Thursday, June 30, 2016

Subplots and Storylines - June 2016

I'm pretty sure I just wrote one of these S&S posts last week, yet here I am writing another one. I'm really not sure where June went. Presumably to that land shrouded in mist and starlight, that land to which all days and weeks and months must travel eventually . . . a land from which there is no return. The Land of Yesterdays.

*cue eerie music*

But before June slipped away to that scary place, it offered a joyful fruit salad of summer happiness. (Fruit salad? I have no idea what I'm talking about. I shouldn't write things when I'm overtired.)

June was a month of  little family get-togethers, ice cream, barbecues, bike rides, and sun tanning. Rain made a regular appearance in between warm, muggy afternoons. One day we went to the local fair type thing . . . I went on only two rides: one I loved and one which my stomach regretted afterwards.

A bit of romance appeared in the form of a cousin's bridal shower and a friend's wedding (the friend for whom I helped fold origami flowers, if you recall).

I helped chaperone my siblings' youth event, an Amazing Race-style game across town. It made me feel old, I tell ya, having all these kiddos yammering in the backseat of my vehicle. The event was pretty fun, though, and I was sorely tempted to compete with the youth in our last stop, the shoot-three-balloons-with-a-pellet-gun stage.

I took a first aid class (required for my new position at work). I hope I never have to use these skills, but it's good to know them just in case.

My brother graduated high school, so of course we threw a party for him. He MC'd it himself--needless to say, I laughed till I cried. He's now working at his first job, and I'm so proud of him.

Earlier in the month--I know I'm all over the place here, but bear with me--he and I had our college interviews . . . and we both got accepted! I don't think I've mentioned much about my fall plans, have I? Here's the scoop. We'll be taking a leadership/Bible program together. It offers a really practical, hands-on approach with lots of getting involved in church ministries. The Bible school aspect of it goes side by side with learning leadership: people skills, management, personal growth, building and leading a team, working on projects, etc. I'm going to have a very busy schedule during those nine months, especially since I plan to keep a couple shifts a week at my job, but I have a feeling it will fly by. And honestly, I'm so excited for it!

You can see the paint can picture behind us. :)
Another June happening was my friend Kianna's art gala. (I interviewed her a while back.) It was amazing to see an entire wall of her work displayed at the art center for public enjoyment. Some of the pieces were new ones I hadn't seen yet. One of my favorite paintings depicted a bunch of paint cans, with girls made of paint leaping out in joyous splashes.

Movies & TV

My sisters and I began Once Upon a Time season 4--we've seen the first five episodes so far. I wasn't too sure about the Frozen elements at first, but I'm getting used to it, and there are plenty of other awesome (or terrible, depending on how you look at it) things happening too. And a certain new character's charm/lack of manners/apparent lack of intelligence is providing amusement.

The only other thing I watched this month was Zootopia, and I. LOVED. IT. It's always great when you can appreciate a story on almost every level--the storytelling, the plot, the characters, the music, the humor, etc. This was one of those. The only downsides were a smattering of mild language, a naturalists club in which the animals run around in natural form (as in without clothing--it was kinda funny, but might be bothersome for some viewers), and you could interpret the movie's message as one of tolerance/just-embrace-everything-because-it's-okay. I choose to see the positive spin of the message, so all in all, I really enjoyed the movie. And I loved how Judy Hopps was voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin. I could totally picture Once Upon a Time's Snow White saying some of her lines. Oh oh, and Nick Wilde was the BEST and totally reminded me of the fox version of Robin Hood. If you haven't watched Zootopia yet, go see it.


Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz // Book 3 in the Alex Rider series.

Even Alex admits in this book that he's like a fourteen-year-old James Bond, and that's a pretty accurate description of this series so far. (I haven't watched James Bond, but hush.) MI6 keeps forcing Alex into dangerous missions, he gets a new set of gadgets with each book (like chewing gum that expands so you can use it to bust a lock, or a GameBoy that's really a bomb), and he performs outlandish stunts at every turn. It's like one of those summer flicks that you just watch for fun, not expecting much depth or realism. That being said, this book was a definite improvement over the first two, and seemed to break away a bit from the previous plot formulas.

Fresh strawberries and ice cream paired with the final chapters of a
beloved book. ALL THE HAPPY.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke // an amazing book of epic, 1,006-page proportions.

This took me three weeks to read, and I finished last night, reading the final chapters as fast as I could to see how it would all end. It's obviously a very long book, but like one of the reviews printed at the beginning of it said, it doesn't feel long. Somehow, almost every scene manages to be interesting and engaging. The character development is seriously top-notch, and I looked up halfway through the book to realize that I love a number of characters, but all of them are very flawed and not immediately likable. Norrell and Strange are both arrogant, but Norrell is fearful while Strange is reckless. I'd list some secondary characters too, but it's best you discover them for yourselves.

The novel takes place in 1800's England, during the Napoleonic Wars. Magic is long dead, reduced to the arguments of theoretical magicians who do nothing but study magical texts. And then Mr. Norrell comes along with ambitions of reviving true, practical English magic. Throw in some advisors who are about as useful as a broken foot, a new pupil in the form of Mr. Strange, and the story is well on its merry way.

Things take a much darker turn around part two as Faerie elements weave their way in. Let me tell you, the villain is someone you will desperately want to throttle. And magic, as the magicians discover, is far more dangerous than they ever knew.

