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???

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Subplots and Storylines - February 2018

February can be a bit of a slump. December is abuzz with Christmas hype, January opens a fresh new year, and February . . . well, good old Feb is just another cold month following three other equally cold months, at least where I live. Is it much the same for you, or are you already melting in southern heat?

Life Subplots

Thankfully, this last week it has finally begun to feel like spring! There's something hopeful about seeing the snow creep back from under the pine trees, where the sun's rays begin to gather in the boughs . . . hearing the birds start to sing again . . . hearing the drip of snowmelt trickling from the eaves. Spring has always been about life and new beginnings to me.

"O wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?" -Percy Bysshe Shelley

February was a pretty average month here in my corner of the world. Life went on as usual: going to work, going to school, wrapping up some projects, studying, and--gasp--I just finished midterms! It's funny, but once again midterm week was a really nice change of pace. It was actually less busy than a normal week of school, because I booked it off work to give myself time to study. We'll see if it paid off once I get my marks back.

One noteworthy event amongst the averageness was going grad dress shopping with my sisters, one of whom is graduating this spring. I can't believe she's the third in the family to finish high school. My siblings are growing up!

Screen Storylines

My siblings and I are just about finished with Once Upon a Time season 3 and The Flash season 3. This season of The Flash is the most intense, feelsy one yet--my poor heart has been mangled at least five times over, and the last couple of episodes promise to do an even worse number on me. It's fantastic and terrible and I just want my favorite characters to be happy for once! Is that too much to ask?!

I also watched a teensy bit more of Once Upon a Time season 6. I've yet to be impressed, sadly. But Emma, Hook, and the Charming family are enough reason to keep watching.

As far as movies go . . .

The Death Cure

OH. MY. WORD. My siblings and I went to see it in theaters at the beginning of the month. I've enjoyed the first two Maze Runner movies, but this final one blew me away. It was better than expected, and yes, it did rip my heart out and shred it into pieces. Yes, I did almost shed a tear. Yes, I did spend most of the movie with my hands close to my face as if I could shield myself from the adrenaline and feels. (Didn't work.)

The Death Cure definitely felt like a war movie. It was darker than the first two. Lots of strategy, rescue missions, gunfights, chases, and heart-stopping action--but also grave consequences. Characters have worked hard to get where they are, but some of them risk everything to go against WCKD one last time to rescue their friends. It wasn't a perfect movie, and there was quite a bit of violence (obviously), but it somehow did an excellent job of making me feel deeply.

I'm nervous to read the book now because I don't think it'll top the movie.


Much more lighthearted than The Death Cure! I haven't seen this one in a few years, although with all the hype that surrounded its release, I feel like I've watched it more often than I have.

My youngest sister and I decided it would make the perfect cozy film for Valentine's Day evening, which it was. I'd forgotten how sweet the story is, how nutso Kristoff is, and how well the foreshadowing was woven in.


Okay, I quite enjoyed the books a few years ago. I loved the Divergent movie (and its epic soundtrack, oh my goodness). But Insurgent fell kind of flat. I was hoping the series would fight past the sequel blues and deliver at least a decent finish, but based on reviews when Allegiant came out, I wasn't too hopeful.

Finally I sat down and watched it for myself. Yawn. I could have looked past the weird Martian-red landscape beyond Chicago's protective wall (which looks nothing like it did in the book). I could have chosen to ignore the plot holes and lack of explanation behind the sleek technology of the Bureau of Genetic Welfare.

But even though there were some good action sequences, like the escape over the wall, the story totally lacked emotional depth. Tris and Four felt like wooden cut-outs of who they were in Divergent. Tris makes stupid decisions (which I think she did in the book too, but somehow they felt more pronounced on screen). Four goes around being Mr. Brooding Boyfriend and punching people. Christina is practically absent. Peter is still his annoying self, but now in a juvenile way. And Caleb is . . . himself, I suppose. Don't get me started on the villain--his final moment was laughable.

It's a shame this movie bombed the way it did. I believe they were planning to split this book into two films (noooo, whyyyy), but that the fourth movie, Ascendant, was canceled. It's too bad, because Allegiant ended anticlimactically, with little sense of resolution. I was hoping for the kind of courage and sacrifice we find in the book, but alas, all Tris does during the climax is run through a ventilation shaft and shoot some things.

If you're looking for a solid finish to a dystopian movie series, watch The Death Cure instead.

Page Subplots

This was a good month for reading! I finished up a book I'd started in January, read three more, and started another one that will show up in March's Subplots & Storylines. Here's what I finished:

The Scorch Trials // James Dashner

(Funnily enough, I was in the middle of this book when I watched the third movie. Bad bookworm!)

The writing in this one was a slight improvement over book one. I really liked the change of setting found in the Scorch and the ruined cityscape. It was a sharp contrast, and the lack of walls and rules made things more difficult for the characters. Moments like the scene with the Cranks in the Underneath were pretty intense! Newt's dry levelheadedness and Minho's blustery leadership style were fun, and Thomas's dreams/memories were interesting, if a bit repetitive.

My main quibbles fall on the two female characters. Toward the second half, Teresa was just plain annoying. "Trust me, Thomas. This is all an act. No, wait, the act is an act! No, the act is an act of an act! Trust me!" I'm not sure what Thomas sees in her. I was waiting for a better explanation behind her actions, but maybe the payoff is coming in book three.

And Brenda. I was blurring the movie version of her with the book version (that's what you get for watching the movies first), so for the most part I genuinely liked her. Some of her unwarranted touchy-feely moments were grating, but my sisters assure me she improves a lot in book three.

Speaking of movie versions of characters, I just couldn't picture Jorge as being "young" like Dashner described! My picture of Jorge is the 50-something face in the movies, and I can't see him any other way.

Anyway, I enjoyed the book overall! Rat Man was properly infuriating. The sheer craziness of the tests WICKED puts the teens through is . . . well, crazy. There are a lot of unanswered questions, but again--I must read book three and find out. Four stars.

