The Fantastic Realmies (and books)

Every year a bunch of crazy writers get together to celebrate their mutual craziness. We call it Realm Makers. At this conference they also learn how to be even crazier. Those particular people are called Realmies. The ones who are so crazy that there is no hope for them. If you like being crazy, it’s a fun time! If not, well, maybe you should stay far, far away…

I decided to go to this conference, and risk coming out crazier than before. Whether I escaped successfully or not is for you to judge.

So many things happened at Realm Makers. So. Many Things. My poor brain is so full, and it is worse because I haven’t journaled yet…

I attended classes that have taken me one more step in my writing journey. I learned about my craft, and what it takes to get published. I learned how to plot a short story in the same weekend that I learned to plot a series.

I was encouraged beyond belief by the keynote speaker. He reminded me how important this career can be. That our words can touch other people. I was reminded that this is something that God has called me to do, and that this calling is a grand and wondrous thing.

I came back home ready to write again. Ready to grab my time by the horns and force it to produce a novel.

Unfortunately, I also came back to a day job, which puts a damper on a few things. So it’s a good thing I took that class on balancing life and writing!

I bought lovely, gorgeous books. Which I can’t wait to read! I also can’t wait to figure out how I will fit them all onto my shelf…

Gorgeous covers! I almost don’t want to read them, just stare at them…
You can’t see it in the picture. But Kings Folly is actually humongous.
Even more lovely books! Where will I find the time to read them all?

Like I said, I did lots and lots of things. But the classes I went to, the books I bought, the things I did, all of those paled in comparison to who I met.

Courage is going up to an author, sticking out your hand, and saying, “Hi, I’m Shaina.” But if you drum up that courage, you find out that those authors you are star struck by are friendly people happy to talk with you

Wayne Thomas Batson. Teacher of my favorite class. 🙂
Jill Williamson. I was definitely star struck when I asked her to sign my book.

This last weekend I finally (finally!) got to meet my pen pal. We have been writing, and emailing, back and forth for years. And I met her for the first time a week ago. To say that it was great would be an understatement. It was awesome. I was able to put a person to the words I have read. A voice behind the emails. Unfortunately, we both forgot to get a selfie together. Whoops!

I also met the voices behind the articles and blogs that I have been reading for so long. People I never thought I would meet in a million years I was suddenly shaking hands with.

Gabrielle.
Rolena. One of the sweetest people ever!

I would have been content with just meeting those people. To hang out with them the whole weekend. But instead, I was blessed with a friend. We clicked, bonded over conversation and pizza (a perfect combination). Before I knew it, we were hanging out all the time, chatting about writing, school, jobs, and anything else we could thing of. She became my friend, one I hope to keep for a long time to come.

Cassie. My favorite person at the conference.

So there you go, a mini recap post of the fantastic, wonderful, crazy time that is Realm Makers. If you happen to make your way to it next year, I hope to see you there!

Shaina Merrick

The Death of Hamlet (and why I cared)

Whether or not you like Shakespeare, you have to admit that he wrote some great lines. Gems like;

“To be, or not to be: that is the question.”

“Frailty, thy name is woman!”

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

“To die, to sleep – To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come… ”

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.”

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

Lines that all happen to come from Hamlet. That terribly morose play that I have fallen head over heels with. I don’t pretend to understand every word that was said, but the words I did understand I listened to with bated breath. At least, until Little Miss Ophelia opened her mouth. (get some brains woman!)

At first look, the play seems awful. All about a man who loses his father, and is trying to exact revenge upon his uncle (reverse Star Wars anyone?). There is death, madness, false friends, and lots and lots of self pity. Usually, I stay away from such melodrama. But hey, it was Shakespeare, and why not?

From the first word I was hooked. My eyes never strayed from the screen where the tale unfolded. You couldn’t have pulled me away with a team of horses until the final word was uttered and the curtain fell.

I had to ask myself, why would such a dark tale enthrall me so much? Why would I find my thoughts drifting back to the story again and again the next day?

The plot was not what drew me to the play. It was not so twisty that I couldn’t figure out what was happening next. (I also knew the end before I watched it *cough*) The characters around Hamlet varied from mostly interesting to groan worthy. It wasn’t their witty banter that kept me glued to my chair. It was the main character, Hamlet.

His struggle to bring about revenge on his father would not have been that interesting if he had not been such a compelling person. Hamlet was a hurting mess who procrastinated, blamed himself, wallowed in self pity, fell in love, and tried to do right by his father. He loved deeply and hated with all of his being.

