Monday, November 26, 2018

Christmastime is Here!

It's Christmastime! Yes, this post is late...with Thanksgiving and all, I forgot to write up a post. Oops. 

I really love this song, and Charlie Brown, and I'm enjoying teaching this song to one of my piano students, and I'm really excited about the Charlie Brown float we're putting together for the library's participation in our local Christmas parade this Friday. It's going to be awesome. I'll have to post some pictures when it's done.

Speaking of the library...

Rebekah and I are doing a program this Saturday at the Ball Ground Library. We're really excited about it. We'll be reading the book and learning to sculpt Carrie, so it's going to be great. If you're in the area, you're more than welcome to come. Registration is recommended, but not required, so if you want to register, just call 770-735-2025.

Looking forward in December, there's a blog tour coming up! In just a few weeks, I'll be posting my reviews for Bitter Winter and Lacy by Jaye L. Knight and Decree by Tricia Mingerink. They're all absolutely fabulous books, and you're going to have to read them when they come out...assuming you've read previous books in the two series. These aren't books to start on. But both series are fabulous, so read them. And because it's getting to the end of the year, my top ten books of the year post will be coming. That's going to be hard to narrow down. I've read a lot of great books this year. Good thing I've set a precedent of counting all the books in a series as one. Because you'd better believe Ranger's Apprentice is going to be on the list.

And finally, because it's after Thanksgiving now, even though I didn't participate in Black Friday sales this year, all my ebooks are $0.99 for Christmas! So hop over to Amazon and check it out! And don't forget, Creighton Hill is available as an eaudiobook for just $13 on Amazon. eAudiobooks are awesome, just sayin'. I've mostly done them through Overdrive/Libby, but I absolutely love being able to download an audiobook to my phone and carry it around with me. And you can do that for Creighton Hill now.

So Merry Christmas! I need to go plan music and work at the library and practice my Christmas songs for the performance at the mall Sunday afternoon and hopefully work on Acktorek because I'm coming to the climax and my family won't let me chicken out from the hard ending I planned, so that'll be fun. See you later!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Christopher Robin Review

Our church "camp-out" was the weekend before last. I say "camp-out" because it was cold. Like, literally freezing most of the time—it was 20 degrees below the average for the time of year, and warm before and after that particular weekend, so go figure. We managed to get in a hike, but then spent most of the rest of the time hanging out in the cabin playing games, reading books, singing songs, (having an impromptu ballet lesson), and after dinner and s'mores we had hot chocolate and watched Christopher Robin.

Let me first say that I absolutely loved it!

It's a similar concept to Hook: a popular children's character leaves his childhood play, grows up, gets married, has a family, becomes a workaholic, needs his childhood fantasies to become more of a family man. But that's really where the similarities stop. Because Hook was a fun, funny movie ("Mommy could do it!") and Christopher Robin is just so sweet and nostalgic. Robin Williams was a funny guy, which was perfect for Peter Pan. But Ewan McGregor is...I don't know how to describe it exactly, but I thought he made a perfect Christopher Robin. Of course, I could be biased because he plays my favorite Star Wars character, young Obi-Wan, but anyway.

On a side note, this is the story of how Obi-Wan Kenobi married Peggy Carter and the "expotition" that ensued.

The beginning made me weepy, as Christopher Robin has to leave the Hundred Acre Wood to go to boarding school. It shows you his life as he grows up, meets his wife Evelyn, goes away to war while Evelyn is pregnant with their daughter Madeline, and then the war ends and he comes home.

After WWII, Christopher Robin works at a luggage company, but the problem is, they need to make significant cuts to their budget or they'll be laying off lots of employees. Christopher Robin can't let that happen, so he's constantly sacrificing family time for work. To the extent of never really spending time with Evelyn or Madeline, to the extent of Madeline herself working constantly and never playing because that's what she thinks will please her father, to the extent of Evelyn telling Christopher that she hasn't seen him smile in years. And that's why Christopher Robin needs Winnie the Pooh.

