Monday, March 30, 2020

Series To Binge

If you're not trying to finish writing your book, like I am, you probably have more time for reading and watching TV right now. So I thought I'd share some book and TV series I like that are available on various digital platforms. Most are subscription based, like Disney+ and Audible, but if you live in GA, you should have access through your library to eRead Kids (I LOVE this resource), and you can always check your library's standard eLibrary collection (most likely Libby/Overdrive or RB Digital). 

Note: I don't actually have Audible or Kindle Unlimited, but they've got a lot of great stuff. Also, Prime Reading no longer limits you to one book a month, but allows you to borrow 10 books at a time, which makes me super excited. Additionally, if I wouldn't recommend a series for children, I'll rate it Teen+.

Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan
Available on eRead Kids and Audible
You knew I was going to say it. This is a fantabulous series that I've raved about enough times you should have read it already. ;)  Will wants to go to battle school, but instead is trained as a Ranger. And lots of awesome adventures ensue.

Ilyon Chronicles by Jaye L. Knight
Available on Kindle Unlimited, Book 1 Available on Audible
Again, you should know I'd recommend these. Non-magical fantasy where people are persecuted for believing in the one true God, gladiators and dragons and awesomeness and Jace and Kyrin. <3

The Blades of Acktar by Tricia Mingerink
Available on Kindle Unlimited, Books 1-3.5 Available on Audible
Leith is a trained assassin for King Respen, and he'd never questioned his loyalty...until he meets Renna and Brandi, whose family he helped destroy. Forbidden faith and questions of loyalty and LOTS of injuries, and Leith is awesome and I can't wait for the next book to come out!

The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins
Available on eRead Kids and Audible
I'm only on book 2, but my sisters really liked the whole series. Gregor and his two-year-old sister Boots fall down a hole in the laundry room and find themselves in the Underland, where there are enormous cockroaches, talking bats, and rats who are at war with the people of Regalia. And a prophecy that might mean Gregor can rescue his missing dad, but also means he could die.

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Available on Kindle Unlimited and Audible
If you don't know what this series is about, you've been living under a rock, but in case you don't, Katniss volunteers in a fight to the death to save her sister, and inadvertently sets off a rebellion against the Capitol. I love this series so much. But then, I am a big fan of evil government stories. But I will never forgive Suzanne Collins for what she did to Peeta.

Firmament Series by J. Grace Pennington
Available on Kindle Unlimited, Book 1 Available on Audible
You've definitely heard me talk about these too. It's Star Trek inspired outer space adventure, and even though I never could get into Star Trek, Firmament is one of my absolute favorite series. Andi's adoptive father starts losing his mind, mutiny breaks out, and secrets from her past come to light, and that's only the beginning!

The Shadow Children by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Available on Audible, Books 1-3 Available on eRead Kids
In a world where families are limited to two children, subsequent children live in hiding, under false identities, and wish for a day when they can legally exist. But what will it take? This series was my first introduction to Margaret Peterson Haddix, and I now consider her one of my favorite authors.

Jedi Quest by Jude Watson
Available on Prime Reading and Kindle Unlimited, 
Books 1-4 Available on Audible, Books 6-7 Available on eRead Kids
I LOVED these as a kid and really enjoyed them when I reread/finished the series a few years ago. They're about Anakin as a Padawan, so they take place between Episodes I and II. Good stories, lots of adventure, plenty of Obi-Wan, and I will never get over what happened to Darra in the last book. Legends is so much better than the new books.

Last of the Jedi by Jude Watson
Available on Prime Reading and Kindle Unlimited
Anakin's former rival Ferus Olin left the Jedi Order at the end of Jedi Quest. Now, after Order 66, Obi-Wan is recruiting him to gather the remaining surviving Jedi. Adventure and secrets and double agents and Ferus wants to know: Who is Darth Vader? And there's death and pain, but anyway...

Rebel Force by Alex Wheeler
Available on Prime Reading and Kindle Unlimited
Books 1, 5, and 6 Available on eRead Kids
It takes place between Episodes IV and V, and builds off of Last of the Jedi. The Empire is determined to find the identity of the pilot who destroyed the Death Star, and they manage to send an undercover assassin into the Rebel Alliance. Luke's life is in danger (as always). As are the lives of his friends.

Time Captives by Morgan Elizabeth Huneke
Available on Kindle Unlimited, Books 1-2 Available on Audible
Yup, I'm going there. Go check out my books. ;)

Merlin (BBC Series)
Available on Prime Video and Netflix
This is my favorite TV show. It's also the only King Arthur thing I've really gotten into. In this version, Merlin is about Arthur's age and works as his manservant, Uther is alive for several seasons, and magic is illegal because of SPOILERS. It's funny and sad and heartwarming and heartbreaking and I just love the brotherly relationship that grows between Arthur and Merlin. Plus Guinevere/Lancelot is handled very well.

