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.

https://www.lindsayafranklin.com/books/the-story-peddler/
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 princess.disney.com + 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!

Interview

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.

Giveaway!
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. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 
Blog Tour Schedule

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

Monday, August 5, 2019

What Do Unicorns Taste Like?

Recently, I saw a video of a friend's five-year-old daughter talking about wanting to eat her unicorn for Thanksgiving. When my friend asked her what unicorns taste like, the five-year-old responded, "Birthday cake."

And it started me thinking about childhood imagination. Childhood without constant screens.

My sisters and I did have screen time as kids. We played Reader Rabbit games and Oregon Trail. We watched Clifford the Big Red Dog and Arthur while our mom made dinner. We watched Shirley Temple movies and Veggie Tales and the handful of Disney movies we'd managed to own. But screen time was such a small part of our childhood. There's so much more to do.

I spent so much time growing up playing outside. Ruining my clothes in Georgia red clay. Building an imaginary playhouse by mounding dirt where the walls should be. This was called "the Cottage" and it's the center of so many fond memories.

We lived in the Cottage as pioneers hundreds of times, just like Little House. Living in the middle of nowhere. Redbird, the Indian "ruining" the Cottage garden to his real life brother's chagrin. My middle sister and her friend who lived next door running off to "the Greasy, Greasy Forest" because it annoyed big sister me. I would make the older boy from two doors down pick up sticks around the Cottage so that we could build "fires" in our fireplaces. (Also, because I wanted the Cottage to be cleaned up, and I didn't want to do it.) I'd sweep the floor in the Cottage...yes, I was sweeping dirt, sweeping the loose dirt into the walls to make them higher and the Cottage tidier. Bicycles were our horses, Big Wheels our cattle. We had couches made of logs, a counter made of dirt, plates made of Frisbees.

We gardened...sometimes by transplanting wild onions, sometimes by planting real flowers from the hardware store in the Cottage garden. Mine died. Bekah's lived. Typical. I planted wild onions along the front walk to the Cottage because Mandy in Julie Andrews Edwards's Mandy planted things at her cottage.

We dug a cellar. Yes, we dug a big hole in our backyard. We didn't ask first, but we didn't get in trouble, and actually didn't fill it in until years after we'd grown out of playing in the Cottage. We'd pretend there was a storm and we had to take shelter in the cellar...until I got sick of the boy from two doors down doing nothing but pretending there were storms and started ignoring most of them. We dug steps up the hill to the Cottage, again, without asking first, and our dad finished them off with landscape timbers. It's funny to me, we always asked before playing a computer game or watching TV because too much screen time is bad for you and so it was limited (even as a kid, I would get a headache after watching a movie sometimes), but we dug up the backyard on a regular basis, and it was no big deal.

We'd often play my favorite game: Run Away From the Orphanage. You're in a terrible orphanage with a cruel matron, and then you sneak out at night and set up housekeeping in the middle of nowhere. Which I realize now is sort of a blend of Annie, Samantha, and The Boxcar Children. We played that at so many park days with our homeschool group, and in the Cottage sometimes too.

We hit tennis balls against the side of the house (it was brick), pretending we were a part of a big sports program we invented called Seven Sports. We got pretty good at returning balls too, though I'm sure our form is horrendous. And we got four tennis balls stuck in the gutter at the top of a two story house. We've got talent.

We built homes and acted out stories with our plastic horses in the sand box. Made traffic jams with the matchbox cars. Set up Little People towns.

We never had actual Barbie houses, as much as I wanted one...so we made our own out of cardboard and construction paper and glue and tape. We built stairs, furniture, kitchen cabinets, knitted bedding, created miniature books and toys out of paper and Sculpey. Just like a real house, we were always making improvements to our Barbie houses. I also made Bekah a Barbie RV out of a cardboard box for her birthday. In some ways, making the houses was more fun than playing Barbies.

Not that we didn't play Barbies. Our Barbie dads ran for office, they all traveled the Oregon Trail, they starred in movies that we pretended to film... And then there was Galaxy's Got Talent—the Star Wars version of America's Got Talent. Yoda, Princess Leia, and Darth Vader judged, and Death Star Droid was the host. We had "Hip Hop Luke" and "Pointe Anakin" and "Storm Trooper Band" and R2 demonstrated his talent of staying with the ship. "Storm Trooper Band" won.