That's all I shall say on the plot front, folks. Can't have any spoilers! I still don't know how I feel about the ending, though . . . It was good. It was bittersweet. It was probably the best ending JS&MN could've had, and it fit the overall tone of the book. (I sound like I don't like it, which is untrue. I'm just processing everything. When it takes you this long to recover from a book, you know it left an impact.)

Oh, before I move on: CHILDERMASS IS AWESOME. If you've read the book, you probably know why I like him.

Thanks to Sarah for speaking so highly of this book that I picked it up at a secondhand book faire, and to Deborah for flailing with me about it as I read it!

Writing & Blogging

It's been a productive month, thanks to the 100-for-100 challenge held by Go Teen Writers. I'm in such a research-heavy portion of The Prophet's Key that if it weren't for the daily goal of putting in at least 100 words, I would probably have fallen into the quagmire of procrastination and slow progress commonly associated (at least for me!) with research. I set an alarm on my phone to go off at 8 pm every day as a reminder to write those words. Most days I hadn't written anything yet when the alarm went off. Some nights found me in my PJ's, spending five minutes pumping out a couple new paragraphs just to meet the goal before bed. But so far I haven't missed a day (except for a couple of grace days--I'm allowed one per week.)

So. I wrote 12,085 words this month. Yay! On top of that, I researched British Columbia, Beaver planes, transatlantic flights, and Scotland. I'm by no means done with any of those topics, but I've acquired enough knowledge to actually be able to write this part of the first draft and feel like I have a slight inkling of what's going on. Come editing time, I'll be researching all over again to verify facts and flesh things out.

I was able to speak to a pilot friend of ours to get some tips on what could go wrong with a Beaver plane (yayyy for putting obstacles in front of your characters!). And I'm currently going back and forth with the lovely writer/blogger Emily about Scotland. She lives there, and was very willing to help me out with researching her beautiful country. (Thanks again, Em!)

I also made the decision to cut a character. Completely. It was a hard choice, especially since this guy has been around since the original draft from four years ago. But I've been struggling to juggle the larger-than-I'm-used-to cast, and it's just going to get bigger as the story goes on. I realized that my pilot Rex Nelson, whom I have never introduced to you guys, was not truly necessary, so I'll be assimilating the important parts of him into other people. Mr. Hawkins will get a pilot's license and outdoorsman skills. An injury that happens to Mr. Hawkins will now actually happen to Aileen. A potential romantic thread I'd been planning for Rex will be given to a different side character from book 1. Rex's epic character arc will be integrated into that of the aforementioned side character. Etc.

That last bit about the character arc . . . Well, I had finally made up my mind to cut Rex, and then in a flash I remembered what I had planned for him in future books. "Oh no. Now what?? I have all these solid reasons why it's a good idea to get rid of Rex, but there's THAT big, important thing that's supposed to happen to him." After a fevered brainstorming session, I got it sorted out by adjusting another character's development, and voila. Problem solved.

A month or two ago, I also decided to cut out two of Josiah's three siblings. I don't think I've mentioned them much on here either, so this probably isn't a big deal to you, but Tiffany and Zach are being taken out. His littlest sister Karilee is staying. I realized that Tiff and Zach served little to no purpose besides giving Josiah another sister and a brother for him to interact with. And I think I originally wanted to have a family of six to mimic my own family, but that's not a good enough reason to keep extra fluff in a story. Especially when, again, a large cast is becoming a problem. So . . . bye, Tiff. Bye, Zach. I hope you two and Rex will recycle yourselves into some other story one day.

Mind you, all these changes are just in my head. I haven't mapped everything out on paper at this point. And I'm even charging ahead with my current draft without stopping to write Rex, Tiff, and Zach out of the story. I'll fix it in edits. This charge ahead approach is something the old me would definitely not have done.

In the midst of all that, I somehow neglected to do much on my writing course, The Creative Way. I listened to one audio session, but still haven't done all the workbook questions for it. Oops. Thankfully this is something I can take at my own pace; there are no time constraints or deadlines. Still, I'd like to be more involved with it next month.

On the blogging side of things, the biggest thing is the Silmarillion Awards! Nominations are still open today and tomorrow (I told you wrong in my last post when I said that June 30th was the last day--ignore that), and soon afterwards the voting period will begin. So if you haven't yet made the rounds to all ten blogs yet, better hustle before July 1st ends! The best fantasy characters and items need your support to make it to the next round. I myself am planning to make one last pass through all the posts, just in case I've forgotten anything.

And that was my June fruit salad.

It was all strawberries of summertime, raspberries of other people's romance, apples of fun events, bananas of books, and orange slices of writing. (. . . don't even ask because I don't even know . . .) Art and magicians and characters getting the axe and anthropomorphic animals and fantasy awards, oh my! Anyway, 'twas a yummy mix, though I'm developing a hankering for a week of holiday-ish nothing so I can relax.

Tell me now, how was your month? And because I seem fixated on fruit today, what's your favorite? Have you ever had to cut characters out of your story? Have you seen Zootopia? Read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell? Been on an amusement park ride that didn't sit well with you? TELL ME ALL.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Bookish Book Lover Tag

Good evening, fellow dragons, wyverns, griffins, and other mythical flying beasts!* I seem to have fallen into the bad habit of waiting until the final hours of the day to put up my weekly post. Really need to start writing these sooner.

