Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things

My Quarter-Life Revelation, or Enjoy the Journey

My entire life, I’ve looked forward to turning 25.

As a child, I viewed it as the final milestone to reaching “real” adulthood. At 25, you’ve been out of college for three years–long enough to get your life together and know who you are, but not so long that the world has totally beaten you down. You’re old enough to be taken seriously, but not so old that you take yourself too seriously.

However, the closer I got to 25, the more I realized that people this age (at least in my generation) don’t have it all figured out. You see, by the age of 25, my parents owned a successful business, had built their own home (literally, my dad is a carpenter), were married with a three-year-old daughter (yours truly), and carried all the other trappings of “full adulthood.” Me? I’m married (check), but my husband is still in graduate school, we live in a crappy rented apartment, and while I’ve started my own business, I’m nowhere near what most people would consider a success.

But I had a consolation. When the calendar rolled over to my birthday, I would still have something awesome. My quarter-life crisis.

Seriously, no sarcasm. I’m the kind of person who thrives under stress. I love sitting down and analyzing who I am. I adore writing lists and making goals. So, I couldn’t wait to wake up, be racked with healthy nerves, and puzzle out the solution to all my problems.

The only issue? As my birthday dawned, I laid in bed and waited for the crisis to hit. And it never came. By looking for problems with my life, I realized that I’m actually happy.

Honestly, it came as a surprise. Ever since moving to New Haven, all I’ve done is complain about how much I loathe this city. On a weekly basis, I gripe about my commute or my job. Just as often, I’m frustrated with budgetary constraints and my lack of free time. But all of those less-than-ideal circumstances stayed at the surface, and when I dove down deeper, for the first time in my life, I couldn’t find anything really wrong.

A few days later, by pure coincidence, I had to confront this realization again. I have a friend who likes to ask random questions, just as a way of generating conversation and creative thinking, and he asked me to answer yes or no to the following statements: A) I am happy with my life. B) I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do to survive.

I answered yes to both. He called bullshit. And we started a debate.

During this episode, I thought again about all the surface-level problems I face. And you know what hit me? Gratitude.

Yes, Daniel and I live in a crappy apartment in a noisy, dirty city. But we live here together–and after two years of long distance, I am so thankful for that. Yes, I have a long commute and my job is not my dream job. But I can use my commute to read/write, and my job has a lot of cool perks and has paid Daniel’s tuition and all of our living expenses. Yes, living here expensive and our next home might be too. But it’s all temporary while he’s in school. Eventually, we’ll choose an area more suited to our desired lifestyle.

My friend still challenged me. Paraphrasing here: “Sure, you might be content with where your life is, but that doesn’t mean you’re happy. You haven’t reached all your goals.”

No, I haven’t. But if I had achieved everything I want to by age 25, the next 50-plus years would be pretty damn boring.

And that’s when it hit me. My big quarter-life revelation.

Life is about enjoying the journey. I’d heard it before, read it in a thousand cheesy memes, but it had never really sunk in. Is my life perfect? No. But for 25, I’m doing pretty well, and I’m on a trajectory to reach my goals in the future. Somewhere in the last year or two, I’ve stopped agonizing over the past–over the mistakes I’ve made and the things that have hurt me.

At the same time, I’ve stopped looking at the future as something I lack. The future isn’t the lost puzzle piece that leaves my picture unfinished. It’s the landmark in the distance, and while I watch it grow closer, I also get to drive a fun car and rock out to my road trip soundtrack. And when I reach that landmark? I get to enjoy it for as long as I want, then head off for the next adventure.

The final layer of gratitude, the proverbial icing on my revelatory birthday cake, is that I recognize my privilege. I’m so lucky to be in a situation in which my biggest problem is that I haven’t achieved my dream yet. As my friend’s question revealed, I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to for survival. Not everyone is that lucky. Hopefully, by appreciating what I have, writing books that offer escapism or education, and being a more positive, caring person (one of my 2017 goals), I can give a little back to the world and help someone else live better.

