Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Vannie, Kermit, Kyle, and the Subject of Marriage

As I write the sequel to Espionage, a story which greatly involves the subject of Vannie’s impending marriage, I’ve been contemplating why Vannie and Kermit are so ill suited for one another and she and Kyle are perfect for each other—aside from the fact that I wrote it that way, of course. There really are some good reasons, and not even that Kermit’s awful, because he actually isn’t. And while I haven’t really explored it yet, there’s a very strong likelihood that Kermit’s also a Christian. Therefore, being unequally yoked isn’t even an issue here

What are the reasons, then?

1. Understanding each other 

Vannie has known Kermit for her entire life. She’s known Kyle for half that. Yet I would venture to say that Kyle and Vannie know each other infinitely better than Vannie and Kermit. Why? Because they understand each other. Each knows what makes the other tick. Kyle and Vannie can predict each other, they can understand why the other behaves the way they do, they understand what drives the other in life.

Now, the fact that Vannie and Kermit don’t understand each other is largely Vannie’s fault for not giving him a chance, but even if she did, I still don’t think it would make complete sense to either of them what it is that makes the other tick. Their driving passions are oceans apart; too far for it to work.

2. Common interests 

Kermit and Vannie don’t really have any. Kyle and Vannie do. Vannie and Kyle are very interested in politics. Kermit couldn’t care less. Vannie and Kyle like animals. Kermit doesn’t. Kermit likes to draw. It just isn’t really something Vannie and Kyle do. Vannie practically inhales books. Kyle loves books as well. Kermit doesn’t really read.

It doesn’t make either party bad that they have different interests (I need to figure out more of Kermit’s interests…I just haven’t spent enough time with him yet). What it does do is give them either a lot to do together or nothing at all. Vannie’s not the type to play Charlotte Lucas and spend as little time as possible with her husband, which is what would happen should she marry Kermit. She has to have a best friend.

3. Common missions and goals 

Vannie and Kyle are always fighting in the political arena and sticking their noses where they don’t belong in order to effect justice. Kermit would be content to just be an artist. Both are necessary roles in the world, and by marrying Vannie, Kermit would be forced into the political arena, but Kermit would not be happy. He couldn’t truly work with Vannie the way Kyle does. They’d always be at odds with each other, pulling in opposite directions. Not to mention it would be disastrous for Cumberland and all of Briznom to have a disinterested representative at Court.

4. Partners in life 

At the time of Espionage’s sequel, Kyle and Vannie have been best friends for nearly nine years. Kindred spirits, they sensed a deep connection between them almost immediately. Kermit and Vannie have no connection. And for a marriage team to work, there has to be a deep connection. Kermit and Vannie could never share their deepest, darkest secrets with each other. Kyle and Vannie already do. Kermit and Vannie could never depend on each other for their lives. Kyle and Vannie already have. Kermit and Vannie could never easily work together to solve problems. Kyle and Vannie did when they barely even knew each other. It would be next to impossible for Kermit and Vannie to be partners in life. However, Kyle and Vannie are already most of the way there.

5. Working for God’s kingdom 

Even with Kermit and Vannie both being Christians, imperfect as they both are, they would have a really hard time serving God’s kingdom together. Forget working together to serve God at Court, they couldn’t even come close to presenting their marriage as a picture of Christ and the Church! They’d be fighting too much. Vannie and Kyle, however, could do much to serve God at Court, in their vassalage(s), in their own home and marriage, because though things aren’t always hunky dory between them, again, they are a team.

 There you have it: five reasons why Kyle/Vannie is a much more perfect match than Kermit/Vannie. And it’s good food for thought besides.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Camp NaNo 2017 Week 3 Update

So I didn't update you on NaNo last week. Sorry. I had some things to say about contentment instead. 

Week 2 wasn't so great for writing. I lost steam, had a lot of things to do, and just didn't make myself sit down and write enough. And so I fell behind and didn't even finish the chapter until the beginning of week 3. (The way my NaNo goal works with my page-per-chapter goal, I have to write a chapter a week.) However, week 3 turned out to be fantastic. Vannie's emotions started running high, I really got into her head, and I finished a two-pages-too-long chapter last Saturday, putting me ahead on my page goal.

Another thing that happened regarding this story during week 3 was that I finally, thanks to Kendra, figured out who Kermit is as a person. She's been at me for awhile on how I need to find his positive qualities, and I just couldn't think of any. Then after we chatted for awhile on the difficulties of writing a middle grade-appropriate book about an ENFP who wants to be in a relationship (yeah, Vannie's being difficult that way), the talk turned to Kermit and she assigned me three pages written from Kermit's POV. And wow. Now I actually like him...and feel sorry for him. Turns out, he's not actually an annoying, book-hating glutton. He's a dyslexic, INFP stress eater who's terrified of Vannie and doesn't like to tell people what's really going on in his head. Oh yeah, and she's also very, very determined to never see anything good in him. Perspective changes things.

And now stats.

I think I'm going to make my goal. I just have to keep writing a chapter every week, so that I can finish the book in 2 1/2 months. That would be awesome.

My first snippet is from week 2 writing.

     "Do you listen to this child?" Gordan Holbrook demanded. "He disrespects his elders, calling into question my devotion to Briznom--he whose father tried to murder one of our members!"
     Kyle bristled. "I am not my father."
     Sir Strickland, a youngish man who had not served much longer than Kyle, though several years older, gained his feet. "No, you cozy up to the other side. You abandoned not just your father's immorality, but his entire belief system. You could not sift good from bad, but threw the baby out with the bathwater. You are nothing but a puppet of Sir Cumberland."
     "Kyle is his own man." Sir Cumberland joined the fray. "He already had a well-grounded set of principles when I met him. My family accepted him when his own rejected him, yes, but we never forced him to follow our beliefs."
     "And yet you refuse to let him speak for himself," Sir Maitland jumped in.

From week 3:

     Kyle cracked a small smile. He'd seen Kermit try to dance. "His dancing can't be helped. But his hands are probably clammy because he's nervous. I think you intimidate him. You intimidate a lot of people."
     I raised my eyebrows.
     "You're smart, knowledgeable, opinionated, feisty, overwhelming, determined, and you don't have the good sense to know when to stop. Ever. Which is why I'm not going to tell you what happened at Court until after you get through the ball."
     "And don't bother trying to get it out of Walter or your father. I've already made them agree you need to be kept in the dark or you'll never make it through the ball."
     "Kyle! You'll drive me crazy."
     "I know. It'll give you something to think about and keep you at the ball with Kermit, because I won't tell you otherwise."

And a bit from Kendra's assignment:

     "Here's your speech." Kermit's father handed him a card covered in several lines of writing.
     Kermit blinked at the writing, willing the swimming words to be still. Of course they wouldn't. Not for the first time, Kermit wished he'd told someone that it wasn't that he didn't like to read, it was that the letters never stayed still long enough. But everyone just thought him a poor student and a lazy one.
     I am the future Sir Cumberland. The thought reminded him that he had to get through this. Honestly, though, it sickened him. He'd never be able to understand all of Court's proceedings, never be able to draft legislation, never be able to make a compelling argument. Unlike Vannie. And that was the other half of his problems. However much he walked on eggshells around her, their relationship had never improved, and he was convinced it never would. She was too determined to see nothing good in him; he too scared of her to explain who he really was.

