Monday, June 18, 2018

Narnia Reading Order

Narnia nerd here to talk about why I think the original published order is the best way to read the series. And yes, I'm aware I am wholly incapable of being brief when talking about Narnia. This is the shorter version. ;)

Monday, June 11, 2018

Finding My Writing Method


It's been awhile since I talked about my writing method. Possibly because I'm still trying to figure it out myself. I'm kind of a contradiction. I need a plan. I can't function if I don't know where I'm going. Yet at the same time, all the minute details of a well thought out plan overwhelm me and stress me out because I can't possibly keep up with them all, and then it's just easier to not do anything at all. The other thing is that if I get too into my planning brain, I get analytical and squash my creativity. This is true in life as well as writing, and it's difficult, because it's a hard balance to find between the two.

I'm working on figuring out exactly how I write best, and that's not easy. Especially when most writing resources out there are plan heavy. Outline your novel with the snowflake method. Plan out your plot points and story structure. Outline, outline, outline. Plan, plan, plan. But for me, detailed plans don't work.

I've analyzed the way I wrote before I started struggling with writing. I know, analyzing it sounds counter-intuitive, and it kind of is, but I discovered something. I write best somewhere in the middle of extreme plotting and extreme pantsing. Which really makes sense. For my early stories, well, basically everything up through Time Captives, I had a very general plan in my head. I had my beginning. I had maybe a couple of random stops along the way. The Battle of Feliho Forest in Across the Stars was one of those random stops, though it turned out differently from how I planned. Miss Reginald's experiment on Edmund Rubin "to see what kind of a monster I can create" in The Experiment was another, and one that played in my head like a clip in a movie trailer. And then I had my end goal. Save Emoria. Free America. Defeat the strytes and establish Joseph and Olivia as king and queen of Calhortz.

And then within that basic framework, I had total creative freedom. Honestly, though, even that framework was fluid. I rarely wrote any notes down. If a previously created scene didn't end up working for the way the story was going, it was out. And that was sad, especially if I was particularly attached to it, but it was okay.

I'm trying to return to that with Acktorek. Mainly because the more I've tried to outline, the stiffer and more contrived my stories feel. Stories need to be organic and flow naturally. There can be plenty of rabbit trails and extra fluff in a first draft. That's why we have rewriting and editing. Then sometimes the rabbit trails and extra fluff turn out to be incredibly important. If I hadn't made random decisions and gone down rabbit trails in Time Captives, we wouldn't have Adriel!

I have a general plan for Acktorek. I have my beginning. I have a few random scenes along the way, one being that wrong turn I took a few months ago. It belongs in the middle, not close to the beginning. I'm not really sure of my ending. The short story I wrote that sparked the book is from somewhere in the climax, so I have a general idea of where it's going, but who's going to survive? I don't know. How will Emma's life be changed? I don't know. What direction will Mitchell's life take after this? I don't know. Will Emma and Mitchell end up together? My original snippet indicated probably, the beginning of the story convinced me absolutely not, my sister says they have to, and I'm currently undecided and not telling you which direction I'm currently leaning.

In a way, it's scary to not know how I'm going to get from point A to point B. Especially considering that this kind of story has a much less straightforward storyline than the save-the-world plots I usually write. Sometimes I don't know what's going to happen next. Actually, a lot of times and then something random happens and I hope it's good. I kind of just have to make it up as I go along, and hope I do it as brilliantly as the Doctor. ;) But it's certainly interesting, and in a lot of ways, it's freeing. I don't have to worry about working in every detail in the first draft. I can explore. I can discover new things. It's like the sonnet, which Mrs. Whatsit compared to life:

Monday, June 4, 2018

Who is Emma Edsel?

Short answer: the main character of my latest WIP Acktorek.



Emma is a sixteen-year-old senior in high school, who lives in a fictional town in northern California called Gondora Heights. (Don't ask why California. I'm a Georgia girl through and through. These characters just told me it was California, so I went with it.) She's the oldest of two girls, and her younger sister, Carla, is blind. Her dad is hyper focused on her sister, and her mom is OCD with anxiety issues, so Emma tends to get neglected. This is largely why Via in Wonder stood out to me.

Emma has attended a prestigious private school since kindergarten. (Again, I'm a homeschooler through and through, but this was the easiest way to get her to meet the main guy, so I went with it.) She's really smart, and she actually skipped two grades in elementary school, so she'll be graduating early. Emma is really into science, and taking both chemistry and biology at the same time, as advanced as the school offers. She intends to become a molecular biologist. Carla attends the school as well—I guess they have accommodations for the blind—though she's more into the music department. Emma, well, she's not a dreamy, musical type. She wants hard facts.