Stripped away of all the wit, the ghosts, and the madness. Hamlet is a story of a young man whose father has died. A man he looked up to and adored with all of his being. Hamlet is hurting, and he cannot understand why the rest of the world is able to blithely go on like his father never existed.

Then he finds out that his father was taken away from him on purpose. Someone chose to do away with his father in order to advance their own ends. Much of the play is him asking why. Why on earth would anyone choose to do away with someone so wonderful?

You follow Hamlet through his inner struggles as tries to find a way to proceed. As he rages against those who did this to his father, yet feels helpless to do anything about it. Those struggles make him so real and raw that I could not help but be on his side. Whether I agree with revenge or not, I know what it is like to wonder why a loved one is so suddenly gone.

At his core, Hamlet is a person who wants answers to the hard questions. Why did his father die and his uncle live on? Why do we love one person and not another? How can the world forget a person so good so quickly? Why are men so afraid of death?

This vulnerability in a character is what drew me into the play and swept me through the good and bad of it. By the time the end of the tale had come and (spoiler alert) Hamlets death was near, I was rooting for him. Hoping that he would succeed in the goal he had worked so hard to grasp. He had lost everything in the pursuit of this one all encompassing thing.

By the end of the play, he truly had lost everything, including his own life. But he had completed his quest, and went to his final rest knowing that he had been a son worthy of his father. And that was all he had really wanted anyway.

Nope, I am not going to cry. I refuse.

I know this kind of play is not everyone’s cup of tea, so I won’t end with an entreaty that you go watch it right now. Instead, I will end with a bit from one of Hamlets monologues.

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despis’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would these fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death-
The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns- puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of?

Shaina Merrick

Life is Short, Time is Valuable, and There are too Many Books!

No, I am not freaking out. Why do you ask? I am definitely not wondering how on earth I am ever going to read all the books I want to read. I wonder if I will ever get to the bottom of my tbr list?

Whoops, I wondered. Now I am freaking out.

Raise of hands, is anyone else ever overwhelmed with the sheer amount of books that are out there? Even if you somehow read all the ones in the bookstores, there are more being published every year. With self publishing so easy now, the number of books put out on the market year after year is astronomical. There is no hope of ever catching up.

And if you happen to have a life outside of reading books. You know, normal things like having friends, a job, a family…. Your case is even more hopeless. There is no way that you will ever be able to read all the books that look so vastly interesting.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to made you feel overwhelmed.

I am not here to give you hope that with the right attitude and schedule you will be able to read them all. Instead, I am here to tell you that you can’t. And contrary to popular belief, that’s just fine. In fact, it may be a good thing.

I think all bookworms can agree that for every good book on the bookstore shelf, there are ten bad ones. Books that just aren’t worth the time or money it takes to read them.

Since I grew up, I have had less and less free time to dedicate to just reading. I have to be pickier about my books, because I just can’t read all of them. Or even as many as I used to. So I read the blurb, the reviews, and the first page before I decide that it worth my time.

If something makes me say ‘I dunno about this’, I put it back on the shelf for someone else to find.

It may seem unnecessarily choosy to you, but for me, I have to. There have been times that I have picked up a book on a whim, or because I liked the cover. But it doesn’t happen very often.

I have learned that it is okay. It is acceptable to be picky about the books you fill your time with.

My life is short, and I want it to be filled with good things.

So go ahead, be picky! Read the reviews, the blurbs, the bit in the back about the author. Don’t be afraid to say no. If everyone else likes it, and it isn’t your style. Oh well. There are other books out there.

This is not to say that you should find a genre and never stir from it. Try new genres and new styles! Find new authors, go explore the ever growing indie market. You may find your next favorite book.

What I am saying is that I no longer want to feel like I wasted my afternoon on a book. So I will take my time finding a book. I am not going to pick up a book just because it is popular, or because the cover is pretty.

Instead, I ask myself, is this book worth my limited, precious time? I am a writer, so I will most likely read more books than average person. But even as a writer I have other things that fill my days. So is this book worth the bit of time that I have to dedicate to it? If I don’t think it is, it goes back on the library shelf.

Saying that I don’t want to read a book does not necessarily mean that the book isn’t worth any ones time. Someone else may click with it and love it. All it means is that I chose to fill my time with a different book. One that I love, one that inspires me.

To finish with one of my favorite quotes;

“Life is too short for reading inferior books.” -James Bryce

Shaina Merrick