Saturday, October 31, 2015

Subplots and Storylines - October 2015

You know those chunks of narrative in certain novels (particularly fantasy) that detail a long journey? Like those insanely long walks Frodo and company are always taking, or the Pevensies trekking around the island of ruined Cair Paravel in Prince Caspian? Not a whole awful lot happens, but the characters walk and walk and walk . . . or ride . . . or fly . . . or zap through portals . . . or something.

Anyway. That was my October. What I did this month was not varied, but there was a lot of it. Like walking day after day toward some epic destination, except I wasn't carrying the One Ring or discovering my castle in ruins. No. Not quite.

Basically, October was Work and Editing. Of the first there is little to say, aside from the fact that hours are picking up now that Christmas is around the corner (say what?!), so I've been getting closer to a full-time schedule. This is good. Also busy.

Of the second item, Editing, there is much to say. Too much for this particular blog post, so you will just have to twiddle your thumbs and wait for the next post. (Who twiddles their thumbs while waiting, anyway? I don't. I just shift position a lot and try to get comfortable. Or stand/sit with good posture. Sometimes those two things are not synonymous. . . . Wow. Where was I going with this?)

Moving along!

Of course, Frodo and company encounter obstacles and meet people and do interesting things along the way--they don't just walk. And the Pevensies find a creek and eat squashed sandwiches and get hot and tired and look for a way to the Narnia mainland. Little events do happen during those drawn-out narrative journeys, and little things have sprinkled my month too.

*pulls out day planner*

What, you don't keep a day planner?

Ahem. *flips through to remind herself of October happenings*

Well, there was Thanksgiving, which I celebrated at three gatherings, and which prompted a post about the many things we can be thankful for.

Mid-October, I got together with a family friend (someone whom I consider an honorary aunt and a fantastic person) to set up her blog. She wants to start one and asked me--me, a fledgling blogger myself--for help. So we had fun all afternoon, trying to get the template to work right, messing up, and then doing the work all over again. But it's a good start, and hopefully one day soon, once she's launched her blog, I can introduce her here!

Another happening on this long walk called October was a local book faire I attended, where I found three specimens.
  • The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde. (No, the last name is not a typo.) Mint condition. Cover displays a bug car parked on dragon skin, so . . . very large dragons may be contained within? The blurb looked interesting--main character works at an employment agency for magicians, but the land's magic is drying up. (Let's hope the dollar store sticker on the back doesn't mean it's a cheap story.)
  • Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones. Previously a library book. Cover looks very 90's. But ever since I heard a bunch of friends raving over Howl's Moving Castle, I've been scouring every book faire for anything by this author. This is obviously not HMC. But it is Diana Wynne Jones.
  • Cyndere's Midnight by Jeffrey Overstreet. Almost mint condition. And I adore the series, so I was thrilled to find the second installment for $4.50 instead of $15.99. Have any of you read the Auralia's Colors books, by the way? What did you think about them?
Adventures of a Film-ish Variety
Avengers: Age of Ultron: I'd already seen it in theaters, but the very day it released to DVD, my brother and I hurried out to buy it . . . and proceeded to watch it twice in the same weekend. No regrets. Pure awesomeness all the way.

Disney's Descendants: Watched it with my two sisters, chuckled at some parts, winced at some of the songs.

Tomorrowland: I was pleasantly surprised! It wasn't what I expected, but it was nevertheless quite good. Even funny at times. And one scene near the climax was incredibly thought-provoking. I was hanging on every word of the villain's monologue. (Yes, there was a villain monologue. But it did offer some intriguing food for thought about how we give power to what we focus on.) I'd definitely recommend this film!

Adventures of a Bookish Variety
I read five this month! That's about my average, so it feels better than the measly three I managed last month.

Messenger by Lois Lowry: It wasn't bad. It also wasn't super amazingly good, either. I feel like so far, the first book (The Giver) was the best, Gathering Blue was second-best, and this one settled into third place. Let's hope that Son, book 4, changes this downward slope. Although I do have to admit that the trading concept in Messenger was interesting, and the ending was somewhat unexpected.

