Monday, October 21, 2019

Pick One Genre? Nope.

Why do I genre hop/genre mix? Short answer: Because I like both sci-fi and fantasy (and historical fiction) and don't feel like picking just one.

I've been thinking about genres and subgenres some here lately, probably partially due to some webinars I've done for work. Some of them I didn't enjoy too much, but the sci-fi and fantasy ones were pretty good. They're available on YouTube, so you can totally watch them if you want. The NoveList training session at the end of each video probably isn't as useful, but if you have a GA library card, you can access NoveList using the GALILEO password. Just ask your local library. It does change every few months. And NoveList is a pretty useful tool.

Anyway, library resource plug over.

I've always found it difficult to choose genres when listing my books on Amazon. For instance, in Across the Stars, they travel on a spaceship to a planet where there is a castle and dungeons and flintlock rifles and swords. They live in a galaxy where other planets use technology, but they choose not to. Technically, it's science fiction, but the feel on-planet, the storyline, the tropes are more fantasy.

Time Captives is primarily fantasy. They go through a portal to a world with elves and merfolk and dragons ruled by an evil queen they have to defeat. But you've also got the Bremsi, a restraint set in the middle of an island that will send a fatal electric shock into anyone with the DNA of the royal family who crosses the border. Which seems a little more sciencey than you typically find in fantasy.

And then there's the Acktorek series I'm working on, which I consider science fiction, but yet I wonder if it would be better considered science fantasy since my "other worlds" concept is really more like fantasy worlds, just some of them have tech.

Twisted Dreams is most blatantly both genres, as one world Liesel is in is a somewhat standard fairy tale fantasy world and the other is straight up interplanetary sci-fi, albeit in a world that is not our own.

Often I wonder if this is part of why I struggle with marketing. Someone in the Realm Makers FB group the other day created a poll asking if you write for a niche market. And the more I think about it, yes, I do. But, like, a bunch of niche markets.

I write for the Narnia fans, the ones who like portal fantasy with rightful heir/chosen one-type tropes. But I also throw in pirates and gladiators and kids from history because I can. And other times spaceships.

I write for those who enjoy dystopian and biological experimentation...actually, The Experiment is one of my two most straightforward books regarding genre. But it's so different from Time Captives.

I write for those who like space opera/science fantasy like Star Wars, but I set it in another world so I can write stuff like aliens without the theological implications of actually writing aliens. But still with people who live in castles and have dungeons as easy to escape as the Camelot dungeons that inspired them. And of course biological experimentation because while I can't explain why I love the concept so much, I do.

I write for people who like the superhero genre, which typically is considered a subgenre of sci-fi. But I like completely different other worlds instead of parallel worlds so I can do anything. And I throw in a sprinkling of space opera feel because I like Star Wars and Dickensian London because I like Dickens and strange scenarios to solve that aren't quite sci-fi, but have enough fake science to not be fantasy either because I can.

So I'm a genre mixer. But you know, that's okay. Because while there are a lot of people who read genre fiction, I'm sure there are people out there who like both Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and who also enjoy a good super hero movie. Because isn't that what speculative fiction is all about? Using your imagination to put new and unique twists on all the things you love?

And you know what? I googled what subgenre Doctor Who fits, and discovered what deep down I probably already knew. That while its main genre is sci-fi, it dabbles in basically all the spec fic genres.

So maybe it would be easier to find my market if I wrote straight up genre fiction. In fact, I know it would be. But that's not me. I like too many different things to tie myself down to just one. And it's more fun to soar on the wings of pure imagination, creating something that's a unique blend of Star Wars, Narnia, The Flash, Doctor Who, and something else that's all my own.

I'm a genre mixer and that's who I am.

And I highly doubt I'm the only one.

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Story of the (Fantasy) World

Or, Why I Haven't Been Writing Much.

Me listening to people who like worldbuilding talk about it: That sounds like so much fun! I can't wait to do it!

Me sitting down to worldbuild: There are so many different aspects to creating a culture. It's too overwhelming. I'm not going to do it.

Me writing a story with very little worldbuilding: I don't know anything about this place. I can't write this book. I guess I need to worldbuild. But it's just so much!

People who like worldbuilding: You don't have to know everything. Just worldbuild what you need.

Me: How do I know what I need? I've got to create a whole culture. Maybe I'll just make it up as I go along.

Me looking back at a messy draft: None of this worldbuilding makes sense. It's so inconsistent.

Me staring at my blank worldbuilding notebook: But I don't know what to put here.

My sisters throwing out all kinds of crazy ideas: All they eat is spaghetti! *note: this is a family joke because of earlier versions of Acktorek...they actually had a lot of genuinely useful ideas*

Me typing up their ideas and my own that they've sparked: You know, this actually is kind of fun.

This is basically my last few weeks. I did a little writing on the Espionage sequel, but mostly I've been working on worldbuilding for three—yes, you read that right—THREE different worlds. Because brilliant me who mostly hates worldbuilding and swore never to create another world after Calhortea came up with an absolutely fabulous idea to...write a series where I have to worldbuild anew for every. single. book.

Essentially, Acktorek is a company that sends people to other worlds to help with issues. It's like the Jedi Order meets Doctor Who meets Team Flash, but world travel rather than space travel, and worlds that are completely different from our own, not just parallel versions of earth. The possibilities are endless! is the worldbuilding.

I was writing book two when I realized that I couldn't keep going on like this, making it up as I go along. Because the fact was, I was only making up the bare minimum and it showed.

This was something I sort of realized sitting in Jill Williamson's worldbuilding class and Ronie Kendig's dialogue and subtext class. My characters have so little background, so little culture, so sparse a setting that it's hurting the rest of the book. There is no richness to the backdrop, there is no flavor to their speech.

