What’s Ashley Reading?: Misery

Misery by Stephen King

First line: umber whunnnn

Summary: After an accident in the snow of the Rockies, Paul Sheldon, is rescued by his biggest fan. Paul, the writer of the Misery novels, is found on a roadside by Annie Wilkes who takes him to her home to “care for him”. However, she is also keeping him captive. As Paul lays in agony in Annie’s farmhouse he is forced to write another Misery novel just for her and if he doesn’t she is willing to take extreme measures to punish him.

My Thoughts: I remember watching Misery years ago. I knew the basic storyline but not the details of it. Several months ago I picked up a worn old paperback at a used bookstore and decided it was time to enter the world of Stephen King once again. This is definitely not my favorite of his novels but it did keep me reading until the end.

Annie is crazy! During one scene where she is punishing Paul I literally was sick to my stomach. I had to take a moment to gather myself in order to keep reading. It was just too real and gruesome.

But during the middle of the book I struggled to keep going because it just seemed monotonous. And this may have been a ploy to show the long time that Paul spent in Annie’s custody and his mindset of time dragging on. It is understandable but it seemed more like filler than story. But the ending is where the true craziness happens. I always think of the movie Scream when reading horror movies because the villain always comes back for one last scare!

FYI: A classic King novel but in my opinion not his best.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

First line: I could not have written a more perfect man.

Summary: Agatha Christie, one of the most famous mystery writers of the twentieth century has gone missing. A widespread manhunt ensues looking for the missing author. Meanwhile, her husband is hiding secrets of his own. As time progresses and Agatha is not found more suspicion is placed on Archie. Then suddenly after eleven days Agatha reappears with no recollection of what happened or where she had been. What happened during these days? It is a mystery that is still yet to be uncovered.

My Thoughts: Several years ago I remember hearing about the disappearance of the Agatha Christie. It sounds like one of her stories but was actually true. I was really excited when I saw that Marie Benedict was going to bring this piece of history to life. Benedict does a great job of giving voice to historical women who time has forgotten. Even though Christie is famous, this part of her life was not as well known.

I liked the alternating time periods and perspectives. We see the beginning of the romance between Agatha and Archie. We see the progression of their lives together. But then we see how Archie deals with Agatha’s disappearance. I kept having to stop myself from Googling the case in order to avoid how the author’s reappearance happens. I liked that it was a short novel that was quick to read and gives a little more insight into such a prolific writer. I now have to read more of Christie’s novels starting with The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

FYI: Perfect for fans of Melanie Benjamin and Agatha Christie, of course.

Writing Challenge Winner: Luck by E James

E is 16 years old and participated in the Bad Guy Writing Challenge in April 2020. E completed a intense short story about a bitter villain desperately trying to overcome the constant thwarting of the world’s luckiest superhero! This story is great for fans of Deadpool and Despicable Me!

Enjoy E’s story below!

Chapter 1: Mike’s Perspective

I mean duh I’m the bad guy it’s not rocket science though if someone does know rocket science could you teach me. Any who I’m getting off point and talking to a fourth wall probably isn’t the best thing to do right now. Cheerful McGee is over there once again monologuing about JUSTICE and THE POWER OF FRIENDSHIP which gets annoying after the 20th time of doing it like hey us villains don’t have all day. The more he monologues the more his face looks punchable. Now you must be wondering what have I gotten myself into and who is this random person?

It’s Mike by the way yeah I have a villain name but since you’re seeing it from my side I might as well give a somewhat okay introduction. And what I’m doing is facing off with Happy Go Lucky once more the hero who always has a smile and luck on his hands I MEAN IS LUCK EVEN A SUPERPOWER looking at you Ladybug and Domino. Oh great now he’s looking at me he must have finished monologuing and now is waiting for a comeback think Mike think.  Oh here I turn to HGL and say “Well justice may be your partner BUT VILLAINY IS MINE!” I let off an evil laugh to punctuate it but that was a terrible line. He reels up with one of his arms ready to punch at me but I really don’t want to deal with this dude. I mean you guys are here and he wins every time so why even bother.

