Category Archives: Accounting

Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

27

sharing my experiences in crafting an educational id & inviting you to hitch me (Please be happy to offer suggestions, share your concepts and insights, and contribute to my writing!

Hello everybody,

I am excited that I have decided to share my reflections on my writing development and crafting an academic identity  over the years in my doctoral program! I hope this experience will be beneficial to you as much it will be to me! I invite you to share ideas, provide your insights, give comments on my writing and experiences please! I look forward to hearing from you!

First, I would like to start sharing some parts of my earlier writings about how I am crafting multiple cultural and academic identities:

Developing a positive identity as a professional scholar is an essential task for a doctoral student (Austin & McDaniels, 2006). Students who experience two different cultures especially with minority status, may feel caught between the dynamics of these cultures, and have a conflicting self identity, values, attitudes, beliefs, or loyalty to a particular cultural group, which may be problematic (Lee, 2006).  Doctoral students, especially international students, need to be adequately prepared to navigate the full range of roles and identities that comprise academic discourses. Situated in a social and cultural perspective, the theory of multi-literacies suggests that people participate and interact through many modes of communication (e.g., email, blogs, twitter), and engage in specific academic and professional discourses. Moje and Luke (2009) argue that academic identity is shaped by certain kinds of discourses and literacy practices; in the same manner, the ways in which we communicate, and are engaged in discourses can have an impact on how we are recognized as human beings, and how we craft our identities especially for people who experience life as minorities on the basis of racial, ethnic, religious, or other social categories (Pufall-Jones & Mistry, 2010). This paper addresses my own continual journey towards crafting an academic identity through the lenses of biliteracy and multiliteracies. Nancy Hornberger defines biliteracy as a continuum: ‘any and all instances in which communication occurs in two (or more) languages in or around writing’ (Hornberger, 1990: 213); and the notion of continuum is intended to convey that although one can identify (and name) points on the continuum, those points are not finite, static, or discrete. In this paper, I discuss the significance of biliteracy, how living in constant state of transition and overlapping cultural representations between Turkey and US significantly shapes my self-awareness between two cultures. In turn, this self-awareness shapes how I participate in academic and professional activities and discourses, that contribute to my bicultural and biliterate academic identities. 

 

Changing the perceptions about literacy and me as a literate person:

the purpose for this presentation:

I studied in an English medium university, in other words, a university that supported biliteracy.  Biliteracy, as theoretically framed by Hornberger (1989),  is  viewed as a result of overlapping interactions between its contexts (i.e., micro-macro level, oral-literate, and the monolingual-bilingual levels).  Although dimensions of bilingualism and literacy are expressed in polar opposites such as Ll versus L2, monolingual versus bilingual, oral versus literate, when biliteracy is considered, these continua are interrelated dimensions of a highly complex whole.

Starting my doctoral degree in the USA, I had to function as a biliterate person in an academic environment—I was from Turkey, but now living in the US. This made me question all my previous notions and definitions about literacy and biliteracy. In Turkey, in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) contexts—literacy technically means “reading” and “writing”. However, as a biliterate international student, I realized that communicating in another language was not only about reading and writing for academic purposes, but also involved social and cultural matters. Being biliterate meant that I had to learn about the US culture which shapes my expression, and thinking, and seeing the world. As a doctoral student, I reflected on how I function and perform in specific discourses (as   opposed to the contexts in which I use my native language), and constantly compared my literacy practices in these two cultures, the value people attached to these practices, and the ideologies that surround them.

 

How am I Redefining literacy?

When I was asked to define “literacy” in a doctoral course, at first I could not understand why the term needed to be redefined I understood it from a cognitive perspective as I had learned it in Turkey—reading and writing–and separated it from its social context. However, I realized from different class readings and discussions with participants from varied multi-cultural environments that different cultures value different literacy skills and that literacy cannot be divorced from the culture in which it is embedded. In Gee’s (1996) words, “people do not read and write to engage in abstract processes; rather they read and write particular texts of particular types, in particular ways because they hold particular values”.  The way certain societies use a range of texts, including multimodal, can differ across cultures and their related contexts. My identity as an junior scholar began to emerge as I read and interacted with others about what literacy is, my own biliterate assumptions about language, and the possibilities of crafting an academic identity that was social, cultural, and multimodal.

Why do I embrace multiliteracies / multimodality as a research interest?

