. After running a semi-successful Google Adwords campaign, Kat Potente, a member of Clay’s target audience, wanders into Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Clay soon learns that Kat is an employee of Google, and the possible key to decoding the books from the Waybacklist.

The two of them launch a campaign with Mr. Penumbra himself, believing that if they simply use Google’s technology such as their book scanners and computers, they should easily be able to decode the books and find out what the secret to immortality is.

However, much to their dismay, they soon learn that there are some things technology is not, nor will ever be capable of doing. Decoding Aldus Manutius’ Codex Vitae is one of those things. This is because while Google’s machines are capable of reading codes and analyzing them, they fail to really LOOK at the code.

The code was written entirely in a special font known as Gerritszoon. This is a popular font that is frequently in stores, on computers, and everywhere else imaginable. It is even used in Mr. Penunmbra’s shop sign. It turns out, Manutius was really good friends with the founder of this font, and the font is the real key to decoding the message.

After doing his own research that includes completing a mission from an outsider to track down the original punches for the Gerritszoon font, Clay discovers the font is very unique in that each letter contains different shapes and indentations that represent a message. Once Clay figures this out he is able to decode the message in his Codex Vitae, which is simply:

Thank you, Teobaldo

You are my greatest friend

This has been the key to everything.

 

I loved Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore because it is the perfect blend of old and new technology. I related to both Clay and Kat because I work in the field of digital marketing. Google and technology like Google plays a large role in my career, and I do much of the same marketing that Clay has done for NewBagel and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour bookstore. I also love books (physical books, to be specific) and bookstores. I always believed that no matter how advanced we as a society become with our technology, it will never fully be able to replace books.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore successfully demonstrates the importance of books. It shows us how there are some things books can do that technology cannot. It shows us how to be better researchers and listeners. We can’t simply rely on technology for everything and we can merely look at the surface of things like text, we need to go deeper to really understand what one another is saying.

The final message, or what Manutius hid in his Codex Vitae was disappointing to many members of the Unbroken Spine, but it was actually far more significant than they realize. Manutius is saying that friendship and fellowship is one of the secrets to success or immorality. We cannot succeed in life alone, we need to depend on one another to understand life, to progress, and to make contributions to the world that help to make our short time on life worthwhile or memorable so that we will be remembered long after we die.

Technology may continue to advance in time, but there is one thing that is certain: it will never be able to fully replace traditional books and the unique magic and stories they contain.

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Let’s face it, breakups suck. Sometimes they can come seemingly out of nowhere at the most surprising or inconvenient times. Sometimes we know they are coming. Maybe you’ve been arguing with your boyfriend or girlfriend for weeks and can’t seem to resolve your issues. Maybe one of you is moving far away from town and the other can’t or won’t join you.

Or maybe you never saw it coming. Maybe you loved that person with all of your heart and soul, but they drifted away from you because they didn’t feel the same. Maybe you even caught that person in the act of cheating…ouch!

Regardless of what the cause of the breakup was or whether or not you saw it coming, it doesn’t change the fact that breakups suck. However, with or without that person, life must go on. If you’re a writer, a breakup is no valid excuse to give up on your dreams and quit your job as a writer.

But what do you do if you find yourself needing to write about your ex? If you’re a songwriter like Taylor Swift then you might want to use your songwriting skills to help you cope with your breakup. This can be a great way to help you express yourself and deal with your emotions. However, it can also come at a risk. You don’t want to sound bitter or catty. If you’ve never dabbled in the art of songwriting before you may want to avoid it altogether at least until you start to really get over your breakup just so you don’t end up sounding too bitter and making a fool out of yourself in the process. Hey, we can’t all be Taylor Swift (although I wish I could be!)