Paige Rewritten by Erynn Mangum: Funny! Romantic! Fluffy without feeling like cotton candy! As in, it was fluffy without being overly sappy or sugary or . . . You know what, my analogies are just not functioning today. Never mind.

Mrs. Jeffries Reveals Her Art by Emily Brightwell: Apparently I haven't read any of these mysteries since last winter. Oops. There's a ton of books in this series, and I'm progressing through it at a rather sedate pace. Every now and then, a good old London mystery is a nice way to deviate from my usual genres. I thought I predicted the outcome this time--I truly did--but I was completely wrong. Again. Am I the only one who tries to figure out the mystery before the characters do? And am I the only one who tends to fail miserably? I gauge the suspects, but I also gauge the author. "I think this character is the murderer, but is that because the author wants me to think that? And if she wants me to think it's him, that means it's probably someone else, right? Like that person over there--he doesn't seem suspicious at all. IT'S PROBABLY HIM. But then, it could be the obvious choice, hiding right under my nose . . ."

Emissary by Thomas Locke: Hands down, this was my favorite read this month! It took me a bit to get into it, for whatever reason, but once I did, my goodness. It was a tightly packed bundle of so much high fantasy awesomeness, I don't even know where to start. First off, a good fantasy instantly makes me feel at home in some way, which Emissary did. And then there was the spine-tingling magic! I wouldn't say it functioned in a particularly unique way, but its vibrancy definitely made up for that. But the plot! And the characters! So good! Interestingly enough, I had a bit of trouble connecting to Hyam, the main character, at first. But as the book progressed, I fell in love with him and the others . . . Joelle, Master Trace (hah! it's almost my name!), the elves . . . Basically everyone. The POV was handled a bit more distantly than perhaps I'm used to, but Hyam's selfless actions spoke louder than his thoughts or words. He is wonderful. Go read this book. And then wait impatiently with me for the sequel coming out next year.

A Templar's Apprentice by Kat Black: This was a reread, but seeing as I read it eons ago, my memory of it didn't outpace my reading. Meaning, certain things were familiar as I came upon them, but not once did my recollections spoil the ending for me. Ha. Funny how that works sometimes. Anyway, it's a good little book that begins in medieval Scotland, and follows thirteen-year-old Tormod as he becomes apprenticed to a Knight Templar. There was a teensy bit of language, as well as some sketchy spirituality. (After meeting some Arabs who serve Allah, Tormod concludes that everyone worships the same God in different but entirely acceptable ways. This message doesn't have a lot of bearing on the story, though.)

In Summary
October didn't seem to fly by as rapidly as previous months, but it didn't stick around for long, either. I managed to read and watch some epic things to go along with my not-quite-as-epic walk, a.k.a. Work and Editing. Plus there were some fun goings-on in between. Oh! And if you missed it, I hosted my very first interview with a talented artist last week. You can read it HERE. So all in all, October was a satisfying month.
How was yours? Busy? Quiet? Were you trekking across the Misty Mountains, slogging on one step at a time, feeling as if no end was in sight? Or was the plot of your life more like all the interesting and varied and rapid-fire bits of a tale? (I think I just need to shut off my analogy side for a while. NONE of the analogies in this post have made much sense.) And perhaps the biggest question of all: are you participating in NaNoWriMo National Leave Your Sanity Behind Month? (I, sadly, am not. I never have. Yet. One of these years, I shall!)
Do tell in the comments!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Interview with Artist Kianna Giesbrecht

I am about to burst with excitement, questers! Because today marks a momentous day in the history of the world! (Or, you know, the history of my little slice of the internet. Same thing.) Today I have the privilege of hosting my very first interview!

This particular adventurer is a dear friend of mine whom I've known for years. She's a fellow creator, but not only does she write: she also dances and arts. (Which is most definitely a verb, okay? People art. She arts amazingly.) Her sketches and paintings are stunning, and the craziest thing is that she basically taught herself. I know there are probably more artists than writers among my readers, but some things hold true no matter what creative medium you choose.

She possesses a dry, quirky wit and a brilliant smile and a soft heart. I think you'll find the following chat rather inspiring. Plus ALL THE PRETTY PICTURES. Petting is allowed. Stealing is not. Ahem, carry on.