Available on Prime Video
It's a jungle out there. Gotta love OCD detective Adrian Monk. Yes, I've seen every single episode. It's a great show. Lots of murders, of course, he's a homicide detective, but he always figures it out. "Here's what happened." I have to say though, I tend to straighten pictures a lot more when I've been watching a lot of Monk. XD

The Flash
Seasons 1-5 Available on Netflix
Literally the only DC thing I like. Barry Allen develops superspeed when he's struck by lightning during the particle accelerator explosion, and everything just gets crazier from there. I love these characters so much. I'd approach the crossover events (especially "Crisis on Earth X") with caution, though.

The Andy Griffith Show
Available on Prime Video and Netflix
This show is my childhood. Sheriff Andy Taylor, Deputy Barney Fife, Opie, Aunt Bee, Helen Crump, Thelma Lou, Otis Campbell, Floyd the barber...they're all old friends. And I've seen most of the episodes multiple times. I especially like the episode where Bill Bixby is a spoiled rich kid.

The Incredible Hulk (1977-1982)
Free with ads on IMDb TV
Dr. David Banner, physician, scientist, searching for a way to tap into the hidden strengths that all humans have. Then an accidental overdose of gamma radiation alters his body's chemistry. Now whenever David Banner grows angry or outraged, a startling metamorphosis occurs. The creature is driven by rage and pursued by an investigative reporter. "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." The creature is wanted for a murder he didn't commit. David Banner is believed to be dead. He must allow the world to think that he is dead until he can find a way to control the raging spirit that dwells within him.

Yup, I did that entirely from memory. And it's been years since I watched an episode. Great show.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Available on Disney+
My sister and I only got about halfway through season 2 before we started over with the rest of the family, but I love this show. The dynamic between Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka is awesome and Anakin and Padmé trying to be subtle about their relationship? Oh, goodness. XD Oh, yeah, and the Clone Wars are going on.

The Mandalorian
Available on Disney+
Everybody's already seen this, right? But just in case you haven't, go watch The Mandalorian. It's a really cool adventure set in the Star Wars universe, has more of an Expanded Universe feel than anything else Disney's put out there, and BABY YODA!!!!!!!!!

Agent Carter
Available on Disney+
We just watched this not too long ago, and I loved it! I love Peggy, and I love this type of sci-fi. Now, I haven't quite figured out how I'm reconciling it with Endgame, because I really do like Daniel Sousa, but I was rooting for Cap to go back in time to be with Peggy since the first time I saw Captain America: The First Avenger. Lots of action and danger and sci-fi weirdness and just awesome.

Now, there are other series I love, but I can't find them all on streaming or other subscription platforms (like Gilligan's Island). But I figured this was probably enough for now. ;)

What are your favorite series?

Monday, March 23, 2020

Quarantine Life

So my library is closed, so I have no work to go to. We're still keeping up with each other and our extra e-services while we're closed, but, well, I'm at home. I'm still teaching, but via FaceTime, which is...interesting. It's been going decently, and I'm super glad we live in a time when that's an option, but I'll be glad to do in-person lessons again. It is a little annoying to stop driving to students when I'm only one disc into Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane. The rats want to kill Boots and I have nowhere to drive so I can listen!

I've been writing, getting several chapters of Acktorek done. I'm now done with 21 out of 37 chapters. Ironically, I'm also done recording 21 chapters of Crannig Castle, though that book only has 30 chapters. I finished binge reading the Jedi Apprentice series, and I'm not actually allowed to return them to the library right now. I...haven't been practicing violin and piano more. I should.

It's gotten warmer and we've had some rain-free evenings, so I've spent some time shooting baskets with my middle sister, and the other night I had a lightsaber duel with my youngest sister. I'm so out of practice at both, but it's been fun.

My sister likes watching dumb movies to laugh at them, so we've been watching the High School Musical movies for the first time. (We didn't have Disney Channel when they were a thing, and I thought they sounded dumb anyway.) It's a funny thing about dumb movies—if you go in expecting them to be bad, they can be quite amusing and rather entertaining. Just don't take it seriously. And honestly, they're better than a lot of Hallmark movies. I've also somehow ended up watching Lava three times in one week. 😳

It'll be nice when life gets back to normal. It'll be nice to get out of the house more than going out to the driveway. It'll be nice to see my students again, not on a tiny phone screen. But right now, social distancing to slow the spread is what we're doing. I feel bad for those who are directly affected by the virus. They need prayer.

Those of us who are well and staying home, well, we can choose how we handle this. We can be angry about staying home, be too stir crazy to actually stay home, and all round have a bad attitude about it. Or we can choose to see this as a gift, a chance to slow down, spend more time with our families, and be grateful we live in a time when we can stay connected via the internet.