Villains get tired of mundane routines, daily thwartings, and ending up in jail. I just needed to get something from one of my dealers but here’s HGL dealer knocked out behind him with that GRIN THAT AWFUL GRIN on his face. Then he and I had traded one liners then he had monologued and now here we are. As he aimed for my face with his punch I had completely forgotten to shield myself because I was talking with you guys. When his fist connected with my face I felt my nose crack and I just decided in that time and moment that I SHOULD RUN AWAY so I did. As he was reeling up for his next punch I turned around and booked it.

Now you may be wondering, does he have a superpower to let him get away? Short answer is no I don’t have a superpower to get away my superpower is well my creativity its stupid yes but it lets me create my invention plans on a whim and is able to allow me to talk with you guys it also lets me come up with henchmen but even that isn’t enough to stop HGL. I hear HGL’s heavy footsteps behind me as he chases after I just need to come up with a small escape route good enough to get HGL off my tail. I spot another alley way up ahead and turn into it hoping that there is a fire escape stairway. I do indeed see a fire escape, I immediately run faster scrambling up the ladder to the stairs. I could hear HGL just enter the alley. He may have luck on his side but speed was not even if he is fit a man like that is still slower than me. I got to the stairs and ran up them and by then HGL had gotten to the bottom of the ladder but it was much smaller than him which led to him having some difficulty trying to scale it which allowed me more time to escape. I got to the rooftop and judged the distance from this one and the next one. I ran and took a leap, I barely made it my chest hitting the side of the other building. I dragged myself up and hid behind the small wall to hide from HGL.

Now at this point you must be wondering Mike why are you a villain? I mean my parents were both villains and I wanted to carry on their legacy even if my power is as bad as CREATIVITY. They ended up dying to a hero named Firing Squad who had guns for hands. I hate the dude but also I feel bad for him I mean how does he even hold a fork. I’m well known for one thing though: MY INVENTIONS.  My inventions aren’t ever really major, more of just general nuisances  like I made an invention that made stop lights turn red after every 5 seconds. It was fun to watch people get more and more angry with each light change until I was abruptly stopped by HGL. Speaking of the guy, it sounded like he finally had gotten to the other rooftop and he was muttering to himself about my disappearance. The dude may have been a hero but he was kinda stupid. As I heard him get more and more frustrated I heard the crunch of metal against fist, he must have punched one of the air conditioner units. People say villains do more damage than heroes but I haven’t done any damage and HGL has broken his fair share of cars, air conditioner units, and glass a lot of glass just to get rid of me. I would say the dudes persistent but all heroes are.

I finally hear him leave after another 10 minutes of muttering and air conditioner destruction which he will most likely blame me for. I’m finally able to stand up and god sitting like that for 20 minutes left me with such a crick in the neck. I stretch a bit as I survey the ground below. The police have made it by now and HGL is talking to them and finally now is my time to escape. As I make my way down another fire escape another question from you guys comes through. Can you please elaborate on who you are? Well my name is Mike also known as the villain The Creator I live in AlesCreek city my antagonist is Happy Go Lucky the hero and I am a minor villain of this city though soon I will be the best villain very soon.

Chapter 2: Happy Go Lucky’s Perspective

The police take so long to finish questioning me about The Creator’s disappearance. I’m so tired after chasing him, I wish he couldn’t move as fast as he could, that’s how I usually lose him. I’ve won the most out of our encounters but lately he’s been trying to avoid me all the time. I mean nemeses are supposed to thwart each other and when he keeps avoiding me I feel like we aren’t enemies anymore. I know it’s stupid to think like that we’re supposed to take down our villains, throw them in jail, and then not worry about them anymore. I’m finally let go by the police and I walk home. I wish I could fly, that would make my job much easier but unlike The Crow, I can’t. I make it to the suburbs of the city and get to my small home, it’s not much but it helps keep my exercise equipment, food, and bed in a shelter. I walk through the door squeezing through it. I look in the mirror in my entryway, worry about The Creator is plain on my face, he didn’t even come up with any good one liners this time. I walk over and sit down on my couch as I work on taking off my boots and eye cover. Well now that I’m home maybe I can finally get some sleep. As I take off the rest of my main costume and slip on shorts and a shirt I head to my bed and at 4:00 in the afternoon I flop down on the bed and immediately pass out sinking into a nice relaxing slumber.