Ladies and gentlemen, questers and adventurers and journeymen and traveling minstrels, I give you . . . Kianna!
Self-portrait of Kianna


Tell us a little about yourselfpersonality, hobbies, favorite dessert, anything!
Hi. My name is Kianna Giesbrecht, I'm 20 years old, and here's a little randomness about me:
I'm a neat person, though when it comes to painting I somehow manage to get paint all over myself. When I draw, my pencils tend to end up in my hair, behind my ears, and/or in my mouth.

My first painting I ever did on canvas, as opposed to cardboard or whatever I could find, I think was when I was ten. And it was a copy, off of a pot holder we have, of the Buchard Gardens. At that time I had no idea it was a real place, only that it was pretty. I showed my dad and he recognized it (so I guess it wasn't bad :)) and he said, "Hey, I've been there."

I like to draw people. It's funny, 'cause often I've gotten the comment that "aren't people hard to do?" I dunno. I've been drawing people my whole life. I really like the expressions of a person. Maybe that's why I favor that art subject.

I love eyes. LOVE eyes! They hold such character, mystery, and beauty.

I like tigers. My favorite color is green. I love sunsets and thunderstorms and butterflies. I like to bake. I'm a daydreamer. I love the fall. I love cold weather. I like dance and listening to different genres of music. I love the sound of violins and the saxophone! I sometimes write poems. I love dabbling in writing novels. I like fantasy, fiction, mysteries! I like old school animated Disney classics: Tarzan, Treasure Planet, Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, Aladdin, Peter Pan, Robin Hood, etc.

I was homeschooled from grade 2-12. (Awesome!)

I LOVE vanilla ice cream! I'm a little claustrophobic, dyslexic, random, and weird. And I love hugs!

How long have you been drawing and painting?
I've been doing art for as long as I can remember. I started with scribbles and coloring and making little doll houses out of cereal boxes.

What made you start?
I dunno. I was never put into art classes or anything. Art was something I simply did. It wasn't something I necessarily understood to be art at the time, only that I loved to create. It was fun. Made me feel good. The one place where I made sense as a struggling school student, and I could be free to express myself in the only way I knew how.

What do you love most about creating art?
I think what I love most is that it's your own. You can study and learn the techniques, but ultimately how you apply them is up to you. Art is a storyit should tell a storyand that story is yours, your decisions. And that's something I absolutely love about it. It's passion that can be expressed in so many different and creative ways. It's only as limited as your imagination. It's something you can share with people. It's a vulnerable, personal, beautiful thing. Your talent is a gift from God. What you do with that talent is your gift to him. So between you and himfrom one artist to anotherto create something is like nothing you could experience from anything else.

What inspires you?
Inspiration is a funny thing. It can hit you or it can seemingly hide from you. And I realize it's different for everyone personally. But art is a privilege. Poetry in color. A mystery not meant to be solved. ART IS EMOTION. So: whatever moves you.

I get inspired by anything. Whether it's something I heard, like a quote for example, that begins to form a picture in likeness to the words that dawned the inspiration. Or, say, the screeching of a train slowing down. Reminds me of nails down a chalkboard . . . Ooh, shiver . . . Or like claws. Yes. So right away I get this bud of a picture, thinking how I could interpret something really cool from that. (I think of Fantasia, how shorts are created by the aroused imagination through music. That kind of symbolic art is cool.)

If I'm sad, I'll draw or paint in reflection of that, same if I were happy. But both of those opposite ends of the scale are things that equally excite me.

I LOVE COLOR. I love creating things that pop, but things that are interesting to me and not necessarily usual. As well, I love to create things in the reverse; that are gray; are an intriguing image of pain, or hope, or anger, even strangenessmeaning something very unique, very creative-licenced. I believe art is a safe place to express any emotion. It's simply giving face to whatever I'm feeling.


What's the hardest part of an art project?
For me it totally depends on the projectespecially my mood. If I'm frustrated, I have to take a break or I'll probably ruin it. But then it's always an experiment for me, and I've been realizing, even if it takes a dozen tries, it's never a waste as long as I learn something.

