Tag Archives: blogging

The Biomes of My Life

“Do you have a blog, grandpa?” the boy asked, kicking his legs against the stool rungs in the nursing home.

“No, I don’t do much with computers,” the old man said. “We didn’t have them when I was growing up and I guess I just didn’t find the need afterwards.”

The boy considered this. “What was life like for you, growing up? What was it really like?”

“It’s hard to explain,” the man said after a moment. “You’re too young to understand and there’s a lot of it.”

“Then you can start a blog and write about it.”

The man smiled. He pointed at the boy’s open backpack. “What’s that?”

“My social studies book. I got homework. We’re studying biomes.”

“Let me see it.” The man flipped through it, then handed it back. “Come back tomorrow, and I’ll tell you about my life.”

The next day, when the boy came to his grandfather’s room, the man handed him several pages covered with a firm, flowing script, made shaky at the ends by age.

“Can you read it to me?” the boy asked. “We don’t learn that kind of writing in school anymore.”

“This time,” the man said, looking more put out than he really felt. “Get your mom to type it out for you. Okay, here we go: The Biomes of My Life.

“I was born in the jungle, emerging from my cocoon into a world bursting with life. At first, I was amazed at the bright colors and variety around me but unaware of the dangers that stalked through the shadows. There were jaguars and tigers in the trees that watched as I climbed and swung through the trees. One day, an old tiger caught me and mauled me badly and that ended my career climbing trees. I stayed, stifled, on the floor of the jungle, and it felt like the trees were pressing down on me. I longed for fresh air.

“When I was a teenager, I finally found the savannah and reveled in the open space and air. I ran and jumped and played, unrestrained by anything. I saw the groups that moved around: the zebras and antelope, the lions and hyenas and remembering the old tiger, I allied myself with the hyenas. I was not going to be a victim. I was the killer now, preying on the flighty animals that ran in front of me. It was a glorious existence while it lasted, but the lions reminded us who were bigger and in the end, I took more harm than if I had run with the zebras.

“My early twenties were a desert. I had run from the lions and leaving the savannah, I wandered for long periods of time in areas devoid of life with just the rocks and sand as companions. The sky was large and although life seemed wide open, it was empty in every direction I tried. The scorching sun and wind burned me, crushing my young will. I could have died in that barren place if I had not found a tiny trickle of water that led to a river, which led to the ocean.

“It was in my late twenties that I embarked on the great ocean. It was as wide open as the desert but finally I was going places and life was all around me again. The crests and troughs followed in quick succession but I rode every one and although I was never satisfied, I went further and faster than I ever had.

“It was during this time, in my early thirties that I found my tropical island. The air there was heavy with the scent of flowers and luscious fruit was everywhere. It was the first time in my life that I was truly happy and I could lie on the beach for hours, just drinking it all in.

“But after a while, the lure of the fast-paced ocean life lured me back. I went back to the island when I could, but the visits became less frequent as I traveled further and further on the wild waves. Finally, I came back to find that half the island had burned. That was a shock. I gave up the ocean and spend the next several decades restoring the island back to life. It was never what it had been, but it became my home.”

The old man stopped reading. “What do you think?”

“I don’t understand,” the boy said. “You were born in a jungle?”

“It’s a riddle,” his grandfather said. “You will need a key to unlock it.”

“What’s that?”

“Experience. Then you will understand my story. But for now, let me tell you the lessons I have learned. Watch out for tigers and hyenas. Run from them. They are not your friends. Avoid the deserts but if you find yourself in one, never give up. There is more out there. And finally, if you find your tropical island, take care of it. It is more precious than you think.”

“Okay, I’ll try to understand it later.” the boy said. He looked uncertain and the grandfather gave him a hug.

“I hope so. Then you can tell your story to your son and grandson. You can even blog about it if you want.”

