Monday, January 25, 2016

I Dreamed a Dream

I am nine years old. I'm with my family traveling through the woods on the way to a visit. There are boys in the woods trying to set snares and trip wires to stop our car, but it doesn't work. We make it to the house where we are to visit without incident. We are met by the people who live there. Among them is a boy a little older than me. I'm not certain of his name, but I do know he is very nice.

It has grown late. I'm confused at this point about whether the house belongs to my family or the boy's, but that's unimportant. I'm sneaking around, investigating things. I'm eavesdropping on some grownups. They're planning something of evil intent, but I'm not quite sure what it is. I'm in danger. The boy is there, and he pulls me under the bed to hide.

I must get back to my family's room before I'm discovered. I run through the house. I get into the bathroom that leads to my family's bedroom. The door is locked behind me. Spock is there. He is our guard. I run through and jump into bed with my sisters just before the men upon whom I was spying burst into our room. I hide under the covers, hoping no one will notice that I'm still trying to catch my breath and that I'm not wearing my pajamas. Spock did not detain them for long.

I'm not sure what happens after that. Everything fades away.

And that is how Espionage began. Sometimes I have what I call "story dreams." They don't always make sense, sometimes they're incredibly incoherent, but what they all have in common is intrigue. They present me with something that's the inkling of a story, and they won't let me go.

This was one of those dreams. It was actually a more developed story dream experience than most. Shortly thereafter, I had a plot, characters, title, and cover all there inside my head. As is usual with story dreams, I tried to incorporate as many elements from the dream itself into the story as I could. But not Spock. That would be weird. It was even weird for him to be in the dream at all. I don't even like Star Trek.

Vannie has a lot of me in her. She is her own character for sure, but she springboards from me. And the sole reason she is nine is because of the dream. Kate is quieter and less obnoxious like my middle sister. Mandie's tendency to repeat what people say is drawn from an early phase of my youngest sister's when we could get her to say anything. One of my sisters, when reading it, even asked me if the girls were based on us.

The boy in the dream is Kyle. I feel certain he had a name in my dream, but even immediately after waking, I could not remember what it was. I just knew he was nice, he was a gentleman, and he had dark hair, all attributes that Kyle shares. I made sure to include the part where he saves me from being discovered.

Journeying through the woods for a visit, eavesdropping on bad guys, sneaking through a dark house at night, fear of being discovered...these are all things that are woven into Espionage. It's so interesting to watch a dream become a book. I love seeing how different the book is, but yet how so many dream elements managed to be incorporated. Espionage is definitely a favorite story dream story.

Speaking of dreams, I had one a few weeks ago where I was teaching school in a minivan and my older brother and I had to prevent our half-brother Gollum from going on a murderous rampage and killing the kids, and we were trying to remember how Edmund Pevensie had calmed him down in "the book." I want that one to become a book one day. It ought to be interesting.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Espionage Release Date

I finally picked one! It took me awhile to actually sit down with a calendar and figure out all my dates and deadlines, but I finally did.

Now I can announce it to you.

It's coming in a few months.

It's going to be fantastic.

And the release date for Espionage is...

May 16, 2016

(No, I did not intend for the day to match up with the last two digits of the year. It just...happened.)

There's about four months until Vannie Cumberland introduces herself to the world. I'm really looking forward to it. Espionage is a very special book to me, and the characters were some of the easiest I've worked with, i.e. they were 3-D characters from the start without my having to do anything extra to develop them. It's a story that I love very much. One beta reader told me she likes it even better than Time Captives.

Now, do you have to wait all the way until May for any more Espionage? No sirree. I'll be blogging about behind the scenes stuff and probably giving some sneak peeks as well, but there's also going to be a cover reveal. And that will be...

March 28, 2016

I'll be opening signup for the cover reveal and blog tour when it gets a little closer to time.

In the meantime, stay tuned for more Espionage!

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.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Introducing Kyle

Last week, I introduced the protagonist and narrator of Espionage, Vannie Cumberland. This week I want to introduce the main boy, and another one of my favorites: Kyle Roland.