The Candlestone // Bryan Davis

I continued my DIOM reread with the second book in the series this month. Once again it was great to return to beloved characters! In The Candlestone, Billy battles his own darkness, Bonnie faces a deep fear, Walter steps up as a comrade in battle, Professor Hamilton reveals secrets, and Ashley's eyes are opened for the first time. Their journeys really begin to gel and intertwine in this one as a centuries-old story comes to light.

The candlestone itself provided a canvas for several vivid analogies, which I appreciated again in a new way. It nearly brought tears to my eyes. I'll never forget Billy lying on the cavern floor with Excalibur in his grip. "Truth . . . truth is my sword. Faith . . . faith is my shield."

And I couldn't help but notice that Bryan Davis's writing improved over the first book. Both are fantastic, don't get me wrong, but it's neat to see how even your favorite authors grow their craft over time! Five stars.

Hostage Run // Andrew Klavan

Klavan's books are always super fast reads for me, and this one was no exception! I finished it in a few days.

Some things I liked:
  • Klavan's writing style is sharp and to the point. Nothing fancy, but that's what makes it sound like the main character himself, an ex-football player named Rick, is telling his story.
  • Rick's friend Molly featured more prominently in this book, which I loved. She was sadly lacking in book 1, and felt like just another personality-less girlfriend type. But she got a lot more page-time this time around, and her parts of the story were my favorite. She's almost six feet tall, super fit, and spiritually strong as well, a combo I don't find very often.
  • Victor One. He is the BEST.
  • Rick was honestly trying to forgive his father and mend their relationship, unlike so many embittered sons in fiction.
  • The Breach was cool, even if it wasn't explained as much as I wanted.

What I didn't like as much:
  • Mainly just the Octo-Guardian, a humongous creature with octopus legs and a humanoid face. This creature guards the villain's ship in the Realm (the videogame world that Rick is able to enter). Given the videogame context, I guess it works, but it was a biiiit of a stretch to take seriously on my part. Still, it didn't ruin the book for me.

It felt great to devour a book so fast. With that cliffhanger ending, I won't let another couple of years before I pick up the sequel! Four stars.

Orphan's Song // Gillian Bronte Adams

My friends in the blogging/bookish/Goodreads communities have been buzzing about this book ever since Enclave Publishing released it over three years ago! I was intrigued by the premise of a Songkeeper wielding some kind of musical power, but to be honest, I was hesitant about the quality. (I seem to be wary of self-pubbed or small publisher books--always wondering if the writing will be polished enough not to snag my attention with too many mistakes.)

But aside from a small handful of typos and missing commas, my fears were unfounded! This was a really sweet, cozy fantasy that reminded me the type of books I read as a tween/young teen. It just felt homey to me. With a cranky peddler, ancient griffin, mistreated orphan, mysterious sword, and young street rat, it carried many classic elements of a good ol' fantasy adventure.

Amos was my favorite character, even if his refusal to share information with Birdie, the main character, got a little old by the end. For some reason, Amos's voice clearly sounded like Hector Barbossa's in my head??? Except more kindly? I don't know, maybe it was his accent or his amusing insults!

I also enjoyed Ky's storyline and how it eventually wove into Birdie's journey. I'm looking forward to their adventures together. I sense that both of them will flourish in the sequels! Speaking of sequels, the plot twist at the end took me by surprise, even though I should've seen it coming.

I'll be keeping an eye out for book 2! Four stars.

Writing Storylines

I actually have a few little somethings to report here.

First, I wrote a piece of flash fiction about 1,000 words long, called Dead Magic. I intended to submit it to Havok Magazine, but thanks to school and procrastination, I didn't finish in time. I might post it here someday, or brush it up and find another place to submit it. Either way, it was fun to actually write something!

And I purchased an annual Realm Makers membership! Even with the exchange rate to Canadian dollars, it still will save me a bit on conference registration.* When you get a membership, they send you four free audio recordings of past RM classes, so I listened to one by Steve Laube about Theology and the Cosmos. Inspiring! I also caught part of a webinar by Thomas Locke that was open just to RM members.

*Speaking of which, earlybird registration ends on March 15 and I need to do something about that!

But the best writing thing to happen this month was that I finally started working on The Brightest Thread again! YES!!! Not editing yet--that will come later, once this college term finishes. No, for now I'm compiling all the feedback from my beta readers into one place so I can, you know, actually use it. There's about ten sets of complete feedback, give or take a few, so that's a lot of comments to go through! I've covered chapters 1-6, and there are . . . gulp . . . 371 comments to deal with so far. Granted, some of them are positive! But there are also substantial issues to fix in the first section of the book.

Farewell, February! How was your month, adventurers? Is it spring yet for you? Have you seen The Death Cure? Are my book/movie reviews getting too long? (Be honest now.) Should I post about my beta/editing process someday? Let's chat about allll the things!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Remember in the Dark

"Don't forget in the darkness what you learned in the light."

I first read that quote (originally by Joseph Bayly, it appears) in Circles of Seven by Bryan Davis. At least that's where I think I read it. It was so long ago that time and frequent recollection have blurred out the quote's origin. But the truth of it remains clear in my heart.

I've been grateful to live a pretty amazing twenty-two years so far. I can't say I've had a hard life; all I have to do is look around and see countless people with struggles more difficult than my own. But not one of us slips through this world unscathed. We all weather storms of varying magnitudes. I, too, have faced looming shadows and endless valleys.

And it is in the midst of the darkness that we forget.

It's easy to remember in the light. It's easy to recall the truth of who we are and the truth of the God we follow when the reminders are as warm and near as the sun shining on our faces. But when night falls, oh, how quickly we forget. We panic, groping blindly for a corner in which to hide. We cry, fear clawing up our backs. We stumble on, wandering and getting lost in the blackness. We forget so quickly that we are children of light.

But faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Did you get that? Faith is the substance and evidence of what you cannot see. It's the paradox of holding an intangible thing, of perceiving what is not immediately visible. It is real. It's not some wayward fancy. It's not a lure-less hook tossed into the sea in the mere hopes that it will catch a fish.

It is real.

When you go to bed at night and flick off the lights, does that mean your room ceases to exist because you can no longer see it? Of course not. Sight has nothing to do with the existence of a thing. It is there regardless of whether you see it or not. But it takes a steady belief to remember that when the lights go out and your eyes fail you.

Memory is a fickle thing. Is it just me, or do you ever look at something to memorize it--be it a review sheet at school or a book cover or a name or a number or a recipe--and forget it two minutes later? "What was that again?" And you go back to check. This kind of repetition is what we need in the moment we're plunged into shadows, when our minds go blank and the fear wells up. Go back and remember. What was it you learned in the light? What was it you saw and felt and knew? Isn't that true today, right now, even if you don't see it in front of you? Go back. Remember. Remember. Remember.

What was true in yesterday's sunrise is true in today's midnight. And it will still be true when the sun rises again.

I'm still standing here // No, I didn't disappear // Now the lights are on // See, I was never gone

(Never Gone by Colton Dixon)

When He feels far away, He is near, as close as He's ever been. When everything crumbles around you, there is a rock beneath your feet. When confusion clouds your mind, you will hear a voice behind you saying, "This is the way; walk in it."

"Your word is a lamp for my steps; it lights the path before me."

(Psalm 119:105)

The thing is, you can see that light if you choose to. It's on a different frequency than the physical light around you, and sometimes it takes a focused effort on your part to switch to that frequency, to see with eyes of faith. But it's there, and it's real. The unseen really is more real than what is seen.

So today, dear soul, wherever you are and however dark it may be, never ever ever EVER forget what you have learned in the light. Hold it close to your heart. That candle will erupt into a torch, and then a burning wildfire, before long.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Autobiography of a Fantasy Character - The Journey Begins

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 instalment, check it 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.)

Mentor and I set out the very next day for Distant Land. We packed light, for everyone knows that heroes aren't supposed to look like burdened pack ponies. Taking too much food or supplies would ruin our appearance. Astride our gallant steeds, we bid Quaint Village farewell and rode out into the mountains.

My heart pounded like my stallion's hoof beats. I'd never left the valley before. Never seen the world before. And Distant Land was many, many leagues away, with untold wonders and dangers in between. Suddenly I felt very small.

As we rode, the prophecy ran through my mind.

Darkness watches the chosen one
Many wrongs have been done
When the final note has been sung
And night is day and old is young
Seize the keys that Villain flung

What could it all mean?

Mentor and I rode in silence all day, upslope and downslope and up again, through winding passes and over steep crags. Our horses never tired. We stopped once to eat, but never to relieve ourselves or feed our mounts. Heroes are invincible to normal human needs, you see. That night, we took turns keeping watch and sleeping under the stars. The rocky ground did not disturb my slumber, and I awoke feeling rested.

Our second day of travel continued much as the first. So did the third, the fourth, and the fifth, the mountains growing shorter every day. We could have used all this monotonous riding for discussion--Mentor could have explained more about his past or about my crucial role in saving the world--but where's the fun in that? Better to go into the big wide world with only the bare minimum of knowledge.

We did, however, spar together every night to keep up my training, and I even practiced using my powers. I learned how to start a campfire with a snap of my fingers, move a rockslide out of our path with a blast of light, and probe ahead with my mind to search for living beings.

But my abilities did not warn me of the dark soldiers following us. We had just reached a wide plain that stretched as far my eyes could see, when the enemies attacked from behind. A flurry of crossbow quarrels landed all around us. One struck my shoulder. I cried out and turned my horse to blast our attackers with a frenetic spray of energy. Several faceless soldiers died, but I missed four of them. They ran closer, crossbows taking aim again.

We didn't gallop away to escape their shots. We stood our ground. Heroes aren't supposed to run away from a fight, you know. So when the soldiers fired again, Mentor and I came within inches of death . . .

But Mentor raised his staff and shouted a mysterious word. "GHAOWOUSHAL!" Blinding white light shot from his staff like an exploding star, knocking the quarrels out of midair and searing the enemy soldiers where they stood.

Then we turned and ran.

My shoulder burned with pain. Every hoof beat seemed to drill the quarrel deeper. All I could compare the pain to was fire. Coals on my skin, heat in my veins, fire, pain, fire, pain. (Although I'd never been burned before, so this was all hypothetical.)

Mentor led the way over the grassy plain. We rode hard for several leagues before finally veering into a forest. By this time, I was nearly fainting with the fiery, burning, crackling, searing pain. My vision swam. My thoughts dispersed like fog burnt away by the sun. Mentor pushed his horse through the trees, and my stallion followed.

Just as black crept around the edges of my vision, I glimpsed a massive tree with faces peering out of windows carved in the trunk.

At last I fell unconscious.

* * *

I don't know how long I slept, passing in and out of a feverish haze. Blurry faces hovered above me. Words in a flowing language passed between them. Cool hands touched my burning wound. Somewhere in the back of my muddled mind, I deduced that the quarrel had been poisoned. No ordinary crossbow bolt would make my whole body feel as weak as wet paper.

As I slept, my mind was plagued with more visions of terror and death. I saw cities burning and fields slicked with blood, and a haunting aria of strings seemed to play in the background. I tossed and turned, too weak to rouse myself to wakefulness.

In one vision, I saw Mentor with his staff raised again. He shouted that gibberish word, but this time I understood it. "Cease and desist, by the Light that Blinds Enemies and Burns their Wicked Hearts!" Apparently much could be said in a single word. But understanding its meaning did little to answer my questions or bring peace to my troubled mind. Instead it added to my confusion. Who was Mentor?