I, for one, am glad for more family time. Most of my friends live out of state anyway, so nothing changes there. We should all keep praying that the sick will recover and the well will stay well, but we should also trust God, and make the most of a bad situation by, well, introverting and doing introvert things. 😉 I have lots of books, a book to write, parents and siblings, FaceTime students, friends the same text away as always, and Disney+, so, well, it's like I was made for this.

Now off to read my book...

Monday, March 16, 2020

Trust in the Lord

"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

I know I've blogged about this kind of subject a number of times before, in various ways, including how my plans for my life get derailed. But right now, with all this COVID-19 stuff, I feel like it's super important to remember Who's really in charge here.

See, there's always stuff to be afraid of. Whether it's diseases (from COVID-19 to the flu to Ebola), wars, terrorist attacks, bad drivers that could cause a car accident, the possibility of kids getting into dangerous things like cleaning supplies or boiling water, a potential bad job situation, losing your job, not being able to buy toilet paper, cancer, heart attacks, drowning, failing your loved ones, getting rejected (whether in a personal or job/professional/writing situation), bad book reviews, wasting money on ineffective marketing, house fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, falling off a ladder, getting attacked by a shark when you go to the beach, burglaries, accidentally dropping the baby you're holding, forgetting something crucial...

Honestly, I could probably go on forever brainstorming things to be afraid of. I have a pretty good imagination when it comes to those things. Those things are always going to exist. And when there's some new kind of thing to be afraid of, like there is with COVID-19, people panic.

I'm not saying that this illness—or any of these other things—are not legitimate concerns. We should always use common sense in life. You know, drive defensively and pay attention to the road and the cars around you. Wash your hands and use basic hygiene/standard disinfectants. Don't leave lighters where kids can get ahold of them. Do reasonable research before you spend money to make sure it's not a straight up waste.

But the fact is, the world is scary. Life is scary. We live in a fallen world with legitimate threats of many, many kinds. And there is Someone Who is still in control.

Is everything always going to be great? Not by a long shot. Is God always going to deliver us from everything that might give us pain in this life? Not at all. But does that mean that God isn't there, isn't in control, and that we shouldn't still trust Him? Certainly not.

God is still in control, no matter what way the media is currently telling us the way the world is burning. Do people die of COVID-19? Yes. Do people die of the flu? Yes. Do people die in car accidents? Yes. Do people die in house fires? Yes. Do people die in wars and terrorist attacks? Yes. But people survive these things too, and we can count on the fact that no matter what, God is still there with us in the midst of every tragedy and every normal bad day and every good day too.

If it's time for God to take you home, then it's time and you get to be with Him forever. If your new job is terrible, God will be with you through it, and He's ultimately going to use that situation for good, though you may not see how that is possible. If your house gets broken into, God is still there. If that great opportunity you thought you had last summer turns out to be nothing whatsoever, God has a reason for putting you through it that will ultimately bring Him glory.

Point is, bad things happen. We live in a sinful, fallen world. But God is still sovereign. God is still in control, no matter what.

I know it's hard to trust Him. Believe me, I have a lot of personal experience in this area. I wouldn't have written those previous posts if I'd always found it easy.

But God has commanded us to trust in Him. He's commanded us not to fear. He has told us that things will go according to His will. Most of the time, His will is not ours. But that doesn't make it any less good. That doesn't make Him any less trustworthy. That doesn't give us license to panic.

So whether you're afraid of COVID-19, or getting in a car accident, or a new job, or terrorist attacks, or snakes *shudders*, just remember that God is in control and put your trust in Him.

"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

Monday, March 9, 2020

A Relationship Question

I hope I’m not opening up a major can of worms here, but I want to know: what happened to close, entirely platonic relationships? 

It seems like these days, characters in fiction can’t be close without there being something romantic or sexual about their relationship, and if there isn’t in canon, the fans put it there. 

This is sort of brought on (as in, I started thinking about it again) by a Disney-canon Star Wars book. Basically, there were implications that there was romantic interest between some of PadmĂ©’s handmaidens, and even possibly something between PadmĂ© and SabĂ©, at least on SabĂ©’s side of things. It wasn’t explicit, wasn’t constant, and I liked the political side of the story, so I read the whole thing, but on the whole, it was disappointing, out of character, just wrong, and fuels my determination to stick with Legends. Read my full review here.

But it’s not just that book that sparks these thoughts. There’s also the Reylo kiss in The Rise of Skywalker. Yes, Rey and Ben had a strange kind of deep connection (I was still hoping for them to turn out to be cousins or siblings, but anywho), but there was nothing about it that seemed romantic. And then they had to throw in that kiss at the end, I guess to try to please that faction of fans. But both Pitch Meeting and HISHE made comments about it being out of nowhere, so it’s not just me thinking it felt super forced. (I have other issues with the Reylo ship too, but they aren’t the point of this post.) 