And there you have it: weeks 2 and 3 of Camp NaNo April 2017. And next week I should be done!

Monday, April 17, 2017

On Contentment

God wants us to be content. I think we all can agree on that. 

I used to think contentment was a simple matter, just be content with wherever you are in life, but I’ve recently realized that it’s rather more complicated than that. God absolutely wants us to be content within His will. Outside of His will, not so much. 

We’ve all had desires throughout our lives, desires that honor God, desires that dishonor Him, desires that are within His will, desires that are outside of it, even if they aren’t inherently wrong. If you’re anything like me, desiring something and not having it makes you discontent. Desiring to be a published author, to act in a movie, to play the violin, to have more siblings, to live on a farm, to teach music…these are all desires I’ve experienced over the years, and all of them have, at one time or other, made me discontent. 

Is it ever right to be discontent? The easy, simple answer is “no,” but I believe it’s more complicated than that. 

When I was sixteen, I began to feel it pressing on me that I needed to publish my books. I explored my options, didn’t like the ones I found, and began to wonder if this was, indeed, what I needed to do. Yet this desire to publish my books would not go away. I couldn’t shake it, I couldn’t be content to let my stories sit idly on the computer. Then finally, God put all the pieces in place for me to find the correct path for publishing my books. And I was able to be content. 

As an older child and young teen, I desperately wished for more siblings. I wanted a baby in the house, I wanted brothers, I wanted to be a part of a big family. I was discontent with the size of family God gave me. I prayed for more siblings, but finally I came to the realization that I would never get them. God showed me that He has a reason for giving me just two sisters, and I learned to be content with that. 

In my limited experience, the causes of discontent can be divided into two categories: fleshly desires and divine prompting. 

When our desire is of the flesh, it is most definitely wrong to be discontent. If it’s outside of God’s will, we have to give up that desire and submit to the Lord’s will, understanding that His way is better than our way. I had to give up my desire to have more siblings, my wish to be an actress. And being content with not having those things, because they are outside of God’s will for my life, I am much happier, and much more accepting of what God has for me. 

But when we are discontent because God is calling us to do something and we aren’t doing it, it’s a completely different story. I’ve heard about missionaries who just weren’t content at home, weren’t content until they went out into the mission field. God did not allow them to be content until they were following His calling. 

It’s hard to know whether a desire is of God or of the flesh. I am young and don’t have all the answers, but I would say that the best thing to do is to honestly and earnestly pray that God would remove those desires if they are not of Him. I can’t think of any reason why God would allow a person to continue to have sinful desires if their true wish is to honor Him. And if you’ve prayed long and hard for your desires to go away—truly wishing to serve God and honor Him—and they haven’t, I would think chances are very strong that they come from God, especially if they’ve only intensified instead. And God most certainly won’t let us be content with living our lives outside of His will. 

Yes, sometimes He’ll still make us wait—He made me wait six or seven years to learn to play the violin so He could move all the pieces into place and better prepare me for it—but that didn’t make the desire wrong. It doesn’t mean you’re sinning by being discontent. It means God is calling you to do something and He won’t let you rest until you do it. 

Strive to honor God in all that you do, in all that you wish to do. He will direct your path. He won’t let you continue in sin if you truly wish to honor Him and ask that He help you do so. And He won’t let you rest until you follow His calling. Don’t let fear or uncertainty hold you back, and don’t be so afraid that what you desire is wrong that you never do anything about it. Everything happens for a reason, even the desires of your heart. And when you lean on Him, He will direct your path.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Introducing GiraffeCrafts

Remember Indie e-Con a few weeks ago? Well, Kendra is launching a brand new site dedicated to the promotion of good, clean Indie Fiction. The main site isn't up yet - stay tuned for that later this month, but for now you can check out the blog where she'll be posting writing advice (because half the battle in marketing is having a book WORTHY of reading) as well as advice for editing, publishing, and marketing. It'll also be the home for future Indie e-Cons. Do stop by and have a visit - and consider becoming a contributor or joining her blogger and reviewer teams. 

Kendra has a lot more information over on her blog, so head over there to find out even more of her plans, join her mailing list, enter a giveaway for a free blog tour organization, and more! 

GiraffeCrafts on Social Media

Monday, April 10, 2017

Camp NaNo 2017 Week 1 Update

About two weeks ago, I was working on plotting the sequel to Espionage, and, as I was frustrated with my lack of progress on the Cassie story and was more interested in Vannie and Kyle, I decided to just go for it and start writing the story. Then I remembered Camp NaNo was about to start, looked to see if I could set a page goal instead of a word goal, saw I could, and decided spur of the moment to write the Espionage sequel for NaNo.

My goal is to write 40 pages this month, which should equate to roughly half the book. Espionage was 79 notebook paper pages, and I anticipate the sequel being somewhere between 80 and 100. The goal is fairly reasonable, so I should be able to make it, and possibly (hopefully) surpass it. 

My project description from NaNo is this: It's almost Vannie's 18th birthday--which means she'll finally have to marry Kermit. And Briznomians are mysteriously disappearing from the coastal villages. I'm not entirely sure yet how it'll all shake out, but I have a few plot goals floating around in my head which I'm eager to work into a cohesive storyline. I've already introduced a new character, Walter Stipland, and discovered that Kate has a beau, which is causing Vannie to have a hard time getting along with her. It's certainly been interesting.

So my stats.

I'm keeping ahead, though the "average per day" and the "at this rate you will finish on" are a bit confused as 40 cannot be divided evenly by 30 and NaNo apparently doesn't allow decimals (a fact which annoys me greatly).

So far, I've written in the church parking lot, at the dining room table, a little bit in the car, while camping on Skidaway Island where we waited out a tornado warning in the bathhouse (though I didn't write during the storm), and mostly in my bedroom. 

I'll give you a snippet, and leave you with that.

     "Kyle, they said you were here, and they said Sir Cumberland wasn't, which is a pity, because I need to talk to you both. It's a matter of importance at Court, and for Briznom, and Gordan won't take it, so you and Sir Cumberland will have to. Where is he?"
     "Good afternoon to you too, Walter," I said, swiping my face for remnants of tears.
     "Good afternoon, Vannie. Where is your father? He's older than Kyle and I, so we need his advice."
     "He and Mama took Kate visiting. She has a beau now, perhaps you've heard." I couldn't keep a sour note out of my voice. Kate and I hadn't been getting along well in the two months since she'd begun courting, which was entirely my fault. So was the warning glance Kyle sent my way.
     "What's going on, Walter?" Kyle asked. Walter did have to be prompted, if we wanted him to get to the point within a reasonable amount of time.
     "Villagers have been disappearing. It's been going on for several months now, but I've only just found out. Gordan says it isn't anything to worry about, it's probably just a story cooked up by peasants looking for fame, but Callie and I don't believe him. He may be her father, but neither of us trust him. He won't do anything, so that's why I needed to talk to you, Kyle, and to Sir Cumberland. When will he be back, Vannie?"

