Saturday, May 30, 2015

Subplots and Storylines

Time has a way of marching along at a rather quick pace. I feel as if I’ve blinked and May has whirled by in a blur of color. It’s been an eventful month! If life were a story, this particular chapter would be chock full of new subplots. Shall I unspool them all for you?

Yes. I shall.

I’ve started working at a new job. Last month I had some training shifts, and the beginning of May brought with it a sizable chunk of online learning. In the meantime, I’ve been asking hundreds of questions as I learn the ropes and get settled into a new schedule. This job was a real answer to prayer, so I’m glad to adjust to a new season of life!

Another notable happening was two dear friends’ graduations from two different Bible/leadership colleges. So exciting to celebrate their accomplishments!

The first couple weeks of May were grey and rainy. Perfect weather for curling up with a book, either one to read or one to write. I’m not a slow reader, nor am I the devour-ten-books-a-week sort of girl. But I am pleased with the six novels in which I’ve spent time this month.

Outlaw—really different from the usual Dekker book, but still with his distinct hue. Not for the faint of heart!

Divergent—a reread, and a good one at that. It was interesting to remember how the book differed from the movie.

The next three books are the result of a little something I did with my siblings. The four of us visited the library and picked out a book for each of our sibs to read. So we all ended up with three new books to try. It gets us out of our usual reading zone, and also gives us some common reads to discuss afterwards. 11 Birthdays was chosen by my youngest sister, and was an adorable tale of two friends stuck reliving their eleventh birthday over and over and over again. The Storybook of Legends was picked by my middle sister, and basically smashed a bunch of fairy-tale characters into a story about choice versus fate. The False Prince was selected by my brother, and lulled me into the happy trance of a good fantasy before jolting me awake with a great plot twist. I was a wee bit jealous of the author’s idea, to tell you the truth.

Right now I’m in the last third of Insurgent! And, um, it’s kind of . . . sad . . . and heavy . . . but really intense, so I’m not complaining. Apparently I like getting my literary heart ripped out.

Oh! Speaking of which, in May I have also had my heart ripped out by some awesome movies.

The Battle of the Five Armies: all I have to say is OUCH. Well, that and OHMYGOODNESSITWASAMAZING. Intense battles, fabulous character development, and great set-up for LotR. An epic conclusion to the Hobbit trilogy!
Guardians of the Galaxy . . . What. In. The. World. Okay, it was quite hilarious, and I loved how it didn’t take itself seriously at all. (And guys—Lee Pace was in there! I didn’t know until I heard him speak, because he looks nothing like the Thranduil I’m used to.) My main complaint would be the language. But you have no idea how much I loved this:

And perhaps my favorite flick of the month (okay, it’s tied with TBotFA) was Age of Ultron. I’ve heard people say it wasn’t as good as the first Avengers film, but I have no idea what they’re talking about. This was EPIC. And it ripped my heart out too. See, I’m just a bleeding puddle of feels this month. (Ew. That was graphic. My apologies.)

Anyway, I did say it was the perfect rainy weather for writing books as well as reading them, did I not? So because my book 1 is sitting on the backburner for now, I decided to tackle book 2. I wrote the first draft three years ago at the ripe old age of sixteen and declared it marvellous, full of tight writing and great characters. I recently reread it and . . . well, yes, I did marvel at it, but only in the sense of “Ahahaha, you say I wrote this monstrosity? Did I really?” The writing was . . . er, yes, we could call it tight. We could also call it bland and lackluster and far too fast. The characters displayed great amounts of inconsistency, passivity, and stupidity—so of course sixteen-year-old-me was partially right in labeling them ‘great.’ And let’s please ignore the plot’s gaping, dragon-sized holes. Yes. We won’t comment on that.

Needless to say, I was (and am) faced with a good deal of work. All of which I’m very excited about, don’t get me wrong! I can’t wait to plow into this project, kick it all into pieces, and put them back together again in a much better way.

