Monday, July 24, 2017

On Fairy Tale Retellings

Fairy tales.

Fun, sweet children's bedtime stories.

Fairy godmothers, true love, and happy endings.

Or not.

Rapunzel's twins and the prince's blindness due to having his eyes poked out with thorns.

Cinderella's stepsisters cutting off their toes to fit in the slipper and getting their eyes pecked out by birds.

The Little Mermaid having her tongue cut out, feeling like she's stepping on knives, and turning into sea foam in the end.

Rumpelstiltskin ripping himself in half.

Sleeping Beauty's mother-in-law tries to eat her kids. (In the earlier Sun, Moon, and Talia version, she, um, has twins while asleep, and the cannibal is the king's wife. Charles Perrault cleaned it up a bit.)

If you thought the characters in Into the Woods had some serious morality issues, they all came straight from the originals. The message I personally take from that story is "If you do things you shouldn't, you will die." Because of the entire cast, 5 are alive at the end, if you count the Baker's baby.

Fairy tales just aren't...kid friendly.

So why do people love fairy tales? I would say it's because of retellings. The fairy tales give a good base storyline, and endless freedom. How else can you get Disney's Cinderella, Ella Enchanted, and Cinder out of the same basic story? How do you get Once Upon a Time and Bookania? How do you get classic fantasy Poison Kiss, western bedtime story Rosette Thornbriar, and wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey Twisted Dreams out of the same very different fairy tale?

Most people know the basic storylines of common fairy tales. They may be the Disney version, but hey, who doesn't like Disney? And then when we encounter these same fairy tales in other situations, retold into a sci-fi, turned into a comedy, told as a modern romance, it brings us back to childhood. It becomes a point of connection. They're familiar and yet new. You can predict them, and yet they still surprise you. You enjoy finding out how the writers used each fairy tale element in a new way.

And the retellings are generally cleaner and less gruesome than the originals. ๐Ÿ™‚

What do you like about fairy tales? What is your favorite retelling?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Start the Countdown!

Just three weeks until the three Sleeping Beauties are here! It's an exciting time as we're getting ready for the blog tour, doing final edits and proofreads, formatting, setting up preorders (you can preorder Twisted Dreams both as a kindle book and a signed paperback), doing NaNo instead at times...

As a part of all the excitement, I got my first proof copy!

I'm really loving the way it came out. I was so nervous it would turn out awful...I'm always afraid of that...and then it didn't. So have some more pictures. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Hopefully these aren't too spoilery. ๐Ÿ˜‰ What do you think of the interior design? I decided not to go with regular drop caps, since they were a BEAR to deal with in Time Captives, but I like the larger first letter. And it's just so exciting to me to hold the real book in my hands.

At the same time as all this, I'm doing Camp NaNo. Maybe conventional wisdom says releasing a book and doing NaNo at the same time is a bad idea, but it's a novella, and I'm only writing 40 pages of the Espionage sequel. But it's going fairly well, and it should get me pretty close to the end of the book. The story is a bit messy right now, but I feel like there's a pretty decent chance you might get the book next year. Maybe I'm crazy, but I think we all already knew that. At any rate, I'm pretty excited about both Twisted Dreams and the Espionage sequel right now, which is so much better than the writer's block I've been suffering so much from. Time to get back to work to make this thing happen! Three weeks till Sleeping Beauty!

What do you think of the Twisted Dreams proof? Are you doing Camp NaNo this month?

Monday, July 10, 2017

The End Justifies the Means?

My family recently started watching 24 together. I didn't want to watch it at first--I knew it tended to be very violent, and I was also the kid who made sure never to accidentally glance at the television if I went to the kitchen to get a drink while my parents were watching it. Old habits die hard. But my sister needed "interrogations that crossed the line" for writing research. I personally have mixed feelings on the show. As someone who grew up in politics, I like the political intrigue, and as action/torture/interrogations are difficult for me to write, it probably helps. But there are a few Things I don't appreciate/don't watch, and some violent moments that make me cover my eyes in horror. (I'm very squeamish, and not a big fan of high body counts.) We're currently about halfway through Season 2. That said, on to the main point of the post.

Jack does whatever he has to do to stop the terrorists, even if it steps over the line morally. He will kill, he will torture, SEASON 2 SPOILER he will even cut off the head of a key witness against a bad guy END SPOILER if it helps him accomplish his goal. His goal is to save the president, save America, most of all save his family, and he will do literally anything to get there.

The end justifies the means.

Or does it?

I understand there are some situations where right and wrong gets fuzzy. When you're trying to stop terrorists from blowing up LA with a nuclear bomb, well, how far is too far?

Kind of like the Hunger Games. Is it wrong to kill the others to stay alive? It wasn't your choice (unless you're a Career) to go into that arena. Katniss only volunteered to save Prim. Was it wrong for her to shoot Cato? Was it wrong for Thresh to kill Clove? I believe very strongly in self defense, but how far is too far? Cato wasn't going to kill them when he was being mauled by the mutts. MOCKINGJAY SPOILER Was it wrong for Katniss to shoot Coin instead of executing President Snow? END SPOILER It wasn't in self defense, and it wasn't directly in defense of someone else. (Now Katniss...and Jack...can have some of their killings excused by saying "They're ca-razy." And I personally really like The Hunger Games for the themes of fighting back against evil government.)

But how far is too far?

I'll readily admit, I don't have the answer for every situation. Because I do believe self defense is an absolute necessity. I do believe sometimes wars have to be fought. And I believe that sometimes bad guys need to be killed. 

But I also believe the end doesn't justify the means. 

If you take it to the extreme...

