Monday, June 30, 2014

On Writing Journeys

A writing tip gleaned from C. S. Lewis.

The Time Captives trilogy has been full of writing struggles for me, from character development to worldbuilding. One of these struggles was the writing of journeys. They should be long, who ever heard of a fantasy country it took two hours to cross? But just journeying on and on with nothing really happening gets really boring really quick.

I was trying to figure out how to write journeys accurately. I researched how far someone could walk in a day, and didn't get a definitive answer, but it was enough for me to realize Calhortea must be tiny. It barely took the Hubbards any time at all to reach Calhortz in the first draft. It needed to be a bigger world. Yet, I didn't want to do like Month of the Novel and write "So they walked and they walked and they walked and they walked and they walked and they walked and they walked and they walked..." And I had that "show, don't tell" principle in my head.

A few months ago, I had a bunch of sewing projects. I like listening to audiobooks while I sew, otherwise I'm bored, so I got out my Focus on the Family Radio Theater Narnia audiobooks, and randomly picked The Horse and His Boy. If you're at all familiar with the story, you know that it is full of journeying. I have read and listened to that book millions of times, but that time something hit me. It skips a lot of the traveling!

The book "shows" the beginning of the journey, how tired and sore Shasta is, etc. then sets up their system for traveling (every other night Shasta went into a village and met Bree on the other side). Then it tells that this went on for weeks and weeks. It doesn't get to "showing" again until the night they meet Aravis and Hwin. Cool, isn't it? It just skips the boring parts of the journey where nothing important happened. And it's okay. It's even preferable.

I noticed this in DragonSpell by Donita K. Paul as well. It sets up what it's like to travel through the Bogs, then just says it went on for however long it took for something to actually happen.
It just comes down to knowing when to show and when to tell. There are times for both, and a story wouldn't be complete with the omission of one or the other.

There's always stuff to tell and stuff to skip and skim over. As E. Nesbit wrote in The Story of the Treasure Seekers, "The best part of books is when things are happening....This is why I shall not tell you in this story about all the days when nothing happened....So I shall just tell you the nice interesting parts--and in between you will understand that we had our meals and got up and went to bed, and dull things like that. It would be sickening to write all that down, though of course it happens."

So now I don't worry about just saying they traveled for so long. Something doesn't have to happen every minute, and it's okay to skim over the weeks of a journey where nothing really happens.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Shire Reviews

Last week, while my sister Rebekah was doing the breakfast dishes and critiquing The Door Within, I had an idea. I often get crazy ideas that I drag my sisters into. Well, this one wasn't too crazy, and we got permission to pursue it. We started a review blog.

Our blog is called Shire Reviews and we will be reviewing books and movies on it. My sister Addyson reviewed The Pirate Daughter's Promise last week and today's is a review written by Rebekah of Third Starlighter.

Join us in our newest venture over at

(And yes, this announcement is instead of a real post because, though I have several planned, I didn't feel like writing one up. :) )

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Word Changers Review

Picture Her parents argue and fight almost every day. Not only is their marriage falling apart, but teenager Posy feels her life is falling apart with it. Amidst anger and tears, she retreats to the old library down the street. Posy selects one mysterious book in an undiscovered corner of the library and is magically drawn into another world.

Posy finds herself in a kingdom ruled by a cruel and manipulative king and queen who have attempted to usurp the role that belongs only to the Author of their story. The princess flees, an uprising is breaking out in the kingdom, and the prince and other characters fight against their slavery to the Plot.

Posy and the prince search for the fled princess, encountering hideous monsters, fierce battles, incredible danger, and strange creatures that Posy only ever dreamed. They must travel to mysterious places that expose the darkest part of the heart, their own raw fear, and past wounds that haunt them. Will they find truth and forgiveness as they plunge into the book? Will Posy and the prince save the story? Will Posy heal the heartache she knew in her own world?


Recommended for: Teens

The Word Changers was an interesting fantasy story with an intriguing premise: People in books are real. Posy, a girl from the real world, replaces the missing princess Evanthe in the Plot of a book, but she finds that much more than a missing princess is afoot. Posy and Evanthe's brother Kyran go on a quest to find Evanthe, and discover what has really happened to the Plot along the way. I did enjoy this book, but unfortunately it did not jump onto my extensive favorites list.

Writing: 4/5

The Word Changers is fairly well written. While it didn't ever become a page turner for me, I was never jerked out of the story by poor writing. Descriptions were pretty good and emotions were described well. The writing wasn't anything extraordinary, but it was pretty good.

Setting: 4/5

It's a fantasy world within a book. It has mythical creatures like centaurs, talking animals and a magical mist that tells Posy what to do, which was kind of cool. It was a little difficult to get used to talking owls outside of Narnia. It seemed a little out of place in a young adult book, but the owls were crucial to the plot. I wasn't terribly intrigued by the setting within the kingdom, but I did really like the Glooming. It was an interesting place, and full of different tests Posy and Kyran had to get through to make it to Evanthe. I don't want to give the Glooming away, but I thought it the best part of the book.

Plot: 3/5

I'm divided on this. Part of the plot I liked and part of it I didn't. I'll start with the part I liked: the adventure. There was quite a bit of it, as Posy and Kyran set out to find Evanthe, and got involved in starting a fight for the True Plot against the king. And again, I liked the stuff within the Glooming. It kept reminding me of things from many of my favorite books, but in a new way. I also did like when they met the Author and learned about him writing their story. I usually appreciate writing based allegory.