E’s original artwork of the characters!

Mike’s Perspective

The elevator dings as it opens to a dimly lit area, there’s a few plastic folding tables holding up parts and pieces to other inventions, there’s a wall of previous inventions, there’s a room to the side that’s all blacked out I call it my think room, and then there’s my mattress in the corner. Yes unlike other villains I do not live a life of luxury. Now you might be wondering Mike where are you? Currently at my lair which is an apartment basement. I was loaned the room by a lady who owns the apartment building, she’s a jerk and is very strict but I live here anyways.

I look over at my mattress sleep beckons but I hang up on that call and instead I walk over to the wall of past inventions and remember all the fights I had to deal with from HGL when I used them. I pick up the TANTRUM CHILD EMITTER it looks like one of those plasma globes but I can turn it on anywhere and it causes kids to throw a tantrum. It ANNOYS EVERYONE around them, it was one of my best until HGL cracked it, now if you turn it on it leaks radiation. Then there is the FORGET YOUR PASSWORD GIZMO which if shot at someone they forget all their passwords. I used it in computer labs, schools, and libraries, it was amazing until HGL made everyone remember their passwords with his LUCKINESS then promptly once again beat me to a pulp. With every invention HGL stopped it and threw me into jail. Now Lego Batman made it seem like villains and heroes have this special relationship, WRONG, I hate HGL and I really hope he just DISAPPEARS from my life. I just want him gone and he will disappear very soon though. I’ve studied HGL as he fought me and he may seem human but he’s built of luck essence, get rid of that essence he just poofs from existence.

So my next invention will get rid of him for good. I walk over to the far wall on the table there is a small metal cube with a few lines on it. I call it my BAD LUCK CUBE, it’s not complete yet I was actually getting the final piece today from a dealer but instead HGL was there and I couldn’t get the piece. So now I have to make the piece myself because I’m sure that dealer won’t contact me ever again. With all that happened today I feel exasperated I really want to sleep but I also have to figure out what to do so I suppose TO THE THINK ROOM. I walk over to the room, it has all its walls painted black and there’s no lights. I close the door and and the room is pitch black it lets me think the best. I lie down on the floor which has a bunch of sound foam to block out any sound. All of this helps me come up with the best ideas, it causes hallucinations yes but that helps as well.

As I lie there the minutes tick by I start to hallucinate sounds and colors and light but they start to form into a more solid idea. Five minutes after this I bolt up right, I’ve got it the perfect way to fix this. I stand up and open the door and immediately shield my eyes, even if the room is dim it still is blinding after that. I go to one of the tables with blueprints and notes, and immediately began to write down the notes of my idea. After a few minutes of scribbling down notes I finally have a way to make this last piece of the puzzle, the only problem is that I’m gonna have to get blood from HGL to finish the piece. It’s a little circuit system that passes electricity through the circuit into the blood then it rearranges that power into its opposite power aka good luck into bad luck then emits that power. As I come to that conclusion I look towards the mattress in the corner. Sleep is gonna have to wait.

Chapter 3: Mike’s Perspective

It took me 3 hours to get the board set up but now I need to get HGL’s blood. I grab a syringe off the table as I head for the elevator. I just need to get a few milliliters of blood and get back to here. I’m sure he’s probably at his house by now. Yes I know where his house is, I found it on Zillow because I don’t know maybe I wanted to booby trap it once, it never happened though. The elevator opens and I pull up my hood as I head out into the streets.

The first time I met HGL was back when I was 18, I wanted to join the Villain Organization to keep on my family’s legacy and my parents had been a part of the organization before they had been killed. To get in though you have to show off how and why you are a villain. So I decided to make an invention to show them. All my other inventions had been small and I decided to try my hand at something else. I searched up the most annoying things for a person and found an idea THE SLOW WALKER RAY GUN. Once I built it I went up onto my apartment’s roof with a beach chair and shot walking people to make them go slower the more they were shot the slower they went. It went on like this for 3 hours until I shot what looked like a bodybuilder but he didn’t slow down so I shot him again and he still didn’t slow down. I decided to try and fine tune the gun more but during that the dude had turned towards the apartment building, walked towards it, and scaled the wall.