So that’s what I’m taking into my 25th year: forgiveness of the past, appreciation for the present, optimism for the future, and compassion for others. I only hope that I’m blessed enough to receive the lessons of ages 50, 75, 100, and all the years in between.

Fiction Blog, Guest Posts, Musings & Bookish Things

Guest Post: Why Books Are Important From a Writer’s Perspective by Joe Baldwin

Joe Baldwin Guest Post

We have everything we could ever want in this cruel world. We just have to come and get it. As simple as it may seem, getting all the things what we want can be a bit tough. First off, we have to equip our self with all the necessary knowledge to get there. We also need to dodge obstacles that come our way. With that, we find ourselves going to academies and universities trying to learn all the things that we possibly can, which we may, later on, use in fulfilling our dreams and desires.

Back during the days, teachers would require students to write a college essay, they would be required to read loads of books. But nowadays, with the invention of the computer and the internet, books aren’t much of a thing than it used to be. These days, with just a click on the internet, you’ll be introduced to tons of facts and research about a certain topic. To say it simply, information is free. That being said, people don’t resort to books anymore. They find the internet more useful since it gives them access to an even wider array of data. I guess it’s safe to say that some people have forgotten the importance of books in or lives. Who can blame them, though? With all the advancement that we have going on with gadgets, why would they even bother putting their phone down for one book?

I just feel differently about it, though. Books play an important role in our lives. You’ve probably heard of this saying before: “when you open a book, you open a new world”, and I don’t think I’m the only one who agrees with this. There are loads of people whose everyday lives are intertwined with books. They won’t last a day without at least having to read a few chapters from their favorite book. Why are books so awesome? They’re packed with insights, knowledge, life lessons, love, and helpful advice.

Books just seem perfect for me. Not only does it make for a great pastime, it also opens new doors for the reader. Yeah, sure, the internet also provides us with a diverse set of reads, but it’s really different when it comes to books. Books allow us to internalize each idea, whereas the internet reads only give us a gist of an entire topic. Here are more of the reasons why books are important:

It exposes us to new writing

Even though we’re not all writers, writing is still an important aspect of our life, most especially in our jobs. It’s important to be skilled in communicating effectively through the use of writing. Sure, good writing is inherent for some people, but for most, it can be a real piece of work.

I guess you can get a few ideas from the internet in writing, but that won’t surpass the writing insight that you’ll be gaining if you’re reading a book. Why? Well, it’s because reading a book lets you into the story or concept. Reading books on a daily basis will help you understand different types of writing.

It helps us improve our self

We may think that we already know enough about the world, but we only know so much as what information the media and society feeds us with. We only become as good as society expects us to be. It’s healthy to have our own personal standard. With that, we should aim to improve ourselves. The question is how. Self-improvement only starts with awareness, meaning knowledge. We need to become more aware. There’s no better way to become more knowledgeable than by reading books because through it, we’ll begin to understand the world more, and when we do, we come to understand ourselves more.

It improves our imagination

In this world, we are limited. We can only do so much. But we are only bounded by these walls if have a weak imagination. Imagination is part of growth. It’s the one thing that makes us think that everything that’s happening can get better, that there’s still hope. Reading books gives us access to other people’s ideas and imaginations, which we can inculcate in our own.

It improves our memory

Memory is an important aspect of our life. Unfortunately, our attachment to technology is disrupting our memory affectivity. We become too reliant. It’s not like we can avoid using technology, but that’s no reason to let ourselves to fall into the pit. Rather it gives us more reason to maintain or improve our memory. Reading exposes us to different kinds of information. In order for us to fully understand what we are reading, we have to become aware of the previous events in a book or story. That being said, it urges our memory power to be at its maximum.