Brian Street (1984)  argued that literacy practices depend on the context, and they are already embedded in an ideology and cannot be isolated or treated as neutral. Therefore, it made more sense to me to embrace “multimodality” and “multiliteracies” to frame my own research interests.

Multimodality refers to many modes that comprise the way people communicate, and multiliteracies refers to “the many and varied ways that people read and write in their lives” (Purcell-Gates, 2002, p. 376).  A theory of multiliteracies considers agendas that advocate social change.  Because my aim is to provide equal and democratic education for all, a theory of multiliteracies has a potential of cultivating biliterate identities by tapping in people’s cultural capital or “funds of knowledge” (Molls et al., 1992), while multimodality allows me to express meaning across modes (not just reading and writing). Thus, I can empower biliterate identities for myself as well as others.

 

Crafting my identity through conferences

When thinking about crafting my identity as a scholar, I have noted several understandings about theory and practice that have shaped my journey. Sociolinguists like Street and Gee suggest that literacies are more than a means for sharing information; they are intimately connected with identity, or what Gee calls Discourse. Discourses are identity kits that include not only spoken and written language and other means of symbolic expression, but also aspects of identity like dress, body language, and actions that signal underlying beliefs and values of a community. As such, I understand the multiplicity of cultural identities that are expressed through literacies, and my attendance at professional conferences. I have participated in local, national, and international conferences; each has its own discourse communities. Besides conveying the content of my presentation, I learn how scholars interact with participants through spoken language, when I should respond to speakers, and what types of questions participants ask.  I also notice other communication such as dressing, gestures, and manners. I learn how people from diverse cultures negotiate different discourses and respect each other, thereby portray confident profiles in these intercultural and academic spaces.

 

A second way my academic identity is shaped is through my participation in scholarly organizations including Alpha Upsilon Alpha Honor Society (AUA), International Reading Association, Georgia TESOL, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages Inc. (TESOL), American Educational Research Association (AERA), and Middle East Institute. For me, scholarship is fundamentally social. At GSU, AUA, which is a leadership organization, allows me to participate in a community of learners who provide me with a truly socialized environment for my scholarship.  My active engagement with these professional communities reinforces my professional identity. For example, I review conference proposals, [YY2] and develop what Bonny Norton calls an “imagined identity” as a future editor of a well-known journal[YY3] . Also, my developing relationships with my academic advisor and faculty, friends, family, and academic networking sites online provide me the support for navigating through different cultures and forming a scholarly identity.

 

Shaping an academic writerly identity for publications:

Membership in organizations and taking opportunities that my advisor and other professors offer is a third way that help me shape an academic identity as a writer. For example, annually, we as members of AUA host an writing retreat to  develop identities as scholarly writers. We are writing a manuscript that focuses on how AUA is cohesively aligned to doctoral requirements and serves as a vital support to students in the areas of scholarship, leadership, and service. I also work with my advisor and other professors on research and write towards publication. For example, I am the Media Facilitator for Global Conversation in Literacy Research (GCLR) research team[YY4] . In this role I edit and moderate seminars and write biographies for the website. In April 2014, I will moderate Brian Street’s seminar. This is a huge honor and contributes to shaping my academic and professional identity. Moreover, I write my own blog where I communicate with other professionals and receive feedback.  I agree with Kirkup (2010) that “blogging [YY5] could play a useful role in professional development ” (p. 76). I reach an immediate audience from all around the world. I also participate in several ESL communities online where I share my resources. I realize that professional identities can be reinforced not only with real people in immediate, local educational settings, but also with virtual people in global platforms such as ELT and literacy communities online. In brief, I rely on multiple individuals for support beyond my academic advisors or peers. Participation in these discourse communities as a writer enriches my life, knowledge, and personal capacity but also that of those who are involved in the exchanges as well.

Improving my identity as a global and local worker through academic and personal connections:

Advisor support was associated with a stronger sense of belonging and academic self-concept (Cutin et al., 2013). My advisors often dispensed professional and socializing advice, and even emotional support for me. My constructive relationships with them have been key aspects of satisfaction in the doctoral program, and the development of my professional identity. They treated me as a junior colleague, not as a student. I was fortunate to work with two academic advisors who come from different cultural backgrounds, Korea and Bahamas, as they contributed to my local and global perspectives as a candidate teacher educator. For example, one of the advices that I received was to define myself and other non-native speakers as multilingual people rather than learners or teachers of English as a Second Language. I understood what my advisor meant when I read about the deficit perspectives associated with the term English as a Second Language. I realized that accepting English as my second language did not help gain more competent view of myself as a candidate teacher educator who would teach in English in a context different than my home culture. I questioned the dichotomies of non-native versus native speaker (Canagarajah, 2007). I decided that acquiring a multilingual identity was crucial for my success in America, which was part of the global community (Yi, 2013).