Someone is holding your family hostage, threatening to kill them before your eyes. You can save them, but only by renouncing Christ. You can just say the words, you think. You don't have to really mean it, you're just giving them what they want to save your family. The end is saving your family's life. Surely it doesn't matter if you compromise to get there. The end justifies...

No. Even if the end is good, you cannot compromise God's word. You cannot disobey Him.

That is where you draw the line. If stopping the terrorists, saving your family, preserving your own life will cause you to disobey God, that is where how far becomes too far. When you're thrown into an arena and only one person out of twenty four is allowed to come out alive, when terrorists have kidnapped your family or are trying to blow up LA with a nuke, when you're in the middle of a war and have to go on offense to save your people, you're going to have to go a lot farther than you would discussing with your friend whether or not to go see that movie your mom doesn't think you should see.

How far is too far?

When you're trying to save your country, save your family, save your own life, do whatever it long as it remains right in God's eyes. God's law is the line, and that we must not cross, even for a good reason. Because disobeying God is too far.

The end does not justify the means.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Three Sleeping Beauties Blog Tour Sign Up

It's that time again! Formatting and proof copy and blog touring time! I've been working on all the book creation stuff, and I'm really eager to get my hands on that first proof. Here, have a title page.

So, since Twisted Dreams proof copies are a thing now, it's time to really get going on the blog tour organization thing. Kendra put together a sign up form for that, and also set up a Thunderclap project. With Thunderclap, you just sign up with your Facebook and/or Twitter, and, if we get enough people, it'll automatically post to your page on August 7th, our release date.

We'd really appreciate your help in spreading the word about our books. Thanks in advance!

Monday, July 3, 2017

For Freedom

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Independence. Liberty. What so, so many people gave their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for.

The reason Caesar Rodney rode all night, through the rain, sick, to vote for independence, knowing now he could never go to England to see the only doctor with any success curing his particular kind of cancer.

The reason Nathan Hale, a young, honorable schoolteacher with his life ahead of him, volunteered to be a spy--the job of the lowest men--and willingly gave his life in the process.

The reason John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg concluded his sermon on Ecclesiastes 3 by saying "There is also a time to fight, and that time has now come," removed his clerical robe to reveal his Continental Army uniform, and led over 300 men to enlist, establishing the Eighth Virginia Regiment.

"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States."

These words, chosen so carefully and meticulously revised for just the right meaning, inspire me so. All men are created equal. God has given us permanent rights that cannot be taken away or transferred, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Government is instituted to protect our rights, not to oppress us, or dictate our lives. Government is there to ensure our freedom.

That is what our Founders and the soldiers of the American Revolution fought for. That is what we fight for today.

"In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

I love the United States of America. I'm proud to be an American. And I'm proud to be a part of the fight for freedom.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Give Me Liberty Review

For thirteen–year–old Nathaniel, an indentured servant in colonial Virginia, life is hard. Though things improve with the help of a kind master named Basil–who shares music, books, and philosophies on equality–around him the climate is heating up. It's 1775 and colonists are enraged by England's taxation. Patrick Henry's words "give me liberty, or give me death" become the sounding call and the American Revolution is about to errupt. Nathaniel and Basil must make a choice about joining the fight and face a larger conundrum about the true meaning of liberty.

L. M. Elliott crafts a stirring narrative for middle grade readers–conveying the hopes and dilemmas of this crucial era in American history.


 A few weeks ago, this book was returned to the book drop at the library where I work. It intrigued me, as I love American history and the cover gave off strong Johnny Tremain vibes. It's difficult to find a historical fiction book that doesn't distort history these days, so I skimmed the author's note, found little known but awesome history facts there (which indicated a perspective I agree with), and decided to try it.

Now the book. Unfortunately, I can't completely rave about how awesome it is because of a few literary flaws. First, I feel like it could have used another editing pass to refine the use of old fashioned language. That aspect was good, but not great. Especially considering the fact that she once referred to Nathaniel's unusually pale blue eyes as "weird-colored" even though according to Webster's 1828 dictionary, "weird" meant "skilled in witchcraft."

My primary complaint is that she shoved in too much historical and cultural information via exposition in the dialogue. Too many characters went on for paragraphs in an "as you know, Bob" manner. Now, as a lover of American history and particularly the American Revolution, I didn't really mind the history, but at the same time, it's a sign to me that she did a lot of research and wanted people to know everything she found out at the cost of the story. I kept comparing it to Johnny Tremain as I read, and Johnny Tremain is just a better written book.

But lest you think I hated this book, I actually really enjoyed it. Yes, there are literary flaws, and no, it doesn't measure up to Johnny Tremain (one of my three favorite historical fictions), but it still managed to be a pretty good book. Not spectacular, but pretty good and I don't regret the read. I liked Nathaniel and obviously I liked the historical period, and the details felt very authentic (minus the use of "weird"). It's very obvious the author spent a lot of time in colonial Williamsburg. Speaking of which, there were some moments of internal squealing at mentions of places in Williamsburg where I've been and lesser known historical figures I learned about on my trip there. (Which was 8 years ago this fall. Wow. I really need to go back.)

So would I recommend it? It depends. If you love the American Revolution, are looking for a book with an accurate perspective, and are willing to overlook some literary flaws, then absolutely. Because seriously, my only complaints are the literary ones already listed. The American Revolution is a fantastic period of history and I love it. And this book reminded me of that fact. Though now I have an urge to go reread Johnny Tremain

Originally posted on Goodreads.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Three Sleeping Beauties Cover Reveal


The covers are here! The covers are here! The day we've all been waiting for! Well, except for maybe the release day August 7th, when you can actually read the books. Today, however, you finally get to see what these books will look like, add them to your Goodreads, and preorder them on kindle. And start getting really excited for August.

