Saturday, April 21, 2018

Autobiography of a Fantasy Character - A Refuge Disturbed

Three things before we begin! Number one, I apologize for disappearing last Saturday without warning. I hadn't meant to take an unplanned week off blogging, but school caught up with me and had other plans. Number two, I might be slow to reply to your comments this week as well because of final exams. And number three, please thank Blue @ To Be a Shennachie for reminding me that it's been much too long since we heard from our beloved Fantasy Character, aka Hero, aka Chosen One! I hope you enjoy the next leg of his journey.

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Fantasy is my favorite thing to read and write, but every genre comes with its own suitcase of tropes. In this blog series, we poke some fun at our beloved stories and at ourselves as fantasy lovers.

If you haven't yet read the first two instalments, check them out:

Origin Story (in which Hero grows up in Quaint Village, Mentor is mysterious, Incentive dies, Villain's backstory is disclosed, and Hero discovers his singular purpose: to save the world.)

The Journey Begins (in which Hero and Mentor set off to save the world, horses are invincible, Hero is wounded, Mentor is characteristically mysterious, and they take refuge with the elves.)

I scrambled up in bed, speechless at the sight before me. This elven girl was golden sunshine, icy rivers, and heaven itself personified.

"Who are you?" she demanded.

I scanned the room, casting my gaze from the mossy floor to the wooden walls to the fern-frond curtains as if I could find the answer there. At last I said, rather dumbly, "Hero."

"Well, it's about time you got here." She shoved a bundle of clothing at my chest. "Get dressed. The Feast is about to begin." With that, she flounced out of the room.

It occurred to me that I never got her name. Moving carefully, my shoulder still tender, I donned the outfit she'd left me: a green jerkin, brown breeches, soft leather boots, and a shimmering cloak the color of cobwebs. Every piece of clothing felt light as air, yet when the corner of my cloak caught on the bedframe, it didn't snag or rip. Perhaps it was stronger than it looked.

My bedroom's doorway opened onto the landing of a staircase, which spiraled down the inner core of a gigantic oak tree. Other landings carved into the wood led to doors and knothole windows. What marvelous people, to create such a home in the heart of nature. Eyes wide, I hurried down the stairs to the bottom and ventured out into the late afternoon sunlight.

"Ah, Hero!" A tall, willowy elf with hair down to his waist and a longbow strapped to his back beckoned me over. "Come and join the Great Feast. I have a seat for you. Mentor is already there." He guided me across a grassy lawn to a pavilion formed from slender saplings intertwined to create a leafy canopy. Beneath the flowers strung in their bows was a long table groaning under the weight of platters of food. Elves were seated all around, each looking solemn and noble, all with flawless skin, smooth hair in varying shades of gold and chestnut, and forest-colored clothes. Several elves with flutes and stringed instruments struck up a silvery aria in one corner of the pavilion.

The elf-man sat at the head of the table and gestured for me to sit on his left. Mentor was already there on my own left. And across from me sat the beautiful girl.

"Hello, Father," she murmured.

Good heavens, she was some kind of elf princess! And this elf-man was a king. I blushed.

"My people!" the Elf King shouted. "The prophesied Hero is in our midst at last! He is the one who will restore the keys to their rightful place and save the world!"

Cheers erupted--but not the raucous whooping and hollering I might hear at home in Quaint Village. No, these cheers were like music, like a chuckling brook, and I suddenly felt very clumsy and oaf-ish in the presence of such genteel folk.

The Elf King produced two pendants from within his cloak, each of them a brilliant blue gem on a golden chain. "To signify our support, I present Hero and Mentor with elven ward-gems." He hung them over our necks. "These ward-gems will guard you against poison and disease." He smiled and gestured to his daughter. "El'liaennwil will now sing the Ballad of the Hero."

El'liaennwil rose from her place without looking at me and began to sing with the voice of a lark. She sang and sang many sweeping, somber lines that told of a darkness under the earth and an orphaned boy destined to conquer it. I suppose she meant me, but I wished with all of my heart that she would look my way at least once. She did not, though the ballad lasted an hour. When at last she sat down again and we began to eat, the food had gone cold. Which was just as well, since everything was either bread or fruit, with nary a nip of protein to be seen. Yet even this light fare filled my belly with warmth.

Throughout the proceedings, Mentor said very little, but seemed to be thinking quite pensively.

By the time we had finished the Great Feast, twilight was dressing the forest clearing in dusky shadows. El'liaennwil finally looked at me. "Come, Hero," she whispered. "There is something I must show you."

She whisked away into the darkness, and I hurried after her. Down a winding path through the trees she led me, her golden hair muted in emerging starlight. I thought in that moment I might follow her anywhere. We stopped at the bank of a narrow brook. El'liaennwil took my hand, causing my heartrate to trip. "Look."

I followed her gaze to the ferns growing by the water. But rather than gleaming green and lush, they were blackened and curled with rot. "What's wrong with them?"

"The keys," she said. "Ever since they were ripped from their resting place, the forest has been dying. I fear even the great oak in which we live could topple before long."

Looking into her shining, solemn eyes, I vowed then and there to ensure that never happened.

The next day, Mentor was the one to rouse me from my slumber. "How is your shoulder?" he asked.

"It feels great," I replied. And it did. Something about the fresh air and elven food--and perhaps the effects of my elven ward-gem--had completely healed my wound.

"Then we will train. The Elf King can teach you things that I cannot."

So Mentor and I joined the Elf King in another round clearing not far from the oak, where we spent hours upon hours discussing philosophy, nature, the wind, heroism, the significance of insects, and how to get in touch with the power running through my veins. The Elf King taught me how to find it and harness it, and soon I could release blasts of power so large, they shook the highest trees.

"But beware you do not let it get out of control," the Elf King said soberly. "For it is your uncontrolled powers that catch the attention of Villain's dark warriors, and they will be able to track the echoes of that power straight to you. They seek to destroy you before you can return the keys to where they belong."

I nodded. "Yes, sir."

I still had much to learn, so after another long night of feasting and ballads, we trained the next day, and the next. The Elf King had other business to attend to, so El'liaennwil took over my training alongside Mentor. Together they taught me much. With every swipe of my sword and blinding blast of light, I felt more and more ready to take on a whole army of dark soldiers. Especially with El'liaennwil sending me tiny nods of approval when she thought I wasn't looking.

"Careful, Hero," Mentor cautioned. "That last strike was nearly too much."

"Don't worry, Mentor," I replied. El'liaennwil and I were facing off with swords in the middle of our circular training ground in the woods. "I have everything under control." I twirled my blade and reached for the power thrumming through my bloodstream--reached deeper than ever before and felt it swarming under my skin, building like a tidal wave. Light surged from my sword, my eyes, my hands, and I brought my weapon crashing against El'liaennwil's sword with a resounding CRACK!

A cylinder of white light shot up all around me, sending a beacon soaring into the sky.

El'liaennwil stumbled back, her blade cloven in two. "Hero, stop!"

But try as I might, I couldn't close the floodgates and turn off the pure energy beaming through me like a miniature sun.

"Hero!" Mentor yelled.

The grass at our feet shrivelled to brown, then just as quickly sprung up again with spring green. The trees lost their leaves in a dry rattle, then put forth fresh buds. Black slime oozed out of the ground. Sparks of light bounced from my sword and set fire to the sludge. I shook with the force of power, every bone vibrating. "Help!" I shouted. "I can't stop it!"