Emma is kind of a loner. She has one friend, Grace from next door, but even Grace doesn't really understand Emma. To be honest, if they didn't live next door to one another, the chances they'd be friends are next to nonexistent. Grace is always trying to get Emma into pop culture things...unsuccessfully. It doesn't help that Emma is extremely anti-romance.

She's just not interested in boys. It's kind of a relief to write her after Vannie, in this respect. Vannie was quite the challenge to keep at a PG level. Emma? No problem. Emma's too focused on her studies to have time for a boyfriend. She wants to learn everything she can about chemistry and biology. She wants to be a research scientist. But at the root of her attitude towards boys and relationships is her relationship with her family. She doesn't really trust people to actually be there for her. She doesn't trust people to walk by her side and show her they care about what's going on in her life. And there's a part of her that hopes that if she really makes something of herself, her parents will be proud of her. They'll make time for her. They'll show her that they do see something outside of Carla and their own personal problems.

Emma is an interesting character to write. I've always tended to be more about the family-focused, motherly, artsy, musical type (nerd) girls because that's who I am. I'm not career focused. I want a family. But that's not who Emma is. She's a girl that is hurt and broken, and trying to find her place in a world that doesn't accept her—a world she doesn't even truly want to accept. I'm not sure just how Acktorek will turn out, but it's sure to be interesting.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Indie e-Con 2018: Sci-Fi--The Brainwashed Monster

*SPOILERS FOR  MOCKINGJAY, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, LAST OF THE JEDI, REBEL FORCE, AND THE EXPERIMENT*



Peeta Mellark

Bucky Barnes

Trever Flume

Edmund Rubin

One of my favorite science fiction tropes (don't laugh) is that of the good guy brainwashed into a monster. I'm not sure why I like it so much, but I do. I guess maybe because it's dramatic and really pulls at your heartstrings. I've written it once, myself, and have plans for another book involving it. But ever since I found out that X-7 was probably Trever Flume... I've just been a goner for that kind of plot element. How do you do it well? I'm still learning, but here's a recipe I've come up with.

A likable character
An evil scientist
Removed or distorted memories
Brainwashing/torture
Sic 'em on their loved ones
Pretty please fix them at the end?

To start off, make that character lovable. Peeta's the nicest, most decent main character in The Hunger Games. Well, except for Prim and Rue, maybe. Bucky is basically Cap's big brother. Trever's this clever street kid who falls in with the early rebellion and develops into a hero (and then has to have his memories erased at the end of Last of the Jedi to protect him :'( ). Edmund is a strong, protective older brother very close to his younger sister Anne. The more readers love your character initially, the more it'll destroy them later.

Add in the evil scientist. Whether it's nameless Capitol scientists, the Empire, Hydra, Miss Reginald, you've got to have someone who can thoroughly accomplish this transformation. Someone who is willing to do it either because they have no moral code and they like experimenting on people or because they're being forced.

Now that you've got the means, remove or distort their memories. If they have a good handle on who they are and how their world works, they'll never turn monster. Peeta had his memories of Katniss altered with tracker jacker venom. Edmund's memories were transferred from his brain to a computer. Bucky and X-7/Trever had no memory of their previous lives. But removing their identity isn't quite enough. You have to rewire their brains. Torture them, reeducate them, do whatever it takes to turn them into weapons and use them to destroy their loved ones.

And here's where the really heart-wrenching part comes in. What good is your good-guy-turned-brainwashed-monster if he's just sitting around in a lab? You've got to get him out into the action! Set a trap for the rebels to "rescue" him so he can go choke his girlfriend. Send him around assassinating people where he can run into his best friend. Give him a mission to kill the hero who's hanging out with his long-lost adoptive brother. Send his sister in to get attacked (note: I wrote The Experiment about a year before I read Mockingjay, when I was only vaguely aware of the trilogy and had no idea about Peeta's hijacking). Your readers will cry buckets if you've done previous steps well, which is exactly what you want.