If I wanna draw something that I don't know how it's supposed to look, that's a very hard part of any project. But that's why I'll look up references, snap pictures, pose my head so I can copy itwhatever. Nature is the best teacher. And art is a journey. You never 'arrive,' which I think that's the beauty of it. It's about the climb; about amazing yourself. Gary Jenkins likes to say, "Art is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you're going to get."
There's definitely things that I like to draw less than others. Such as hair. Hair is not my favorite thing to draw most days. But nothing is so hard, for me, or challenging rather, than first getting the outline right in order for the later fill of details to turn out.

The most satisfying?
Stepping back to take in the finished project and being amazed at myself. The gratification of the reaction of friends and family touches the heart like nothing else. But mostly to say, "I did that," to amaze myself, even if midway through the project I feared wouldn't turn out right. That is a very beautiful, very satisfying thing indeed.

Where people/experiences have helped you grow as an artist?
Friends and family have always encouraged me with my art. (Which is a needed natural nourishment.) Without that I don't think I would've developed my self-taught art as I have. So their support has naturally influenced my growth. But recently I've had the privilege to do some illustration for family. It's challenged me in a very new but good way. Being able to give face to my own ideas is awesome in and of itself, but then also to experience giving face to someone else's ideas is very exciting. To assist in something so unique as someone else's imagination is incredible.

Where do you hope to go with your art?
First of all, art is such a big part of who I amit is meit gives me a voice. It's something I can't imagine doing without. But I honestly don't know where I hope my art to go. Naturally I'd love to do it full-time, and I have had half a dozen paid requests and several requested gifts.

Illustration is something I'm interested in, or simply filling requests. All I really know is that I want my art to mean something to people.

Any encouragement for fellow artists and creative people?
Art comes in so many different forms (acting, photography, dance, music, baking, fashion, whatever!). And art is for everyone. So if you wanna do itdo it. But be you. Explore. Experiment. Enjoy! Embrace your passion and bask in its beauty.

Now, if you're like me, it's not always something beautiful.
"Creativity takes courage." Henri Matisse
So if you're feeling unappreciated, remember you're smart and talented. Someone is cheering for you. Always.

Never give up on what makes you smile!

"Never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do." H. Jackson Brown, Jr. 
"Creativity is intelligence having fun." Albert Einstein
So dare to dream, to be vulnerable, bold, courageous. Get excited! God is. He wants to be a part of what you do. Art is loose. Your gift. Free. Beautiful. A perspective on life, and what you make of it.

Say it with me: "I'M (you're) AWESOME."

Fan that flame.

someone like you


Thanks so much for joining us and sharing your heart, Kianna! I love how you said that God is excited about our dreams, dreams that He's given us. He's even more excited about it than we are. And that is truly mind-blowing.

Well, readers, I wish I could link you to a slice of internet belonging to Kianna, but alas, she dwells in the mysterious land of No Internet. The Q&A you just read was copied off an exchange of good old-fashioned handwritten letters. But do drop a comment here for herI'll be printing off everything to give her a hard copy later, and we'll see if I can find a way for her to personally respond to all of you too.

I know you're bursting already with comments and questions, so I'll shut up and let you have it!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Bedtime Book Tag

Time for another tag! This one, the Bedtime Book Tag, is from my good friend Sarah @ Ink and Paper Tall Ship. She's a university student by day and an epic writer/blogger by night . . . a.k.a. she's a superhero. Go check out her bookish blog!

1. What book kept you up all night reading?
I don't actually stay up all night reading, but some books do keep me up later than I should be on occasion. The Solitary Tales series by Travis Thrasher was definitely one of those page-turners that kept the lights on. They're just such fast, intense reads!

2. What books make you scared to fall asleep?
Boneman's Daughters by Ted Dekker. While I wasn't fully afraid or anything, it did give me the creeps. This one is NOT a bedtime story, people. I mean, there's a creepy whacko who kidnaps flawless girls and breaks their bones one at a time . . .

3. What book almost put you to sleep?
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. I know it's a classic, and I know it shaped the modern American novel and all that--but I found it boring. And depressing. Granted, it was forced upon me as a high school assignment, but still. Couldn't the curriculum writers pick more interesting books?