Honestly, I loved how easy it was for Christopher Robin to believe it really was Pooh. It wasn't really "Pooh isn't real." It was more "Pooh, what are you doing here?" He had to get Pooh back to the Hundred Acre Wood on a weekend where things were coming to a head and he had to get in a budget-cutting proposal or a bunch of people would lose their jobs. But it turned out that a visit to the Hundred Acre Wood, a reunion with all his old friends, a fight with a Heffalump, and actually putting his family first was exactly what he needed to defeat the Woozle that was going to eat him for breakfast if he didn't have his very important papers. ;) And he had to slow down and realize that "Nothing comes from nothing" isn't really true. "Sometimes nothing leads to the very best of somethings."

The movie is funny, but in a sweet, nostalgic sort of way. Like when Eeyore tells Christopher Robin, who he thinks is a Heffalump, "Thanks for kidnapping me." And when the others all go "Not the song!" when Tigger is about to tell Madeline what a Tigger is. And Evelyn's reaction when Christopher Robin is explaining to her who all the animals are. And it's just so sweet and wonderful seeing all the old characters, so much themselves, so perfect. I love Pooh and Piglet and Tigger and Eeyore and Rabbit and Owl and Kanga and Roo. It's so good to see them again.

I don't want to say too much more for the sake of spoilers, but just know that it was a wonderful movie. If you ever loved Winnie the Pooh, watch Christopher Robin.

P.S. So much of the beginning was taken directly from the end of The House at Pooh Corner. It's so sweet and sad.

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Time Captives Wedding

A conversation with my sisters the other day reminded me of a Jilliel (Jill/Adriel) short story I wrote nearly three years ago (is it crazy that Jan. 2016 is nearly three years ago or what?) that gives them something of a happy ending. I hadn't thought about this short story in quite awhile, but I quite enjoyed it when I dug it back up and read it to my sisters. It's not 100% canon because I don't really want Jill to never see her family again and I haven't figured out how that all works, but it's pretty canon. A canon ship anyway. ;) Enjoy!