Via Pinterest
Just the Facts

Kyle Graham Roland is the only son of Sir Roland, Sir Cumberland's political arch enemy. He is twelve years old. I haven't picked an exact birthday, but it's significantly earlier in the year than Vannie's, as hers is at the end of November. At age four, he was betrothed to a girl of undetermined relation named Rosie. She was an infant at the time. Rosie makes no "onscreen" appearance in this book, but she's a sweet girl, rather mousy, yet not exactly what Kyle would look for in a wife if he had the opportunity to choose.

Side note: Kyle and Vannie are among my only characters to have their full names stated within the text of the book. Felix Walker's is stated at his birth, but he is the only character thus far (published books, my Sleeping Beauty also has hers stated) to share this distinct honor. Most of my characters don't even have middle names.

Kyle's parents have very little interest in their son. He was raised primarily by servants (nurses, governesses, tutors), which, considering the nature of his parents, allowed him to become a much better person than he otherwise would have. He has never been to Court and, despite being the heir to the title of Vassal Lord, knows little of the workings. He does, however, know much of his father's enmity with Sir Cumberland, for he has often heard his father's tirades, which sometimes go off on Vannie as well.

Kyle's Personality and Interests

Kyle is a quiet sort. Unlike Vannie, he processes things internally in a logical manner, very levelheaded. He's not really in the habit of letting people know how he feels. He is quite frustrated with his father. While his father does nothing himself to help bring him up, Sir Roland has set strict standards on what Kyle is to be taught, essentially keeping much of the truth from him. There are a lot of things Kyle doesn't know, and it really frustrates him. He certainly doesn't like his father, but he doesn't like to let it show. He's very good at hiding what he feels, providing a calm contrast to Vannie's roller coaster. Inside, though, he's hurting. Sure, his tutors made him a far better person than his father would have, but it's still difficult to have so poor a relationship with his parents.

Kyle likes to read. His reading material is limited, but that doesn't stop him from getting the fullest enjoyment and knowledge possible out of what he can read. He likes spending time out of doors. He likes animals, too. We don't really get to see much of his ordinary interests, due to circumstances, but I'd like to explore it more sometime. He doesn't particularly want to be a Vassal Lord, but he knows there's no escaping it, so he's set his mind on being better at it than his father. If only he were able to learn the political process!

He's quite a gentleman. He treats people right, even if they are only servants. He is kind and perfectly willing to protect Vannie. It's nothing extraordinary for him, it's just what you do. He's not thrilled about his arranged marriage, but he's not intending to find a way out of it (at this point in time, anyway), because the honorable thing to do would be to go through with it. He's just a fantastic guy.

Kyle is a great character to work with. He's an essential part of Espionage, and I can't wait for you all to officially meet him!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Introducing Vannie

I thought it about time to properly introduce Vannie Cumberland to the world.

Via Pinterest
Vannie Cumberland is the star of Espionage: A Companion to Time Captives, coming this May, if all goes well. She's also one of my favorite characters to write.

Just the Facts

Vannie's full name is Savanna Grace Cumberland. She is the eldest daughter of a Briznomian vassal lord. She has two younger sisters, Kate (6) and Mandie (3), and is about to turn nine at the beginning of Espionage. As per the customs of Briznomian nobility, Vannie was betrothed as an infant to her second cousin Kermit. 

Side note: Briznom, a neighboring country of Calhortz, has a king, but is primarily ruled by the vassal lords. The vassal lords receive their position by inheritance, but they rule as a committee. Daughters do not rule themselves, but their husbands inherit the title. The eldest daughters of vassal lords are betrothed in infancy, while the sons are betrothed between the ages of three and five.

Vannie's father is rather unlike other vassal lords, i.e. he's more of a family man. He often takes Vannie with him to Court, where she learns much about the inner workings of the government. And she also is privy to the actions of his political enemies as he is. Thus she knows that his arch enemy at Court is neighboring vassal lord Sir Roland.

