Monday, February 12, 2018

Piano Method Books

This week, I'm talking about my experience with different piano methods. Have you used Bastiens Piano Basics or Edna Mae Burnam's Step by Step?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Cover Reveal: The Worth of a King

I have a brand new cover to show you! It's for The Worth of a King by Kendra E. Ardnek. I haven't read much of the book, but I'm signed up to beta read, and I know it's going to be awesome. After all, it's going to have Amber and Granite before Amber went all evil.

First, the description: 

Princess Obsidia’s father was killed the night she was born. Since there was no male heir, the crown went to the man who killed him, by Dialcian law. This never bothered her, growing up, and when it comes time for Obsidia to choose her husband, she chooses Prince Delaney, the son of that man, with little hesitation. Only then does her life start crumbling around her.

Adrian expected to live a normal life, taking his father’s place at the print shop when his father retired. But, on his eighteenth birthday, when the princess’ engagement is announced, his world is ripped out from under him when he learns that his life was a ruse, and he is the twin brother to the princess – and expected to take back his father’s throne.

Delaney knows that his country is hovering on the brink of war – and that his father may harbor murderous intentions towards his intended bride due to her Zovordian blood. He wants nothing more than to protect Obsidia and his people, but as merely prince, he has little power against his father.

The ancient war between the Dragons and the Immortal King and Queen is nearing its climax, and the three are already caught in it.

Read the first chapter here!

Coming August 27!

Doesn't it look cool?

I also have a snippet to share with you.

     Instead of stating their reason for coming, Christa had a question of her own. “I thought that Jerolin was working with the blacksmith now.”
     One of the young men looked up and settled a glare on Delaney. “I am,” he admitted. “Garen gave me the day off today so I decided to help out here with the big order.” This must have been Jerolin.
     “You’re helping?” Christa giggled. “It looks like you spilled a book.”
     “Three would be more accurate,” said the other young man – Adrian, by process of elimination. “It’ll take hours to sort it back out. We were just debating…” he trailed off as he looked up and noticed the guests. “Oh.”

Kendra E. Ardnek loves fairytales and twisting them in new and exciting ways. She's been or acting them on her dozen plus cousins and siblings for years. "Finish your story, Kendra," is frequently heard at family gatherings. Her sole life goal has always been to grow up and be an author of fantasy and children's tales that glorify God and His Word.

Find her online at: Website || Blog || Goodreads || Facebook || Twitter || Amazon

Other Blogs in the Cover Reveal:
Dreams and Dragons
Unicorn Quester
Kiri Liz
Read, Write, Laugh, Dance
Elvish Pens, Fantastical Writings
Books, Baking, and Cowgirl Boots
Jenelle Schmidt
Reality Reflected
Jessica Greyson
The Music of a Story
The Flowering Vales
The Rambling Rose
Written Rest
The Labyrinth
Bible and Books
Jaye L. Knight

Monday, February 5, 2018

Wonder Review'My name is August.
I won't describe to you what I look like.
Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.'

Ten-year-old August Pullman wants to be ordinary. He does ordinary things. He eats ice-cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary - inside.

But Auggie is far from ordinary. Born with a terrible facial abnormality, he has been home-schooled by his parents his entire life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, Auggie's parents are sending him to a real school. Can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, underneath it all?

Narrated by Auggie and the people around him whose lives he touches, Wonder is a frank, funny, astonishingly moving debut to be read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.


I laughed, I moved me, Bob.

This book is so good. It's so powerful and amazing, and I can't wait to see the movie. Hopefully it holds up.

Before I get into what I loved, I want to mention my three criticisms. Yup, three. 1) It's not 100% supportive of homeschooling. Basically, Auggie was homeschooled because of his weak immune system, not for any philosophical reason, so while they don't look down on homeschooling, they still act like a brick-and-mortar school is the ideal form of education. 2) Summer (one of Auggie's friends) believes in reincarnation. It's one conversation, and Auggie doesn't ever appear to believe in it, but I still didn't like that. 3) Justin, you're in high school! Use your capitals and quotation marks! I'm not sure why R.J. Palacio decided to write Justin's part without capitals or quotation marks. Maybe it's a "cool kid" thing. I wouldn't know. I'm not cool and never will be. It made the grammar Nazi inside me cringe, and caused Justin's section to be the only one where I looked ahead to see where it ended. I cared about Justin's POV, but really? USE CAPITALS!

Other than those three things, THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING AND I CAN'T LOVE IT ENOUGH.

This is the story of Auggie Pullman, a 5th grader with a severe facial deformity, and all the lives he touches. He faces bullying, he faces the involuntary horror of practically everyone who sees him, he faces betrayal, he faces the ordinary hardships that come when your beloved dog gets old and sick, he faces the normal difficulties of middle school, complicated by his face. It made me angry when kids played "Plague" refusing to touch him. It made me hopping mad when the kids at the camp out called him an orc. And yet there's so much good. So much he overcomes. So much reconciliation and forgiveness. So much that changes for the better when Auggie is just himself.

