Sunday Picture Post

Well, as you all know, we like to take Sundays off here at the Art of Writing. Personally, I will be doing some work, going to church, and then cleaning the apartment some, working out, and reading Etienne Gilson’s Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages and The Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas (though I’ve already read parts of the latter). I can’t speak for the other authors, but I’m sure that they all have equally robust Sunday plans. I did dig through the bowels of the google search engine to find you this though:

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Sunday Reading List

So, I’ve been saying that I’m going to post my reading list from this semester, and the semester is just about over. So, here is the list of works that I read this semester. This includes all of the assigned books from my classes, the fiction I read, some other books I read, and some (but not all) of the works I read for research. All in all, and this is admittedly a guess because I haven’t had time to actually calculate everything out, I think I’ve done somewhere in the neighborhood of ten thousand pages of reading in the past few months. I was quite a hall… now to do it all over again next semester. I swear, I’m not a masochist.

Terry Irwin, Plato’s Ethics
David O. Brink, Moral Realism and The Foundations of Ethics
Daniel A. Putnam, Human Excellence: Dialogues in Virtue Theory
Inazo Nitobe, Bushido: The Soul of Japan
Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory
Richard Cavandish, The Tarot (Partial)
Benjamin Farley, In Praise of Virtue
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics
Karl Barth, God in Action
C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
Bryan Van Norden, Virtue Ethics and Consequentialism in Early Chinese Philosophy
H. Richard Niebuhr, The Responsible Self
Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor… and Yourself
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society
C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Oleg Benesch, Bushido in the Meiji Dynasty
C.S. Lewis, “On Ethics”
Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel
Leon Gautier, Chivalry
James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell, The Blood Gospel
James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell, Innocent Blood
Joseph Fletcher, Situation Ethics
Chuck Hogan, The Strain
Ed. Xiusheng Liu and Philip Ivanhoe, Essays on the Moral Philosophy of Mengzi
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
C.S. Lewis, A Pilgram’s Regress
Philip J. Ivanhoe, Ethics in the Confucian Tradition
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
Andrew Downing, “Sin and It’s Relevance to Human Nature in the Summa Theologicae”
John Haldane, “Philosophy, the Restless Heart and the Meaning of Theism”
Matthew Elliot, “The Emotional Core of Love: The Centrality of Emotion in Christian Psychology and Ethics”
Dolores Puterbaugh, “The Screwtape Letters: Sophistication and Self-Absorption”
Lowell Garetner, “It’s not WEIRD it’s WRONG: When Researchers Overlook uNderlying Genotypes they will Not Detect Universal Processes”
Edmund Pincoffs, Quandries and Virtues: Against Reductivism in Ethics
Jay Richards, Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem
Susan K. Allard-Nelson, An Aristotelian Approach to Ethics: The Norms of Virtue
John Murray, Principles of Conduct
Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (Partial)
Cornelius Van Til, In Defense of the Faith Volume 3: Christian Theistic Ethics
Kwong-Loi Shun and David Wong, Confucian Ethics: A Comparative Study of Self, Autonomy, and Community
C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
C.S. Lewis, “The Psalms”
Tom Nelson, Work Matters
John M. Rist, Plato’s Moral Realism
Carl F.H. Henry, Christian Personal Ethics
Stephen Angle and Michael Slote, Virtue Ethics and Confucianism
Norman Vance, Sinews of the Spirit: The Ideal of Christian Manliness in Victorian Literature and Religious Thought
J. Daryl Charles, Virtue Amidst Vice: The Catalog of Virtues in 2 Peter 1
Yiu Sing Lucas Chan, The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes: Biblical Studies and Ethics for Real Life
Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus Value (Partial)
Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto (Partial)
Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (Partial)
Chuck Hogan, The Night Eternal

Scene Challenge of the Week

I have to admit... I have no idea what this means. Someday I will though.
I have to admit… I have no idea what this means. Someday I will though.