 Are you doing Camp NaNo this April? What do you want to see in a sequel to Espionage?

Friday, March 31, 2017

Ta Ta For Now

I'm taking a very badly needed break from blogging and social media. See you a week from Monday, and in the meantime, enjoy this preview of an audio version of Creighton Hill.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Introducing Matthew

Via Pinterest
Matthew is my super fun guy. (Don't mind me, I've just been watching too much Scorpion lately. ;) ) He's an interesting character to work with, my comic relief, and the most fun character in the book.

Conception of the Character

I'm sure you can guess that Matthew is not original to Twisted Dreams. But what you might not guess is that he's not exactly original to me. Matthew came into being when my sisters convinced me that Will and Liesel's kids needed Matt Smith as an uncle. It took them awhile, but finally I caved and added him to my Pinterest board. At first, I intended to eventually remove him from the story, but as I wrote scenes involving him and the kids, I realized my sisters were absolutely right.

His name came straight from the actor. I tried to come up with another name for the character--something German, for instance--but I couldn't separate him from the name Matthew, so I went with it

Character History

Matthew is the younger brother of Prince Wilhelm in both worlds. Their father is the king and their mother is dead. Matthew is accompanying Will on his quest to rescue the princess, helping to move the quest forward and make it work, and just being an all round goof. But he does know what he's about, and can actually make significant progress on the quest, even if he's not always, um, not usually totally serious.


Matthew's personality spring-boarded from--you guessed it--the Eleventh Doctor. He developed into his own person, but I still kept Matt Smith's personality and mannerisms in mind. He's adventurous and somewhat reckless, but he's smart and knows random things that turn out to be relevant. He likes to act immature--for instance, he still slides down banisters at age 17--but he's personable and relatable, and doesn't mind having a normal conversation with a servant. Matthew likes to be the family clown. He says things just to be goofy, and so keeps things light even when they are dire, yet knows when it's time to be serious. He's the non-twitterpated one in the trio, and he's a great character to work with.

What do you think of Matthew? Which character of the main trio do you think you'll like the best?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Taking Time To Read

What you read affects what you write. I've already talked on my blog about how important reading is in the life of a writer. It's something that can't be ignored. If you are what you eat, I'd contend that you are what you read as well.

What does reading do for you as a writer?

1. It stimulates your imagination. Reading creative works will spark your own creativity and get the wheels turning in your mind. It will give you new ideas, get you thinking about new "what ifs," and chances are, it will make you want to write.

2. It ingrains writing mechanics into you in a natural way. The more you read good writing, the more it will be instinctive.

3. It's just plain fun. Reading good books is a good way to relax and recharge, and if you like stories, it's very enjoyable.

So what's stopping you from reading? If you're anything like me, you can probably break it down into two reasons.

1. You don't have very much free time.

2. You feel like you're not being productive when you're reading a book.

Well, I have news for you (and me). Reading fiction books is not a waste of time. Yes, you need to prioritize your tasks, and sitting down to read a book shouldn't be the top priority on that list, but reading should not be a "maybe later, if I have time, which I probably won't." You've got to keep putting stuff into your mind if you expect anything to come out, so reading is an important thing to do.

As far as not having the time... make some time. That's going to look different for every person. Maybe watch less TV and spend less time on social media or dawdle less on chores and home business work. Those are easy/non detrimental things to cut out. Obviously you can't cut work and chores from your schedule, but if you budget your time well (something I'm personally not very good at), you may find yourself discovering time you didn't know you had. Also, don't be a workaholic. If a lot of your work is from home, it can be hard not to let it take over everything. "I can't sit and relax, I haven't met my writing quota or planned next week's music lessons or written my next blog post or practiced music or finished that sewing project or prepared for the next girls' Bible study lesson or..." and the list goes on. No one can go on forever without stopping, so take time to relax and take time to read.

After all, it's an important part of being a writer.

So take time to read.

Check out the rest of Indie e-Con at! I'm sharing my publication story today, and answering questions in the comments.

 Vote for your favorite 2017 Indie e-Con Book Awards picks here!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Creating a Main Character

How do you create a main character? It's one of the most important parts of your novel. After all, your protagonist is essential to the story. I've broken down the process into five easy steps.

Step 1: Choose the right character. It sounds obvious and easy, but it isn't always. Take it from the author who chose the wrong protagonist twice. Your protagonist should be the character that is the most central to the plot. The character without whom there would be no story. Just as there would be no Anne of Green Gables without Anne, your story should be dependent on your protagonist.

Step 2: Give them a backstory that's relevant to their role in the story. Your protagonist should have some reason to care about the story they're in, some reason for them to have the skills they use in the book, some reason for the plot to be relevant to the protagonist. For instance, Meg Murry has a reason to care about tessering about the universe and going to Camazotz because she wants to find her father who disappeared years before. It's a little harder in portal fantasy type storylines, but they still need a reason to care. Like how Lucy made friends with Mr. Tumnus and Edmund joined the White Witch. It involved their family personally.

Step 3: Create a well-rounded, three-dimensional character that's a product of their backstory. Your protagonist should be a realistic person. No one wants to read about cardboard cutouts. No one wants to read about Mr. Perfect. What readers want is a character who is real. Someone with strengths and weaknesses, personality and quirks, likes and dislikes, things they're interested in and things they couldn't care less about. And if a character is real, chances are, readers will care and find something to relate to.

Step 4: Get to know your character as a person. You can't write about someone you don't know. The way you get to know your character will probably be different from the next author, and that's okay. You could make up random scenes, write a character interview, fill out a character profile, imagine you are your character...the possibilities are endless. But you must know who your character is as a person.

Step 5: Write the book. A great protagonist is useless without a great story, so what are you waiting for? Go write!

Check out the rest of Indie e-Con at!

Vote for your favorite 2017 Indie e-Con Book Awards picks here!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Introducing Will

Via Pinterest
Will is the prince of Twisted Dreams. He's an interesting character to work with, though not nearly as interesting as his younger brother.

Conception of the Character

Like Liesel, Will did not originate in Twisted Dreams. He obviously came from the same story as Liesel, as the dad of the main character. He's...quite different later in life, due to not handling certain circumstances very well. There's a reason he's cast as Anthony Head (Uther Pendragon from BBC's Merlin) later in life.

I don't actually remember how I settled on his name. Likely, I just chose a random German name at the same time I chose Liesel--his full first name is Wilhelm. Funny how I remember naming Liesel, but can't remember naming Will. If he has a middle name, he hasn't shared that information with me.

Character History

Regardless of which world we're talking about, Will is a prince, and he has a younger brother.  In the fantasy world, he is a prince determined to rescue the legendary sleeping princess from her overgrown, nearly ruined castle. His brother is with him as helper and sidekick and jester.

In the sci-fi world, we get a little more background. He has no mother, but his father is still alive and ruling the kingdom. He is engaged to Liesel, and determined to rescue her, for even in this world, she desperately needs rescuing. In this world as well, he is accompanied by his brother.


