A Game of Books

I’ve kind of been focusing on my writing for my last few months of blogs, so it’s time for a twist! Yesterday, Conner and I did one of my absolute favorite things everrrrrrr: we went to the botanical gardens after church and just lay out on Maasai blankets on the grass, reading. Many pictures were taken because it was such a beautiful day and many words were read. All in all, it was a serious win. I forget sometimes that I’m a sunflower child and I need to be outside with a book more often 🙂

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I’m now nearly halfway through Dances with Dragons: Part One and I have to say, I think it’s my second favorite book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series so far (the series that the TV show Game of Thrones is based on, for those who don’t know). I only have one book left (Part Two of Dances with Dragons) before I have to join the giant crowd of groupies clamoring for George R.R. Martin to finish and publish the next book in the series. Sigh.

Buuuut anyway. We also had some visitors while we were chilling!

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So, yes. Basically the best day I’ve had in a long time. My best friend / love + outside + nature + trees +sunshine +books +birds = best thing ever.

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The Words That Make Us

I used to think that there was something wrong with me because I enjoy most genres of books, movies, and music. There is this unwritten, insinuated “rule” that if you like all things, you lack passion or conviction. But luckily other people’s ideas about what passion is, or what constitutes conviction, doesn’t have to define you.

I enjoy almost all books except tedious ones (Dickens, I’m looking at you) or ones that are badly written. And I think that as a writer, particularly, or as any kind of artist, it’s important to read widely. To read out of your comfort zone. I enjoy it when I read an Agatha Christie book, or a children’s book, or a sprawling, complex fantasy like A Song of Ice and Fire. I love the classics and I love Brian Jacque’s Redwall series.

You really only have something to gain, the more widely you read. I have lost myself in countless worlds with countless characters, fighting against countless evils and finally coming to countless happy endings (or not). I have faced fears and either succeeded gloriously or failed miserably, and both are important experiences to endure. I have discovered that I have what it takes after all, and I have discovered that I don’t. I have lived and lost a thousand lives and climbed a thousand mountains and seen a thousand seas.

That said, words become a part of you. There is a reason why I chose the books I did to reread every year. The treasure of reading, and in taking in any art form, is in letting it become a part of you. To let it seep into you and form your thoughts and identity. So in that sense, we should be careful what we allow to become a part of ourselves. I wouldn’t read The Silence of the Lambs every year, for example. Words are so much more real and powerful than we give them credit for, and as a reader and writer, I think it’s good to have a healthy respect for them, and use them wisely.

But read widely. Expand yourself. Don’t be afraid of a wider world.

If you’re on Goodreads, add me! I always love finding new avid readers and freaking out about books with you 🙂

NaNoWriMo, and a Book Release!

Yep, it’s that time again. This is my 8th year doing NaNoWriMo and I’ve written scores and scores about this already, so I’m not going to go there again. Y’all know the drill 🙂 If you’re doing it, please drop me a message and feel free to add me on the site. I’ll also be doing 50k Day One again, and you can follow along on my progress here as well as on Twitter.

Book Release: Capturing Devonshire

And speaking of my Twitter, you may notice I’ve linked @authorhelenrose and not @africanstardust. That’s because I have actually finally published my first novel, Capturing Devonshire, and I will be publishing many more under the name Helen Rose. Thank you to all of you who have followed along and supported me throughout my writing journey – I wouldn’t have gotten here without you.

Helen Rose is also on Facebook and Instagram, and I will be blogging under that name as well. As an indie author, likes, shares, and reviews on any of these platforms are crucial to success, and your continued support would mean so much to me. Love your faces ❤

Good luck, me maties, yo ho!

Reading in 2016

One of the things I’m grateful for this year is that I’ll have more time and mental energy to read. While I was working on my postgrad degree in 2015 and doing tons of research, I didn’t feel particularly inclined to read my own books in my own time, which made me sad because I adore reading. I think I only read something like 15 non academic books and that’s an all time low for me.