It gives us entertainment

A life spent only on academics and career can really tear us down. We’ll get to the point when we don’t even know what we’re doing the things we do anymore. We need to get out of our poor spirits. Books can give us exactly that. Reading books can take us to a whole new world, where all our fantasies come to life.

It’s important to keep our life balanced. Reading books is one of the best ways to do so. Why? While you’re busy with school or work you’ll always have a book to keep you away from all your troubles. Imagine feeling all hopeless about your job, that it almost makes you want to quit. No worries, then because there’s a book you can rely on that’ll take you to other places of the world where you meet new people. It’s just like going on vacation.

It doubles our knowledge

Yeah, sure, school is already doing fine educating us, but it’s just not enough. Knowledge is ever static. It changes every second. That being said, we can’t always rely on what was taught to us at school. Reading books is great if you want to become more knowledgeable.


About Joe

Joe BaldwinJoe Baldwin is a native US resident & professional Article writer for https://essaylook.com. He studied English literature and creative writing. He has experience with online web content including blogs, web page content, news, public relations, press releases, and long form sales and industrial presentations.

Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things

Ten of My Favorite Literary Couples

10 Favorite Literary Couples

In honor of Valentine’s Day and all the gushy feelings it brings, I thought I’d share some of my favorite literary couples. As always when I write one of these lists, this is by no means exhaustive. Honestly, if I tried to remember and rank every bookish couple I love (from romance novels and beyond), I don’t think I’d ever finish!

Some of these will be classic pairings that I’m sure you give you the warm-fuzzies, too. I’ve also tried to include a few lesser-known lovers, which I hope will encourage you to dive into a brand new romance. Fear not — I’ll keep it short and sweet, so you can get back to your own sweetheart (or your cat/wine/half-eaten box of chocolates — no judgment here!).

Inman and Ada MonroeCold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Beyond the fact that it is a beautiful classic about the Civil War, Cold Mountain sets off my long-distance romance waterworks. (My husband and I did long distance between Australia and the U.S. for two years, so I’m sucker for anything with lovers torn apart.) Despite the distance, Ada and Inman stay loyal to each other and persevere through personal hardships, all on the faith that they’ll one day reunite. Their love is truly admirable.

Daisy and Gatsby
Photo Credit

Jay Gatsby and Daisy BuchananThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Let me be clear: Gatsby and Daisy are horrible together, and that is exactly why I love their ill-fated romance. Gatsby is in love with the idea of Daisy (or at least who she used to be), so much so that he reinvents himself to earn her love. Daisy is in love with the idea of Gatsby, the charming boy he was and the mysterious man he’s become. But neither can love the real other. Their romance a great statement on what love should be, and makes for a dreamy ride while it lasts.

Josephine Grant and Elias Addison | A Man Above Reproach by Evelyn Pryce

In this saucy historical romance, the Duke of Lennox falls for the “Bawdy Bluestocking,” the mysterious piano player at the Sleeping Dove brothel. What I love about this book (besides the gorgeous 1830s London backdrop) is the interplay between the characters. Between witty banter, steamy scenes, and the rush of hiding from society, it’s quite the titillating tale!

Clarissa Dalloway and Sally Seton Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

A haunting tale that was ahead of its time. With a title like Mrs. Dalloway, you’d think the romance would be between a husband and wife, but the real love story lies in the past. Thirty years ago, Clarissa Dalloway shared a kiss with her friend Sally Seton, and she still considers it the happiest moment of her life. While unable to recognize the truth behind her feelings, Clarissa provides a meaningful look into the fluid nature of sexuality and what matters most about the people we love.

allie-and-noah
Photo Credit

Allie Nelson and Noah CalhounThe Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

Speaking of guilty pleasures, I’m ashamed to say that I own almost every Nicholas Sparks novel. But I will never be ashamed to own The Notebook. The best part of Allie and Noah’s romance is how it evolves over time. They experience the throes of young summer love, the ache of distance, the thrill of reuniting, and the depth of a lifelong partnership.

