Why English is so hard to learn

An old language book titled: Correctly English in Hundred Days

Photo via Visualhunt.

1. The bandage was wound around the wound.

2. The farm was used to produce produce.

3. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4. We must polish the Polish furniture.

5. He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert and soldier on.

7. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8. A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10. I did not object to the object.

11. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

13. They were too close to the door to close it.

English can be so tricky—and funny! I don’t know who wrote that list, but here’s another one I came up with: She likes to read, but she already read that book about the common reed.

Can you come up with any others?

My writing favorites

Stationery store in Japan; many rows of pens for sale

Photo via Visualhunt.

I thought it would be fun to list my favorites when it comes to writing. These may not be the best by other people’s standards, nor even MY favorites overall, but they’re the ones I like or gravitate toward when it comes to writing (vs drawing, etc.).

My favorite:


My current favorite is the Pilot Frixion ball knock retractable gel pen in size 0.5 mm. Mine were purchased in Japan, not on Amazon, but the link should take you to the same thing. I love the bright colors and the smooth flow of the ink—and the best part? They erase! There is a plastic nub on the end that produces friction, and the heat from the friction erases the ink. So, you get the permanence of a ball point pen but with the edibility of a pencil. No smudging! I use these for writing in my journal as well as editing my work.


I don’t actually have a favorite pencil at the moment, but I tend to prefer mechanical pencils for writing since they don’t need resharpening. A couple of clicks and I can write with a sharp point every time.


Hands down, Mono erasers are the best erasers ever (they’re even cheaper if you buy the ten pack). I will never willingly use those awful pink rectangles that are standard in American schools ever again. The Monos erase cleanly and thoroughly without damaging your paper—even thin paper.


Anything pretty that lays open enough to write. No spiral please. A ribbon to mark my place or a loop to hold my pen are bonuses.

App to write/type in

Plain, no frills TextEdit (like Notepad or WordPad, but for Mac, since I don’t use a PC). Once I’m done with my rough draft and the first round of major edits, I put the entire thing into Microsoft Word and format it to publishing standards. I don’t like all the bells and whistles of Word distracting me while I write, so I keep it as simple as possible at the beginning.

Word counter

Since I use TextEdit for writing, which doesn’t have a built-in word counter like Word does, I like to copy/paste my text into WordCounter.net. It does more than just count the number of words or characters used. It can also count the number of sentences or paragraphs you have, as well as the approximate time it would take to read the work silently or aloud. It also calculates the approximate reading level and keeps track of your keyword density, which means it shows you how many times you’ve used certain words or phrases. This comes in handy when you realize you have a bad habit of overusing words like “suddenly” or “he looked at her.” The site also lets you set goals for yourself or track your writing activity, to help you get your projects done. Pretty handy for a free tool!

Character naming site

I talked about this in my last post about naming your characters, but I like to use BabyNames.com and BabyNameWizard.com.


None! That is, while I’m writing. I am easily distracted by noise, so it’s very difficult for me to write unless it’s quiet. I can do it (such as in a coffee shop or with my kids playing nearby with noisy toys), but I don’t produce my best work that way.

Place to write

In a quiet room, in a comfy chair. Our home is too small to have a dedicated desk for me, so I use my laptop on the couch for now. I’m in the process of seeking the perfect overstuffed armchair to claim as “my spot” in the living room. The place I plan to put it is by a corner window, since I love to look at trees to destress.


I’ve participated in almost every NaNoWriMo since I read about it in a newspaper in 2002. Even if I don’t “win” or complete the story after “winning,” it is a great motivator to get writing! Plus it’s hard to find another group of writers so excited to work on their craft outside of professional writing conferences, and NaNoWriMo is free. Another good motivator to write is to have a writer’s group or friends who write, to keep each other accountable. My current writing group is comprised mostly of those who attended a local NaNoWriMo write-in last November. We just kept meeting even after it was over, and it’s been great fun, as well as a great motivator to keep plugging away at my current novel. Before I had a writing group I relied heavily on Critique Circle.

Writing blog

My favorite blog to read about the craft of writing is Gail Carson Levine’s blog. It’s targeted toward readers of Middle Grade fantasy (since that’s who she writes her books for) who like to write their own stories, but I’ve noticed in the comment section that I’m not the only adult there. I’ve found that a lot of writing blogs are very technical or focus on the process of preparing for publishing. But Gail’s blog not only answers the technical part of readers’ questions about writing, but it also dips its toes in a bit of whimsy while doing so, making her posts fun to read as well as educational. Sometimes I’ll read the question and think I already know the answer, but Gail always has a fresh take on it that I hadn’t considered.