When I looked back up from the gun he was standing right in front of me. He then promptly beat me to a pulp and put me in jail. I was actually only in jail for a day due to the fact I hadn’t harmed anyone just made them walk slower. I did get into the V.O. with the invention but it was the very beginner level and I haven’t been promoted at all and it’s been eight years since that beginning invention. As you could have probably guessed the bodybuilder dude was HGL and that’s how he also became my nemesis. As I walk into the suburbs I think back on all the times HGL has beat me and how this new invention will be my greatest victory of all. I finally get to his house and hop the back gate. He had left a window open, guess a guy with luck doesn’t have to worry about break-ins. I slip through the window and his place is a mess, even my lair isn’t all that organized but this is just sloppy. I hear snoring coming from one of the rooms and creep towards it.

As I figured HGL was passed out in his room with the door wide open, this man is so careless. I quickly pull out the syringe step forward and stab HGL in the arm with it. He begins to stir so I quickly draw some blood then take back the syringe. I then scamper out of the room and out through the window before HGL can really wake up. As I make my way down the street once more I pull my hood down further and think on how I’m one step closer to truly winning against this man.

HGL’s Perspective

I awake to a slight stingy pain in my arm. I rub my eyes trying to get rid of any gunk and bleariness. I hear something outside but ignore it, it’s probably a squirrel anyways. As I sit up the stinging pain is still there. It’s weird maybe a fly bit me or something who knows. I stand up and stretch out my back and arms then shuffle my way to the kitchen. It looks like it’s around 7:00 at this point so I should probably make something to eat. I root around in my freezer as I think more on the Creator situation. He doesn’t harm anyone so that’s why it’s so hard to keep him in jail but his actions are still villainous and he’s still a part of the Villain Organization. I decide on meatloaf and potatoes and open the box. I mean I just need one incriminating factor about The Creator and then I can keep him in jail forever. I bet he doesn’t even really have a home, he seems homeless though who knows.

I pull back the plastic cover and stick the food in the microwave heating it up. Villains and heroes both have similar levels to them the higher up you are the more well known you are. Which makes you think about how similar these two groups are. I mean me and The Creator are both minor people of our groups. There’s Thunderstorm who’s a higher hero and has a nemesis named Desolate and they are both well known. The higher you are the more recognition, the more popularity, just all more. The microwave beeps and I take the food out. I dump it onto a plate and walk over to my living room. Maybe I should rethink being a hero, I mean with my nemesis being The Creator  he isn’t really a threat so I technically don’t have a job to begin with.  I feel a chill and go over to close a window I had accidentally left open. I’ve been off my lucky game since this whole worrying began and it just reminds me of how The Creator is acting. I sit down on the couch and turn on the tv. Heroes, Villains in the end we’re all the same.

Chapter 4: Mike’s Perspective

       It has been a week since I stole some of HGL’s blood. I finally got the board set up and into the cube but now I’ve got to test it. I walk the streets keeping an eye out for a single superhero in this city. I have to start with erasing moderate luck before erasing complete luck. The first thing that comes to mind with luck is a four leaf clover but that’s taken by HGL, so then the next item was a rabbit’s foot. There is one rabbit themed superhero in AlesCreek, Cottontail, she can hear extremely well, smell extremely well, and leap buildings in one jump. If I find her in her usual spots I could make the cube target her and then take away her luck and if I monitor her for this next week maybe I can see what results I’ll get.

I get to West AlesCreek and climb up one of the fire escapes onto a roof. Now it’s the waiting game to see if she comes this way. I sit down criss cross on the roof but I immediately stand back up because it’s 80 degrees out but the roof tiles are burning. As I stand and wait I can feel myself begin to bake like a rotisserie chicken. I wonder if I should turn as I’m standing out here to imitate a chicken. As I wait I suppose I should answer more questions from you guys. My favorite color is purple, my favorite season is fall, my favorite food is chicken alfredo, and my favorite hobby is playing with legos. And there she goes, I was so focused on answering that Cottontail passed by me. I immediately run after her pulling the cube out of my pocket, I just have to get within 20 feet of her then I can activate the cube.