So I've been worldbuilding. Sometimes it's fun. Sometimes it's like pulling teeth. Especially since I'm doing three worlds at once (Mitchell's homeworld, the world with Acktorek, and the world their mission is in). But it's necessary.

My only issue is speech. I have the hardest time coming up with phrases and making up slang words to fit these cultures. But I'm determined not to have Mitchell sound American or Emma sound like a southerner, so I'll get there. Eventually.

And my stories will be better off for it.

P.S. Why is it so incredibly difficult to find pictures of Dickensian London? There are five hundred thousand British period dramas out there! Where are all the Pinterest pictures?

Monday, October 7, 2019

No Man Cover Reveal

We're getting a new Firmament book next week! *does happy dance* It's been two years—TWO YEARS!!!—since the last Firmament book, which is way, way, WAY too long. Especially when SPOILER FOR BOOKS 4 & 5 ANDI IS DYING! END SPOILER Problem is, I'll get to the end, and then I'll have to wait AGAIN for the next book. And for whichever book Elasson will be in. Grace has promised me he'll be back at some point.

Oh, goodness, the nostalgia that just swept over me as I looked at the cover for Radialloy and read my review. Has it really been six years since I discovered the awesomeness that is books written by Grace? And here we are, getting book 6, and I just know it's going to be amazing. I've got the cover and synopsis for you, but I'm going to make you scroll through the previous books first, because I'm just feeling like that today. ;) Click on the pictures for my reviews and purchase links.

And coming October 15th!

She doesn’t have much longer to live.

Losing the last of the radialloy puts Andi’s life in immediate danger and sends her, August, and the Doctor rushing towards the demolished Qandon system in search of more. Their speeder is crippled, a powerful man is desperate to stop them -- and they are running out of time.

Meanwhile, Crash has escaped from prison and is hiding somewhere in Hungary, hunted by assassins who have instructions to kill him if Andi and the others don’t return to Earth in one week. The only person on Earth who can help him is Guilders, who very nearly despises him.

Is there more radialloy out there? Can Crash and Guilders make it to safety? And will Andi ever be able to return to the way of life that she loves so much?

It's going to be awesome!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

'Twas an Evening in Bethlehem Review

'Twas an Evening in Bethlehem is here!

‘Twas an evening in Bethlehem and all through the day
Many guests were arriving from far, far away...

The inn is full, but when a young, expectant couple arrives, the innkeeper cannot turn them away. Follow this beloved tale through the eyes of the innkeeper’s young daughter as she witnesses the glorious surprises of that very first Christmas and rediscover anew the gift of the manger that ultimately points us to the cross.

My Review 

If you're looking for a new Christmas book (and even if you're not), this is a beautiful retelling of the true story of Christmas. It's written in verse, much like The Night Before Christmas, but it's all about what Christmas is really about. The illustrations are beautiful and wonderfully painted. I highly recommend it.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Free eBook!

I have an announcement to make! The new edition of Espionage: A Companion to Time Captives is here and the eBook is free to newsletter subscribers! All you have to do is sign up, and you'll get to download the book in the format of your choice.

Already a subscriber? You get something extra! What, you might ask? Keep an eye on your inbox tomorrow and you'll find out. ;)

Also, if you subscribe before midnight, October 15th, you are eligible to win a paperback of the brand new edition of Espionage!

I'm sure you would like to see the cover. I'm super excited about it. So here it is!

About the Book

“Sir Roland has invited us to visit for the Autumn Feast.”

“Do we have to go, Papa? I couldn’t feast with the most crooked politician in all of Briznom.”

As the daughter of a Briznomian vassal lord, Vannie Cumberland has spent her childhood immersed in the world of politics. Relations between Briznom and the neighboring country of Calhortz are
strained due to the tyrannical rule of the strytes. A proposed alliance could calm relations between the two countries, but would come at the cost of Briznom’s freedom.

When her father’s political archenemy invites them to the Autumn Feast, Vannie uncovers an evil scheme endangering the life of someone close to her. Personal enmity comes to a dangerous head as Vannie struggles to expose the corruption and stop the alliance. Time is running out.

Events are becoming too big for her to handle. Will Sir Roland’s son help or will things finally spiral out of control?

A tale of treachery and political intrigue in a turbulent time, Espionage is a companion novel that sets the stage for Crannig Castle, the final installment of the Time Captives trilogy.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Thirst Cover Reveal

I have a cover reveal for Jill Williamson's upcoming book today! As you know, I'm a huge fan of Replication and the Blood of Kings trilogy, and of Jill herself. Jill's so awesome! So I'm super excited to share her new cover with you. The book is called Thirst and it's a prequel to The Safe Lands trilogy, which I haven't read yet, but really want to read. (Naturally, I must read all her books.)

Before I give you the amazing cover, here's a little bit about the book:
The end of the world is only the beginning. A waterborne disease has contaminated the world’s fresh water, decimating the human race. Seventeen-year-old Eli McShane and his friends flee the chaos and violence in Phoenix and journey north toward the rumored location of a safe water source. They add several to their number, including the mysterious Hannah, who is being hunted by a dangerous man. Desperation brings out the worst in many of the travelers, infecting even those closest to Eli. When division comes, will he be able to hold his group together or will each fall victim to their own thirst for survival?

Join some old friends from Glenrock and Jack's Peak in this thrilling first book of the Thirst Duology. Best-selling author Jill Williamson has brought back the breathtaking suspense of the The Safe Lands series in this chilling prequel that will leave readers panting for the next installment.