Without further ado, here are the covers, alphabetically by author.

Poison Kiss

About the Book

Everyone knows that Sleeping Beauty's curse is triggered when she pricks her finger on a spindle and that she is awakened by true love's kiss ... but what happens when the wicked fairy decides to switch things up?

Edmund didn't mean to put Auralea to sleep, but now it's up to him and the famous Puss in Boots to figure out how, exactly, a spinning wheel is supposed to awaken her.

About the Author

Kendra E. Ardnek is a homeschool graduate who picked up a pen at an early age and never put it down. The eldest of four, she makes her home in the Piney Woods of East Texas with her parents, younger siblings, giant herd of giraffes, and honor guard of nutcrackers.

You can connect with Kendra on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Her book Sew, It's a Quest is free as an ebook.

Twisted Dreams

About the Book

“I, Calandra, of the Wingans, do bestow upon you, the Princess of Hanover, a gift. You have been given long life. I cannot interfere with that, but when you are sixteen years of age, you will prick your finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into an everlasting sleep.” She stepped closer so that she could be heard only by Liesel and her parents. “Then you will at last see the truth. Be wary. Be wise. Your fate rests upon yourself.”

On her sixteenth birthday, Princess Liesel Rosanna falls victim to a sleeping curse—but wakens in another world, a prisoner of war. As the bait in a trap for her fiancรฉ, the crown prince of Hanover, Liesel longs to escape back to the fairy tale world. The world where she is only wanting a true love’s kiss to set everything to rights.

As situations quickly grow dire, Liesel must choose which story to live, which life is real. The fate of her country rests on her decision.

Do you know who I am? You'd better, since this is my blog, but I'm going to be goofy and put my bio and social media links here anyway. Just in case. ๐Ÿ˜‰

 About the Author

Morgan Elizabeth Huneke is a homeschool graduate who lives in Georgia. She has enjoyed creating characters and writing stories since early childhood. Books have always been a big part of her life, never more so than when working at the local library. Her other interests include reading, playing and teaching piano and violin, and politics. She is the author of Across the Stars and The Experiment as well as the Time Captives fantasy trilogy.

You can connect with Morgan on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Rosette Thornbriar

About the Book

Once upon a time, way out west...

Back when they were young'uns, Fleur Guardstone proposed to Rosette Thornbriar with a cigar band ring. However, not long after, she disappeared back into the forest and hadn't been heard from since. However, when Fleur hears reports of smoke coming from that woods, he's determined to find out if it is, indeed, his dear Rosette. If he can get past all of the briars.

Preorder on Kindle.

 About the Author

Rachel Roden is a natural story teller, capable of weaving the most hilarious of fairy tales. She fell in love with the Lone Ranger in her teens, but ended up with a basketball referee instead. Together, she and the Ref homeschool their four children in the Piney Woods of East Texas, as well as any other odd kid who ends up in their house. She might also be the sole human who still uses math after college.

You can connect with Rachel on her blog, twitter, and Pinterest.

So what do you think? Are you even more excited for August 7th now? What do you hope to see from these stories?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Cover Coming Soon

The covers are coming Wednesday! It's going to be super exciting. And to get in the mood, or just to torment all of you ๐Ÿ˜‰, I cut some little pieces out of the Twisted Dreams cover. Have fun guessing what it looks like!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Swords of Time Cover Reveal

Today, I have a new cover to share with you; the cover for Sarah Allerding's new book, Swords of Time. I haven't read it yet, but it sounds really cool. I mean, it's a medieval-related time travel book! But before I give you the cover, here's a little bit about the author.

Sarah is a homeschool graduate who enjoys using her imagination to write fiction. She is working on a degree in theology and hopes to eventually work in the church. She also enjoys umpiring baseball, writing devotions and Bible studies, reading fiction, and playing the guitar.


And now the cover, by Perry Elisabeth Design!


Braden has one goal: knighthood.

Unfortunately, he lives on a horse farm in modern day America with his uncle, his younger brother, and an aunt who absolutely hates him.

Against all odds, Braden and his brother, Jamie, stumble across a pair of special swords that sweep them back into medieval times. They land near a castle whose lord has a task for them.

His older son is lost somewhere in time, and only someone who can control the Swords of Time can save him.

With the goal of knighthood suddenly in sight, Braden's not sure he wants to leave, but he wishes to impress the lord. Can he protect his brother, find the lost heir, and fulfill his dreams, or will the lord's younger son ruin everything?

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Time to Edit...

I'm sure you can guess what I've been doing this week.

Editing is...interesting. I think I'm approximately halfway through beta reader edits. They've been immensely helpful so far, as I've been cleaning up wording and explaining things I hadn't thought to explain. 

The most interesting change has been going back to the original draft for a few sections. I'd cut something that actually made more sense and improved the story. I have absolutely no idea why I changed it in the first place. I wish I could remember. (Thank goodness my dad told me years ago to save every draft as a new document.) But anyway, it's back in, and fixes a problem Kendra had with the story.

I've also been remembering things about this story, its background, and the worldbuilding that I'd forgotten about or simply just not thought about in a long time. See, I'd barely touched it since I submitted it to Five Magic Spindles in December of 2015, and there have been a lot of other things in my mind crowding it out. Now it's coming back, and some things actually make more sense to me now. While I'd had reasons before, some of them I didn't really think through until now.

All that said, I'm currently feeling pretty good about this book, in spite of the freak out I had when I started editing. It really seems to be coming together, and I'm excited about it. 