That's when the dark soldiers streamed in on every side. Dozens of them. El'liaennwil drew knives from the folds of her tunic and slashed her way into the fray. Mentor swung his staff. "GHAOWOUSHAL!" he shouted, just like last time. And just like last time, light shot from his staff and sent enemies bowling over.

But I continued to quake in the middle of my own firestorm of light.

Mentor dashed to my side and grabbed my shoulders. "FALKSOWFALLEN!" With that magic word, my power stopped.

I crumpled to the ground, deflated. The world swam before my eyes, fading in and out. In the haze, I thought I saw Mentor as I had in my vision--mysterious and powerful and full of secrets. He repeated the word, but instead of "falksowfallen," I heard, "May the prince of light be contained."

Then the vision left and my eyes cleared.

"Get up." Mentor hauled me to my feet. "They're recovering!"

The dark soldiers were rising to their feet again, weapons in hand and murder in their eyes.

El'liaennwil downed two of them with expert slashes before running to us. "To the Falls! Hurry!" She tore into the woods, and Mentor yanked me after her. We blazed through the trees, the sound of crashing pursuit growing closer behind us.

"We can't lead them to the oak!" I panted. "Your home--your people will die!"

"That's why we're going to the Falls," El'liaennwil snapped back. She leaped over a fallen log and led us ever deeper into the forest.

At last, when my lungs felt they were about to burst, we broke out onto a rocky cliff. A roaring waterfall gushed over the side, the bottom wreathed in white spray. "What?" I yelled. "Do you want us to jump?"

Behind us, the dark soldiers reached the treeline.

El'liaennwil peered over the edge of the cliff and loosed a piercing whistle. Then she tipped over the side.

"El'liaennwil!" I screamed.

Just then, a flash of red with wings zoomed past, El'liaennwil on its back. A dragon! "Jump!" she called.

The dark soldiers charged closer. In a second, their swords and clubs would be upon us.

Mentor and I inhaled deeply, nodded at each other, and took a flying leap off the cliff into empty air.

To be continued . . .

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Five Poisoned Apples: A Celebration

The results are in, folks!

So we're going to have a little party to celebrate, because this is the last fairy tale contest Rooglewood Press is going to hold, and it deserves to be commemorated.

The Winners

The Facebook party last Saturday was such fun! This year there were 27 finalists, 13 honorable mentions, and four special unicorns (stories that received perfect scores from the judges). From that lengthy list, the five winners were selected. So many amazing stories were celebrated, and I know there were many more that went unlisted but still possessed such creativity and imagination. I don't envy the judges' job at all!

I was hoping to share the announcement here before it was officially posted on the Rooglewood Press website, but alas, school was rude and didn't let me. So by now you've probably all seen the five winners' names on the cover already. In case you missed it . . .

Isn't it stunning? And look, look--I KNOW ONE OF THE WINNERS. It's our very own Skye Hoffert! And I couldn't be happier for her! You've probably seen Skye in the comments around here. She and I have been blogging buddies and writing pals for years. A few months ago, I had the pleasure of beta reading Falling Snow. Believe me, the grungy circus vibe of her story is the perfect way to open up this anthology.

Next up, Jenelle Hovde's historical fantasy Raven's Heir. It sounds like this one follows the original tale most closely. In Anne Elisabeth Stengl's words, this story carries "that perfect blend of poetry and grit," which sounds like a writing style I'll love.

Then we have Cortney Manning's The Fairest One, a tale with a Middle Eastern flavor and dwarven mythology. It sounds positively delicious! And apparently Cortney entered five stories in this year's contest, earning a place as a winner, a special unicorn, and a twice-over honorable mention.

Following on that tale's heels is Maddie Morrow's vampire spin called Red as Blood. That's one genre these anthologies haven't explored yet, so I'm excited to see what sort of dark and twisty road this story will take me on.

And wrapping it up is Rachael Wallen's Snowbird and the Red Slippers. Involving a scholarship to a prestigious New York dance school, this contemporary tale is peppered with magical realism. It sounds like a sweet and satisfying way to end the book!

The Special Unicorns

These four ladies impressed the judges with their impeccable story skills. To reward them, Anne Elisabeth Stengl created beautiful covers for their entries! I'm unsure if I'm allowed to share them here, but they were each gasp-worthy works of art. The four special unicorns are:

  • Sarah Pennington with Blood in the Snow (I believe I've seen Sarah somewhere around the blogosphere, so I feel like I distantly "know" her.)
  • Cortney Manning with Yellow Bright (As I mentioned, she's also one of this year's winners.)
  • Elizabeth Brown with Heir (You may remember her as one of the Five Glass Slippers winners!)
  • Esther Brooksmith with The Blood of Beauty (I've recently gotten to know Esther through the super fun countdown posts she shared on her blog leading up the announcement!)

The Finalists & Honorable Mentions

Rather than list alllll the finalists and honorable mentions, I'll simply direct you again to the list posted on Rooglewood's website HERE. But I do want to take a minute to give a shout-out to my friends and acquaintances who received recognition!

Several finalists' names were familiar to me, but these two in particular are people I've interacted with online more often:

  • E.F. Buckles: Moonsilver (Loooove that title! I bump into EFB around here and Goodreads, both great places to chat about books.)
  • Sophia White: The Colour of Life (It's a Ukrainian/Russian setting with nesting dolls! Sophia frequents my blog too.)

And I've also interacted with these honorable mentions:

  • Meredith Burton: The Princess and the Invisible Apple Tree (I remember Meredith from back when the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog was active; she's very sweet!)
  • Claire Banschbach: Threads of Yellow, Blue, and Red (I've just recently started to get to know this indie authoress!)

And . . . well, if you already peeked at the list, then you've stolen my thunder, but . . .

You guys, I am blown away.

Seeing The Brightest Thread among the top ten in the Spindles contest was incredible, but with the way this year's story was going, I did not expect to match that success. Of all four stories I entered in Rooglewood fairy tale contests, Mirrors Never Lie was the one in which I was LEAST confident.

When I submitted to Glass Slippers, I was the kind of writer who doesn't know what she doesn't know.

When I submitted to Enchanted Roses, I loved what I'd written but was missing a few key ingredients.

When I submitted to Magic Spindles, I knew this was one of my strongest works yet. Yet everyone deals with doubt, so making it to the top ten list was a huge boost of confidence.

However, when I submitted to Poisoned Apples, my writing life was in a dry spell and I seriously doubted that novella would make it anywhere. What a thrilling surprise to be proven wrong! And I am deeply grateful for the feedback I received from judges. It nearly made me cry.

Now what are my plans for this story? As you probably know, revising The Brightest Thread is my top writing priority right now. That's what I plan to work on all summer long (and I really, really can't wait!). But that doesn't mean that Mirrors Never Lie is getting shelved forever! In fact, I specifically wrote it in the same world as TBT, years earlier in a different land. Soooo . . . there's the possibility of expanding MNL into a novel sometime. Maybe this will grow into a whole series of standalone fairy tale retellings connected by the same world? But I'm getting way ahead of myself! For now, rest assured that MNL is a story I plan to return to eventually.

Everyone Else

Okay, here's where I brush the confetti off the table and bring out a box of tissues and give hugs to all of the precious writers who submitted to this contest . . . but didn't see their names anywhere. All of us received feedback, so in that sense you're walking away with something! (Along with a completed story that you were brave enough to send out into the world!) But some of that feedback likely stings. In the wake of disappointment, it's easy to fixate on the critiques we received and the insecurities that come clawing back. This story is garbage. I'm not a good writer. Who am I fooling? Will I ever make it? I'm terrible at ____. Thoughts like this--and worse--threaten to black out the truth. So imagine we're sitting across from each other right now, and I'm looking you in the eye and telling you:

It's okay to hurt. When you're hoping against hope that you might get at least an honorable mention, your heart falls as name after name scrolls by, and none of them are yours. I get that. I've been there. Like I mentioned in a recent post about these contests, I've lost more competitions than I've won. And I've received feedback that shredded fragile parts of me and left me sobbing, others that left me sulking under a dark raincloud for days. So allow yourself to lick your wounds. But please, please don't stay there.