Well, I just finished my Chinese for today! As of today I can write recognize and ‘translate’ about 20 characters of the 4000 some that I’ll need to know… … Yeah, long way to go. However, I ‘translated’ my first proverb today. I’m not actually sure if I got it correct as the book I’m using unfortunately doesn’t provide correct translations. However, I am sure that I got it somewhere within the vague realm of correct (pretty sure… it sounded suitably Chinese at least :P). I’ve also found that I thoroughly love Carl F.H. Henry’s Christian Personal Ethics… though I don’t love the fact that it’s 600 page with small print and wide margins. However, the content is awesome. I think, along with Bryan Van Norden’s Virtue Ethics and Consequentialism in Early Chinese Philosophy, this is my favorite book of a semester of interesting reading. Anyway, I have a scene challenge for you. So, if you don’t already know the rules: I give you a prompt and you write a scene off of it.  Try to keep your scene under five hundred words, and try to keep it in the same tone as the introduction.  If I give a line that is very dark and depressing, then I don’t want to see a scene about a drunken monkey in a tutu…it just doesn’t fit.  If I do give you a line about a drunken monkey in a tutu, then you should probably try for a funny scene.

Your prompt: “Okay, I think I’m starting to get this. How do I say that one?…”

Sunday Picture Post

Well, I just finished Tim Keller’s Ministries of Mercy and I started Joseph Fletcher’s Situation Ethics and a book of articles on the philosophy of Mecius that was edited by Philip J. Ivanhoe. Both of these books should be interesting, and Keller’s book was good. I’m also rereading (well… relistening to) The Strain in honor of the television show, and I’m planning on listening to The Fall and The Eternal Night as well. All in all, while my days are extremely full right now, they are going fairly well. So, in the midst of all this excitement, I found you all something fun to look at today!

Have you ever heard of a Zombie Walk? They certainly have. There are also some interesting psychology articles on the subject.
Have you ever heard of a Zombie Walk? They certainly have. There are also some interesting psychology articles on the subject.

Scene Challenge of the Week

CosplayGroup2Well… I read nearly two hundred pages today of moral theology and Japanese history. It was fun… also kind of exhausting, but a lot of fun. Now I’m camping down to watch a move while I try to decompress and start a paper. So, I hope that all of your days have been as productive and enjoyable! Anyway, I imagine that you’re here for your scene challenge. If you don’t know the rules: I provide you with specific rules for how to write a particular scene.  Try to keep your scene under five hundred words, and try to keep it in the same tone as the introduction.  If I give a line that is very dark and depressing, then I don’t want to see a scene about a drunken monkey in a tutu…it just doesn’t fit.  If I do give you a line about a drunken monkey in a tutu, then you should probably try for a funny scene.

Your challenge: Go troll the web (preferably with a friend). Find something that strikes you as interesting and try to write a scene of at least 300 words describing the situation, scenario, scene, whatever. This could take multiple formats. For instance, you could write as though you were the one doing whatever you found. You could write from the perspective of a fictional character reading the story that you read. You could even write the scene as though it was an article or an incident report. The form is entirely up to you. When you’ve both finished your scenes, trade and read what the other person wrote. How did your perspective and personality affect the scene that you wrote? What did each of you focus on? What details are present in both stories, and what details are unique to each? Consider your particular viewpoints, attitudes, beliefs, and emotional connections. How did each of this affect your scene?

Sunday Picture Post

Welcome to Sunday, everyone! I hope that you’ve all had a wonderful weekend. As of today I have only 40 pages of my reading left, and then my paper. Yay! Anyway, as you all know we take Sundays off here at the art of writing. However, I went and found you a little something to fill the day. I think that it might be suitably odd:


Separation Anxiety: When Life Gets in the Way of Writing

Sleep? Ain't nobody got time for that.  From our friends at
Sleep? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
From our friends at

Being a responsible adult really sucks at times. I have to go to work, do my job, complete my graduate assignments, get sleep at some point, pay the bills, socialize, and somehow find some time to work on my thesis. All of this insanity sadly leaves me with very little time to write. Actually, for the past three weeks, I haven’t done any creative writing at all…not even poetry. I’m not really going to have time to do any this week, either: I have two 15 page papers to write, two classes to teach, and a second job to work. Oh, and research. That’s important, too. So right now, I’m dealing with a little separation anxiety. I don’t have any time for non-academic writing, but I desperately miss it. I feel like I’m guilty of child-neglect or something, that’s how bad it’s gotten. I know many people make themselves take breaks to write during their high-intensity weeks, but I’ve learned from experience that using that method just doesn’t work for me. I get so wrapped up in my writing, even if it’s just a haiku, that I can’t transition back into my more serious efforts. Awful, I know, but there it is. During my busiest weeks, I HAVE to distance myself from my creative writing, or nothing else gets done. I’m sure at least one other person has the same problem, so I thought I would share some of my tips for dealing with the separation anxiety until I can get back to writing with a clear conscience.