A peek at my brilliance. ;)
So during this month of May, I have been masterminding. What’s that, you wonder? Well, it stands to reason that if I, the author of this obstinate fantasy series, am the mastermind behind the story, then the act of worldbuilding and hatching brilliant plots could be called ‘masterminding.’ We can definitely change a noun to a verb, right? (Aaaand I just checked. Apparently I’m not as original as I thought: masterminding is already a word. Phooey.)

Anyway, this masterminding is more than plotting. It goes beyond worldbuilding. It’s not even the same thing as brainstorming, although all three of those things play significant parts. For me, it was pulling my scattered notes, thoughts, and ideas together and deciding, once and for all, exactly how the big story elements work. I took a look at the people, worlds, and objects that are important in these books, and documented how/where/when/why they do what they do. It was great fun! My file isn’t entirely complete, but it’s a good launch pad for what I have in mind.

Oh, and did I mention that I decided on almost three thousand years’ worth of history in another world? Just the big events, but still, it left me feeling quite powerful in an author-ish sort of way.

While I found the drizzly weather lovely for bookish pursuits, one of the resident robins felt that the wet conditions were perfect for nest-building. This would not normally be a notable thing, except for the small detail of where he decided to construct it: on top of an outdoor light.
(I apologize for the poor zoom quality.
Birds don't like you getting too close.)
I suppose he was tired of living in trees like a sensible bird, and wanted a better view of the goings-on around him. Not the tidiest nest-maker, either, is he? Sadly, we did not allow that pile of seaweed slop to stay. (At least I thought it resembled seaweed.) But lucky for the robin, there are plenty of spruces in which to nest instead.
Thankfully the rain stopped and the sun returned in time for garden planting, walk taking, and sun tanning.
And with the big series elements in place, I took a deep breath and plunged into outlining book 2. Version One (or Version Horrendous; you choose) is itty bitty. 68,000 words, eighteen chapters. The new version is looking to be twenty-eight chapters or more. I am positively bursting with excitement! Since I’ve grown so much as a writer in the last few years, this will be an entirely different book once I’m through with it.
And that, fellow questers, is what my May looked like! The life of an employee has begun, a new book is underway, some friends are entering new phases of life, and several literary/film adventures wriggled their way into the cracks in my busy schedule. How was your month of May? Anything new happening, or perhaps something old-yet-significant?
(By the way, if you’re still reading this longwinded thing, my hat’s off to you.)
And just a quick heads-up—I have a special announcement coming early next week. Stay tuned!
Oh, and one other thing. I’ve been wanting to do these summary-of-the-month posts because they’re excellent places to throw in all the random bits of life that don’t necessarily merit their own individual articles. But I’m not sure about the title, Subplots and Storylines. What say you? Does it fit? Too cheesy? Other ideas I had were Wanderings or Far-Flung Paths or Motley Tales. Any suggestions? Nothing’s too out of the box around here.
Well, here’s to an adventuresome June! Wherever the road may take you, I hope you find courage to step around the bend and strength to lift your sword.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Liebster Award

My, my, another tag! How fun! This one comes from Skye Hoffert over at Ink Castles. Go check out her Liebster post. She had some great answers.

And now on to her questions (which are also great!):

1. Why do you write?
Because I can't not write—story is in my bones. Whenever I take a hiatus, by the time it's over, I am positively itching to get back to writing. But the biggest reason I write is because I believe God planted this seed in me, and I want to develop this gift and use it to glorify Him. Stories are powerful vessels of truth. They pierce the heart like nothing else and deposit eternal treasure there. If I can use a tale to make someone think, to inspire them or give them courage . . . I've done my job.

2. Favorite fictional character this month?
Ooh, that's a hard one. I'd have to say Tris, because I just reread Divergent. (Insurgent is waiting quite impatiently on my stack of books to read.) I admire her bravery and identify somewhat with her angsty "what-should-I-choose" moments. Not that I agree with everything she does, but she's spunky and fascinating, I'll give her that.

3. What summer songs are you listening to?

Owl City's Ocean Eyes: Deluxe Edition, which I just recently bought. His music is perfect for summer! Also Hawk Nelson's new album, Diamonds. Fun music, encouraging lyrics.