One contest does not a writer make. The results do not define you. They are not a measure of your worth as a person or as a writer. Don't let it touch your identity! As my pal Katie Hanna mentioned on a Facebook post, you've fallen off the horse, but get back on. Try again! Keep writing! If writing is something you love, if it's a thing you feel called to do, you owe it to yourself to pursue it.

Use this as a springboard. Let that feedback sheet rest for a while. Put the story away for a bit. But then when you feel up to it, go back and look at it again. All those critiques mentioned? All those areas that received low scores? Those are opportunities. Those are things you can actually learn. Did you get a low score in dialogue? Then pay careful attention to the way characters in your favorite books chat back and forth. Was your plot a mess? Go find some excellent books and blogs that teach story structure. Critiques can hurt, but they have been my best teachers.

And one more thought to help keep your spirits up as you tackle these problem areas: Whichever judge read your story has your best interests in mind. Look for the positives she highlighted and build on them. Also look for the things she didn't mention at all! A doctor may tell you your heart is having issues, but if they don't mention your lungs, I'd guess you're breathing just fine! Meaning the elements that don't get critiqued are probably at a functioning level. All is not lost, my friend.

Some Links

To wrap this party up, I'm sharing links to a few places where fellow writers have shared wonderful posts regarding Five Poisoned Apples!

Skye Hoffert @ Ink Castles // In this post, Skye shares her reaction to winning, as well as pictures of a completely magical party she threw with a friend! Go show her some love, you guys!!!

Esther Brooksmith @ The Pen of a Ready Writer // I'm just giving you a general link to her blog, because she's been posting thoughtful questions to spark discussion in the weeks and months leading up to the announcement. So go take a stroll through her archives, and while you're there, congratulate her on her Special Unicorn status!

Allison Tebo @ Allison's Well // Alli shares about the poison of playing the comparison game and how each of us are on our own journeys. She dug up some amazing, thought-provoking reflections! (This is a post you should all read whether you won, lost, or didn't even enter at all. Go on, shoo.)

Well, folks, these contests have been an adventure! Thanks for putting up with my sentimental self. ;) I send my warmest congrats to the winners, unicorns, finalists, and honorable mentions! Can't wait to read the collection when it releases December 2018!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Subplots and Storylines - March 2018

March was a head-down, nose-to-the-grindstone kind of month--at least in terms of schoolwork. As soon as one project wrapped up, another one (or two) would be added to the list. I'm sure most of you students can relate! But I'm chugging along, counting down the weeks until freedom summer break!

We had an honest-to-goodness SNOW DAY at the beginning of the month--which is impressive, given that Manitobans are stubbornly snow-resistant--so it's kind of amazing that four weeks later, I can practically watch the snow melt. Spring is on its way! That always fills me with hope.

A couple of random highlights before we jump into the juicy stuff . . .

I took my sisters to our church's youth group, which doesn't happen all that often due to the distance. But during leadership college last year, I spent many, many Friday nights volunteering there. So it was refreshing to go back and spontaneously throw on my volunteer name tag, roll up my sleeves, and dive in again. I had missed that place.

Second-hand book fairs are a Very Wonderful Thing. I went to one with my fam jam and came away with an arm-aching load of ten books, six of which were hardcovers: all for $14! I am still ecstatic, despite the realization that at this rate, my floor will disappear in approximately 2.3 months.*

*This is what happens when your bookshelves are so full they throw up on the floor. You're welcome for that mental image.

Juicy News Item #1: I registered for Realm Makers! Yes! It's official! This will be my second time attending (actually my second writing conference altogether), and I couldn't be more thrilled. The lineup of speakers looks amazing, and I'm not at all ashamed to admit that at least half of my classes will be held by Nadine Brandes and Mary Weber, both of whom are Queen Authoresses in my humble opinion. I've got roomies set up, the hotel is soon to be booked, and I'm working on my flights right now. Deciding to attend this year is, once again, a step in faith financially speaking (thank you, college tuition), but God provided for me last year and I'm confident He will again!

Juicy News Item #2: Today marks the third anniversary of Adventure Awaits! Say what?! I know, it snuck up on me this year too. I'd love to do some kind of celebration to thank all of you incredible souls who have either recently joined me, or have been around since the beginning, or something in between . . . But. College life. See first paragraph. That being said, what do you all think about a belated blogoversary party sometime, oh I don't know--end of April? Beginning of May? I want to do something this year, since last year I didn't have time to do anything either! (And I'd be open to party suggestions!)

Juicy News Item #3: Many of you probably know this already, but the winners (and honorable mentions, and Special Unicorns, etc.) of Five Poisoned Apples are being announced on the special Facebook page TONIGHT at 8pm EST! I . . may have created a temporary account just so I wouldn't miss the festivities.* I am about to burst with excitement. There has been such creativity and skill this year that no matter who wins, I can't wait to get my hands on the complete, polished Five Poisoned Apples book when it releases!

*But at this point, I wouldn't bother friending me, if I were you. My plan is to keep Facebook very much in the background after the announcement until I can figure out a productive, disciplined social media schedule. I'm spending too much time on such things as it is!

Screen Subplots

Avatar: The Last Airbender
I watched only two episodes of this with my sisters, but it's still an amusing show, and Aang is still cute.

Finished Once Upon a Time Season 3 and started Season 4
Yep! My siblings and I finally finished the third season, which may be one of my favorites, and dipped our toes into the fourth--as in, we watched only one episode. It's a rewatch for me and my sisters, but it's all new to our brother, Josiah, whom we've successfully roped in.

Once Upon a Time Season 6
My sisters and I saw a little bit more of the second-newest season. It hasn't wowed me yet, but it's starting to improve. Here's hoping it continues that upward trend! (I'm still in this for Hook, no matter what.)

Finished The Flash Season 3
*sobs for hours*



My heart is a mangled mess of feels and the only way I'll recover is if Season 4 FIXES ALL THE THINGS THAT ARE BROKEN AND MAKES EVERYTHING HAPPY AGAIN. I refuse to give spoilers, but let's just say that was the most bittersweet ending of a Flash season yet. Yet it's currently my favorite show! Because I like pain, apparently.

Image result for thor ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok
I've been waiting forever for this to come out on DVD, and it finally arrived. I felt like I knew a bit too much going in, after seeing so. many. pictures. all over Pinterest, but it was a really fun, really enjoyable movie. I laughed out loud. Like a lot. Seeing Thor's funny side take over, rather than his moody god side, was just the refreshing twist a lot of fans were looking for, I think. Although, like Christine said, there were a couple of places I would've liked to see the emotion drawn out a bit more. Still--Loki was there! I will never get tired of seeing those two banter back and forth (albeit in a "I'll kill you if you so much as hint at betrayal" kind of way).

Image result for ferdinand movie

Eh. It was cute, and it had a few laughable jokes, but . . . I don't know, guys, I feel like I've seen this plot about twenty-five times before. And Pixar does it better. Still, apart from the eccentric goat nicknaming the titular character "F-Bomb" once, I think kids would enjoy it. On a more positive note, this movie is set in Spain, which is unusual! And Ferdinand himself stuck to his convictions without wavering, so that's another plus.