1)  Reading. Since I can’t write fiction during intense times without my academic work suffering, I choose to read the fiction of others. I generally go for Agatha Christie, Tolkien, or Poe in this situation, but I have been known to mix in some Dostoevsky and/or Ellery Queen. Reading a really good book eases some of the strain I’m under, but without entrapping me so deeply in my own world that I can’t get out of it in time to get back to my daily obligations. It distracts me from the fact that I can’t do any of my own writing at the time, but also inspires me to get my work done faster so that I can actually get back to writing. It’s a win-win situation. The trick is to read a book that I’ve already read before, particularly one that I really know and love. If I try to start a new book, I run into the same problem I do with creative writing. But reading definitely helps!

2) Utilizing a completely different creative outlet. I’m a dancer – I do East Coast/Lindy and West Coast Swing, Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata. When I get tired of working at my job or homework, but I know I can’t try to write, I get up and practice my dance moves. It allows me to expend the pent-up creative energy, and as a bonus, gives me an adrenaline boost that helps me feel energized so that I can get back to other work. For you, this option might entail art, crocheting, cooking, or something else along those lines. Just be creative! dance

3) Brainstorming. This is the option I use when I just can’t stand to be away from my writing anymore but I am still in possession of a modicum of self-control. Usually this occurs late in the evening after a long day of work when my brain is overheating and I’m exhausted. At this point, I set my books down and allow myself a 10 minute shower. During this time, I think only in terms of a story or a poem. I let the creative ideas come, and I just follow them down whatever path they take while I’m in the shower. When my 10 minutes are up, I write down the words or images that came to mind, put the notebook away, and get back to work. This method is used only out of extreme necessity because it runs the line between frustration and satisfaction a little too closely. Still, it works when I need it to.

I hope that helps someone, especially during this really busy time of the year 🙂 Anyone else have any tips for dealing with separation anxiety when it comes to writing?

Writers have homework too

I went up north for a writing get away. I was having issues with my opening and what I wanted to do with it. Try as I might, it was an elusive devil. So I went into our local “big town” where they had a book store. I picked up five fantasy books and a fantasy – sci fi anthology. I went to the local beer garden (I love Wisconsin), had beer and a brat, and started reading. I tried reading three pages into each book and about one page in the anthology. I marked what was good and bad, then outlined what I wanted for my own story. It was a research day.

While we all have different areas requiring this attention, we all do require research. That day I had issues with opening. Other days I just want something interesting that no one has done before. Maybe the city you built is so generic it bores even you, and you have to look into what has made villages and the like fascinating throughout history. Tolkien researched languages. George R.R. Martin researched history. If you want to be a great writer, you need to do your research.

My research is aided with alcohol and a beautiful view.
My research is aided with alcohol and a beautiful view.

Research has many forms. The most interesting is experience. You want to know what it would be like to walk through a hot forest when it is 90 degrees with high humidity? Travel to Missouri and go for a hike with a heavy backpack with provisions. Bring lots of water and a cell phone. By the end you will be exhausted, sweaty, and feel absolutely miserable. Remember that, because in most fantasy novels these individuals are heavily armored and it doesn’t seem like they’re all that uncomfortable. I’m doing Tough Mudder in large part to help me better understand what it is like to make your way through mud, to be uncomfortable, to exert yourself until your body is screaming at you to stop, and you’re telling it, “Two more miles and three more obstacles! I believe in you!” And your body’s telling you, “If I think hard enough that you don’t exist, do you disappear?” Obviously killing a dragon, dueling someone to the death, doing hard drugs, and other such experiences should more likely be read about and researched in other methods, but there are so many aspects of an adventure we really can experience that we get lazy about.

