Welcome to Book Heaven

There’s something wonderful about used books. They have that old book smell, especially the very old ones. Those smell the best. Some are well-loved and  have slightly tattered pages. Others’ stiff pages are in need of use. And to be surrounded by them? Now that is true delight.

For the past few years, my family and I have made a day of driving to Jacksonville, Florida where there’s an enormous bookstore known as Chamblin’s Bookmine. And bookmine is the best way to describe it too. It’s a sprawling building filled from floor to ceiling with narrow shelves covered in used books. My parents, brother, husband, and I literally spend hours searching through the shelves, and it would be easy to spend a few days exploring all of the used books it has to offer.

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Last year, this is where my husband found the Myst book, and it didn’t disappoint. This time, we found the other two books in the series. As it turns out, The Book of Ti’Ana appears to be the middle in the series, so we finally have the ones before and afterwards. Here’s to learning more (and here’s hoping for better editing).

I grabbed a copy of Aesop’s Fables since they’re always good and I don’t have a copy of my own. I also couldn’t resist the price.

One of my main goals was to find some books in French for my students. To my delight, I found some inexpensive phrase books for travelers, and I couldn’t resist grabbing one written for the French about America! (Notice that the biding is printed in the opposite direction as books here in the US so it looks upside down.) I think the kids will get a kick out of that. I also found a French children’s story that I’m looking forward to reading to them.

The best treasure of the day, though, was a book from 1902. I could tell it was something special from three rows away, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s on Oriental pottery, which truly does sound interesting, but the best part is that there were only 1,000 copies of the book. This is number 947, handwritten in red ink.

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So, needless to say, if you’re ever in the Jacksonville area, this used bookstore is definitely one to visit. Or even if you’re not, it’s worth a drive.

Do you frequent used bookstores? What are some of your favorite used bookstore finds?


14 Day Writing Challenge: The Recap

After three weeks straight of intentional writing (and knowing it had to be good enough for an audience), my creative juices are finally flowing again. How do I know for sure?

On Saturday, I really needed to tend the front flowerbed. Since I normally do this while my husband mows the grass, this means that I spend most of this time alone, in a manner of speaking. It’s hard to carry on a conversation over the roar of the mower’s engine. So I sit amongst my plants, plucking weeds from here and deadheading the rosebush there.

As I sat there, my mind wanders as much as it often does when I’m alone. But this time, much to my surprise, it started wandering to the steampunk story I’m planning to write this week, and it did this without any prompting. The ideas just started to flow, like they normally do.

So, needless to say, I think we’re back. I’m not sure where this story is headed, but I’m excited to see what comes for the very belated Day 6. (Hey, it’s hard to write a complete story in one day anyways!)

Where do your writing ideas usually come to you?


14 Day Writing Challenge: Day 14 (or, The Moment of Truth)

The final* writing prompt: Write about a defining moment in your life.

*Yes, I remember that Day 6 didn’t actually happen because I’ve tried so many general genres over the years, but I plan to have it ready by the end of next week. Steampunk it is!

My last year of college had begun, and I realized that I had a serious problem. I had a fiancé, a nearly-complete degree in English, and a love for the French language. One thing I didn’t have, though, was a career plan.

When I first went to college, I anticipated that I’d be a published writer by the time I was finished and live off of those earnings. As senior year started, though, I realized that those childhood dreams weren’t going to come true the way that I had always expected. In the meantime, I needed to figure out something to actually do to earn money. I was already working as an office assistant at my church, but I knew that’s not what I wanted to do with my life. Working in an office just wasn’t for me.

After some thinking and research, I narrowed it down to two different options: I could become an editor or (much to my own surprise) a teacher.

Editing seemed like a natural choice. I enjoyed reading and didn’t mind sitting in front of a computer for hours at a time. Besides, my aunt had worked at one of the big publishing firms before she had kids, so I had a glimpse into what that industry looked like.

On the other hand, teaching had never even been on my list. I’d planned to teach my own children one day, like my mom taught my brother and me, but that was the extent of it. Now, though, it seemed to make more sense. I could get some practice in before having kids of my own, and I genuinely love working with kids. So why not?

The trouble, though, was getting started with either career. So I waited for one of the college’s job fairs and decided to check both options out. As I walked in, I prayed that I would know for sure what direction to go before I left that day. I had no idea what would happen next.