*Not only are you questers, readers, friends, bloglings, etc., you are now also a motley crew of legendary creatures? I don't even know. I just need something to call you. Dragon will do.

Anyway, on a day like today, a tag is the perfect rescue. Thanks to Deborah O'Carroll for passing this one along from her book blog, The Page Dreamer! (Pssst, go check it out! Her reviews always have this amazing way of making you want to read a book, and yet they don't spoil it.)

The Rules

Use the banner.
Answer the questions.
Use lots of book covers.
Tag your bookish friends!

(I was going to provide links to Goodreads, but ran out of time. Sorry!)

1) What Book Are You Currently Reading?
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It's a 1,006 page beast, but a very entertaining beast at that. I honestly didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I am.

2) What’s The Last Book You Finished?
Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz (book three in the Alex Rider series). It was a definite improvement over the first two.

3) Favorite Book You Read This Year?

Illusionarium, A Snicker of Magic, Cinder, Knightley Academy, Howl's Moving Castle, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. *deep breath* I can't pick just one!

4) What Genre Have You Read Most This Year?
Without formally counting? Probably fantasy. (Did you even have to ask?)

5) What Genre Have You Read Least This Year?
Well, I won't list the genres I haven't read at all. Instead, I will tell you that I've read only one nonfiction, only two thrillers, and only two contemporaries. Also one sci-fi/fantasy crossover (aka Cinder) and one steampunk (aka Illusionarium).

6) What Genre Do You Want To Read More Of?
Steampunk!!! And always, always more fantasy.

7) How Many Books Have You Read This Year, And What’s Your Goal?
Heh, funny you should ask. I've read a measly sixteen out of the fifty-two book goal I made for myself. I was hoping to match last year, but at this rate . . . Okay, the year's not over yet, so maybe I'll catch up! Maybe. Possibly. We'll see.

8) What’s The Last Book You Bought?
One of the local bookstores is closing down (sadness), but the one good thing about that is discounts. I walked out of there with four books the other day:
Moonblood and Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (now only Golden Daughter and the two novellas are missing from my collection)

Raven's Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet

Prophet by R.J. Larson

9) What Book Are You Saving Up To Buy Next?
There are several Bryan Davis books I don't yet own, namely Reapers and Beyond the Gateway, along with the Tales of Starlight series.
Other than that, I don't know. There's a few gaps to fill in other series I'm collecting. Oh! Can't forget A Branch of Silver, a Branch of Gold by Anne Elisabeth Stengl!

10) How Many Books Did You Check Out Last Library Visit?
Five, I think? It was--gasp!--back in March/April, and since then I've been reading books I have in the house already. But I'm missing the library, so I'll have to make a trip again soon.

11) What’s A Book You Can’t Wait To Read?

ALL OF THEM. Well. Not true. I can't wait to read Scarlet, The Dream Thieves, and The Shadow Lamp. Just to name three. Because you know how I can't keep my answers to just one book.

12) What’s A Series You’d Recommend to Everyone?
Oh, toughie. The Chronicles of Narnia definitely. Classic, superb storytelling, and that profound quality that makes it enjoyable to both children and adults. Also Bryan Davis's three connected series: Dragons in Our Midst, Oracles of Fire, and Children of the Bard. Because everyone could use more dragons in their lives! And more importantly, the depth with which Bryan Davis pens his tales builds one's faith.

13) Who’s An Author You’re Hoping Writes More?
All of my favorites ever. Oh, you wanted specifics? How many can I mention? All of them? No? Okay, some of them. Anne Elisabeth Stengl, to begin with. She just released ABOSABOG (doesn't that look hilarious in acronym form? The first time I read it, I was like, "Who on earth is Abosabog? Sounds like a monster."), but I'm itching for another Tales of Goldstone Wood installment. And Heather Dixon needs to write more. So does Sharon Cameron (right, Mary?!). I could keep going, but it also bears mentioning that numerous writer friends of mine NEED TO KEEP WRITING. And I would greatly enjoy it if they PUBLISHED those epic writings. Meaning I would screech and flail and cry happy tears and order five dozen copies of each book!

14) A Few Books Your Heart Adores?
Excuse me, what? A few? A few. You know what that word makes when you take off the F? Ew. How can I pick just a few books my heart adores? Nevertheless, I shall make a valiant attempt to answer this.

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis. By my recollection, the first portal fantasy (or really, first true high fantasy) I ever read. It's because of this book I have a fantasy addiction. Narnia's creation scene especially whispered deep into my soul, and I think I carry an echo of that wonder with me.

Starflower and Shadowhand by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. Yes, that's two from the same series (the whole of which is dear to my heart), but those two in particular struck a chord.

The Bones of Makaidos by Bryan Davis. That ending is the most perfect one I have ever, ever read. And it was, at the time (before he added another four books), the culmination of the adventures, joys, and heartbreaks of the characters packed into one giant book.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Probably doesn't need explanation. It made me think, laugh, and inwardly cry.

The Ale Boy's Feast by Jeffrey Overstreet. It came into my life just when I needed it, and was part of what got me through a difficult time.

And . . . I'd better stop now before I list a hundred books.