Vannie's Personality and Interests

Vannie is an interesting girl. She's not a girly girl, but she's not an all out tomboy either. She loves the outdoors, and she loves horses. She likes to hunt and is more than decent for her age with a bow. Probably a large part of why she loves to hunt is that she does it with her father. She's rather a daddy's girl. Her taste in clothes reflects her outdoorsy spirit. She's not the sort of girl who wishes she could dress like a boy, not by a long shot, she actually likes her dresses, but she doesn't like fancy dress. She likes practical wear, stuff she can get mud on and it doesn't really matter. A dress she can get down on the floor in and not worry about messing it up. Her taste in hairstyles is similar. When she has her way, it's always two braids.

She likes to read, both fiction and nonfiction. She gets just as excited over a book on the history of Briznomian politics as she does over an adventure novel. She's kind of a nerd too. When telling Mandie to chew with her mouth closed, she tells her that no one wants to see her bolus.

She's not very good at embroidery, but she does like to knit. Not quite sure how artistic she is in other areas, though.

Vannie's rather outspoken, which is to say, quite tactless. She doesn't really think before she speaks, so a lot of things come out that shouldn't. One of her good points is her honesty. She has her faults for sure, but she'll never lie to you. She's really bad at hiding her thoughts and feelings. She also tends to process things out loud. It's quite opposite from the main boy in the story, Kyle, who is a very quiet, internal person. Vannie has to talk things through. That's really the only way she can figure things out. She's impulsive and gets into things without thinking through a plan first. Her emotions can be a bit of a roller coaster ride at times. When she gets stressed or scared, she tends to break down, but give her a bit of inspiration, and it's all sunshine and lollipops again. Kermit is never a happy topic, though. She despises him, and with good reason. 

I could say much more about her, particularly about inspiration for her character, but I'll save that for another day.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 in Review

What a year. It definitely has been QUITE a year. I said in my post last year that there were several possibilities for big change. I felt it coming, though not all the details, and yet, I still had no idea how big of a change was facing me. My life looks completely different from what it did a year ago. Am I even still the same person? Sometimes I wonder. Anyway, my year.

I started off the year with a bus trip to Washington D.C.! It was pretty cool, despite the cold and the snow and still being a little sick and my mom breaking her ribs. Yeah, that. Bus trips are interesting. I slept through a lot of it. I've been sleeping through things a lot easier this year than I ever have before. It's weird.

My sister and our friend on the bus

Team Loudermilk got a bus and went up for Congressman Loudermilk's swearing in. We got to go sightseeing in D.C., going to the Smithsonians and such, I went up Washington Monument for the first time, went to the Supreme Court building, Congressman Loudermilk's new office, the Library of Congress where we had our swearing in watch party, and went on special monument and Capitol tours given by David Barton. It was super duper cool. We even got to go on the Floor in the House chamber. It was amazing. And I even got to hold Congressman Loudermilk's granddaughter and watch Tim Hawkins on the bus home.

David Barton telling us about the Christian Heritage of our nation represented in the Capitol decor

And see Vincent van Gogh's paintings. Yes, I only cared because of that Doctor Who episode. So I'm not really into his style.
Me and van Gogh's self portrait

When we got home, we started getting serious about moving. We put our house on the market. We looked at TONS of houses. I didn't really like most of them. There were a few I liked, one in particular that my dad really liked, but it was in our old county which for some reason made me not like it. There was one I really liked that someone else put a contract on right after we looked. As much as I wanted that house, though, I knew it wasn't ours. We showed our house a few times. Enough times that my dog assumed she was going to the park if we did extra cleaning on a different day from normal. We got a contract on our house in April. That's when we finally went to the right place. It's a new neighborhood, still only partially built, that seems like it's in the middle of nowhere with a quaint little town, but it's right next to the interstate and 15 minutes from just about every store and restaurant...except a fabric store. Seriously, we need a fabric store. (But it's also five minutes from the library. Five minutes!) There was only one floor plan for the neighborhood I liked. The first one we went in, well, I liked the floor plan, but it wasn't quite right. Then the neighborhood agent decided to take us in a different house with that floor plan that they weren't really showing yet. It was the right one. I knew it. It was our house. And guess where we are now?


