A Linguistical Approach to Lying

A couple of weeks ago, I helped the psychology teacher at school with typing up some quizzes. I’ve always had an interest in psychology (probably thanks in part to my parents’ counseling and my dad’s background as a mental health therapist), so I enjoyed quizzing myself to see what I already knew and learn more. (I did pretty well!)

One of the things I love about psychology, sociology, and the science behind who we are is how helpful it is in writing. Through stories and by knowing other people well, I have glimpses of how other people experience the world. But by understanding the basics of everything from a scientific perspective as well, there’s a whole new layer to explore.

This whole train of thought reminded me of a recent TED-Ed video I found on lying. I’ve watched plenty of shows about how it works on multiple levels, but this one is different. Instead of focusing on physical tics and responses, it focuses on how liars speak. If that isn’t handy for writing, I don’t know what is.

The NaNoWriMo Warm-up Round

NaNoWriMo starts in 9 days.

I’ve been looking forward to saying that after two years off. It’s like counting down the days to Christmas or a vacation. There’s so much anticipation and excitement as I check the days off and figure out what I need to do next to prepare.

Every year, the preparation list looks a little different. Here are the main things I have to do next week to ensure I’m ready for this adventure:

  • Make sure I have a good supply of tea. (I feel like one of Pavlov’s dogs with tea… a cup means it’s time for the creativity to get on the move.)
  • Gather up some chocolate for the occasional treat while writing (or in case the story takes a turn for the worse and I need some encouragement).
  • Get ahead with the French lesson plans.
  • Plan a time each day to write. (It’s more of a guideline than an actual rule.)
  • Write blog posts like crazy.

I do plan on coming by often to read others’ posts, respond to comments, and post about my progress, but it’s hard to do sprints through a novel and try to think of other things to write about at the same time sometimes. So I’m going to try to be smart this year and work ahead. It’ll give my novel a little more time to brew while I wait for November 1 to come around.

One advantage of teaching high school French instead of middle school English this year is that I don’t have to worry about a pile of short stories/essays coming in during the middle of NaNoWriMo. That’s been an inevitability since the first year I participated, and it feels weird that I don’t have to expect that.

With that, guess it’s time to get to work!

What kind of preparations do you do for NaNoWriMo or other big writing projects? Or do you always move steadily through your works so you don’t have to prep like this?

NaNoWriMo 2016, Here I Come!

November is coming again, and it’s finally time to end my two year NaNoWriMo hiatus. The break certainly wasn’t something that I wanted, but there just wasn’t enough time to do participate in NaNoWriMo and enjoy it.

This year, though, things are different. My teaching schedule is manageable, and I have a novel itching to be written. That steampunk/fantasy/sci-fi novel experiment deserves a completed draft, and it’s brewed long enough to (hopefully) turn into a solid first draft. (The first round from a prior NaNoWriMo doesn’t count. It was more like a prolonged brainstorming session in novel form.)

One of the things I love about NaNoWriMo is the discipline that comes with having a set goal for each day. Now that I’m out of my creative funk, it’s just what I need. Something to put me back into a good writing rhythm and that will help push this novel forward.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? What writing habits do you have that keep you on track?

A Quick (Partial) Explanation of The Silmarillion

Earlier this year, I finished a roughly year-long adventure into The Silmarillion. My goal had been to make it more approachable, but I soon discovered that it’s a hard thing to do. There are so many people to keep track of, so many things happening, and so many reasons why everything is significant. Maybe now that I’ve summarized it once, I could go back and refine it, but it still would be quite the task. It’s more likely that I’d go back an analyze how it all ties together.

I have found, however, a quick explanation of the different creatures who live inside (and outside the confines of) of Middle-earth, including Eru (aka, Ilúvatar), the Ainur, and the more familiar peoples like Elves, Men, and Dwarves. (Hobbits, not so much, but that’s because they don’t have much explanation in the first place.)

So, without further ado, check out the short video below for the quick, simplified version.

Quoth the Raven

While I certainly wasn’t thinking about it last week with Hurricane Matthew on the way, last week was the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s death. While I’m not usually for dark things (life is hard enough; literature is a means of relaxation), his works have always fascinated me. The amount of suspense and techniques that he employed make me love him as a reader and a writer.

One of my favorites has always been “The Raven.”

A year or two ago, I discovered a reading done by the late Christopher Lee. His voice couldn’t be more fitting, deep and menacing yet filled with sorrow and regret.

But I recently discovered that he’s not the only famous person to read it. There’s actually one by Christopher Walken out there. Yeah, really. And the contrast with Christopher Lee’s reading is amazing.

It always amazes me how two different people can read the same thing and create a different feel based on their inflection, tone, and cadence. This is no exception.

Do you enjoy the works of Edgar Allan Poe? Do you know of anyone else who’s read “The Raven” or any of Poe’s other works?