15) What Series’s Coming Conclusion Makes You Sad?
I don't know when Tales of Goldstone Wood will end, but that will be a very sad day indeed. I don't even want to think about it. #denial

16) What Books Are On Your Wish-List?
See question #9. Plus all of these . . .
Lord of the Rings (no, I don't actually own them yet) by JRR Tolkien
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Books 2-5 in the Bright Empires series by Stephen Lawhead
Maybe all the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Maybe the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
Books 2 and 3 in The Solitary Tales by Travis Thrasher
Books 2-4 in the River of Time Series by Lisa T. Bergren
The Calling by Rachelle Dekker
Books 1 and 4 in the Auralia Thread by Jeffrey Overstreet
Books 8-10 in Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan
Golden Daughter by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
The entire Dreamhouse Kings series by Robert Liparulo
And that's not even all of them. When I find a series I love, I must collect them all. I must have them, own them, display them. Consequently I am running out of bookshelf space at an alarming rate.

Well, this has been great fun! Thanks again to Deborah for tagging me! And now I shall tag the following fellow bookdragons: Sarah / Blue / Emily / Skye / Annie / Tori / Anna / and Savannah, whose blog is private. (Deborah has all the questions in a nice copy-and-pastable list included in her post.)

How about YOU? Any of the bajillion books here spark your interest? Any you've read before and loved? Which books does your heart adore?

P.S. The nominations are pouring in for the 2016 Silmarillion Awards! We'd love for you to participate and make this event even more epic, so be sure to nominate and second all your favorite fantasy characters/items before July 1st. (Which means June 30th is the last day the nominations will be open.) I can hardly wait to see who will win in each category!

EDIT: It means July 1st is the last day the nominations will be open, actually. Sorry I told you wrong.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Silmarillion Awards 2016: Riddling and Poetry Nominations

Hey questers, welcome to the first ever Silmarillion Awards! This has been in the works for a while, so I'm quite excited to finally get to share it with you.

The Silmarillion Awards have been created by DJ Edwardson and Jenelle Schmidt as a way to honor J.R.R. Tolkien as the Father of Modern Fantasy, open up a discussion about some of our other favorite fantasy works, and to have a ton of fun this summer.

When we started thinking about creating a sort of “Fantasy Oscars,” we found it difficult to fathom any award that wouldn’t be won by a character or item from The Lord of the Rings . . . so to make things a bit more interesting, we decided to call them “The Silmarillion Awards” and have characters from LOTR and The Hobbit present the awards as examples of the ultimate standard for each award. Hopefully that will even the playing field a bit.

Joining the team are myself and seven other bloggers and authors who will each be hosting one of these awards, called Silmarils, on our blogs towards the end of July.

But before we get there, we need YOUR help! Starting today, June 20th, and proceeding through July 1st, the nomination period for each award will be open. Please visit the participating bloggers (found in the list below), read the descriptions of the awards, and make your nominations!

So the way this works is you'll be nominating characters and whatnot in the comments of each blog post. If someone has already nominated the character you would've nominated, you may second (or third, fourth, fifth, etc.) that nomination. We will be picking the 5 characters with the most "seconds" for the final voting period that will take place between July 4th - 13th.

It's not as complicated as it might sound at first. Basically, an individual can make as many nominations and "seconds" as they desire, but you can't second your own nomination. That would be like you nominating the same character twice, which is *gasp* cheating.

Fine print

  1. Please do not nominate anything from one of your OWN books!
  2. You may nominate a character AND second, third, fourth a character . . . but please only vote once. (i.e. You cannot nominate a character and then also second that same character. Basically I'm just repeating everything.)
  3. Please share about the Silmarillion Awards on social media to spread the excitement far and wide across Middle Earth. Use the hashtag: #silmawards2016 wherever possible!
  4. Don’t nominate a Tolkien character for the awards, as the characters presenting the awards are already the standard for each award.
  5. Don’t stress if a character you nominate doesn’t win this year. We are hoping to make this an annual tradition, and these awards are LIFETIME AWARDS, meaning that they cannot be won by the same character more than once!

Official Schedule

Phase 1 - June 20-July 1: Award nominations open

Phase 2 - July 4: the final nominees will be announced and voting will open and last through July 14th

Phase 3 - July 16-28: Presentation of the awards, one per day, each award will be hosted on a different blog each day

Phase 4 - Celebration! July 29th was the official publication date of the Lord of the Rings back in 1954. We invite you all to celebrate with us the 62nd birthday of this masterpiece of Fantasy Fiction. Congratulate the winners, take and post a photo of yourselves with LOTR paraphernalia, write a blog post about your favorite LOTR moment, scene, character, quote, or memory . . . get creative and have fun!

List of Participating Blogs

Tracey Dyck Hosting the Riddling and Poetry Silmaril

As you can see, I will be hosting the Riddling and Poetry Silmaril here on Adventure Awaits. Below are the criteria for the sort of character or riddle/poem that ought to be nominated for such an award. Keep in mind that LOTR characters, as the ultimate standard of fantasy fiction, will be presenting these awards (so don't nominate any Middle Earthians, please!).

The Riddling and Poetry Silmaril should go to either:

  • A piece of poetry so beautiful and fantastic that it stirs the soul to action, awakens the imagination, or whispers to the heart . . .
  • A riddle so riddlesome, so clever and epic, that it turns your brain inside out . . .
  • A character who wields words with utmost skill, be they a bard, singer, or riddle-maker. This character should stick in your memory as someone whose riddles/poems bring depth, creativity, humor, or a sense of foreboding to the book.

That's the sort of riddle/poem/character I want you to nominate, questers!