This year, my goal is to read 50 books. I wouldn’t call it a solid goal, really…it’s more just a vague guideline. I have three lists that I’m using, which I’ll share below, and other than that I’m just going to wing it. There is a giant pile of books that I own and haven’t read. Maybe this will be the year I get through them 🙂 The lists below total 31 books, which leaves 19 more open spots that I haven’t filled.

The 2016 Reading Challenge (found on Facebook, not sure of the original source)

  1. A book published this year: still undecided (hopefully the new A Song of Ice and Fire book will come out and then I’ll read that one, once I’ve finished the rest)
  2. A book you can finish in a day: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  3. A book you’ve been meaning to read: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  4. A book recommended by a library or bookstore: still undecided
  5. A book you should have read in school: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  6. A book chosen for you by someone: Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  7. A book published before you were born: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (I’ve read this before, but oh well, I love it)
  8. A book that was banned at some point: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  9. A book you previously abandoned: Lady in Waiting by Jackie Kendall (I didn’t abandon it because I didn’t like it, but because academics got too hectic, so I’d like to finish it)
  10. A book you own but have never read: Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana Jr.
  11. A book that intimidates you: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (I’m not a Dickens fan, but I feel like I should probably get through one of his books in my life, so I’m going to do my best)
  12. A book you’ve already read at least once: Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

Books I reread every year

This list (which is in no particular order here) has grown gradually over time and it will stay at these 12 books, at least for the foreseeable future. The Hobbit was the first one, then came The Great Gatsby and 1984, and the rest were added on gradually. This is the first year that I have 12 books!

  1. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
  3. The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
  4. The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
  5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  6. 1984 by George Orwell
  7. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  8. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  9. Anthem by Ayn Rand
  10. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  11. Watership Down by Richard Adams
  12. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

A Song of Ice and Fire

And finally, I’ll be reading the popular series by George R.R. Martin. I’m late to the Game of Thrones train and I’m not going to watch the series, but the first book was brilliant so I’m officially a fan. I just read the first book this week so it’s on here as part of the 2016 list. If The Winds of Winter comes out this year (unlikely), I’ll read that as my #1 in the 2016 Reading Challenge above.

  1. A Game of Thrones
  2. A Clash of Kings
  3. A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow
  4. A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold
  5. A Feast for Crows
  6. A Dance With Dragons: Dreams and Dust
  7. A Dance With Dragons: After the Feast

Goodreads

I’m keeping track of the challenge on Goodreads again, so if you’re on there, drop me a friend request and we can keep each other accountable haha. What are your reading goals for this year?

A Story That Must Be Told

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Sometimes people ask whether I still write, and whether I still write as much as I used to. I usually give kind of a roundabout answer, because the truth is I don’t want to admit that the thing that used to bring me so much joy and that I felt so passionate about is now yet another thing on the Things I Feel Guilty About list. I feel like a failure when it comes to writing. Am I really good at writing? Who would actually want to read what I write? I wish I could get back to how it was in the beginning, when I was 12 and I didn’t give a crap if someone read or liked what I wrote. I wrote for ME. Because I enjoyed it, and because I had all these ideas flying around my head, and because it put me smack dab in the middle of my very own adventure.

Maybe I got too hung up on the publishing side of things. Yes, it’s exciting to think that people might love your books. It’s not even about being famous, or about money (really, no one becomes an author for the money) – it’s about other people getting to know the characters you love so much and becoming invested in their stories, just like you are. It’s about telling the story and knowing that other people are letting the story become a part of them. But maybe I got too distracted by all of that and forgot to just love my characters and love their stories, and let them take me on an epic adventure I never could have planned myself.

So…here’s to getting back to the root of things. There once was a tale of a young girl who ran away, became a pirate, and found a whole other world that needed her help. There was love, and there was a sorceress, and there were dragons and armies and battles. There was a world worth fighting for. Her story should be told. If you don’t want to read it, that’s ok. But it must be told. Excuse me while I lug out some files and dust them off.