 Doesn't it sound awesome? I can't wait to read it! It'll be here in November!

So here's the beauty in several angles.

Isn't it amazing? I just really need to hold it in my hands right now. November won't get here fast enough!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Do Not Fear

     "To save yourself some hurt, you hurt yourself? What kind of way is that to live?"
     She shrugged one shoulder. "A safe way?"
     He released a gusty laugh. "Is this what you call safe? It's not a safe way, Sparrow, it's a pathetic and lonely way. Sparrow, sometimes life is scary. Get over it, and live."
From Darkness Won by Jill Williamson

I've been thinking a lot about fear lately, because of this and a few other things. Because fear tends to be such a constant part of life. And something that can so easily hold us back from what God wants us to do.

I can't say much about the context of this quote because of major spoilers, but let this suffice: Sparrow has been running from what she's supposed to do because of fear. Fear of all the possible ways it could be or could go wrong. Some of those fears are legitimate, but in giving in to her fear, she's not trusting that God is stronger than those things.


It's so easy to give in to fear. So easy to do nothing because the path ahead of us is scary and unknown and we might fail. News flash: you're going to fail sometimes. But it's better to try and fail than to sit at home doing nothing out of fear. 

I received my first rejection letter a few weeks ago. It's disappointing. It's painful. It's hard not to give in to despair and "I'm a terrible writer" and just give up. But isn't it better that I tried? I'm not going to give up. Yes, it was terrifying going to Realm Makers and pitching my book to professionals. So many times I wanted to back out and just sit at home doing nothing. But I'm so glad I went. So glad I pitched my book, even though so far all that's come out of it is a rejection letter. Because I didn't give in to fear. I learned so much prepping for the conference, in the sessions at the conference, I met so many people, I got to spend time with friends I might never have gotten to meet otherwise. I don't know what God's going to use this experience for down the road, but even with a rejection letter, I'm so glad I didn't let the fear win.

I have to be perfectly honest and say that when I got that rejection letter, I wanted to give up. I was very much tempted to let that failure define me, stop me, end my journey. But I'm not going to do that.

You can learn from failure. I learned things from my pitch appointments. I'm even learning things from the rejection letter as I reflect on the book. It's all in your perspective. In believing like Thomas Edison that we have only found 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb. As Christy Wright says in Business Boutique, "Failure isn't fun but, believe it or not, it's actually a good thing. That's because failure is a sign you're out there, you're trying, and unlike so many people, you're actually doing something."

God knows that we're far from perfect. He knows that as hard as we try, we're still going to make mistakes. And He is sovereign over it all.

And know what? Sometimes we don't fail. I'd submitted Creighton Hill to Readers' Favorite for a review, and about a week after I got my rejection letter, I got an email that my review was ready. I couldn't remember my login, so I couldn't check it on my phone at work, and, still struggling with the emotions from the rejection, I was terrified to read the review. I was literally writing a bad review of Creighton Hill in my head as I waited for my computer to boot up after work, preparing myself for what I was about to read. And I got a five star review! Which puts my book in visible places on their website, gives me a medallion to put on the cover, and gives me a positive editorial review to use any way I want. And if I'd given in to my fear and not read the review (I really didn't want to read it), I wouldn't even know.


So let's think about it. How much do you really learn from giving in to fear?

Maybe that you don't think God is powerful enough to use both your strengths and weaknesses, your successes and failures for His glory?

Because that's really what you're doing when you give in to fear. You're saying, "Yes, God, I know that You created the entire universe by speaking it into existence, but I don't really trust that You are powerful enough to take care of all the things about this situation that are scaring me. I don't really trust that You are in control and will use it for Your glory no matter the outcome." And frankly, that kind of attitude is wrong.

I'm not saying I've never had that kind of attitude. God has taught me a lot about trust these last few years as I mentioned in this post. But that fear, that lack of trust is wrong. It's cowardly. And it means that you're letting the devil hold you back. 

Yeah, you might be scared. That's life. Do it anyway. If you wait until you feel completely ready and totally fearless, you'll never do anything. Bravery isn't not being scared. It's doing it anyway.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Who wants us to be too scared to step out of the boat and do the things God set before us? I'd say it's pretty obvious that it's the devil who wants us to do that. So long as we sit scared, thinking about things instead of doing them, we're not furthering God's kingdom. We're letting the devil win. And we can't do that.


Furthermore, the Bible says over and over again not to fear. Yes, fear is a normal part of being human. But it's also part of our sin nature. According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, "Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God." And explanation of terms from the Catechism for Young Children: "What is meant by want of conformity? Not doing what God requires. What is meant by transgression? Doing what God forbids." God tells us not to fear. If we give in to that fear, let it overcome and control us instead of trusting in Him as He tells us repeatedly to do, then in my book, we're not doing what God requires and instead doing what God forbids. Now, like any sin and temptation, we can't overcome it without the power of God, but that's a discussion for another day.

God can overcome our fear. We can trust that He has it all taken care of. We can step out of the boat, do the scary thing, and leave the results to God. Because He has a plan for it. Everything that happens will be part of God's plan. We're as safe in battle as we are in bed. So do not fear.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." —Joshua 1:9

"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." —Isaiah 41:10

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you." —Psalm 56:3
"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

"But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." —Isaiah 43:1-3a


So yes, life is scary sometimes. Giving in to that fear and hiding from what God wants you to do might feel safe, but it's pathetic and lonely. Life is scary. Get over it and live.

And if you haven't read Blood of Kings yet, I don't know what you're doing with your life.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Charles Wallace Murry--A Wrinkle in Time

Please allow me to introduce you to my little brother.

