Danielle Singleton's Blog: Writing Wednesdays

April 5, 2015

Hey everybody! My blog has moved locations!

You can now see each post at daniellesingleton.wordpress.com!

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Published on April 05, 2015 11:52 • 59 views

March 26, 2015

Who doesn’t need and want more sleep, right? We would all love to catch a few extra z’s every night.

But what does reading have to do with sleeping?

A lot, in fact.

Multiple studies have shown that reading before bed, particularly reading a good ol’ fashioned made-with-paper book under a dim light, can do wonders for a person’s sleep. After a long day with work and family and chores, our brains need to wind down before they can shut down to sleep mode. Watching TV or engaging on social media with our cell phones or iPads keeps our minds alert and awake, while a relaxing book can begin the wind-down process and signal to our brains that it’s time for some shut-eye. [¡Cuidado! Reading a really tense or exciting book will have the opposite effect and keep you awake.]

Reading each night before sleep also helps develop a sleep habit. When you get in bed, turn down the lights, and start reading, your body and brain will recognize that as what happens right before you sleep – thus beginning the falling asleep process before you even consciously realize it. Turns out our parents knew what they were doing when reading us bedtime stories!

Finally, reading can help our brains stop worrying about all of our daily concerns. It will remove work, kids, health, finances, etc. from your mind, and – once your brain is clear – it will be easier to keep it clear when you close the book and turn out the lights.

Read more: sleep more. It’s really that simple!

P.S. – A special shout-out to my uncle, B, who knew long before the rest of us that reading will make you fall asleep. :)
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Published on March 26, 2015 10:38 • 31 views • Tags: books, good-habits, night, reading, sleep
Before I begin this week’s post, the second in my series of why everyone (including you!) should read more, I want to give a special shout-out to Mrs. Luisa Hidalgo-Sandoval and her fabulous group of friends. Thank you so much for inviting me to your book club to discuss my novel Safe & Sound!

Okay, let’s get started. To recap, the first reason why everyone should read more is that it increases your brain power and helps preserve your memory. Pretty important stuff!

The second reason why everyone should read more is because it’s fun! Who couldn’t use a little more fun in their lives?!

Reading books, particularly fiction books, is an entertainment adventure unlike any other. In no other medium (TV, film, music) is the audience drawn into the entertainment like the reader is. Because of the way our brains process information, reading a book truly immerses the reader in the story and involves them in the book in a way that isn’t found while watching a show or listening to a song. How? Well, other forms of entertainment hand over everything to the audience. Without any mental effort at all, you know what the characters are wearing, what they sound like, what the room looks like, etc. However, in a book – even when the author presents very detailed descriptions – the reader is required to piece together the information in order to create the story in his/her mind.

For example, take one of the great love stories of literature: Pride & Prejudice. We’re told that Mr. Darcy has black hair, brown eyes, and fair skin. But is he the Colin Firth Mr. Darcy? The Matthew Macfadyen Mr. Darcy? A different version altogether? Each reader is left to create his or her own image of the romantic hero…which means that ten people could read the same story and have ten different variations on one of the main characters! That certainly can’t be said of TV or movies!

In addition to the fun of being that closely involved in a story, reading allows an audience to experience things they might never otherwise. When you read a book, you can climb mountains, slay dragons, swoon in ballrooms, and save the world . . . all from the comfort of your living room. On Monday you can be a young boy causing mischief and coming of age along the Mississippi River. By Wednesday? You’re a pre-revolution Russian aristocrat caught in a scandalous love affair. And over the weekend, you can transform into a mad scientist intent on wreaking havoc wherever you go.

Meanwhile, turning on the TV, one will find an extraordinary amount of police-based shows, 24/7 news, and “reality” TV.

So if you want to be truly entertained, immersed, enthralled, transformed, and transported to another place and time . . .

Read! It’s fun!
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Published on March 26, 2015 10:37 • 30 views • Tags: adventure, books, fun, reading

March 11, 2015

Today’s post begins the first of a six-part series on why everyone should read more books. I know, I know . . . I’m not exactly a disinterested party in that regard. But in all seriousness, whether it’s my books or someone else’s, reading long-form has definite, proven benefits!

Before I get to today’s reason for reading more, I want to address the main argument people have for not reading: they don’t have time. “Danielle, I’d love to read more, I really would. But between work and family and chores, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.” Trust me – I feel your pain! We’re all busy. But are you really too busy? Even after a day’s work is done, most people still have an hour or two left over that is almost always dedicated to a combination of television and social media. So what it really comes down to is priorities, not time. Instead of watching Everybody Loves Raymond reruns, that replay of last week’s Scandal, or the latest “reality” TV fad, you could be reading. It doesn’t have to be every night . . . sometimes we need to be able to just zone out and crash on the couch. But mix it up a little. Throw in some reading with your watching.

Okay, enough of that. Let’s get to the good stuff. What’s the first reason you should read more: it gives you brain power!

Reading is to the brain what exercise is to the body. Mental stimulation – keeping your brain active and strong and healthy – is vitally important. Multiple scientific studies have shown that reading can slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Interestingly, brain scans have also shown that people who engage in mentally stimulating activities throughout their life might actually have prevented the development of the disease. Think about that: doctors are presenting us with a surefire way to fight the onset of one of the world’s most dreaded, most debilitating diseases . . . and all you have to do is read! Read books, read long-form articles, read the newspaper. And while you’re being entertained and informed, you’re also helping keep your brain healthy. What a great deal that is! (Note: doing puzzles or playing word-games provides the same mental stimulation)

So this week, I encourage you to turn off the Netflix and turn on your Kindle. Put down the video game controller and pick up a book. Your brain will thank you for it!
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Published on March 11, 2015 11:06 • 48 views • Tags: books, health, reading

March 4, 2015

(Direct link to original post: https://daniellesingleton.wordpress.c...)

