Posts Tagged With: books

Inspiration Tuesday


The Sugar Queen, by Sarah Addison Allen, available at

The Sugar Queen, by Sarah Addison Allen, available at

I recently started reading The Sugar Queen, by Sarah Addison Allen. I’m in Chapter 5 already (3 days in), so I would definitely say I’m enjoying it so far. I found it especially hard to put down last night, when the character of Chloe shows up. Chloe has a gift: whatever book she needs shows up when she needs it. As we’re introduced to her, she has kicked her boyfriend out for cheating on her, and the book that magically appears on her couch as she turns from the door is Finding Forgiveness. I’m waiting to see if she forgives the cheating bastard.

But it got me to thinking – Can you imagine?!

I mean, I love books, so I was instantly sucked into the idea that they can magically appear. Then I started wondering what would appear to me, right now? Probably Stop Making Excuses or some such title.

So, if books magically appeared for you whenever you needed them, what book would show up today?  What kind of inspiration do you need today?

Categories: Inspiration Tuesday | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Inspiration Tuesday – Be naïve.

“What’s wrong with being naïve? Wasn’t Christopher Columbus naïve? Wasn’t Ghandi naïve? Weren’t the 1969 New York Jets naïve?”
Eric Weiner, The Geography of Bliss


I’m slowly working my way through this book, and I’ve been enjoying it.  He’s in Iceland now, and I find it interesting how a lot of his descriptions of the people there could easily apply to Finland.  He talks about how in Iceland, it’s okay to be naïve, “because you can always start over.”

What would you do if you could start over?  Or, have you ever started over, and how did it turn out?

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4 Finland Links (and 1 Italian Link)

There have been several news articles, blog posts, and mentions of Finland online lately, and I’ve wanted to share them. Why not share them all at once?!

The Independent, a British newspaper, recently published an article: AAA to Y* of Finland. The subtitle is “Finland is now the last eurozone country to hold a triple-A credit rating. So, why are things so rosy in the Scandinavian state?” The alphabetical list includes C for Coffee (although, I’ve heard the coffee here is pretty atrocious – I don’t drink coffee, so I can’t give you my opinion); G is for Games (Did you know Angry Birds came from Finland?); L is for Lakes (187,888 lakes, to be exact); and W is for Wife Carrying World Championships (I seriously want Stephen to agree to hoist me over his shoulder and carry me in a race). And yes, the article is only to Y, because the letter Z does not exist in the Finnish alphabet.

Life in Finland reviewed the book  A Year in South Karelia, a book written by and about a Canadian in Finland. I haven’t been here nearly as long as either Michael Child or the Life in Finland blogger, but I, too, can already relate to some of the things mentioned – the “parking puck,” the “Finnish ‘Non-smile,’” and I absolutely must know more about the bathroom incident… Dying to read the book, if anyone is looking for a future gift for me…

This isn’t about Finland, but it ties in. According to Amusing Planet, the Village of Viganella in Italy is so deep in a valley, the mountains block the sun completely from November 11-February 2 each year. That’s no direct sunlight – in other words, we get more direct sunlight here in Western Finland in December than this village in Italy! Of course, some engineers have designed this gigantic mirror that reflects the sunlight into the town square for 6 hours a day – not really possible in Finland…

Found this blog post from steverp, who reposted it from Trapped in Finland: How to be Happy in Finland. Number 1 – Don’t learn Finnish. I keep meaning to write a blog post about that… I think the most important one, though, is Number 5 – Don’t surrender to negativity. “Finland is not tough for foreigners, it’s tough for everybody. Perhaps the effect of these problems is amplified for foreigners because they are away from home, their comfort zone, but I really don’t think these challenges are due to racism or xenophobia.” Sure, he’s talking more about public institutions and systems, which I don’t really take much part of, but it’s still a good point to remember. Things are tough sometimes, but they seem tougher because we’re out of our element, our comfort zone. One of the things I always remind myself to do when I’m not happy with something, is to take it out of context. If something is odd to me, I ask myself, “Yes, it’s odd, but removing any expectation, is it okay?” Because it’s the expectation that’s the killer.