4. Favorite book you've read this month?
Skye, please, are you trying to torture me?? Ahh, fine. Outlaw by Ted Dekker.

5. What is a movie or TV show you would recommend?

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, for sure. I watched it last year and it impacted me so much. It's one of those movies that you can't just walk away from; I sat through the credits and didn't move for a while after it stopped, reeling from the blow. It's an incredible portrait of humanity, war, and family. (And yes, I did cry.)

6. What is your favorite summer activity?

Vacationing with my family and just lazing in the sun with a good book. Oh wait, can I pick two?

7. What is something you admire about yourself?

My efforts to encourage those around me, or, I suppose, my determination/focus in certain areas.

8. Favorite Bible verse?

One of my favorites is Isaiah 41:10. "Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand."

9. Do you play video games? If so, what are your favorite games?

No, not really. Or at least, I don't consider myself a gamer. All those buttons and attacks to remember! I fail epically at anything resembling Super Smash Bros Brawl, for instance. I'm more of an Animal Crossing type of girl. Simple, no frantic fighting . . . But no, I don't play video games that often.

10. What is something you're scared to do?

Jump off a cliff, parachute, swim with sharks, get within a twenty-foot radius of a tarantula . . . Oh, you mean something deep and serious? Okay. Well, some days thoughts about the unknown future can be scary. (Hello there, college/career/BIG LIFE DECISIONS.) But it's another one of those areas where I'm learning to trust God. His plan for me is far better than anything I can dream up.

11. What is your goal this month?

May is almost over—where does time go?! But I do have a goal for the remainder of this month, and that is to finish outlining book 2, which I'm about to rewrite. Whether I make that goal or not depends on how many snags I run into during this plotting phase. But here's hoping that wave after wave of brilliance carries this outline to the smooth, sandy shore of epic story-ness!

Now 'tis my turn to come up with eleven questions and tag some more bloggers. I'm borrowing a couple of Skye's questions, but the rest are my own.

1. What's one of your favorite summer reads?
2. What's your favorite way to cool off on a hot summer day?
3. What's a combination of three authors' "special somethings" that you'd like to emulate in your own writing? (E.g., Tolkien's worldbuilding, Lewis's appeal to both children and adults with Narnia, and Bryan Davis's characters.)
4. What music are you currently listening to?
5. Which superhero (from either Marvel or DC) are you most like?
6. What's your favorite fantasy creature you've ever read about?
7. Chocolate or vanilla?
8. What's something you admire about yourself?
9. Which do you prefer: writing by hand or typing?
10. If failing was impossible, what would you do?
11. What's something God has taught you recently, new or rediscovered?

I hereby tag . . . you.

I would be specific, truly I would, but this time around, many of the bloggers I would've picked have already been tagged. So I leave it open to all of you reading this! If you've never had the Liebster tag, grab it. If you've done it too many times to count and want to do it again, grab it. If you suddenly have the urge to answer all 11 questions, or maybe just one or two catch your attention—doesn't matter. You can snatch any or all of them and do with them as you please. :) Or even just answer some in the comments. I'm curious to see what your responses are!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Beautiful People - Leander

My first Beautiful People post! Yay! These linkups are hosted by the creative geniuses, Cait and Sky. I’ve been reading people’s monthly BP posts for quite some time now, and have long dreamed of doing it myself one day.

Fellow questers, that day has arrived! (Am I not dramatic?)

But yours truly is completely new at this. I’ve been hemming and hawing over which character to use from my big fantasy work-in-progress series. Should I pick either of my two main characters, Aileen and Josiah? The burdened and noble Lord Mauray? Gruff leader of the dragons, Captain Dauntless? Rex Nelson, a pilot from book 2 whose character arc desperately needs work?

Or perhaps someone from a story that I’m not currently working on, like Will from Blood Rose? (For those of you wondering, that’s my novella retelling of Beauty and the Beast.) I just didn’t know who to pick.

But at last it came to me: Leander. He’s a talking white lion living in Demetria, a country located in another world. These ten questions fit him perfectly, as he is one of my most broken characters. His backstory is just one heartache after another. I won’t divulge it all here, but perhaps this inside look at Leander will let you and I get a better understanding of him.