You can always interview someone. There are plenty of people out there who have done a number of interesting things you would never try. Ask them to describe the experience. My friend who went to war, I asked him all about it. Sure he didn’t see a lot of front line action, but he still saw plenty to give an idea of the reality of war. When you do this, don’t be shy to ask questions. Figure out where they’re coming from, ask for clarification, and most of all listen. If you’re asking about something sensitive, know when to back off. These experiences can be unbelievably personal and leave numerous bad scars. Don’t go beyond what they’re comfortable with. No means no, and no amount of alcohol should be used to change minds. This isn’t college.

Finally, you have books and the internet. We should all be familiar with secondary and primary resources. If you need a brief summary of a topic, go for a secondary. You don’t need to learn about physics to write science fiction, but it sure does help to have a broad overview of nanotechnology. On the other hand, when you are going to be delving deep into the information, go for primary. If you want to comprehend war and that is the focus of your story, pick up some journals from warriors throughout the ages, from today to Genghis Khan. I’m not sure if he had a journal, but it’s amazing what information there is on war doing those periods. George R.R. Martin actually used some of the information on his people to create the Dothraki. History is full of amazing stories that are nearly impossible to fathom. Science has incredible plot hooks throughout it. See how you can take an event or theory and turn it into a story. Since it is a story, take liberties with it. Make it yours.

So research diligently and write great works!

Let us know how you research and what tactics work for you. Do you go to the library? Have you gone on hikes for the sake of research? Would love to hear how you go about it.

Pleasure Reading as “Research”

My motto in life.
My motto in life.

I’m an English Lit grad student. I want to be a college professor if and when I ever decide to grow up. Basically, this means I get to read awesome books and write things for a living, which makes me extremely happy. What I’ve discovered, ever since coming to the Dark Side and becoming an English student, is that the reading I do for fun and/or for classes (usually they’re one and the same) actually help me with my creative writing. Like a true academic, I have thus taken to referring to my reading as “research,” whether or not it has a direct bearing on whatever I happen to be writing at the time. The different styles and approaches of the works I read give me fresh ideas for future writing projects. Frequently I come across phrases or descriptions that strike me as interesting, and they influence areas of my story. In other words, when I’m working on writing projects, I make a point of reading as many books as I can – no rhyme or reason to the selection thereof (unless I’m doing REAL research), just books I’m interested in. And I’m often surprised at the cool stuff that shows up in my own stories as a result. A few months ago, I put together a list of books I need to read that I will pick up while I’m working on projects. And believe me, some pretty awesome writing is happening as a result 😀 So, I’m going to share my list with y’all. Any works anyone would recommend that I add?


Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe (Finished)
Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
The Satanic Verses – Salman Rushdie (Finished)
The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka (Dreadfully dull, but I’m going to read it anyway)
1984 – George Orwell (Finished)
The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov
White Noise – Don Delillo
The Art of War – Sun Tzu
East of Eden – John Steinbeck
Animal Farm – George Orwell
Beyond Good and Evil – Nietzsche
Foucault’s Pendulum –Umberto Eco
The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett (In Progress)
The Gambler – Dostoevsky
The Idiot – Dostoevsky
Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – John le Carré
The Tale of Genji – Lady Murasaki
The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller (In Progress)
Dr. Zhivago – Boris Pasternak
100 Years of Solitude – Marquez
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton
Lady Chatterly’s Lover – Anthony Trollope
The Beautiful and Damned – F Scott Fitzgerald
The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
Tristram Shandy – Laurence Sterne
War of the Worlds – HG Wells (Read this 13 years ago – need to read again)
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad (put me to sleep on the last attempt, so I’m going to try it again)
The Portrait of a Lady – Henry James
Middlemarch – George Eliot
The Man Who was Thursday – GK Chesterton (In Progress)
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
Beloved – Toni Morrison
2001: a Space Odyssey – Arthur Clark
Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
Allan Quatermain – H Rider Haggard
Blythedale Romance – Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner (Also have to read for an American Modernism class)
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
The Awakening – Kate Chopin
The Man in the Iron Mask – Alexandre Dumas (read 13 years ago – time for another go through)
The Prisoner of Zenda – Anthony Hope
Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
Vanity Fair – William Thackeray