4. What book has you tossing and turning in anticipation for its release?
Good question! I am eagerly awaiting the release of Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Poison Crown, but that won't be until 2017 or possibly later, for reasons detailed here. In the meantime, I am of course looking forward to her Ridiculously Huge Project--a 12 book series she plans to draft in ONE YEAR. (She is a fairy with magical powers, I'm convinced.)
I'm also waiting to get my hands on Beyond the Gateway by Bryan Davis! (Although I have yet to snatch up Reapers, the first book in the series.)
I'm holding my breath over Mirror of Souls by Wayne Thomas Batson (in both a good way and a "I sure hope this is good" way).
And I feel like there are lots more I'm looking forward to, but they're just not coming to me at the moment.

5. What book has your dream boyfriend/girlfriend?
I don't usually think of characters in terms like that, but I suppose there are a number of them that exhibit worthy qualities. Many of Bryan Davis's male characters are noble and kind and chivalrous: Billy Bannister, Elam, Nathan Shepherd, Adrian and Jason Masters, etc.
Paul Falcon of Full Disclosure (by Dee Henderson), though much too old for me, is super thoughtful and mature in the way he pursues his gal. I don't know! This is a hard question. And apparently I can't give just one answer to these questions.

6. What book would be your worst nightmare to live in?
I would die in The Hunger Games. Probably within the first sixty seconds.
Depression and vitamin D deficiency would do me in if I was forced to stay in City of Ember. I need my sunlight!
And to tell you the truth, as epic as it would be to live in a high fantasy book world, those places are perilous! I think I'd freak out. Especially if I was one of those chosen, special types, tasked with saving the WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD. (Where's a Gandalf when you need one?!)

7. What book has a nightmarish cliffhanger?
Timescape by Robert Liparulo (the fourth book in the Dreamhouse Kings series). I almost threw the book across the room, that's how cliffhanger-y the cliffhanger was.

8. What book cover reminds you of nighttime?
Emissary by Thomas Locke, the book I've currently got my nose in, has a stunning cover that fits the bill.

9. What book have you actually dreamed about?
Sadly, I haven't directly dreamed about any books before. I wish I did, because I love immersing myself in story worlds. The closest thing I've come to experiencing a bookish place in my dreams is this. Prepare yourself for a longwinded description.

A large green dragon was at my house to have supper with my family. This was an entirely acceptable occurrence during the dream, you see, because dreams are funny that way.

Anyway, sometime after dinner I headed downstairs for bed. The dragon was lounging by the stairs--I've no idea how he fit in the hallway, but as I said, dream-logic is often rather illogical--with his long neck draped over the bannister. I paused on the stairs to converse with him. You see, during supper he'd alluded to something about me having dragon wings. "How am I supposed to get wings?" I asked him.

He regarded me solemnly and said, "You just need to believe." (Yes. He really did say that. When I woke up later, I had to laugh at the cheesiness, but during the dream this statement carried grave weight.)

I went to sleep pondering his words.

The following morning, I awoke before the rest of my family. The dragon was gone. I went outside and stood on the front porch and inhaled the cool air of a summertime morning. With the dragon's admonition ringing in my mind, I closed my eyes and believed. Simply and effortlessly, just like that.

And I felt a pair of dragon wings unfurl from my back.

The next part of the dream is probably the most vivid. I can clearly recall the exultation as I tried out my new wings. The first tentative flaps. Rising the first few feet into the air, then higher and higher over the street. Feeling my heart lurch as I nearly fell, only to regain altitude. Flying over the town as it stirred for a new day. I finally landed half a block from home, and discovered that the wings vanished when I didn't need them. Somehow I knew they'd return when I needed them again.

And then I woke up.

So in case you haven't realized, that dream was drawn from elements of Bryan Davis's Dragons in Our Midst series. It remains one of my favoritest, epic-est dreams of ever.

10. What book monster would you not want to find under your bed?
Shelob, or any of those Mirkwood spiders, really. I don't have an affinity for normal little Canadian spiders, so an eight-legged beastie big enough to probably haul my bed away? GET THEE AWAY FROM ME.