However, one challenge you may face as a writer is dealing with how to write about your ex if you were in the process of writing a novel that they played a role in. If you’re working on a piece of fiction then it probably won’t be too hard for you to just further fictionalize the character or cut them off altogether, but what happens if you’re writing a memoir or a piece of nonfiction that your ex plays a bigger role in? Sometimes it is not practical to simply cut them out of the picture. Sometimes writing about your ex is completely unavoidable. Sure, it’s never easy to write about your ex especially during a recent breakup, but there is a way to do it without sounding bitter. Here’s how:

1. Only write what’s necessary. Let’s be real, writing about your ex may feel like torture. Did you have an amazing relationship and then have it all unexpectedly fall to pieces? Were you in love with someone that wasn’t in love with you? Did you have a horrific, messy breakup? Whatever the case may be, you can pretty much bet on the fact that your breakup has you feeling at least a little bit lousy and chances are you’d rather not think about it now, let alone write about it. This is why the first and most important step is to only write what is necessary. If you can cut your ex out of the story without jeopardizing your plot or story line, DO IT. If you can’t, such as the case for me and the memoir I am currently writing, then the trick is to only write what is necessary. Writing about your ex is hard, so why torture yourself with excessive, unnecessary details?

2. Tell the truth. Here’s another challenge you may face when writing about your ex: telling the truth. You’re going through a breakup and it sucks and you’re hurting. The only things you want to write now is probably about how horrible of a person your ex is and how you feel they deserve to be cast in a pit of fire. But really think about your relationship — was it always this horrible? What drew you to that person and what made you stay in the relationship for as long as you did? There’s a good chance that person had some good in them. Focus on the good and tell the positive side in the story.

Sometimes there really may not be a positive side to tell, and that’s okay, too. You could very well be writing a story about a nasty, abusive relationship and how you survived it (though I hope to God you aren’t because that’s just awful). Good or bad, you should always tell the truth and nothing but the truth about your ex when writing him into your novel. Don’t turn him or her into a criminal when everything wasn’t all that bad just because you’re hurting now and don’t make him or her out to be a saint if he wasn’t really all that great of a person.

3. Give yourself a break. Writing about your ex is going to be hard. You may have to write about all of the best parts of your relationship and this will remind you of the fact that it’s all gone now. Or, you may have to face the reality that you loved that person and their way of thanking you for your love was by cheating on you. You will be forced to relive, re-experience, and reevaluate your relationship, and quite honestly, watch your heart break all over again in the process. It will not only be painful, but emotionally draining as well. For this reason it is important to give yourself a break. Write down a couple of paragraphs and when things get too hard or too painful to continue, take a walk and get some fresh air. Chances are when you return you will feel refreshed, renenergized, rejuvenated, and prepared to write a better story anyway.

Writing about your ex will likely be the hardest part of your story, but that’s no reason to abandon your writing project. Remember, if you walk away and give up on your writing, your ex wins in the end. He or she already broke your heart, do you want him to ruin the writing project you’ve already worked so hard and invested so much time and energy on, too? I didn’t think so. When you follow these tips you’ll be able to continue on your story writing about your ex with grace without sounding bitter or angry in the process.


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Image Credits: Amazon

Before I start this review I must admit that I am a little embarrassed to admit that I am 25 years old and had just finished reading Judy Blume’s famous novel, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

But I’m not embarrassed for the same reasons most other 25 year old women may be.

It’s not because of the content of the novel or the fact that it’s young adult written for pre-pubescent pre-teens.

No.

It’s because it’s written by Judy Blume, my all-time favorite writer who is 90% of the reason I decided to become a writer, and I’m 25 years old and just now getting around to reading it.

I always wanted to read this novel. I know that this is a very controversial book that was widely banned especially when it was first released back in the 1970’s. I have read every single one of Judy Blume’s other books, some as many as three or more times. Somehow this book always ended up on the back burner and I never ended up getting to it as a child.

But when I saw it on display at the Margaret Heggan Library two weeks ago, I know I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I had to check it out and see just what this book was about.

I was a little nervous to read this novel. I had such high opinions of Judy Blume. The only novel of hers I read and didn’t like was “Wifey”. Wifey read like an old-school version of 50 Shades of Grey — it was just trashy. I expected more from my favorite writer. But I forgave her for that. If Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret ended up being trashy, would I be able to forgive her again, or would it permanently change my opinion of my favorite writer?