And finally, this is a rather old post, but I dig it. Float trips are awesome. I really need to find out when this is and attend next year. I give you: Keljakellunta, Beer Floating in Helsinki. Video below is probably NSFW:

Categories: Finland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Wanted: One Good Book

Please, please, someone, anyone, everyone, give me a book recommendation.  The last few books I’ve read have ranged from a struggle to unenjoyable.  I can’t quite put my finger on why.  I know part of it is my fault – I’ve had a couple of poor choices lately, books I knew going in I wouldn’t love.

I started The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in an attempt to fulfill an online book club goal.  I don’t think I made it even halfway through.  I read Naked Heat, part of the Heat Series the TV show is based on.  My expectations were not high for this one – so it wasn’t much of a disappointment.  I got about halfway through Baking Cakes in Kigali, but got sick of the simplistic speaking pattern of the characters.  I read My Name is Memory, but I didn’t care about the characters, and although I enjoyed the more historic bits, I had to force myself through the present day storyline.  I somewhat enjoyed The Winter Sea, but it still didn’t pull me in, didn’t make me salivate.

Yes, salivate.  Because that’s what a good book does to me.  A book I love makes me hate to put it down, makes me think about it at work and long to get back to it, makes me want to stay up long past my bedtime, and yes, makes extra saliva gather in my mouth, because my unconscious mind forgets to regulate body functions like swallowing.  I long for that moment when you realize you have 50 pages until the end, and you look up at the clock and it’s midnight, and you say, “Screw it, I’m finishing it tonight.”  I used to read books like that all the time.  What the hell happened?

I sat down this afternoon with a glass of wine and my latest read.  I’m on Chapter 3 of East of the Sun, by Julia Gregson, and I really hope I enjoy it. I have a few other books on the shelf, waiting, but honestly, at this point, I’m doubting my judgement.

So, please, recommend a good book.  One with characters that drag you in by the hair and a plot that glues you to the wall with gravity as it spins around you.

I’ve read the Hunger Games books, and I enjoyed them, but I don’t want any more YA dystopian.  Please no Nicholas Sparks, no Janet Evanovich, no Harry Potter.  No Fifty Shades of Grey.

Categories: Random | Tags: , | 21 Comments

Unintentional Writing Insight

“My eyes sting from the smell of typing ink. My fingers are striped with paper cuts. Who know paper and ink could be so vicious.”

Kathryn Stockett, The Help, p. 357

Who knew paper and ink could be so vicious. True Dat.

Categories: On Writing, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Writing Exercise, or Copyright Infringement?

Writing Prompt: Think of a critical scene in a book you love. Write a different ending to the scene, then continue the story with the new ending in mind.

Congratulations, you’ve just written FanFiction.

Time Magazine had a piece in a recent issue about FanFiction – what it is, who does it, who likes it, and who doesn’t. It was a well written piece, and it really got me thinking.

I’ve never thought much of FanFic – and by that I mean I don’t think about it often. I’ve known about it for years, of course, and have read some, but sometimes finding something of quality is difficult. I don’t even have time to find new good blogs, let alone good FanFiction, so it’s simply not something I’m into. I don’t think I’ve actually written any FanFic, although I have thought out scenes in my head: What if Angel meets another vampire with a soul and falls in love with her – would she be his salvation? What if she’s an original vampire, and is immune to sunlight? The scenes I have written in my head are a mishmash of Angel/Blade/In the Forests of the Night mythology. So, yeah, FanFic.

Because isn’t that what we, as writers, do? We imagine What If. That is our mantra. We ask What If when it comes to the stories and characters we write, so it seems only natural we would ask it of the stories we read and watch.

What if Gale had been chosen for the games instead of Peeta?

What if Tom Buchanan died – would Daisy and Gatsby have gotten together?

What happened after Johnny drove away from Baby? Did they ever meet again?

What happened when Inigo Montoya took over as the Dred Pirate Roberts?

We think What If, we write that story down, and we want to share it with others who also wonder What If. It’s natural.

But is it legal?

FanFic writers do not make money on their stories when they post to websites like, but is it still copyright infringement? Authors Ann Rice and Orson Scott Card think so, and are quite upset when fans pen What If. But others, Stephanie Meyer and J.K. Rowling, are all for it, figuring it’s a great promotional tool. Is one group right and one group wrong?