Music to Write by

Last week, my class was working on posters for International Education Week and I put on some music while they were working. I tried to find songs on Youtube that everyone might like or at least things that I liked. After a few songs, I put on Lana del Ray’s Summertime Sadness, which I really love. One of the students, a 20-year-old Venezuelan guy gave me a look, as in “Really? You like this?” I defended myself by teaching them the word eclectic as in “Shut up, I have eclectic tastes in music” and then changed songs.

The fact is, I do love a very wide range of songs that produce some sort of emotional response in me. After all, as a writer I’m trying to evoke an emotional response in the reader, so call it research.

I listen to music when I write since it fuels the creativity pumps deep inside my spirit. Here is a sampling of songs that I really love and that help me in my writing. I can’t guarantee you’ll like all of them and actually, I can pretty much guarantee you won’t like all of them, since what would the odds be of that? (I also like Nightcore-style music, so some of these songs are the Nightcore remix version).

Et Huomaa – Irina

L’autre – Mireille Mathieu

Fear of the Dark – Iron Maiden

Dust in the Wind – Kansas

Popcorn – Hot Butter

Blessed be Your Name – Matt Redman

Courtesy Call – Thousand Foot Krutch

Anima Libera – Emi

Back to Black – Amy Winehouse

Brother Louie – Modern Talking

Jai Ho – Slumdog Millionaire OST

Lady – Styx

Classical Gas – Vanessa Mae

Vampire Kiss (Nightcore version)

Helele – Velile & Safri Duo

Kernkraft 400 – Zombie Nation

Radioactive – Imagine Dragons

And for my friend Miles, who also loves this song:

Kyrie – Mr. Mister

Do you listen to music when you write? What kinds of music helps you write the most?

5 Ways to Increase Your Blog Readership

This is my 500th post here on the Green-Walled Tower so hopefully I’ve learned a thing or two about blogging.

If I had a euro for every post I've made here...

If I had a euro for every post I’ve made here…

Like any blogger, I’m always trying to grow my readership and I’ve been analyzing how to do that. Here is what I’ve concluded, based on my own stats.

5. Do collaborate.

The best thing about blogging is that there is likely a market for whatever you writing: readers with blogs of their own. If you can join a group (as in my case, Friday Fictioneers or Sunday Photo Fiction) and participate actively, it gives you a built-in audience of like-minded individuals.

4. Do give useful information.

My fifth-highest post, in terms of hits, is called How to Eat a Triangle Kimbap, and is about just that. In fact, a lot of my posts about Korea got consistently more hits than others, since it’s something that people can use in their lives. Granted, I don’t do this much, since I usually can’t resist making up fake information for laughs, like my Rejected Apple Devices article. But useful information is a good idea, is what I’m saying.

3. Do write about things that at least sound naughty.

My third most viewed post is called Getting Naked With Strangers (in Korea). It is all about the experience of going to a Korean sauna. I posted it just like any other informative article about Korea but then noticed in the following weeks and months that it was getting a lot of hits through search results like naked korea, and korean men naked. It’s even had one today, from the search terms naked korean men. This tip is a little sneaky, since it will get you page hits, but probably not readers. I guarantee that at least 95% of the people who have clicked on that blog post did not go away satisfied because my article was quite G-rated. But it looks good on your blog stats.


Censored? Hmm, now I’m curious…

2. Don’t write serial stories.

This one pains me a little, since I like to longer stories. Longer stories let you explore themes and characters and the only way to avoid posting a 5,000-word post that will be TL;DR’d by everyone who comes across it is to break it into segments.

Now it is possible to write a really great serial story that goes on for a long time and only gets better. Dysfunctional Literacy’s The Literary Girlfriend is an excellent example of this. However, in my experience with serial stories, hits decline sharply as the series goes on. New readers don’t have time to go back and read the previous installments and if they miss a week, it’s hard to catch up.

From what I have found, if you are going to write serial stories, make sure that each installment can stand on its own as an independent story. This is very hard to do, especially once a series gets going. I have also found that when I do post a story with several parts, it’s best to post them only a few days apart, so that people don’t forget what is happening in the story.