Season 3 of Netflix’s smash hit series, House of Cards, was released this past Friday and, like many fans of the show, I carved out large portions of my weekend to binge on the new episodes. What would happen to Frank when he became President Underwood? How would Claire adjust to the role of First Lady? How many times would we ‘knock twice’ on the desk in the Oval Office? I couldn’t wait to have those questions answered by the characters who we love to hate and hate to love.

There was a scene in Episode 4, though, that shocked and saddened and angered me.

Toward the end of the episode – officially “Chapter 30″ – President Underwood visits what I presume is meant to be the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. He has a tense discussion with a bishop about power, God’s love, forgiveness, and revenge. The bishop character instructs Frank that there are two rules for Christians: love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

At that point, as a Christian watching the show, I was quite happy. A Hollywood-produced TV show wherein the president seeks Christian counsel and the audience is presented with a direct, non-ironic, non-satirical explanation of God’s love, mercy, and rules for mankind? Finally! Hooray!

Alas, I celebrated too soon.

President Underwood asks to be left alone in the church to pray. Once alone, he proceeds to verbally reject Jesus Christ and spit on the crucifix behind the altar. The body of Christ then crashes to the floor and shatters. Frank seems little bothered by this development, steals the shattered ear of Jesus, and tells the Secret Service to make sure the mess gets cleaned up.

My initial reaction to the scene was shock. Followed immediately by prayer – for the souls of those who created and performed the scene of sacrilege, and for the souls of the millions (myself included) who watched it.

Then I got angry. How dare they! Thoughts such as “Netflix should issue a public apology” and “they would’ve never done something like that involving a different religion” ran through my head. “Christians should rally together and protest!…We can’t allow this!…Imagine if Frank Underwood had spat on the Quran!”

Wait, let’s do imagine that. After all, in the very same Episode 4, Underwood is shown reading the Quran and quoting it in a meeting.

There would be mass protests. Kevin Spacey hung in effigy and needing 24/7 security. U.S. embassies around the world put on high alert. Apologies from the Obama Administration to Muslims worldwide (although that’s nothing new). Yes, the ‘religion of peace’ would undoubtedly respond with violent outrage to such a blatant act of disrespect.

After all, this was not Charlie Hebdo-style satire. This was serious, dramatic desecration of the Holy Cross and Jesus Christ upon it.

Yet Christians won’t rally in outrage, burn buildings, or threaten studios and actors. And I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m proud of it.

Jesus Christ, Son of God, was spat on while walking the streets of Jerusalem. Yet He still taught us to turn the other cheek. Metal spikes were driven through His wrists and feet and He was hung on a cross until He died, yet He still asked God the Father to forgive those who were literally killing Him. He prayed for His enemies.

The Christian response to the sacrilegious House of Cards episode should follow the example of Christ, the Prince of Peace. Turning the other cheek. Forgiveness. Prayer. Actions such as those would serve to demonstrate the true nature of Christianity.

While I know the episode was wrong, while I wish it had never been made, I am confident that the power of Christ is greater than a fictional president or an online video streaming service. And so I turn the other cheek and say: “spit on this one too, Frank. Spit on this one too.”
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Published on March 04, 2015 07:23 • 87 views • Tags: christianity, forgiveness, frank-underwood, god, house-of-cards, jesus, love, netflix

February 25, 2015

We've all heard that one before, right?

Some journalist or author or English professor will say "the best advice I can give you is to write what you know." And then we go home and we think about what we know. Long commutes. Stressful jobs. Too little sleep. Too much to do this weekend. And the list goes on.

How can I write about what I know? Who wants to read that? I certainly don't and it's my own life!

Here's the thing:
I believe that 'write what you know' is a helpful tool, but only if people recognize that what they know is not limited to what they know now. It also includes what they can know. What they can learn.

I wrote a book set in the Mexican countryside near Acapulco, but I've never been there. I created a character who murdered dozens of people with a homemade killer virus, but I've never stepped foot inside of a medical classroom or lab.

In the Information Age, it's easier than ever to learn new things and research new topics. Internet search engines are an author's best friend (that, along with spellcheck!). You'll also find that experts in a variety of fields are happy to meet with you to provide background research...many of them find it fun and exciting to be involved in the book-making process.

So should you write what you know? Yes. But rather than restricting the author's mind, that advice just might set it free.
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Published on February 25, 2015 11:32 • 52 views • Tags: authors, blog, books, readers, writing, writing-wednesdays
Greetings everyone! Welcome to my new blog, Writing Wednesdays. Every Wednesday I will upload a new blog post about writing, books, my books, publishing...really whatever strikes my fancy! Feel free to comment, ask questions, suggest blog topics, etc.!

Happy Wednesday!

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Published on February 25, 2015 11:15 • 33 views • Tags: authors, blog, books, readers, writing, writing-wednesday

Writing Wednesdays

Danielle Singleton
Weekly musings from the mind of author Danielle Singleton.
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