When at last the fever broke and the fire in my shoulder eased, I opened my eyes and found myself nestled in a soft bed. Sunlight streamed through a window to illuminate a cozy room carved out of wood. Moss grew on the floor and flowers dressed my bedside table. Was I inside the huge tree I had seen? Whoever chose to live so close to nature must be noble folk indeed.

But what arrested my gaze was a pair of brilliant blue eyes staring down at me. Ruby lips turned downward in a frown. Pointed ears peeked out from waves of golden hair tumbling down her shoulders.

Standing at my side was the most gorgeous girl I had ever seen. And she was an elf.

To be Continued . . .

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Minstrel's Call Cover Reveal

Guys, I'm so excited! Why? Well, two reasons. The first is that I'm beginning to crawl out from the maw of the Great Beast of Homework. And the second reason for the excitement should be faaaaaiiiiirrrly obvious. Y'know, if you read blog post titles at all. Or happen to glance upon title banners. Ahem.

My friend Jenelle Schmidt's newest novel, Minstrel's Call, is coming out in just two weeks!

So that means I get to share the shiny new cover with all of you today! But before you scroll down to see it, let me entice you with what the book is actually about:

War threatens. The game board is set. But the Minstrel is missing...

Advancing his growing power, the Dread Prince breaks free of his prison and brings a faction of dragons under his control, stirring unrest and hatred in the newly united kingdoms of Tellurae Aquaous.

When the dragon wards of Kallayohm are targeted in a ruthless attack, the High King travels there to administer justice. But the trial results in a crippling blow that leaves him reeling.

On the heels of defeat, an unexpected message from the erstwhile Minstrel arrives, pleading with his friends for rescue. Together, the High King and his companions must follow the fragile trail, braving peril and darkness that will test the measure of them all...

Doesn't that sound thrilling? I mean--DRAGONS. YES PLEASE. And also royalty and high stakes and mystery and political intrigue and dragons and war and darkness and dragons . . . It sounds like exactly my kind of book. Just sayin'.

Now, I feel a bit sheepish because I've yet to read the first three books of the Minstrel's Song seriesBut I did have the great pleasure of reading Jenelle's Beauty and the Beast novella in the Five Enchanted Roses collection a few years ago, and her lovely story was one of my favorites. I also thoroughly enjoy her blog, and you may recognize her as one of the co-hosts of the great Silmarillion Awards from the past two years. So I'm convinced that she's basically a genius and her newest release is going to be amazing! With her capable grasp on fantasy and her eagle editing eye (of which I've been on the receiving end), Minstrel's Call promises to be a work of art. Speaking of art, you're all anxious to see the actual cover, right? Well, here it is . . .

. . .

. . .

. . .

Isn't it beautiful? Ships are another thing I love to read about, especially in fantasy. I may not be the most even-keeled sailor out on the water in real life, but for some reason I'm drawn to those massive, billowing sails and proud bows slicing through the waves.

So like I mentioned, Minstrel's Call is releasing in just two weeks--mark your calendars for February 28th. You can pre-order the e-book on Amazon right HERE for only 99 cents!

And in the meantime, feel free to go stalk Jenelle and follow her blog and congratulate her on her book's release. I promise she's nice.

Jenelle Schmidt grew up in the northern-Midwest. She now resides with her husband and their four adorable children in the wilds of Wisconsin. Jenelle fell in love with reading at a young age during family story-times when her father would read out loud to her and her siblings each night before bed. Her imagination was captured by authors such as Madeleine L’Engle, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Lloyd Alexander. It wasn’t long before she began making up her own stories and sharing them with her family. To this day she enjoys creating exciting adventure tales filled with poignant themes and compelling characters in the fantasy and sci-fi genres.

Places to find her: Website/Blog // Facebook // Twitter // Amazon // Goodreads

Who else is excited to get their paws on Minstrel's Call? Are you as enthusiastic about dragons and ships as I am?

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Quick Update

Just popping in to say a few things:

1. The Great Beast of Homework swallowed me whole and this is as much of a post you'll be getting this weekend.

2. Yes, it is very sad. Please cry many tears.

3. Actually, don't. There's no time to mop up the mess!

4. But the good news is there's a special post coming up in the middle of next week! Stay tuned for that!!!

5. In the meantime, tell me how your week was!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Subplots and Storylines - January 2018

Welcome to the first Subplots and Storylines post of 2018! How was your January, questers? Mine was rather full, and I'm about ready to take a nap. Or hibernate until spring. Someone build me an igloo and bring me a stack of fuzzy quilts, please.

Life Subplots

So what happened to make January so busy? The third semester of college, that's what. I had five projects on my plate for the majority of month. Now it's down to three. Most of them are/were group work, which is good in the sense that the load is divided among several brains . . . but not so good in the sense that it's harder to juggle everyone's schedules and actually make progress. (Also I am Batman when I get grumpy. I prefer to work alone. Group projects are meant to make me patient, I suppose.)

I shouldn't complain, though! After all, getting into college this year in the first place was an answer to prayer, and this is all part of getting me where I want to go.

Aside from homework and school and my job, there wasn't really much else going on. Three bright spots in the month were moments spent with friends--coffee and a heart-to-heart with one local friend, a long-distance phone call with another friend (whom I didn't get to see over Christmas holidays), and Skype with a pal in Oxford!

Oh, and tell me--was your January as frigid as mine? There were a couple of days in which spring seemed to be whispering in my ear, but the rest of it was blustery and often thirty below with the wind-chill (in Celsius, mind you). Usually I don't want winter to end until I've gone sledding or ice-skating at least once, but this year I haven't done either and yet I'm still ready for spring to arrive.

Screen Storylines

Yes indeed, I kept plugging steadily through my two favorite TV shows--well, the only shows I currently watch, but you know. I rewatched more of Once Upon a Time season 3, started Once Upon a Time season 6 (eeep!), and also continued watching The Flash season 3 (which I really, really, really need to discuss here on the blog someday).