1. Don’t write fiction.

This one really kills me, since I run a fiction blog. Out of my 500 posts, 389 have been stories (fiction) but out of my top ten most viewed posts, only 2 of them are fiction and only 10 of my top 25 are fiction. Obviously, I’m not saying not to write fiction or that I’m going to give it up, but if you want a lot more readers, fiction is a difficult way to do it. There are a couple possible reasons for this: people don’t search for fiction online like they search for information and news; fiction is harder to skim when you don’t have much time, etc.

Pictured: fiction [*]

Pictured: fiction [*]

In conclusion, there are lots of ways to get more readers but the best way is to produce high quality, creative content. As my sister once told me, “whatever you write, make it really, really good.” This may seem obvious but it’s easy to let things slip after hundreds of posts and just post for the sake of posting. But I’m going to keep trying to think of new, fresh ideas for stories and posts for another 500 posts and beyond. That’s the plan, at least.

Welcome to the attic of the Green-Walled Tower

Come on it, don’t mind the mess (I don’t pick up that often). Just follow the steps up and up until you get to the top. I’m letting you into the inner sanctum of my writing world in response to an invitation by Amy Reese, at amyreesewrites.com. She is a great writer and a good blogging friend of mine since the beginning of this blog. This is part of the Writing Process Blog Tour, I do believe. Without further ado, here are the four questions that I was given.

1)     What am I working on?

Ah, what a question. It almost pains me to think about it. It’s like I have this jar of wriggly, squirming stories and I love every single, slimy one of them. They are my children: each at a different stage of development but they all have such potential. But then, with some chagrin, I have to cram the top back on top of that sucker or they might get out and I do NOT have time to deal with all of them at the moment.

Yeah, my jar is extra full, I’m afraid. I only mention them here since I work on things slowly, turning them over in my mind over a long time, like a literary Sarlacc.

Plots...I need plots.

Plots…I need plots.

I’m usually pretty private about my projects, but what the hey. Here is what is on my plate:

The Inner Darkness: this was originally a Nanowrimo novel I did in 2009. It has been through several edits since then, but I have a lot of plans for it in my head. No time though. It’s a quirky, first-person fantasy involving an abyss in a cave where people occasionally emerge from. I really love the main character.

The Girl Who Could Snee: I wrote this novel around a story I originally posted on this blog. This one is unfortunately not finished, not for lack of ideas but just time. Why didn’t I finish it originally? Sigh. Why not, indeed?

Brother Alien: This is another novel that is not finished, although with this one, I am still thinking about one particular point. It’s sitting in the belly of the literary Sarlacc, still stewing. It deals with the aftermath of a failed alien invasion.

Special Becky: This is a novella I’m working on, which is based on the series of Friday Fictioneers stories I did, one with the same name. It’s not finished, not because of a lack of ideas or interest, just because other, more urgent projects came up.

I don’t mention all these to brag. If anything, they are a mark of shame that so many are unfinished. I mention them because they are all on my mind and even when I’m not actively working on them, I’m working through ideas for them, until the day I can pull up the file, read through the notes and begin gloriously again to create.

What I am currently working on actively is a collaborative novel. It’s kind of a secret though, so I can’t say much about it. It is a great story though and if/when it’s published, you’ll know all about it.

Pictured: not me

Pictured: not me

2)     How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I have a confession: I don’t know what my genre is. As you might know, my blog stories tend to be quirky or dark and everything in between.

Of course, those are blog stories. With my novels, seven are adventure stories; four are funny; six have fantasy or sci-fi elements in them. However, if I had to answer this question (which I apparently do) I would say that I combine these elements together in my own style, which makes it different. Also, there are three minor elements that many of my stories share that reveal my personality. 1) other languages are a key part of the story or some character is learning another language, 2) there are often huge, dark expanses, 3) there are other worlds and some way to go between them.