And then there’s Merthur (Merlin/Arthur from BBC Merlin). This is something that bothers me to no end every time I come across it on Pinterest. In the show, I thought it was pretty clear that Arthur and Merlin have a close sibling-like relationship, albeit with Arthur having the authority to order Merlin to clean his room, polish his armor, etc. Yes, the show is absolutely more about the relationship between Arthur and Merlin than it is about the relationship between Arthur and Guinevere. The show is called Merlin, after all, so naturally it’s going to focus on what Merlin himself is actually a part of. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything romantic between them at all. There’s not. 

I know it’s an exaggeration to say that there are never close, non-romantic relationships in fiction anymore, but it just doesn’t seem like it’s prominently featured. And if it is, then it gets the Merthur treatment, even if one member of the duo has a spouse, like Arthur, or John Watson. I just don’t get it. 

Yes, I enjoy a good romantic storyline, but there are so many more ways to love people than romantically. There are parent/child-type relationships, and sibling-like relationships, and cousin-like relationships, and it’s entirely possible to be best friends with someone without being romantically attracted to them. There’s more to life than romance, and those other relationships are super important. I don’t know what I’d do without my mom, and no one gets me like my sisters do (it’s great in games like Catch Phrase). I love my honorary sisters, and I love the time I spend with them (though I don’t see my honorary big sister nearly often enough anymore). I love my students and all the other children I’ve taught and mentored and babysat throughout my life. And none of these relationships are any less valid or less important because they aren’t romantic. 

Something I really loved about early seasons of The Flash was Barry’s relationship with Joe. Joe may not be his biological dad, but he raised him. And while things were rocky at the beginning, before Joe believed Barry about the night his mother died, their relationship grew to be very strong and I loved it. I also loved the relationships between Barry, Caitlin, Cisco, and even Wells. None of them romantic at all, but so good and fulfilling and meaningful. Well, that’s debatable in the case of Harrison Wells. But the longer the show goes on, the less focus we get on those relationships. It’s frustrating. It seems like there’s just too many characters and too many storylines now, and that means we don’t get our core team working together and playing off each other like they used to. And because of that, while I don’t dislike the current season, per se, I don’t like the show as much as I used to. Yes, we still get Barry/Iris, which I love (except that Iris is stuck in a mirror and there’s an evil fake Iris out there fooling Barry!), but the show is missing something it used to have. 

I guess maybe this is why I’ve always liked writing sibling stories. Plus the fact that my MCs are pretty much always kids or teens, and sibling relationships are more important at that age anyway. I don’t dislike romance at all. I just recently gave you a list of romantic pairings I like (and how they almost—or actually do—die). But there are other kinds of love. Every relationship doesn’t have to have a romantic angle. In many cases, that would be creepy and/or gross (though that doesn’t stop some fanfiction writers…thank goodness for warning tags), so please don’t try to make every relationship romantic. And other relationships don’t vanish just because you got into a romantic one. You’ve still got parents and siblings and grandparents and cousins and friends, etc. and they’re still important. 

So let’s have some good representation of non-romantic close relationships, and please, fans, don’t read more into it than is there. Because it’s really okay to be close to someone without a shred of romantic interest between you.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Luke Skywalker and the Power of Love

Random observation while watching Return of the Jedi for the hundred millionth time the other day: Vader doesn’t Force choke anyone in that movie. 

In Episodes IV and V, Vader’s all Force choke first, ask questions never. No mercy. No kindness. No remorse. Devoted to the power of the dark side. But he really isn’t like that in Return of the Jedi

I’d always laughed at Vader’s “The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am” before because Vader forgiving? But he’s actually more sympathetic in this movie than before: he doesn’t seem to have any desire to punish Tiaan Jerjerrod, commander of the second Death Star (I had to use google to find his name—I’m not THAT much of a Star Wars nerd). And when Luke is trying to convince him not to take him to Palpatine, Vader’s attitude is more of a “it’s too late for me, he’s too powerful, I don’t have a choice” than it is an “I love the dark side.” Possibly due to the Jedi teaching that “once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny” perhaps? And obviously he wanted Luke to help him defeat Palpatine. But the way he was speaking to Luke wasn’t at all angry and resentful. It was sad and resigned. And Palpatine was the one primarily attempting to convince Luke to turn; Vader’s few comments were only made in Palpatine’s presence. 