Mild spoilers for The Crossways and Crannig Castle

     Adriel straightened up from hoeing the garden. He had to admit a sense of pride in this little plot of land that was his own. He felt a joy at seeing the little sprouts of green poking up through the mounds of dirt. In all his years of growing up, he never would have dreamed that he would one day enjoy the work that was the rue of his years. What a change ten years of freedom had wrought in him.
     “Adriel, would you like some water?” Rae came across the grassy field between the cottage and the house, an earthen pitcher in her hands. She barely contained the usual spring in her step in an effort to deliver the pitcher unspilt. “It’s fresh from the well.”
     “Certainly. Thank you, Rae.” He took the filled dipper she held out to him and drank deeply. He cast a glance back at his youngest sister. She rocked back and forth excitedly on her feet. “What is it?”
     She shrugged, though her eyes sparkled. “Ariella and Connor are coming to dinner, and so are Jaysen and Julee.”
     He cocked an eyebrow at her. “What about Jacob?”
     A blush suffused her cheeks. “He is.”
     Jacob was an apprentice glassmaker who had come to Crannig Castle for his apprenticeship nearly a year ago. He and Rae had taken to each other quite soon after their meeting. It was strange to think of his baby sister being at an age where she was eligible for suitors, but after all, she was sixteen.
     Adriel wiped the last drops of water from his face and handed the dipper back to Rae. “You know I approve.”
     She smiled shyly. “I know. But I’m still young yet. You’re practically an old bachelor. When are you going to be married? I need some more nieces and nephews.”
     He looked away into the distance, studying the rolling hills as he decided how to answer. “One of these days. It has to be the exact right girl. I don’t think I’ve seen her around here yet.” He turned back to his sister, who now wore a pensive expression.
     “I suppose you’re right. Don’t take too much more time out here. Mom will want you cleaned up before the others arrive.”
     Adriel smiled as he watched Rae return to the house. Those long months of separation when he could do nothing to protect her still haunted him, as did the circumstances surrounding her rescue, but she seemed no worse for it. She was still the sweet, innocent spirit she had been in those days, now matured into a young woman. He was not sure how much he could say for himself on that score. He had matured much since the days of the Time Captives, put much guilt behind him, but he never seemed to be able to move past all that had happened. The events of those days still clung to him as if they were yesterday, more so as time went on rather than less.
     He mopped his sweaty brow and returned to hoeing the weeds.
     “Cake!” Jaysen’s eldest, a lad of six, clapped gleefully as Adriel’s mother produced a large chocolate cake from the cupboard.
     “Only a small piece, William,” Jaysen warned.
     “But we’re at Grandma’s house.” The little boy turned puppy dog eyes to his grandmother.
     “No, William,” Alaina, Ariella’s seven year old eldest reproved her young cousin. “Your daddy said a small one.”
     Adriel smiled at the children’s exchange, but his gaze wandered out the window of the snug little cottage. The sun was just beginning to sink behind the trees, sending streaks of orange and pink across the sky. Rae had taught him to see the beauty in Creation, his faith had allowed him to embrace and enjoy it. Yet something always seemed missing, as if someone ought to be there to enjoy it with him, someone who could not be there.
     He hardly noticed when Nola set a slice of cake down in front of him. A figure had appeared just on this side of the trees, and he felt strangely drawn to it. “Excuse me.” He pushed back his chair and exited the cottage, nearly entirely oblivious to the astonished glances his family sent his way.
     The figure was a slender, girlish figure, traversing the distance between her and the cottage. Adriel hastened towards her. Strange though it was, he had never dreamed of ever being so anxious to meet an unidentified young woman, he could not prevent himself from closing the distance between them as quickly as he could.
     When her features became clear, his heart leaped in his chest. She was older, but still unmistakable. “Jill!”
     “Adriel? They said your cottage was north of the castle…” But she got no further for they had at last closed the gap between them and he had enveloped her in his arms.
     This was what had always been missing. This was why he could so rarely get the Time Captives out of his mind. This was why no other girl had ever caught his fancy. This girl in his arms, this was right. This was how it was supposed to be. This was where she belonged.
     He looked down into the smiling, upturned face that had imprinted itself so irrevocably on his memory so many years ago. “However are you here? You really are here, aren’t you?”
     “I am. It was the strangest thing. I was bringing a box of Joey’s old things up to the attic, he still won’t keep his things tidy, and some writing appeared in the old place on the wall where it had ten years ago. It said:
     “‘You left your heart in Calhortz and now you must return,
     If you forever stay here, you will forever yearn.
     The chance you have been given, to make your dreams come true,
     Now return to Calhortz, to the one who waits for you.’
     “I wrote a note to my family telling them what had happened and where I had gone. I don’t know if I’ll ever see them again, but I knew I had to go through the portal when it opened. What it said was true: I did leave my heart here…and I left it with you.”
     Tears glistened in Jill’s eyes. Adriel couldn’t tell if they were happy or sad, he suspected a bit of both.
     He cleared his throat, but his voice still came out husky when he spoke. “I couldn’t say it when I was fourteen, but I have to say it now. I love you, Jill. I think I’ve loved you ever since that first trip on the Andaron. And I’ve missed you so much these last ten years. I hate that you left your family behind, but I’m more than grateful that God provided a way for you to return. You’re my first friend, and still my best friend. And…it may be too soon to ask it, but…Jill, will you marry me?”
     Her smile grew even bigger at his words. “Yes, Adriel. Of course I will.”
     His mother had insisted they wait a few months, get reacquainted with one another, give Adriel time to establish his own farm, but finally the day was here. The day upon which they would become man and wife.
     In the absence of any members of Jill’s family, King Joseph himself had agreed to do the honors of giving her away. It was not every common farmer who had the royal family at his small outdoor country wedding, but it did not seem a bit unusual to Adriel, nor did it matter to him. The only thing on his mind today was Jill.
     He scarcely breathed as she came to meet him on Joseph’s arm. She was just so beautiful. She was, to him, perfection. This first friend of his, the one who as a young girl had led him to Christ, the one who had been so kind to him at his worst…in moments, she would be his wife.
     They spoke their wedding vows deep from the heart. Always would he protect and cherish her. He had more of a duty to her than he ever had towards Rae, and he would never fail as long as there was life left in his body.
     Finally, the minister spoke the words he had been longing to hear since Jill’s return: “You may now kiss the bride.”
     Adriel gathered his new wife into his arms and kissed her. When he pulled away, he could see that she was smiling.
     They danced together under the cloudless blue sky, creating new memories that outshone the wonderful dances at the Christmas victory celebration at the close of the war, though cherished the memory of those dances had been. Those had been tainted with the foreboding of departure, these were anointed with the knowledge that never again would they have to be apart.
     Finally, the reception drew to a close. Adriel took her hand and led her around his mother’s cottage.
     “I have a surprise for you.”
     “What sort of surprise?”
     “You’ll see in a minute.” He took great delight in echoing the words she had used in preparing him to reunite with his family.
     But now they were in sight of Twyla, the dragon that had saved his skin so many times, the faithful dragon that would now bear them away to their own home. “I haven’t taken you up yet,” Adriel said. “I wanted this to be your first time.”
     “Thank you, Adriel. I can’t wait.”
     He lifted her up onto Twyla’s back, then climbed up behind her. He kissed her again before directing Twyla to begin her flight.
     They rose up above the cottage, into the sight of their friends and family. Loud cheers hailed them. Jill and Adriel waved to their guests, just before Twyla swooped away to carry them to their new home.

