Visiting My Local Bookstore

I didn’t realize there was a bookstore where I live until last weekend, when I decided to Google it. Clearly, I don’t get out much, but I’m happy to have found a place worth getting out for.

My sense of direction is so bad I often say I could get lost inside a paper bag, so I’m honestly proud of myself just for finding it without much trouble. It was on a downtown street I knew fairly well, though I’d never been to that part of it before. Even more luckily, I was able to find a nice parking spot nearby.

Inside, the selection was small, which was about what I expected, but I was pleasantly surprised to find several titles I recognized and had enjoyed reading in the past, as well as a few that are on the list of books I want to read sometime soon. Even better, it had exactly what I was hoping for: all three Lord of the Rings books, plus The Hobbit! While I was thinking the store might offer one or more individually, I was thrilled to find them in a lovely box set that looks excellent on my bookshelf, and I picked up a used hardcover of A Tale of Two Cities as a bonus.

A box set of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Each of the four paperbacks inside has matching font and similar design but in a different color.
The box set I bought (not my picture because I don’t have a good camera)

I also found out while exploring the store’s website that they host events for writers, including workshops and an open mic night. While checking out, I picked up a paper listing all the dates and times and got some more details from the owner, and I was back a few days later to listen to some local writers whose talents just amazed me. There were poets, essay and short story writers, and even singer-songwriters with their guitars. There was a great variety, and everyone was so good it was honestly intimidating.

I came in with the first few pages of my novel just in case I got pushed into reading something, but I’m ultimately glad I held off. The owner did ask if I’d like to, but there was no pressure at all, which I really appreciate. I was nervous enough just being in a brand new situation, and having time to sit back and absorb it all definitely helped, especially because it seemed like there was understanding rather than judgment. Hearing what the others presented, I got a feel for what the expectations are. I found out what the standard length of time should be and also saw that most people read pieces that are complete, so when I do go back with something, it’ll be a short piece, at least to start with.

I’m half convinced I’ll still be blushing and/or shaking even with this preparation, but I’m looking forward to getting more practice with this so that I hopefully get better. If (when?) I do publish a novel, I definitely want to be able to do readings at libraries and bookstores and wherever else I’m able.

The takeaway for readers is that you can look forward to a review of The Hobbit coming soon! And also an update on my own reading performance… if I don’t lose my nerve.

One of My Hobbies

One of the things I like to do when taking a break is play video games. I tend to pick one I like and get really invested in it, playing for hours and hours and exploring all it has to offer. It can be really relaxing, a great way to recharge after a stressful day at work. I tend to play a lot on Friday nights, sometimes bleeding into Saturday, and spend the rest of the weekend on writing-related activities after I’m feeling refreshed and energized again.

Lately, the game I’ve been playing is The Sims. I have the base game and a few add-ons, which I’ve justified the purchase of by telling myself that I’ve played the game for so many hours that other forms of entertainment would end up being more expensive for how long they’d hold my attention. My favorite is the Get to Work expansion pack, which lets you follow your sim to their job, as long as you pick one of the ones introduced with the pack. It also introduces aliens!

I’m not a fan of ghosts, as I prefer my sims to pass away more realistically, and I decided plant sims aren’t for me after turning one of my sims into a plant creature for a short period of time (it was just too difficult to keep them alive and happy with the needs for sunlight and water), but I have been really enjoying the aliens in the game. As part of the scientist career, you can invent a lot of devices, several related to aliens, and when you reach level ten, you can attend a party on the alien planet of Sixam and introduce yourself to all the aliens at once.

I had one of my sims do this, then brought back two inventions: one that acts as a gateway to the alien planet and another you can use to prevent alien abductions. I love this, as I wanted my sim’s daughter to marry an alien but I really don’t like the alien abduction aspect of the game. It’s kind of fun that they get beamed up in the middle of the night, but the fact that they can come back pregnant makes the whole thing way too creepy and disturbing for my taste. I much preferred having my scientist sim’s daughter visit Sixam, fall in love with an alien, and get married and have children that way.

It’s a little disappointing that the alien planet is so barren–after the party is over, there’s really nothing there but plants and rocks to collect–but half-alien sims look really awesome. I had my sim marry a second one after her first husband died so her two half-alien children could have a cute little half-alien half-sibling.

Full aliens look like this, with skin in blue, green, or purple. They all wear outfits like this one as well, with green glowing lights on a jumpsuit colored white, gray, or black.

A purple alien from The Sims

My sim’s first husband was blue, so his children look like this:

And the new little one is purple like his father.

A purple half-alien from The Sims with dreadlocks

Full aliens have the option to “disguise” themselves as humans, but I really prefer them to just be themselves, so I love that the half-aliens are happy just the way they are, a perfect blend of the two worlds. I take them on family trips back to Sixam and pretend that there’s actually stuff for them to do there. I make sure their fathers spend/spent lots of time with them, pretending they were sharing all about their culture. And there are some alien-specific interactions, like a secret handshake and the ability to use brain power to analyze the humans around them and learn about their personalities. That’s a lot of fun as well.

Other than that, they do all the same things humans do, but oh well, at least the game is open enough to let the sims do lots of different things where I can have my imagination fill in the gaps. I love telling little stories as I play and helping each one of the characters reach their goals. The mother is an astronaut who’s also doing everything she can to help her kids succeed. The father is stay-at-home and dreams of cooking out-of-this-world dishes. The oldest son just started his career as a super spy. The daughter is nearing the end of high school and is trying to learn and develop as much as possible before her upcoming birthday. And the youngest one just became a toddler and is learning how to walk and talk and get along in the world.

I love my little fantasies, whether in my books, inside my head, or played out in the form of video games. If you decide to try out the same one, I hope that you enjoy it!

About Me

I am an aspiring author currently seeking representation for my debut novel The Binding of Magic. It is a fantasy novel with science fiction elements that follows the story of Tim, a neo-pacifist warlock who is arrested for unlicensed witchcraft after heroically saving the royal family of Elniwald from an assassination attempt. The kicker is that Tim secretly is a member of the royal family, and his sister, heir to the throne Shiloh Alexandria Gesenden, wants him back. No matter what their society has to say about the proper place of witches.

I’m a thirty year old woman living in Wisconsin with my cat Willowstripe, who loves to sleep on my lap while I write… and pester me if I’m not giving her enough attention. I graduated from Cardinal Stritch University with bachelor’s degrees in writing and computer science in 2014. I currently work as a Senior Programmer Analyst for a property and casualty insurance company, which is actually a lot cooler than it sounds.

Shannon's cat Willowstripe: a brown tabby with a white belly and paws
My fuzzy little co-writer