I have heard many different stories over the years about the content of this novel and why it was banned. The most common story I heard is that it was very sexual and focused heavily on female masturbation for young girls going through puberty. In reality, this novel contained not a single sentence about masturbation.

It was a coming of age novel that discussed changes that 12 year old girls go through regarding their bodies and puberty in general, of course, but there was nothing “explicit”  about it. It really didn’t even mention sex at all. For the young adult audience that Blume was writing for, it was perfect. It was insightful, informative, easy for her target audience to relate to, and not over the top or trashy. I don’t have kids, let alone a 12 year old daughter, but if I did I would be more than okay with having her read this novel. In fact, I’d encourage it.

As I read through this novel, I remembered and reflected a great deal on my own pre-pubescent late elementary/early middle school days. There were the constant rumors, the cattiness, the gossip about boys, the general curiosity about the world and the changing of bodies and life in general. And for some, even the bigger issue that Blume so openly and boldly chose to discuss: the declaration or even outright questioning of religion.

I had a very hard time understanding why this book was banned. Have things really changed that much since it was first published in the 1970s? It doesn’t seem that way. I mean sure things are much more sexualized now with 50 Shades of Grey (don’t think for an instant 12 year olds aren’t reading that, I can pretty much guarantee you that they are, whether their parents know about it or not).

But was it really horrific in the 1970s to mention about female bodies changing, girls liking boys and the comments that boys made about their female classmates bodies, choosing a religion, and all of these topics that come in to play as a general part of growing up? It seems strange to me. This was life and Blume did a great job demonstrating a very realistic view of it that any normal woman (or Blume’s target audience — 12 year old girls) can connect and relate to.

Sure, the book is a little awkward to read, but that’s the point. Being a 12 year old girl is an awkward event.

Maybe people criticized this book because they didn’t want to accept the truth and reality of what their preteen daughters were really thinking, experiencing, and going through at the time.

What can we say? Truth hurts sometimes.

Or at the very least, the truth can be awkward.

Regardless, Blume captured it all exceptionally well and earned 5 out of 5 stars from me.


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Image Credits: Amazon

I have a confession: I had a real attitude towards Chris Fabry’s War Room. I almost didn’t give it a chance, I just assumed I was going to hate it.

War Room was recently made into a movie and it’s received a significant amount of praise, or what I like to refer to as “hype”. It even beat the widely popular mainstream non-Christian movie, “Divergent” in the box office. For a little Christian film, this is HUGE news.

I always tend to get an attitude towards books that receive a lot of hype especially if they’ve been made into movies, simply because they usually fail to meet my expectations. It’s a lot of hype and it’s just a trend, not something that’s actually good. Usually the best books are the ones no one ever acknowledges.

I also am a bit embarrassed to admit it now, but I thought the whole concept behind War Room sounded stupid. A whole book about people that pray and a woman that has her own prayer room? How on earth did they even manage to make a movie out of this? Sounds like a real snooze-fest, if you ask me…

But my mom was really excited about War Room and told me I had to read it, so even though I made up my mind ahead of time that the book was going to be stupid and a waste of my time to read, I still decided to give it a chance.

The first few chapters of the book were a little slow and I was unsure if this would turn out to be the disappointment I expected it to be or if I should continue on. Something in the back of my mind told me to keep reading, so I did. I have recently ended my relationship with my boyfriend of a year. Some of the conflicts between the main character, Elizabeth, and her husband, Tony, reminded me of some of the issues between my now-ex boyfriend and I. My ex and I were obviously not able to work past our issues, but I wanted to see how Elizabeth and Tony would work on their issues and I was rooting for them to work it out. I kept reading on because even though the arguing got annoying and repetitive initially, I was intrigued.