Near the end of July, this award will be presented to the winner YOU vote for by the one who comes from under the hill . . . the one known as Ring-winner and Luck-wearer and Barrel-rider; he who walks unseen; who came from the end of a bag, but no bag went over him. I shan't name him now, but I'm sure you can easily guess who it is.

I know I just threw a lot of details at you, so feel free to ask questions! (There are no stupid ones, remember.)

Now go forth into the comments section and nominate away! The world is waiting to applaud the very best riddling and poetry fantasy has to offer!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Is Our Writing Needed? (a response post)

I've never written a response post before, so today will be a first. The lovely, spitfire authoress Jenny Freitag (who penned Plenilune, a book I want to read one day) over at The Penslayer wrote a post the other day called Why NOT Being a Prolific Writer is a Godsend. Now, I agree with/am inspired by a number of Jenny's posts, but something she said in this one burrowed under my skin and stuck there. So I'm pondering it in the form of a blog post.

The Lord doesn't need you + you don't know what you're talking about. If you possibly think you know enough to "write" for the Lord, you know nothing of the smallness of man nor the immensity of God. Do as Job did, and put your hand over your mouth. Be humble. God has left his written witness. My fiction - your fiction - none of it is necessary.

I confess, I blinked at my screen and did a double take at that first phrase: the Lord doesn't need you. I won't presume to know all the thoughts and intentions behind Jenny's statement, but I'm bothered enough to want to unpackage and sift this for myself. Cool?

God is infinite. Infinitely complete, infinitely self-sufficient. So of course He doesn't need me. Need is felt only by finite beings. He has and is everything. The creation of the world and of mankind was not done out of a vacancy of God's. It was not because He was somehow lacking. No, He spoke creation into being because He wanted to. It was what He desired, and it brought Him pleasure.

But the Lord I'm spending my life getting to know does want me. After all, He brought me into existence. And every page of the Bible is evidence that He wants to love me, wants me to love Him back, and basically wants to have every piece of myself. And He shows me the way to live a life that builds His Kingdom. One way I can do that is through my writing.

If you possibly think you know enough to "write" for the Lord, you know nothing of the smallness of man nor the immensity of God.

Maybe this is just arguing semantics, but by "writing for the Lord" do you mean "writing in service of the Lord" or "writing because He can't speak loud enough on His own?"

"For the Lord" in the sense of a lesser being serving a higher one--or in the sense of fulfilling someone's lack? I can bake muffins for you because I like you and want to give you something that will bring you pleasure, or I can bake muffins for you because you can't/are too busy/don't know how/don't want to.

All it takes is for me to look up at the stars on a dark night to recognize the smallness of man and the immensity of God--only a scrap of it, you understand, because my finite mind cannot truly comprehend the infinite. But if I say that I write for the Lord, I don't say so under any delusion that He somehow needs me to. As if His plan would fall apart if I didn't.

And yet! And yet . . . one of the greatest mysteries of all is how a God so indescribably powerful would choose to give such a measure of authority to earthen vessels, human beings. How He would choose to do His work not with a bang and a flash of lightning and an instantaneous solution, but through the slow, painful process of moving in and through mankind. Through flawed, limited people. Yes, through me.

Does He need me? Isn't He capable of accomplishing whatever He wants no matter what I do? Yes. And also no.

This mystery confounds me. It's like prayer. He doesn't need us to tell Him what we're thinking and what we need, because He already knows. But for the purpose of relationship and the maturing of our faith, He wants us to pray. There's a big difference between needing and wanting. I don't think we realize the full extent of our prayers' impact. Prayer is needed.

None of it is necessary.

 I see where you're coming from--you're speaking to those of us whose heads have gotten too big, those of us who pressure ourselves to write, write, write, because there are SOULS TO SAVE. Those of us who stagger under the unrealistic pressure we've heaped upon our own shoulders. I get that.

But every mile of road has two miles of ditch. The opposite swing of the pendulum is one which causes us to throw up our hands and weigh our writing too lightly. If my writing is not necessary, then why do it? It's too much work and pain and bloodshed to press on if it doesn't matter anyway. (But there's the rub--maybe it really is unnecessary, and yet it still matters. Maybe it's something I don't have to do, but when I do it, it makes a difference. Or maybe it is necessary. I'm not 100% sure.)

This post is all over the place . . . But that's the shape of my pondering, so I won't apologize.

I think this has become more of a spinoff than a response post, because Jenny's aim was one thing and my thoughts have veered off on another that's rather tangential. She was speaking to relieve the pressure we place on ourselves to produce copious amounts of story, and here I am talking about the necessity-or-not of writing and whether God needs it or wants it of us. (Sorry, Jenny.)

For me, writing falls under the umbrella of living well, of making use of everything God has given me. For me, writing is one means of discovering Him and in the process, sharing His light with those who may read my words. Do I feel worthy of such a task? Not at all. But God seems to have a penchant for using the unworthy. If I can be an instrument in His hands, that's incredibly humbling and brings me such joy. If He can shine through the chinks in my stories, then I will keep penning those tales.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

777 Writing Challenge Strikes Again

Deborah O'Carroll long ago (back in September 2015--yikes!) tagged me for the 777 Writing Challenge. And I'm finally getting around to participating. Some of you might be scratching your heads and thinking, "Wait, didn't Tracey already do the 777? Like, twice?"