Now this last step is optional. Some use this garnish on their Brainwashed Monster, some don't, most only do it part way. Do you fix him? I fully restored Edmund when he regained his memories, partly because I didn't have much time left in the plot, mostly because it was too painful to leave him that way. Peeta mostly recovers, but it takes time, and he's never the same. Trever, not so much. He kind of dies. Bucky, well, I haven't seen Infinity War yet, and while I do have some spoilers, you just never know who's really dead and alive in the Marvel world. So this is really up to you. Do you want to restore your character? Leave him crippled by these events for the rest of his life (which is probably most realistic, PTSD and all)? Let him die as a monster? Make your choice, adventurous writer. And go turn that great character into a monster.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Indie e-Con Scavenger Hunt 2018 - Stop #13


Indie e-Con 2018 is here! To start off the week, I'm participating in a scavenger hunt. Visit all of these blogs in order to find the clues to complete the following graphic. See Kandi J. Wyatt's blog for all the details on the awesome giveaway.


Clue #13 will be at the bottom of this post, but first, you have to read Jessica Wheaton's writing journey. I'll be telling about the top 5 books/series that shaped me as a writer on E.K. Writes's blog.

Writing Journey
by Jessica Wheaton

For everyone, their writing journey begins somewhere. For me, it started when I was fifteen. I had always loved reading, and had written a few short stories for school and such, but never even attempted anything more. I was content to read the amazing books others wrote.

Then around the time I turned fifteen, my dad had some serious medical concerns, and was given a 50/50 chance of making it through the next three years. Suddenly, normal life became non-existent as my mom attempted to balance family life, my dad’s doctor visits, and still homeschool us.

As most people who know me will tell you, I’m not good at handling emotions. And so instead of talking to people and discussing the things that were going on, I would withdraw and write. In the beginning it was simply because I wanted to get away from everything else and live in a world where everything was all right. As time went on, I realized that I really enjoyed writing … and not just so I could get away. Even as dad improved and life settled back into a routine, I kept on writing. Over the course of the next few years I began to write longer stories, until I had written a short novella.

I had a blog, and I began to post regularly. I Eventually posted some short stories I had written, just to get some feedback. An author I loved had a blog of her own where she interacted with fans, and she hosted a writing contest. I entered and didn’t place the first year, and then won second place the next year. Through her website I met other writers, I began to interact with them. We’d read each other’s stories and give feedback. In the beginning it was just for fun, and then one year I thought it would be cool if I could print off a copy of my novella for myself to have, and to give copies to my family. I began looking into websites where you could order copies of your book, and as I did so, a whole new world opened up to me.

Self publishing.

Up until that time, I thought all publishing was the same. I didn’t realize there was a definite difference between indie published authors and traditionally published authors. As I looked further into it, I met several other homeschooled authors who were willing to answer my questions and teach me how the process worked.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Looking back, I still marvel at how God used some of the worst circumstances in my life to open my eyes to a whole never world that I fell in love with. My dad recovered far beyond the doctor’s expectations, and it’s now been five years since his first diagnosis. Sometimes I wish that my family didn’t have to go through that time, but looking back, I can see how God’s hand worked, even when we couldn't see it. Not only did I discover my love for writing worlds through words, it made us realize how every life is fragile...and not one moment can be taken for granted. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Emily Starr--Emily of New Moon Trilogy

Once upon a time, when I was fifteen years old, my mom bought The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit at a library book sale. I pulled it out of the box sitting at the top of the stairs, read it, and went on a total E. Nesbit kick. One day, I stood in the children's section at the library looking fruitlessly for an E. Nesbit book I hadn't read. Then I noticed the book at the end of the row on the next shelf over staring me down.


I picked it up, read the back, decided to take a chance because I loved Anne, devoured the book, and my life changed forever. I read the rest of the series out of order, actually. I read #3, Emily's Quest, next, and didn't particularly like it because she was miserable and it made the book depressing. I then read #2, Emily Climbs, which remains my favorite to this day. Oh, the terror of reading of when Emily was locked in the church with Mad Mr. Morrison for the first time, the relief when Teddy came to rescue her. The hilarity of Perry's escapades when he went to dinner at Dr. Hardy's. The beauty of the night in the Old John House. Having a better name for the glimpse of beauty and wonder I would sometimes get, which I'd called my "end of The Last Battle feeling" and could now call "the flash" (I most often got it when reading the last few paragraphs of The Last Battle). Writing letters to my future self because that's what Emily did. It'll be interesting to open them someday. Knowing that inability to write is just a season because Emily went through it, and she got through it.

Emily was me. She still is me.