Anne Edmond and Mike EverettStart Me Up by Nicole Michaels

This is one of my guilty pleasure contemporary romances that really speaks to my Midwestern heart. A crafty single mom and a rough-around-the-edges mechanic fall in love. Will Anne be the one to finally get Mike to commit? I bet you can guess the answer, but there’s only one to find out for sure!

Martin and John | Martin and John by Dale Peck

Okay, so this one isn’t exactly a romance. In nearly every chapter, the characters of Martin and John are reimagined as different people in different scenarios. However, they are almost always shown as lovers. The entire novel works to paint a captivating and heartbreaking image of how love strengthens and collapses under the pressure of the 1980s-90s AIDS epidemic.

Dellwyn Rutt and Lord CollingwoodThe Courtesan’s Avenger by Kate M. Colby

I know, lame, but I couldn’t resist including my favorite couple to write! What I enjoy about Dellwyn and Lord Collingwood’s romance is that they try so hard to fight their chemistry, and yet they can’t help but be drawn to each other. Their relationship is clear-cut behind the Rudder’s walls, but outside, they struggle to agree on what it should be. I’m glad I was able to give them a little closer in this book.

buffy-and-spike
Photo Credit

Buffy Summers and William “Spike” Pratt | Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Joss Whedon

Spoilers ahead, because this requires self-defense. A little unconventional and complete sacrilege to those on Team Angel, but hear me out. Spike loves Buffy even as a vampire without a soul, so much so, that he’s willing to go through hell to get his soul back and be the man she deserves. When Buffy is desperate in the comics, she turns to Spike (over Angel and her friends) time and time again. I could go on (trust me, I have), but suffice to say this is the No. 1 Vampire-Human romance. You can fight me in the comments, but you’re wrong.

Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

We were all waiting for this one, right? Since I probably don’t need to say anything about why Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy make for a wonderful couple, I’ll tell you a little secret. Though I admire Elizabeth’s fiery wit and headstrong nature, I’ve actually always identified more with Darcy. I do not have the talent of conversing easily with others, and my good opinion once lost is lost forever. As silly as it sounds, seeing him open himself up to love gave me hope that I could one day do the same … and hey, it worked out!

And there you have it! Now, I’m off to spend the rest of the day devouring chocolate roses (thanks, honey!), putting lovey-dovey puns into wine copy, and writing Aya Cogsmith and her Willem into swoon-worthy scenes. Feel free to share your thoughts on my list or add your own favorite couples in the comments!

Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things, The Desertera Series

How Books Connect the World

how-books-connect-the-world

How lucky are we as bookworms today?

At any given moment, we can jump on Amazon (or another website), buy a book, and read it seconds later. Or, if you’re a paperback purist, all you have to do is wait a couple days for shipping or take a quick trip to your local bookstore or library.

That’s all it takes. In a few seconds or a few days, you can dive into a novel’s world. You can learn about a historical event or philosophical theory. You can have a connection with an author and readers whom you may never meet, from nearly every corner of the world.

As the great Stephen King wrote: “Books are a uniquely portable form of magic.”

While perusing books on Goodreads and browsing through #bookstagram accounts, I’ve found myself in awe of these communities. Readers from all around the globe have joined together to celebrate the books they love. It’s so cool to hear other people’s thoughts on books I love, or to discover a beautiful photo of a book in an exotic location.

So, you can imagine my surprise (and delight!) when my friend sent me this photo of The Cogsmith’s Daughter. Unbeknown to me, she had taken a copy on vacation to the Cayman Islands. While reading on the beach, she found this grungy old machine and snapped a photo. Awesome, right?

It got my author brain thinking: I wonder how far the Desertera series has traveled?