Black Panther

Not perfect, but really, really, really good. I wasn't sure what to expect, since we don't get to know all that much about T'Challa in Civil War, and since half the internet seems to be making this movie a race thing when--I'm sorry, but can't we just focus on making good art? (Which is a whole 'nother post for a whole 'nother day, if I decide to put on my controversial hat.)

Anyway! Where were we? Right, it was a great movie, beautifully shot, and full of well-drawn characters. I loved T'Challa's sister, Shuri! She's the real deal, guys. And there were so many other great ones: Nakia, General Okoye, Klaue, and Agent Ross being among my favorites. If you didn't get the hint yet, I'm always in it for the characters! But truly, the action and plot and setting (Wakanda forever!) were fabulous too. The main downside for me was the ancestor worship, but even that didn't detract too much from my enjoyment.

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Jumanji (2017)
I remember watching the 1995 version a long time ago. It was one of my first scary movies, and I loved every thrilling minute of it. So when I saw the hilarious trailer for the remake, I was super excited!

And . . . well. It wasn't quite as good as I'd hoped. I was fine with the plot being the shallow action flick kind--and it made fun of videogame tropes, which even I enjoyed as a nongamer--but I really could have done without the crude humor. If you haven't seen the movie yet, the basic idea is that four teens get sucked into a videogame, where they appear as the avatars they chose. One girl unwittingly chose a male avatar, and as you can guess, this becomes the source of way too many inappropriate jokes.

Other than that, it was pretty funny! I still liked the old one better, though.

Page Storylines

Image result for last star burning caitlin sangster

Last Star Burning // Caitlin Sangster

Hmmm, very mixed feelings on this one.

I liked the world--a dystopian/futuristic China! I liked the hints of Sleeping Beauty scattered throughout. The Sleeping Sickness, based off a real disease called encephalitis lethargica, was cool too. I liked that Sev, the protagonist, was actually loyal to her City's (abusive) government, which is uncommon for dystopian heroes. And because this book came in a PageHabit box, there were sticky note annotations by the author, which I also liked.

But I wasn't a big fan of the info-dumping used to explain how everything worked, especially at the beginning. I didn't like having to reread action scenes to understand what was going on, since the writing style got a bit jerky at those parts. By the end of the book, there were very few characters left that I actually liked. Most people turned out to be backstabby. And a lot of the conflict could have been avoided if Sev had just asked more questions and used her common sense. You'd think that an orphan who was branded and bullied by the City would naturally be a little more suspicious!

Oh, and Howl's name made me think of Howl's Moving Castle, which this book was definitely nothing like. Not a bad thing, per se, just a thing.

So overall, I was decently entertained and will probably pick up the second book when it comes out. But my disappointment in a certain character has colored my opinion of the whole story, sadly. Three stars.

Image result for circles of seven bryan davis

Circles of Seven // Bryan Davis

THIS IS MY FAVORITE DRAGONS IN OUR MIDST BOOK AND I LOVE IT SO. I'm such a sucker for symbolism and metaphor, and this one is packed with it, so of course it's my favorite!

Billy has grown so much since the beginning of the series. It's refreshing to see a hero actually learn from his mistakes, instead of constantly backsliding to square one. And as all the friendships deepen, these characters just keep growing. Bonnie is one of my heroes; her faith is so beautiful to see. I loved seeing Ashley and Walter argue and banter more--there's so much snark, but also a really healthy conflict resolution! Professor Hamilton continues to be a lovable, sprightly old gent who yells about driving on the wrong side of the road, physically attacks baddies, trips a rude cameraman, and holds fast to godly wisdom through it all. I love him. The only character I hate is Morgan, and she's, well . . . supposed to be hated.

I loved the setting too. Most of it takes place in England and in the seven circles, which carry so much of that spiritual symbolism I was just raving about! And there's one scene near the end that I'd nearly forgotten, a scene heavily inspired by Ezekial 37 . . . chill-inducing, in a really good way.

I feel like I uncover more of this book every time I read it. This was my third time, I think, and I'm sure I'll still find more next time. Five stars!

Written Subplots

I'm not quite sure how I managed to get any of this done, but . . . apparently I did!

I compiled more beta feedback on The Brightest Thread, this time covering chapters 7 through 15. I was hoping to get to chapter 18, but didn't quite make it. I'm seeing patterns in what's working and what's not working in the story, and the more I prepare, the more excited I get to tackle revisions this summer! Just this week, I received some golden advice for how to fix one of my main trouble spots.

I also wrote another little flash fiction piece this month, and I quite like it. It needs a bit of buffing up, but then I plan to submit it to Splickety for one of their summer editions!

Farewell, March

So it was a good but busy month! It looks like I watched more movies and read fewer books than usual (oops), but still got some writing progress done. Now I'm looking forward to April!

Happy Easter, everyone! Tell me, how was your month? Are you going to be at the Five Poisoned Apples reveal? Any ideas for a belated blogoversary party? And--as if our TBRs need any help--what's a book that gets richer every time you read it?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Interview with Kate Marie - The Bubblegum Rebellion

[Via Unsplash]
Guess who I'm featuring on Adventure Awaits today, questers??? It's Kate Marie, who's basically a ray of sunshine disguised as a human!* She's here to talk about BOOKS (surprise, surprise) and answer some questions about the Bubblegum Rebellion, the blog she launched in January. In her words, this rebellion involves sharing stories about "beauty, wonder, hope, freedom, healing, and starting over." Sounds like a much-needed focus if you ask me!

*(Shush, you didn't see the title already. Be surprised.)


As a four-year-old, Kate regularly yelled long, enraged monologues to the nonplussed white wall of her bedroom when she got sent there as punishment. Her penchant for the dramatic was born then and it continued to grow and flourish as Kate matured. In recent years, the realization dawned on her - she was never happier than when she was acting. Her passion is to bring stories to life - whether it is on a stage or in front of a camera - and her hope is that those stories will change people. When she isn't at rehearsals, she loves writing dark, heavy books that usually include explosions, a big family, and lots of ethnic culture, drawing creepy things that are either burning or bleeding with her art pencils, and reveling in the haunting wistfulness of the trees when she takes long hikes in a nearby park.

But I don't want to steal her thunder. She has a lot more details to share with you. Give it up for Kate!

*insert thunderous applause*

What inspired you to launch The Bubblegum Rebellion?

Kate: I think this is something that has been growing in my heart for a long time, slowly evolving into the full-fledged thing that it is now.

The first step was thinking ahead to my years at college – I’m a senior in high school right now – and how that means, in many ways, a new beginning for me. Or at the very least, a whole new chapter of my life. I’m heading away to college, so I won’t know anyone, I won’t have a reputation or a certain set of expectations that I have to fulfill.

Then I watched the Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube – it’s basically a TV show styled as a blog - and I thought, “This is so engaging and fun. I WANT TO DO THAT.” And I suppose the nail in the coffin was talking to my friend Kenzie and deciding that this passion of mine was really an aesthetic, a lifestyle. It isn’t just about me and what is happening in my life – it’s something I want for everyone.

She came up with the name too, by the way.

Who is the Rebellion aimed at?

Kate: I’d say kids in their teens and twenties because that’s where I’m at right now. But this isn’t an exclusive sort of thing – anyone can join because I firmly believe that anyone can have a fresh start. I don’t care how old or how young you are, we all need to find our way back to the wide-eyed wonder of childhood and that’s what this is about.

