Monday, October 26, 2020

Acktorek: The Void Is Here!

Today's the day! The sun is shining! The tank is clean! And we are getting out— The tank is clean!

It's my thing. Deal with it. πŸ˜‰

Acktorek: The Void is HEEEEERE!!!!!!!!! I'm so excited to finally introduce this book to the world. These characters are my babies and I put them through so much and it's been a long, hard journey to get to know Emma (and get her to not hate me), and now you can meet them properly!

I've got a small blog tour going on with reviews and author interviews and character interviews and a giveaway, so check it out!

Tour Schedule

Monday, October 26
· Tour Announcement at Morgan Elizabeth Huneke
· Book Review at Living Outside the Lines
· Author Interview at Isamonkey Reviews

Tuesday, October 27
· Book Spotlight at Jaye L. Knight
· Author Interview at Living Outside the Lines
· Interview with Emma at Morgan Elizabeth Huneke

Wednesday, October 28
· Book Spotlight at The Music of a Story
· Interview with Mitchell at Living Outside the Lines

Thursday, October 29
· Book Review at Tricia Mingerink
· Interview with Carla at Morgan Elizabeth Huneke

Friday, October 30
· Tour Wrap-Up at Morgan Elizabeth Huneke


Enter to win a signed copy of Acktorek: The Void! Giveaway open to U.S. residents only.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Introducing Carla Edsel

Carla's my baby. I want to give her all the hugs. She's a brave and selfless girl, and at almost-thirteen, she's the youngest of the three point of view characters.

She's never known a time when her mom wasn't mental and her dad wasn't emotionally distant. She wouldn't know there ever was a time when things were different if Emma hadn't told her. And Emma herself barely remembers. Emma practically raised Carla, and Carla very much looks up to her older sister. They are quite different when it really comes down to it, but they're very close even so. Emma would do anything for Carla, so even though Emma isn't much into fiction, and especially isn't into speculative fiction, Emma has read Carla numerous L'Engle and Haddix books, in addition to fairy tales when Carla was really little. Those are precious memories to Carla.

Carla loves music. Even though Emma doesn't much care for music herself, she's actually responsible for Carla's love of music. Emma was trying and failing to explain the sunrise to Carla, and remembered she'd just had Grieg's "Morning Mood" in music appreciation at school. She played the song for Carla and that was the moment Carla fell in love with music. She loves playing piano, both Baroque/Classical/Romantic music, and modern songs such as "Let It Go." She is currently learning "Le Petit Noir" by Claude Debussy for a school talent show. But she will always have a soft spot for Grieg.

Carla can be kind of a mess. While Emma's room is sparse and neat, Carla's room is full of stuffed animals and audiobooks and clothes often end up on the floor. She also has a habit of twirling her fingers in her hair if she's concentrating or nervous or just trying to think, which often knots it up.

Carla has been blind since birth. It doesn't really bother her or hold her back—it's just a fact of life. The only thing is, she does feel like it makes Emma worry about her more, and makes things harder for her. Not that Emma wouldn't worry about her if she was sighted. She would. Emma's always done so much for Carla. Carla just wishes she could do more for Emma.

Carla's relationship with Emma is extremely important to her life, but her relationship with God is first. She has a strong, unwavering faith that inspires me. She's so young, but she's selfless and wants to do what's right no matter what the personal consequences are. I want to be like Carla when I grow up.

I love Carla so much and I can't wait for you to meet her properly next week!

Monday, October 12, 2020

Introducing Mitchell Banks

Mitchell Banks is the main guy in Acktorek: The Void, and he is not from our world. (Like my post about Acktorek itself, some of this isn't actually in the book, but just a part of my development of Mitchell's character/backstory.)

He comes originally from a world called Aglion, but he currently resides in the city world of Ebraria, from which the company Acktorek operates.

Mitchell grew up in Aglion with his family: his parents and his older sister Lara who married a teacher named Tucker and had two children, Anise and Jason. Mitchell was very close to his family, and Anise especially is a huge influence in his life. Aglion puts a huge emphasis on academics, and, as they supply Acktorek with some of its greatest scientists, it's a big deal to pass the Acktorek Preparatory Program, as Mitchell did.

At fourteen, Mitchell moved to Ebraria to attend Acktorek Academy, a four-year program that trains future Acktorek agents. Like I said before, it is their main program, but they do have other training programs as well. Mitchell's preference would have been special ops (basically investigating and taking care of weird sciencey things that happen, and all in all being Force-less, lightsaber-less Jedi/Team Flash/The Doctor people, and special ops is the best name I could come up with—though I could have gone with "Daddy" as a kid my sister babysits suggested), but he ended up in breach control. Which is typically a boring go-to-this-world-and-throw-a-neutralizer-into-this-breach-before-it-gets-toxic-or-otherwise-dangerous job. Only that's not how it's turning out.