There you have it! Thanks for the fun tag, Sarah! I'm always up for an excuse to talk about books.
And now I tag:

Christine @ Musings of an Elf
Candice Willimas @ O Ye Scribes

Clare @ Clare's Spot
Plus anyone who wants to pilfer this tag for themselves!

Monday, October 12, 2015

"Thank God for Something"

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians! We have so much to be thankful for on this journey: big, life-encompassing things along with the little daily shards of glory we encounter.

Some of the big things I'm thankful for . . .

  • My amazing Savior, whose depth I couldn't plumb even in a thousand lifetimes. For Him I am grateful.
  • My family. They are Home and Love and a Safe Place to Be. I am grateful for them.
  • My friends. People who 'get' me, on whichever level our friendship is--they know me. I know them. I am grateful.
  • Health. I'm grateful.
  • A nation in which I can worship God freely, contribute to how the country is run, and live in relative safety. I'm grateful.
  • Every single church service, message, book, devotional, or Bible study that has given me something to chew on. I'm grateful.
And there are hundreds of little things that bring a smile of thanks to my face. If I tried to list them all, we'd be here for days and I still wouldn't be done. Lately I've been thankful for . . .

  • The sound of a friend's voice over the phone.
  • Hugs.
  • Yellow leaves whirling down to rest on the front lawn.
  • A bicycle ride.
  • A shared joke.
  • Soft carpet beneath my bare toes.
  • The smell of coffee grounds.
  • Songs that perfectly express how I feel.
  • Blank notebook pages waiting to be written in.
  • Flowers still blooming in mid-October.
  • Happy customers at work.
  • Buttered fresh bread.
  • A favorite scarf.
  • Compliments given and received.
  • The beautiful browns and burgundies and golds and reds of autumn.
  • Sleeping in and lingering over breakfast with my family.
  • A stack of books.
  • Barbecues.
  • My sisters' giggling across the house.
  • Conversations with my brother.
  • The voice of a cello filling the vehicle as I drive home from work.
  • A movie that instantly becomes one of those happy places, a comfort film you know you'll watch again whenever you need a pick-me-up.
  • A stunning sunrise.
  • And all of you readers and commenters--I'm thankful for you!
It's been said that if you wake up in the morning complaining, you'll have little time to be thankful. But if you wake up and choose to be thankful, you'll find you have little time for complaining. It's all about your outlook. You may not be able to change your circumstances or the people around you, but you can control how you see them.

"In everything, give thanks . . ." Not for everything (we aren't thankful for catastrophe or illness or strife), but in everything. In the midst of the struggle or heartache, we can find something worth being thankful for. And when we do, we'll find the hard times much easier to bear.

What big or small things are you grateful for today?

Saturday, October 10, 2015



We say it before meals. A ballerina has it. A girl is named it. It's a noun. It's a verbthe king will grace us with his presence. And it's a word sprinkled throughout the New Testament.

What is it really?

The best definition I've found for grace is unmerited favor.

Unmerited: unearned, not worked for, not deserved in any way.

Favor: excessive kindness or unfair partiality; preferential treatment.

This is what God extends toward us. And so many of us, having sung songs like Amazing Grace hundreds of times and having heard dozens of sermons on the topic, are desensitized to just how utterly, amazingly, mind-boggling this is. We've heard this all our lives. So we tune out. We disregard the subject as being basic. Let's get to the more challenging stuff, right?

Truth is, we've barely grasped the fringe of it. Oftentimes the basics are the deepest, most profound parts of our faithelements that take a lifetime and more to truly dig into.

Graceunmerited favoris what grew inside a teenaged girl's womb.

Grace is what walked the planet, confining God to the limits of human skin.

Grace is what touched untouchable lepers.

Grace is what fed thousands of people who, not long after, would desert the One who fed them.

Grace is what turned itself over to be crucified on a Roman cross.

Grace is what looks at you, in all the dirt of your failings and the scars of your wrongs, and smiles and says, "You are flawless."

We have watered down this concept of grace. It's too good to be true, so we add our own "truth" to it. We say there's grace for the sinner, and after that? Well, you'd better work for it. God gives you a slice of grace when you choose to follow Him, and then you must tread carefully, so as not to use it all up. Because there's only so and so much of it. If you go too far (and we all draw different lines of what that is), if you make too many mistakes, or too large of a mistake . . . You'd best hope there's enough mercy left for you.