I wholeheartedly agree! So what can people expect from the Rebellion?

Kate: A big part of this project, for me, is that we as the next generation have so much potential. So much energy and talent and passion. We can do great things. I’d like to build on that bedrock. So The Bubblegum Rebellion is a place where JUST PLAIN GOOD indie art is made and where beauty is celebrated. Photography, film, and writing are three major tools I hope to use.

I realize that I’m dreaming big, but I’d love work on short films and travel documentaries throughout my college career. But even if that stays out of reach, I’ll be doing the vlogs and posting poetry on the blog.

This might be an impossible question, but what was the best book you read in 2017? Or a few of the best?

Kate: Wow, Tracey. Way to send me scrambling to Goodreads.

Well, I’m going to cheat. (Surprise!) Instead of just one book, I’m going to say that most glorious adventure I went on through the pages of a book in 2017 was The Lunar Chronicles.

So many characters to love. So many ships to ship. So many friendships to laugh and cry over. Just wow. I have feels, guys.

YESSSS, a fellow Lunartic! That series completely captured my heart. Okay, now what's on your TBR (to-be read) pile?

Kate: Ooooooh. Are you sure you wanna go here?

Well, I won’t burden you with the whole length of it, but the Harry Potter series resides at the top of the prestigious pile, with The Scarlet Pimpernel and the Ilyon Chronicles nestling right underneath. I also have a fat stack of classics that WILL get read someday.

What are you writing these days?

Kate: I’m glad you asked!

Sunshine is sort of a “for-fun” novel for me. Not that I’m not passionate about it or don’t love the story and characters… I do. But I intentionally threw some very weird ingredients in the blender with this one. One of my weaknesses is writing overly dark and foreboding stories that lack humor and fun. So I called this one Sunshine, made my main character a maniacally upbeat ray of pure happiness, and tried for a lighter tone. I also struggle with my novels being too short so I expanded the cast – there are nine main characters and a dozen or so others that make up the supporting cast. I split the point-of-view up for the first time as well – nine people are sharing it and one of them is, in fact, a dragon. And, just in case things were not interesting enough, I thought it would be fun to mix things up by making the book unrealistically diverse – every single character has a different country of origin.

If the fact that it has made me laugh out loud and get teary-eyed is any indication, I think it’s going really well.

Sounds really fun, Kate! Now this question gets a bit more serious: Readers and writers alike have differing views on fiction. To some, it's an escape. To others, it's self-expression. To still others, it's a form of worship or a calling. For some, it's all that and more. So what does fiction mean to you?

Kate: I’ve thought long and hard about this and I’m still not sure that I have a good answer.

Escapism has always felt wrong to me. But now that I’m a writer, reading is a part of my job. I guess that makes me feel better about how much time I spent lost in the pages of a book? Maybe.

I just recently went to a coffeeshop for the first time in my life. It was a lovely experience and the atmosphere was my favorite part. They were hosting a music night and it had the vibe of a family hanging out, laughing, talking. The guy performing used a quote I had never heard before and it changed the way I think about fiction and escapes. He said that “art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” I like that.

Fiction has done so much for me. Broadened my horizons, educated me, taught me to think for myself, gave me a passion for telling my own stories.

But I do try to remember that moment in the first Hobbit movie when Gandalf tells Bilbo “the world is OUT THERE, not in your books.” My thirst for adventure is strong, but sometimes I need that extra push to prioritize – I should ALWAYS choose a hike in the park with my dad or a long talk about whatever with my little brother over more time reading. Every time. Make the right decision, Kate.

[via Pinterest]
(Sorry, did I take that too deep?)

Not at all. I loved your answer! It's so true that the world is out there, beyond our beloved books. What's the best writing advice you've been given?

Kate: Um.


That’s the best advice because it always works. It isn’t something that’s different for everyone or only works some of the time. There is no writing malady that cannot be solved with more writing. The more you write, the better you get. It’s as simple as that. You get out exactly what you put and you certainly have to exercise some patience – one cannot become a veteran overnight, after all – but I find it immensely encouraging to know that I will get better with time. There is no other option.

Who are your heroes?

Kate: William Wilberforce and Gianna Jessen.

Those two are the most important. But Tolkien is my writing-hero and C. S. Lewis is my Christian-hero and Louisa May Alcott is my womanhood-hero and my dad is my dad-hero and Johnny Depp is my acting-hero and Adam Young is my introvert-hero and there are probably some others I’m forgetting.

"Introvert-hero." *laughs* Love it! Okay, here's the last question(s) to wrap it up . . . Tea or coffee? Pizza or brownies? Narnia or Middle Earth? Marvel or DC? Pen or pencil? (These are important questions, okay? *winks*)

Kate: THESE ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTIONS OF ALL AND IF YOU SAY OTHERWISE I WILL… give you… chocolate??? (Nice save, Kate. Very smooth.)




Middle Earth. Sorry, Narnia-fans. The nostalgia is definitely there for me too, because The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe was one of the first books I remember my dad reading aloud to me, but when I revisited the series as an adult… I couldn’t see past the sloppy writing and weak worldbuilding. Yes, I know they are for kids – much The Hobbit. But it’s not for me. The books got better as he continued to write them but in the end, there is no way that Middle Earth can’t win this fight. Tolkien is too brilliant.

Marvel. I haven’t watched many of the films – three Marvel and only one DC – but I’ve done enough research to consider myself something of a nerd and while DC’s aesthetic and soundtracking is better, Marvel’s acting and stories appeal to me more. I think it’s the large cast and the variety of dynamics. Natasha’s friendship with Tony is different than her friendship with Clint which is different than her relationship with Steve. I love that. But I do love Superman. And the kid playing the Flash in Justice League. And I’ve heard some good things about Wonder Woman. So…?

Pen. Pencils smudge and scratch and need sharpened. Not a fan. Writing in pen is confident and permanent.

Thank you so much for having me, Tracey! It was a pleasure.

Thank you, Kate! It was so much fun interviewing you and hearing more about the Bubblegum Rebellion! If you guys are looking for a place to rebelliously joyful, go check out her blog! I believe she has some exciting things in the works, so be sure to follow her so you don't miss a thing. And if you have any questions, leave them here in the comments!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Lessons Learned from Rooglewood Press Contests

The journey began in 2013.

It was summer when I spotted a pretty novel in the local bookstore. The cover was deep blue, depicting a dragon's face with the image of a young maiden in its eye, the girl gazing thoughtfully into the water. The back of the book looked interesting too. But . . . Aethelbald? The love interest was named Aethelbald? It sounded odd, and being the wary book-buyer I am (or was; I'm getting alarmingly good at purchasing books these days), I resolved to check it out at the library before I invested $20.

That book was Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. And as often happens with mental notes-to-self that are never committed to paper or phone notes, the promise to seek out the book later quickly slipped through the cracks of my memory. Until one day in late November, I rediscovered Heartless on the library shelf. "Why hello there," I said to myself. "I do believe I forgot about you. Good thing you popped up again."

Image result for heartless anne elisabeth stenglVery good indeed, I soon found. It was a snowy November Sunday when I first cracked that book open. My family and I were Christmas shopping. The opening tale of young Una and Felix's adventures--the bridge, the sibling dynamics, the talking cat--drew me in so fully I couldn't help but twist around in my seat as we drove along and read funny excerpts to my siblings.

I devoured the story cover to cover. Not since beloved favorites like Chronicles of Narnia or Bryan Davis's Dragons in Our Midst had I been so captivated with a perfect elixir of wonder, magic, tension, and heart-wrenching hope. Heartless was an instant favorite, oddly-named Aethelbald and all.