What? You mean I can't claim Charles Wallace as my little brother? I'm Meg Murry, right?

Okay, so maybe he's not my little brother, but I always wanted him to be. Once as a kid, I made up a little brother named Charles Wallace—though, if I remember right, that was a part of a fantasy that somehow combined an Indian in the Cupboard style cupboard with...a dance studio. Don't ask. I don't remember how it all worked. Just know that whenever I name a character Charles it's after Charles Wallace Murry. And if all you know about Charles Wallace is from the 2018 movie, forget everything you know right now. Even the personality was radically wrong for my baby brother.

Charles Wallace is a blond haired, blue eyed five-year-old, though I actually picture him like this because of the TV movie:

He's different. Somehow new. A very special little boy.

He's the youngest of the Murry children, about five years younger than the twins, and brilliant far beyond his years. But so not like anyone else. He didn't begin talking until he was nearly four—after his father had disappeared—and with none of the usual baby preliminaries, using full sentences. But he doesn't usually talk to people outside the family, except to Calvin, who basically is family, and, well, people who aren't from Earth. He always seems to know things, to be able to read people, to communicate in ways that are beyond speech, which we learn in A Wind in the Door is kything. A language beyond speech, beyond telepathy, even. He's kind and sensitive, often seeming older than Meg (who's probably about 12, since she's older than the twins [10] and younger than Calvin [14], but it's unspecified).

And just so smart. Here's an example from the book:

"I'm a sport."
At that, Charles Wallace grinned widely. "So'm I."
"I don't mean like in baseball," Calvin said.
"Neither do I."
"I mean like in biology," Calvin said suspiciously.
"A change in gene," Charles Wallace quoted, "resulting in the appearance in the offspring of a character which is not present in the parents but which is potentially transmissible to its offspring."
"What gives around here?" Calvin asked. "I was told you couldn't talk."
"Thinking I'm a moron gives people something to feel smug about," Charles Wallace said. "Why should I disillusion them?"

But because he's so far beyond everyone in his normal world, he has much more confidence in his abilities and his strength than he should. His pride and arrogance may—and do—cause his downfall, but that brings me to the next bit of his story that's just so sad (and also why he's a difficult character for such a young actor to play, though David Dorfman did a really good job).

He thought he could go into the Man with the Red Eyes, go into IT, and keep part of himself out. He thought he was strong enough. But he wasn't. And Charles Wallace controlled by IT was so cruel and evil. So not himself. It took the power of love to bring him back. Meg's unconditional love for her baby brother. This sweet little boy who's so very, very special.

And then in the next book, the Echthroi—those who destroy—are trying to kill him. He's so important to this fight of good vs. evil, has so much more to do, that they go into his very mitochondria, become part of his farandolae, to destroy him. And it's up to Meg and Calvin and Proginoskes the singular cherubim to save him. My poor baby brother.

Then in A Swiftly Tilting Planet, the fate of the world is truly on his shoulders as he uses kything to "go within" people throughout history, changing "might have beens" to prevent nuclear war.

He's such a hero. So smart. So special. So empathetic and kind. And I still wish he was my brother.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Puddleglum--The Chronicles of Narnia

Favorite character post!

Puddleglum, the only character Pauline Baynes asked for extra advice on how to draw.

Puddleglum is a Marsh-wiggle. He lives in a wigwam in a marsh at the northern end of Narnia, just south of the Shribble and Ettinsmoor. He's quite a wet blanket, always expecting the worst, and, well, Eustace says he's always wrong, but that isn't strictly true.

Saying that the wood would be wet, or it would rain and put out the fire, or that eel stew would poison Jill and Eustace, or that inside the suit of armor could be a skeleton or someone invisible, or a hundred other things aren't quite true. But when it comes right down to it, Puddleglum is wise and sensible and he was the one who saved them all.

I do have to wonder, though, what the other wiggles are like. Considering "They all say—I mean, the other wiggles all say—that I'm too flighty; don't take life seriously enough. If they've said it once, they've said it a thousand times. 'Puddleglum,' they've said, 'you're altogether too full of bobance and bounce and high spirits. You've got to learn that life isn't all fricaseed frogs and eel pie. You want something to sober you down a bit. We're only saying it for your own good, Puddleglum.' That's what they say. Now a job like this—a journey up north just as winter's beginning, looking for a Prince that probably isn't there, by way of a ruined city that no one has ever seen—will be just the thing. If that doesn't steady a chap, I don't know what will."

Puddleglum may overreact to imagined dangers, but when it comes to real ones, he's spot on. He didn't trust the Lady of the Green Kirtle, and he didn't think going to Harfang was a good idea. He did see that they were in a ruined city, he just wasn't forceful enough to make Jill and Eustace stop and see. He's loyal and determined, and helps the children do all they need to do in their quest. Even though Jill takes offense when he suggests she isn't remembering the Signs correctly. He's far from perfect, what with his wet blanket, pessimistic complaints, but he's still wonderful and has some good quips. Like this bit:

"Many have taken ship at the pale beaches," replied the Warden, "and—"
"Yes, I know," interrupted Puddleglum. "And few return to the sunlit lands. You needn't say it again. You are a chap of one idea, aren't you?"

And I love this:

"And you must always remember there's one good thing about being trapped down here: it'll save funeral expenses."

But the best part about Puddleglum, and I think everyone will agree, is his speech in Underland. I'll let it speak for itself.

"One word, Ma'am. One word. All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder. I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won't deny any of what you said. But there's one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world that licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's small loss if the world's as dull a place as you say."