My second advisor taught me how I should recognize the power of language in both local and global contexts such as home and school if my goal was to contribute to democratic education (Tinker Sachs, upcoming). I understood that being successful cannot be achieved only by developing local identities but also by being shaped as a global worker. For example, one inspiring conversation with her took place when she described how she visited local communities such as immigrant parents, listened to their problems, identified what was powerful about them by being a good observer, and brought their stories to classroom, leaving the deficit lenses behind.  I also learned that appreciation of differences in the local context does not mean that I needed to ignore global-mindedness in the world. I have a global identity as well because I recognized some similarities in various local communities. For example, I support culturally responsive pedagogies and curriculum like my two advisors and many other professors in the world. This recognition help improve my sense of belonging in academic communities. I have the ability to participate in a local conversation at one urban school in the US because I know, read and learn more about their culture. At the same time, I can take part in an international community, or a group with international perspectives, and share my ideas for the goal of social justice as I did in one of my classes this semester.

Apart from academic connections, my personal relationships reinforced my academic and cultural identity. I am married with an American, which helped better understanding of the target culture because I had a chance of discussing my confusions, tensions, or conflicts between Turkish and American culture with my husband. In addition, my personal connection with friends supports my journey. For example, I belong to a Facebook group whose members are all Ph.D students at the same program that I am enrolled at my university. In this “Critical friends group” (Franzak, 2002), we share our resources, ask each other questions, and give advice on how to progress with our schedule or the academic program. The theoretical foundation for Critical Friends Groups is that teachers belonging to a group learn to collaborate by participating in professional development activities such as examining student and teacher work (Franzak, 2002). Although we don’t review our academic work in this group, we still support each other by communicating about the issues of coursework, schedules, assignments, and any other subject related with social and academic life. In other words, through this critical group, I found a safe place where my voice joined with others to work through my own academic and social identity crisis.

Being an integrated scholar through academic and personal connections:

When I started my doctoral degree, education was only one part of my life; but now I understand that becoming a real scholar is living  the scholarship in every aspect of life: personal, social, and academic. Accordingly, I have begun to see myself as an integrated scholar, which means that I maintain professionalism in every aspect of my life, and dedicate myself to a course of life-long learning, and advance the role of institutions that I work for in educating, serving, and inspiring the others.

 

Conclusion 

In conclusion, I will continue trying on multiple professional selves to see how well they fit me. I acknowledge that becoming an educator and a role model for future scholars in my field is an evolving process. Identity formation is evolving and fluid as well. My aim is to be responsible, imaginative, insightful, rigorous, and committed in my social and academic roles. In light of research in how universities define the professions and multiple identities (Brint, 1994), hopefully, this paper will support and extend scholarship in the area of international students’ bicultural self-efficacy.

References

Austin, A. E., & McDaniels, M. (2006). Using doctoral education to prepare faculty to work within Boyer’s four domains of scholarship. In J. M. Braxton (Ed.), Analyzing faculty work and rewards: Using Boyer’s four domains of scholarship. New Directions for Institutional Research, No. 129. (pp. 51-65). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Brint, S. (1994). In an age of experts: The changing role of professionals in politics and public life. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Canagarajah, A. S. (2007). Lingua Frannca English, multilingual communities, and language acquisition. Modern Language Journal, 91: 923-939.

Franzak, J. K. (2002). Developing a teacher identity: The impact of critical friends practice on the student teacher. English Education, 34(4), 258-280.

Gee, J. P. (1996). Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in Discourses. (2nd Ed.). London: Taylor & Francis.

Hornberger, N. (1989).  Continua of biliteracy. Review of Educational Research, 59 (3),                   271-296.

Kirkup, G. (2010). Academic blogging: academic practice and academic identity. London Review Of Education, 8(1), 75-84.

Moje, E. B., & Luke, A. (2009). Literacy and identity: Examining the metaphors in history and contemporary research. Reading Research Quarterly, 44(4), 415–437.