Now, what I didn't like: the romance. I'm not against a romance subplot, I rather like them, but this one never worked for me. What I love about the romance in Molly Evangeline's books is how the relationship is built on God and friendship. In The Word Changers, it seems to be built on that she's a teenage girl, and he's a handsome guy, and doesn't all YA need a little romance? When Posy first met Kyran, she hated him, but then, next time, when they were setting out on their journey to find Evanthe, she seemed to be falling for him simply because he was a guy. Not that Kyran was bad, he is a pretty good character, it's just that's not why she falls for him. The feeling is returned, but still, it seems to be for no other reason than because the book "needed" a romance. There are a couple of kisses between them, which I didn't feel were necessary. I think the book would have been better if the author hadn't tried to force in a romance.

Character Development: 3/5

Posy and Kyran were fairly well developed, but I never really connected with either of them. I did like how it was difficult to figure out whose side Falak the owl was really on. Also, the side the king and queen were on was difficult to discern, which was a good thing. The lesser characters were a little difficult to keep track of, and not very distinct. They did behave like typical book characters, but again, I didn't connect to them.

All in all, The Word Changers was a pretty good book built around an intriguing concept. Though I don't count it as a favorite, I did enjoy it.

I received a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Random Facts About Me

My friend Jaye tagged me in the Sunflower Blogger Award. Basically, I list 11 random facts about me, answer 11 questions, and tag 11 more bloggers to participate. (I'm not sure I know 11 bloggers, and several of the ones I do know were already tagged, so I'll have to cheat on that, but anyway.) I've never done anything like this before, after all, my blog has only been around about a year, but it sounds like fun, so here goes!

11 Random Facts

1. I hate spicy food. I don't like it when my mouth feels like it's on fire and I have to take a drink after each bite.

2. I love kids. If there's a baby in the room, I'm sure to be hovering around.

3. When I was little, I hated for stories to be about a boy, or about some one older than me, or something that was generally considered to be for boys or simply wasn't girly (action/adventure movies such as Star Wars for example). Now I'd much rather watch a superhero movie than Pride and Prejudice. And, quite honestly, I think most chick flicks are boring.

4. Ever since I saw the play Annie, I have loved orphan stories. My favorite childhood game was "run away from the orphanage," though I also loved to play pioneer.

5. I sing Disney songs all the time, and constantly respond with a quote from Bad Lip Reading.

6. I once had two turtles: Franklin and D. W. We discovered Franklin was a girl when she laid eggs . . . that she promptly ate.

7. I'm scared of snakes and salamanders and anything else slithery.

8. I have had more grand ideas that never came about than I can count. One was digging an underground playhouse with a plastic snow shovel when I was five or six. And despite many attempts, I still haven't managed to make a movie.

9. I own several hundred books, and desperately need another bookshelf, but there are still books I want that I don't have. (Of course, some of those aren't available yet, like all of Ilyon Chronicles and the rest of the Firmament Series.)

10. I scream on roller coasters.

11. I "blame" the Loudermilk family for the way my family's life is now. We met them when we started homeschooling and they dragged us into politics and got us into making our own bread. Though we are now involved in a very intense congressional campaign, I don't regret how God has used them in our lives.

My answers to the 11 questions

1.What is your favorite kind of tree?
I'm not really into trees, but I suppose it would have to be any tree you could put a tree house in. I would love to have a tree house.
2.Do you prefer tea or coffee or neither?
In general neither, but lately I've been drinking tea while I write and I kind of like doing that now.

3.What is your favorite social media site?
I'm not real into social media, but Facebook is where I get to see pictures of babies I know. :)
4.What is the last sentence you wrote in a story?
That would be from a random short story I'm writing.

She peeked at her little brothers Jack and Henry in the next bed.

5.Who is your favorite historical figure and why?
That's tough, but I think I'll pick George Washington because he was a man of God and the father of our country. I could tell many interesting stories about him, but I don't have room here.

6.What is your biggest pet peeve?
People calling America a democracy. We're not, we're a representative republic.

7.What’s your favorite dessert?
Ice Cream.

8.If you could live in any time period (past, present, or future) what would you choose?
The early 1800s. I would miss modern conveniences (a lot), but it's a really neat time in American history.

9.What is your favorite book to re-read (besides the Bible)
Probably A Wrinkle in Time. I've read it a ton. Though I've also read Narnia just as much.
10.What genre do you read most?
I think fantasy, but I also read a good bit of historical fiction and some science fiction. My taste in genres is pretty diverse.

11.What is the best movie you have ever watched?
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I watched it so much I had the entire thing memorized, so it's clear I love it.

I can't think of many bloggers, but here's a few.



My 11 questions for bloggers
I don't feel like thinking of new ones, so I'll just copy the same ones.

1.What is your favorite kind of tree?
2.Do you prefer tea or coffee or neither?
3.What is your favorite social media site?
4.What is the last sentence you wrote in a story?
5.Who is your favorite historical figure and why?
6.What is your biggest pet peeve?
7.What’s your favorite dessert?
8.If you could live in any time period (past, present, or future) what would you choose?
9.What is your favorite book to re-read (besides the Bible)
10.What genre do you read most?
11.What is the best movie you have ever watched?