He's faithful and amazing, and as Jill put it, "You're a regular old humbug. You sound as doleful as a funeral and I believe you're perfectly happy. And you talk as if you were afraid of everything, when you're really as brave as—as a lion."

He really is quite the reshpeckobiggle. XD

*all pictures are photographs of my copy of the full-color collector's edition of The Silver Chair, illustrated by Pauline Baynes

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Tiny Little Rocks

I'm updating Espionage to match Time Captives! Espionage is integral to understanding Briznom's role in Crannig Castle; however, it's been sort of left out in the cold. On its own. But no more!

I've got the cover redone, and those who have seen it love it! It's still the same general concept (I couldn't get rid of that) with the same model. Incidentally, the same girl I mentioned last week as being my student/honorary lil sis in our Hunger Games medley. See why I couldn't change it? But I did put her in a better forest, played with the photo effects, and redesigned it to match Time Captives. I have a proof copy on the way for the paperback, and I have something special planned for the ebook. More details on that coming soon. :)

Now, when I did the original edition, well, I decided last minute to draw pictures for chapter headers. In 2 1/2 days. Because I is crazy. Well, I was happy with most of them. Particularly the one of Vannie for the last chapter. But the one for the penultimate chapter...well, let's just say buildings are NOT my favorite thing to draw, I was tired of drawing, and I cheated. This is how it turned out.

I didn't like it, even from the start, but I was too tired and lazy and ready to get a proof to redo it. So I promised myself that when I did a second edition sometime in the future, I would redraw the picture. I hate me.

I hadn't intended to do this second edition so soon any more than I had Time Captives, but after Realm Makers, I decided I needed to go ahead and [details redacted] and to do that, I needed to do this second edition. So out came the sketch pad and the pencil and the reference pictures (well, the sketch pad was already out because of another secret Time Captives project I'm working on), and did just about everything else before I actually drew the picture. Because all the tiny little rocks. 😠 

I like drawing. Well, I like drawing people. I do not like drawing hundreds of tiny little rocks. But I'd made myself promise and I couldn't go back on it. And a couple days and lots of Disney music later, I finally finished. And I'm SOOOOOOO glad I did it. Even with all the tiny little rocks.

And now I can't wait to get my proof and share it with you and announce what I'm doing with the ebook, and with my other Time Captives project (though that one's much more labor intensive and will take a while), because it's going to be awesome!

But I've just got to say, this sign for a library display was MUCH more fun to draw.


Monday, August 26, 2019

Arranging Music

I love music. Film score, hymns, praise and worship, Broadway, Disney, baroque/classical/romantic (because I'm one of those nerds that's bothered when it's all grouped under "classical") many different things. And I love to teach music. And I like to arrange it. I'm better at arranging than I used to be. I'm not brilliant at it by any means, but it's fun. And it's fun for my students because in some cases they have special pieces created just for them.

So I want to share some of my arrangements with you. These are the ones I have on MuseScore. Now, they're supposed to be changing things so you can only download with a paid account, but as of last week, I could still download from my free account. Not sure if that's true for new accounts, though.

Captain America

This is one of my earliest arrangements. Not my first, that was a Chronicles of Narnia medley I did with Finale Notepad (Finale is a nightmare). I wanted to play the Captain America theme on violin, but I quickly discovered I didn't have the range to do it right. So I put together an arrangement for violin and cello to play with my sister.

Captain America by authormorganh

Hymns Medley

This was a recital piece I arranged for a violin student. She chose the hymns, I put them together. I got some ideas on harmony from our hymnal, but obviously it required adaptation to work for violin. We performed the duet in 2017.

Hymns Medley by authormorganh

And here's our performance.

The Hunger Games Suite

I hatched this idea last December, listening to the Mockingjay soundtrack while writing Acktorek. I thought about creating an accurate arrangement of "The Hanging Tree" since I'm not satisfied with any I've found, and then it kind of exploded. I got my sisters and a student/honorary lil sis on board and put together the medley for our 2019 recital. "The Hanging Tree" and "Deep in the Meadow" were arranged entirely by ear, the rest adapted from piano arrangements+adding/adjusting things I heard in the soundtrack to make it more accurate.

The Hunger Games Suite by authormorganh

Our performance.

The Light They Need

This was purely because I wanted to. I fell in love with this song before we even got to season 4 of The Flash, and I just had to transcribe it so I could play it. I just finished about a week and a half ago. It's from the episode "Run, Iris, Run." And this one is entirely by ear because apparently no one else thought to arrange it.

The Light They Need by authormorganh

And a video. I apologize for the grainy quality—the lighting in the music room isn't particularly good.

This isn't obviously everything I've ever arranged, but MuseScore only lets you upload up to 5 scores on a free account. I've got one slot left, so I've got to be choosy. I hope you enjoy these songs!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

'Twas an Evening in Bethlehem Cover Reveal

Jenelle Leanne Schmidt wrote a Christmas picture book! It's a beautiful little book, illustrated by Sierra Klein, and I'm excited to share the cover with you today. It comes out October 3rd. :)

‘Twas an evening in Bethlehem and all through the day
Many guests were arriving from far, far away...

The inn is full, but when a young, expectant couple arrives, the innkeeper cannot turn them away. Follow this beloved tale through the eyes of the innkeeper’s young daughter as she witnesses the glorious surprises of that very first Christmas and rediscover anew the gift of the manger that ultimately points us to the cross.

Isn't the cover painting gorgeous? It's a sweet retelling of the Christmas story in verse, and you won't want to miss it!

Monday, August 19, 2019

It's Storytime!

Books, books, books! I'm a reader and a writer and I love books of many kinds. So I thought I'd tell you about some of the books I've been reading lately, and what I'm planning to read.