What happened to change Vader like that? He met Luke. Luke, the boy who was convinced there was good in Darth Vader. The man who loved his father despite all the terrible things he had done, and wanted him to be a part of his life. Luke, the one who saved the galaxy with love. Love is a powerful thing. And I love seeing how just a short encounter with Luke started Vader on the path back to the light. I mean, "I'd rather fall into a bottomless pit than join the dark side with you" had to be a major wake up call. But Vader spoke to Luke through the Force, so you know there had to be some kind of connection. And while Luke did ask Yoda to confirm Vader's identity, you know he already knew. And he loved his father, enough to fight for his return to the light. And you know Vader had to feel that. Luke and Padmé were both convinced there was still good in him. And his son's love, and his love for his son brought it out. Because Luke didn't just give up on him. (Though he did kind of freak out about the idea of his sister being turned.) Love is a powerful thing.

So I just want to say, to myself as well as you, never stop fighting for your loved ones who aren’t walking in the ways they should. Yes, Star Wars is just a story and it’s unlikely any of our situations are as dramatic as that (nothing quite matches Skywalker family drama). But we may have unsaved relatives. We may know someone who indulges in destructive behaviors. We may simply know someone who is failing to reach their full God-given potential out of fear or uncertainty or goodness knows what. But we can’t stop fighting for them. Because God didn’t stop fighting for us. 

And what I’d initially intended as a fun Instagram post about Star Wars just got a whole lot deeper and more serious (and too long for Instagram). But it’s really something to think about. Not everyone is going to be saved. Not every Sith will turn back from the dark side. ;) Not everyone is going to be redeemed. But that doesn’t mean we give up. 

There’s a lot of bad stuff in the world due to sin. And sometimes there’s so much it gets overwhelming. But as long as there is love (and I’m not talking about romantic love here, more 1 Cor. 13 kind of love) there is still hope. We can love others. We can reach out to them. We can pray for them, fight for them. Because Christ first loved us and gave Himself to redeem us. 

I’m also reminded of Kyrin Altair. Jace was in a really bad place for, well, the majority of the series, but Kyrin never gave up on him. She kept fighting. And he told her that she’s really good at sharing ElĂŽm’s love. 

I did not expect my brain to go this direction when it occurred to me Vader didn’t Force choke anyone in Return of the Jedi. But I’m glad it did. I needed the reminder to not give up. To be compassionate and kind. To love those who may not be the easiest to love. To extend to others the love my Savior showed me. 

And yes, this is really the track my brain took from that starting point. My brain is a very interesting place to be.

"So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." —1 Cor. 13:13

Monday, February 24, 2020


I think everyone here knows I love music. If you don't, well, I love music, I love playing and teaching piano and violin, I listen to movie soundtracks on a regular basis (listening to Frozen II right now, and I've been working my way through my 17.5 hour Star Wars playlist while writing my book), and yeah, I might be a little obsessive in the music department, but I don't care. Music is awesome. Like the Candlelight Processional at Walt Disney World. Also, one of my favorite things about our new Roku TV is that it has a Spotify app. ends up in my books a lot.

In all but the final draft of Across the Stars, Lu sang "I'd Rather Have Jesus" while in the dungeon. I'm assuming I changed it to a prayer because I wasn't 100% sure it was in the public domain and I'd included the lyrics. I'm pretty sure it's public domain, though.

In The Experiment, guards reported hearing beautiful voices singing songs of praise the night Henry Rubin died. The characters in that book were, I think, too busy running for their lives and getting experimented on in this book for much music.

"Amazing Grace" actually appears twice in Time Captives. First, when Calvin is playing piano with his sister at home, then in The Crossways when Jill sings it just after Adriel commits his life to the Lord. But that's not the only mention of music in Time Captives. After all, Abigail plays the violin and is conscripted as court violinist to replace the previous violinist who was executed for opposing Mudan's treatment of slaves. Most of what Abigail plays is not named, but I did reference a Handel sonata. I didn't name it specifically, not sure why, but in canon, she was playing the piece I was learning at the time of writing: Sonata No. 4 in D major. Also, there's dancing at the end of the series, which obviously means more music. But these are unspecified Calhortan originals.

The upcoming Carrie Mouse and the Piano Lesson is all about music. Carrie loves "Oh Susanna." She's desperate to learn to play it. Also, the method Carrie's teacher uses is loosely based on Edna Mae Burnam's "Step by Step Piano Course," which is my favorite course for beginners.

Acktorek has probably the most music of any of my books to date. Carla is a pianist, and so her first introduction is playing the piano. She plays her own arrangement of "Let It Go," because obviously she has to like Frozen songs. I mean, I did pause in sorting laundry to belt out "Show Yourself" to an empty house. In early drafts, at least, it was mentioned she liked playing "King of Love" by I Am They. I'd recently learned it to play at church when I included the reference. There's also a mention of "Morning Mood" from Peer Gynt by Edvard Grieg. I was surprised, though, when looking it up on YouTube for a listen, to see how few people know what it's called. I mean, I had a classical CD with it since I was a little kid and it's in level one of Bastien's Favorite Classic Melodies, which I teach from all the time. So I've known what it was the entire time I knew what it sounded like, though as a kid I called it "Morning Mountain King" since both it and "In the Hall of the Mountain King" are both from Peer Gynt. But I digress.