A quick email to my Reader List, and I now have a decent idea. The map below shows the countries where I know readers have enjoyed The Cogsmith’s Daughter and/or The Courtesan’s Avenger. (If you don’t see your home represented, let me know in the comments – I’d love to add it!)

desertera-map

For a little-known (read: almost invisible) independent author with only two novels to my name, this map makes me really proud. My greatest joy (outside of writing, of course!) is connecting with other book lovers. To know that I’ve done exactly that on five out of seven continents stuns and humbles me.

I’ll definitely be referring back to this map as I continue writing the third book in the Desertera series. Writing is a solitary process, and sometimes I feel like I’m sending my words out into a void. But this map proves my inner critic wrong. My words are flying around the world – offering escape and entertainment to people everywhere (okay, a lot of places!).

If that isn’t a dream come true,  I don’t know what is.


Where do you call home? How have your favorite books connected you to new friends and fellow readers? Share in the comments!

Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things

Step Into My Office (Or, Where I Write)

where-i-writeAs a reader, I love learning more about how my favorite books were written. Fun facts like how J.K. Rowling wrote the initial idea for Harry Potter on a napkin, or how Ernest Hemingway only wrote while standing (in a pair of oversized loafers, to be precise) always intrigue me.

I’ve shared by original inspiration for the Desertera series before (you can read about it here), but I realized I rarely talk about how or where I write. Admittedly, my “office” isn’t glamorous, but it’s gotten the job done twice now (14 times if you count my nonfiction projects).

My office spaceSome writers swear by the coffee shop – the white noise, the social pressure to look busy, the caffeine! – while others can’t imagine writing in public. I used to be in the second group. In fact, when given the option, I’ll always choose to write in the solitude of my office (aka the spare bedroom my husband also works in), wearing my cozy sheep robe, with a steaming up of chai tea (made with almond milk, of course) resting on my Kansas coaster.

On the weekends, I get my way and can write in my private little haven. But you know what? Most of the time, I can barely drag myself to the keyboard. Between the adorable meows of my feline son Thomas, and the seductive “buh-uh” of Netflix (don’t look at me like that – you know the sound!), and the pathetic reality of the empty refrigerator, there are about a hundred distractions that keep me saying, “I’ll write later.”

Sometimes I do. Other times I don’t. It’s always a gamble, and the voice in my head has a fantastic poker face.

Luckily for my readers and my sanity, the weekdays arrive again. Every morning, I pack my trusty laptop in my bag. (Disclaimer: I’m obligated to mention that it was a birthday present from my husband and I love it.) Then, I head to the train station, find my favorite seat in the “quiet car,” and write for the entire ride to work – and again, on the way home.

If you ask me, I’ll tell you that I hate writing on the train. Bumpy spots in the tracks make me commit unforgivable typos, the doors let in chilly breezes, and the other passengers take up more than their fair share of seat space (Can’t they see I’m writing, here?). But remember, inner me can’t be trusted.

On the trainWhen it comes down to it, I actually love writing on the train. The quiet car provides that crucial white noise – you wouldn’t believe how easily you learn to tune out conductors and announcements. The other passengers, while not always respectful of my space, provide that awful social pressure. (After all, I can’t have my laptop out like some kind of professional and not work.) And, I have to admit, I get a burst of satisfaction whenever I catch the person next to me reading over my shoulder … especially when they have a kind smile on their face!

And yes, I have written steamy scenes on the train. And yes, making eye contact with strangers when I do is hella awkward.

But the best part of writing on the train? It alleviates my writerly guilt. Like when you curl up with a book and ignore your family or friends, writing is a solitary craft. I hate spending evenings or weekends locked away in my study when I could be spending them with my husband or our friends. As long as I can get a seat on the train, I can easily write 1,000 words during my commute. So, when I get home, it’s all about enjoying dinner and each other’s company (and yes, Netflix).

As I said, it’s not the most glamorous office, but it gets the job done. Hopefully, I’ll be able to prove that to you again in a few months!


Do you have any fun facts about the writing of your favorite books? Where do you feel most creative or productive? Any other questions for me? Share in the comments!