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

I saw this way back near the beginning of the month, and although I've forgotten some things already, I did enjoy it! Aside from a few unnecessarily inappropriate jokes and a characteristically rambling plot, it was a fun high-seas adventure. Jack is back, ever his charming, stumbling, selfish self. Henry Turner was a great addition, I thought--and at some angles he almost reminded me of my own character, Prince Hadrian, except with longer hair. Carina was a bit of your stereotypical "I'm a lady intellectual in a sexist world; step aside, please" kind of character, but it was still fun to have a spitfire young woman in the story--especially towards the end. Even if you're wary of watching the latest film in this looooong running franchise . . . do it for the bank robbery scene at the beginning. You can thank me later.

[via Pinterest]

The Bourne Identity

Can you believe this was my first time watching a Bourne movie?! (And can you believe how young Matt Damon looked in 2002?) I'm a sucker for amnesia stories, so a movie about a man waking up with a tracker embedded in his skin and seven different passports bearing his picture, yet no memory of his past at all--that was super intriguing. All the getaways, fistfights, adrenaline, and unspoken character development were awesome! I loved the scene with the sniper in the field, for some reason. Considering the genre, there was less objectionable content than I expected, so yep, I'll be watching the rest of the movies! Probably reading the books too.

Bookish Subplots

I read only two novels this month, but both of them were good, so I'm satisfied.

Raising Dragons // Bryan Davis

One special reading goal I have this year is to reread the twelve Dragons in Our Midst/Oracles of Fire/Children of the Bard books, so book one of DIOM was obviously top of the list. I first read Raising Dragons at the age of twelve, and I think this was my fourth time going through it! My favorite scene still is, and always has been, when Billy and Bonnie are taking shelter in the woods for the night in chapter 13. ("Forever and ever, Bonnie. I will always be your friend.")

Rereading this was like returning to old pals. Cozy and familiar. Some scenes I knew nearly by heart, and other details I'd forgotten (such as Professor's crazy driving). And while I had to smile at some minor headhopping and cheesy lines, it was really neat to see just how far Bryan Davis's craft has come since his first novel! Despite the minor flaws, a heart pulsing with dragonfire still shines through this story, and I'm looking forward to picking up The Candlestone this month. 5 stars!

Siren's Fury // Mary Weber

Wow, this one was a few shades darker than the first book! With more of a steampunk flair injected into the fantasy world, most of the story takes place on board an airship or within the metal castle walls of an industrialized city.

Nym undergoes yet another dramatic sweep in her character arc. There were moments I just didn't like her, but I was both fascinated and hopeful enough to wait for redemption. And it was very interesting to see how she reacted to a severe setback (okay, more like a hundred setbacks, poor girl) that affected her on a personal level. I wish I could be more specific, but I don't want to spoil anything!

Thanks to the cliffhanger ending of the first book--and what that ending entailed for the second book--there was less of the sappy romance. Not nearly as much emphasis on the love interest smelling like "pine and honey and sunshine" and having "jagged bangs" and muscles and being the idealistic YA fiction boyfriend. (I realize this is part and parcel of most YA fantasy romance plots, but I seem to be less patient with that sort of thing the older I get.) Anyway! There was less of that, and a bit more of a focus on the actual relationship . . . well, as much focus as there could be, given the circumstances. I'd better stop talking or I'll give stuff away.

A couple of other things I enjoyed: Princess Rasha gets much more developed, and I discovered I liked having her around. Myles is still despicable, but he also got a lot more page time. Again, I found that more fascinating than annoying (because don't we love having characters to hate?).

Also, can somebody please kill the villain soon. Yesterday would've been good.

I was thinking of giving the book 4 stars, but that deep ending bumped it up to 5 stars!

[via Pinterest]

Digital Pulse // Josiah Dyck @ The Steadfast Pen

Yes, I said I read two books this month. And yes, I do know how to count. This was kind of an unofficial read since a) I don't really include beta reading in my totals because it usually sits on the fence between editing and pleasure reading, and b) this is a novella.

It's my brother's entry for Rooglewood Press's Five Poisoned Apples contest, actually, and I think it might be one of his strongest stories to date! A futuristic superhero spin on Snow White was a lot of fun. If you like brooding heroes, cyborgs, and bubbly AI units, you'd better hope this one wins a spot in the anthology!

Written Storylines

. . .

. . .

Nothing to report here.


As I mentioned in this post, I've given myself the freedom during the remainder of this semester to not rabidly pursue any writing goals. Yes, I already miss the flow of words, but I'm also relieved--because January held approximately zero minutes to give to any of my WIPs. So I'm on a semi-hiatus right now. But hopefully homework will slow down enough that I can organize the beta feedback on The Brightest Thread soon. (I recently received some unexpected critiques on the first few chapters, which is going to be so helpful when I finally get to edit this book in summer! You know who you are--thank you!)

It's not precisely writing-related, but my brother did read my Snow White novella, Mirrors Never Lie, this month. And surprise! He put together a playlist for me! He's the soundtrack aficionado in our house, and his superpower is matching songs to stories that he (and others) write. I was delighted! This playlist includes mostly instrumental pieces, but also two lyrical songs that fit my main characters quite well: Face It by NF, and I Won't Let You Go by Switchfoot. If you want a glimpse of the themes of Mirrors Never Lie--or just want to hear two really stirring songs--give these a listen!

Onwards to February . . .

I'm glad January is over. Not that it was a bad month, but I'm ready to keep moving forward. Midterm exams start at the end of February, so I foresee some studying in the future, but hopefully there will be time for books, editing prep, and good memories in between!

So tell me a few things! How was the beginning of this new year for you? Do you like making playlists for things? Have you read/watched any of the books/movies I mentioned? Are you freezing cold like I am?! Grab one of the fuzzy quilts to stay warm, and let's chat!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Autobiography of a Fantasy Character - Origin Story

Fantasy is my favorite thing to read and write, in case you hadn't yet caught on. But every genre comes with its own suitcase of tropes. I thought poking some fun at them (and at ourselves as fantasy lovers) would be entertaining, so welcome to the first post of a potential series: Autobiography of a Fantasy Character!