She’s fast but that’s only because she’s jumping over the buildings while I have to run across them. She finally stops on the ground listening for something and I take this as my chance. I slowly crawl down one fire escape and then activate the cube once I’m close. She freezes like a deer caught in headlights she knows something is near her but she can’t tell what it is. I let the cube work for about five minutes before I turn it off. I then slowly climb back up the fire escape. She seems to relax like she can’t sense anything so I can’t tell if the cube deadened her senses or if I’m just that sneaky. I’ll be monitoring her over the next week to see if the cube truly works. 

. . .

    It’s a week later and the device very much did work. Cottontail’s senses had been so deadened that she was so confused when she was attacked and the news had eaten it up. I scrolled through my phone seeing reports of Cottontail’s bad luck streak. I smile inwardly; this makes great leaps and bounds for my experiment unlike what Cottontail is doing now which is hitting buildings face first when she tries to jump. I think I may have put her out of a job all together but I feel no remorse. I mean I had to test my cube on someone, it’s not my fault she was the perfect candidate.  Now that I know the cube works I can fine tune it completely and set it so it will get rid of all luck. Now is the beginning of the end for HGL. I stand up from my mattress and begin my final work. 

HGL’s Perspective

       I hear about Cottontail’s bad luck streak for the fourth time this week. I don’t know what happened to her, maybe there’s a new villain in town who has bad luck as their thing. If that is true maybe they’re my true nemesis which makes me want to get rid of The Creator more, maybe fighting this bad luck villain is my true purpose. I can’t be mopey anymore just because The Creator keeps running away we had no real nemesis relationship anyways. I put on my face mask and stand up. I’ve always hated how tight this suit was but it fits my theme. I go out on patrol to stop any minor crimes that may be happening.

As I patrol the streets without my knowing I wander into the part of town that The Creator usually stays in and does his deals. I haven’t seen much of him over these past two weeks or so and to be honest I’m kinda hoping he’s just disappeared off the face of the Earth. I stop two robberies by making the bad guys drop their bags then detain them while the police get there. I love the praise and hopefully this will get me more noticed by the hero committee. I keep wandering and patrolling until I make it to that alleyway that we had fought in just a few weeks ago. It’s been cleaned up from our fight well as clean as an alley can be. I wonder why he needed the part he needed, it had looked like a computer chip with a small capsule in the middle. I couldn’t figure out what it was or why he needed it. It’s probably locked away in an evidence box somewhere at this point.

I walk farther into the alley way but there really isn’t anything here a few garbage cans, some boxes, junk, and a stray cat. I just walk out and continue on my patrol. I don’t know what The Creator is scheming or planning but it can’t be big, he never does anything big, but maybe with this new bad luck villain I could finally take on something big. Though that would mean getting The Creator out of the way first. So I begin to plan for my next encounter with him. I plan on finally capturing him and getting rid of him for good, all I would have to do first is frame him but luck is always on my side for things like that. So with this our next encounter will be our last Creator so watch out.

Chapter 5: HGL’s Perspective

       Three days later and my plan has been set in action. I made a few people steal stuff by making it a high luck chance then made them forget they did it. I called the police saying I’m gonna detain The Creator and that they should wait for my signal or call. I’m in the alley way with the stolen stuff next to me. I wait for The Creator to get here tapping my foot a bit. This is it, the main event, the main turning point in my life that I hope will put me on the right track to success. All I have to do is wait.

Mike’s Perspective

       I know he framed me, it’s obvious. He wouldn’t have made it so obvious of where he was to me if he hadn’t framed me. So I took care of the police before, giving them all bad nausea with one of my other inventions before walking to that alleyway. He sure has a way for irony since this is the same alley we were in before. As I make my way I don’t feel nervous at all, actually I feel determined like I’m finally going to win. The cube feels as light as a feather in my pocket even though it weighs about half a pound. I step into the alleyway and here HGL mumbling to himself about victory and success. He doesn’t notice I’m here until I’m like five feet away. He’s not very sense aware and he doesn’t usually put up his luck kind of shield until he’s in a real fight so he is kinda idiotic in that way too. Now this fight would be boring if it were just from my perspective so I’m gonna shift you guys to third person so you can see the full fight in effect. It should give you a whole new wow factor.