Will very much has a one-track mind, and that mind is hyper-focused on Liesel. Pretty nearly for the whole book. He's got some serious tunnel vision. However, despite his hyper-focus on a girl, he is a good guy, who is as prepared as he can be to rule a kingdom when the time comes. He's brave, and not usually reckless...though his judgment skills may be off under high stress. He's determined to protect his princess and bring her home to marry her. Liesel is his world.

What do you think of Will? Any speculations on what happens to his character later on?

P.S. Espionage and Crannig Castle are free on kindle this week only as a part of the Indie e-Con book awards. So download your free copies and vote for them on the 20th!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Introducing Liesel

Via Pinterest
Liesel is my Sleeping Beauty character, the main girl in Twisted Dreams. She's a character I'm quite fond of, though my favorite character in the book is Matthew.

Conception of the Character

Liesel did not actually originate in Twisted Dreams. She was initially the (deceased) mother of the main girl of another story. She still is, actually, but that's a ways into the future.

Her name was a bit spur of the moment. I'd decided the country of Hanover had German influences part way through worldbuilding, so all characters created past that point have German names. Several created before that point have Old English, Hebrew, and Greek names, which doesn't fit the worldbuilding, but they stuck. I was naming this girl's parents, and I didn't want to do too much work in order to find a German name I liked, so I just went with Liesel. Pretty simple, due to The Sound of Music and the fact that I also know a little girl of that name. Liesel's middle name is Rosanna, a random addition made when I began Twisted Dreams as a reference to Briar Rose.

Character History

Liesel in medieval Hanover is the princess of the land. She was given gifts of beauty, grace, long life, etc. when an infant by the Cantileens and cursed to prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall into an everlasting sleep by a Wingan named Calandra. (Yes, I am aware that those details differ slightly from the original. I have my reasons.) As it happened, she lived a fairly normal life until she pricked her finger and fell asleep, and that's where things get crazy.

Liesel in sci-fi Hanover is a commoner engaged to the prince. She is the second oldest of five children, having an older brother, a younger brother, and two younger sisters. Her wedding to the crown prince of Hanover is but a few days away...only the enemies of Hanover have sought to interfere.


Regardless of which version of Hanover Liesel is in, she is still a kind and compassionate soul, very much in love with her prince. She is somewhat fearful, and wants very badly to simply depend on Will instead of doing things herself, but she can't always let him do everything. She's very mature for her age, and though she has fears about ruling a kingdom, she is quite capable of being queen. She is brave and willing to do what's right, but she does have a lot of internal struggles. After all, she's in a rather complicated, intense situation.

What are your thoughts on Liesel? Which version of Hanover do you think is real?

Monday, February 27, 2017

People Do Not Come From Cookie Cutters

Camazotz. The Community. Milky Way Society. Every socialist and communist society ever.

"On Camazotz we are all happy because we are all alike. Differences create problems."

"Why do you think people get confused and unhappy? Because they all live their own separate, individual lives."

"In Camazotz all are equal. In Camazotz everybody is the same as everybody else."

"You Elevens have spent all your years till now learning to fit in, to standardize your behavior, to curb any impulse that might set you apart from the group."

"Our people made that choice, the choice to go to Sameness."

"We really have to protect people from wrong choices."

It sounds so good, doesn't it? Lack of differences. Being the same. Following the same path and knowing exactly what to do because someone else already did it. No uncertainty.

People do not come from cookie cutters.

Everyone is different. Everyone has a different path. Everyone has a different story to tell, a different mission to fulfill. Everyone has different talents, different circumstances, different callings. And that's what makes the world such an interesting place.

We need George Washingtons. We need William Wilberforces. We need Albert Einsteins and Isaac Newtons. We need Mozarts and Vivaldis. We need people like Monet and Van Gogh. We need Charles Dickenses and Jane Austens and Jules Vernes and Rudyard Kiplings. We need Clara Bartons and Florence Nightingales. We need Patrick Henrys and John Adamses and George Wythes. We need Columbuses and people like Lewis and Clark. We need Nathan Hales. We need Shirley Temples and Jimmy Stewarts. We need Alexander Graham Bells and Wilbur and Orville Wrights. We need Walt Disneys and Bing Crosbys. We need John Peter Gabriel Muhlenbergs and John Newtons. We need Jim Elliots and Gladys Aylwards.

Communism doesn't work. Sameness doesn't work. The more you try to push people into a mold, the more you try to live life by a formula, the more you try to push everyone down the same path, the more you lose the rich tapestry that is this thing we call culture, this thing we call life. Yes, oftentimes differences create strife, especially when those around you disagree with those differences. Yes, sometimes it creates wars. But it also creates beauty. It creates a more full picture of humanity, of life, of God's creation.

A puppy and a fish have vastly different lives. But is that puppy a failure because it doesn't grow up to swim in the depths of the ocean like a fish? Is the fish a failure because it can't run and jump like a dog?

Just so, every person's path is different. Every person's life calling is different. Some are called to be politicians, some entertainers, some teachers, some inventors, some artists, some musicians, some doctors, some lawyers, some mechanics, some construction workers, some foreign missionaries, some soldiers, some actors, some pastors, some seamstresses, some stay-at-home moms.

And that's okay.

Some are called to seek higher education, some to specialize in trade, some to pursue arts.

Some are called to marriage early in life, some later, some never. Some are called to long and slow relationships, some to whirlwind romances. Some are called to raise lots of children, some few, some none at all. Some are called to foster and/or adopt, some are not.

Some are called to live publicly in the spotlight, some are called to do their work behind the scenes known only to their family and friends.

Some people are bubbly and friendly, some are shy and reserved. Some have lots of various interests and abilities, some are highly specialized in fewer. Some make the big bucks and become rich and famous, some are satisfied with making ends meet and living a quiet family life.

And that's okay.

I'd say there is no one definition of success, because there are infinite ways to succeed, but that wouldn't be quite accurate. There is one way to succeed and one only, though it is manifested differently in every single person that has lived and ever will live.

The way to succeed is to follow God's plan for your life.

Whether that be college, starting a small business, going out and getting a job, getting married, staying single, having kids, not having kids, joining a foreign mission, treating your home as a mission field (because everywhere on earth is a mission field), being well-known, playing a significant role only to your friends and family...whatever it is, if you're following God's plan for your life, you are succeeding.

None of this Camazotz alike-ness. None of this Giver Sameness. None of this Regulation Standardization from my own work in progress. God made us all different. These books illustrate how horrible things become when we fail to recognize and accept those differences.

Live for God. He will direct your path. It will look completely different from the path of the person next to you, but don't let someone else's view of success, or our culture's narrow-minded view of success, determine your path in life. Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will bring it to pass.

You do not come from a cookie cutter. God crafted you as an individual to His purpose, and He will direct that purpose in your life.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make straight your paths." --Proverbs 3: 5-6

Monday, February 20, 2017

Strong Female Character=Feminist?

The strong female character. The girl who's super good at fighting, who doesn't need a man to save her, who never shows a vulnerable side. The perfect feminist.

At least, that's what the clich├ęs say.

