Learn four key skills to get you started in writing.

Reading other people’s manuals

Manuals for a Samsung washer and dryerI’ve been a technical writer for over 30 years, and I admit that I don’t always read the manual. If a product is well-designed, I can figure out how to use it on my own. When I get stuck, or if it requires complicated assembly or setup, I definitely read the manual.

When I do read the manual, I look at it with a critical eye. How well does it tell me what to do? Is it easy to understand? Can I trust that what it says is correct?

We recently bought a new Samsung washing machine and dryer. Since I had to show other members of our family how to use these devices, I decided to read the manuals first. Here are my impressions about them.

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Poem: Motherland

View from the Firehouse Restaurant, ResedaI was in the Valley to do research when I stopped at the Firehouse Restaurant for lunch. It is near the corner of Victory and Reseda, close to where I used to live. As I looked out the large windows, I thought about what Reseda means to me and why I’m still drawn to it years after I moved away. I often joke on Facebook about Reseda being the “Glorious Motherland.” I then started thinking about my mom and what she meant to me. That was when “Motherland” gained a whole other meaning and inspired this poem.

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My Epic Rap Battles of History Requests for Season 4

Epic Rap Battles of History LogoI’m looking forward to season 4 of Epic Rap Battles of History. I’ve been a fan since season 2. My favorites (many of them are NSFW) are “Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates,” “Stephen King vs. Edgar Allen Poe,” and the season 3 finale, “Artists vs. TMNT.” What I like about the series is that you can have a good laugh and learn something.

The other part of the fun is suggesting opponents for creators Epic Lloyd and Nice Peter to pit against each other. And they do listen to suggestions. People bugged them for years for a “Goku vs. Superman” battle until they finally had one.

With this in mind, here are my suggestions for upcoming episodes of Epic Rap Battles of History. (And please, no more “Hitler vs. Vader” battles and don’t shill for video game producers even if you use lines like “Rap so hard, call me Al…Dente.”)

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Teenage Fantasies and Realities

Teens from Red Adept Publishing's YA book tour

The three YA novels I reviewed for the Red Adept Publishing Young at Heart book tour — Correlation, Upload, and Canvas Bound — have something in common. They all feature fantasies. Teenagers either travel back in time, save the world from a dangerous conspiracy, or journey inside paintings that have come to life. Fantasy seems to be a common theme in YA fiction. Even a novel about the horrible realities of terminal cancer includes a fantasy where young lovers jet off to Amsterdam for some, as the author would put it, scoodilypooping.

And yeah, including ghosts in a YA novel counts as fantasy too.

So, why all the teenage fantasy? Because teenage reality is harsh.

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Book Review: Canvas Bound

This is the third of three YA novels I’m reviewing for the Red Adept Publishing book tour, “Young at Heart.” Disclaimer: Review copy provided by Red Adept Publishing.

Olivia “Libby” Tanner is a young painter with problems. Two fellow students at her English art academy are attracted to her, but the one she’s attracted to the most already has a girlfriend. The headmistress at the school seems to have an unusual interest in her. Strangest of all, her paintings come to life. When she goes in search of a “mystery boy” who shows up in her paintings, she uncovers tragic and dangerous secrets about her family. Her quest leads her to the world inside her paintings — a world from which she might not be able to escape.

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