       Mike looks over at the fourth wall winking as a way to say ta daa. HGL doesn’t notice and begins to speak.

       He pointed his finger at Mike”Creator I am here to end you for good,”.

       “Yeah yeah I know you framed me but I took care of the police force and other obstacles it’s now just you and me HGL,” Mike said this so calmly that it almost seemed like they were about to play chess.

       HGL just stood there his hand sagging a bit when he heard his plan was foiled.

        “Fine then I’ll just capture you a different way and you will go to jail for good Creator,”

       “That’s what you think HGL now bring it on,”

       With that HGL charged at Mike fist cocked back. Mike ducked under his first punch then dove to the side out of the way of a kick. He began to rummage around in his pocket and took out the cube. It looked like one of those fidget cubes except instead of several things it just had one button. HGL looked at it and dove for it so he could destroy it like every other invention he had destroyed. Mike stuck it behind his back and HGL hit Mike full on like a bulldozer. Mike scrambled away and got up as he pulled the cube out from behind his back.

       “Freeze lucky boy, it’s my turn to win,” Mike grinned for once in his life feeling the victory so close to him.

       “You’re gonna stop me with a measly cube. You’ve descended into complete madness Creator,”

        “You know that bad luck villain you’ve been hearing so much about. He isn’t real HGL it’s just this cube,” Mike shook the cube mockingly at him and watched as HGL’s face flashed to disbelief for a second before going back to anger.

       HGL ran at Mike again but at that point Mike pressed the button and they both flew back as a powerful amount of energy hit them both.

       I change the perspective back to first person and let you guys back into my head.I watch as HGL falls over the very edges of him start to fade like he is a hologram fading out slowly. He gets up and tackles me and I let him, he can’t stop me, he’s done for finally. The cube hits the ground along with me and HGL ends up crushing it with his knee. He tries to punch me but his hand is no longer there having faded out completely. You could see the disbelief hit him like a truck and he sits back as I scramble away and stand up. I give my best villain grin as he then flashes to anger trying to attack me once more. Then finally one more emotion flashes on his face. Defeat he looks at me with a saddened look. It cuts me deep to the core but try to not let that on. I’m not fully apathetic guys and I’m sending this guy to nothingness. I shake my head a bit as I try to get rid of a slight bit of guilt. I mean we were both nemeses, so our end goal was to defeat each other. I don’t think he expected me to ever win since villains never do. I watch him fade away completely, that look still very much on his face. I pick up the crushed cube pocketing it. I then head out of the alleyway pulling my hood up. I walk by ordinary people going on with their day not knowing that a hero has just disappeared from this world. Something felt wrong though, it hadn’t just been the look on HGL’s face but something felt off, like I had just erased an entire law of the universe with a single push of a button.

The End

From Reader to Writer: Morning Pages

I’ve never been much of the diary type. I have a crate full of journals and a moderate journal-buying obsession, but if one were to scour the contents of these books, they’d find mostly random thoughts, embarrassing poetry, and doodles of rose vines and cats. While I always have a journal with me to record ideas or to regurgitate intense emotions, I’ve never been good at keeping a daily journal. I always start with good intentions then either forget completely or make excuses for not continuing.

Back in 2016, I discovered The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and it revitalized my creative process. It challenged me to reflect deeply and to make a practice out of writing. One of the vital elements of Julia Cameron’s method is to write morning pages every day. Recently, I’ve decided to go through Cameron’s 12-week process again and have been reminded of the importance of doing the morning pages as often as possible.

What Are Morning Pages

Morning Pages are three, long-hand, stream of consciousness pages of writing done every day, preferably in the morning right when you wake up. They can literally be about anything. They should never be shared and really, you shouldn’t read them for at least eight weeks. Most people destroy them after writing them.

Why Would You Do This?