3)     Why do I write what I do?

First and foremost, I write the kind of stuff I want to read. I write my ideal books (as well as I can) so it’s always fun to go back and reread them again and again.

Secondly, I write to express what I believe. I am a Christian, but I don’t mean I want to write blatantly Christian books (mostly because I don’t like to read most blatantly Christian books). I have a lot of beliefs.

I believe the world is a wonderful, magical place; I believe in forgiveness and mercy; I believe in truth; I believe the world is a really complicated place with no easy answers sometimes. For instance, in Brother Alien, the plot turns around the idea of what to do in a stalemate with stranded aliens who have killed hundreds of millions of people. Some people want to wage eternal war, others want to forgive them. Can you ever forgive a crime so great? I want to explore that question.

4)     How does my writing process work?

Many of my novels start with a picture. For a few of them, the picture came from a dream. My very first story, Teardrop, started with the image of a train going up a valley at quitting time. Inside were two different races: one short, one tall. Another one, The Wild Children, started with a dream where I was in a wet, muddy cave. The roof suddenly split open and light streamed in and a hand reached down. That was it; the whole dream. I built the novel around it.

After I have that picture or a What if? idea, I just think about it. I think and think, working the idea back and forth until I have the kernel of a story. Then I start writing. When I begin, I usually have an inkling of where the story will end, but not always. I don’t plot out scenes on paper, since I’ll just change them while I’m writing. If I get stuck on a point, I think on it a while until I get it unstuck.

After I get the rough draft done, I put it away and start something else, usually an edit of another project, since I don’t usually write novel rough drafts back to back. When that edit is done, I’ll come back to the rough draft, reread it and plot out the scenes with all their characters and significant events. Then I can see what needs changing, what needs cutting and adding, and so on.

Thanks for coming on this tour. Now I would like to pass on the challenge to Sharmishtha Basu, if she has any interest in answering these questions. Sharmishtha is a prolific writer and poet from India who manages an impressive number of blogs and specializes in fantasy and paranormal stories.

writing warning

This is true: the teacher in The Wild Children is named after a barista.

How to Post a Picture to your WordPress Sidebar

There can be kind of a steep learning curve using WordPress. I know that when I first started blogging, I would spend a long time trying to get things to work, going back, and trying other things. So, I’m putting this out there in case anyone has an issue with posting images to the sidebar of their blog. I’ve included step-by-step pictures.Step 1

Step 1: 

First of all, the image you want to use has to be in your WordPress Media Library.

So, go to your Dashboard and click on Media, and then Add New.









Step 2:

Click Select Files and choose the picture file you want to use from your computer.

Step 2


Step 3:

Once the file is uploaded, it will appear as a thumbnail and a description on the bottom of the screen. I chose a picture of a Basset hound pup and a baby rabbit. Click on the Edit button next to it.

Step 3

Step 4:

This will bring up the picture and its information on the right-hand side of the screen. Copy the entire File URL, making sure it ends with .jpg/.png/.gif or some file extension like that.

Step 4

Step 5:

On the left side of the screen, hover over Appearance, and then click on Widgets.


Step 5

Step 6:

Under the Widgets tab is a long list of various types of things you can put in the sidebar. The right-hand side of the screen shows what is already in your sidebar, in order. Find Image, down near the bottom of the list, and drag it to the place you’d like it on your sidebar. For this demonstration, I put mine last, underneath Blogs I like to read.

Once it is in place, a box will open up. First of all, paste the File URL we copied in Step 4 into the box marked Image URL.

Step 6

Step 7:

From here, you can fill in a Widget title and picture caption , if you’d like. At the bottom in the section marked Link URL. Many people use this to go to Amazon.com or some other bookseller, if they put up a picture of their book cover (like I did with my short story Giselle). For my demonstration, I put in the URL to a Chinese comic site I like to read.