Moll, L.C., Amanti, C., Neff, D., & Gonzalez, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory Into Practice, (31)2, 132–141.

Norton, B. (2001). Non-participation, imagined communities, and the language classroom. In M. Breen (Ed.), Learner contributions to language learning: New directions in research (pp. 159-171). Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Pufall-Jones, E., & Mistry, J. (2010). Navigating across cultures: Narrative constructions of lived experiences. Journal Of Ethnographic & Qualitative Research, 4(3), 151-167.

Purcell-Gates, V. (2002). Multiple literacies.. In B.J. Guzzetti (Ed.). Literacy in America: An encyclopedia of history, theory and practice. (pp. 376-380). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC CLIO.

Street, B. V. (1984). Literacy in theory and practice. NY: Cambridge University press. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Tinker Sachs, G. (forthcoming). You are one of us. Forging the development of dialogic communities of practice in the Bahamas. In C. Leung, J. Richards & C. Lassonde (Eds.), International collaboration in literacy research practice, (Chapter 13). Information Age Publishing.

Yi, Y. (2013). Adolescent multilingual writer’s negotiation of multiple identities and access to academic writing: A case study of a Jogi Yuhak student in an American high school. Canadian Modern Language Review, 69(2), 207-231.

 

201 Hero (“201” 英雄), 1955(?) -1966

This is a well-used 201 Hero ( “201” 英雄 ) from the Shanghai Huafu ( 华孚 ) fountain pen factory. The pen is the nicest copy of the Parker “51” I’ve handled so far. Parts fit well. Doesn’t feel too light or flimsy. Has a gold nib and what looks like a celluloid jewel on top of the cap.

There’re 2 interesting modifications to the “51” design: the faux “clutch ring” comprising a piece of plastic sandwiched between 2 thin metal rings, and a thin metal band with circular cutouts on the inside rim of the barrel (probably to prevent cracking but visually interesting too).

201d

Hero201innerring

Capped length: 12.6 cm
Uncapped length: 13.7 cm

This pen was very well-used and clearly much-loved. Ink flow is a bit dry and I think the feed could be fitted more closely to the nib. But the nib writes so smoothly regardless. (Worn down with regular use?)

I’ve more questions about this pen. Why was there so much blue ink inside? Why was it left to dry out when it was clearly well-used and so worn? How many people have owned it? How did it leave China in the first place? Where did it spend the decades?

201c

Have been trying to pin down production dates. Based on this source and others it seems the pen was made sometime between 1955 and 1966. 1955 was when the Shanghai Huafu Fountain Pen Factory (华孚金笔厂) launched its “Hero” brand of fountain pens. 1966 was when the factory changed its name to “Hero Fountain Pen Factory” (英雄金笔厂) (possibly due to events during the Cultural Revolution?).

If you’ve more information about this pen, please feel free to post comments. Would love to hear from you 🙂

201 Hero capped

Taking part in the Title Recreation

What is in a name?

Am I the only writer who agonises over names for days on end?  I guess I find it difficult because I think names are so important in characterisation. They give the reader clues as to what kind of person they should expect. It may seem arbitrary as we are all given names by our parents – when they have no idea what sort of people we will eventually turn out to be.  Then again, many parents agonise over their children’s names too! We give children names and then hope their characters turn out to be what we would want for them. But in the world of fiction we try to choose names that suit the character we are trying to create.
For instance, age and era play a big part in my choices. A woman who was born early 19th century would not be called Rhianna or Stacy. Just doesn’t ring true, does it? But Arabella or Victoria does. The age of characters is also important in deciding names. I can easily imagine an older man called Hector or Jeremiah but not a young boy. I think most readers meeting a character with these names would automatically have in their mind’s eye and older man even before any physical description is given.
Whether your character is the antagonist or protagonist is also important in naming. Although sometimes one might want to increase surprise by giving an evil character an innocuous name… I think it depends on how you are trying to present your story.

Male heroes names tend to be strong masculine names – they are not usually called Fred or Bert – but female heroines may also be strong ‘no nonsense’ names too. I wouldn’t choose a name like Ophelia or Primrose if I wanted my heroine to be seen as strong and capable. But then again, it is all a matter of personal choice… In fact, the more I think about it, the more I like Ophelia!!

When we are introduced to people in real life we may be told their names but it is not the only information we have of them. We can see how they behave, what they look like and hear them speak. We can make judgements about what sort of person they are (although we may turn out to be totally wrong, of course!)