But I would contend that a strong female character doesn't have to be feminist. That, in fact, these characteristics are not what makes a character strong. I'd even say as well that a female character can be good at fighting and try not to show vulnerability, but not be a feminist.

First, what makes a character strong? Male or female? Culture and today's media probably make you think someone that's physically tough. I know I get those mental images. But a character can be good at fighting and not be strong, in my opinion. A truly strong character has, well, strength of character. It takes a lot of courage to do what's right in the face of evil, whether or not you're in a physical fight.

For instance, Kyrin Altair of Ilyon Chronicles is one example of what I would call a strong female character. She doesn't know much about physical fighting. She learned to fight with a staff and Jace is teaching her to defend herself with a knife, but her abilities in that area are limited. Where is her strength? It's in the way she stood up to Emperor Daican and held to her faith when she knew she'd be executed. It's in the way she didn't give up on Jace when he tried to push her away because she knew he needed her. Kyrin isn't even close to being a feminist, but she's very strong.

Via Pinterest
Lucy Pevensie of The Chronicles of Narnia also shows strength in her unwavering faith. She doesn't let anyone stop her from following Aslan. And she even fights with the archers in The Horse and His Boy, remaining feminine in spite of it. Meg Murry from A Wrinkle in Time is also strong in doing what needs to be done. She resisted IT and rescued her brother, difficult though it was. Kyrin, Lucy, Meg, they all have vulnerabilities, they all have flaws, they're not necessarily that good in a physical fight, but in the end, they always do what's right because they have strong characters.

Strength is doing what's right no matter the consequences.

But what about those girl characters who are good in a fight? Maybe they do have strong characters, but isn't being able to defend themselves and not needing a guy to do it a mark of feminism?

Not necessarily.

Oh, absolutely there are some fighter girls who are feminists. And I don't tend to like those characters. But since when is it wrong for a girl to be able to defend herself against attackers? A guy who cares about the women in his life, whether she be his wife, girlfriend, daughter, or sister, ought to want her to have the ability to defend herself because he knows he can't always be there to protect her. The reason Jace is teaching Kyrin to fight is because something bad almost happened to her, and he's afraid that if there's a next time he might not be there to save her. And sometimes the strong female character who can fight is that way because she had no choice. Enter Katniss and Rey.

Honestly, I don't think either of them are feminists. They're survivors who, because of their experiences, don't really trust anyone besides themselves to watch their backs.

Via Pinterest
Let's look at Katniss. Yes, she can defend herself. Yes, she's against the idea of getting married and having children. But that isn't because she doesn't want to be protected. It isn't because she's against the concept of marriage and family. It's because she lives in District 12 and when her dad died, her mom shut down leaving Katniss to provide for the family at age 11. She doesn't want to marry, not because she's anti-guy, but because she doesn't want more people to worry about and she definitely doesn't want to bring children into the world to get Reaped. She didn't volunteer for the Hunger Games because she had something to prove. She didn't volunteer because she thought she was this great fighter who could beat all the guys. She volunteered so her sister wouldn't go to her death. Yes, sometimes she acts like she's hard and unfeeling, but she's not. She just pretends she is so it doesn't hurt as much. Her circumstances hardened her into a survivor.

Via Pinterest
Rey has a similar story. She was abandoned on Jakku at a young age and had to fend for herself. She had to figure out how to fight in order to survive. But Rey's not interested in going and being a fighter. She's not interested in joining the Resistance. Throughout The Force Awakens, what she wants to do is go back to Jakku and wait for her family to come for her. She is a tough strong female character, but she's not a don't-need-no-man type. She's just a survivor who never had anyone else to watch her back. And she's strong not because she can take care of herself, but because--despite wanting to go home--she did the right thing in facing all those dangers to get BB-8 back to the Resistance with the map.

And really, Katniss and Rey aren't invulnerable. They try to hide their vulnerabilities as a defense mechanism, but their circumstances damaged them. Especially Katniss. They're not good at fighting because they think women are better than men and they have to prove it. They're the way they are because they had no choice.

Writers, don't make your female characters strong simply by giving them special abilities. Don't make them strong by making them compete with the men around them. Make them strong by giving them strength of character. Don't give them fighting and survival abilities just because it's cool. If they have those abilities, it should make sense for their backstory, and it should affect them.

Write real characters. Characters whose personality grows out of their backstory. Characters who grow throughout the book. Whose flaws are not condoned and given a pass, but who aren't perfect either. Study people and write.

Monday, February 13, 2017

On Henry Higgins and the Loss of Chivalry

♫Just you wait, 'enry 'iggins, just you wait.
You'll be sorry, but your tears'll be too late!♫

I recently rewatched My Fair Lady and I discovered that, while overall I like the story, I don't like the ending. More specifically, I don't like Henry Higgins. I don't like his character arc, or rather, lack thereof.

Eliza Doolittle is a London "flower girl" who sells flowers at Covent Garden. Henry Higgins is a scholar of phonetics. He meets her one day and boasts that he could change her accent so that anyone would think her a fine lady. And Eliza, wanting to better herself, insists on taking up the supposed offer. Throughout the story, Higgins and another phonetician, Colonel Pickering, refine street urchin Eliza into a fine lady.

They are successful with Eliza. She not only refines her accent, she refines her manners, and her appearance. People even think her to be a Hungarian princess. Yet, through the story, Henry Higgins treats Eliza, as a friend of mine put it, like a science experiment. He even states once that she doesn't have feelings. Higgins's mother knows what sort of man her son is. She knows he has no manners. Eliza herself is well aware of that fact. But even with such treatment, she manages to fall in love with him (totally beyond my comprehension).

When finally Eliza can't take it anymore, she runs away and goes to his mother. Higgins tracks her down, they fight, and she comes back. I wouldn't have an issue with such an ending if Higgins had changed his ways and decided to treat Eliza like the lady she is. But what are his final words? "Eliza, where the devil are my slippers?"

Why must Eliza change, but Henry Higgins can go on treating her like she isn't even a person?

Annie Get Your Gun has a similar ending, though not nearly as extreme. Frank Butler is the star sharpshooter of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and is rather egotistical about it. When Annie Oakley beat him in a shooting competition, when she performed an impressive stunt in a show, when she won medals from foreign royals, he was nothing but jealous. Finally, she purposely lost a competition to him (it wasn't her idea, but when she figured out what was going on, she went along with it), and his bruised ego was saved. She worked to transform herself into a lady for him, but he got to keep his selfish, egotistical ways.

Why must Annie refine herself and get over any attitude she might have had, but Frank can keep his selfish pride?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Eliza and Annie didn't have any work to do on themselves, they did, but why do Henry and Frank get off with no character arc? Why couldn't they become gentlemen? Adam Pontipee in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers realized after he had a daughter himself that he couldn't go around treating people inconsiderately. He tried to get his brothers to return the girls he got them to kidnap.

Maybe it's just me, but if characters have work to do in their lives, I want them to do it. I don't want them to get a pass for their bad behavior while other characters submit themselves to being treated poorly.

I like Jace Ilvaran of Ilyon Chronicles who protects Kyrin, who isn't jealous of her special abilities, who treats her like a lady.