I see it as a clearing. It sweeps away all of the things that clutter your head. From anxieties that you need to let go of or ideas that you don’t want to forget, the morning pages give you a space to exist in written form. Writing long-hand instead of typing on your phone or computer is a way to ground and re-center you without technology. There is something comforting about putting pen to paper and just letting the words flow in any way.

This is excellent training for writing a first draft. First drafts are tough. It’s important when starting out that you just get the ideas on paper. Revision and critiquing comes after the words get down, but it’s hard to turn that filter off even when writing the first time around. Morning Pages trains your brain to turn off that internal critique and let the words flow.

I’m not going to lie. I only get my morning pages done about half the time, but when I do get to them, my brain feels so much clearer. As I keep going through The Artist’s Way program in hopes of re-invigorating my creativity, I definitely am working to make morning pages a habit for both my mental and creative health.

Would you ever consider writing morning pages? Perhaps maybe give The Artist’s Way a try? Let me know what you think, and I’ll keep you posted as my writer’s journey continues.

From Reader to Writer: World Building Resources

Both readers and writers can agree that one of the best parts of stepping into an imaginative story is the immersive world building. From Tolkien’s Middle Earth to Rowling’s Wizarding World, the intricacies of creating an entire world are addictive. For genres like fantasy and science fiction that rely on otherworldly elements, it’s a writer’s ability to engage the five senses which hooks us into a story even more than writing plot or characters.

But when it comes to world building, the pressures of playing god can sometimes get really overwhelming. How do you keep it all straight? How do you determine the origins of your world, the climate, the geography, not to mention the cultures, races, plants, and animals that make your world not only believable, but habitable? How do you even know what questions to ask or what information is most important in your story?

As I’m working through my own writing, I’ve found that world building can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s immensely enjoyable to get lost in a world so different from my own, but world building is also an excellent excuse to create and create without really writing anything. I want to be careful not to risk getting “world builder’s disease,” an affliction that plagued even Tolkien where a writer creates every tiny, little detail of a world, inevitably running themselves into the ground and burning out.

To keep my thoughts organized, I’ve discovered this incredible resource. WorldAnvil is a free website that lets a writer, artist, or role-playing gamemaster organize an entire world in an encyclopedia format. The website has an article for various types of entries, and the articles prompt a range of questions that guide you through construction. WorldAnvil also has paid subscription options that offer access to more resources and functions in the website, but you can use the website without having to pay a thing.

I also found WorldAnvil’s YouTube channel and this video on tips for worldbuilding helpful. Beyond WorldAnvil, there are some great videos featuring advice from both seasoned writers and RPG game developers. This video on fantasy map construction is awesome!

Another amazing resource is best-selling author Brandon Sanderson’s lectures on writing. Many of his classes are available on YouTube including this one on worldbuilding.

When writing a story or even developing a world for a role-playing game, there are many elements and decisions to make. It’s intense and rewarding. Use this phase of your creative journey as an outlet to be eccentric and try things. When the real plotting begins, you’ll be so immersed in your story that much of the work will already be done.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Finding Dorothy

Living in Kansas it seems to be guaranteed that everyone knows the story of  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.  However, the book and the movie (starring Judy Garland) are quite different.  But how much do you know about the man who wrote the story?  Years ago there was a made for TV movie called The Dreamer of Oz, starring John Ritter, who portrayed Mr. Baum and detailed his life and the writing of his famous novel.  In a new book by Elizabeth Letts we get a look at Maud Gage Baum, the wife of the author.

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts

First line: It was a city within a city, a textile mill to weave the gossamer of fantasy on looping looms of celluloid.

Summary: Maud Gage Baum, the widow of the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, visits the set of the filming of The Wizard of Oz where she meets the young star, Judy Garland. Maud immediately feels a connection and need to protect the sixteen year old actress who will be portraying Dorothy. Told through flashbacks we see Maud’s life with husband, L. Frank Baum as they start out touring the country with a theater group to owning their own dry goods store to becoming a literary success.

Highlights: This was a fun jaunt through the history of one of the greatest movies/books of all time. I remember watching the movies numerous times as a child before I ever picked up one of the books. It is so much different but each are wonderful in their own ways. Nothing beats Judy Garland singing ‘Over the Rainbow’.