I don't think I'd even finished the book before I Googled its author, curious to see who she was and what else she'd written. Lo and behold, there was a whole Tales of Goldstone Wood series! Not only that, but Anne Elisabeth had a blog full of interesting archives--and her most recent posts talked about a writing contest called Five Glass Slippers, held by Rooglewood Press. Curious, I investigated and found that entrants were to write creative retellings of Cinderella, five of which would be published in an anthology together.

The wheels started spinning. Apparently, the contest had been announced back in June, and the deadline was December 31st. Just one month away. Accepted story length: 5,000 to 20,000 words. "Well," I said to myself. "That's not that long. I've written a novel much longer than that."

So I made a crazy decision. This young writer, with twelfth grade studies on her plate and writing speedometer typically set somewhere around tortoise mode, decided to give it a go.

I have since entered all four fairy tale contests hosted by Rooglewood Press, and each one has played an important part in my writing journey. So today I'm going to share with you the lessons I've learned.

(Thanks to Esther @ The Pen of a Ready Writer for sparking some of these ruminations!)

Five Glass Slippers - 2013/14

I wrote like mad all that December. I'd never written a retelling of a fairy tale before. I'd never written a novella before, either, just short stories and a couple novels. But digging into the original Cinderella tale was a whole lot of fun! The classic elements--orphan waif, evil stepmother, nasty stepsisters, fairy godmother, glass slipper, and nameless prince--I threw into a bottle with a cup of creativity and a sprinkle of plot twists, then whipped it into a froth.

The result? The Glass Girl, a messy story about a glassmaker's daughter turned into glass herself by her stepmother, an evil Mystere pulling the strings in a power conspiracy.

Blunders Made

Plot holes: Oh, the plot holes! I cringe now to think of the gaps I didn't catch in the rush of getting my story submitted in time.

Insta-love: Yep, Ella met Dominic, a lord's son, and proceeded to fall in love with him that evening. Within twenty-four hours, she was confessing a deep secret, crying on his shoulder, and saving his life Tangled style. Ella and Dom still have my affection, but if I ever rewrite this thing, I'll make sure their affection takes a little longer to develop.

Weak writing: It wasn't bad quality considering where I was as a writer at the time. In fact, I discovered something about my own voice while writing The Glass Girl. (More on that in a minute.) But I've grown since then. And looking back? I'm cringing again. I wasn't even sure at the time if novellas were long enough to merit having chapters (news flash: they are), so I wrote one big, long story split up only by scene breaks!

Lessons Learned

Writing fast: There was only a month to write and edit 20,000 words. Professional authors usually accomplish that many times over in a month, but I'd never worked that fast before. I learned a good lesson in butt-on-chair-fingers-on-keyboard that December!

Cutting words: I ended up going a little bit over the word limit, so in my feverish editing, I had to do some trimming. See, I tend to write long. (Ahem, this post is a case in point.) But this contest provided me with valuable practice in cutting back.

Catching a glimpse of my voice: Writing teachers always talk about that elusive thing called voice, and quite frankly, I had not yet found mine. But Ella's story, framed in a fairy tale, set in a fantasy world, and laced with emotion, provided me with an opportunity to fuse poetry and prose. Was my writing flawed? Of course, but that's how everyone starts: in a mess. I caught a glimpse of what it was like to write the kind of imagery I've always loved.


I didn't win, but I learned to produce a story in short order, practiced putting myself out there, and had a really fun time doing it. There's enough likable bits of The Glass Girl that it might be worth revisiting in the future.

image via unsplash

Five Enchanted Roses - 2014/15

When the second contest rolled around, I was ready for it! And let me tell you, I was so excited to find out that the chosen fairy tale was Beauty and the Beast, because it has long been one of my favorites. This time, I had the full half a year to ponder the original tale and spin a new twist on it. I decided to step a wee bit out of my fantasy comfort zone and write a contemporary . . . although in the end, it still had a fantastical flavor. (Apparently the fantasy genre won't leave me alone.)

So Blood Rose was born: the tale of a young medical graduate stranded in the secluded mansion of a man who is much older--and deadlier--than he appears.

Blunders Made

Plot holes: The genre mashing of this story meant that my fantasy/sci-fi ideas had to have a real-world medical grounding. I did as much research as I could within the time limits, but in retrospect, I do believe I left a few shaky spots.

Somewhat unbelievable romance: While Emi and Will had much longer than twenty-four hours to get to know each other, I don't think there was quite enough development between them. Emi should have been more reluctant to take shelter in Will's mansion, and Will needed to exhibit a lot more positive character traits in order to outweigh all the red flags he was throwing up. (I mean, he is actually a good person, but that's not always . . . ahem, obvious. He is, after all, the Beast.)

Lessons Learned

Plot holes again: Yes, those dreaded holes were actually a positive as well! See, about two-thirds of the way into the story, I wrote myself into the most difficult corner I had ever encountered. If I didn't find a way out, Emi was going to die, and then Blood Rose wouldn't have an ending. Hemmed in by medical facts that I couldn't change, I had to either find a real-world loophole, or scrap the plot and start over. So I prayed about it. And I prayed some more. And then I went back to researching. You know what happened? I found a little-known medical tidbit that saved Emi's life and the story itself, and was able to write my way out of that corner! So this lesson is two-fold: trusting God with my writing, and persisting through the tough parts.

Friends: I found a lovely group of writers to beta read this story for me as I wrote it. (I guess some people call that alpha reading if it's the first draft, right?) Through our back and forth interaction, I built some amazing online friendships which I still carry with me today! One of my readers, in fact, was also writing a story for the contest, and I got to be her beta reader at the same time. That story was called Burning Thorns. Anybody who peeks into the comments around here can probably tell that the authoress, Christine Smith, became a dear friend, as did several other sweet souls!


I didn't win Five Enchanted Roses either, but I still felt like a winner anyway. I loved my characters, loved my story, and had a blast sharing it in almost real-time with a group of fantastic betas. I also grew closer to God by realizing again that He really does care about my stories.

image via Pinterest

Five Magic Spindles - 2015/16

Confession: I wasn't over-the-moon thrilled when Rooglewood announced the theme of the next contest was Sleeping Beauty. Maybe that's because I didn't watch the Disney movie as a kid, or maybe it's because nothing could quite compare to my beloved Beauty and the Beast. But the more I pondered the original fairy tale of the princess trapped in an enchanted sleep, the more I got excited about all the possibilities!

The Brightest Thread, the journey of a princess walking the realm of dreams and a faraway prince whose dreams are more real than he knows, ended up being my favorite Rooglewood entry yet.

Blunders Made

Trying to fit a big story into a small space: This was more of a challenge than a serious mistake. Since my idea involved a long rivalry between fairy stewards, one hundred years of history between two nations, a curse and all the rules it entailed, and the development of a romance, I had my work cut out for me. Or rather, I had to literally cut out some of my work. If you've been around the blog long enough, I'm sure you remember me wailing about my first draft being 10,000 words too long!

Lessons Learned

Making every. little. thing. count: On that note, when you need to rip out a third of a story, it feels like you're maiming it. But it's amazing how much leaner a story can be when you're ruthless about weeding out the fluff. Extraneous dialogue? Out. Long-winded descriptions? In the garbage. Unnecessary secondary character? Repurposed. The large-scale result was that every single person, place, or thing in The Brightest Thread absolutely had to be there. On a smaller scale, every word was chosen with purpose.

