The Agency (Mary Quinn Mystery)

By Y S Lee

Mary, a fugitive with ambiguous heritage and past, she escaped her death and found a normal life in an all girl school. She enjoyed a stable life but at 17, she wanted more. Being a teacher wasn’t enough. So, she became a spy.

The Agency 1: A Spy in the House by Y S LeeMary Russell (Mrs. Holmes, The Beekeepers Apprentice) had recommended The Agency in her tweet. One look at the description, I knew I had to read them. And I was almost out of commission until I was done with book 1 and 2.

Ying’s writing spirited me away to a Victorian England I didn’t know. I didn’t know the Chinese were treated as badly as they were in the States, I didn’t even know there were Chinese living in England then.

The story intrigued me because of Ying’s idea for The Agency itself. Women were still viewed as property at the time, rich or poor. And the working class females made perfect spies since people ignore them as if they were invisible.

The Agency 2: The Body at the Tower By Y S LeeAlthough we have seen similar ideas before (when you really want to know the truth, ask the servants) but none was depicted from an active point of view.

The story moved me because I, too, know how it feels to be Chinese and non-Chinese in the western society. I was much luckier that I didn’t suffer discrimination but the internal struggles of fitting myself into a specific race is the same.

If you haven’t been in our shoes, you might never understand this. It’s very strange but I feel more Chinese when I am with Americans and I feel like an American when I am with Chinese.

Life is easier for me than for Mary, since I am free to think that it’s OK to be both at the same time. All I need to do was to be OK with it myself. After that, it doesn’t matter what other people think.

How many books have you read that taught you history, transported your mind, and echoed with your essence?

Gonged by Natalie Goldberg

Sometime past 12 noon.

Do I have what it takes to be a writer? If not, why bother? Besides, I’ve been at it for a long time and my English is still not as good as the native speakers. I feel anxious and guilty that my writing career doesn’t seem to be going anyway.

Sometime past 1 pm.

What? I am not writing for this life time only?

Emotion surged and I almost cried. Natalie Goldberg just said whatever I write, it will be important because it is part of me for now and for all my future reincarnations to come.

Now, I know. It’s okay that I don’t have it figured out now. It’s okay that I don’t know where I am going and what I am doing with my stories. Every word I write is a contribution to my soul.

Now, I know. The journey does count because I’ve learned to look far enough to see the destination.

Tensed from Tenses 3

A Writer's Reference with Writing about LiteratureReference: A Writer’s Reference with Writing about Literature

Tenses with infinitives and participles

Use Present Infinitive

Show action at the same time or later than the main verb

  • The club had hoped to have raised raise $1000 by May.
    (“have hoped” happened before “raise”)

Use Perfect Infinitive

For an action occurring earlier than the main verb

  • Dan would like to join have joined the navy but he did not pass the physical. (“like” is now, “join” was in the past)

Use Past/Present Perfect Participle

For an action occurring before the main verb

  • Discovered off the coast of FL., the Atocha yielded many treasures.
  • Having worked her way though college, Lee graduated debt-free.


Use base from of verb and were is the only past-tense verb used

IF + Contrary-to-fact clauses

The verbs are for conditions that are not true

  • If I was were a member of Congress, I’d vote for that bill.
  • We could be less cautious if Jake was were more trustworthy.

But when the IF clauses is about something that exist or may exist, then don’t use subjective.

  • If Dana wins the contest, she’ll leave for Spain in June.

Wishing + Contrary-to-fact clauses

  • Formal: I wish he were my friend.
  • Informal: I wish he was my friend.

Clauses for request

Because the requests haven’t come true, subjunctive is used. Look for verb like: ask, insist, recommend, request, suggest.

  • Prof. Moore insists that her students are be on time.
  • We recommend that he files file this report.

Tensed from Tenses 2

Writer's Digest Grammar Desk ReferenceTensed from Tenses 1 contains the basic info on tenses. This entry has special notes on verb usages. (Resources: Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference, A Writer’s Reference with Writing about Literature)

Present Tense

Habitual action

  • He eats a hearty breakfast.
  • I play tennis.

General truth / Scientific principles

Use present tense unless it has been disproved.A Writer's Reference with Writing about Literature

  • The US is in North America.
  • Galileo taught that the earth revolved revolves around the sun.

Fictional events

Use present tense when quoting, summarizing, or paraphrasing the author of a nonliterary work, even when the author is dead.

  • In Ibuse’s Black Rain, a child reached reaches for a pomegranate in his mother’s garden…

Past Perfect Tense

Using simple past tense when past perfect should be used

  • By the time dinner was served, the guest honor left.
    By the time dinner was served, the guest honor had left.

Using past perfect when 2 past actions occurred at the same time.

  • When we got there, she had met us at the train.

Avoid Verb Shifts

Inconsistency in voice

Depending on the need, the sentence can be in passive or active voice, as long as the voice stays the same.

  • She lists each score in a cell then the students were sorted according to the scores.
    She lists each score in a cell then sorted the students according to the scores.