[image via Unsplash; graphic mine]

Once upon an unspecified time, I grew up in Quaint Village. It was a rustic, homespun sort of place where everyone was honest and hardworking and appropriately na├»ve about the greater world. The village lay nestled in a valley protected by mountains on every side, sheltered in every sense of the word.

When I was a very young boy, my parents died in a fire, so I lived with my uncle on his farm and spent my days herding sheep. Absolutely nothing else of note happened during my childhood.

Then I turned sixteen . . . and everything changed.

I began receiving visions, images of bloodshed and suffering that plagued both my sleep and my waking moments.

I also began manifesting mysterious powers. My fellow villagers were frightened and prepared to cast me out for witchery, when a hooded old man--

Oh, right. Allow me to back up. The only other notable thing about my childhood besides my orphan status was the old man who lived at the edge of the valley. He kept to himself, causing wild rumors about his past to circulate amongst the village folk. No one knew who he really was or where he came from, but his cloak and his staff made him look Very Important, so people left him alone. Except for me. I had one run-in with him as a child, which scared me out of my wits and also served to foreshadow future events.

Ahem. I turned sixteen, manifested powers I didn't understand, and was about to be cast out by a mob of villagers, when the old man spirited me out of harm's way. We hid in his hut, where he explained in cryptic words that I was special. Chosen, in fact. The world beyond Quaint Village was in dire need of a Hero to save them--and I was the only one who could do it. Of course.

But before I could ask more questions (like, "Why me?"), sudden war descended on Quaint Village. It appeared that my flare of powers had attracted a horde of not-quite-human soldiers. Gasp! The horror! They charged in, swinging massive blades, yelling in a guttural language, and setting fire to homes. And then they did the unthinkable.

They killed a sweet but personality-less friend of mine. A person named Incentive.

"NOOOOOO!" I screamed.

Charged with sorrow and vengeance, I struck out with my mysterious powers in a flash of light. These powers spun out of my control and conveniently decimated the entire horde of enemies, but also injured some of the villagers, including a resident bully who had hounded me for years.

Half of the villagers praised my victory, while the other half glowered with suspicion. (None glared quite so darkly as the bully.) The Very Important old man leaned on his staff and surveyed the damage I'd done, then muttered more cryptic words, something ominous along the lines of, "The old darkness has awakened." And then he said, "Meet me on the mountain. Your training begins at sunrise."

[via Unsplash]

That was how I met Mentor.

Afraid and confused, I climbed the mountain the next morning, where Mentor promptly began to rail at me for being late--as all teachers must do--and then launched into a flurry of tests to gauge my control over my powers. I failed every one of them. But each day, I climbed the mountain again for another training session. Mentor was gruff and difficult to please, but he sprinkled the physical lessons with nuggets of grandiose wisdom. He taught me how to harness the energy within me, control the visions, and wield a sword within a week. I was a fast learner. Chosen heroes have to be.

Every time I probed into his past, he dodged my questions, letting only one or two characteristically ambiguous hints slip out.

Once I had gained a basic level of training, another disaster occurred to keep the story of my life moving. More of those not-quite-human soldiers came to the valley, but this time they lay in ambush on the mountain where we trained. In the skirmish that followed, Mentor and I slew every enemy. The last one, as he lay dying, gurgled a warning: "The darkness is watching you, Hero. The final note will be sung . . ." And then he died.

Mentor looked shaken, which was unusual for him. Apparently the warning was the beginning of an old prophecy--about me, of course, as all prophecies tend to be. This is how it went.

Darkness watches the chosen one
Many wrongs have been done
When the final note has been sung
And night is day and old is young
Seize the keys that Villain flung

Mentor recited the poorly-written poetry with such doom and gloom in his voice that every word was branded perfectly in my memory after hearing it only once. I asked him what it meant, and all he knew was that the "keys" were said to be sealed in a vault far, far away in Distant Land. Or at least, they were supposed to be. The presence of these dark soldiers indicated that the keys had, in fact, been stolen. Nothing would be right with the world until they were restored to their rightful place.

"Who stole them?" I asked.

"Villain," Mentor snarled. He then proceeded to spend a chapter of my life explaining Villain's backstory.

Villain and his brother were princes in Distant Land, living in opulence and peace. But Villain's older brother always bested him at everything, causing a deep bitterness to take root in the younger brother. The more they fought, the more Villain desired the throne, for it would be the ultimate victory against his sibling. To gain the strength necessary to seize it, Villain began dabbling in dark magic and soon grew evil. He killed his father, his brother, and his brother's wife--somehow their infant child escaped his grasp--and seized the throne for himself. Now Villain reigned Distant Land with an iron fist. He enslaved his people and forged them into an army in the depths of the earth. And, Mentor told me, it appeared that he had snatched away the keys that kept the entire world in balance.

It was now my task to travel to Distant Land to find the keys, stop the Villain, and save the world.

If I refused, these dark soldiers would keep coming for me and endanger everyone I loved. I couldn't help but think of poor Incentive, killed in cold blood, or the visions of suffering that still attacked me, providing me with both the logical and emotional means to commit to my quest. So with unquestioned resolve, I swore to do just as the prophecy foretold.

My real journey began at that moment. But little did I know what great and terrible things lay in store . . .

To Be Continued, Perhaps . . .