I first walked up to the publisher’s table. The two ladies there greeted me, we talked for a few minutes, and then they told me that they didn’t currently have any editing jobs open. That’s okay, I thought to myself. I wasn’t ready for that anyways. Before I turned to leave, one of the ladies cocked her head a little and smiled at me.

“You know,” she said, “you look like a teacher.”

I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. I hadn’t mentioned anything about choosing between editing or teaching. There was no way she could have known. Yet here she was, saying exactly what I needed to hear.

Everything after that was a blur. I remember stopping at the public school system’s table on the way out, but I already had decided I’d rather be in the private school system if I went that route. The next clear memory was walking back to my car in disbelief. I honestly didn’t know what to choose, so I’d asked for clear direction. And I’d gotten it. It still amazes me.

What is a defining moment in your life? Have you ever had a similar experience?


14 Day Writing Challenge: Day 13 (or, The Inspiration)

Today’s prompt: Write about someone who inspires you.

When I first saw this list a few weeks ago, I immediately knew who I had to write about: my mom. It might seem a bit cliché, but I couldn’t imagine writing about anyone else.

Here’s why:

  • She taught me what it is to be a woman — strong and capable (we both have plenty of roof shingling experience) but still gentle
  • She taught me how to think for myself
  • She taught me how to prioritize
  • She taught me boundaries and how to stick to them
  • She taught me how to cook and sew from directions and also freestyle
  • She taught me — I was homeschooled from third grade on, and she was without a doubt my favorite teacher
  • She taught me about those small things in history that most people would miss: the Visigoths, the Anasazi, and the Osage, to name a few
  • She taught me to love culture — my heritage, literature, and proper manners
  • She taught me how to stand up for what I believe in
  • She taught me how to write — she bought countless books to help me cultivate budding skills
  • She taught me how to research, because what people tell you isn’t always the whole story
  • She taught me that I could do anything I want to, if I just put my mind to it

Who is someone that inspires you?


14 Day Writing Challenge: Day 12 (or, The Review)

Today’s prompt: Write a book or movie review.

I’m currently in the middle of two books. I’m reading The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson by myself and Myst: The Book of Ti’Ana by David Wingrove, Rand Miller, and Robyn Miller aloud to my husband. And before writing that sentence, I didn’t realize that I have a kind of theme to my current booklist.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had a great deal of exposure to Brandon Sanderson’s works. My sister-in-law’s fiancé spent a year trying to get me to read one and resorted to buying me one for Christmas. I’ve been hooked since. It’s different than the fantasy I write, but I’ve learned a great deal from it nonetheless. And I enjoy it as a reader, which is perhaps even more important.

The Myst books are a new experience. When we visited a huge used bookstore last year, my husband found it on the shelf. As a teenager, he used to play the Myst video games and never realized there were books. He used to tell me about the stories in the games and told me that I would enjoy them… aside from the puzzles. He would keep a notebook handy to write everything down, and even then he would have to look things up. At the time, I would have been too easily frustrated for that.

It is the first time that I’ve had a full glimpse into the world of the games. Some of the things are familiar to my husband. Other things, not so much. Reading about the D’ni, who live underground and spend so much effort trying to find out if there’s anything above the surface, has been an exciting glimpse into a different sort of world that’s been well-built.

So far, the story has followed two characters: Aitrus — a D’ni who wants to find out what’s above the surface — and Ana — a girl from above ground who surveys the desert with her father. At some point, they’re bound to end up meeting each other, but I’m not sure how that all will work out yet. The story moves a bit slowly — the way that older books do — but it’s not too slow of a pace for us.

The only qualm I have with the book is some of the punctuation and occasionally the repetition of words. (Do you have to keep saying the word “rock”? You’ve said it repeatedly in just one paragraph!) It looks like it didn’t receive the scrutiny of a good editor before it was printed and bound. Sometimes I stop and make a comment about it because I just can’t resist. My husband just smiles, though. He knows that years as an English teacher and a lifetime as a writer has trained my eye to catch those things, even if I’m not responsible for the words on the page. After a sigh, I keep reading and he’s happy to keep listening.

Overall, though, I’ve enjoyed the book and am looking forward to what happens to the characters, especially Ana. Last night, she entered a tunnel and I have a feeling that her meeting Aitrus and the D’ni is just a matter of time.