You are correct. The first time can be found here, the second time here. I just realized that Deborah was the one who tagged me the first time, too--and that it was my very first tag ever. All the warm, fuzzy memories . . .

Anyway. The rules are as follows:

The 777 challenge requires you go to Page 7 of your work-in-progress, scroll down to Line 7 and share the next 7 lines in a blog post. Once you have done this, you can tag 7 other bloggers to do the same with their work-in-progress.

Buuut it's fun to play around with the rules. I'm changing lines to paragraphs, and rather than isolating paragraph seven of page seven, I'll give you a couple paragraphs of context as well. Just because I'm sweet like that.

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention that this snippet is coming from book 2, The Prophet's Key. None of this is edited, so you get behold the raw, uncut glory (or mess) before I take a chisel to it. In this scene, Josiah is supposed to be waiting while his family has a meeting with his psychiatrist, Dr. Teagan. You see, the events of the first book have had big ramifications on the home lives of the protagonists. Particularly Josiah's.

Everyone thinks he's schizophrenic with delusions of grandeur, let's just put it that way.

Anyway, Josiah is listening in to this family meeting from outside Dr. Teagan's office.


“I just want my son back,” Dad snapped. “If that means giving him his meds myself, I’ll do it.”

An image of Dad forcing his jaws open and shaking a pill bottle down his throat ramped up Josiah’s inner heat to boiling.

“Monitor him, yes, but don’t antagonize him. Patients fare best when home life is stable. If he refuses to take the pills, we may consider switching him to a daily injection."

Josiah gripped the doorknob, then paused. What would it help to barge in? To protest? Resisting would only worsen the situation.

He spun on his heel and marched down the hallway and out the front door. A blast of early summer heat washed over him. Though the very thought rankled him down to his bones, the solution was clear: play along.


In keeping with my generous (ahem, lazy) method of leaving this particular tag open, I am again saying that if you want it, take it! Share your 777 snippet on your blog, here in the comments, whatever floats your boat. Or even just share a snippet of your work-in-progress, all tag rules aside. Give me all the yummy words!

p.s. On an unrelated note, keep an eye out for a very special bloggy happening coming later this month! It involves fantasy novels, an Oscar Awards sort of idea, and YOUR participation!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

A Monument of Praise

Times of high emotion imprint us with our strongest memories, good or bad. I don't know about you, but the hard times of life leave a lingering aftertaste. Perhaps it's an unfortunate human tendency to gravitate toward the negative, and so we have to work at focusing on the positive.

Remember Old Testament stories of how God came through for His people? Whenever He delivered them, they would build an altar to commemorate that place and time.

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen--one from each of the tribes of Israel. He told them, "Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder--twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' Then you can tell them, 'They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord's Covenant went across.' These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever." (Joshua 4:4-7, NLT)

This is just one of many examples of God's people doing something to celebrate, honor, and remember miracles He had done.

What do I do when He comes through for me?

When light bursts into my dark valley, do I merely gasp in relief and proceed to move on with life, or do I pause to thank my Father?

I know He has answered prayers. I know He has pulled me through storms. But if someone were to ask me what God has done for me, I would have to stop and think.

What if I were to consciously celebrate those times? What if I were to play them over in my mind as my soul sang its gratitude? What if I did that daily?

It's so important to encourage ourselves in the Lord, as David did. Life presents us with many difficult times. There's no way to sugarcoat that. But in those rocky places, we can proclaim our Father's faithfulness by remembering how He has delivered us in times before. We can build altars, not with stones but with thoughts. Not in religious recitation, not out of bondage. It's taking the time to pull out those memories and smile at them again the way we smile at the knickknack on the dresser that reminds us of that wonderful vacation or the letter that reminds us of a dear friend. The edges are frayed from handling; it is a frequent gesture.

What if I made this a habit? A habit of praise--how beautiful would that be? How much peace would that bring? It would build faith and confidence like nothing else. "I know I'm facing something hard right now, but look what God did for me last time and all the times before. I was never abandoned, I never went hungry, He was always on time."

Every time we ponder His faithfulness, it's like adding another stone to the altar. The more we rejoice, the higher it builds, and the more naturally our thoughts will turn to this goodness again. This way of life is one of overflowing peace. I want that.

What we habitually think about affects our entire perception, which in turn determines how we experience life. I know that when I start a day mulling over the problems and negative things going on, my day will follow suit. But how wonderful would it be to enlarge our experience of God's greatness and love? To focus on that instead, and begin to recognize it at every turn?

Let's begin today. Let's begin right here. If you feel comfortable doing so, please share something God has done in your life. There's nothing so encouraging as realizing that what He did for someone else, He can do for me. For you. For any one of His beloved children. I'll be adding a few comments of my own.

And let's not stop here. Let's begin to form a habit of thankfulness and praise. Let's build altars and return to them again and again.

Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. (Psalm 34:3, NKJV)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Subplots and Storylines - May 2016

I would like to remind you that I am a wizard. And a wizard is never late.

So even though I started typing up this post within the last three hours of May, and it's only getting to you in June, I'm not late at all.*

* Great excuse, right? But actually I have been going nonstop since Sunday morning, and these S&S posts are hard to put together until . . . you know, the month is pretty much over.

Life Etc.

A few notable things happened this month. I learned how to make origami flowers and felt so proud of myself. A friend/co-worker is getting married in June, so I joined her and a passel of girls in making some of the dozens (hundreds?) of flowers she needs. Behold my handiwork.