So when do you get to read Twisted Dreams? As I said in a brief post last week asking for help with the cover reveal, the book will come out on August 7. This is no ordinary release, however. Kendra E. Ardnek, her mom Rachel Roden, and I are all releasing our Sleeping Beauty retellings together. That's right, instead of just getting one Sleeping Beauty story this August, you get three. Which means that during the cover reveal on June 21, you'll get to see three awesome covers. It's going to be fantastic, so don't miss it!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Cover Reveal is Coming!

It's almost time for another cover reveal! You all probably know that I've been working on getting Twisted Dreams ready for publication, so if you guessed this is the Twisted Dreams cover reveal, you're a third right. I'm actually doing this release with Kendra E. Ardnek, and her mom decided to jump in too, so this will be a triple release and a triple cover reveal.

All three stories will be released on August 7, and all three covers will be revealed on June 21. We just need your help. So fill out the form below, and we'll get this party started!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Excerpt Time!

It's time for a Twisted Dreams excerpt! Or really, I've spent most of my at-home time these last few days photoshopping the cover and so didn't actually write a blog post. This cover is a LOT more complex than all the other covers I've put together. All of the other covers I've created were made with one photo...this one takes three. I can't wait to show it to you! (More information about the cover reveal coming when I have it. I feel very disorganized this time around.) But in the meantime, have an excerpt. Note: I haven't applied beta reader feedback yet, so this won't be exactly the same as the final version.

     Calandra alighted on the window sill and set Liesel gently down inside. In the center of the room—indeed, it was the only object in the room—sat what could only be a spinning wheel. It drew her more strongly than had the delicious scents of the gardens. She glanced back at Calandra, clearly displaying her fear in her eyes.
     “You must,” Calandra prompted her.
     Hesitantly, Liesel stretched out her hand to the spindle. The sharp end penetrated the first layer of her skin and she felt herself falling.

     Liesel’s eyes flew open. The slate gray walls of her cell pressed in around her. She sat up slowly, placing her hand behind her on the hard cot for support, and focused on the solid steel of the cell door.
     Liesel hugged her knees to her chest and shivered as the cold of the cinderblock cell wall seeped through the back of her now dingy white linen shirt. She was alone. So alone.
     “Ah, you’re awake now.”
     The woman’s voice seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere all at once. Liesel’s gaze darted around the cell. Where could it be coming from? Who was it? Where was she?
     “You needn’t bother looking for me, Liesel,” the voice said. “You shan’t be seeing me; I took great care of that.”
     “Who are you? Where am I? Why have you taken me?”
     “You do not need to know that. Only your beloved need know.”
     A square section in the wall across from her cot lit up with an image of a familiar face. Her breath caught in her throat. Will! A great longing to reach out and touch him overcame her, but she knew he was only an image. A… moving image. He bent over a screen. Despite the tears that glistened within his eyes and, on occasion, tracked down his cheek, his gaze held a determined glint. There was no audio, but she could tell that his lips were forming her name.
     “That is a live video feed,” the woman’s voice continued. “Wilhelm has just been alerted of your whereabouts, and what he must do to free you, as well as the consequences if he refuses. Do you trust your fiancรฉ to save your life?”
     “I trust Will more than anyone,” Liesel declared firmly. “But… how do you have a video feed of him? Have you bugged Hanover palace?”
     “Why, certainly not. We hacked the security system. That is all.”
     “You…” But it was not worth arguing. She did not know who held her captive and therefore she could not risk giving away sensitive information accidentally.
     The video feed still played across the cell. Will had set down the screen and buried his face in his hands. He looked so forlorn. It was all because of her. But she needed him so. Here in this cold cell, she needed to feel the firm clasp of his hand about hers, hear his calm, steady voice, see his reassuring gaze staring steadily into hers.
     Finally, she could stand it no longer. She rose from the hard cot and took the few steps across the cell, reaching out her hand towards Will. Her fingertips brushed the chilled concrete as they fingered Will’s image, reminding her just how separated they were. “Will…” she murmured. “I need you. God, send Will to save me.”

     Matthew’s voice penetrated the haze into which Wilhelm had sunken like a tiny pinprick of light in a world of darkness—a pinprick that was almost instantly swallowed up.
     “Will, what’s wrong?”
     Matthew’s voice had taken on an urgent tone. It was an uncommon sound, for Matthew’s usual obnoxious personality was difficult to temper. Still Will did not raise his head. The heavy but gentle pressure of Matthew’s hand came down upon his shoulder.
     “Is that Liesel? Where is she?”
     Finally, Will looked up at his brother. “They’ve taken her. She’s on Cantilee. She’s a hostage, Matt. If I don’t…” He gulped. “If we don’t meet their demands, they’ll torture her. But Father won’t surrender the war; he won’t give up our prisoner. Not even if… I can’t…”
     “They’re asking for a prisoner exchange?”
     “Father will never give up King Merle. Not so close to winning the war. Not even for Liesel.” Will returned his tortured gaze to his tablet.
     Liesel now stood looking up at the wall, up at him, it seemed. Tear streaks ran rivulets down her dirty cheeks, her blue eyes more forlorn than he had ever seen them. The lips which ordinarily carried a bright smile trembled as they murmured words. Will. He had seen his name on her lips often enough to recognize it. I need you. God, send Will to save me. Her pleading gaze penetrated him to the heart. She was trusting him. And yet, it was he who had caused her imprisonment. If they had not been at war, if he were not the crown prince, if he had not chosen her to be his bride… and what could he do now to reverse it?
     Liesel’s image flickered and the screen went dark.
     “No!” He lifted the tablet from the table and shook it. “Bring her back! Show her to me. Bring her back!”
     “Will.” He calmed only slightly at the sound of his brother’s voice. “We will find her. I promise.”