Writing with abandon: Writing that first draft was a beautiful experience. Sure, it had its ups and downs (especially later on during the editing stage!), but I was so in love with my characters and the world of Iror and Bauglind that spending time with them felt like a dream itself. Years down the road, I have a feeling I'll look back on this story and say, "There. That's when I really discovered my voice." Because that's what it felt like. The story was unapologetically me.


Was The Brightest Thread perfect? Hardly. Even the expanded version of it I'm working on right now has its issues to be addressed. But the heart of the story, then and now, feels right. And to my surprise and delight, my dear Luci and Hadrian made it to the top ten in the contest! That news, plus the judge's thoughtful feedback, was a confidence booster and served as confirmation that this is a tale worth pursuing. Plus, I have precious memories of sharing the journey of writing TBT with amazing beta readers once again.

image via Pinterest

Five Poisoned Apples - 2017/18

Rooglewood Press postponed the 2016 contest to the following year, so by the time Snow White was announced as the final theme, I was itching to enter again! For a long while, though, I wasn't sure what to do with the Snow White tale. I was busy editing the novel version of TBT, and then I was busy starting business school, and my brain just didn't have a lot of extra space to create a new story.

Eventually, however, Mirrors Never Lie unfolded--a look at what happens when a young woman is ensorcelled by a cursed mirror and puts her surrogate family of seven huntsmen in danger.

Blunders Made

Fragmented writing sessions: Being in college made writing a challenge. Rather than immerse myself in the story like I wanted to, I wrote in short snippets on weekends and evenings whenever homework wasn't looming. That approach got the job done, but the downside was that I felt disconnected to Skadi, my main character, for quite some time.

Misconceptions: I was frustrated with the story and myself because Skadi's outer journey seemed disjointed at first. Her goals take her in one direction for a while, and then she literally turns a 180 and runs off in the exact opposite direction. It wasn't until I realized that Skadi's inner journey formed a satisfying arc that I understood the story.

Lessons Learned

Three act structure: After pulling out my hair over cutting The Brightest Thread down to size, I was determined not to make the same mistakes with Mirrors Never Lie. Thankfully, K.M. Weiland wrote a helpful article over on Helping Writers Become Authors that explained how to break down the three act structure in a way that allows you to calculate your story's length . . . before you ever write a word of it. I used this structure to plot my novella and I think it worked! I barely strayed over the word limit, and having signposts to guide my way helped me write even when I felt disconnected.

No matter how terrible a first draft is, there's always editing: You know what I found? The story wasn't nearly as bad as I first thought it was. There was plenty to edit, but when I looked back over my first draft, I found enough to love. Enough diamond under all the rock to encourage the refining process.


I love Mirrors Never Lie the way I love memories of scraped knees and stumbles. There is a rawness in that story that makes me flinch--a combination of self-doubt about the writing quality and my own vulnerability laced through the story's theme. Yet something good came out of that experience. Skadi may not be my favorite protagonist ever. But maybe that's because she embodies a part of myself that isn't my favorite, and maybe that's a good thing.

I don't know what the results of Five Poisoned Apples will be. It's bittersweet, knowing this is the last contest. I hope to see familiar names on the cover in fifteen days when the announcement is made on April 2nd!* Whatever happens, I can't wait to read the winning stories!

*I hear tell of an early announcement on Rooglewood's private Facebook page for the contest (March 31st), but since I don't have Facebook, I likely won't hear anything until the official news is posted.

image via Pinterest

Was it Worthwhile?

Was it worth it to spend so much time writing fairy tale novellas when I could have been focusing on my longer works-in-progress?

Yes! It absolutely was. I'm a firm believer in no writing being a waste. I learned something in each contest.

How to write faster.

How to edit with purpose.

How to share my stories with others.

How to write from the heart.

How to write past doubt.

Not to mention these four opportunities to send my writing out into the world! Hitting send is hard. Waiting is hard. Not knowing is hard. But every time it gets a wee bit easier. And I can say with confidence that the motivation the Rooglewood contests provided have made me a stronger writer.

Whew, you made it to the end! Perhaps I should've taken my own advice and cut this post shorter, but I really wanted to share these lessons--almost like a tribute to the opportunities Rooglewood Press has provided. How about you? Have you entered a contest in your field of creativity before? What's something you've learned? (And are you counting down the days until April 2nd as well?!)

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Fantasy Tag Fest

Much as I enjoy being tagged, doing tags, and tagging other bloggers, I don't get around to it that often! Maybe it's because I sheepishly feel like I'm not offering real content when I do one?* So it's with an even more sheepish grin today that I dust off not one, but two fantasy-themed tags that have been sitting in my drafts for a while. The always lovely Deborah O'Carroll passed on the Life Lessons Learned from Fantasy tag a WHOLE YEAR AGO. (#oops) And the recently-featured-here-because-she-just-released-a-new-book Jenelle Schmidt tagged me just last month for the What If...? Fantasy Tag. Thanks, you two!

*How do you guys feel about that, anyway?

Both tags actually originated with Jenelle, who invented February is Fantasy Month! . . . Yes, we are ignoring the fact that it is now March. In true fantasy style, I am being a wizard who is never late but arrives precisely when she intends to. So there.

Let's jump right in, shall we?

Life Lessons Learned from Fantasy


1. Link back to Jenelle's blog. (Done.)
2. Use the image above. (Also done.)
3. Tell us 5-10 lessons you've learned from reading a fantasy book (or watching a fantasy movie)--lessons can come from multiple sources as well, of course. (Coming right up!)
4. Tag 2-4 other bloggers. (Shall do at the end of the post.)

Life Lesson #1: I can make a difference.

A hobbit from the Shire had no special strength, but Frodo carried the One Ring to Mordor. A little girl was the youngest in her family, but Lucy discovered Narnia and saw Aslan when no one else did. A mute young woman was enslaved by a culture of oppression, but Imraldera's influence stretched over many lands and many ages.

Over and over, fantasy shows me the weak, the small, the powerless, and the ordinary rise up to become heroes. Yes, their heroics are often on a kingdom-wide scale, larger than life for all to see. But they inspire me to make my own life count.

"Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage." -Gandalf

Life Lesson #2: Life is full of wonder.

The moment my imagination set foot on infant Narnian soil and heard Aslan singing the world to life, I was enraptured as I had never been before. And every well-drawn fantasy world since then has kept alive my spark of childlike wonder. Mountains, oceans, valleys, forests. Portals, ley lines, magic hiding around every corner. Vast landscapes flung farther than I can see, all ripe for exploration. I sometimes wonder if these flashes of longing and delight are little tastes of the wonders we'll see in heaven.

Life Lesson #3: The darkness does not last.

Fantasy offers a vivid canvas on which to paint the brightest of colors and the blackest of shadows. The suffering our beloved heroes endure is staggering. Sapphira Adi, confined to the lonely underground for centuries (Eye of the Oracle, Bryan Davis) . . . Nym, her powers stripped right from her bones (Siren's Fury, Mary Weber) . . . the entire Rampion crew, separated and struggling to make headway against the Lunar Queen (Winter, Marrisa Meyer) . . . Frodo and Sam, beaten down to their last breaths on the slopes of Mount Doom (The Return of the King, JRR Tolkien) . . . Cal Raven, his people homeless and his own faith shaken from its holdings (The Ale Boy's Feast, Jeffrey Overstreet) . . . I could go on and on.
But in all my favorite fantasy stories, no matter how deep the darkness becomes and no matter how long it lasts, light breaks through. Sapphira Adi finds hope in Elohim. Nym discovers a power that no one can take from her. The Rampion crew finds love and victory. Frodo and Sam find the strength to carry on and put an end to a great evil. Cal Raven makes a home and reclaims his faith.