Outside of Auggie, I think I loved Via the best. She made me want to cry. She's had it rough. By default, her own emotional needs often get neglected because Auggie just requires more attention. Yet she doesn't complain. When things are rough for her, she thinks of all Auggie has been through and determines she has no right to complain about what she's going through. When she doesn't want to deal with the way people react to Auggie, she feels terrible. She's had to put up with a lot, being the child who doesn't need as much care. And through it all, she dearly loves her little brother. She loves her parents. She's devoted to her family. She even wants to be a geneticist so she can study why Auggie's face happened. And she's dear to my heart.

Everyone has a story. Everyone has challenges. Everyone has their rough patches. Some people's struggles may be better hidden than Auggie's, but everyone has them, and that's what Wonder shows us. It's a bigger story than just a book about a kid with a severe facial abnormality. It's about kindness. Kindness to all. Pulling together and supporting each other. Friendship. Loyalty.

As Mr. Tushman says at the end, "If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than necessary—the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every one of you, the face of God."

"When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind."

Monday, January 29, 2018

Book Spotlight: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

My first vlog is here! I talk about one of my all time favorite books: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Comment below on how you feel about The Chronicles of Narnia and whether or not you feel like Disney did a good job on the movies.

Monday, January 22, 2018

What Is Your Life Goal?

I want to write a bestselling book.

I want to have a successful music studio.

I want to see my books made into faithful movies.

I want to get married and raise a family.

But what if?

What if I never hit any kind of amazing sales ranking on Amazon?

What if I never get any more music students or have to stop teaching altogether?

What if my books never attract enough attention for anyone even to consider a film adaptation?

What if I never get married?

What if I do get married, but can't have children?

Would my life then be, as Anne would say, "a perfect graveyard of buried hopes"?

It shouldn't be.

Via Pinterest

It's not bad to want to be successful as a writer and music teacher. It's not bad to desire to be a wife and mother. I would go so far as to say that in many cases those are all very good desires. But if those are my end goals, I've got a problem. If my goals are ends in themselves, I'll always come up empty.

If I'm going to continue as a writer, I need to do it because that's how God wants me to serve Him.

If I'm going to continue teaching music, I need to do it because that's how God wants me to serve Him.

If I'm going to get married and raise a family, I need to do it because God has no longer called me to serve Him as a single person.

And if He stops calling me to the things He's called me to now, I can't hold onto them. I have to let them go and serve Him in my new calling.

So if you want to be a writer, don't do it because you like to write. Do it because that's how God calls you to serve Him.

If you want to be a lawyer, don't do it because you like the law. Do it because that's how God calls you to serve Him.

If you want to work at Hobby Lobby, don't do it because you love retail and crafts. Do it because that's how God calls you to serve Him.

If you want to be a wife and mother, don't do it because you're in love and can't wait to have kids. Do it because that's how God calls you to serve Him.

God calls us all to different things. God places us all in different circumstances throughout our lives. God calls us to serve Him in different ways in every season of our lives. We can't hold onto our plans because that's what we want to do. We can't sit around waiting for that next season of life because that's the one we want the most. We have to serve God now, in every season, in every circumstance, in every way He places before us.

And that should be our life goal.

Via Pinterest

Monday, January 15, 2018

Update of Randomness

So life is busy, and my brain isn't really doing a good job of being profound at the moment, so I'm going to be fun instead and tell you however many random things pop into my mind.

My dog likes milk. A long time ago, I started giving her a little of my milk in her dog food, but stopped when it stopped interesting her. Lately, she's remembered about it, and barks at me when I've finished eating my breakfast until I give her milk. She also takes a joint supplement (which we squirt down her throat and then give her a treat afterwards) which she WILL NOT let us forget.

We're putting in a state park-like trail through the woods in our backyard. It's cool. I'm just not looking forward to the snakes in the summer.

Weather is crazy. Normally, GA winter temperatures are in the 50s, maybe 40s (at least, that's how it was growing up). This winter, it's been below freezing A LOT...except last week, where we had several days of 50s and 60s, only to drop drastically again.

I'm getting a sort of Wrinkle in Time/Wind in the Door vibe out of the beginning of my latest book, Acktorek. I'm still not very far yet, so I don't know how it'll turn out, but I really like my MC Emma Edsel.

I'm taking piano again, which is awesome. I just need to find a way to keep improving my violin skills.

I made groundhogs at the library. It was a lot of fun, especially on a slow Saturday. Except that I messed up the text on the speech bubbles and had to redo it on Monday before I put them up.

I finally started playing around with my digital recorder to figure out how to get the best audio quality, and I think I might have it figured out.

