Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Story of My Feet

Dear friends,

Many of you have kindly asked about my feet over the past ten months, and some of you have even done thoughtful things like bringing meals or praying or mailing me cards. Kevin and I can hardly express our gratitude for your concern. (Thank you!!)

I decided to summarize what’s been going on to answer your questions. I refrained from doing this for a long time because we weren’t sure ourselves what we could say for certain. We still aren’t sure, but I’ll try my best.

Last year, at some point, I bruised my foot from running (*insert complicated story here*). In September, it turned into a stress fracture, but we didn’t know that for sure until December. After this, I wore a walking boot for about 9 weeks. Unfortunately the fracture took so long to heal (for several complicated reasons) that both of my feet developed Achilles Tendonitis & Plantar Fasciitis. The previously-fractured foot atrophied quite a bit. We found out all this in March. At that time, I began physical therapy. I still attend PT once or twice a week. The process has been slow going and has had many ups and downs. At this moment, I can’t drive, play drums, or go many places. That may or may not change soon—it’s very unpredictable.

If you want to help both Kevin and me, you can do one major thing for us: pray! We would love prayer for

1) patience, persistence and a positive attitude on my part.

2) encouragement and lots of blessings on my husband, Kevin, who has been amazing through all of this.

3) that God would reveal His plan to us in all of this.

If you want to pray for the physical, you can pray

1) that God would heal me

2) that we would get into a healthy pattern at Physical Therapy, and

3) that we could reach our goal of going on vacation in October.

Both Kevin and I would appreciate if you didn’t ask when I’ll be better/when I’ll be playing drums again/whether I can help with such & such event, etc. If there are commitments that I am ready to renew, I’ll let you know. It may still be awhile, but I can’t wait to get back to it all! Thank you so much for your consideration in this area, friends.

I must say that throughout this process, God has been faithful to provide everything we need. We have learned so much—I have a long list of blessings and answered prayers pertaining to my foot problems. God is good, all the time.

We hope to see you/talk to you all soon.

Love and gratitude,

-Christy & Kevin Luis

Friday, July 26, 2013

NEW Catching Fire Trailer + Signed Book Plate Swag

Did YOU know there would be ANOTHER Catching Fire trailer? *happy dance* This one lets us in on a major plot twist, but it sure sells the movie!


I just thought I'd brag about my new The Raven Boys swag. Last month I told you about a bookplate giveaway Maggie Stiefvater was doing. Well, I just got my signed bookplate! Here 'tis:

Yeah, I taped it to my Kindle. So?

Stiefvater 1) wrote my absolute favorite YA novel of the last two years, The Scorpio Races, and 2) is also an artist, so she did the artwork for the bookplates. She sent me a Maggie-esque note along with the book plate:

Made. My. Year!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

An Investigation: How to Identify Your Story's Problems

Inspector LestradeScribblers,

I ran across a problem in one of my stories, recently. That's not bad or even unexpected. A problem can be dealt with.

But I couldn't figure out what the problem was, exactly.

Have you ever experienced that? You can't put your finger on it, but something about your story is out of place?

Part of writing is learning how to deal with this. There are probably a million ways, as there are for every other step of the writing process. I'll tell you how I do it, though:

I transform into an investigator. An investigator refuses to be discouraged by puzzling clues or the general unpleasantness of bad writing. We Scribblers must be inquisitive folk. When a story of ours has a problem, we must be all up in its business. Nosy. Investigative.

Asking questions is the best technique I've found to discern the nature of a problem.

Lately, I've been revising a piece of historical fiction. I researched lots of period details, carefully formulated a unique story structure and mapped out what my main character wanted and needed.

But something was missing. The story felt dead. I sent it around to a few friends and got some great feedback, but even as I revised it, I just didn't like it very much.

So I turned to questions. When trying to solve a hazy problem in revisions, I have to push past my natural comfort zone and persistently inquire about my story's problems. I have to ask,

"Which areas feel wrong?"

I follow my intuition to areas that just don't feel "right." Typically, these are areas that I've been avoiding because they're uncomfortable and I don't feel like digging in to assess the damage.

This questioning process frequently takes me down tangents that may seem unrelated to each other, but I pour every thought out onto the page. I explore every misgiving or uncomfortable vibe via multiple smaller, more specific questions. Any one of them or all of them combined could be "the" problem, or a symptom of "the" problem, or at least an opportunity to improve my story. Exploring and questioning can be time-consuming, but they are necessary for me.*

*Lots of writers do this "exploring." As always, I would direct you to John Truby's The Anatomy of Story and Chris Baty's No Plot? No Problem! (Chris Baty is also the creator of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month).

This is an example of what story notes, questions and exploring can
sometimes look like. The red is what I'm unsure about. Other times,
I highlight, make comments, or use strikethrough text to sort.
When you go on revision-brainstorming tangents, your subconscious is trying to point out what feels wrong about your story.

After I've exhausted my tangent, I've typically exhausted my brain, too. I take a break for a bit. Then I come back and organize the mess of "story notes" that usually looks like words, words, words without meaning. I have to fight off a headache and lots of distractions every time I begin to sort and evaluate this mess because it can be tedius and discouraging.* It's hard to deal with intangibles, especially if you are an indecisive sort of person, like I am. But I have to explore my options.