But in writing fiction we have to give a strong first impression by words only to have the reader ‘see’ our character in their mind’s eye. I believe this is why names are so important. My two latest books had numerous name changes before I settled on names I liked.

In ““The Afterlife of Darkmares” all the character’s names had something to do with gardens or countryside. It simply made me think harder to come up with names. For example the old lady was called Cora Gimbletree and the main character’s was Kate Linden. There was also Redwood, Culpepper, Garford and Blackthorn – surnames of other characters. It also helped that the story was set in a small village in rural Derbyshire.

By contrast The Witcheye Gene had modernish names such as April, Gregory and Vince. However the main character was called Kendal ( which had a backstory all of it’s own) because her parents were in Kendal Cumbria when they discovered they were having her. But I chose carefully for the name of the villain… I cannot tell here as it would spoil the story…

How much importance do you give to naming your characters? Do you agonise or go with the story and change the name later to fit the character?

Take it Simple on Your self

A glimpse of the wildfire smoke from earlier last week.

I wish I had advice for you. I wish I had the key that would unlock the ability to write despite every storm going on around you (or within you). Yet, this past week has been a doozy and I thought, “Why offer advice that I can’t even follow?” 

In case you haven’t seen the news, Oregon underwent a wildfire that has burnt about one million acres number of acres. Communities just an easy drive or bus ride away from me received warnings of possible evacuation. People all over the NextDoor app who live near me asked whether our own city would be evacuated (I live in a suburb of Portland). 

Luckily, that immediate threat of possible evacuation has passed, but lately, we have dealt with hazardous air here. As I sit typing out this blog post, it’s now at “very unhealthy” levels, and I hope by the time this post goes live, we’re somewhat close to normal air. In the meantime, the windows remain tightly shut. 

 And this year has had a number of these moments for so many people. In fact, maybe this year is one of many for you. Maybe your threat isn’t external, but entirely internal. 

The thing is I can’t say that I am able to shelve these experiences and write anyways. I’m lucky I can even focus enough to read. 

This is when advice like self-care comes in. Yes, it’s an absolutely 100% overly used word. Sometimes we don’t even realize we are NOT taking care of ourselves. It’s not until we lose our temper, cry at an inopportune time, or have zero energy for something we usually can do with ease that we realize that we haven’t been treating ourselves with care. 

So, in times of incredible stress, whether it’s a fire burning your community, or an illness, or anything else that railroads your life, make sure you are kind to yourself. Give yourself some breathing room. Give yourself care, but make sure it’s the right kind of care. 

As a writer, I’m naturally drawn to things that are creative, especially when I eliminate the things that can suck in my time in a negative way (such as too much social media or, embarrassingly enough, mobile gaming). Lately, I have limited social media and removed Lily’s Garden (if you have to ask what that is, you’re better off not knowing), and let myself be drawn to things that are of better substance. 

I ended up getting drawn back into blogging. I write for two of my blogs lately, one post was for LadyUnemployed and the other post was for World of My Imagination (I actually bought the domain recently!). Sometimes when I put on the blogging hat, I tend to take on the informative side that’s a bit more concerned about results than just writing. But for these posts, I donned the creative side that uses blogging as an outlet, and just…talked. 

And you know what? It felt good. It felt like I was more myself than when I attempted to pretend I was some expert. 

 So, today, if you find yourself in a spot where you battling fires in your life, first and foremost, take care of yourself. Give yourself a moment of quiet, even if it’s a few moments in the bathroom (hey, we’ve all done that). Breath. Center yourself. 

 Next, let your creativity flow. Let it rise up in unexpected places, even if it’s for your blog. I’m a huge believer in the fact that one creative outlet helps another. Consider bugging a friend to do a writing challenge or respond to a writing prompt with you. Get out the coloring books and crayons. It’s totally possible to feed your creative outlet without feeling the burden of success (even if it’s the idea of success; that alone can weigh heavy). 

Basically, like Jeanine DeHoney said recently in her post, have fun. And you know? Sometimes I forget to do that. 

So, if you are facing something really difficult, remember that your creative side can still help you get through the rough days. Ditch the idea that it needs to be perfect or even seen by anyone else. Most of all, take it easy on yourself. 

Happy writing! Nicole Pyles is a Blog Tour Manager and freelance writer. Check her unemployment blog, LadyUnemployed.com for informative and inspiring posts, and WorldofMyImagination.com for her thoughts on writing and books. Say hi on Twitter @BeingTheWriter.