I'm doing ballet for exercise. I know, I'm weird. I found barre exercises on YouTube, and I'm doing them a few times a week to get back in shape. Being sore for days after a practice dance isn't okay, and neither is being in pain at Disney World because you're not used to so much walking.

Teaching is awesome. My students are fantastic, and I'm not stressed so much about keeping ahead of my most advanced piano students now that I have a teacher myself.

Adult life is too busy. Having several jobs and volunteer commitments is too crazy, but I make it work. Sort of, anyway. And this is why I'm not in college. Where would I fit it in? Besides the fact that saving money is more worthwhile to me long term than paying for a degree I'm not intending to use.

And life is an adventure. There are ups and downs, happiness and struggle, good and bad, but if you live life to bring glory to God, it's all worth it.

Monday, January 8, 2018

My Problem With Writing How-To

The How To How To Write a How To Book book by Howie Bookman.

If you know what I'm talking about, you're awesome. If you don't, you're seriously Studio C deprived.

Via Pinterest

Writing how-to is an interesting animal. It can be very useful, but, in my experience, it can also be very problematic. On one hand, it can be a great way to help you figure out what's wrong with your book. On the other hand, it can cause the idea that there's only one way to structure a story, only one way to create a character arc, only one writing style that's "acceptable," only one basic formula per genre or subgenre, and if you aren't following it, you're doing it wrong, your book is terrible, and no one will ever want to read it.

Maybe it's just my analytical monster that takes writing how-to to this extreme, but when you look at all the formulaic plots and characters that are just carbon copies of other characters, I'm not so sure. Granted, it often happens when a writer has written 50+ books and they just keep reusing their own old plots and characters, but it's not exclusive to those situations. How many times have books gotten the reputation of being a knock off of such and such popular book? Yes, that worked for the original author, but that doesn't mean it's the only way to write a book. That doesn't meant that it has to become the conventional wisdom all the writing how-to spouts off.

Writing how-to can be useful. It can absolutely identify your weaknesses as a writer and give you ideas on how to improve. And that is important. If you're not growing as a writer, learning more about the craft and implementing it well, you may end up with 100 books that are pretty much exactly like your last one, just with the names changed. Grow as a writer. Learn more. Read more books to absorb different techniques and styles. It's a good thing. 

However, often writing how-to trends go too far. They make it one-size-fits-all. Well, I've got news for you. One size doesn't fit all. Yes, stories need a beginning, a middle, and an end. There needs to be a climax towards the end. The plot threads need to weave together to make sense and not just be a bunch of red herrings. (The Quagmires were in the literal red herring, Baudelaires! I saw that one coming.) Sorry. Tangent. 

Via Pinterest

But every story doesn't have to follow an exact structure. I've tried plotting by a strict 3 act structure with well defined plot points and everything. That works fabulously for some people. But not for me. It becomes too structured, and feels dry. It's not fluid and natural enough. It feels like I'm just hitting predetermined points and not letting the story take me there. Yet some people act like that's the only way to create a storyline. There are other methods of story structure. And it's okay if your major plot developments don't happen at precise percentages within the book. Did I learn a lot of value from studying that method of story development? Yes. Do I regret it? No. Am I going to be strictly following it in the future? Absolutely not. Because it didn't work for me. That doesn't make it wrong. It makes it a bad writing method for me. And it's just as wrong for me to tout it as a bad way to write a story as it is for someone to tout it as the only right way to structure a story.

Deep character point of view is another thing that's supposedly the only "right" way to write these days. And if your story is set up so that you're supposedly in your main character's head, but you're really not, then you've got some work to do. But just because deep character point of view is one good way to narrate a story, and a popular one, that doesn't mean it's the only way to do it. Look at A Series of Unfortunate Events for example. Lemony Snicket is narrating the events in the lives of the Baudelaire orphans as he found them when he researched it. (Lemony Snicket is actually the penname of Daniel Handler and somewhat of a character in the series, therefore a plot/narration device.) You never actually have, say, Violet's mental process running through your head as the narration of the story. There is no deep character point of view. Does that mean it's badly written? Absolutely not. It just means a different style of storytelling was suited to the series. It simply wouldn't be the same if you were viewing the whole story through Violet's eyes while in her head.

In a nutshell, my problem with writing how-to is this: It gives off the impression that there's only one way to write a book, when really there are infinite ways.

If we all structured our stories exactly the same way...

If we all caused our characters to follow the exact same progression in their character arcs...

If we all narrated our stories in the exact same way...

We'd all be writing the exact same book over and over and there would be no point.

Besides, all the writing tropes that are "right" right now are going to change down the road anyway. They always do.

Yes, learn all you can about the writing craft. Learn from the masters. Learn all the different ways you can structure a story, plan a story, develop a character, narrate a book... But if it doesn't work for you, don't try to force it. Don't try to follow a specific method just because it's "in" or because someone you admire swears by it. You are an individual writer, and you don't need to fit into a box. And who knows, your method may become the next big thing.

Via Pinterest