Looking Back on Series that Shaped Me

I’ve had another week where there wasn’t much time for any sort of writing–even very short stories. So I thought I’d take another moment to write about some of stories that have most inspired me. This time: Favorite series. I’m only going to include series I’ve actually finished, so the list is pretty short.

My Favorite Book Series

(4) Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan

(3) A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snickett

(2) Wayward Pines by Blake Crouch

(1) Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

(Wow… only four. I think I need to actually finish some of the series I’ve started. Other great ones that are still “in progress:” Across the Universe by Beth Revis, Discworld by Terry Pratchett, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, and Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer.)

What are your favorite series? I’d love to hear them!

Words of Advice

I’ve not had much time this week for writing, so instead of a story (even a short one), I thought I’d share some quotes on writing that either: (A) Inspired me to be a writer myself, or (B) Have helped me figure out what kind of writer I want to be.

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” — Stephen King


“Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.” — Neil Gaiman


“Wasn’t writing a kind of soaring, an achievable form of flight, of fancy, of the imagination?” — Ian McEwan


“To hell with facts! We need stories!” — Ken Kesey


“Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.” — Mark Twain


“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” — Robert Frost


“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” — Ray Bradbury


“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” — Dr. Seuss


“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” — Jack London


“Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

What quotes inspire you? I’d love to hear them!

Some Inspiration

I’m doing something a little different. I haven’t had the time to write (even one of my short 500-word flash fictions), but I thought I’d take some time share some of the stories that have most inspired me–the stories that I got completely lost within and that made me think, “Wow, I want to be able to do what this author has done.”

My Top 10 Favorite Books

(10) Atonement by Ian McEwan

(9) Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

(8) The Perks of Being a Wallflower Stephen Chbosky

(7) Looking for Alaska by John Green

(6) The Help by Kathryn Stockett

(5) Recursion by Blake Crouch

(4) The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

(3) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

(2) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

(1) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

What are your favorite books? I’d love to hear them!

Reminders… and Many, Many Random Acts of Kindness

For most of this month, I’m concentrating on all things spooky. But during “A Look Back, a Look Ahead,” I wanted to concentrate on another part of autumn: Togetherness. We come together for Trick or Treat and parties; we come together for apple-picking and pumpkin carving; we come together to sip warm apple cider while huddled around an even warmer fire. I wrote a while ago about about the impact kindness can have, and between everyone being tired of the pandemic and the current political environment (gotta love election years, right?), I thought it would be nice to set aside one day a week to focus on acts of kindness.

A Kindness Memory

While making these posts this month, I’ve found that little acts of kindness happen all the time. They don’t always have a good story to accompany them, but they always leave us feeling a bit better about ourselves and the world we live in. So today, rather than telling a specific story, I thought I’d share some acts of kindness that I see nearly every day:

  • Letting someone with fewer groceries go ahead of you in line
  • Giving a stranger a genuine compliment
  • Being a listening ear to friends or strangers–especially seniors
  • Picking up litter you see on the street
  • Leaving a generous tip
  • Holding doors
  • Putting away shopping carts left in the parking lot
  • Looking on the bright side
  • Recycling

Kindness Challenge of the Day

Do something–anything on that list. Or, even better… come up with something new. Do something kind and surprising. Make someone’s day and, in doing so, remind others that we are so much more than the current situation. We are more than a pandemic. We are more that arguments and debates. We are, to use the often-quoted phrase, “the change we want to see in the world.” Let’s show everyone what that means, one act of kindness at a time.

It might be a lofty goal, maybe even a bit idealistic… but aren’t those the goals most worth reaching? I think so… and I hope you do, too. It’s been said over and over again this year that we’re all in this together. And that’s true… but it will be true next year, and the year after that. So let’s hold on together. Let’s keep each other strong.

Let’s be kind.

Sometimes the Monsters Win

1) The Shining by Stephen King

From Goodreads.com

Why this book?