I loved the character of Miss Clara, too. Her faith was amazing. That is the kind of Christian I want to be and I think we as christians should all strive to be more like. I loved the way she devoted her life to the lord and was so faithful and obedient to him. She prayed ceaselessly just as the bible directed her to do. I love that she prayed for EVERYONE, not just her family and friends. She even prayed for people she didn’t really know and she pretty much prayed that the lord would bring more people to her to pray for. And prayer was never just a one-time thing for her, it was a daily event and she made a point to develop relationships with those she prayed for and to follow up on the prayer requests, never ceasing in prayer until after the requests were met and addressed. This inspired and moved me tremendously. It made me reconsider how I prayed, who I prayed for, and how often I prayed. I wanted to become a prayer warrior just as Miss Clara did.

The concept of the prayer room amazed me, too. I never considered having a designated area of the home specifically for prayer, but it sounded like a beautiful concept and I began to think in my mind about how I could make one in my home like Miss Clara’s. I love how the writer described the room, I could see vivid pictures of it in my mind and I was encouraged to make a room of my home just like it. I’m not sure that I have room in my home now to make a full-fledge prayer room like Miss Clara’s, but I have made the living room my daily prayer area each morning and I am beginning to think that in the future when it comes time to buy my own home, that may be something I’d like to create.

When I first heard of War Room I made the common mistake that many other Christians and individuals in general tend to make. I dismissed prayer as being something Christians were supposed to do, kind of like a rule. But I failed to see how powerful it really could be. I obviously didn’t notice the subtitle of War Room which is printed in smaller letters beneath the main title, Prayer is a Powerful Weapon. But this book demonstrated it to me tenfold.

Things looked very bleak for Elizabeth and Tony in the beginning of the novel. Tony was a horrible person and Elizabeth was no saint, either. Divorce seemed inevitable and their daughter, Danielle, appeared to already be broken up by it. The family was falling apart and things only seemed to be getting worst with Tony’s unfaithfulness and the lost of his job. But when you’re down to nothing, God is always up to something. With the power of prayer, Elizabeth and Tony were able to restore their marriage and their relationship with their daughter, Tony was able to find a better job, and they were all able to come out stronger than ever before.

I like too that War Room never came off as being too preachy or cliched. I enjoy Christian novels and movies a great deal, but some of them can come off as being a little unrealistic or cliched. War Room showed Christians precisely how they are on a daily basis: imperfect, broken sinners, some of which didn’t really know God like they said they did. But through prayer, God was working through them and helping them to become better people. It didn’t mean they were perfect. Even Miss Clara who throughout most of the book carried the image as the perfect Christian wasn’t without fault, as the novel showed in the end. This is what helps to make the characters more easy to relate and connect to. Simply put, they are real christians and above all else, real people, too.

War Room, a book I was so sure I wasn’t going to like initially, surprisingly gets 5 out of 5 stars from me. This is one of those books that I’d consider to be life-changing. It did its job well; it encouraged me to get down on my knees, pray, and get closer to God.

Only one question remains now…when can I see the movie and how will it match up to the book?


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Image Credits: Cristian Mihaid

I have just successfully completed the first week of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). How am I feeling? Tired doesn’t even begin to describe it…

I had planned to attend my first write-in at Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC) this morning, but upon further consideration, opted out. It didn’t sound like many people were going to be attending and it just seemed more practical to stay home to write. I have a tentative date of surgery scheduled for December 14th to get my second cochlear implant. It’s coming up fast and it’s crucial that I stay healthy until then. Now with flu season being upon us and many college kids getting sick from restlessness and end-of-semester stress as finals approach, a college campus is probably the last place in the world I want to be.

I felt half dead for most of this week. I needed to sleep in today. Sleep felt like the most magical thing in the world. I can’t remember the last time my bed felt as comfortable as it did this morning. I don’t think I could’ve made it to the write-in this morning even if I wanted to.

I knew that NaNoWriMo wasn’t going to be easy, but I think I strongly underestimated just how intense it could be. 1,667 words a day is no big deal at all. Yesterday was the only day that I didn’t reach this goal. On most days I far surpassed it.