I like Bardon of DragonKeeper Chronicles who is a chivalrous gentleman, who is very careful and protective of his wife, who treats Kale like a lady.

I like Teddy Kent of the Emily of New Moon books who is shy, but kind, supportive of Emily's endeavors, who never intentionally hurt her. The whole misery in Emily's Quest was simply a misunderstanding due to his shyness and his mother's issues. Not because Teddy could ever be a jerk.

I like Reuben Eaglechaser of The Rizkaland Legends who may be slightly ridiculous at times, but is always there for Petra when she needs him, who will always protect her, who respects her boundaries even when he doesn't want to because he loves and respects her.

I don't want male characters to be wimps. I don't want their girls to walk all over them. I don't want them to be hiding in the background while the girls do everything there is to be done. But I don't want them to be perpetual jerks either. Give me Jace over Henry Higgins any day. I'd much rather read about Teddy Kent than Frank Butler. I prefer the gentlemen. I prefer the men who let the ladies go first, who will protect the girls around, carry heavy things for them, and, well, treat them like ladies. It doesn't make the men weak and effeminate to be gentlemen any more than it makes the women wimpy cardboard cutouts to let them do it.

So writers, don't be afraid to make your male characters gentlemen. If they have character flaws, don't condone them. Nobody really likes a Henry Higgins. But lots of girls love a sweet protector like Jace. Write about gentlemen.

Tune in next week to find out how girl characters can be strong without being feminists.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Sleeping Beauty History

Once upon a time, I knew one version of Sleeping Beauty, and it wasn't the Disney movie.

When I was little, I loved My Big Book of Bedtime Stories. It contained a fairly accurate retelling of Sleeping Beauty, and, while it wasn't my favorite story in the book (that was The Little Match Girl), it defined my idea of Sleeping Beauty. It was obviously a kid-friendly retelling--no child-eating grandmothers involved. The angry eighth fairy curses the baby to die, the last fairy modifies her to sleep, she pricks her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, and falls asleep for one hundred years until the prince wakes her with a kiss.

♫I know you, I've danced with you once upon a dream.♫

When Disney's Sleeping Beauty came out of the vault for the 50th anniversary, my sister bought the DVD and I was finally able to watch it. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't a big fan. She didn't sleep for one hundred years, and the pacing drives me nuts. It feels like the first half of the story is a prologue. That's just my opinion, and I probably would really like it if I'd managed to get ahold of it when I was little, but as it is, it wasn't my favorite version of the story, and certainly not my favorite Disney movie. I do like the incorporation of Tchaikovsky's music, though. And if you want to know more about the Disney vault, watch this video. XD

I was pleased (and shouldn't have been at all surprised about it, either) with Kendra E. Ardnek's treatment of Sleeping Beauty in The Bookania Quests. Kendra is a connoisseur of fairy tales, managing to overcome the pacing issues and the whole prince-kisses-a-girl-he's-never-met thing while still remaining very true to the original. That delighted me as far as Sleeping Beauty retellings go. Yes, I was far more interested in Robin and Eric's story than Rosamund's, but it still stood out to me as a good Sleeping Beauty.

I liked Maleficent better than the animated Sleeping Beauty, but, well, I still didn't like the structure. To be honest, the fairy tale probably just doesn't lend itself well to a well-structured movie. I enjoyed the added depth to the Maleficent's character and the theme of family true love. But she still didn't sleep for one hundred years.

You may be wondering where I'm going with all this. Well, I wrote a Sleeping Beauty retelling. 

Why would Sleeping Beauty be my first fairy tale retelling when I have such a hard time with Sleeping Beauty retellings? Enter Five Magic Spindles. I wanted to enter the contest, so I started brainstorming for ideas, and came to one I really liked:
What if, when Sleeping Beauty fell asleep, she woke up in another world?
I connected it with another unwritten story, and the pieces started falling into place. (No, I'm not telling which story it connects to...that would give away the twists. And if you already know, don't mention it.) I pulled inspiration from Doctor Who, specifically "Amy's Choice,"  from Merlin, from Michael Vey, and, as always, my spaceships drew on my knowledge of Star Wars. And of course the original fairy tale. Just...with a lot of twists. It didn't ultimately win Five Magic Spindles, but now I can do with it what I like.

Is Liesel from the fairy tale world or the sci-fi world? Is she in a tower or in a cell? And does she have a chance at being rescued either way?

So Twisted Dreams joins the ranks of Sleeping Beauty stories I like. I would hope so, since I wrote it. ;) I plan to let you all read it sometime this summer, so you can judge for yourselves.

And in closing, let's see what Prince Charming might have been feeling during the true love's kiss. After all, it's hard when the first girl you kiss is unconscious.

How do you feel about these different versions of Sleeping Beauty? What's your favorite fairy tale retelling?

Monday, January 30, 2017

When Your WIP Won't Behave makes life difficult.

As a writer, writing is hard. And, honestly, not writing is harder.

I've mentioned before that I've been having a rough time with writing. I struggled through Time Captives (I made it! Whew! And I'm pretty happy with the results, so that's a plus), wrote a rather bland first draft of the Cassie story (my family recently suggested Identity as the title...haven't settled on it yet, but what do you think?), breezed through Twisted Dreams and seemed to have drained all my creativity, managed to write a much better but still very messy second draft of the Cassie story, got a chapter and a half into a third draft, and...kind of quit. Not for good, certainly, I just didn't quite have the fresh perspective I needed, and there's still something wrong with it that I can't quite put my finger on.

I think half my trouble with this book is problems with the story itself, and half the trouble is just general creativity problems. Growing up, is, well, difficult, and it's affected my ability to dream big in story worlds. But I'm not here to complain, I want to share with you some of the things I've been trying in my attempt to move past this dry phase. (Anyone else read Emily's Quest by L.M. Montgomery? I totally feel like I'm in that phase of her life right after she burned A Seller of Dreams. Except for the Dean Priest thing, of course. :P)

General Book Malfunction

I've been through this before with Time Captives, I should know exactly what to do, right? 

1. Evaluate the protagonist. Picked the wrong protagonist? Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Actually, now I kind of want a T-shirt about picking the wrong protagonist. If your protagonist doesn't have a lot of growing to do, but one of your main secondary characters does, chances are, you've picked the wrong protagonist. Same goes if your protagonist doesn't have a very interesting narration style, but a secondary character does. 

2. Evaluate the writing style. This one' But if you've been stuck on the writing how-to, and it's bogging you down, and your writing's just not you anymore, it's time to reevaluate the way you're writing. Deep character POV is the "in" thing right now, but if it doesn't work for you, it doesn't work for you. The harder I try to write good deep character POV, the more I get tunnel vision, which makes me feel very stuck. The other problem is, when I try too hard to write omnisciently, I get too distant. So you know what? Don't worry about your writing style. Just write however feels most natural, and fix it later. That's what editing's for.