A NEW BOOK IS BORN

NEW RELEASE: The Celestine Sword by M.E. Cunningham

SERIES: The Into Terratir Saga, Book Two. 

PUBLISHER: Clean Teen Publishing
GENRE: Young Adult Adventure Fantasy
RELEASE DAY: December 19, 2014

ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY ON AMAZON AND SAVE $2! 

She found the perfect boyfriend in a land of wonder and enchantment. To find him again, Lauren Marriott is going back to the mysterious world of Terratir, but instead of being a dream come true, it turns into a nightmare of demonic proportions. 
Zach Marriott will now take his rightful place as the last and only Ancient in the land of Terratir… or so he thinks. One crisis after another threatens to distract him. Will he be able to save himself, let alone the magical realm he has come to love? 
Lauren and Zach are once again immersed in the perilous world of the Warlord, only this time, the Warlord isn’t the problem. Something worse awaits them—something terrifying and indestructible. They must make a choice… slay their most-beloved friend or risk the destruction of the world of Terratir by a monster made flesh.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT BOOK #1!

The Eye of Tanub by M.E. Cunningham

AVAILABLE NOW FOR FREE!

Everyone thinks she’s crazy. And maybe she is. But Lauren Marriott knows her journey into Terratir happened. It was real, and she’s writing all down in frightening detail.
She has no patience for her brother Zach and his passion for stupid computer games until she finds a mysterious pendant in his room, pulsating with magical power. Lauren wants it, not realizing it’s a portal between this world and one of monsters, sorcerers, and dangerous quests.
Never in her wildest dreams could she have imagined what she’d find in the terrifying world of The Warlord—death at every turn, but also a love stronger than time itself.
In order to escape Terratir, Lauren, Zach, and their newfound friends, must complete the impossible quest for the Eye of Tanúb, a relic of immense power, which The Warlord has already stolen for himself.

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Right here We Go . . . I am Gonna Inform My Story