Recently Finished

By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson

It's not exactly recent anymore, but I'm highlighting it because we're still reading the series. Such a good story. I wasn't sure where it was going for awhile, but then the ending blew my mind. And I'm totally hooked on Blood of Kings now. Achan is a stray, who gets trained as a squire by Sir Gavin, though strays are despised in Er'Rets. When he has to squire for Prince Gidon, things start going crazy. And then there's Vrell Sparrow, in hiding as a stray boy to avoid marriage to Gidon. Whose bloodvoicing abilities (basically telepathy that only those with royal blood can do) are being used by some of the bad guys. It's been a great family read aloud, and I love Vrell and Achan so much, even though sometimes I want to smack them and tell them to stop being idiots. XD

Dagger's Sleep by Tricia Mingerink

Oh, how I regret banning myself from buying more books until I have Christmas money. I want Midnight's Curse so bad now. I just finished Dagger's Sleep last week, and it was so good! Such a journey. It's a gender swapped Sleeping Beauty set in a world that's basically Native Americans with castles. It's pretty cool worldbuilding. The story flashes back and forth between Alex, the prince, and Rosanna, the cursebreaker. Alex is determined to avoid his curse, but his arrogant attitude isn't really doing him any favors. And Rosanna is on a journey to wake him up after one hundred years, but there's just something about her guide Daemyn that is, how shall we say, odd and mysterious. I actually ended up really liking Daemyn, poor guy. He's been through a lot. Such a good book.

To Darkness Fled by Jill Williamson

We've gotten through this one much faster than the previous book (partially because we caught up on The Flash), and we just finished it last night. Achan and Vrell have been through a lot in this book, and Achan realizes just how little he knows about being the crown prince and future leader of Er'Rets. And then there's the ongoing discussion of who Achan should marry, because he must marry for political reasons, but things just aren't going smoothly in that department. No thanks to Vrell. Achan and Vrell still have a lot of growing up to do. And I can't recommend this series enough.

Currently Reading

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

It's a reread, and it is going kinda slow because shiny new books and mostly #adulting, but I'm halfway through Fellowship right now. There's so much of the beginning that was left out of the movie. And I love this story so much. I like Frodo pretty well, but Sam will always be my favorite. He's the best. I like how in the book, Merry and Pippin actually knew exactly what they were getting into by going with Frodo, and actually they and Fatty Bolger, with Sam's help, figured out what Frodo was doing on their own and determined to do whatever they could to help. Pippin's still a "fool of a Took," yes, but they're not as bumbling as they sometimes seem in the movies.

Sex, Purity, and the Longings of a Girl's Heart by Kristen Clark and Bethany Beal

I got this with birthday money, read a good portion of it, and then got busy prepping for Realm Makers and forgot I hadn't finished it. But I'm getting back into it now. It's not for the kids, obviously, but it's a very good discussion of God's design for sexuality, how it's a wonderful thing when we follow His plan, but destructive when we don't. It's a lot of the same kinds of things my pastor preached on last year in his series on marriage, but geared towards girls. And I love how Kristen and Bethany are passionate about living a Christ-focused, pure life without being legalistic about it. Like all their books, blogs, videos, etc., it's like big sisters giving little sisters advice on how to avoid their mistakes and live for Christ.

Child Sense by Priscilla J. Dunstan

This was a random came-through-the-circ-desk-at-the-library find. It's all about dominant sense modes (i.e. visual, auditory, tactile, and taste/smell). At first, I was like, "I don't have an excuse to read it because it's geared towards parents of young children and I'm not one," but then I decided that since I'm a teacher, a writer, and I'm just generally interested in psychology/learning styles/how people's brains work and process information, I don't need an excuse. I mean, that's really what this book is all about. How people take in the world around them and process it. It's fascinating stuff.
The Story Peddler by Lindsay A. Franklin

When it won three different awards at Realm Makers and I found out it was about someone who weaves stories into sculptures, I had to have it. I've only just started, so I'm not far enough along to know what I think of it, but the concept is fascinating, I can already tell she did well in her worldbuilding, and the cover is just GORGEOUS. I love it so much and I can't stop looking at it. I'm super excited about it, and I'll probably regret not buying book 2.

Reading Soon

From Darkness Won by Jill Williamson

It's the last book of the series! Once we finish, there will be no more Achan and Vrell. :( So I both want to read it as fast as possible, and savor it slowly. Things are going to be complicated between Achan and Vrell because Vrell needs the Genie from Aladdin to yell in her face, Esek needs to go DOWN, and I just love these books so much. I really want signed copies of the rest of the trilogy too. And basically of every book Jill's ever written. So many books!

The Sword in the Stars by Wayne Thomas Batson

This one I bought at Realm Makers, wanting to own more Wayne Thomas Batson books and wanting another one to get signed. I just realized I don't know much about this series except that it's fantasy and several people I know, including my sister, like it. Though my sister's only read the previous version. Regardless, I'm super excited to read it, and I know I'm probably going to be mad I only have the first book and not the rest of the series. Christmas can't get here fast enough! I don't know if I have the self control to keep up this book buying ban.

This is the one Bryan Davis gave me, and so it's special, and I'm super excited to read it. I don't know much about the plot except that it has to do with death and someone on FB who saw it in my book stack said something about a try-not-to-cry challenge. So it's probably going to be super sad. But hopefully a sweet kind of sad. And I don't have enough reading time to get to it quickly, but I hope it won't take too long. Because I really want to read it.

So that's what's going on in my reading life right now. What have you been reading?