3. Evaluate the storyline. Is it boring you? If it is, chances are, it'll bore your readers. That's how chapter two of draft three felt. I still haven't figured out how to fix the beginning, as I had to cut some interesting stuff in order to fix plot holes, but I'll figure it out eventually. Think about where it bores you, where it excites you, try to identify the holes, and talk to someone about it. It could be a parent, a sibling, a non-relative writing buddy, but it helps immensely to get someone else's perspective on it. And if you're rewriting, go back and read previous drafts as a cohesive whole. I believe failing to do so is a big part of why I failed mid-chapter two.

4. Try to remember what excited you about the project in the first place. This was my major failing in draft three. By trying to rewrite after a break of several months without rereading first, I'd forgotten who my characters were, what drove them, what their goals were, what journey they went on, and most of all, I forgot why I loved this project. Now that I'm almost done with my reread, I can not only see the problems with the story a bit more clearly, I remember how much I love these characters and why I care about their story.

5. If all else fails, take a break. Could be, the book just isn't ready to be written yet. I keep learning this again and again with the Storyless Storyboard Story...though that's probably largely because the main characters are a married couple with a baby and I'm not at that stage of life yet, so I have no experience to draw on.

General Creativity Malfunction

Yeah, still working on fixing this one. I haven't permanently emerged into the light at the end of the tunnel, so I'll let you know later how my methods work. Meanwhile, if you have any advice to offer, I'd be glad to hear it.

1. Don't stress and believe it's just a phase. I'm trying. It's really hard not to stress about your writing struggles when you're a published author and you've almost run out of books to publish. However, I have to believe it's just a phase and I'll get through it eventually.

2. Read. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the quality and amount of my reading material seems to have an effect on my writing. What you read affects what you write, and you've got to put story in to get story out. So this year, I'm making an effort to read more and to watch the quality of my reading material a lot more carefully. I'm not going to let a significant portion of my reading material be made up of junk food books!

3. Dream about characters. This is hard to force, and in a way, I don't believe it should be forced, but when you're spending practically all of your daydreaming time thinking about real life problems, it does make you feel distanced from your writer side. But honestly, how can you write these characters, how can you get to know them, how can you care enough to make your readers care if you don't hang out with them in your head? I'm not doing a great job with this one so far, but it's better than it was. And I think it's very important.

4. Act out scenes from your book and pretend to be your character. I haven't actually tried this as a writer's block cure yet, but it's something I used to do all the time as a kid, and it definitely helped my creativity. Of course, as adults, we don't want to be pretending we're on a fantasy quest in the middle of the grocery store, but there's a time and a place for acting (alone in my bedroom when the rest of the family is asleep, perhaps?), and the different creative outlet may help get the creative juices flowing once more.

5. Pray. I don't pray for my creativity as often as I should--I've got so many other things to pray about--but it should be the first, middle, and last resort. Because the fact is, I view writing as a ministry, and just praying over my manuscript when I sit down to write isn't really enough.

So there are some things I'm trying or intend to try in order to write again. I hope it helps you, and I'll keep you posted on how it works for me!

Have you ever experienced writer's block? What did you do to cure it?

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Series of Ifs

I wrote this poem last Saturday poetry, it's probably horrendous, but hopefully you'll find some inspiration from the content. It's hard when our plans are changed or interrupted, but God does know best. And sometimes He has to change our plans so that we remember Who is really in control.

I’m building my life on a series of ifs
Because only God knows the when,
My plans are made up of castles in the air
Constantly lost to the wind.

I dream and I muse, making grandiose plans,
That take my soul far ‘cross the land,
I achieve much greatness and effect many changes,
In important works take a stand.

My plans are laid out with much thought and much care,
I’m fully convinced they are right,
They accord with God’s principles, surely they do,
With tenacity, I hold them tight.

Yet often I see, as I hold my plans sacred,
They begin to slip through my fingers.
It saddens me much to part from them thus—
Yet hurts more the longer I linger.

Life without plans is frightfully alarming,
I must know where I’m headed to survive.
If I don’t know the plan, I can’t take the next step,
How else can I remain alive?

The longer I live—the more plans I see crumble—
It becomes harder to trust
In the truth of God’s promise that His way is best,
But still I do know that I must.

Time after time, God changes my plans,
And I ask Him incessantly “Why?”
The truth is that His plan is better than mine,
He is far wiser than I.

My plans are but dust, His firm as a rock,
Without Him, I stumble and fall.
When I keep to His way, my pathway is steady,
He won’t let me fail once and for all.

When my path is my own and none of it His,
Ifs are the base for my plans.
When my path is His, and I commit to Him,
My life’s in the very best hands.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Weathersbard Decoded: The Cure For All Ills?


Weathersbard. Eleanor and Grant. To Time Captives readers, words synonymous with heartbreak. She's stuck as a twelve-year-old. He has to grow up. It's a would be romance with an unhappy ending...or is it?

I didn't intend for Eleanor to fall in love when I first sent her to sea. However, as soon as Grant tapped her on the shoulder on the wharf, I shipped them. At first, I tried to figure out some wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey way for them to be together, but I quickly came to the conclusion that that wasn't how it was meant to be. And so I wrote their story, parting and all, jumping out of order to write their reunion in Crannig Castle over Independence Day in 2014...the reunion that would conclude their story and enable them to finally move on with their lives.

Though when I initially wrote that part of the story it made perfect sense to me, when I edited it in preparation for release, I didn't get it. I didn't get how Eleanor--after spending fifty years miserably pining after Grant--could move on. How she could accept never seeing Grant again. Why wasn't she even more heartbroken? I was, reading it. It hurt. My readers talked about how sad and heartbreaking their story was too, and we all, me included, wished for an AU (alternate universe storyline) in which Grant and Eleanor could be together.

Then Kendra presented me with a happily ever after headcanon, wherein young Grant comes to our world to marry Eleanor, then eventually, after a long life together, returns to Calhortea to live out another life there. It seemed like the perfect ending for their story.

It was a slow day at the library, and I was sitting at the desk cleaning audiobook CDs, dreaming up a Weathersbard reunion scene when suddenly I stopped. Something was wrong. Something about this happy fix-it-all reunion scene was actually ruining their story. Somehow it undermined the ending.

And that was when I realized the theme of Grant and Eleanor's story. See, I don't write with any particular theme in mind (except maybe a general one of faith and freedom), so sometimes the themes hit me out of the blue later. Grant and Eleanor's story isn't so much one of unrequited love as it is one of contentment.

Eleanor spent fifty years of her life pining after the guy she loved. And she was miserable. The whole time, she was thinking that if only she had been able to marry the guy she loved, everything would be perfect. She'd be happy. She'd stop being so agonizingly lonely. Nothing would ever be wrong again. So you'd think that seeing Grant again, seeing that she absolutely can't have him--after all, he's old and she's still a kid--would make it worse. But yet it didn't.

Why? Because when she saw him again, she realized something big.

The key to happiness isn't getting the guy you want. The key to happiness is accepting with contentment the plan God has for your life.

Eleanor accepted that Grant wasn't the cure for all her ills...God was. Getting Grant wouldn't make everything okay...accepting God's plan would. And sure, she probably still had moments where she missed Grant very badly and wished things had turned out differently, but it wasn't debilitating like it was before. She was okay. Because she had finally accepted that God knew what He was doing, and His plan was better than hers.