Monday, May 22, 2017

Finding Balance






Bit of a control freak

Lost in chaos

I don't function well in chaos. I don't function well with uncertainty. I don't function well when I can't understand things.

And I keep trying.

I keep trying to find the reason why I'm having trouble writing and dreaming.

I keep trying to make a definitive plan for the way my life will go.

I keep trying to control everything in my life that I possibly can.

And I sabotage myself. 

I over-analyze my writing and that makes it even harder to write.

I overthink my struggles with music and it causes me to shut down.

I overanalyze the way I want my life to go and the things I feel should lead to that place, and it stresses me out and depresses me because for most of it, I have literally no control.

And I know I can't live live irresponsibly and throw caution to the wind.

I can't eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.

I can't live with no goals and no path.

And so I begin to overanalyze again.

I have to find the balance.

I have to learn to lean on God and let Him control my life.

I have to let go of what control I think I have and accept that His ways are higher than my ways.

I have to live responsibly and be a good steward of what God has given me, but I have to let Him take the reins...He has them anyway.

It shouldn't be stressful not to be in control, because God is in control.

I shouldn't be so intent on understanding everything, because God understands everything.

I have to trust. Because the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Creator of all is in control of my life, and His way is always best.

P.S. I'm going to be taking an internet break next week for Memorial Day.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Out of Time and the Pursuit of Shalom

There was once a time when only God knew the day you'd die.

So begins the Out of Time trilogy by Nadine Brandes. A journey of faith, a fight for freedom, the pursuit of shalom.

Parvin Brielle Blackwater has one year left to live. Scheduled to die at the age of 18, she's spent the first 17 years of her life...doing nothing. Wasting her time. Living a mundane, average, everyday life that won't get remembered. Watching her Clock tick down the days, hours, minutes, seconds until she zeroes out.

How would you live if you knew the day you'd die?

But the truth is, Parvin doesn't know that she has only a year left to live because she's been illegally sharing a Clock with her twin brother Reid, and no one knows to whom it truly belongs. As a selfish Last Year wish, she decides she wants to be remembered. She wants to finally be something, so that she will be missed.

What happens to people on the other side of the Wall?

Unregistered Radicals--people without Clocks--are sent out of the USE, across the Wall, never to be seen again. When Parvin is sent across the Wall, her life changes forever.

Because what is the point of life? What good is there in living an ordinary life, meeting your own needs, never making a difference? When you zero out, what will have been the point? Will you have wasted your life, being empty numbers, or will your life mean something? Will you stand for something? Will you pursue shalom?

Shalom--peace, completeness, the way God intended things to be.

After living a wasted life, after setting out on an adventure to make herself remembered, Parvin finds what life is supposed to mean. She finds faith--true reliance on God. She finds friends--people who support her and encourage her to follow God's calling. She finds purpose--the pursuit of shalom.

Life isn't easy for Parvin Blackwater. This is a book series, after all, and a dystopian at that. Many horrible, irrevocable things happen. But what matters is God and the calling He gave her to bring shalom to her people. To work to make peace, to bring things to completion, to restore the USE to the way God intended it to be--not in her own power, but ever and only by the power of God.

Was it all worth it? Was this wild adventure that changed my nation, my heart, and my faith worth it? Oh my, yes. All because, after a desperate prayer on a hospital floor so long ago, God showed me that--with Him . . . it's always time to live.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be pre-Last Year Parvin Blackwater. I don't want to be wasting my life living in a little village taking care of my own business, believing in God, yes, but trusting in Him, only to an extent. I want to be faithful Parvin Blackwater. I want to be the Parvin who put everything on the line to serve God. The Parvin who continually stepped out of her comfort zone and did whatever God called her to do, even though she hadn't a clue what she was getting herself into. I want to be the Parvin who never stops in pursuing shalom, who fights for the way God intended things to be.

There was once a time when only God knew the day you'd die...

I highly recommend the Out of Time series for teens and adults.

Monday, May 8, 2017

As I Grow Up...

I turned 21 two weeks ago, and it caused me to do a lot of looking back on my life. I've grown up. I'm not the same person I used to be, I've let go of some of my childish dreams, found new ones, realized others. Over the last 21 years, I've matured so much as a person, as a Christian, as a writer. And yet as I look back, I can see how my past--the good, the bad, the embarrassing--shaped who I am today. As this blog is primarily focused on writing and books, I thought it would be interesting to take a journey through my writing.

Age 4: Bambi's Gonna Go To Faline

Background: I dictated this story to my mom, and gave it to my dad. My mom just wrote down what I said, she didn't try to interpret. This is my first recorded story.

Full Story: Bambi, Faline, and Thumper. "That ball," said Thumper. Be careful.
     Box chair.
     See Bambi grew up. Bambi said that I want a phonics game. Bambi went to get married to Faline. 
     Then Thumper said, "When will we go home?" Bambi's crayon was at home.
     Then Bambi wanted to ride on the chair and Thumper wanted to ride in a stroller. Then Bambi wanted to ride with Thumper. He wanted to bring a ball and bowling pin.
     Flower wanted to ride home in a chair, in a rocking chair. When he didn't know that rocking chairs didn't have wheels.
     Owl wanted to ride home in a stroller with Thumper and Bambi. Then it was full after Owl got in. It was full.
     Then Faline wanted to ride with Thumper and Bambi and Owl. Then Faline noticed that it was full.
     And then there was no one in the folding up chair with wheels. Then they all went home and where Bambi was living.
     They saw the videos in Bambi's house. They wanted to watch Bambi in the snow. Then Bambi saw that he was a little tiny baby skating on ice and playing in the snow. Then he went home. Then he saw his mommy.
     Bambi looked outside and saw snow, and he wanted to go outside and do what he did when he was littler.
     The End

Age 6 1/2: The Best Birthday Ever

Background: I wrote this for my youngest sister's birthday. The spelling and punctuation is copied directly from the original. It also demonstrates my Little House obsession.