Between indirect and direct

For questions:

  • I wonder whether Karla knew of the theft and, if so, did she report it to the police?
    I wonder whether Karla knew of the theft and, if so, whether she reported to the police.

For quotation:
Direct quote repeats the speaker word by word when indirect quote doesn’t.

  • Mom said that she’d be late and please do not leave for the game until Dad comes home.
    Mom said that she’d be late and asked me not to leave for the game until Dad came home.

Tensed from Tenses 1

Sitting in the library, with The Deluxe Transitive Vampire opened to the Tense section, I attempted understand when to use which tense by making a chart.

That didn’t help me much but these resources did: Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference, A Writer’s Reference with Writing about Literature, and's Digest Grammar Desk Reference

I am going to post as I make senses of all tenses and my tensed brain will have some relief.

Simple Tenses

Present, past, future

Perfect Tenses

Expresses an action that was/will be completed at the time of another action
A Writer's Reference with Writing about Literature

Present perfect

Action/event that began at sometime in the past and extended into the present

  • I’ve worked there for 6 months.
  • I’ve often gone to the park. (I’ve visited and may go again)

Past perfect

Action/event completed in the past BEFORE some other past action/event, used to show relationship between 2 or more past events

  • Once I had gotten over the fight, I called to apologize.

Future perfect

Action/event that will be completed in the future before some other action/event

  • At 4 o’clock, I will have practiced for 2 hours.

Progressive Tenses

Describes actions in progress

Present perfect progressive

  • I have been working for the last hour. (from past until now)
  • How have you been doing? (without duration, meaning time = recently, lately)

Past perfect progressive

Something started in past and continued up until another time in the past

  • I had been working late that night.
  • He had been partying before he came to the first class.

Future perfect progressive

Something has started and will end in a future time.

  • I will have been working 40 years come next spring.

Present progressive

Past progressive

Future progressive

Is Being Passive All Bad?

While my head was still working through what verb tense to use when, I encountered the “Voice” section in The Deluxe Transitive Vampire. Then a light bulb went on above my head.

The passive voice is appropriate when the action rather than the actor is to be emphasized.

  • The grandee bullied the bum. (Active)
  • The bum was bullied by the grandee. (Passive)

In this example, the passive voice also leads the readers to side with the bum.

But the author cautioned that we don’t overwork it.

  • The book was thrown at me by them.

In another case, when the actor is unknown or unimportant, passive voice can also be used.

  • She was left alone for a while.
  • The shoes were all repaired came the next morning.

I seem to remember being told to use active voice but it looks like I’ll have to pay more attention about that in the fictions I read.

The Manual of Detection

By Jedediah Berry

“The four second hands on the four faces of the clock trembled between numbers. The insides of Unwin’s ever-wound wrist-watch seized.”

“…the clocks remembered themselves…”

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah BerryWho writes like that?
Someone I should learn from!

In a few sentences, I knew this wasn’t your typical gumshoe, Dick Tracy, Guy Noir style detective story.

The main character, by the book, I’m not a detective, Charles Unwin, was a clerk given a promotion he didn’t want. And in pursuit of his old job, he broke many rules, solved many cases at once, rekindled old feud, and ran away with the circus and still got to be a clerk.

Why is this a good story? It wasn’t just the way Jedediah titled each chapter like it is an actual chapter in The Manual of Detection; it wasn’t the way he embedded the clues so I couldn’t skip a word (not that I ever had the urge to do so), it was the way he made me worry about Unwin when I wasn’t reading the book.

As I had to go along in tasks that provide me shelter and provisions, my heart was wandering in the rainy city, hoping Unwin’s umbrella would keep him safe and dry while I raced through my work so I could rejoin him on his journey.

Being a writer in progress, I must remember, perhaps file a report as a clerk, to never become arrogant when I write, to always be considerate of the readers, and no matter how complicated the story is, leave no details unanswered.


By Ainslie MacLeod

Transformation by Ainslie MacLeod
I read Ainslie’s first book “Instructions” a few years back, knew that I can’t meditate well enough to hear from my Spiritual Guides. So, before I read “Transformation” I took this online test to figure out what my pass life fears might be. As it turned out, I was most effected by the pass-life fear of powerlessness and failure.

The fear of failure explains my boundless curiosity and my drive to learn. And the fact that I prefer doing to playing might be caused by dying before I could accomplished my life plans.

The fear of powerlessness explain my need to preserve my freedom. When I was younger, I always resented people who gave me unsolicited advice then get angry with me when I didn’t comply. The other symptom is the need for control. In my other life as a designer, I used to argue with my clients because I didn’t the changes they requested. It took me a few years but now I just try them out, changed it back when those didn’t work out. Life is so much better this way.

In “Transformation,” Ainslie supplied ways to over come your past-life fear. He also brought us a positive message from his Spirit Guides.

They said that the Transformation (to a more spiritual and harmonious world) is happening no matter what. And I for one and glad that I seem to be on the path with this big change.

To the old and young souls out there, I wish the best for us all and may the Transformation be completed soon!