So if you've ever struggled with contentment, especially in regards to a relationship or lack thereof, remember Eleanor. Remember that getting the guy (or whatever it is you feel will fix everything) won't make it all better. You may or may not get the guy you want, but even if, unlike Eleanor, you do get him, remember that you won't be happy, you won't stop being lonely, everything won't be made better, unless you've already let God do that for you. God is the cure for our ills, not the "perfect" guy, and God knows what He's doing, even if it seems hard at the time. And when God is first, the other blessings He gives you are a wonderful bonus.

But go ahead and have a happily ever after Weathersbard headcanon if you feel like it. ;)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Don't Forget To Read

Writing has been an increasing struggle for me. It used to be that I was always making up stories, my brain was full of imaginings, and I thought my creativity would never run dry. Yet it's become difficult to write. It's become difficult to imagine. It's been difficult to develop plots. It's been difficult to stay excited about a project for any length of time.

Now, I can identify several factors in my own life related to growing up that are probably affecting this dry spell, but there's just one I'm talking about that I think is a bigger factor than I realized.


I've been bemoaning the lack of reading time for awhile now, and also bemoaning the limited quantity of books that excite me. It's a rough place for a reader to be. And while I had an inkling for awhile that there was probably some correlation between my reading habits and my writing struggles, it didn't really hit me until recently, didn't fully hit me until I put together the stats.

2014 was a pretty good year for reading and writing. Sure, I still read some junk books, but the ratio of good books to poor ones was pretty encouraging. Only about a tenth of my total fiction intake was junk. I read a lot of Margaret Peterson Haddix--well-written, creative books that excite me--and several classics. I wrote approximately 3 1/2 books, some of it a rewrite, but quite a bit of it all new. Not only that, but I was finishing school and constantly doing volunteer work for a congressional campaign, with migraine problems. Yet, with so much busyness, a good fiction intake resulted in a good fiction output.

The ratio of junk to quality was higher in 2015. Not horrendously so, but definitely higher--especially since I read less books overall. I still read a good number of classics, but even among the quality literature, I still read a good bit of fluff. Like Winnie-the-Pooh and Beverly Cleary. Sure, they're children's classics, but they're not super inspiring and they don't make my imagination take off. The junk was balanced with some good fiction, but not enough. The quality didn't drown out the junk as well as it did in 2014, and my writing quantity was starting to suffer. I still managed to finish my major work on Time Captives, write the first (rather bland) draft of the Cassie Story, and write a novella, but all that work pretty much drained me. And I couldn't manage to recharge. Yes, I had a lot of stress going on in my personal life to make things difficult (moving, basement building, etc.), but it shouldn't have been too much worse than graduating and campaigning if my reading habits had kept up the way they had been.

2016, let me just say it, was bad. I only read 63 total books, and about half of the fiction I read was junk. It's no wonder I only managed to write one story, a rewrite, and it was a struggle at that. I read a few classics, like Sense and Sensibility and Wuthering Heights, plus some good new stuff like Ilyon, Rizkaland, and Blades of Acktar, but when my main reading intake is Percy Jackson and Jedi Quest, well, there's not much Jane Austen can do to help. Yes, I got a job and had a very full year, but if my reading choices had been better, there's a good chance writing would have gone better as well.

My point in sharing this story is this: Do not forget to read quality literatureYes, if you're a writer, you should write, but reading is extremely important too. The quantity is important, but even more important is the quality. You can't write good books if you don't read them, so take in a steady diet of quality literature.
Make time to read, and make careful reading choices. It's more important than you know.


107 Total Books Read

Most Read Fiction Authors:
Margaret Peterson Haddix: 17 books
Katie Lynn Daniels: 7 books
Donita K. Paul: 5 books
Evan Angler: 4 books
Kendra E. Ardnek: 4 books
Lois Lowry: 4 books
Jaye L. Knight/Molly Evangeline: 3 books
Alexander Key: 2 books
Frank Peretti: 2 books
Lois Gladys Leppard: 2 books
Suzanne Collins: 2 books

Fiction Classics Read:
Silas Marner by George Eliot
The Honorable Peter Stirling by Paul Leicester Ford
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Other Noted Reads (the good and the not as good):
Becoming Nikki by Ashley Elliott
McKenna (American Girl "Girl of the Year") by Mary Casonova
Only a Novel by Amy Dashwood
Hunt for Jade Dragon (Michael Vey #4) by Richard Paul Evans
Red Rain by Aubrey Hansen
Adventures and Adversities by Sarah Holman
Disney After Dark by Ridley Pearson
Holes by Louis Sachar
Movie Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
Reckoning (Last of the Jedi #10) by Jude Watson

Writing Output:
Creighton Hill (1st computer draft--complete rewrite)
The Crossways (1st computer draft--almost complete rewrite)
Espionage (rough draft)
Crannig Castle (1st half of rough draft)


86 Total Books Read

Most Read Fiction Authors:
Kendra E. Ardnek: 7 books
Edgar Rice Burroughs: 5 books
Marissa Meyer: 4 books
Sarah Holman: 4 books
Margaret Peterson Haddix: 3 books
A. A. Milne: 2 books
Beverly Cleary: 2 books
Charles Dickens: 2 books
Claire M. Banschbach: 2 books
Baroness Emmuska Orczy: 2 books
Jaye L. Knight: 2 books
Katie Lynn Daniels: 2 books

Fiction Classics Read:
Tarzan Books 1-5 by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

Other Noted Reads (the good and the not as good):
Amazing Grace by Faith Blum
Caddie Woodlawn's Family by Carol Ryrie Brink
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Meet Caroline by Kathleen Ernst
Storm of Lightning by Richard Paul Evans
Counted Worthy by Leah Good
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Greensleeves by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Disney at Dawn by Ridley Pearson
Implant by J. Grace Pennington
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Doctor Who: The Glamour Chase by Gary Russell
The Cay by Theodore Taylor
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Writing Output:
Crannig Castle (2nd half of rough draft)
The Crossways (rewrite of Time Captives storyline--roughly 1/3 of book)
The Cassie Story (rough draft)
Twisted Dreams (rough draft)


63 Total Books Read

Most Read Fiction Authors:
Rick Riordan: 10 books
Jude Watson: 10 books
Tanith Lee: 4 books
Shannon Hale: 3 books
Tricia Mingerink: 3 books
Chris Colfer: 2 books
C. S. Lewis: 2 books
Trenton Lee Stewart: 2

Fiction Classics Read:
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
The Pilgrim's Regress by C. S. Lewis
Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis
Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery

Other Noted Reads (the good and the not as good):
Rainland by Sarah Allerding
Lady Dragon, Tela Du by Kendra E. Ardnek
This Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof
The Solid Rock by Faith Blum
Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii by Lee Goldberg
Samara's Peril by Jaye L. Knight
Gossamer by Lois Lowry
Stars Above by Marissa Meyer
Firmament: Reversal Zone by J. Grace Pennington
Far To Go by Noel Streatfeild
Doctor Who: The Nightmare of Black Island by Mike Tucker

Writing Output:
The Cassie Story (1st computer draft--complete rewrite)