I think that one of the biggest problems I have been facing with NaNoWriMo is extreme exhaustion, most of which is caused by me pushing myself too hard. My daily goal is to get 1,667 words done so that come the end of the month I have 50K. But do I really need to write 50K words this month? I entered NaNoWriMo with 33,173 words. Adding 50K words on top of  that would bring me to 83,173 — that is a really long novel, especially for a memoir like the one that I am writing. Am I really interesting enough to have over 83,000 words written about me? Does anyone really want to read over 83,000 words about me? Probably not.

I hope I’m not pushing myself too far. For the first couple days of NaNoWriMo I wrote nearly 3,000 words when I really only needed 1,667 (possibly less due to my head start). I think this is why I’ve been so exhausted lately. Writing 3,000 words a day on top of my full 8+ hour work day, a trip to the gym, and all of my other daily activities is extremely draining. My body needed rest. I haven’t had a break or a time to rest in forever.

I wrote over 5,000 words today, but it didn’t feel too tiring or exhausting. It was exciting. I’m finally getting to the main point of my novel — the part where I begin to seriously consider getting a cochlear implant and taking the steps to make it happen. I was ableto pull a lot from my blog (www.confessionsofadefdeafgirl.wordpress.com) which certainly made for easier writing today. I should be able to do that much more moving forward which will definitely make my writing process much easier. I surpassed the magical 50K number today. I have a total word count of 50,171 words now, meaning my novel has reached official “novel length”. Even though I know I still have a long way to go with my novel before it’s really complete, that is still such an amazing feeling.

There are a few things that I’m wondering if I should have done differently as far as my writing process goes. The main thing is I’m beginning to think I should’ve organized or prepared better for NaNoWriMo. An outline that breaks my book into sections probably would have been very helpful — but would that have hurt my creative process? I’m thinking that once my first draft is complete, I’ll create an outline and put everything into a binder with subject dividers to help me to better organize my novel.

As for as the quality of my novel right now I feel like it can be summed up easily in one basic word: “crap”.

I have been just spilling out word after word after word. Some days this comes easier than other days. But I am aware of the fact that some of my analogies make no sense at all (I compared my hearing aid audiologist to a fisherman — what in the world?!?) and I’ve been using a ton of cliches and bouncing from idea to idea. In one section I started writing about meeting my surgeon for the first time and then went off topic and started writing about Sean Forbes for 10 pages or so.

My novel is very, very, very messy right now. It is nowhere near being ready for publication. But it’s over 50,000 words long with many more to go. It is a first draft. It is supposed to suck. It is supposed to not make sense. It is supposed to be blurry and confusing and a total disaster. That is why it is a first draft. The important thing at this stage in the game is getting the words down, the ideas out there. I can always make it pretty with originality, organized structure, and better analogies in the next draft, and the draft after that, and so forth.

NaNoWriMo has been a fun challenge and a great experience in the first week for me. I feel like I’m developing further into who I’ve always been: a writer. Not just any writer anymore, but a dedicated one that is determined to finish writing this book and publish it all in due time.

For many years I criticized NaNoWriMo because I figured, “Why do people go crazy every November trying to write a novel. What is stopping them from writing a novel any other month out of the year?”

But I get it now. It’s not about writing a novel in November. It’s not about the word count. It’s the fact that people are writing. They are becoming disciplined. They are making a habit out of writing and possibly really turning it into their career. Everyone does it in November, that is the official month for it. People feel pressure and have a support team around them encouraging them throughout the month of November to write.

It all starts in November with NaNoWriMo, but if you really truly win at NaNoWriMo, your word count doesn’t matter at all.

The true NaNoWriMo winners don’t have 50,000 words.

Some have 150,0000.

Some have 5.

The real, honest-to-God true winners of NaNoWriMo are the ones that don’t quit. They develop writing habits through NaNoWriMo and carry them on for the other 11 months out of the year, making an identity out of being a writer. NaNoWriMo is just the initial push they need to become who they always wanted to be and who they were always capable of being in the first place, they just may not have realized it.

I hope that at the end of November, I can declare myself a winner. And I’m talking about far more than the number of words I write for the remaining month of November.



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