It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I think that if I were published and someone did fanfic on my work, I would be excited – I mean, after all, something I wrote inspired someone else enough to write! That’s amazing! But, wait, you’re having two of my most loved characters do what?! No, no, no, that’s not good at all. So yes, I understand perfectly where Rice and Card are coming from, in that respect, because you can’t say fanfic is fine, unless you do this with it. It doesn’t work that way.

Good FanFic truly is amazing – the ability some people have to truly know the characters the same way the original author does – or, at least, the layers the original author wants you to see. Maybe Stephanie Meyer did her own fanfic, wondering What If Bella had chosen Jacob instead of Edward, or What If Charlie dies in a werewolf attack? A thorough writer would certainly entertain the possibility, to see where the story goes.

Honestly, good (note the use of the word good here) fanfic seems like a lot of work to me. You have to really know these characters that were created in someone else’s head. That takes research, study, and more imagination than I think I have. (Not sure what that says about my skills as a writer…)

So, what do you think of fanfic? Good? Bad? Would you want someone creating fanfic based on your work?

Be sure to check out the Time article – some good quotes:

“…fan fiction was not just an homage to the glory of the original but also a reaction to it. It was about finding the boundaries that the original couldn’t or wouldn’t break, and breaking them.”

“…I love the show, but what if it went further? What happens if I press this big, shiny, red button that says “Do not press”?”

“It was a way to bring to light hidden subtexts that the show couldn’t address.”

“Fictional worlds, while they appear solid, are riddled with blank spots and unexposed surfaces.”

“It’s human nature to press at the boundaries of stories, to scrabble at the edges, to want to know what’s going on just out of range of the camera.”

“A writer’s characters are his or her children, but even children have to grow up eventually and do things their parents wouldn’t approve of.”

Categories: On Writing, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

5 Things I wish I had more time for

  1. Working out
  2. Writing
  3. Reading
  4. Crafting
  5. Blogging

Everyone knows that you should get some exercise every day, but finding time to do it is difficult.  That’s one of the issues every contestant on The Biggest Loser complains about.  What time do you cut into to make the time?  Time with the family?  Work?  Sleep?  There is only a finite amount of time in each day.

I do pretty well with daily exercise, and sometimes I even work out twice a day.  But I rarely read daily, or craft daily, and I sure don’t blog daily (my last blog was…2 weeks ago?!)

I should write daily.  Every piece of writing advice says this.  But I don’t.  Actually, right now, I can’t remember the last time I wrote something creative.  Within the last two weeks, certainly, but within the last week?  I don’t think so.

I recently thought, you know, I want to do each of these things daily.  Surely there’s time for that somewhere, right?

But where?

Where does my time go, and when can I carve out some time to do the things I’m supposed to do?  Maybe if I stopped showering, or cut my sleeping down to four hours a night, maybe then I’d have time.  A teleporting device would sure come in handy, I could easily get an extra 3-4 hours a week by not having to drive. 

What’s sad is, I don’t even have kids I can blame it on.  I can’t say, “I have to pick the kids up from soccer practice, make them a snack, help them with their homework, get them bathed and put to bed.”

So how is it they can do it, and I can’t?

Is it that I have to choose?  I only get one thing of those five?  Then what’s it to be?  Write?  Or work out?  Read, or blog?

I don’t want to choose – I want to do it all.

Categories: Five Things Friday | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sand Art and Awesome Independent Booksellers – Weekend Roundup

Sand is just sand, right?  Not so!  Magnify it, and it becomes this:

magnified sand grains from

Check out more artwork at

There are rumors floating around that bookstores may be dying.  Remember WaldenBooks, or B. Dalton?  They were bought by Borders and Barnes & Nobles, respectively, both of which offered books at a lower cost – or at least it seemed that way.  Now Amazon has come along, offering books (and more) at an even lower cost, and doing its share to make e-books a Big Thing.  So, is this the end to brick and mortar bookstores?

Personally, I think it might be the end to the big, cold, impersonal bookstore,  but the winners of this are the cool, personal, independent bookstores.  The key is being different, to be about a love of books and not money, and, of course, to not have five such stores on a city block.

Denver has Tattered Cover Bookstore.  Charlotte had  Park Road Books.  And check out these 10 Unconventional Bookstores.

Have you been to a wonderful independent bookstore lately?  Please share!