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

Life Lesson #4: God is recklessly in love with me.

Allegorical fantasy is still one of my favorites, and there are so many books under that category that have refreshed my view of God. In Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Heartless, I see Aethelbald redeem me. In Ted Dekker's Circle series, I drown in Elohim's waters and emerge reborn. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I witness Aslan's sacrifice firsthand. In Wayne Thomas Batson's The Door Within, King Eliam's glory blinds me.

All of these stories and more open my eyes to more facets of God's character. And always I am drawn in by His wild, untamed, unreserved love. He's not a tame lion, you know.

Life Lesson #5: In the end, we win.

Fantasy is the genre in which a happily ever after is the norm. There may be bloodshed, scars, and sorrows, but in the end, good prevails. The enemy armies may be innumerable, but in the end, they fall. Fantasy rekindles my hope. We are on the winning side. The enemy is already defeated. And one day, we're going home.


The What If . . . ? Fantasy Tag


1. Thank the blogger who tagged you. (Thanks again!)
2. Include the graphic somewhere in your post. (See above.)
3. Answer the questions. (In a sec!)
4. Tag a few bloggers--and let them know they've been tagged. (Coming at the end.)
5. Have fun! (That would be impossible to avoid.)

1. Your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. The cast of the most recent fantasy book you've read comes to your assistance . . . Who are they? Will they be helpful?

Whew, I'm in luck! The book I'm currently reading, Bryan Davis's Circles of Seven, is urban fantasy with a twist, so at least most of the characters are familiar with modern inventions. Billy and Walter should have no trouble fixing my car, especially with Karen around, since she's a car expert. Not to mention Ashley's super smart. Bonnie can fly ahead to see where we are (and where the nearest mechanic is), while Shiloh keeps me company and Professor Hamilton regales me with Arthurian legend.

But if Clefspeare or Hartanna are around, I say we ditch the car and go for a dragon flight!

2. You go to bed one evening and wake up in the lair of the villain of the last fairytale you read. Where are you and how do you plan to get out?

I'm not sure what fairytale I've read most recently, but the latest fairytale retelling is probably The Tomb of the Sea Witch by Kyle Robert Schultz.

In which case I'm underwater and will probably drown in the next thirty seconds.

My plan is to accept my fate. I'll spend the rest of my days as a ghost wandering the halls of the Warrengate Academy of Advanced Magic. Perhaps I can haunt Malcolm the dragon every now and then . . . it'd be fun to scare him without fear of getting fried.

3. You are transported into a fantasy realm and given a mythical creature as a companion and best friend . . . Which mythical creature do you get?

The answer is quite obvious. NEXT QUESTION.

Oh, wait. You really don't know? A dragon, of course! Because although the blog's sidebar does say I might have one living in my basement, that dragon might be a figment of my imagination. Who knows? Either way, I need a real dragon bestie in my life.

4. In a strange series of coincidences, you end up needing to take the place of your favorite fantasy hero or heroine. Who are you?

"A strange series of coincidences"--does that kind of sound like a spinoff to A Series of Unfortunate Events?

But oh boy, this is a tough one. I'm going to fall back on a long-time favorite: Sir Eanrin from Tales of Goldstone Wood! While the term "hero" may be debatable at some points in his life, the sometimes-man, sometimes-cat is really a noble character deep down beneath his preening, poetry, and pride. (My my, the alliteration is flowing already.)

All credit goes to artist Jenelle Hovde!
(This fanart is on display at Dame Imraldera's Library.)

5. To go along with question #4, now that you are that character, is there anything you would do differently than that character, now that you are running the show?

Um, YES. TELL IMRALDERA I* LOVE AND ADORE HER. And that is all I will say on the subject.

*he? you? Am I talking about Eanrin, to Eanrin, or about myself as Eanrin?

6. If you were yourself in a fantasy novel, what role do you think you would play in the story?

I'd be the sidekick on the quest, the one who packs too many books, gives the heroes regular pep talks to keep their spirits up, and surprises everyone with a fiery verbal barrage against injustice.

But if I lived long enough, I would likely take up a profession as the village crazy person. You know, the mysterious kind who lives in a house crammed full of scrolls, knick knacks, dust, and half an apothecary--the eccentric old woman whose nonsense occasionally hides a scrap of wisdom.

7. One morning, as you are going about your daily business, you pick up an everyday item and a voice booms in your head with prophetic words about your future. What object is it, and what is the prophecy?

It is my phone, a companion that's a little too constant. And the prophecy that echoes in my head is:

Three for Goodreads stats falling behind
Seven for games with endless levels
Nine for Instagram photos divine
One for emails like Hydra devils
In the land of pixels where distractions lie.
One phone to rule them all, one phone to find them,
One phone to bring them all and in the appstore bind them.
In the land of pixels where distractions lie.

(I butchered the meter, but that's what you get for writing parody poetry after staying up too late watching a movie.) (Anyway, all that to say I'm trying to work on my phone habits!)

8. You are transported into a magical realm and turned into a mythical beast . . . What beast/fantasy creature do you want to be?

A DRAGON. Oh, right, I already used that one for #3.

How about a shape shifter? Then I can take the form of anything I want, dragon included! I mean, talk about convenient. I could swim with the mermaids, fly with the phoenixes / griffins / Pegasi* / dragons / etc., and infiltrate any castle in the kingdom. But if shape shifter wasn't an option, I would settle for being a talking fox, like the one in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe movie.

*what's the plural for Pegasus, anyway?

9. If you could read your way into any fantasy realm, but the catch is you can never leave, would you? Which realm would you choose?

Oh dear, don't do this to me. This sort of question makes me start needling around for loopholes and exceptions. Like, if I could take my family with me, I would pick . . . or, if I could still communicate with people on earth, I'd choose . . .

If such gracious allowances were truly forbidden, then no. I wouldn't read my way into a fantasy realm, because as massively tempting as it would be, I couldn't leave my fam jam behind! Buuuut if we can stretch the rules a little, I would pick Narnia hands down. It has the perfect blend of wonder, beauty, and just the right amount of danger to make for great adventures. (I would get stabbed very quickly in a place like Middle Earth, okay.)

Hmm . . . the longer I think about it, though, the more I like the thought of living in one of the realms of my own making. Iror would be lovely, or Demetria . . .

Okay, okay, I'll stop! My answer is Narnia, but only if I can take people with me.

10. As you are going about your normal day, you discover that you have a magical power. What is it?

A super brain that learns ridiculously fast and retains it all would make college a breeze! But that sounds a little bit more like superhero/sci-fi stuff than fantasy, so . . . I think it would be cool to see an "aura" around people. Kind of a way to read their emotions, which is less intrusive than reading minds but would probably be quite helpful. Is there a name for that sort of thing? If no one's written a book about it yet, maybe I'll have to.


Whew, that got longer than I expected! I should've known that fantasy + books = much to talk about. And now it's time to tag some people to pass on the fun. I'm going to do something different and tag some of my newest followers. Feel free to take it or leave it, guys! (Either one or both of them.) If you do take them, leave me a link so I can check it out!

I tag:
Anyone else who started following Adventure Awaits within the last three months!
(I wanted to tag more of you, but couldn't find links to your blogs on your profiles.)

Well, that about wraps it up! What are some things you've learned from fantasy? Whose lair would you be escaping? Would you read yourself irreversibly into a fantasy realm???