During campaign meetings in 2004, we always built a castle downstairs at our house and played in it. I was always a servant with my friend (except for the time she abandoned me to play the princess). We were Hattie and Jane Campbell. During a moms' Bible study at our house, we would build a town. I was the librarian.

We built things out of chairs and blankets. One time, I remember it was a car. One time it was a library. I used a couch as a bookshelf and read Because of Winn-Dixie to my sisters inside. We read all the time. To ourselves, to each other, our parents to us at bedtime, our mom to us for hours over lunch. Books fueled our imaginations. Addy and I acted out lots of things from books. We did several scenes from Narnia, one day, we acted out the entire book of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. We also went through a phase where the three of us acted out the Lucy meets Mr. Tumnus scene from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) about every day with our stools stacked up in the living room and a lantern on top for the lamppost. A lot of what we did came from books. Some of what we did, I don't know why we did it. (Like Jacob's Leg. Addy's Barbie dad fell apart and...she kept his leg. Jacob's Leg directed movies. It's weird, but it's a thing at our house. "Jacob got his leg amputated. Ew, ew, ew, ew ew...")

Imagination is so much more awesome than playing phone/tablet games all the time. And if I ever have kids some day, I definitely want them to spend lots of time using their imaginations...even if it means eating unicorns for Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Realm Makers Recap

Realm Makers was amazing! Seriously, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I mean, where else do you have a room full of people in nerdy costumes praying together? This is what they say on the Realm Makers website:

"Are you a creative person who loves science fiction and fantasy, but also makes your spiritual growth a high priority? Have you found that you’re a little too weird for the usual church crowd, but don’t exactly fit in with the sci-fi convention set either? Well, now there’s a place for you to learn, share your talents, and commune with people a lot like yourself."

And now that I've gone, I can say that it's completely accurate. I completely felt like I belonged. We're all writers. We're all Christians. We're all there to learn and share ideas and build each other up and inspire each other and make new friends and just be a community—a family—unlike any other. The only negative thing I can say about Realm Makers is that the conference ends and we all have to go back home. (And the book store is a negative to your bank account. But that's a good problem.) So if you're a Christian speculative fiction author, I highly recommend you go to Realm Makers. It's more than worth it.

So for my experience.

I roomed with Jaye L. Knight and Tricia Mingerink and we had such a great time! We spent hours talking about everything from Marvel movies to childhood imaginative games to our current WIPs and future writing projects to spiritual growth. Before the conference, we went with my family to the Arch, which was a lot of fun. And included conversations about how much my sister hates Keevan from Tricia's Blades of Acktar series. XD


Brent Weeks was the keynote speaker, and both his opening and closing keynotes were fabulous. He was very inspiring, and funny too, while being very real about the ups and downs of his faith and writing journeys. I haven't read any of his books, but I was very impressed by him as a person, and want to read his books now.

I did Julie Hall's continuing sessions on indie publishing, and while there were things that I already knew from my 6 year journey as an indie author, I still learned a ton. I did have to miss parts of it to go to appointments, but I hope to get the conference audio to fill in the gaps...and so I can experience the electives I had to miss because there were too many good ones at the same time. Plus, a fellow Realmie gave me a cool idea for Time Captives bookmarks during the continuing sessions and I can't wait to try it out!

And I met Jill Williamson! She had to fill in for a faculty member who last minute couldn't attend, and it was during my scheduled appointment, but Tricia offered to let me join her in her appointment and it turned out great! Yes, we fangirled. Jill is an amazing person, so sweet and easy to talk to, and the half hour just flew by. It's so hard to choose what my favorite part of Realm Makers was, but meeting Jill was definitely up towards the top. And she was excited I brought Replication to Disney and even drew a Mickey in it!

With Tricia and Jill Williamson


I had two pitch appointments, and I was scared about them, but they proved to me just how unique and special Realm Makers truly is. Before my first one, the lady in charge of appointments invited me to practice on her, and then she prayed with me—and then we talked a bit about Doctor Who because they were holding the pitches in the room called "Davos" and we both kept wanting to read it as "Davros." And before the second, a lady came to me saying she was the "designated pray-er on duty" and she prayed with me as well. The pitches went well, and I'm looking forward to seeing what God does in the future.