On Hurricane Matthew (Spoiler: It’s Good News)

Last week was a very long one. I don’t remember when the forecasters started saying that Hurricane Matthew was headed this way, but any time a major storm (Cat. 3 or higher) is out there, everyone keeps a close eye.

As each day passed, the track brought the storm further and further east. Towards land. Towards us.

We watched the local news intently. The normal hype was nowhere to be found. They didn’t need it. Watching a category 4 storm sweep through the Caribbean islands and then turn so sharply to come straight at us was plenty to report.



Tuesday evening’s original forecast


On Wednesday, it was just a waiting game. By Thursday morning, the storm took a turn for the worse. Instead of being 15-20 miles off the coast, it was projected to make landfall. The red line went straight up the coast. It was going to be way too close to us for what we had prepared for. We thought about boarding up, but it was too late. All of the stores were already out of lumber, and the storm was so big that we would feel it by the end of the day. We were out of time.

So instead, we prayed, prepared ourselves mentally and emotionally for broken windows and a heavily damaged roof, and prepared the closet in the middle of the house to be our shelter if things went south. And we prayed that we wouldn’t end up on the east side of the storm, especially the northeast. It’s the worst side to be on. Not only are the winds higher, but tornados hide in clouds and the destruction they leave can be more detrimental than the hurricane.

One of the fascinating things about a hurricane is that you always know what direction the wind will come from. It always moves counterclockwise around the eye. This time, that meant we would spend hours with the winds to the north before they slowly shifted west (as the eye passed) then south (as it continued up the coast). We examined the house for weaknesses, especially to the north and south.

Another fascinating thing is the feeder bands that come off of a hurricane. I would dare to say it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. The sky can be completely clear. Then a low, fast bunch of clouds comes in, usually in rather thin, line-like patterns. With them come gusts of wind and large, intense rain. Then, as suddenly as they show up, they blow away. If I hadn’t been so worried about repairing the fence and wondering how bad it would be, I would have thought to take a picture.

With such a large storm, the wind and rain settled in by Thursday night. The gusts were still light and the rain intermittent, but it was especially dark and nearly impossible to sleep. We tried to go to bed early, well before the worst came, but we soon ended up in front of the tv. That’s when we found the unexpected news. The storm had shifted back offshore. It would brush the coast, but that was it. Even better, it went from a catastrophic category 4 to a category 3. The damage along the coast would still be bad and there would still be power outages, but nothing compared to what we all had braced for. I still can barely believe that I currently have electricity, still have an intact roof, and that the fence is still up, and my heart breaks for those who’ve experienced so much worse, especially in Haiti.

Now, as a writer and one who collects things, I like collecting experiences. Some of them are my own, but many are others’ that I’ve “collected” from people’s stories, books, documentaries, etc. So for those of you who like collecting things too (or if you want some writing reference on hurricanes), here’s some firsthand info.

According to the meteorologists, we experienced somewhere between tropical storm and category 1 conditions. Homes in this area are built for it. Our house is newer, so the windows are made to take the pressure from at least 140mph. It won’t save a window if debris hits it, but it will manage against the pressure.

Most of the time, tropical storms are pretty negligible inland, damage-wise. Some weak trees and limbs will go down, and the sustained winds are unsafe to drive in but it’s not really that bad. It’s more like staying home during a bad, windy storm.

A category 1 is a little more intense. More trees can go down, which means more power outages. If things are weak, they will be damaged, like roofs. But it’s still not really that bad.

Especially with a storm so large, the rain comes in waves. Or, literally, feeder bands. It might be breezy and drizzly throughout, but the high winds and driving rain come in bursts as feeder bands make their way through. The houses, even the concrete ones, sometimes creak, and heavy gusts come suddenly. They’re quite startling, especially if you’re near a window.

The winds lasted for hours after the storm left just because it was so huge. Basically, if you can see white clouds from the hurricane extending over an area, they’re feeling something.




Our only damage was twigs in the ground. Incredible!


Want to see more about the types of damage that comes with each type of storm? Check out the National Hurricane Center here.

Oh, and one other weird thing that happened. I had my FitBit on, and evidently the pressure of the storm around me counted as flights of stairs! 57, to be exact!

So there we are. All of the ramblings about what it’s like to live through a hurricane and come out unscathed. Now to focus our efforts on those who have been affected and need help.


Fan Girl Friday: LEGO Rivendell

Many of my students have the same love for Middle-earth that I do, so it’s not uncommon for them to send me different things that they find. One of the coolest lately is a 4 foot model of Rivendell, as seen in The Hobbit.

It’s covered in iconic rooms, 30 light-up waterfalls, and plenty of memorable moments.

Check out the full display on LEGO’s website here or check out the video overview of the model below.