Now, of course, I'm not an orphan and I don't live with my aunts on Prince Edward Island, but other than that, she's so me it's scary.


Emily is a writer. She longs to be published, and eventually she is. She has an imagination. She gets herself into scrapes. Like when Lofty John convinced her she'd eaten a poisoned apple. She has her group of friends. Ilse, the wild daughter of Dr. Burnley who lost his faith when—as he thought—his wife ran off with another man leaving him with his baby daughter. Ilse the actress. Perry Miller, the hired boy from Stovepipe Town, who lives with his Aunt Tom when he's not at New Moon, who wants to marry Emily someday. Perry the lawyer.

Teddy Kent, the boy Emily and Ilse got to know by cheering him up after an illness as per Dr. Burnley's wishes, whose mother is a tortured, possessive, crazy woman whom Teddy loves dearly. Teddy the artist. The one whom Emily loves. The one who loves Emily. The one who is too shy to tell her that he loves her, to ask her to wait for him when he went to the School of Design in Montreal, and thus they spend ten years apart, hoping, wondering, despairing, trying to forget and move on, utterly miserable and depressed, unable to stop loving each other. This is why I found Emily's Quest so depressing. But now that I'm older, I love that book anyway. In spite of the heartache and misery. In spite of hating relationship drama with a vengeance. Because Emily's struggles, Emily's story mean so much to me.

Emily had bright moments. Like when Mr. Carpenter told her the character sketches in her Jimmy-book were literature. When she got to go to Shrewsbury for high school. The wonderful night in the Old John House, flying on the wings of fancy as she created A Seller of Dreams (just forget the scandal that followed because of rumors and also what Dean later did to A Seller of Dreams). Finally holding her book in her hands, a real book, at last, and one that Aunt Elizabeth actually liked and supported and was proud of. Her second chance with Teddy, when he whistled for her in Lofty John's bush and she went to him, stripping away years of misery and misunderstanding, together at last.

She had dark moments. Like when she thought she was going to die from a poisoned apple. When all of Shrewsbury was scandalized that Emily, Ilse, Perry, and Teddy survived a blizzard together in the Old John House. When she thought Teddy hated her. When Dean Priest told her A Seller of Dreams was terrible, and so she burned it. When he later admitted it was actually very good, he was just jealous because it had consumed her time leaving him with little. When Emily learned Teddy had loved her, but she'd still have to resign herself to never marrying him because to all appearances, it was too late.

She had strange, unexplainable moments. Like when she dreamed that Ilse's mother had actually fallen in the well, and it turned out to be true, restoring Dr. Burnley's faith in God. Like when she drew in her sleep the place where a missing child was trapped. Like when she somehow transcended space and time to stop Teddy from sailing on the ship that was to sink, saving his life and convincing her that no matter if she could never have Teddy, she still couldn't settle for Dean Priest.

Emily's story is one that is ingrained in me. It's so real. So true to life. So relatable. It means so much.

Emily Byrd Starr is so much more than a favorite character to me. So much more. She's Emily.

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Liebster Award Again

So the Liebster Award is going around again, and Shantelle tagged me in it. It's been awhile since I've done a tag, so I'm going for it. Thanks, Shantelle!


The Rules:

Thank the person who nominated you

Answer the 11 questions they gave you

Name 11 facts about you

Nominate 11 bloggers to do this tag, and let them know

Give them 11 questions to answer

Shantelle's Questions

1. What did you eat for your last meal?

As of writing, a hard boiled egg and milk. I'm not big into breakfast. I mean, I like breakfast food, but I'm not usually particularly hungry until later in the day.

2. What's the best part of your average week?

Sunday morning. Even though it's the day I have to get up the earliest, I love getting to church early, practicing music with my friends on the worship team, spending the morning worshiping and learning about God, and getting a hug (or several) from my seven-year-old "bestie." I always hate when Sunday is over and can't wait for it to come again.

3. Where is the most amazing place you've been?

That one's tough. Really tough. I'm torn between Disney World and Mount Vernon. I guess one for my Disney geek side, and one for my history nerd side. Disney is so much fun (though I am kinda annoyed they got rid of some of my favorite attractions at Hollywood Studios, even though Galaxy's Edge sounds beyond amazing, especially after riding Flight of Passage). And then there's George Washington's beyond beautiful plantation that I loved so much. I totally understand why he was always wanting to go home. I want to live somewhere like that.