This is an example of a more "sorted" section. I've organized my
thoughts into labeled lists of ideas, such as the character's "Desires"
or the story's "Premise." But tangents still butt in throughout the
entire process, as evidenced by the gigantic comment to the right.
*I also begin to question myself: Exactly how short is my attention span? Am I really cut out to be a writer? How could I possibly write such a dead boring story? If you hear these voices in your head as well, don't worry. Once you push past the madness in your first few stories, you'll start to develop the confidence that you'll eventually like the end results. (Note: Your housemate(s) might try to comfort you at this stage. What nice friends. Tell them you'll be okay, you're just dealing with the voices.)

All these tangents and miniature questions may show you an overwhelming amount of work to be done still (it did for me: the side characters, the main character voice, and the themes). And/or, you might find that all these smaller problems are a symptom of one larger problem. My problems stemmed mainly from writing the end of my story all wrong. Don't worry, your story will be better for your revisions. But before implementing them, you can always save the old draft, in case you don't like the result.

I have one more technique that helps me form questions, if I'm struggling to sift through my masses of notes. Or perhaps I am perplexed by some seemingly unrelated feedback from my online critique group, and my investigation isn't helping.

I usually take a day off from my brainstorming page and open up an email addressed to no one.

I imagine I know a recipient who has all the "answers" to my story story questions. But this person is  extremely busy, so I don't want to waste her time. Like a professor, for example (uh oh, my technique development is showing).

I then form my incomprehension into a few perfect, succinct questions in the clearest possible manner. If I don't have an answer to my question by the time I form it (often, I do), I save it in my "drafts."

Then I do something else for a day, such as reading a writing manual or something else I think might help me answer the question. I may even give my brain a break and read for plain old fun.

Later, I return to the query and revise, revise, revise. Tighten it up even more. Did I really word the question right the first time? Or is my focus slightly off?

Then I take another day off from the question and read some more, or work on another project. (Letting the problem sit can be a great way to solve writing snaggles, as long as you come back on time to make your deadline. I do this constantly with blog posts, school papers or story problems. The only thing is, you have to start the project early in order to have time for rumination.) Then I come back to it again. After a few edit-then-research sessions, I always manage to find an answer.

If this doesn't work, you can do as I do and ask this wonderful agent/author/editor for advice! But you'll have to be able to form a general question about it, rather than asking for specific feedback on your work.

Before you try asking the agent/author/editor, though, try questioning yourself. You might be surprised what these organic techniques will yield in you. More than once, I've drafted an email to the agent/author/editor and discovered the answer to my question during the process. Yes, this is how I discovered the technique for myself. Somehow, trying to explain the issue to someone else with respect to their time and attention helps me find, ask and answer the right questions.

So, get in touch with your inquisitive side, Scribblers!
Photo Attribution: By Sidney Paget (1860-1908) (Strand Magazine) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, July 13, 2013

To Be Truly Brave: Religion in YA Fiction

Metropolitan Cathedral 1 Curitiba BrasilI always thought YA Fiction was brave in breaking down boundaries and discussing the undiscussable in fiction. Homosexuality is a good example. In what other genres do you find titles like Boy Meets Boy? However, I've discovered the disheartening truth that YA Fiction isn't always being brave. Sometimes it is simply being trendy. What with the gay rights campaigns blaring, books about gay teenagers are becoming the popular causes to promote. But I think if YA Fiction wanted to be truly brave and groundbreaking, it would talk about something the overwhelming majority of teenagers worry about: religion.

At least 84% of the world identifies themselves with a religion, and much of the remaining 16% still believes in some sort of spirituality, according to this article by the Huffington Post. That's...most of the world! So you would think YA Fiction would be all over that.

But it's not. Why?

In America, it's popular, comfortable and sanctioned to bash religion. But that isn't the case in most of the world or in every circle of Americans.

I read an interview of the author Rae Carson, a secular humanist, in which she expresses regret that today's religious teens can't find themselves in the fiction supposedly written for them. When asked why she included religion in her Fantasy novel, she said, "I include it because religion exists, and because I think it's tragic when teenagers can't find themselves in fiction."

Teens today do have to deal with religion. They have to discover it and learn about it and decide what they believe. They may have religion in their family, or their family may be atheists, but they will still have to decide for themselves one way or the other.

Don't get me wrong: there is some YA Fiction that digs into religion, but most of the main-stream popular books bash it, brush it aside, or ignore it altogether. YA Fiction owes teens dialogue about something so important.

And by the way, it owes them more than blown up stereotypes and purposefully antagonistic representations.

So let's break the ringing silence and talk this out.

The social reading website,, provides some religiously-themed YA Fiction booklists, in case you're looking for them. You can get to Goodreads by clicking the box of my book reviews in the top right of my blog site page.

On a side note, should Christian teens be relegated to reading "Christian Fiction" in order to identify themselves in their fun reading? I've talked before about my feelings on the label "Christian Fiction." What do you think?