1.     Does he get nightmares? If so, why or what of?

Yes. In his younger days, he had frequent nightmares of his father. These days, the occasional nightmare involving his lost daughter plagues his sleep. Those bad dreams also include a white orb called ‘the Prophet.’

2.    What is his biggest guilty pleasure/secret shame?

There can be a big difference between guilty pleasure and secret shame. He has none of the former, but the latter . . . Well, he harbors very deep regrets. Firstly, that he was unable to stop his mother’s murder; secondly, that he failed to keep his daughter safe.

3.    Is he easily persuaded or does he need more proof?

Because of his traumatic past, Leander has trust issues. He requires substantial proof, and even then he may still doubt someone.

4.    Does he suffer from any phobias? Does it affect his life in a big way?

He is extremely wary of the Prophet, since it was responsible for what happened to his daughter. If he thought it could be destroyed, he’d do it, but in reality, he fears it. This fear almost prevents him from joining two young dragons on a life-changing journey.

5.    What does he consider his “Achilles heel?”

His daughter is the chink in his armor. He’s built up walls around himself to keep from getting hurt again, but if his daughter was still around, he would do absolutely anything for her. The only way Leander could be manipulated would be through her—hence, the weakness.

6.    How does he handle a crisis?

Depends on the crisis. If it involves any of the few people he loves, he will grit his teeth and charge right into the thick of things. If the crisis affects people he doesn’t care about, or requires him to face his own personal flaws, he will run from the problem as fast as he can.

7.    Does he have a temper?

Oh, does he ever. His father was always angry, so that doesn’t help. And the tragedies Leander has faced have filled his heart with bitterness. All it takes is the smallest thing to set him off. When he finally cools down, however, he will be left with the same old broken pieces as before. That hollowness is a worse feeling than the anger.

8.    What are his core values and/or religious beliefs?

He acknowledges God’s existence, but scorns Him. What use has he for a deity who stands back and watches the world’s pain?

9.    What things does he value most in life?

Family is the most important thing to him, period. But everyone has been taken from him, leaving him a wrecked soul indeed. He also values his dignity, and cannot stand the skin he’s in.

10.What is one major event that helped shape who he is?

There are three events that shaped Leander—two that battered his heart into its current wounded shape, and one that started the journey of untwisting that heart. One: watching his father murder his mother. Two: losing his daughter. Three: a pair of dragons requesting his help on a rescue mission. It was then that his carefully constructed walls began to crumble just a bit.


Leander’s had a special place in my heart ever since I started writing book 1 of this series, way back when I was twelve. For the seven years he’s been with me, he has developed in my mind from a grumpy, reluctant lion to a creature burdened with heavy sorrows. Book 2 (that tangled mess of a draft I once called amazing—ha, what a laugh) offered me an opportunity to explore his backstory. Although represented horribly on paper, his tale does gleam brightly in that netherworld of my imagination. One day it will all be properly polished and presentable.
Oh dear, alliteration is a sign that I need to stop. Fare thee well, questers! If you’re doing this month’s Beautiful People, let me know! And either way, what are your thoughts on this bad-tempered beast? Besiege me with your brilliant—
Botheration, I did it again. (Ack, that one was unintentional! I’m done now, I promise.)


Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Tribute

I hope you all don't mind that my blogging schedule, as I'm sure you've noticed, is a flexible thing. I still aim to post every Saturday, but I'm occasionally adding a "bonus" post during the week. Such as today, because . . .

It's Mother's Day! I am blessed with an amazing mom. The best in the whole wide world, in fact. Last year I wrote her a poem for her birthday, and it suits this special day as well. I thought I'd share it here in honor of all the moms out there. You're heroes.