The awards banquet was so much fun! Dressing up is awesome, and there was such a wide variety of costumes. Even in our little group, we had Anna from Frozen (me), Ranger Maddie from Ranger's Apprentice (Tricia), and gender-swapped Daryl from The Walking Dead (Jaye). So when Tricia and I got to our room to get ready, Jaye told us she was almost done, she was just cleaning up the zombie blood in the bathroom. It was awesome. XD I loved that they were playing songs from movie soundtracks, I loved all the costumes, and it was just a great experience. Nothing quite like it. And then afterwards I talked to one of Jaye's carpool buddies about the time she met Bradley James (BBC's King Arthur). I'm so jealous.

The princess, the princess Ranger, and the redneck zombie hunter

With Tricia as Maddie

With Jaye as Daryl

With Kendra E. Ardnek as steampunk Clara

With Jill Williamson as the White Witch

With Brie

"Can you see me now?"

The electives were fun, especially Jill Williamson's worldbuilding class. I loved it so much. And there was definitely an information overload. So many things to learn!

The book festival was the last night. I got some of my books signed before the festival, like my Bryan Davis and Terry Brooks books. And I'm pretty sure I was fangirling bigtime over Dragons of Starlight and Echoes From the Edge (now Time Echoes) when I was talking to Bryan Davis. He was pretty awesome and gave me an extra book on top of the one I bought. I also met Wayne Thomas Batson and it was pretty cool. Then I bought a copy of The Story Peddler by Lindsay A. Franklin, which had won several awards, and got it signed too.

With Terry Brooks

With Bryan Davis

With Wayne Thomas Batson

My new signed books

Most nights, Jaye, Tricia, and I were pretty good about going to bed early, but not that last night. We just didn't want it to end. So we sat outside by the fountain for a while and talked, and then went to our room and got ready for bed and then talked some more, and then turned off the light and kept talking a little while longer. I miss them both already, and sincerely hope we can work out another visit in the near future.

And we had to go home. That's the worst part of it. It's over too quickly. But I am beyond glad that I went. It was thoroughly amazing, and I really hope I get another chance to go to Realm Makers someday!

Monday, July 15, 2019

One Step At A Time

This is, in a way, sort of a continuation of last week.

I've always been the sort of person that wants to know everything. Not in a know-it-all kind of way. In an I-want-to-know-what's-going-to-happen way. I want to know all the what, when, how, and why of what's going to happen in my life. But life doesn't work that way. God doesn't work that way.

Oh, He knows all the what, when, how, and why of everything. But He hasn't given that knowledge to me. He hasn't given that knowledge to any of us.

So many times, my plans have gotten derailed. Like the time I wrote this poem. So many times I've wanted things to go a particular way, and they never do. So many times I've been in tears crying to God, wanting to know why things aren't going the way I thought they were going to go, the way I thought they were supposed to go.

I don't have the master plan. All I have is what God wants me to do right now. Not why He wants me to do it. Not where it's going to lead. Not where He's going to have me five, ten, twenty years down the road.

I don't know. But He does. And He's going to work everything out according to His plan. He's doing things for my future right now that I know nothing about. He's in control.

And all I have to do is take things one step at a time, following Him, trusting Him that He knows what He's doing, because He does. It may not make any sense to me right now, but that's okay. Because it makes sense to God. He's a good God. He's not going to give me a stone when I ask for bread, a snake when I ask for a fish, a scorpion when I ask for an egg. He's guiding me along His perfect plan that is to His glory one step at a time. And I just have to follow and trust in Him.

"From where I'm standing
Lord it's so hard for me to see
Where this is going
And where You're leading me
I wish I knew how
All my fears and all my questions
Are gonna play out
In a world I can't control...
 
"From where You're standing
Lord, You see a grand design
That You imagined
When You breathed me into life
And all the chaos
Comes together in Your hands
Like a masterpiece
Of Your picture perfect plan"
—"Already There" by Casting Crowns
 

Monday, July 8, 2019

Acktorek and Trust

I try never to write books with a particular theme in mind. Generally, what I've found is that when books/movies are written with a particular theme or message in mind, it becomes preachy, and the story and characters suffer. It's my opinion that when you focus on the story, the theme becomes a natural and integral part of the story, and is way more powerful than a story written to prove a point. So I try to organically write a story, dedicate my writing to God, and leave the theme up to Him. And generally, when I notice the theme later, I'm floored by what God was doing in my writing without me even noticing it.