I started orchestra. I really enjoy it. It can be hard, and it's quite a commitment...and it's annoying when the other sections don't show up or don't play their parts right...but I still love it. I've learned a lot through orchestra. I didn't really like the 45 minute drive, though, I found I could only listen to Frozen so many times, and Fiddler on the Roof and Oliver! weren't much better. I was tired of my brain dredging up every bad thing possible, it's really annoying that way sometimes, so I got an audio book of Bleak House from the library. Amazing! Only it was so long I had to listen to it while I was sewing too.

Caption from Instagram: "A picture of my day."

I wrote Crannig Castle and rewrote The Crossways. Plus final edits on Creighton Hill. And cover design. And blog tour organization. And moving my blog to Blogger the manual way. Then I moved on to getting the first half of the Cassie story done before NaNo.

We had a snow storm in February. Lots of sledding, and I got to recreate these fantastic snowmen as best as I could.

I slipped in the mud pushing the lawnmower up the hill and fell on the lawnmower full weight bashing my arm on the handle. It didn't hurt for long, but it seems to have banged up a nerve pretty bad, so it still sometimes feels strained. Right before my first orchestra concert, too.

My friend and I did the author festival at my old library. Not much traffic or many sales, but it was good practice. We also went to a free writers' mini-conference which was very interesting, and stopped at Goodwill for a full half an hour afterwards.

I went to see Into the Woods with some friends at the college where I do orchestra. That was a lot of fun.

My sister got a cello. That's pretty cool. Especially when we play things together, like the Captain America theme.

I went through my first Republican Party convention cycle (though I didn't go to state). We left district early--well, before it was over, it was running extremely late--so I could take my sisters and a friend to see Cinderella. It was SOOOOOO good. Yes, fangirling ensued. My youngest sister and I also went to see Age of Ultron. I really enjoyed that one too, especially since my sister paid for the tickets. ;)

I beta read Water Princess, Fire Prince by Kendra E. Ardnek and thus became good friends with Amanda Beguerie. So glad to be friends! Also read more Ilyon (and recently got a friend addicted to the series). Ilyon is the best.

My dad unexpectedly got a new job not long before our move. Better pay and closer to home. I'd say that was a good thing.

My dog getting attacked wasn't, though. During the due diligence period on our house, which ended on my birthday, our dog got attacked on her walk by a loose dog. That was a scary night. And a miserable recovery time. She even had to have a drain tube put in her wound. She was so pitiful. And since our old house was a split foyer, she had to stay downstairs, away from the main level. But just like with her back injury, we adjusted things so she wasn't alone all the time.

Poor Sophie

Moving happened the weekend immediately preceding the release of Creighton Hill. Friday we closed on our new house and started moving. Saturday we did the main moving, the furniture and such. Sunday we did the last little bits and said goodbye forever to the house I grew up in. Monday I released my book without WiFi. I admit, I freaked out a lot about the timing of the whole thing. But it all worked out.

Things didn't let up that week, though. My dad fell while running and hurt his arm pretty bad. Bad enough that he passed out the next morning...which I wasn't told about until later because I was working the Classical Conversations Play Camp again and my mom didn't want me any more stressed out than I already was. It wasn't broken, though. Just nerve damage. And Play Camp was fantastic. I seriously love working with preschoolers. And kindergartners/first graders. It's a great age

I joined the worship team at church. I love it. It's amazing to be able to use my musical abilities for God, and I enjoy the fellowship of the other worship team members as we prepare together for church early Sunday morning...even when technical difficulties drive us crazy. I seriously miss it on the rare occasion when I can't be there.

I completed my first Camp NaNo project with the Cassie story. I've since realized the middle is kind of empty and needs work...and also that the main guy and not the main girl is the true protagonist, making it technically the Luke story...but my sister helped me come up with some ideas, so once I get my writing motivation and inspiration back, I'll buckle down and get it fixed.

There was our basement project. That was insane. So much work, so much frustration, and a good dose of grumpy, but we did it! I talked about it in my summer recap post, so you can go there to see pictures and find out more details.