Photo Attribution:
By Morio (photo taken by Morio) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, July 5, 2013

How to Borrow eBooks and Audiobooks from the Library

Barack Obama Rally Feb 2 2008 3Downloading ebooks* and audiobooks**  from the library is free and fairly simple.

*electronic books you can read on ereaders (a "Kindle" is an ereader). If you want to make sure your device is compatible, here's a list.

**recorded books you can listen to on mp3 players

This explanation will only apply if your system subscribes to "Overdrive." Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma County libraries subscribe to Overdrive, but not all other county libraries do. In order to find out if yours does, just go to this Overdrive website** and search for your library. If it does, your steps will line up with this explanation by Step Five*, assuming you have already taken care of Step One, which is to get a library card.

*I marked Step Five below.

**If you go to step five, you can see a picture of what the Overdrive Website looks like.

Let's Begin.

First, get a library card, if you don't have one.

Then Google "Lake County Library Catalogue" (Or "Mendocino County Library Catalogue," or "Sonoma County Library Catalogue") to find the county's library page. The Lake County page should look like this:

MC should look like this. SC should look like this.

Click "Search the Catalogue." All resulting pages should look like this.

Click "Downloads," the fifth option on the green searchbar.

(Step Five) This will bring you to the Overdrive Website:

Since the book cover photos change, I circled the "Downloadable Library" text in the photo below as an identifying marker:

On the top right hand corner of the page should be a link labeled "sign in." Click it.

Choose your county (it will give you the options of Lake, Mendocino or Sonoma). It will ask you for your library card number and pin. The pin is simply the last four digits of the phone number you gave the library to get your card.

Pick a book. If you search for a title, Overdrive will indicate which formats the book comes in: ebook, audiobook, both or neither. The site is fairly use-friendly, but if you have any difficulty navigating it, here's a great tutorial video.

For an ebook, you're nearly golden. After your select your book, click "Borrow." You will also need to select the format of the ebook. You can read it on your computer screen (as the tutorial video demonstrates), but I think the Kindle ebook format is the best. The latter will lead you to a webpage on Amazon where you simply click "Get Library Book" and indicate where it should be delivered (e. g. "Christy's Kindle").

To get an audiobook, you will need to download the "Overdrive Media Console" software, which is free and easy to use once you make it past your computer's protection software. (Some computer protection software can give you problems, but Overdrive has a wonderful help service to answer those and any other questions. I've used it several times on new computers.) Once you do that, you can download the book to your computer via the Console. Then you plug your ipod or mp3 player into your computer and transfer the book to it.

And no late fees! Audiobooks and ebooks automatically disappear when they are due.

I salute you on your bookish journey, Book Bandit.

Photo Attribution:
By Calebrw (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Teen Library Events in July & August (+Pictures from June)

Our first teen meeting went really well! We made food collages in accordance with our theme "Reading is Delicious." Here are some crappy phone pictures for your viewing pleasure (because...I forgot my camera).

Some other kids showed up later, so I think we had about...10 total? Anyway, we decorated the Teen Space (middle of the library under the hanging posters) with the collages:

On June 19, a crazy group of 15(ish) teens and tweens decorated cupcakes. The library staff were very impressed and chose a winner that looked almost exactly like the one with the tongue in this picture from Martha Stewart's cupcake book. We also taught teens how to use piping bags and tips and how to make butterflies (pretzels dipped in chocolate and decorated). I forgot my camera (again), and my hands were too sticky to take phone photos, this time. But trust me. It was bomb. (Thanks to Bruno's for the wonderful cupcakes and frosting!)

Amy also taught a well-attended sourdough breadmaking class on Saturday, but I wasn't able to go, so I can't give you the juicy (floury?) details.
Here's the list of teen events in July and August. I don't have the times for you,* but you can always get a schedule at the library. This is just to whet your interest!
  • On Saturday, July 6, teens and parents can meet Amy and me at the Steele Wineries Farmer’s Market (also near Rainbow Ag) for a cooking class. Following the class, we will tour a farm. We're going organic, folks.
  • On Wednesday, July 10, we will have a "Chocolate Night" (early evening. Whatever). We'll make little chocolate mice and listen to an excerpt of a relevant teen book. Location: Lakeport Library.

  • On Wednesday, July 17, Alethea Eason, author of several novels including the wonderfully imaginative Middle Grade novel, Hungry, is going to pay our teens a visit. A real author! And her book even fits the theme. Location: Lakeport Library.

  • On Saturday, July 27, we're all going to visit the Community Garden. (This one is obviously not at the library. Amy has more info.*)

  •  On Wednesday, July 31, Amy will show us how to make mini herb gardens and macramé slings to hang them in. Location: Lakeport Library.

  •  On Saturday, Aug 3, we will meet with teens so they can plan their party (It's my party and I'll...) & turn everything in. Location: Lakeport Library.

  •  And on Wednesday, Aug 7, we'll have our partaay!  We will raffle off the grand prize Kindle Fire (book reviews = tickets) and give out other prizes. Location: Lakeport Library.

*You can also call Amy at the library for more info about these teen events: 263-8817.