Alright… it would have been really, REALLY easy to for this entire countdown to be nothing but Stephen King books. In all honesty, I don’t read a ton of horror, but when I do, it tends to be from Mr. King. So when I sat down to write this list, I decided I had to pick only one book of his to be the absolute scariest. I asked myself, “Which one really lingered the most long after I’d closed the book?” The answer was an easy one: The Shining. The scariest question it asks: How much of the horror is from the ghosts? And how much is from Jack Torrance going slowly insane? You’re left wondering: How many of our nightmares come from, not outside, unknowable forces–but from within ourselves?

Scary Quote

“Monsters are real. Ghosts are too. They live inside of us, and sometimes, they win.”


Sources:

Book cover and quote from Goodreads.com. The Shining written by Stephen King.

No One Does ‘Terrifying’ Like the Joker

From Goodreads.com

“Death of the Family” spans multiple titles: Batman, Batman and Robin, Teen Titans, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Nightwing, and Batgirl. A MASSIVE story in which the Joker attacks every member of the Bat-Family in an attempt to prove to Batman that they are weakening him–that he is better off without support or love, that the only person who truly understand him is the Joker himself. Deeply psychological–not just because of the villain–but because the story also takes the time to dive into the darkest corners of each Bat’s psyche. Oh… and did I mention that Joker’s face has been cut off and he’d sewn it back on? Yeah… no one does “terrifying” like the Joker.

From Batman, Vol. 3: Death of the Family

Creepy Quote

“No, no, no, it’s darkness–it’s like that eclipse the other day, don’t you see? The Bat is the sun–the fiery star–you and the others are the moon–blocking his light–he can’t shine on me and me on him if you’re all in the way of his ray!”*

Similar Books

Dark Nights Metal (If you think the Joker is scary… imagine a Jokerized Batman!) The Killing Joke and Batman: Death in the Family (More tragic takes on the Joker’s influence. Have some tissues ready, especially for Death in the Family. But if you’re wanting landmark Joker stories, both of these fit the bill.)


Sources:

Snyder, Scott. Batman, Vol. 3: Death of the Family. Burbank, CA, DC Comics, 2014.

*Tomasi, Peter J. Batman and Robin: Vol. 3: Death of the Family. New York, DC Comics, 2013.

Lost in D.C. and a Random Act of Kindness

For most of this month, I’m concentrating on all things spooky. But during “A Look Back, a Look Ahead,” I wanted to concentrate on another part of autumn: Togetherness. We come together for Trick or Treat and parties; we come together for apple-picking and pumpkin carving; we come together to sip warm apple cider while huddled around an even warmer fire. I wrote a while ago about about the impact kindness can have, and between everyone being tired of the pandemic and the current political environment (gotta love election years, right?), I thought it would be nice to set aside one day a week to focus on acts of kindness.

A Kindness Memory

With the election coming up, I thought it would be nice to share something that happened in Washington, D.C. but HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH POLITICS. (Crazy, right?) This act of kindness was very simple: Four college students trying to find the White House got lost in downtown D.C. at night. After being stared down by a rather frightening bouncer outside a club and then finding our way to a rather desolate section of the city, we eventually made our way back among crowds. We looked clearly lost and out of place–Three fourths of us had flannel shirts, and the other one was me: At 4’11”, I’m not exactly intimidating and I tend to wear my emotions on my face. Most people walked on by, ready to get home for the evening. But one couple came to us. “Are you lost?” she asked. “We’re trying to find the White House,” we replied. She smiled and pointed us toward the right street and then gave us detailed directions on how to get there. We found our way, got a few good pictures of the President’s humble abode, and then made our way back to where we were staying. A night that could have been dangerous–or in the very least disappointing–was turned around by the helpful hand of a friendly stranger.

Kindness Challenge of the Day

Help someone who is lost: Whether that means literally providing directions, or just being a listening ear to someone who is feeling uncertain.