After this, click Save, then Close and everything is done. Now you can see the cute picture on the right side of my screen and click on it to go read some Chinese comics.

Step 7

A slice of humanity on the bus

All writers should take the bus, at least every now and then. Or the subway. Really anywhere where you can observe a lot of different people up close. I take the bus almost every day and I see some interesting people.

Last Thursday, I was taking the bus out into the countryside to one of my four schools. I was sitting in the back when a mentally handicapped man and an older man got on and sat down next to me, the  handicapped one closer to me. He was interested in my book and pointed at it and gave me a thumbs up. Then he motioned to the older man and said, “He’s my dad.” This caused the older man to start laughing, so I didn’t know if he really was his father or not. I just said, “Oh, really?” “Oh, I see” and such things, since he kept saying it.

A lot of the people on the bus were older and seemed to know each other, so I felt like I was in kind of a community meeting. Then the handicapped man said, “He’s fifty” pointing to his “dad”, who started laughing even harder and said, “Yeah, I wish I were fifty again.” I really liked the older man; just a jolly sort of fellow.

A middle-aged woman came back, and saw there weren’t any seats left, so I gave her mine. Her husband was still standing up, with his backpack on. “Hey groom!” she yelled (Korean woman often call their husbands “groom”, although I’ve never heard a man call his wife “bride”). “Hey groom! It’s going to be a long ride. Take off your heavy backpack.” He took it off and put it on the floor with a grin. “That’s my groom for you,” she said. I saw other older women smiling and nodding as well. They understood.

The two men who were sitting next to me got off a few stops before me and the handicapped one gave me an awkward high-five. I smiled and said good bye. I went back and sat where they had been sitting and the woman I had given up my seat to apologized. I’m not sure why but possibly because she thought the handicapped man was bothering me. “Not a problem,” I said. “It’s okay.” And I meant it. I may never totally fit in here in Korea, but I do enjoy being a part of things anyway.


By the way, a few days ago, I posted something called The Mystery on the Bus, recounting another experience I had on a bus coming home from school. I asked people what they thought was going on. The first virtual high-five is for Carmelita, for the wackiest idea (I almost wish it were true), and the second is for EadesyBeadsy, for what I think is the most likely answer. Good job!

High five!

High five!

Little things that make me happy…like China

I’ll bet you never thought of a country with 1.3 billion people as a little thing, but it’s all about context. I’m one of those people who loves the accomplishment of collecting things and checking things off a list. That’s why I really like the WordPress map feature, which shows you which countries viewers come from. I have gotten some pretty obscure ones, like the Palestinian territories, or Reunion island, etc. However, never any from China. Obviously, WordPress is blocked there, especially since I’ve had lots from Hong Kong.

But then, a few days ago, I saw that I had one view from China. One single view, but it was enough to color the whole country in on the map. That made me really happy. I kind of wonder who it was who saw my blog, whether it was someone high up in the government checking up on me or something. Probably nothing that cool, but it still has me wondering. Here are some other small things that make me really happy.

If you know any bloggers in Greenland, I want to be their friend.

If you know any bloggers in Greenland, I want to be their friend.

Seeing the 121 bus: There are five buses that go past my house. I ride the bus almost every day and most of them I take pretty regularly, except the 121 bus. It only runs a dozen times a day, so it’s pretty rare to see it. I’ve only ridden it once in five years. I was really happy that day.

I've read many a book on buses like this.

I’ve read many a book on buses like this.

Finding out Minecraft Steve is the same height as me: For those of you who don’t play Minecraft, the basic guy you play is called Steve. Some people did a calculation based on various things, and found out that he was 185cm or 6’1″, which is how tall I am. I like that fact.

We're basically twins, is what I'm saying.

We’re basically twins, is what I’m saying. (Source: http://i45.photobucket.com/albums/f81/xilefian/360steve.png)

Are there any little things that make you unreasonably happy? Let me know.


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