The most prominently featured song in Acktorek, however, is "Le Petit Noir" by Claude Debussy, which is another song I learned to play. Carla is learning it for a school talent show. I had a wonderful, terrible idea for a moment in the film score involving this piece, should Acktorek ever be a movie, but I can't say more because it involves major spoilers. I think Michael Giacchino could pull it off, though. I'd definitely want him to compose the score. He's a pretty awesome and versatile composer.

Music is awesome. It's important to me, though, that fiction involving music gets it right. There's nothing worse/more cringe worthy than really bad depictions of music/musicians.

And nothing better than when they actually get it right.

And because I'm me, I'm going to leave you with one of my favorite Piano Guys videos. Because nothing says the musical side of me like Vivaldi+"Let It Go."

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

I'd Like My Romance With a Side of Near-Death, Please

I'm not really a Valentine's Day person. I don't hate it, exactly, I just simply don't care. It's just a day in February that precedes candy sales, which I also don't care that much about unless you're talking M&Ms (particularly peanut butter M&Ms) or Reese's peanut butter cups. But because it was Valentine's Day and romance is a Valentine's thing, I was reflecting on the romances I like. Mostly because I was wondering if you can count Thor as a romcom. I mean, it has romance and it's funny and it was the next movie in our Marvel marathon. And I realized something. My favorite romances come with a healthy dose of near-death.

Yes, if I'm in the mood, I like to watch Jane Austen, but honestly, I have to be in a very particular mood. Given the choice between Pride and Prejudice and Catching Fire, well, nine times out of ten I'm picking Catching Fire without a second thought. So thinking through my favorite stories that involve romance...

The Hunger Games trilogy. Thrown into an arena (twice!) where they're literally supposed to kill each other, as Katniss finally starts getting a little bit of a clue that she actually loves Peeta, he gets taken by the Capitol, hijacked, strangles her nearly to death, and then they go into the Capitol and lose almost every member of their team, including newlywed Finnick. Poor Annie.

Ilyon Chronicles. Where do I even start? Um, gladiator, ryrik attacks, soldier attacks, beaten within an inch of his life, almost executed (both Jace and Kyrin), battles, almost bleeding out, deadly illness, and we've still got one book to go.

Blades of Acktar. Leith really should be dead. Beaten, tortured, assassins, this stuff happening pretty much every day, he really should be dead. And you also had Martyn surviving being burned at the stake.

Ranger's Apprentice. Becoming slaves, multiple battles, poison, dangerous espionage situations, tigers, and then SPOILER Alyss really DOES die in a fire and I will NEVER forgive John Flanagan for that END SPOILER.

Frozen. Hans tries to kill Elsa, he tries to kill Anna, Elsa accidentally almost kills Anna, Anna turns to ice. But it's a Disney movie and she's not a Disney parent, so she's okay.

Tangled. This is the story of how I died. Eugene would have actually died if Rapunzel didn't have magic tears.

Beauty and the Beast. Kill the Beast! Gaston nearly kills the Beast, and he would have died if Belle hadn't broken the curse by admitting her love. Oh, and Belle was nearly killed by wolves too.

No Chance Meeting. Struggles with suicidal thoughts, Riley beaten up really bad.

Fierce Heart. Troll attacks, literal almost death only prevented because of a special magical thing that's probably a bit of a spoiler.

Star Wars. Han and Leia: space battles and torture by Vader and Jabba trying to execute Han and Kylo Ren actually killing Han and SPOILER Leia giving up her life to reach Kylo to turn him back END SPOILER. Anakin and PadmĂ© (Anakin's a super creep in love, but it's still part of the story): space battles and execution attempts and war and Anakin burning in lava and PadmĂ©  actually dying and eventually Anakin actually dying too. Obi-Wan and Siri (Legends): realizing their love in a near death situation as padawans, deciding not to act on it because it's more important to be Jedi, going on lots of dangerous missions together, then she dies in a battle close to the beginning of the Clone Wars and he dies on the Death Star.

The Flash. Um, nearly dying is pretty much an everyday thing for Team Flash. Season 3 revolved around trying to prevent Iris's impending death.

Emily of New Moon. Emily realized Teddy was the only one for her after she saved him from going to his death on the Flavian.

Anne of Green Gables. Anne realized her love for Gilbert when he was dying of an illness.

Percy Jackson. Monsters are always trying to kill them. Like, constantly. And then there's that time Percy and Annabeth had to travel through Tartarus.

Little Dorrit. Arthur Clennam became very ill when he went to debtor's prison and Amy had to nurse him back to health.

A Series of Unfortunate Events. Yes, I ship Violet and Quigley. Count Olaf is always trying to kill Violet. And Quigley vanishes into the Great Unknown.