A Tribute            (April 23, 2014)

You should know I have a hero
Who is no caped crusader
She’s someone else entirely
But of this I must persuade her

Instead of jumping towers
And flying through the air
She embarks on covert missions
Of which most would never dare

You never know she’s coming
Until she winds up right beside you
Her work is classified, top secret
But these things I know to be quite true:

She’s a very gifted healer
In more than just one way
Her words and hands work magic
And send all illnesses away

She’s a strong and skillful warrior
With an arsenal at the ready
Her favorite weapon’s prayer
And her Director keeps her steady

She’s a family woman too
Don’t think that’s just a cover
She cares for each one in her clan
And every day they say they love her

What exactly does she do?
You might be wondering by now
Well, the answer’s pretty lengthy
But I’ll explain the what and how

She gives hope to the despairing
And reminds them of the light
She empowers the discouraged
And says that God has won the fight

She brings joy to every day
With a joke, a smile, a laugh
Can’t stay down when she’s around
Your load she cuts in half

She’s an ambassador of truth
A representative of Christ
Her life’s a glowing illustration
She knows lip service won’t suffice

She inspires, builds, and grows
She spreads the sparrow’s wings
Her life’s a tapestry of grace
And you can tell that her heart sings

In the middle of the storm
She’s a cornerstone of calm
She is the wondrous blessing
Whom I’m honored to call “Mom”

Saturday, May 9, 2015

What Are You Afraid Of?

What are you afraid of?

I don’t mean heights or small spaces or spiders or the dark or creepy clowns or waking up to find the world is purple and your dog is actually a sentient alien spying on you.

What are you truly afraid of? What are your deepest fears? Maybe you don’t even realize it, but you’re terrified of rejection, of not being loved. Maybe you’re scared of following the same sad patterns as your father or mother. Perhaps the thought of failure chills you to the bone. Or you might be scared of never having enough, never being enough.

We all have fears like that. I do.

Many of us can relate to a fear of failure. Do you ever find that the more you struggle with that fear, the more you fail? And the more you fail, the more your mistakes reinforce those fears? You look to your next endeavor, and a voice inside whispers, “You really think you’ll make it? Look what happened last time. Set your goals a little lower. That way you won’t be so disappointed when you fall short—again.”

Or say you’re afraid of loneliness, of having no friends. That fear consumes you until you wonder if maybe you’re unlovable—who would want to be with someone like you? And the more you think it, the more you see it’s true. You have no real friends. You were right all along. And the fear-monster tightens its grip.

In anything, really—not just fears—don’t you find that the more you think something, the more you see it? And the more you see it, the more it reinforces those thoughts? And as those thoughts grow stronger, you see even more evidence of them in your life? It’s an endless cycle, but it doesn’t have to be a bad one.

Because faith works indiscriminately in the positive and the negative.

We can all agree that Job had it pretty rough, yes? His livestock and servants, his material wealth—gone, poof. His children—dead under the rubble of a destroyed house. He didn’t have anything left.

Now, I know that Satan shuffled up to God and obtained his permission to test Job (and I have far more questions about that than I have answers), but it seems that Job himself played a part in bringing about his own downfall.

“What I always feared has happened to me,” he said. “What I dreaded has come true.” (Job 3:25, NLT) What was he afraid of? The first chapter of Job tells us he daily made sacrifices to atone for his children, thinking that perhaps they’d sinned and cursed God in their hearts.

He was afraid of punishment. He was afraid of destruction.

And that is exactly what swept through his life.

What we believe—really, truly, deep down believe—we attract into our lives. A person who thinks of himself as a loser attracts a loser kind of life. He finds himself gravitating toward other losers, gets a second-rate job, and sees everything through a defeated mindset. A person who thinks of himself as a winner attracts an amazing life. He starts spending time with great people who are growing and successful and encouraging. He finds doors opening, and those that don’t open, he kicks down because he knows he can. He sees life through the eyes of a winner.

The more the loser looks around at his lackluster world, and the more he listens to his crab-bucket-mentality friends, the more he sees that, “Yep, this is just how life is. This is who I am, and I shouldn’t expect anything better.” The more he thinks that, the more his world will conform to be that.

The more the winner looks around at his marvelous world, and the more his positive crowd rubs off on him, the more he sees opportunity hidden in the obstacles. He realizes that life is beautiful, that he can, and that he’s meant for great things. The more those thoughts cement themselves in his heart, the more his world will conform to back them up.