Full Story: It was Anna's fifth birthday and there was still no sign of any cake, presents or party. She thought maybe everyone had forgotten it was her birthday.
     Suddenly a cake came throuh the kitchen door. Who did that thout Anna knowing a cake can't move all by itself. Anna went to get the cake.

     Just then a present came through the door. Just as she was about to pick it up four more came in. "Whos doing that?" she asked out loud. Suddenly Caroline, Eliza, Martha, Charlotte, Lydia, Mary Tucker, Mary Ingals, Laura, Carie, Rose and her own sister Maryen. "Maryen this is the best birthday suprise ever." "Just wait til you taste the cake. It's even better than your favorite kind of cake.
     "When can we do the cake?" asked Anna. "After the games are played," said Maryen. "Let's play gess what I am," said Anna "I want to go first," said Charlotte. "No me," said Caroline.
     "Niether of you," said Maryen. "The birthday girl gets to go first." So Anna went first, she was a baker.
     Eliza went next then Caroline then Martha then Charlotte. Then they had cake. The cake was better than her favorite and she loved it. One of her presents was a barbie another was a book. She loved them all.
     The End 

Age 7: Carrie Mouse and the Giant Garage

Summary: Carrie Mouse disobeys her parents and journeys to the big house at the bottom of the hill where she gets trapped in the garage for weeks. Based on the true story of the mouse that got stuck in our garage.

Snippet: She ran down the giant mountain and over to the giant house. She was about to walk in the giant garage when four giants walked up behind her!
     Scared, she ran as fast as she could into the giant garage. She leaned down on the floor and ran toward a giant workbench.
     Days passed and Carrie’s throat got dry and dusty under the giant workbench. She looked for water in which to bathe and to drink. She also looked for food. 
     Carrie found a packet that looked like food behind a giant basketball goal. Carrie had been to school, so she could read the writing on the packet. It said, “D-Con kills mice,” so she did not eat it.

Age 8: Margville's Aliens

Summary: While playing outside, Rachel, Maria, and Martha notice that spaceships are blocking the sky. They ask the aliens to leave, and meet Martert Alvarny, who thought that earth had no need of the sun.

Snippet: Suddenly, a door opened in the spaceship in the middle of all of the spaceships, and down a ladder came a big purple alien. The purple alien had 10 eyes, 6 arms (3 on each side), and one leg that he hopped on. He had a purple, round long nose that stuck out of his chin and a square mouth that was on his forehead. He was wearing yellow one-legged pants and one yellow sock. He had on a six-armed red shirt with 15 tiny buttons up the front. He had one purple and red tennis shoe on his one foot.
     Then the alien spoke. “My name is Martert Alvarny and I am very sorry that we blocked your special sun. On my planet Uranus we don’t really need the sun,” he said.
     “I’m Rachel McAlner and you live in our solar system,” said Rachel.
     “I’m Maria Monners,” said Maria.
     “Nice to meet you, Martha, Rachel and Maria,” said Martert. “I will return to Uranus with my crew. Good bye.”
     “Good bye!” said Martha, Rachel and Maria together.
     Then, Martert returned to his spaceship and all of the square spaceships flew away.

Age 9: The Day of the Awful Lillian

Summary: A girl and her siblings visit her aunt and uncle's house in the country, and a friend and a strange girl named Lillian pick on them. My sister and neighbor were being annoying one day, so I turned it into a story.

Snippet: It was all yesterday. We were at Auntie Daedae’s, and a girl named Lillian came. Margaret, the sister of my friend Minnie, came with us, and she and Lillian made fast friends. They agreed on not so nice things. They cut down some of Auntie Daedae’s apples and plums from the trees, making Sally, Eliza and I pick them up.
      Then they went off to dig some dirt and take some of our cousin Ranna’s ground fruit (A fruit of a foreign country) (note: this was actually just dirt) to make something called mush bush pie. We went on making my plum pie. We went to get some ground fruit, and then they followed us to Uncle George’s bananas. As I gathered the bananas they followed us. Then they took my pie and dumped it onto the ground.

Age 9: Margville's Second Alien Invasion

Summary: When the Martians attack Margville, the girls and their siblings have to call in Martert Alvarny to help. All the aliens come to defend Margville in the slime war.

Snippet: “Oh no! We need Martert Alvarny!” exclaimed Martha. They all began to call for Martert.
     “It’s hopeless,” sighed Dicon. Suddenly, in the sky above appeared the spaceship of… “Martert Alvarny!” shouted the children. Martert hopped down a ladder toward the children....
     Then he blew a very loud horn. All of the sudden, CRASH! BANG! CRASH! Spaceships fell and formed the words, WE DEFEAT MARTIANS. Martert blew his horn again and bunches of aliens stood beside the many spaceships....
     “He’s gonna help,” Maria said.
     “You help? Here. I order,” Martert said, and handed him a slime gun. Mr. McAlner squirted slime at the Martians. Then the Martians dropped their slime guns and covered their faces. The Martian Chief waved his arms and shouts “Ooka! Vee stoop!”
     Collin sighed. It was exciting, but he was glad it was over.

Age 11/12: Danger in the Woods

Summary: Amber Eastman's Uncle Carelton comes home from traveling after the Civil War with a wife, Sarah. Amber and her friend Catherine set out to find Sarah's missing brother, Ethan, and catch thieves in the process. This was my first completed chapter book.