And I've been greatly enjoying my new vehicle. It's officially in my possession now, and the first time I left work and laid eyes on it waiting in the parking lot for me, I had a thrill of that's my car!

Warm sun and frequent showers have turned everything green, green, green around here. And that means yard work, planting the garden, starting the flower beds, etc. But digging my fingers into freshly tilled dirt, clomping around in rubber boots, hauling watering cans, watching little bugs scramble away as I work--that's a totally different kind of labor than my job. It's more refreshing.

We hauled out our lawn croquet and set it up at a park. Let's just say that I finished fourth out of the six of us. My mom whupped us all severely. I had forgotten she was that good!

One of the biggest happenings this May, though, is the day I WENT TO A PIANO GUYS CONCERT! I'd heard way back around Christmas that their tour was bringing them close to home, and was naturally very interested in getting tickets. So was Sarah. But I procrastinated and did nothing about it for months. Two weeks before the concert, I checked online to see if tickets were still available, only to find out that $200 meet and greet passes were all that was left. (A little much for my sensible side to spend on entertainment.) But then it ended up working out that one of Sarah's friends had two extra tickets she could sell us for $50 apiece. This has got to be the only time in my life that procrastination actually produced better results than . . . well, being on top of things.

Anyway, the concert itself was AH-MAY-ZING, OH MY GOODNESS. The music was absolutely gorgeous. The Piano Guys themselves were hilarious and so down to earth and humble. This was apparently their first time touring Canada, which was pretty cool. They played some of my favorites, and threw in a few unofficial pieces. (Including a joking mash-up of the "two happiest songs on earth" according to them: "Don't Worry, Be Happy," and the main theme of Phantom of the Opera. They called it, "Don't Worry, Be Psycho." Too funny!)

I took a bunch of short videos with my phone, and I was hoping to upload one or two to this post, but sadly it's not working. Just imagine, though, a live version of this song . . .

. . . in which four bagpipe players come and join them on the stage near the end. Ah, 'twas glorious!

Another fun event was a girls day out with a dear friend of mine (the one who got married a couple months ago). We hadn't spent much time together since then, so it was awesome to catch up! Smoothies were also a plus. (But aren't they always?)

Le Movies


Once Upon a Time season 3 // My sisters and I finally finished! Great ending, but now we very much need the fourth season. Thankfully, I own it already. But ugh, why did that particular character have to come to Storybrooke right when a certain relationship was going so beautifully? She's going to ruin everything.


Sister Act // cheesy at some parts, funny at others, and even a little heartwarming in between. Watching Whoopi Goldberg play a casino singer who witnesses a murder and then has to hide at a nunnery (of all places) was pretty entertaining. Especially when she started teaching the nuns to sing.


The Two Towers // At last! I've been wanting to see it since I watched The Fellowship of the Ring a couple months ago. Being the extended edition, my bro and I went at it in two separate sittings. So. Good. Gollum's inner conflict was done really well, everything felt darker and more foreboding than the first film, the Ents were fun (but not as good as the book version, in my humble opinion), Legolas and Gimli's developing friendship was awesome, the battle at Helm's Deep was the most epic thing ever . . . I could go on and on, but there are other things to talk about yet. I feel it should be known, however, how much I love Aragorn. And Eowyn. And Merry and Pippin. (But--but--but Aragorn! Could he be any more awesome?)


War Room // I was half expecting it to be one of those tired, clichéd sort of Christian movies, but it was actually good. It started out a bit clichéd, but it turned into a good story with a more focused storyline than, say, God's Not Dead (which I did enjoy; it just had a big cast with lots of plot threads). And if the movie's intent was to inspire the viewers to pray more, then it certainly was convicting. Bits of humor, mostly supplied by the elderly Miss Clara, were also appreciated.


Sleepless in Seattle // My mom and I had a movie night, complete with my favorite kind of popcorn. It was a fun old "classic," which meant I could make fun of the hairstyles and music whilst enjoying the girly romance. Several sexual comments detracted from my enjoyment of the film, but otherwise it was a sweet movie. The dialogue of the main character Annie Reed reminds me of a more extroverted, reckless version of myself. I think it was the way she cobbled topics together and left others scratching their heads, or her random musings on little details about life?

Le Books

Hey, guess who up and joined Goodreads? (I haven't figured out why we say "guess who" when it's completely obvious we mean ourselves. But I say it anyway.) Yes, this social media hermit finally ventured into that particular bookish corner of the internet! A hermit, you ask? Doesn't this blog count for something? Yes, of course it does, but as far as the imminently popular Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest/what-have-you world goes, I am notably absent. I'm on Google Plus simply because, well, Google gives me Gmail and Blogger and everything on one account. Before you mention it, yes, I am aware of how lame Google Plus is. (Except Mary and I have great little conversations there, so that's a plus.) (Gosh, that was bad.)

But I was supposed to be talking about Goodreads. Yes. So I'm on there now, and still in the process of creating shelves and adding all the books of which I've kept a record. I'd love to connect with you over there!

One of the things I've been reading this month is Christine's Burning Thorns, which is so marvellously wicked in its treatment of my heart. It's a beautiful, heartrending story, and I'm currently having trouble imagining how things are going to get even worse than they already are.