I wrote a Sleeping Beauty retelling called Twisted Dreams. I love that story to pieces. It's like fairy tale meets Doctor Who meets Merlin meets Michael Vey with a dash of Star Wars in the spaceships. I poured all my creative juices into it, plus a lot of emotion. I was really invested in the story. Like, I just about cried when a not so great character died because I was writing from the point of view of someone close to him. It's submitted to the Five Magic Spindles contest, so we'll see where that goes. Hey, want to see my Photoshop fail mock cover I did to procrastinate? No? Well, I'll show you anyway because it was fun to Photoshop something that didn't need to look professional for once.

All images come from Pinterest

We had political friends over to watch the first presidential debate, which was a lot of fun. Especially when our friend spent the night for the first of three and counting times. We've introduced her to awesome movies and shows (The Princess Bride, Lord of the Rings, Merlin, Star Wars) and made two not so awesome but still very fun short films ourselves. Now, if only we could start shooting from a script...

My sister and I had a booth at a festival in our old town where we sold doll and children's clothes, books, stuffed animals, and little Sculpey figurines. It was a good experience. Kind of stressful, but it was still good.

My sister and I at our booth

We went camping with some families from church. It was fun to hang out with them, but I would definitely pass on the whole thunderstorm/sleeping in a tent thing. Maybe one of these days we'll get a camper.

I did something special for Espionage with some friends. But I'm going to have to finalize a few details before I'm ready to announce it online. *River Song voice* Spoilers.

I released The Crossways! But you all probably remember that. I talked about it enough...

I listened to the amazing The Scarlet Pimpernel while making a Cinderella dress for a friend's dance. That dress was HARD, but I love it, and it was fun swing dancing. I really enjoy dancing. A lot.

My sisters and me ready for the dance

I participated in a So You Want to be a Writer? event at my old library. It was kind of stressful, but it went pretty okay. You can watch it on YouTube if you want. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

We went to a friend's house for Thanksgiving, which was a lot of fun...listening to the amusing six-year-old tell us all sorts of random things, playing soccer and other games, watching White Christmas for the umpteenth time...I do believe it was one of my favorite Thanksgivings, up with the one where we played Capture the Flag in the cemetery in the dark.

I did my first Black Friday shopping at Hancock Fabrics. They really had some awesome deals. Couldn't pass it up, especially since we kind of needed to replace some outgrown and/or almost worn out clothes and pajamas. And we needed to get a Chick-Fil-A calendar too, because now we know people who work there, we find out about these things before it's too late.

Our Black Friday shopping

I also participated in an online sale with some other authors. But you probably remember that too: Indie Christian Books.

My dad went to a conference for work and my mom went with him, leaving me in charge for a few days. I was a bit freaked out, since, you know, if something bad were to happen, I don't have any big brothers to protect me, but it all went just fine. A couple friends even came over to "party" with hot chocolate and ice cream and Phantom of the Opera, 25th Anniversary Performance (with full parental permission, of course).

We had a girls' tea at our house. I was sort of...apprehensive...about it, but I ended up really enjoying it. Especially spending time with the little ones. And that evening, we got to go see Ted Cruz! It was FREEZING (to a Georgia girl, at least), but it was SOOO worth it.

We visited family in Indiana for Christmas. It was a pretty good trip, and I got to spend plenty of time with my super cute, super hilarious six-year-old cousin!

Now home, we got to see the amazing Star Wars: The Force Awakens (my sixth movie of the year, since I also saw The Battle of Five Armies last New Year's day in addition to  War Room and Mockingjay Part 2).

Wow, I didn't even quite realize how incredibly insanely busy this year has been until I wrote this down, and that's not even counting every detail that slipped my mind, all the books I read, and the un-online-shareable things. It has been a year.

I'm not really sure what's going to happen next year. Last year I felt the change coming. This year, I pretty much feel a blank. I have book releases planned, and I'll continue with all my normal, every day stuff, but as for anything significant, I guess I'll just have to wait and see. Should be interesting!

How was your 2015? Anything you're looking forward to in 2016?