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Comp Title Challenge

Brains are busy places, you know. Many things go humming through them, here and there, to and fro, and so it stands to reason that occasionally brains suffer traffic jams. And sometimes brains with too many thoughts to think don't have room to squeeze in one more, and so, occasionally, at times, now and then, it is necessary to choose a simple topic to blog about.
Which is my roundabout way of saying that my pal Madeline J. Rose @ Short and Snappy invented another tag this week! And because my brain is busy sorting out some traffic jams, this tag is just the thing to make sure Adventure Awaits doesn't sit cold and forgotten today.

introducing the comp title challenge

What is a comp title, you ask? It's short for comparison title--you know, when authors, reviewers, and moviemakers throw other names around to try to describe their own creations. Here are some of Madeline's tips for comp titles (paraphrased):
  • Think about the genre of your story. Where and when does it take place?
  • You don't have to use the biggest names out there--in fact, it might be better if you don't.
  • Don't worry about describing your story perfectly. If you find something that you think describes it well, then great, but don't stress it. It's just a general idea.
And the challenge's guidelines:

  • Pick a few (or all!) of your WIPS!
  • Give them some comp titles!
  • Tag a few peoples if you wish!
  • Have fun!
(All following pictures via Pinterest.)


The Brightest Thread // Tales of Goldstone Wood meets Diana Wynne Jones meets the Auralia Thread

Tales of Goldstone Wood series by Anne Elisabeth Stengl: rich fantasy world and lyrical writing style. The latest book, Golden Daughter, works particularly well as a comp title because of the dream world stuff. Diana Wynne Jones: the bits of humor (I've only read Howl's Moving Castle, but still). The Auralia Thread series by Jeffrey Overstreet: the allegory and some of the political subplots.

The Prophet's Quest // Raising Dragons meets Narnia meets The Door Within

So this was my first novel ever, and thinking up comp titles was incredibly easy since my work was heavily influenced by a few certain books. Raising Dragons by Bryan Davis: his human/dragon offspring characters are a lot like my characters turning into dragons. Narnia: hello, new fantasy world! The Door Within by Wayne Thomas Batson: my Captain Dauntless (in charge of the dragon army) sounds an awful lot like Captain Valithor, a general who likes to SHOUT INSULTS IN ALL CAPS.

The Prophet's Key // Narnia meets Mission Impossible meets Storm Siren meets the Dragonkeeper Chronicles

Yes, I am aware that sounds like a strange combination. Narnia: again, there is a world besides our own. Mission Impossible: only because there are chase scenes in various parts of our world, not because of any spy missions or gadgetry. Storm Siren by Mary Weber: elementals. And the Dragonkeeper Chronicles by Donita K. Paul: because Wizard Fenworth was a big inspiration for my crazy wind Shifter named Wimwhile.


Mirrors Never Lie // How to Train Your Dragon meets A Time to Die

HTTYD (the movie): Viking/Norse elements. A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes: solely for the intensity of the main character's inner journey. I suppose I could throw Snow White in there with the other titles, but being a Snow White retelling, that should be obvious.

Blood Rose // Illusionarium meets . . . something medical?

Illusionarium by Heather Dixon: No steampunkiness here, but the plague in that book reminds me ever so slightly of the medical aspect of my story. I really can't think of any comp titles that fit this Beauty and the Beast retelling. It's modern day, takes place solely between two characters in a mansion in the woods, and has a light touch of sci-fi/fantasy/something. If songs work as comp titles, I would readily say Salvation by Skillet!

The Glass Girl // Gail Carson Levine meets Dragon Slippers

For this Cinderella retelling, I'm not entirely happy with these comp titles either. Gail Carson Levine: simple, sweet fairy tales. Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George: something about the medieval city setting reminds me of my story.


Welcome to Absurdity // Eyes Wide Open meets The Dark Unwinding meets Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

You guys have no idea how excited I am to start this novel one day! The idea has been stewing in my head for years. Eyes Wide Open by Ted Dekker: unsuspecting allegory and a mental asylum. The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron: the aesthetic. I don't know how else to say it--it's just the feel of the setting, despite being the wrong time era. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs: unusual characters and creepiness. (Man, I really want to start writing this someday soon . . .)

Untitled // Indiana Jones meets Ranger's Apprentice

Indiana Jones: artefacts and tombs and traps. Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan: good ol' high fantasy and weapons and rollicking adventures. I just really feel like a fantasy Indy would be a ton of fun to write about.

Well, that was fun! And good practice for future querying as well. I think we can conclude that I have a hard time sticking to the traditional two comp titles per story! What about you, if you write? How would you compare your work-in-progress story? Do any of these tales pique your interest? And if you like, consider yourself tagged!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

What Lies on the Horizon

This new year is something I've been thinking about a lot. Not just in terms of goals and resolutions, but in terms of where my heart is and what lies on the horizon. And it's finally time to catch some of those whirring, buzzing, humming fragments of thoughts. Time to string them together into something to share with you, because I'm a firm believer in the strength we can find in each other's journeys. I wouldn't blog if I didn't think that somehow, some way, the tangling threads of our stories matter to each other.

Last January, I set some lofty goals, writing-wise. (You can see them in detail HERE, if you're so inclined.) Another thing in which I am a believer is the value of looking forward to set goals, and looking back to see how far you've come. So before we look ahead, let's pause and turn around for a moment.

2017 goals

Finish the first draft of The Prophet's Key. Nope. Didn't make it. But I added 17,000 words to the rewrite I'd started in 2016, bringing the total word count up to 100k. I ground to a halt there, realizing just how bloated and huge the story was becoming. A course correction was needed, but at that point, leadership college was ramping up like crazy and I decided to put the project aside.

Began expanding The Brightest Thread into a novel. Check!

Go to Realm Makers. Another check! That was an incredible dream come true, one I hope to see come true again this summer.

Write, edit, and submit a story for Rooglewood Press's contest. Surprisingly, check again. Mirrors Never Lie is on some judge's desk right now, I imagine.

Complete the first draft of The Brightest Thread and do a round or two of edits so that it's poised to move forward (aka maybe get published) in 2018. First draft--check. A round or two-ish of edits earns another check. And is the novel "poised to move forward" now? I'd say it's poised to move into another round of edits, that's for sure, and then . . . well, we'll get to that in a minute.

Finish The Creative Way writing course by Ted Dekker. Um . . . no. This kept getting pushed back due to one reason or another, and I still have a handful of lessons to complete.