Both people may have the exact same opportunity placed before them, but the former person will look at it and think, “Oh, that’s too much. I could never do that/be that/deal with that stress. I’m just not the person for that.” And he rejects the opportunity. The latter individual will nod and say, “Wow—that’s so much more than what I’m used to, but I can do it. I can grow and develop and go to the next level in life.” He’ll walk through that door and thrive.

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7a, NKJV)

What are you afraid of? What do you think of yourself? (Those two questions are more closely related than you might think.) Those fears need to be dealt with, or else they hold the potential to kill you. Maybe not physically, but fear can draw into your life the very things you’re afraid of. Those things will destroy relationships, your thought life, and anything else they touch. Go to your Creator, lay those crippling chains at His feet, and discover His perfect love. It casts out all fear.

Afraid of rejection? God promises He’ll never leave you or forsake you. Afraid of repeating the mistakes of your parents? God says you are a new creation—the old has passed away and the new has come. Afraid of failing? God declares that you’re spotless before Him, and it has nothing to do with your successes or failures.

This love, this perfect, radiant, relentless love, drives out fear.

Knowing how loved you are gives rise to hope.

Hope of good things to come gives rise to faith.

And faith, the full confidence that what you hope for is here, now, whether or not you see it just yet . . . will draw in the physical evidence of that faith like iron to a magnet.

Fear and faith—both ask you to believe in what you cannot see.

Which will you listen to?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Things I Learned as a Child - Part 2

Apparently, I've learned so much as a child that I have enough for two posts. You can see part 1 here. Now on to part 2!


Beginner readers are boring—Anne of Green Gables, now that’s more like it. (Yes, I did read it in first grade. I will confess, however, that many of the words were way over my head.)

Flying a kite near tall trees isn’t smart.

A bicycle makes a good substitute horse when a real one can’t be found. A sister with skipping rope reins is also acceptable.

No matter how high you swing, you just can’t swing over the top bar.

Food tastes better at a picnic.

Yes, I know you're all drooling. ;)

Dads can make such a convincing deer-in-distress call (or was it buffalo…?) that the lion at the zoo will wander closer to the fence, thereby giving you a better look at it.

The flamingos at the zoo don’t have their own music—that was someone’s cell phone ringing.

Pink rubber boots worn inside the house are definitely the height of fashion.

Vacuum cleaners are not kind to toes. (I’m cheating a little bit again, since I discovered this fact as a teenager. Lots of ouch.)

There are no sharks swimming in the darkness of your bedroom, so there’s no need to race into bed quite so anxiously.

Helping your siblings open their Christmas presents only makes you look bossy on the home videos.

Getting a dragonfly caught in your hair is frightening.

Figuring out Roman numerals is an impressive feat.
When your little sister follows you around, it means she admires you, not that she wants to take over your turf. Be kind and understanding.

Wearing your pajamas to the Canada Day fireworks is definitely a treat.

Brothers are great spider-exterminators.

When playing “house” outdoors, soup made out of water, leaves, grass, gravel, and flower petals can almost look appetizing. Sort of.

A popsicle falling to the ground is a tragedy of epic proportions.

Birds are hard to sneak up on and won’t be petted.

The night of Christmas Eve is the longest of the year.

When you say sorry, mean it.

Singing “Jesus Loves Me” at the top of your lungs, while wearing a pink garbage bin over your head, in the middle of a store—well, what could be more fun? (I have no memory of this, just so you know, but my parents certainly do.)

Your big stuffed dog named Casey most certainly does get lonely when you leave her for an entire day of school. She must lie on the living room couch so that she can be around people until you return home.

Just because Mom writes in her recipe book doesn’t mean you can.

Just because Mom writes in her Bible doesn’t mean you can do that, either.

Stuffed toys are good at keeping secrets.

Dads make excellent princes (when you’re Cinderella), chiefs (when you’re a tribal warrior), kings (when you’re the evil courtier), hunters (when you’re the forest creature), and narrators (when you’re acting out a fairy tale).

It follows that a brother makes an exceptionally ugly stepsister, fellow warrior, court jester, or companion forest animal.

Sisters make great stepsisters, fellow warriors, princesses, and scared rabbits.

And moms are fabulous at doing the supper dishes so you have time to play before bed.


Little Miss Me, the gardener