The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate // A sweet, romantic story of a single mom named Tandi shored up with her kids in a quaint little coastal town. Her elderly landlady, Iola Anne Poole, dies peacefully and leaves behind a huge mansion and a lifetime's collection of prayer boxes--the prayers she wrote out since she was a little girl. These prayers are instrumental in Tandi finding healing for her broken heart. I give the story a bit of extra credit for the love interest's originality. Rather than being Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Handsome or Rugged Outdoorsmen, he's a quirky lawn care guy who wears the worst flamingo shirts ever. (But he's sweet, so ya like him.)

Water Walker by Ted Dekker // Book 3 in the Outlaw series. This story was written in almost a parable style, I feel, which is a bit different than Dekker's usual method. It worked for this book, a short novel digging into themes of forgiveness and freedom through grace. Young Eden, who has no memory of her childhood, is kidnapped by people claiming to be her real parents. And let me tell you, those people are creepy. (What really struck me was how minimal the violence was--only one or two scenes, and only one of those made me wince--and yet how chilling the story was anyway. It was more of a psychological creep factor, with Eden's captors being obsessed with a twisted version of purity, cleanliness, and sacrificial lambs.) I caught a few typos, but the story was well worth reading anyway. The messages coincide perfectly with what I've been learning in Dekker's The Creative Way course.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones // So a number of online buddies of mine have been recommending HMC to me for a couple years already. Very, very enthusiastically recommending. Threatening to throw books at me if I don't read it. Telling me my life will not be complete until I read it. I believed them, of course, because these people are rather discerning bookdragons. For the last two-ish years, I've been looking for HMC at every bookstore I visit, but never found it. You've probably guessed that I recently FOUND IT. (Technically, my mom and sister found it for me, sweet things.)

IT WAS GLORIOUS AND WHIMSICAL AND GAH, I NEED TO READ IT AGAIN. Everything was quirky and fun and seemingly random . . . until they started connecting in surprising ways. I also loved the fairytale setting with its scarecrows and talking fire demons and hat shops and magical doors in magical castles and curses and seven league boots ETC.

Can we talk about the characters? Like how I adore Howl? How spunky Sophie is, even (especially) as an old lady hobbling around and muttering to things? And how hilariously grouchy Calcifer is, and how he hopes Sophie's bacon burns, and how Michael is a pretty cool wizard's apprentice, and how everyone is just strange and wonderful? But Howl . . . he really does take the cake. He's different than I expected, but probably better. (Unbelievably vain. Secretly a big ol' softie. Dramatic as all get out. Howl being sick is so great, I have to say.)

So a humongous thank you to the folks who pushed me into HMC! You know how certain books or movies instantly snuggle into your heart and tell you they're being added to the list of happy places you can go to when you need a pick-me-up? HMC is one of those.

Le Writing

6,170 words this month in The Prophet's Key. Not a whole lot, considering I wrote twice as much last month--but decent considering everything else going on.

I managed to do some more research in the realm of literary agents! My list of potentials is slowly growing.

And I spent a significant amount of time doing plain old research for TPK. There's a lot of globetrotting happening in this novel, and I am a person who has not ventured further than a few states south and a few provinces west. Needless to say, I haven't been to most of the places in my outline. Google satellite images, maps, and Wikipedia are my not-so-helpful friends in this endeavor to soak up knowledge. (Can I just book two months off work and fly to places like British Columbia, Scotland, and Australia? Pretty please?)

To make matters worse, the specific locations I'm looking for are supposed to be in the middle of nowhere, set apart from the general civilization. Good places for hiding. Which means they are not good places to Google, because the car that takes their streetview images doesn't trundle up the wilderness of the Rockies and snap pictures of the scenery, gosh darn it. Seriously, get your act together. (Just kidding. Kind of.) So I have resigned myself to getting a feel for a general area, and then making up the specifics. That gives me more freedom to get to the actual writing.

Oh, and I also completed two or three sessions of The Creative Way, including my first session on the module dealing with the craft of writing. Yay!

Now, some of you may have already heard this, but the fourth fairytale contest held by Rooglewood Press has been postponed until next year due to health concerns/busyness on Anne Elisabeth Stengl's part. Very understandable (and I hope she recovers soon from whatever it is), but the news was a bit disappointing. I gave the matter some thought, and have since decided that this may actually be a blessing in disguise. As much as I was looking forward to writing another retelling, it will be good to have the entire year to focus on Journeys of the Chosen, including agent research. Plus I'll be busy this fall (I have a college interview coming up!), so perhaps this is for the best. Besides, by the time June 2017 rolls around, I'll have that much more creative juice stored up for twisting another fairytale!

One last writing-related thing before I wrap this up . . . Because of the postponement, I'm joining Go Teen Writers' 100 for 100, something I've never done but am eager to try. The idea is to write at least 100 words a day for 100 days. The wordcount is easy. It's the every day part that will be a challenge, especially on the busy days. But that's the point of the challenge--to build discipline. I'm excited to give it a go!

Okay, I'm done.

Sorry this was so late, folks. I meant to have it out much sooner.

I'd say May was a good month. There were a lot of subplots humming along rather busily, weaving through the weeks. How was your month? Any good books you read or movies you watched? (HAVE YOU READ HMC?) How's the writing life going, if you're of that particular bent? Grab an iced cappuccino or something yummy like that and let's chat!

P.S. I'm loving the discussion we're having on swearing in books, and I promise I'll get to your comments as soon as I have the time to give them the thoughtful responses they deserve!