Monday, August 12, 2019

Ranking Disney Princesses

I had the idea the other day at the library to rank the Disney Princesses. And looking up the list of official princesses, I discovered Anna's not considered part of the official lineup. Apparently because Frozen was so popular, Anna and Elsa are considered their own franchise affiliated with the Disney Princesses, but not part of the official lineup so they don't overshadow the others. Weird. But she's Anna, so I'm including her anyway.

So here's my ranking of the official Disney Princesses from + Anna.

13. Ariel

So, no, I'm not a big fan of Ariel. She's a spoiled brat. She basically sold her soul to the devil (Ursula, the sea witch) for a chance to be with a guy she just met. What even? I actually liked the Twisted Tales version better than the actual movie because Ariel was forced to grow up. But I do love the songs in The Little Mermaid. And I love Eric. He's pretty awesome. (And deserved better than Ariel.)

12. Aurora

Honestly, she just doesn't have much personality and doesn't do much in her story. She's okay, I guess, but I'm not a huge fan of Sleeping Beauty in general. Something about the story structure feels off and in the original fairy tale, she slept for one hundred years. Though certain versions of the story are very not child appropriate, so there's that.

11. Moana

I'll stick Moana here because while I think her movie is annoying and the songs never leave your head, I guess she's okay as a character. She's determined, wants to save her people, and won't let anyone stop her. But "You're Welcome" is super duper annoying. 

10. Pocahontas

So I love the songs in Pocahontas. But that movie is so unbelievably historically and even geographically inaccurate. I've been to Jamestown. It doesn't look like that. But the Disney Pocahontas is cool. And mostly I just really like "Colors of the Wind" and "Just Around the Riverbend."

9. Snow White

If I'm perfectly honest, Snow White is kind of a cardboard character. She's sweet and naive and talks to animals, and that's about all there is to her. But I grew up on the movie, and while I enjoy making fun of certain aspects of it (she runs away screaming from the stalker that climbed over her wall, and then later in the movie, she's singing about how romantic he is), it's still a special movie to me. Plus, it's a piece of history. The first full length animated feature ever. So I do like Snow White. 

8. Merida

She didn't mean to turn her mother into a bear! Poor Merida, I wouldn't want to marry any of those guys either. They're just weird. Merida's pretty cool...she's good at archery, she's got more on her mind than boys (actually, if she had her way, boys would be the last thing on her mind—girls being boy crazy annoys me), and, well, she did accidentally turn her mother into a bear, but then she spends the movie trying to fix it. And I love how to fix it all, she and her mother both have to change their attitudes and learn to understand one another, truly mending their relationship.

7. Tiana

Tiana deserved so much better than what she got. I really love her as a character, but her movie got so many things wrong. She's a girl who knows what she wants, and she'll work hard to get it. Unfortunately, the movie tells her that she'll never achieve her dream until she marries a rich guy who can pay for it, and it doesn't matter if he's a jerk. No, I don't like Naveen. But Tiana is pretty awesome. And I bet the food in her restaurant is great. I want to write a fanfic where Tiana and Eric get together instead of who they actually end up with in their movies. They both deserve better. 

6. Jasmine

I know there are people both praising and slamming live action Jasmine for being feminist, but does it really make you a feminist to not want to be a doormat and to not want to hand over your people to a foreigner—or worse—Jafar? She's a strong character who wants to be able to decide how she lives her life, not have big life decisions made for her. Including who she marries (which is the extent of it in the cartoon) and who rules her people (in the live action). She's got spunk and she's not afraid to use it.

5. Cinderella

Yeah, I know there's not much more to her personality than sweet and kind either, but I love Cinderella. Especially the live action version. She's horribly mistreated, but she's still kind to her stepmother and stepsisters. Kind and forgiving. Have courage and be kind. And I love the way her relationship with the prince plays out in the live action. That movie is perfection.

4. Mulan

I'll never understand why Mulan is an official Disney Princess. She's not royalty, and neither is Shang. But anyway, I really love Mulan. I love the songs, I love the story, I even love Mushu. See, Mulan isn't going out there to prove that a girl can do whatever a guy can. She's going to war out of a selfless love for her father. Yes, there is some of that feeling trapped in her life in a culture that tells her all she's good for is marrying a guy the matchmaker chooses for her, but her motivation is to save her father. And she's smart. She uses her brains to solve problems, and even when she's in total disgrace, she puts everything aside and does what she has to in order to save China. "You don't meet a girl like that every dynasty."

3. Belle

I love Belle...animated Belle. She's both sweet and spunky, she doesn't put up with stuff yet she's willing to look past appearances into the heart, she's loyal, and she loves books. What's not to love? She's all about character over appearance, and she's willing to fight for what's right. And did I mention she loves books? How can you get any better than the Beast's library?

2. Rapunzel

I love Rapunzel. She's a dreamer, she's an artist, she can sew, bake, do pottery, she tries to do ballet but gets tangled in her hair, and reads. What else are you going to do locked up in a tower for 18 years? She's torn with guilt over leaving the tower and fully intends to go back to her "mother" and live like they always did...that is, until she discovers that she's the lost princess. She's awesome, and doesn't even really start falling for Flynn until his heart starts changing about his thieving ways. Plus the movie is funny and the songs are awesome.

1. Anna

Anna, who isn't a part of the official lineup. :P I did kind of debate on the order of these last three, but I decided to go with my official order of favorite Disney Princess movies. Anna's fun and quirky and loves her sister so much. And when Elsa freezes their entire kingdom, Anna just says "She's a stinker." Yes, she does get engaged to a man she just met that day, but she realizes the mistake, and ends up with Kristoff, taking their time to actually get to know each other. And she performs an act of true love in saving her sister, and that's what melts her frozen heart. I love how much of Frozen  is about true love, true self-sacrificial love. Now excuse me while I go sing Frozen at the top of my lungs.