Monday, November 5, 2018

King Arthur--BBC's Merlin

I'm doing a favorite character post today. I'm tired out from book release stuff, work, teaching, headaches, and not having much writing time even though I really want to write my books, so I'm not thinking of a whole lot of post topics. Plus Merlin makes me happy, though we're coming down to the end and I hate the end.

My favorite character in Merlin is Prince/King Arthur. I love saying that as I show someone the first episode. Arthur starts out as such an arrogant brat. He's so inconsiderate, he only thinks of himself, he's rude, he's domineering...but underneath, he has a good heart. It's in the first season actually that he first defies his father and risks his life to save Merlin, even though Uther insists that Arthur's life is worth more than that of a servant. Arthur is very insistent throughout the show that he is not of more value than his people.

Arthur grows up so much throughout the show. It's such a gradual change that you almost don't notice until you're at the end and start looking back. He goes through so much.

He fights with his father when his father is trying to get him to do something wrong. This happens increasingly as Arthur matures and becomes more sensitive to his people...and starts spending more time around Gwen and Merlin. Yet he still respects his father. He still loves him. He still wants to make him proud. And I love how Arthur can stay strong for the truth while still trying to be a dutiful son. It's a hard balance, but he does his best.

Arthur goes through heartbreak when he loses his father. (We were all so ready for Uther to die, but it's still sad for Arthur's sake—and it isn't a spoiler because it's King Arthur legends, not King Uther legends, so obviously his father has to die.) He goes through betrayal when he realizes his uncle Agravaine has been working against him and trying to destroy his kingdom (also not a spoiler because you see in his first episode that he's working with the main villain). You see Arthur go through betrayal again when Guinevere/Lancelot happens (again not a spoiler because if you know anything about Arthurian legend, then duh...what's a spoiler is how they handle it in the show). And it matures him. It helps him become the king he's meant to be. It makes him more loyal and dedicated to his people. It refines his discernment of right and wrong and strengthens his resolve to always do what's right. It displays his enormous capacity for forgiveness and forgetting others' wrongs. It turns him into a true leader.

I love how by seasons 4 and 5, Arthur regularly owns up to his mistakes and is willing to take the consequences. If he did something wrong—either recently or in the past—he owns up to it and insists on making it right himself. I love how much more sensitive he is to Merlin. Sure, he still picks on him from time to time, like any good brother, but he notices when something's bothering Merlin and asks him about it. When he's having trouble making a decision, he asks for Merlin's advice. Yes, the king's manservant, trusted advisor, and best friend are all the same person. I love how devoted he is to Gwen, despite all that happened between them. How he trusts her judgment without even questioning it.

I love watching the character arc. It's very well done, and as a writer I appreciate it. But what I love most is the king Arthur becomes. A king who is a true leader. A king who always tries to do what's right, even if it means admitting he made a mistake. A king who is honest and loyal, even though he's been betrayed many times over. A king who is willing to lay down his life for his people. And a king who's also quite hilarious at times.

Arthur Pendragon.