Snippet: “Drop the knife!” Amber ordered in her deepest, sternest voice. Startled, Lancey dropped the knife. Slowly he turned around. When he saw Amber, a sly grin spread over his face.
     “So. It’s a little girl,” Lancey snarled. He leaned down and picked up his knife.
     “I may be a little girl,” Amber said with outward calmness. “But the posse coming to arrest you isn’t.” She crossed her fingers and hoped and prayed that there really was someone coming to the rescue.
     “What posse?” Lancey snapped.
     “Just some sharp shooting farmers and the sheriff.” She prayed harder than ever that it was true.
     “And they left a little girl to keep watch.” Lancey lifted his knife and crept toward Amber.
     Amber tried not to panic. “Not just me. His sister.” She pointed at Ethan. Lancey had almost reached her. 

Age 13: Angela Webster and the Case of the Missing Soda

Summary: Angela Webster and Karly Kenton are on a mission to find the men who stole soda from their fathers' store in the idealistic town of Cedar Village. In the process, Karly falls through the loft of the old barn and breaks her leg, causing Angela to have to ask another friend to accompany her on a stake out. But of course, rescue by older brothers becomes a necessity. Note: "bad guy talk" was very difficult for me at the time. I just couldn't make them sound mean enough.

Snippet: The girls tiptoed in and hid under the hay. Then they waited. After what seemed like hours, but was really only ten minutes, a man tramped into the barn. He sat down, but was soon up again, pacing. Angela’s nose began to itch, but she didn’t dare move to scratch it. At that moment in came a man with a flashlight. He shone it all around, but he did not spot the girls. The other man, who was Christopher Mundy, began to tremble noticeably.
     No wonder he’s scared, Angela thought.
     Lervy Parnick was a huge man, tall and bald and broad. His eyebrows were bushy and the dark eyes underneath them glared evilly. He had big snarling lips. Angela was thoroughly frightened. “Christopher Mundy!” he said in a deep growly voice. “What ever made you think there were dumb little kids onto our plan? There is no need for me to be here! There is no one onto our plans. We should have gotten safely to Florida! I am so angry that I have half a mind to kill you!” Mundy gasped. “That would never do,” Parnick continued. “I need you to add to my booty.”
     “Your booty?” Mundy asked.
     Instantly Parnick had grabbed Mundy’s collar and lifted him into the air. “My booty,” he snarled. “And unless you do exactly what I say, you won’t see a penny of it.” He flung Mundy against the wall and continued. “We will rob this entire town, beginning with the house this road leads to. You will cart it all back to our getaway car.”

Age 14: Across the Stars

Summary: After discovering a spaceship that takes them to a planet two galaxies away, five children must use their combined knowledge of battle strategy and American history to free the distant planet from the oppressive tyrant which is its king. This is when I started to become a serious writer. It was also the book that caused me to start carrying the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in my purse.
Snippet: Charles sat in the pilot’s seat, trying to make sense of an instruction manual he had found. Sara sank into the other seat.
     “Do you understand any of it?” she asked.
     “Maybe.” Charles turned to his older sister. “Sara, we’re actually traveling faster than the speed of light.”
     “But that’s impossible,” Sara protested. “Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity says that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light in that same substance.”
     “Well, that’s what Einstein says, but that’s not what this instruction manual says.”
     “You would rather believe an instruction manual than Albert Einstein?” Sara asked incredulously.
     “I figure that whoever wrote this instruction manual knows an awful lot more about this ship than Einstein.”
     Sara conceded the argument. Charles certainly had a point and she was in no mood to argue. Charles closed the instruction manual. He pointed to the words on the front: The Ship of Divine Purpose.
     “What do you suppose that means?” Sara asked.
     “I was hoping you could tell me.”
     Sara sighed. “I suppose if we’re meant to know we’ll find out somehow.” 

Age 16: The Experiment

Summary: In a future where American liberty has been eradicated, kidnapped siblings must overturn a plot by the President and a torture-loving scientist to control the lives and minds of the American people . . . before it's too late. Inspired by two dreams, an extrapolation of the direction America seems to be headed, and featuring characters based on real people, this book holds a special place in my heart. Note: once my cousin quoted it to me and I didn't know what she was talking about. Oops.

Snippet: Edmund and Anne glanced at each other and began to eat. Oh, what a feast! There was fried chicken and ham and turkey and stuffing and corn on the cob and hot buttered rolls and green beans and a dozen kinds of soup, all much more than Anne and Edmund could ever eat. And it was good, better than anything they had ever tasted.
     But a cold feeling began to grow in the pit of Edmund’s stomach. His fork stopped halfway to his mouth.
     “Why are you doing this?” he asked.
     The woman laughed her silvery laugh. “Doing what?”
     Edmund set his fork down. “Feeding us like this. What’s your motive?”
     She laughed again. “It pleases me to see children eat,” she said. The woman seated herself beside Edmund and loaded more turkey onto his plate. Then she stroked his hair with her fingers. “I would be pleased if you would answer a few questions.”
     Edmund pushed her hand away. “What sort of questions?” 

Age 16/17: Creighton Hill

Summary: Following their grandpa’s death, four siblings set out to discover the truth behind the mysterious disappearances of their ancestors throughout history. But their teenage sister’s skepticism only complicates things, especially when she becomes unwillingly involved in the discovery.
Snippet: With a blinding flash, the wall before them became a mountain forest in midmorning, a beautiful sight to behold. Behind them was the attic, just as it had been before.
     “Should we go through?” Jill asked.
     “Oh, so now you want to walk into a dream?”
     “Why not?” Joey said. “If it is a dream, Emily, you’ll just wake up and it won’t have happened.”
     Allan and Jill exchanged a glance. “Let’s do it,” he said. The children took each other’s hands and together stepped into the forest. The attic vanished behind them. 