So there you have it, my ranking of the Disney Princesses. Who's your favorite princess?

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Midnight's Curse Blog Tour

Tricia Mingerink's newest book, Midnight's Curse is here! It's a Cinderella retelling, which is super awesome because Cinderella is super awesome and she even watched the best version (Disney's 2015 live action) while writing it. :) I haven't read Midnight's Curse yet, since I haven't gotten very far in Dagger's Sleep yet (#adulting), but I'm really looking forward to reading it. I mean, Tricia wrote it. It has to be good.

I interviewed Tricia, but first, here's a little bit about the book. And don't forget to enter the giveaway and join the Facebook party!

The glass slippers might be her dreams come true...or her worst nightmare.

High King Alexander rules the Seven Kingdoms of Tallahatchia—a divided nation on the brink of yet another war. When an invitation arrives from the king of Pohatomie, Alex knows it must be a trap, but could it also be his opportunity to unite the kingdoms?

Daemyn Rand has lived a hundred years, served an arrogant prince, fallen in love with a princess, and lost himself somewhere along the way. He has already died for his loyalty. Will standing at the high king’s side cost him his last chance to truly live?

Elara Ashen is a lowly, miserable servant. All she wants is to spend even one night in a fancy dress dancing with the high king. When she is offered a pair of glass slippers, it seems that all her dreams have come true.

But dreams have a price, and gifts can be curses in disguise. What will it cost to stop this curse from tearing Tallahatchia apart yet again?

Fairy tales meet the Appalachian Mountains in this adventurous fantasy retelling of the classic Cinderella story.

The first book in the series Dagger's Sleep, a Sleeping Beauty retelling where the prince is cursed to sleep and the princess must wake him, is on sale for $.99 on Kindle! Follow this link to snag this deal while it lasts!


Hi, Tricia, welcome to my blog! Beyond the Tales is a different sort of fantasy from Blades of Acktar. What inspired you to start writing fairy tale retellings?

I always get a chuckle out of this question. Because, honestly, The Blades of Acktar is the aberration from what I grew up writing. Many of the first books I wrote (which will never see the light of day) were fairy tale retellings. Dagger’s Sleep is even based on a horrible draft of a book I wrote when I was in 5th or 6th grade, though it is hardly recognizable as the same book.

I grew up on Ella Enchanted and Gail Carson Levine’s other fairy tale retellings. From there I read Robin McKinley, E.D. Baker, and pretty much any middle grade to lower YA fairy tale author I could find. I was bound to have my own ideas for fairy tale retellings eventually, lol.

Besides, fairy tales have such enduring themes. It is one reason they have lasted so long and are so integral to our culture. We use stories like fairy tales to examine life, even if we don’t realize that’s what we’re doing. Fairy tales tend to be so symbolic that merging a few allegorical elements into the story wasn’t a stretch.

What made you choose Cinderella for your second retelling, Midnight’s Curse?

It was a bit of a process. After Dagger’s Sleep, I thought I was going to write Mirabella’s story Beauty’s Beast, which is eventually going to be a Beauty and the Beast retelling. But, after Dagger’s Sleep released, I figured out, based on the feedback I was getting, that this series would be better off if I stuck with the established main characters through their character arcs before I branched into side characters.

So Beauty’s Beast was set aside, and I did some brainstorming with the other vague ideas I had for books in the series and settled on the Cinderella retelling. It ended up fitting what I needed this book to do character-wise very well.

What’s your favorite aspect of the traditional Cinderella story?

I love the transformation scene from torn gown to beautiful dress. I’m very much a tomboy, but even I love the feel of dressing in a beautiful gown just for a night. And most movie versions of Cinderella make the most magical moments out of it.

Funny thing is that I ended up including a much darker version of that transformation in my Cinderella retelling, lol.

How is Midnight’s Curse different from other Cinderella retellings?

My tagline for this book is: The glass slippers might be her dreams come true…or her worst nightmare. And I think that pretty much sums up the biggest differences in this version. The glass slippers aren’t exactly the innocent, beautiful things they appear to be on the outside. There are curses and traps and discontent lurking in the depths of human hearts that make this a rather unique version of Cinderella.

If you could just tell readers one thing about Beyond the Tales, what would it be?

That they deliver the same mix of rousing action and deep faith themes found in my Blades of Acktar series, just packaged a bit differently. If you like fairy tales, you’ll definitely enjoy them. But if fairy tales aren’t your thing, don’t be scared away. They are a mix of fairy tale and the Louis L’amour Sackett series I grew up loving as a kid, especially the book Ride the River.

About the Author

Tricia Mingerink is a twenty-something, book-loving, horse-riding country girl. She lives in Michigan with her family and their pack of pets. When she isn't writing, she can be found pursuing backwoods adventures across the country.

You can connect with Tricia on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Facebook Party! 
The Facebook party should be a blast with giveaways of Midnight's Curse, Dagger's Sleep, and over ten other Cinderella retellings by indie authors! Follow this link to join the Facebook party.

Enter to win signed copies of Dagger's Sleep and Midnight's Curse (it will be the actual copy, not a proof copy as shown) as well as a Currently Reading 4oz candle from Novelly Yours Candles.

Due to shipping, the giveaway is open to the US only. Void where prohibited. 

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Blog Tour Schedule

Monday – August 5
Tuesday – August 6 – Release Day!
Wednesday – August 7
Thursday – August 8
Friday – August 9
Saturday – August 10