It sounds ludicrous to say it so bluntly. But many of us, without realizing, think this way. And in so doing, we scoff at a grace so dearly bought, and say, "It's not enough."

"It's not enough. Jesus' work on the cross is not really a finished work; surely I must add something to it. Surely there's an if or a when attached."

But grace is not a well, able to dry up after so much use. Grace is a waterfall, an unending supply of lavish kindness that is completely undeserved.

Expecting parents couldn't be more excited for their coming child. They prepare a nursery, buy clothes and toys and blankets, read books on how to care for it. And when the baby arrives, oh, the joy! This baby keeps them up at night, soils its diapers, spits up on things, wails to high heaven, and generally does nothing at all to deserve any love. And yet those parents would give their very lives for their child.

That's the kind of love, the kind of grace, God has toward you and me. We've done absolutely nothing to earn it. How could we? Even if we lived to the very best of our ability, put in our highest effort, how could any of it even tip the scales toward an even balance? How could it even begin to match the weight of grace? To even try is to negate its very meaning.

And that baby? When it starts learning to walk, only to fall down again and again? Mom and Dad don't scold it. They don't smack it upside the head and say, "Why can't you learn to walk straight without tripping? Get it together!" No, they cheer their child on. "You can do it! Come on, that's it. Look at youyou're doing so well!"

When we fall, our Father picks us up and cheers us on. In fact, it's that grace that enables and empowers us to learn to walk.

Let's rediscover the meaning of grace, my friends.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Six (Mostly Odd) Tips for Making Up Names

PREAMBLE: Before I created this blog, I had visions of regularly posting writing tips. I love soaking up more knowledge about the writing craft, and I've learned some things on my own journey that I want to share at some point. And here we are, with a six-month old blog, and there is not one writing advice post to be found. Today that changes!


Have you ever met a character with a name that is perfectly, utterly their own? A name that fits their soul, be it black and twisted, or good and true? A name that adds just the right flavor to the mix of personality traits and quirks and mannerisms? A name that you cannot encounter anywhere else without calling to mind that specific person?

Aslan. Frodo. Bartholomew Thorne. Katniss Everdeen. Wizard Fenworth. Sir Eanrin. Sherlock Holmes. Dustfinger. Eugene Fitzherbert. Halt. Marsuvees Black. Tris Prior. Scout. Clefspeare. Mary Poppins. Huckleberry Finn. Cinderella. Ebenezer Scrooge.

And places: Narnia, Parumvir, Dol Guldur, Araluen, Inkworld, Oz, Panem . . .

None of these people or places would be the same without the name that means them.

Have you ever struggled to conjure that Perfect Name for your own place or character? I have, many times. Specifically in fantasy, when you have the opportunity to make up words, thinking of a good name can be hard, and sometimes the keyboard smash just doesn't work. Calling someone Lsyiutypaosk gets tiresome!

My methods of name-creation are a tad unconventional. I'm not promising they'll produce something as legendary as any of the previously mentioned names, but perhaps you'll find something new to try next time good old Anonymous needs a title.

(Just a clarification: most of these methods work best for fantasy/sci-fi.)

1. Baby name books/websites
Buy a book of baby names or look up baby naming sites online. Many provide name origins and meanings, which can be very helpful. If you know your character has, say, Japanese blood, you can search for Japanese names. I did this with Emi of Blood Rose, my Beauty and the Beast retelling. The best part is that Emi means beauty . . . perfect for the Beauty character, right?

Other examples of mine include:
  • Aileen // light
  • Josiah // fervent fire of God
  • Demetria (nation) // abundant and plentiful
  • Leander // lion man
Even if the origin and meaning don't matter to you, just having long lists of names to read can give you more ideas than you could ever use.

Sarah @ Sarah, Plain & Average has a series of posts called What's in a Name? in which she showcases names along with their pronunciation, origin, and meaning; and she includes a picture to go with it. (Great character inspiration! Go check it out!)