I know that the author took some liberties with the history to help suit the timeline and layout of her novel but the background of this iconic story is fascinating. Such a successful man (or so I would have assumed) struggled so much trying to find his place in the world. He tried multiple different careers before he wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Even though his story is entertaining, his wife was the strong one.

Maud Gage Baum was the daughter of famous suffragette, Matilda Joslyn Gage. She was a strong advocate for women’s right to vote, fighting alongside Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Maud learned from her to be bold and speak her mind. As I read I could tell that having such a strong mother helped Maud navigate her life with an eccentric husband and battling the studio to do justice to his novel.

Judy Garland and Maud Gage Baum looking at a copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

I loved every interaction that Maud had with Judy Garland. It is hard to imagine that Judy was only sixteen when she was cast in the role that sky rocketed her career. The poor girl had to deal with unbelievable things while preparing for this role including smoking 80 cigarettes a day and taking diet pills to keep her trim. It is outrageous. Maud tries to help Judy as much as possible in order to keep her promise to Frank to watch over “Dorothy”. This is the most heartwarming part of the novel, watching Maud make sure that Judy is Dorothy and Dorothy is Judy, and fighting for her.

Lowlights: There were several historical inaccuracies that are easily overlooked but at times also drove me a little crazy. One of Maud’s sisters was completely left out of the story. And the idea behind the character, Dorothy, was changed. However, the story does not suffer for any of this. Letts does a great job of weaving a fun and intricate story filled with all the magic of Oz.

FYI: Pick up the Oz books! Watch the movie!

From Reader to Writer: Finding Courage to Work

Do you remember what you were like when you were a child? You were fearless, unbridled, and free of the smudges left by other people’s opinions and motivations. If you said you were an astronaut, you were an astronaut despite the technicalities of school and space travel. But somewhere along the way, you grew and fear within you grew as well. The fear of expectation, failure, and entitlement took over and before you knew it, you couldn’t bear to call yourself an astronaut, let alone become one.

This is what happened to me. My oldest memory is that of calling myself a writer. From age three on, the answer I always gave to every adult who asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer. “Writer” became my identity. It didn’t matter if the writing was bad or if I never finished a project. I knew that somehow it would all work out, and I would find my name on a glossy, well-bound book on the shelf.

I can’t tell you when it started, but something snapped along the way. I found it uncomfortable to call myself a writer. Then I found it uncomfortable to write at all. Even after years of school, years of practice, and years of reading books, I still couldn’t seem to feel confident in the work I was doing. What was the right story, the right character, the right word? Soon, the fear became a dull excuse that manifested into too exhausted or too busy or too uninspired. Now it’s been months since I’ve touched my work, and that dream I was so sure of as a child is drifting further and further out to sea.

Unused creativity is not benign. If you find that you are called to create something and you resist that call, it will slowly eat away at you.

– Elizabeth Gilbert

I believe this to be true. I find myself resenting authors for their successes. I resent myself for my lack of discipline and confidence. And I miss my work. This must mean that the ideas and stories and characters that keep boggling my brain want to be heard. They don’t want me to leave them behind. Perhaps there is art that you have left behind too whether writing, drawing, dancing, film making, or singing.

Here are three resources that might help you find the courage to work:

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

This is more of a class or workshop than a self-help book. Cameron provides concrete exercises and techniques to move you past your block or fear and into a space of making things that feels genuine and authentic.

Big Magic: Creative Living beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

This book validates what you might be feeling. Gilbert uses her own experiences, and her perspective on creating something from nothing to challenge you out of your comfort zone.

Magic Lessons Podcast

Bringing Big Magic to life, this podcast features people who are struggling with creating and ask Elizabeth Gilbert for advice. Besides giving her own information and encouragement, Gilbert brings in professionals like Cheryl Strayed, Neil Gaiman, and Brene Brown to share their stories of how they conquer their fear and come to a place of fulfillment in their work.

I hope these resources might kick start your creativity. Let me know if you have ever felt fearful of making things or sharing your art, and I’ll be back with another post about my journey from reader to writer.