I wrote Acktorek to jumpstart and revitalize my imagination. Seriously. After that really bad bout of writer's block I've mentioned a time or two on here, I needed something low stress, something that was new, something imaginative, something where I didn't have to worry about word count. So I just wrote. And the story formed. Not exactly what I'd envisioned, but it came out better. (Though I have to say, I do sometimes miss the original bits and pieces of books that get left behind when I actually write them.)

Fast forward to the beginning of this year. I was in a place where I was ready to abandon all I've worked for in these last six years of publishing and more of writing. Adulting is hard. Being an entrepreneur is hard. Things in my life aren't going the way I'd envisioned (spoiler alert: they never do). Back in December, when I was dealing with some personal things that weren't panning out the way I'd hoped, I'd felt God impressing on me to trust Him. To

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths." —Proverbs 3:5-6

I'm just going to be honest here: I wasn't. Sure, in my head, I knew that I needed to trust God, but in my heart, I was ready to throw away everything God had brought me through up to this point and go do something entirely different. Yes, there are times when God wants us to completely change what we're doing. I'm not going to deny that. But when you've been following where God leads and using the gifts He's given you, and when the results aren't what you expected, you decide to throw it away and go do something else in your own strength because it looks easier than fighting the battle God put in front of you...well, that's not good. That's not trusting Him.

I couldn't rest in my new plan. I just couldn't. I was miserable, I felt sick about it. But I was so done with what I'd been doing, so done with trusting God when the results weren't anything like what I'd expected. Luckily, I have parents who are both supportive, and who honestly fight harder for my dreams than I do. My mom told me not to talk about my other plan until I read Business Boutique. ...still haven't actually finished it, but anywho.

As I read Business Boutique, I finally started to remember why I write in the first place. Why I teach music the way I do. Why I love it. Can you believe I'd forgotten why I love to write? Even though this was after I'd written draft 1 of Acktorek and quite enjoyed it? I started to pray that God would direct me in the next steps for my author career. I honestly had no plans for my writing this year, other than maybe to try to write another draft of the Espionage sequel. (Apparently, Espionage is my least popular book. Please go give it some love. 😊) Which I suppose isn't all that surprising, considering I was thinking about giving it up. And you know what? I didn't at all feel God impress it upon me to give up writing. Indeed, it was quite the opposite.

I felt Him telling me to go ahead and do the new Time Captives covers now. To take steps to make my books more professional. And then there was Realm Makers. I obviously already wanted to go. I had friends ask repeatedly if I was going this year. I hadn't planned on it. At some point the idea of trying traditional publishing with Acktorek was planted in my head by one of Nadine Brandes's newsletters where she explained why she went with a bigger publisher for Fawkes and Romanov. I felt like I should pitch at Realm Makers. But there was no way I'd have it ready for this summer.

Yet, God kept putting all the pieces into place. Plans came together for me to logistically get to Realm Makers. (I rarely drive on the interstate at home, much less out of town...back roads and in-town driving for the win!) I got both the pitch appointments I wanted, even though I'd convinced myself I wouldn't get either. I had hiccups with Time Captives—which will be available on consignment in the bookstore, so if you're going to be there, check it out!—but I now have a box ready to take to St. Louis. I have my business cards.

Acktorek is where things are really crazy, though, and I have to give glory to God for where it all is right now. I never thought it was possible to write a draft as fast as I wrote the second draft of Acktorek. Seriously. But I did it. I had no idea how to pitch a book, how to write a book proposal, what I'm getting myself into here. (Still don't really.) But I've learned soooooo much. I have no idea what's going to come of these pitch meetings. I have no idea what things I'm going to learn during the conference. I have no idea who I'm going to meet and what connections I'm going to make, or honestly, why God wants me at Realm Makers this summer at all. I don't know. But I'm (finally) trusting that He has a reason for it.

And funny thing, as I've been working on my proposal and pitch, I've thought about the theme of the book. One list of questions commonly asked during verbal pitches was about the theme. It took some brainstorming, but finally I figured out that theme. That message of the book that I didn't put there intentionally. Not the only theme dealt with in the book, but by far the most prominent one. And this is what I wrote: 

-What is the theme of this story?
Trust. Trusting your family, trusting your friends, ultimately trusting God. Trusting that He knows what He’s doing, that even the worst circumstances work together for good, that however excruciating things might be, He will give you strength to bear and overcome them.