2. Etymology of words
This one is odd. Go to the dictionary (I prefer a physical one). Look up words that have to do with the character you're naming. Read the etymology of the word, and see if any of those strange word-ghosts strike your fancy. Sometimes you'll have more luck flipping through for random words and their etymologies, and using that.

For instance, my world of Alewar needed fantastical names for months of the year. For January, I looked up cold and found this before the definition:
cold \ 'kōld \ adj [ME, fr. OE ceald, cald; akin to OHG kalt cold, L gelu frost, gelare to freeze]
My thought process: So I could use that Old English ceald or cald . . . but nah, I don't like the sound of that. Old High German's kalt? Nope, too guttural. Gelu from Latin? Meh . . . But gelare, that sounds fantasy-ish to me. I could use that. And thus January in Alewar is called Gelare. It doesn't matter if readers never find out the meaning behind it. I know.

Another example: I wanted the dragons in Alewar to have polite forms of address amongst each other. Ma'am and sir are much too human, so I set about creating different words. Rather than distinguish each other by gender, the dragons emphasize one another's breath. (FYI, they breathe either fire, water, or ice.) Here's what I did for the fire dragons:
coal \ 'kōl \ n, often attrib [ME col, fr. OE; akin to OHG & ON kol burning ember, IrGael gual coal]
The one that stuck out to me was kol--not only is it short, but it looks good and it's pronounced (in my mind, anyway) exactly like coal, making it easy for readers to associate it with fire dragons.

3. Translation
Similar to #2, this method takes words that (ideally) mean something about your character, and translates it into other languages until you find something that clicks. Google Translate makes this really easy.

For a race of lizard-like creatures in Alewar, I think I looked up contradict in other languages, and found econtra. (It may have been Spanish. I don't know; it was a long time ago.) Contradict wasn't my first choice of word, but methods like these often find me deviating from my original search. I probably looked up evil, antagonist, and opponent first; didn't find anything I liked; and moved on to synonyms, and synonyms of synonyms. All that matters is that I found a word that worked. The econtra serpents are now a major part of book 1.

More recently I was helping Christine rename one of her characters, a beautiful fae creature who haunts a castle. Naturally, one of the first words I translated was fairy. Because her story had a fairy tale setting, I tried languages like Welsh and Icelandic. The first yielded a mouthful: tylwyth teg. The second resulted in another mouthful: ævintýri. I suggested fiddling with it, making it Aevin or Vintyri. Christine appreciated the suggestions, but wound up finding a softer-sounding name, which fit her character much better. . . . And I took Vyntyri (with a slight spelling change) for myself.

4. Word scrambling
Less complicated and a lot more random than the previous methods is good old word scrambling! Whether you pick a word at random, or select one more deliberately, all you do is play around with the letters. Let's say you're naming an elven princess--you may want to fiddle with soft, melodic words. Or if it's a villain, find harsh, dark words to cut up and put back together.

Examples from my writing: A city called Mevon came from the first part of November spelled backwards. The nation of Klandess is really clandestine with a few alterations. A character named Sir Neves Ember got his first name from seven spelled backwards. Creatures called xenyls are from scrambled letters of lynx, with an added E to make it pronounceable.

Take a few letters from one word and a syllable from another and see what happens! Spell something backwards. Scramble the letters. Sometimes it just doesn't work, but other times it yields exactly what you need.

5. Plain old creativity
You are a writer. You are a creative being. Sometimes when you need a name, you just have to make it up.

Try to keep it pronounceable. Don't be too complicated. Lots of vowels may look like a beautiful Tolkien-elf name, but show it to some friends first and see if they can say it correctly. Likewise, too many consonants can drag the name into gibberish territory. Apostrophes within a name . . . use with moderation, please.

Be wild. Be creative. But in the end, make sure the name works, and make sure we can say it. I include a pronunciation guide in my WIP fantasy series, but my hope is that readers (I'm talking about the nerdy sort like me that actually care to know the right way to say a made-up word!) won't need to refer to it over and over again.

6. Keyboard smash
When all else fails . . . pound the keyboard and see what you can salvage! If nothing else, it gives you an outlet for that authorial frustration.


How do you come up with names for characters, locations, or objects? Do any of these methods appeal to you?