Age 17: The Crossways

Summary: A young slave boy gets swept into the Time Captives’ quest to free the rightful king of Calhortz, but he may have a larger role to play than any of them realize.

Snippet: The dragon lumbered towards him. Adriel raised his sword and lunged at the great beast, rapidly covering the space between them.
     A blast of flame enveloped Adriel. He hid behind his shield. The heat was intense. He felt as if he were about to melt from it. He struck blindly towards the massive beast. His sword sliced through air. The crowd laughed again. Adriel gritted his teeth. He wasn’t a comedian. He wasn’t providing satire.
     The flames subsided. Lowering his shield, Adriel struck with a ferocity unequaled by any he had ever shown. His sword glanced off the dragon’s snout. The dragon swatted its claw at Adriel’s head. He ducked under its foreleg and stabbed upward. The dragon reared, letting off a roar and flame. It shot into the air, wheeled around, and headed straight for Adriel. Adriel crouched beneath his shield. It grew hotter by the minute. Rae emitted a high-pitched shriek as the dragon crashed down on top of him. 

Age 18: Espionage

Summary: In the midst of an alliance controversy, a nobleman's daughter must expose a heinous scheme by her father's political arch-enemy to force him to align with the evil strytes of Calhortz.

Snippet: The light came closer. Someone grabbed my left hand and pulled me into a room. I crouched down leaning against the wall. As the candlelight passed with heavy footsteps, I found myself looking into Kyle’s face. I opened my mouth to speak, but he quickly put his finger over his lips. I remained silent and tugged my dressing gown closer about me.
     The footsteps faded away, leaving us in utter darkness. I heard Kyle move about the room for a minute or two, and then a soft orange glow allayed the blackness. I shivered, shaking from the near encounter and the growing certainty that whatever Sir Roland was planning harbored nothing good for my family, but especially for Papa. Then it dawned on me that Kyle must have heard the same things I did.
     “What are you doing here?” I asked him.
     He turned from the oil lamp on the wall he had just ignited. “I ought to be the one to ask you. This is my home and it is my father we were both spying on.”
     I looked sheepishly down at the floor. “Well, I . . .” 

Age 18: Crannig Castle

Summary: Adriel and the Time Captives are finally faced with war against Toarna. But can Adriel and Eleanor put their personal missions aside and focus on the fate of the people of Calhortz?

Snippet: “Eleanor!” The voice was weaker than she remembered, but she knew it well.
     “Grant.” She fairly flew across the room and threw herself into his arms. He gently stroked her hair. “I missed you so much,” she whispered.
     “I missed you too.” He held her back to look at her face. “You’re just as young and pretty as ever.”
     Tears began to well up in Eleanor’s eyes as she beheld the toll time had taken on Grant. Where the skin on his face had once been firm and smooth, it was now wrinkled and sagging. His once-thick hair barely covered his head. But his eyes. They were just the same: full of fun and mischief, shining with love. 

Age 19/20: The Cassie Story

Summary: A spaceship pilot and his crew accidentally travel away from their perfect Milky Way society. But what they find in the galaxy of Stappenhance challenges everything they know about life. I'm still not finished with this book, but since I've completed two drafts at this point, I'm including it anyway.

Snippet: “Sharissa is my lovely and very talented assistant.” Dr. Hawling stepped behind her and laid a hand on her shoulder for a moment. “I understand you have an assistant as well, Luke.”
     “I have a copilot.”
     “The lovely young redhead who accompanied you when you came to stay with us earlier this week? What was her name?”
     He didn’t need to answer any questions. Dr. Hawling was prying where he did not belong. Still he spoke her name. “Cassie.”
     “Charming girl.” Something about the way Dr. Hawling said it made Luke’s skin crawl.
     “You have a reason for asking me here.” Luke wanted to do his business and leave. He didn’t want to be around Dr. Hawling and Sharissa any longer than was necessary.
     “Yes.” Dr. Hawling pulled a paper and pen out of a drawer and handed it to Luke. “I think I’ve made a bit of a breakthrough on your case. I’d like to do some tests, but I need you to sign this release form first.”
     Luke scanned the paper. “What is it for?”
     “It’s just a standard agreement for the lawyers. I’m not liable if something goes wrong.”
 Age 19: Twisted Dreams

Summary: What if, when Sleeping Beauty fell into her enchanted sleep, she woke up in another world? That's what happened to Liesel. But which is the real world? The castle, or the jail cell? This one's almost complete. You should be getting it this August. :)

Snippet: Liesel turned away from the now blank wall. She sniffed, her nose stuffy from crying. Her mother had always told her never to despair. This, like everything else, was in God’s hands. And Will…
     She was the bait in a trap—she could sense that—and Will loved her so much that he would give himself up to save her, even knowing that it could be his demise. It was one of the many reasons she loved him so. But to give in to whatever demands were being made could mean devastation for Hanover. Would he choose her or his kingdom? She couldn’t ask him to betray his people to save her.
     Liesel wiped the tears from her face with equally dirty fingers. How had they come to be so filthy? Last she could remember, she had been at home, in her own gabled bedroom in Hanover village. As the betrothed of the prince, she had more in the way of a security system than previously, but the cunning of criminals was never to be underestimated. She had to have been kidnapped; there was nothing else for it. And she didn’t suppose it mattered just how they had managed it. What mattered was that she was being held captive.
This is quite the trip down memory lane. I've come a long, long way since Bambi's Gonna Go To Faline. Childhood to adulthood. So much changes. It's sometimes hard to let go of the carefree atmosphere of childhood and accept the trials of adulthood, but I have a feeling that, in spite of the difficulties, it's going to be worth it.