4. One question you'd ask your favorite author?

Oh, dear. What would I ask? I'd be asking C. S. Lewis... But I'm having a hard time thinking of a good question. I'd probably end up thanking him for writing my all time favorite fiction series and telling him what an impact it made on my life. Though I might ask him why Digory and Polly didn't get married and if Jill and Eustace would have if they'd lived longer. Yes, I totally ship them.

5. What's your favorite thing to do in the summer?

I like being able to go outside. Not that I can't in the winter, but I'm a wimp about cold (even Georgia cold), so I don't. I do the heat a little better. I like being able to sit out on the porch to read and write, and I also like going for hikes and riding my bike.

6. Last new author you tried out? (Did you like the book?)

I'm going to discount the random nonfiction books that came across the desk at the library and I decided to take home, and go with the most recent fiction author: R.J. Palacio. I loved Wonder. It was so good. And I got the book and movie for my birthday, so yay!

7. What's the craziest thing you've done?

Probably gagging myself for story research. Yeah... I did that.

8. What's a character trait you admire in others?

Patience. I'm learning a lot about patience these days, though I often quote the Doctor: "Patience is for wimps." I also admire people who can get up early in the morning even when they don't have to be somewhere.

9. What's your favorite genre (to read)? What draws you to it?

That's another hard one. I like lots of genres, and it really depends on my mood. But as my top favorite books are fantasy, I'll go with that.

10. What's one book that you wish more people knew about?

Scrolling through my Goodreads... The first one to stand out is The Jefferson Lies by David Barton. There are so many lies people believe about Thomas Jefferson, and I wish more people would read this book as it does such a good job debunking them.

11. Do you like to cook/bake?

Cook, yes. Bake, no. I'm no good at yeast, and baking is more precise, so "throw a bunch of stuff together and hope it tastes good" doesn't really work. But I really enjoy cooking. Especially casseroles.

11 Random Facts About Me

1. I asked for and was excited to get new bike tires and a darning egg for my birthday. I know I'm weird. But hey, I asked for a broom and a mop for my eighth birthday, so it's not unprecedented.

2. It's hard to teach vibrato when it's been four/five years since you learned it yourself and you have to focus on your student's recital piece instead.

3. I hate glitter. With a vengeance. I recently made my sister a Belle dress using glitter organza and there was glitter all. over. the. house. I couldn't stand it. Especially when mopping didn't get rid of nearly all of it.

4. I'm better at imitating Pauline Baynes than John Tenniel. I recently discovered this while drawing a sign for a classics display at the library.


5. Vivaldi is my favorite composer. And The Four Seasons is the best.

6. I arranged a Star Wars medley duet for one of my piano students. It's awesome and I can't wait to play it with him at the recital next month.

7. I write better in a notebook than on the computer. I feel the words better when I'm using a pencil, and I love little notebooks.

8. I can't spell staccato without autocorrect. I'm good at English spelling, but I feel so sabotaged by the fact that music terms are in Italian. 

9. I've taught an impromptu ballet lesson in the last month and a half. What can I say? If a little girl is trying to do ballet, I like to jump in and teach her the real thing.

10. I love listening to audiobooks. I've recently listened to several Series of Unfortunate Events and finished my reread of Catching Fire on audio, while sewing, doing dishes, while sorting laundry, while ironing, while driving to and from piano. Eaudiobooks are the best, and so is Overdrive/Libby. I'm glad my library seems to be adding some more titles I'm actually interested in (in the juvenile department...yes, I still love juvenile fiction).

11. My favorite part of my job at the library is sending people home with great books I loved. Like Misty of Chincoteague and Encyclopedia Brown and Chocolate Fever and Trixie Belden and Something Upstairs and The BFG. It's especially great when people come back telling me how much they loved the book, like both people I've talked to about The Scarlet Pimpernel did. I just wish we'd get a copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at my branch.


I'm going to just leave this tag open for anyone who wants it. If you do it, leave a link in the comments so I can see your post.

Questions to Answer

1. What is your favorite song?
2. Do you play an instrument? If so, which one, and if not, which one would you like to learn?
3. Which book have you reread the most?
4. What is your favorite day of the week?
5. What is your favorite vacation place?
6. Do you like spending time outside?
7. What household chore do you dread most?
8. Do you like driving? If you don't have your license yet, are you looking forward to getting it?
9. Do you like sweet tea or dirty water (unsweet tea)?
10. Are you registered to vote, or planning to register as soon as you are eligible?
11. What is the saddest movie you have ever seen?