Agent blog

It is well worth the dive into the archives of Miss Snark’s now defunct blog, as there are loads of advice that are timeless in there. But my favorite agent blog that is active is Janet Reid’s blog, where she answers questions from those seeking representation about the process of gaining an agent and about the publishing industry. She seeks clients in the mystery/crime/thriller categories, but her advice applies even to those who write outside of those categories. The comment section is extremely active and friendly, which is always a bonus.


My favorite authors to read are—in no particular order—Gail Carson Levine (MG fantasy), Robin McKinley (YA and adult fantasy), Sherwood Smith (YA and adult high fantasy), and Shannon Hale (YA fantasy). I love a good fantasy romance, which all of these women do excellently, particularly if it’s spun from a fairy tale. A runner-up would be Janette Rallison, whom I’ve only learned about recently through her Fair Godmother series. She writes mostly contemporary YA romances, which are fun and light hearted.

Who are your favorite authors? Your favorites to any of the above? I love good stationery, so if you have some recommendations I’d be happy to hear them!

10 years

April and her husband on their wedding day, and then again ten years later

1 set of vows sworn in front of God and our witnesses.
2 individual people became one.
3 and a half years of dating before tying the knot.
4 in our family. My husband, me, and two sons.
5 different homes we have lived in since marrying.
6 years of our marriage we lived in Japan, where both sons were born.
7 and seventy times we have forgiven each other or have had to come to a compromise, and we will continue to do so seventy times seven more. :)
8 quotes we say to each other all of the time. (“Let’s see what’s in the box! Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Stupid! You’re so stupid!”, “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth? Don’t nobody understand the words that are coming out of your mouth”, “Look, sleeping people! It must be nap time”, “Snake? Snake? Snaaaaaake!”, “I can’t put my arms down!”, “Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up”, “It’s over 9,000!”, “Jinx! Buy me a coke.”)
9 times I’ve beaten my husband at video games. Countless times he’s beaten me.
10 years of wedded bliss!

Today is our tenth anniversary so I’m keeping this post short. Tell me in the comments how many of our quotes you recognize—and then share your favorites, too. See you next time!

Typing Test: What’s your WPM?

Graph showing Words Per Minute in a typing test

Photo via TypingTest.com.

I just took a 3-minute typing test to find out what my words per minute (WPM) score is. The results say 74 WPM with a 97% accuracy. I’ll take it! I normally don’t type that quickly when I’m writing since I have to stop occasionally and think about what I’m really trying to say, but when I just have to copy the words already in front of me it’s easier to go a bit faster.

If you try the test yourself, let me know your score! You can find it at http://www.typingtest.com/.

Five reasons why I love reading

Teen girl reading a book in a meadow

Photo via Visualhunt.

I love being a writer and creating stories. They tend to mill about in my head for a while before I can spill them out onto paper, and I thoroughly enjoy both processes. But I also LOVE being a reader! Learning new things, feeling different emotions, riding the high of a great story completed… there are many reasons I enjoy it. Here are just five things I love about reading.


Immersing myself in a book so deeply that when I’m interrupted, I have to get my bearings again before I can function properly in the real world. It feels like someone put a pair of funny goggles on me because the real world looks strange and feels foreign. Or when I have book “hangover” after finishing a novel and can’t move on until I’ve fully processed the emotional experience I just went through.


Being able to explore other countries, cultures, and time periods without consequence. Well, the consequences are that they expand my worldview, which is a good thing, rather than a financial and scientific impossibility (pricey airfare tickets, inventing time travel, etc.).


Stories aren’t static because I’M not static. I can enjoy a book multiple times because with each read I catch things I missed before—either because I didn’t know the upcoming plot twists, which I now know, or because I’ve had more life experience than the last time I read it, and so can understand or relate better to the material than I could before.


I don’t mind having to wait. In fact, waiting in a long line or at a place of business that’s behind schedule (doctor’s office, hair salon, restaurant, etc.) means more time to read! As a student growing up in Japan, I would use my daily commute on the train to read 2 or 3 books a week. I’ve got young kids now, so I don’t have the time to read at that pace anymore. But any time I get to pull out my book while waiting feels like a vacation!


No matter how much I read there will always be more great books to read. I’ll never run out. I’ll never be bored.

There are so many more reasons I love to read, but I’ll end the list here. How about you? Do you agree with my list? Are there other reasons you love to read? While you’re at it, tell me what your favorite book is so I can add it to my “to read next” list. As for my favorite, I love so many I can’t just pick one! But here are some that I particularly like and have reread may times.