Blood of Kings. Battles and Achan being stupid and nearly getting killed and Vrell being stupid and nearly getting killed and Vrell being nearly lost to the Veil.

The Princess Bride. Westley was supposedly dead and then he was mostly dead and Buttercup almost killed herself.

And I feel like I could go on forever and ever and ever. So I guess the bottom line is, if you're writing me a romance, add a side of near-death. XD

Monday, February 17, 2020

No Chance Meeting Is Here!

No Chance Meeting is finally here! I beta read this book and I loved it so much! It's a contemporary romance, but not really of the fluffy nothing-really-bad-ever-happens Hallmark variety. No, it deals with suicide, depression, PTSD, and how God is still there through all of it. It's just so good. And yeah, I say that about everything Jaye writes, but that's because it's the truth. Yes, Ilyon is even more special to me (AND I NEED DAICAN'S HEIR), but Alex and Riley have a very special place in my heart as well.

I have a guest post from Jaye below, plus she's got TWO giveaways going, so you won't want to miss that, but first, here's a little bit about the book.

About the Book

Alex Jennings is done with life. After losing her brother in Afghanistan, everything has collapsed around her. Getting laid off from her day job and failing in her art career, she has nowhere left to turn. She once had faith to believe that all things would work together for good, but that faith died with her brother. Now she just wants the pain to end.

Riley Conrad served thirteen years in the military until three bullets sent him home. After a year and a half of physical therapy and scraping together a living, all he wants is to live a simple life and perhaps even open the coffee shop he dreams about. However, the weight of failing his parents’ expectations doesn’t make it easy, and working as a bartender isn’t getting him anywhere fast.

Could a “chance” meeting between Alex and Riley set them both on the path God always intended?

Available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and more!
20% of all February sales will go to the Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs.

Top 5 Favorite Writing Books

For this guest post I wanted to offer something for fellow writers, so I decided to list my top five favorite writing books. Each one of these has had a positive impact on my writing, and I highly recommend them.

1.      The Emotion Thesaurus – I love this book so much. All of the books in the series, actually. They are SO helpful for crafting believable emotions and developing characters.
2.      Rivet Your Readers With Deep Point of View – This little booklet really transformed my writing. Deep POV is something I’m very passionate about and put a lot of effort into when I’m editing. This is the book that first showed me how lacking my writing was at the time and helped me start writing much better fiction.
3.      Deep Point of View (A Busy Writer’s Guide #9) – Another really great book on writing deep POV. It’s longer than the Rivet Your Readers booklet, so it goes more in depth. I have over 150 highlights in this book on my Kindle.
4.      Showing and Telling in Fiction (A Busy Writer’s Guide #4) – Show, don’t tell is something you see constantly when it comes to writing. Sometimes that’s easy, other times, not so much. This book is great at explaining and giving examples to help grasp the concept. I highly recommend all the A Busy Writer’s Guide books, but the two mentioned are my favorites and the ones that have helped me the most.
5.      Write Up a Storm with the Polk Street School – I had to include this one because it was the very first writing book I ever read. I was probably 9 or 10 at the time. I loved it so much, and it really had an impact on me as a budding writer. I gifted this book to my young cousin a few years back, and if my niece or any of my nephews shows interest in writing as they get older, I will certainly gift it to them too.

 About the Author

Jaye Elliot is an award-winning author, country girl, and hopeless romantic at heart. She loves a good hero and will always sigh happily during the lights scene in Tangled. She writes from her home in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, which she shares with three cats she considers her kids. When not writing romance novels, she pens fantasy and adventure stories as Jaye L. Knight.

Giveaway #1

To celebrate the release of No Chance Meeting, Jaye is giving away a reader bundle that includes a signed copy of NCM, a hand-painted watercolor bookmark, a coffee mug, and a bag of Dove chocolates! Enter using the form below. U.S. entries only. Not open internationally.

Giveaway #2

For her second giveaway, Jaye is offering 3 ebook copies of No Chance Meeting. Open internationally!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Stops

Friday, February 14
·         Tour Intro at Jaye Elliot
·         Spotlight at Writings, Ramblings, and Reflections
·         Review & Author Post at Reading Anyone
·         Review at Losing the Busyness

Saturday, February 15
·         Author Interview at Angela R. Watts
·         Review & Author Interview at Resting Life
·         Author Post & Excerpt at Lady Grace: A Quiet and Gentle Spirit

Sunday, February 16
·         Review at Perfectly Quirky in Every Way
·         Spotlight at The Music of a Story

Monday, February 17
·         Author Post at Morgan Elizabeth Huneke
·         Review at Write Hard and Pray Harder
·         Author Post & Excerpt at A Day In The Life