Possibly begin querying agents for TBT. I dipped my toes in the water by pitching it at the Realm Makers conference, but subsequently sent it to beta readers, knowing the novel needed more work. So querying didn't happen last year.

All in all, four out of seven, plus some progress on a couple of uncompleted goals, isn't bad!

Here's where I would turn my hopeful attention toward this year's list of aspirations . . . But again, we'll get to that soon.

The past two Januarys, I've set aggressive timelines for my writing goals. And there is a place for those kinds of plans. I don't regret pushing myself past my limits. Yes, I danced on the edge of burnout some weeks, but I learned valuable lessons about pacing myself, working hard, writing when the inspiration is gone, working under deadlines, juggling responsibilities, and what healthy (and unhealthy) creative practices look like. It was great!

But this year, I've realized I need to recognize what season of life I'm in. I am a student. And I won't be in school forever, so rather than resist the demanding schedule and the responsibilities, I want to thrive. That means balance. That means reframing school from a burden into a passion. That means taking care of myself by carving out pleasure reading and making sure I get enough sleep. That means soaking in time with family and saying yes to friends when I can (instead of no, sorry, I'm busy, come back when I graduate).

But the biggest dream I have for 2018, the one thing that I am finally allowing to overshadow everything else . . . is my friendship with God.

It's a little crazy, how even a year of Bible/leadership college didn't cause me to become more intentional about spending time with Him. I read my Bible every morning because we were given class time for it--which was so good, don't get me wrong--but the habit somehow didn't transfer to my home life. In fact, ever since leaving high school and wading into the big, wide world of adulthood, I feel like my devotion time has been irregular.

But busyness is a lousy excuse. (And please, before I go further, don't take this as a guilt trip for yourself! I simply want to be honest with what's been going through my head lately!) I am a quester, a pursuer, a dreamer, and a doer by nature. Give me a goal, and I will plot, list, track, and work my way toward it, for better or for worse. (This is not always a positive, guys.) But being a doer is little good if I'm not doing the right things in the right order. If I can devote myself to a novel I'm writing and show up day after day even if the well runs dry, can't I put the same energy into flipping open my Bible every day?

Yet this is about more than doing--although I do want to redirect that trait--this is about a relationship.

This is about Jesus being the first name on my lips in the morning and the last thought before I fall asleep.

This is about a dialogue with my Creator, the Lover of my soul.

This is about looking for Him in the everyday moments.

This is about being aware that He is here, always, and even if emotions run their own course I am never cut off from His love.

This is about a single-minded, single-hearted pursuit.

This is about seeking one kingdom above all others, and yet--

I don't know how to get there. I want to, badly, but it's not something you work up on your own or even work towards at all. It's less about my hands doing something, and more about my heart doing something. The only labor involved is that of laboring to "enter into that rest."

What I know right now is that every time I have hungered for more of God and cried out for a deeper knowing of Him, He has responded. And every time, all it took was asking . . . and then putting one foot in front of the other with my eyes open for an answer. Another thing I know right now is that I miss digging into the Word.

And those two things I know for sure? They're interconnected.

So my planning/listing/doing side is happy to have discovered a really cool Bible reading plan in the back of my new copy of The Voice translation. It's a plan that takes me slowly through the Bible in three years instead of one. That's exactly what I need right now, just a quiet, thoughtful walk through Scripture. It's not even chronological--in the past two weeks, I've dipped in and out of Genesis, Job, Psalms, and Proverbs. This plan takes up only 40 weeks a year, leaving time to investigate some suggested readings for Easter and Advent. So it's not a high pressure thing, and so far I'm loving it.

I'm journaling as I go, just jotting down whatever means something to me today, rather than trying to encompass everything as if I'm writing a scholarly essay. I'm rediscovering glimpses of this great narrative God has been weaving throughout history, and I'm stumbling upon little bits of it that are woven into my own life today.

Am I a changed person? Am I on some spiritual mountain right now? No. But this is slowly, surely being built into a habit, and I hope that the more I do it, the more it will pervade my thoughts and attitudes throughout the day.

It's a simple thing: seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things--all these dreams and lists and goals--will be added to you. This year, I want to actually try that, and not just fool myself into thinking I'm already doing it.

If you're anticipating some grandiose announcement of a hiatus, that's not coming! I'm not scrapping anything entirely, just shifting some priorities around. Like I said, I need to give myself room to enjoy my school studies and get back into a regular daily time with God.

So for the next few months, writing is taking a backseat. It's not out of the car entirely, but it's not the driver right now. Here's what I'm aiming for:

January-April: Slowly start organizing the beta feedback on The Brightest Thread. Possibly start working on a secret project I hinted at a couple months ago, which is still stewing in my mind. Possibly try my hand at some flash fiction to submit to magazines and whatnot. I'm giving myself the freedom to be sporadic and to take time off whenever needed. This is going to be playtime, not work time.

May-August: Edit The Brightest Thread. Assemble a list of literary agents and actually start querying. Attend Realm Makers in St. Louis (hopefully!!!) and pitch TBT again there. Finish The Creative Way course. Get that secret project off the ground for real. Maybe even make some tweaks to the blog to spiff it up and make it look more professional. It'll be summer, which means there will be time to power through some goals!

September-December: Totally depends on how the previous goals are going. Likely, I'll continue querying TBT, working on the secret project, and who knows? I might even be in a good spot to start casually planning my next novel. I'll be back in school, so I may ease off a bit again, though.

that's our heart-to-heart for today, friends.

I kind of hesitated to talk about the deep stuff, because I know things like prayer and devotions are highly personal (and I've been guilt-tripped by well-meaning writers and bloggers before, which I wanted to avoid here), and maybe you're not into that to begin with . . . But I think it's a good and healthy thing to be honest with each other. We've all been through dry spells, all struggled to form good habits in this area. And I couldn't talk about my writing goals without talking about why my approach is different this year.

What are YOU aiming for and dreaming about for 2018? Big or small, deep or more superficial, I'd love to hear it!