The Fragility of Time

2) The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

From Goodreads.com

Why this book?

Similar to Coraline, this book’s premise is very much “Be careful what you wish for.” However, it goes further by not only examining the divergence between what we think we want and what we actually, but also by reminding all of us of the fragility of time. In short: Do you want something truly scary? How about a reminder of how brief our lives truly are?

Scary Quote

“Perhaps the House had heard Harvey wishing for a full moon, because when he and Wendell traipsed upstairs and looked out the landing window, there–hanging between the bare branches of the trees–was a moon as wide and as white as a dead man’s smile.”


Sources:

Book cover and quote from Goodreads.com. The Thief of Always written by Clive Barker.

The Darkest Reflections

2) Batman: The Black Mirror

From Goodreads.com

A chapter from Dick Grayson’s time as Batman. This is a mystery to the extreme: A perfect example of Batman being a detective first, and a superhero second. So I don’t want to say too much. But I will say that imagery and plot work hand-in-hand to deliver a story full of chills culminating in the reader being held captive by the musing of a psychopath.

From “The Black Mirror”

Creepy Quote

“You see, this place is special, Dick. It is a city of nightmares. And I’m yours. I’m the face you see in the glass. A man with no conscience. No empathy.”

Similar Books

Hush(Another great Batman mystery–probably my favorite Batman story. Not exactly scary, but it will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat.) Batman: The Long Halloween (I mean… it has Halloween in the name. It didn’t make my list of scariest graphic novels, just because I thought other stories either had scarier imagery or implications. But it’s still a great read.)


Source:

Snyder, Scott. Batman: The Black Mirror. Burbank, California. DC Comics. 2018

Dogs, Chickens, and a Random Act of Kindness

For most of this month, I’m concentrating on all things spooky. But during “A Look Back, a Look Ahead,” I wanted to concentrate on another part of autumn: Togetherness. We come together for Trick or Treat and parties; we come together for apple-picking and pumpkin carving; we come together to sip warm apple cider while huddled around an even warmer fire. I wrote a while ago about about the impact kindness can have, and between everyone being tired of the pandemic and the current political environment (gotta love election years, right?), I thought it would be nice to set aside one day a week to focus on acts of kindness.

A Kindness Memory

I’m going to preface this by saying that my family has the sweetest dog in the world. (Okay, so everyone thinks their dog is the best, but… ours is really super sweet.) When Lilly was a puppy and we’d all be giving her attention, she would crawl from one of us to the next–making sure all of us pet her–in what we used to call a “love circle.” She’s always been very loving and gentle, and today’s kindness memory is all about her. First, a bit of background: My dad raises chickens as a hobby. You’d think that would be a problem with a dog. (And usually, yes it is: We’ve lost many chickens to neighbors’ dogs who have run loose.) But not with Lilly. When chicks were newly hatched, she’d just wander over and look in on them–more like a curious toddler than a canine. But one day, Lilly went even beyond her usual sweetness: It was summertime, so we had her outside, getting some fresh air. An unexpected summer rain came, and we all rushed inside and Lilly, of course, ducked into her doghouse. A few of my dad’s chickens were outside pecking away, and most of them darted back into the henhouse. But one decided that Lilly’s dog house looked more comfortable. Most dogs would have either barked away the intruder (in the least) or had themselves a nice chicken lunch. Not Lilly… she scooted over and let the chicken keep her company during the quick rain.

Here’s a picture of Lilly all cuddle-snuggled in bed. (We couldn’t find her… turns out, she decided that my brother’s bed was more comfortable than hers.)

Kindness Challenge of the Day

Do something nice for someone who is your opposite. Maybe they don’t agree with your political views? Or they come from a different background? Doesn’t matter. We are all people, so do something today that connects rather than separates. If a dog and a chicken can share a dog house, then we can share a few friendly words with one another.