Trust. All this time, I've been struggling with trust. With trusting that, even when things don't look at all like what I expected, God is still in control, working all things together for good, for His glory. That He knows what He's doing. And all this time, He's been guiding me through a book that's all about trust. All about seemingly terrible circumstances with no way out, where God has been orchestrating it His way, which is totally different from ours.

When I realized that, I was amazed. God is pretty awesome. He always teaches me things through my own books when I give them over to Him and ask Him to do what He will with them.

I don't know what's going to come out of Realm Makers. I don't know what's next for Acktorek. I don't know what's next for me as a writer. But I do know that God knows. God is in control. And all I have to do is trust Him.

"Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass." —Psalm 37:5

Monday, June 24, 2019

Aladdin Review

Aladdin (2019)

I saw Aladdin! I hadn't actually been planning on seeing it in theaters, but we decided to go for Father's Day and I'm glad we did. It was SO GOOD. So much to love.

First off, I'd better say that I've only seen the animated movie a handful of times. I saw it once at my great grandma's house when I was little, and then, due to the Disney vault and whoever stole it from the library, I didn't really watch it again until the Bluray came out a couple years ago. So there isn't a boatload of nostalgia with the cartoon to compete with like there is on a lot of other Disney movies. That said, I still really like the animated movie, and I wasn't sure how the live action would hold up. I shouldn't have worried at all.

I'll just go ahead and say the one thing I didn't really like about the movie. Jafar. It's not that the actor necessarily did a horrible job, per se, though it could have been better, but he just really didn't look the part. He didn't look cruel and evil, and Jafar's supposed to have that creepy evil look. See?


As opposed to this:

Plus, like a coworker of mine said her husband pointed out, he wasn't old enough.


One thing I think we were all worried about was how Will Smith's Genie would compare to Robin Williams's. There's only one Robin Williams. And Robin Williams's Genie was very special. But I was actually very pleasantly surprised with Will Smith's Genie. I don't know why I wasn't expecting him to float in the air, change his appearance to fit some of the comedy, etc. CGI can obviously do that now. Of course, it wasn't as much as in the animated movie, but he still behaved like Genie. But yet slightly different. And he was still blue part of the time. Just not when he was trying to blend in as a human. And he even gets a girl in this one! No, no one's ever going to quite match Robin Williams. But he still did a fabulous job.


via GIPHY

And when they did "Friend Like Me." :D My sister and I were both so excited when the song started.


via GIPHY

I liked both Aladdin and Jasmine. Jasmine doesn't exactly look like I'd expected...not like the cartoon or the girls at Disney World...so it took a bit to get used to, but I ended up really liking her. And her costumes are actually pretty modest! They were well cast, and I just love them. They played their characters well.

As for the story and how it compares to the cartoon, yes, it's the same story. I don't think there are any real twists, unless you count Genie meeting a girl. But it didn't feel like a shot-for-shot remake either. It the same enough to be the same Aladdin we all love, but different enough to not feel like the filmmakers cheated. (Like with Beauty and the Beast. Didn't like that one so much, though that's partially because I didn't like Emma Watson as Belle.) I felt like it was the same story but different more in the vein of Cinderella, though of course, Aladdin was still a musical, while Cinderella wasn't. And oh my goodness gracious. The scene after "Prince Ali" when Aladdin is presented to Jasmine and the Sultan. Just wow. Like Genie said, 10,000 years, and he's never been more embarrassed. But I loved it so much. Jams. XD


And then there are the songs. I'm so glad they included the songs. I've been listening to the soundtrack so much. It's mostly the same songs from the original, and I love them. Like I said, I was so excited when "Friend Like Me" started. "A Whole New World" makes me so happy too.


via GIPHY

And then there's the new song, "Speechless."


via GIPHY

It seemed to have somewhat of a different feel from the other songs, but I still loved it. It's very Jasmine. All about how her supposed role is just to stand there in the background and let others rule her kingdom. Just be silent. Not say anything in defense of her people. But she won't do that. "Speechless Part 2" in the climax of the movie is her finally breaking free, standing up to Jafar, refusing to stay speechless. Doing what it takes to save Agrabah. And I love it.

So no, Aladdin wasn't a perfect movie. But I love it so much and I can't wait for it to come out on Bluray so I can watch it again and again. Now excuse me while I listen to the soundtrack for the 500th time this week.