Tuesday, February 18
·         Review at Tricia Mingerink
·         Excerpt at Waggin' Tales Inspirational Pet Stories
·         Review and Excerpt at Read Review Rejoice

Wednesday, February 19
·         Review at Green Tea With Books
·         Review & Author Post at Leah's Bookshelf
·         Book Spotlight at The Page Dreamer

Thursday, February 20
·         Review at Stories by Firefly
·         Review & Author Post at God's Peculiar Treasure Rae
·         Author Interview & Post at Read Review Rejoice

Friday, February 21
·         Review at Books, Life, and Christ
·         Author Post at Backing Books
·         Review at Poetree

Saturday, February 22
·         Tour Wrap Up at Jaye Elliot

Monday, February 10, 2020

IllumiNations: Reflections of [Calhortea]

Yeah, I just felt like titling this post after my sister's favorite Disney World night show that no longer exists. Just because. I guess because the song's playing in my head because it's her text tone on my mom's phone. Anywho.

I was thinking some about worldbuilding, how it can be fun and overwhelming and when you're making another world you can literally throw it whatever you want as long as you can make it make sense (and obviously isn't unbiblical or anything like that). And honestly, that's what I did regarding Calhortea.

I've been working on recording Crannig Castle, so I've been spending time with my old characters in my old world and it's interesting to revisit. And think back on how much things changed from my initial concepts of the world.

Initially, it was very definitely a flat world surrounded by "the Cliffs of the End" which were ten giants high. And yes, there were giants who lived in "Ringlet Valley" at the foot of "the Cliffs of the End." As it developed, the giants, "Ringlet Valley," and "the Cliffs of the End" all vanished. I assume it's still a flat world, but I haven't explored beyond the official map published in the book. It could be round like a ball, I guess. I don't actually know.

Calhortz, Briznom, Chalton, and the River Everlong have been there since the earliest version. But...they moved. Chalton moved north (map 1 rotated clockwise) and has stayed there ever since. But Briznom was to the west and Calhortz to the east. Kalica appeared in map #2 at the foot of the Headstone Mountains, but it and Lake Oreb were on the wrong side of the Everlong. And the country of Lupesplee and the Stallion Mountains existed. Lupesplee we created with our more-like-a-cousin aunt and it was the home of Talking Beasts. The Stallion Mountains were based on what we used to play in the sandbox with plastic horses. It was the home of talking horses. I'm assuming they vanished after I tried to make the rabbit in Across the Stars talk and realized I lack the skill to write talking animals that aren't cheesy. C.S. Lewis has my undying respect for making talking animals work.

Somehow, Briznom and Calhortz switched sides of the Everlong, and instead of ocean to the north and east, it grew into a desert. My sister added the Yatachee Islands to the southwest, and there they have remained, going from a random insertion on the map to something integral to the story of Time Captives. And apparently Crannig Castle used to be called Kefinaught??? I didn't even realize it had a previous name until I pulled out the map to do this post. Olithea showed up north of Calhortz at this point, but I don't think it was peopled by elves. That came later.

Even the existing countries changed. Briznom started as a play I was trying to write with our childhood next-door neighbor called "The Kings of Briznom." The younger brother was going to usurp the throne with promises of lower taxes, etc. then break those promises and the people would want the other king back (he wasn't going to die). The good king was King James. Briznom's government has changed immensely since that standard monarchy, but the king is and will always be James.

Calhortz came from a dream. I was in an underground place with my brother (never mind I don't actually have a brother), and he battled a snake. And I was going to write a story based on that dream and it was going to be in Calhortz.

And then I had the idea for Creighton Hill (don't know where it came from), and set it in Calhortz. And threw in plantations and strytes and gladiators and dragons. I dreamed up Espionage and set it in Briznom, totally revamping the government and inventing traditions to make Vannie's life miserable, though still retaining somewhat of a more medievalish feel than what I gave Calhortz. I invented the kalicans and the strytes. I invented otages and crefi, intending them to have a bigger role, but when I changed Toarna from a White Witch-esque witch into a stryte, I dropped their role. (There were also originally going to be fairies. That didn't last.) I added pirates and explored the Yatachee Islands. I added merfolk and transformed The Crossways from a random thing my sisters came up with into something workable for the story.

Calhortea is always changing, expanding. I'm always finding new stories and characters. It's really the first world I ever created, for awhile the only one I was ever going to create, and it's dear to me. And so are its inhabitants, Adriel and Vannie especially.

You can really do whatever you want when you worldbuild. It can be fun. It may change significantly over the course of time, but it's fun to look back. And now I just really want to write the Espionage sequel and the Edmund Herb/Anthea Germainia story (which now has an ending that I wrote on the way back from Disney because Pirates of the Caribbean is an inspirational ride...the story just doesn't have a proper beginning or middle).

Happy worldbuilding!

Map #1

Map #2

Map #Official