Holy Cow! It’s not actually all that long before Spencer goes to college. 
You wanna know the random thought that floats through my head all the time?  I picture my kids going to college, where nobody knows their story already.  I picture them having to tell a little about themselves in a welcome week group and they start with the framework of their little lives and they say something like, “My name is Spencer. I am from Colorado.  I love soccer, skiing, camping and I play the piano.  I grew up with the best mom in the world (my own words are in italics) and two younger sisters. One of my sisters is Ethiopian and was adopted when I was five.  Sadly, my dad died while jogging to work one morning when I was six years old and then a couple years later, my mom married another guy. He ended up being pretty abusive.  But we got out of that and life just went on from there.”
It just doesn’t feel real that that is the story of MY kids???  The Aldridge kids???  That can’t be me, he is talking about to his new college friends!!!  A mom that got into an abusive marriage???  Only really weak, not well, messed up moms get into relationships like that, right???  It’s so embarrassing and still so shocking that that was me . . . in a totally, completely, dysfunctional, destructive marriage, dragging my kids through the whole deal.  While it is embarrassing to share, I will share, because it was two girls from college, actually, who shared their story and gave me the strength to face my reality.  They were NOT messed up girls.  They were strong, they were leaders, they were so kind, and they were beautiful and they were both very brave to share their stories and were a critical part of me understanding my reality.  They took away the myth about who marries these types of people, for me.
Part of not getting out earlier, a HUGE PART, was desperately wanting to bring our marriage to some state of health and normalcy, so that I didn’t have to sit here, like I am in this very moment, at Starbucks, and be not only a divorced woman, but an abuse victim (which I’ll talk more about in a second). The countless hours pleading with God to turn our marriage around, revolved so much around just the shame of getting a divorce, the belief that divorce was some unpardonable sin and, also, that a divorce would jeopardize my reputation as a good Christian and as someone who would simply just never get a divorce (as if I am better than people who do get divorces). In addition, I pleaded for a normal marriage, because I wanted my kids to have a step dad who loved them, a husband who treated me like he loved me and because marriage can be so much fun and so many wonderful things. I desperately did NOT want my reality to be that I was in a destructive marriage, so I worked so incredibly hard to make that not true and believe that is was not true.  To no avail, of course. 
It may sound like I am being hard on myself.  I don’t believe, anymore, that I was just plain stupid to get into a relationship like this.  I was maybe ignorant about the fact that people like this really exist. And let me tell you, they are everywhere and they are sneaky and they are hidden and they are tricky. That statistic feels IMPOSSIBLY HIGH, but once I was on the other side, I can not go anywhere, without meeting people who have been in relationships similar to mine.  It’s just that now I have ears to pick up on it and I’m not afraid to start asking questions. I truly believe it is an epidemic. 
I was also very trusting and why shouldn’t I be???  I was married for eight and a half years to Dave, the most straightforward, easy going man. It never even crossed my mind to not trust Dave – even once.  OK . . . maybe once for about 6 seconds when he was all giddy about running the Ragnar overnight race with pretty much all cute, younger women from work.  I was like, “don’t act that excited as all these cuties are pulling up in our driveway.”  But, honestly, I actually thought it was cute.  I just didn’t have it in me to not trust him.  I just trusted him and he trusted me.  All that to say, these people that manipulate and control and lie in these types of relationships don’t discriminate.  In fact, sometimes they target strong women and Christian women, because they know strong women will fight to make the marriage work and their Christian beliefs will also keep them trapped in a marriage. And strangely enough, after my last post a million months ago, I had a decent number of women who had lost their husbands and then found themselves in a marriage like mine, next. I don’t know how to explain that one, but it was weird.   
Some people will give me an excuse and say that I was in a vulnerable position when I met Tony.  And I was, no doubt!  I had only lost Dave a little over a year, when I met my ex.  I was also in a lot of physical pain for many months, with a herniated disc. But that is NOT why I got sucked into this marriage.  Maybe, those things had a little to do with it and maybe he targeted me, but mainly,  it was that I, literally, knew NOTHING of this type of person.  Plain and simple.  
Earlier in this post, I wrote that I was an abuse victim. I honestly don’t know how I feel about that label. There was, FOR SURE, financial abuse, where I was clearly a victim and could do nothing about some of it.  So, I will take on the victim label there, but the rest . . .  I don’t really know.  I chose to stay, even though I knew it was JACKED UP!  I could have left earlier and I almost did at a mere 3 months and again at two years.  However, I didn’t understand what I was dealing with at those points and I was too afraid to really look.  So, I don’t know what to really say about that, but that every time I think of myself as a victim of spiritual and emotional abuse (which is a term now that almost makes some people say, “whatever,” but I don’t know what else to call it) I don’t feel comfortable with it.  Maybe because I don’t want it to be true, or maybe, because if I had the choice to get out, then how could I be a victim?  In fact, I guess I do believe that I was no longer a victim, when I took off my blinders, got educated with articles, counseling and books and knew what I was dealing with.  Once I knew what I was dealing with, I was making a choice to stay and I was no longer a victim. Anyway, thanks for talking through that with me!!!!!   
What really blows, is that when I finally got real, and left and told the truth about it all, there were people that simply didn’t believe me or wanted to diminish my story for some reason.  In my case, the people that flat out didn’t believe me, were mostly men and they were also people that interacted with my ex a decent amount.  This phenomena will, to the end of my days, baffle me. This was far, far, more shocking to me than almost anything my ex did. 
Nothing became surprising with my ex, because he was not well, but people that I have known for a long time and do not seem to have mental illness, their responses to me leaving were either no response at all or opposed to me leaving.  
Sidebar:  TO BE CLEAR, there were a few men, that did see through my ex and would not entertain his victim playing.  Of course, my ex wouldn’t interact with those few men who wouldn’t entertain my ex’s games and fake humility. I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate those few men, though. They have been and continue to be an important part of my healing, just knowing that they stood up for me and that there are men like that out there. 
Anyway . . . I have about six hundred more sidebars to share that I just feel some need to share them at this time.  My goal is to share my story.  Over the past 14 months, since I have left the marriage, it has actually become somewhat of a distant memory already, which I feel is an incredibly tender mercy from God. For a while, I thought I’d never be able to think of anything, but that messed up-ness. I was so consumed by it. Now that I’m not consumed by anger and survival, but the memories are still there, I want to write about a few things, that relate to being in a destructive marriage.  Maybe my story will help someone else who is trying to understand their own crazy in a relationship, or maybe it will only help me to move through what is still hanging on me, from all of this.  These writing may accomplish nothing, but I just feel compelled to write at this point.  So stay tuned, if you want.  I plan on writing some more.