Categories: Random, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Unfinished Novels, Typewriter Art, Photographs in Photographs, and The Million Dollar Question – Weekend Roundup

I read a lot of blogs in Google Reader, and I’m horribly far behind right now on posting some things I’ve been wanting to post about.  Let’s see how many I can sneak in today, shall we?

Ah, that unfinished novel.  The one you’ve completely given up on, you’ve lost half of it to a bad hard drive and aren’t possible able to recreate it.  The one you wrote ten years ago and never got back to.  The one you’ve given up on finding a way out of.  Post it at

Keira Rathbone makes art with a typewriter – visual art.  “One of Keira’s mediums is the use of vintage typewriters to create her art. Typing out letters, numbers and symbols in place of brush strokes and pixels results in beautiful enigmatic images.”  Very cool:

Keira Rathbone – Typewriter Art

Loving this site:  Dear Photograph.  Old pictures in new pictures are nifty:

Rachelle Gardner posed an intriguing question over on her blog:  Would you rather receive a million dollars for a book that no one will ever read, or have one million people read your book but never make a dime?  I have to say, reading through only some of the comments, I’m in the minority.  Yes, I write not because of the money, but because I have to – if I didn’t write, I would go crazy.  But for exactly that reason, I would be perfectly okay with no one ever reading a specific book I write – because there will be another.  And I’ll have a million dollars.  I don’t know, that’s how I feel – what about you?

How do you keep track of  the books you’ve read (or want to read)?  I started using WeRead through Facebook, but I’ve also heard of GoodReads.  Is one better than the other?  Is it worth trying to bring everything over from one site to the other?  Thoughts, anyone?

Categories: On Writing, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to write a book, Typewriter keyboards, Short stories, and Philosophy – Weekend Roundup June 5

If you write, and you haven’t heard of Scrivener, go look it up.  Right now.

I found out about Scrivener during NaNoWriMo last year.  It’s a Mac program, but they have been working on a release for Windows, and it’s been in beta for over 7 months now.  I’m anxiously awaiting the full release, which will hopefully be in July.  I admit, I haven’t fully explored Scrivener and all it can do, but I can say, even with my limited use of it, it has changed my writing life.  You can break up your book into moveable pieces, make notes, do outlines.  You can easily find a scene you want to look at, without having to scroll through pages and pages (and pages) as you would in Word.  I can’t wait to explore it more.

Someone on BoingBoing posted a link to a list of tips from writers, and wrote that the most valuable thing she took away from the list is Scrivener.  Yep, it’s that awesome.

What I took away from the list:

Writing on the Wall

Image by Indiana Public Media via Flickr

  • I would love a huge wall to write on.  Whiteboard, chalkboard, or maybe just a wall I paint over every so often.  A big place to write down ideas, storyboard, timeline events, etc.
  • I need to write every day.  I’ve known this for…ever, of course, but I really need to do it.  Even if it’s only five minutes, I must write every day.
  • I need to get my characters in trouble.  I know this, but I love them, so I don’t want to hurt them.  But pain is a key component of survival.  I need to remember that.
  • I need to find a way to deal with distractions.  I read that Jonathan Franzen has an old laptop stripped of all distractions, including the internet, and has pretty much nothing but that laptop, a desk, and a chair in a room.  I don’t know that I can do that, but it’s probably exactly what I need.
  • I really need to get into a writing group.
  • Maybe I’ll look into a residency program next summer…hmmmm.

I love sticky, noisy keyboard keys.  I know, I’m a weirdo, I don’t care.  I’ve wanted an old-fashioned typewriter for years, but I realize it’s not practical – you know, since it’s not in an editable format.  I wondered if there was a typewriter-like keyboard somewhere out there in the world, and discovered you can make your own!  It’s well beyond my technical expertise, but maybe I can get one of my technologically inclined friends to give it a go.  Or, maybe I can buy one online...for $800…

Yeah, I’ll add that to my Christmas list…

One Story Blog made a list of the best short stories.  I’m embarrassed to say I think I’ve only read one of those on the short list, and only a couple more from the long list.  But it got me thinking about some of my favorite short stories:

How’s this for random fun?  “Wikipedia trivia: if you take any article, click on the first link in the article text not in parentheses or italics, and then repeat, you will eventually end up at ‘Philosophy.’”  No, really, try it!

Categories: On Writing, Random, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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