I suppose that wasn’t much of a formal review, but there are some opinions on two different books. Well, mostly one. But still, I say this counts.

Have you ever read anything by Brandon Sanderson or had exposure to the Myst series? What books are you currently reading?


14 Day Writing Challenge: Day 11

Today’s prompt: Write a rant about something that upsets you.

Life isn’t fair. Things don’t always work out, and sometimes it seems like there’s no reason why they shouldn’t. You try hard. You wait patiently. You hope for the best. And it doesn’t happen. It feels like it’s all in vain. What’s the point of even trying?

I’ve been there before. I’m there right now. It’s easy to get frustrated and contemplate giving up, but with this situation, I know that’s not the answer. So I keep going even though I don’t know when I’ll achieve what I’m working towards.

Last week, I happened to be reading a book that made reference to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy. Of all the Narnia books, this one has never been my favorite. It’s the one I read because I’m reading the whole series, not because I’m overly excited about it. But there’s one part I had never thought much of until last week.

Shasta, the protagonist, has had a rough life. And to make a long story short, he is at a point in the book in which he feels that he is “the most unfortunate boy that ever lived in the whole world” because everything has gone “right for everyone except me” (Lewis 280). To make matters worse, he’s had a pack of lions pursuing him since his adventure began, and now has been cornered by one. If anyone could say life stinks, he could.

But instead of eating him, the lion gives an explanation that has haunted me since I read it:

“I do not call you unfortunate … There was only one lion … I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, ready to receive you.” (Lewis 281)

Obviously, the lion (and cat) is Aslan, and his words resonate deeply with me.

Sometimes life is hard and doesn’t make sense, but I have to keep in mind that I only see things from one angle. I’m a character, like Shasta. I don’t see what the Author sees. I run from the lion, but I don’t know the reason why. I don’t see that I’ll miss the most important part of my story if I don’t hurry. It’s not like authors poke their heads into stories and say, “Oh, hey! Listen, I know you’re comfortable hanging out around here, but I need you to go over there as fast as you can, okay?”

I don’t know why things work out the way they do. But I also know that life wouldn’t be the same without struggle. There’s so much to learn and so many ways to grow, and sometimes the only time I can see those things is when life doesn’t go my way.

So I choose to enjoy life even when times are hard. I choose to count my blessings instead of staring at the things that make my heart ache. I choose to be grateful in the meantime and for the waiting because of the experiences I now have thanks to them. I choose to keep my hopes high and remember that I can’t see the whole story yet, but it’ll work out the way that it should in the end. And I choose to keep running. I don’t know where the lion is pushing me, but I want to be there on time.

Lewis, C.S. The Chronicles of Narnia. New York: HaperCollins, 2001.


14 Day Writing Challenge: Day 10

Today’s prompt: Write about a funny thing that happened to you.

So basically write about my whole life, right? After all, there’s a touch of humor in everything that happens to me. At least, I sure think so. But I suppose it’s better to focus on one thing, so here we go…

When I was in my tweens, I was renowned for taking pictures. It wasn’t uncommon for me to drag my camera along anywhere I went. At one point, it became so bad that my parents bought me a digital camera (back when digital cameras were still fairly new) because of how much it would save in film. (There were countless times that I got in trouble for taking 5-10 pictures of my dog dressed up in different outfits or taking random pictures just to finish up a roll…)

One of these times, we were camping in RV’s with my now-husband and his family. Since we were staying along the coast, I had decided to take some pictures of the pelicans that often flew by. I sat with my camera on the edge of the beach with my husband waiting patiently beside me. However, the pelicans never showed. I would sit there for an hour or two without seeing a single one.

The minute I put the camera away, one or two would fly by. I would run back to the RV, dig out my camera, and continue my vigil, but nothing would happen until the camera was put away.

At the beginning of the weekend, it was just one or two pelicans at a time. By the end of it, flocks of literally 30 to 40 pelicans would fly by, only while I had no camera. I stood there in disbelief while everyone else laughed. What were the odds of this happening?

After that weekend, I swore that I would never take a picture of a pelican again. So far, I’ve managed to keep that promise. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not stuck seeing pictures of pelicans often. Any time anyone else sees one, they are sure to take a picture of it and show it to me, or worse, tag me. Those darned pelicans.

Have you ever been determined to capture something but it eluded you?


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