Mitchell is a kind, compassionate person, who wants to help others. He experiences doubts about his abilities and adequacy. He's very dutiful, but also determined to do what's right, even if it means disobeying a direct order. He's stubborn and determined, but also knows when to back off. He has a soft spot for little girls because they remind him of his niece, Anise. He misses his family like crazy and will never get used to living away from them in a city instead of near them in the countryside. He likes to cook, he doesn't especially like shoes (though that never comes up in the first book), and he often runs his hand through his blond hair making it stick up (it's a similar cut to BBC Arthur and Luke Skywalker). He also speaks several languages and much prefers physics to biology. He's eager to please, but he'd much rather please his Heavenly Father than his superiors at Acktorek. And he has a tendency to get injured and not bother treating the wound until someone makes him. But he will 100% make sure you don't skip any meals.

All in all, he's a great guy who was a LOT easier to develop than Emma, and I hope you like him as much as I do. And I can't wait to write more stories about him. 😊

Monday, October 5, 2020

Introducing Emma Edsel

Technically I did a post about Emma a little over two years ago, but that was before I really got inside her head, so while that post is still mostly accurate, it's rather incomplete. Now to introduce her without giving major spoilers...

Emma is a high school senior with very little personal ambition. She has an interest in science, particularly biochemistry and molecular biology, but she doesn't feel free to pursue her own interests. She never has.

Until Emma was about four, her life was fairly normal. When her mother was pregnant with her younger sister Carla, however, everything changed. Mom went crazy, Dad became distant, and little Emma became largely responsible for bringing up her blind little sister.

Everything about Emma's life revolves around Carla. Emma's goal is to become financially independent as soon as possible so she and Carla can move out of the toxic environment that is their dysfunctional family. She wants to give Carla a stable life. And she doesn't feel that she can do that with Mom talking to people who aren't there and freaking out about nonexistent dangers, and Dad always being checked out emotionally. Carla deserves better than that.

Emma's a loner...with a best friend she can't get rid of. Grace Holland has considered herself to be Emma's best friend since they were four years old, ever since Emma spent lots of time at her house during her mom's pregnancy with Carla. The two girls are vastly different—Grace is happy, bubbly, and loves her fandoms, and Emma is angry, closed off, and thinks most fiction, especially spec fic, is stupid—but for all their differences and for all Grace never ceases to get on Emma's nerves, they still talk to each other every day and always sit together at lunch. Not that Emma has much of a choice in the matter.

Emma has no interest in boys or relationships. She's seen her parents. Sure, they love each other, but their life isn't exactly sunshine and lollipops. She doesn't want to deal with that. Nor does she have the time for a boyfriend. She has to focus on preparing to be on her own and supporting her sister. So does Grace have to keep pushing her to date? And pushing the new boy, Mitchell, on her?

Emma likes for things to make sense. To be under her control. She has a hard time accepting anything that's outside of her carefully constructed idea of how the world works. She's had so little control over the chaos that comes with her life. She has to hold onto what little control she has.

But that may not be possible.

Read an early copy of the book and help spread the word about the upcoming release!

Monday, September 28, 2020

Acktorek Blog Tour and ARC Sign-Up!

Calling all bloggers and reviewers and social media people! I'm putting together a blog tour for Acktorek: The Void and I need volunteers. I've got several different options requiring varying degrees of effort, the easiest being copying and pasting the book spotlight info I'll send. πŸ˜‰ And the most fun being interviewing one of the POV characters. 😊

I'm also giving away eARCs! You can do a review as part of the blog tour, or even just post about the book on your favorite social media.

Just fill out the forms below!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

What is Acktorek?

In short, it's a word I made up off the top of my head that has no etymology whatsoever. πŸ˜‰

In all seriousness, though, it is (obviously) something very important to the Acktorek series.

Initially, it was a species, but then I decided to call the species Zambina (another word I'm not sure where it came from, except for maybe an subconscious twisting of Zamboni) and Acktorek instead became a company.

What kind of company? Well, to get to that, let's have a (made up) history lesson.

Note: Most of this isn't actually in the book, just in my worldbuilding notes, so it's bonus info. 😊

Caelan Macaulay, a scientist from the world of Ebraria, invented world traveling devices. Through these devices, he gained contact with scientists from Aglion (the homeworld of Acktorek main guy Mitchell Banks), and the technology made huge leaps. Within about 16 years, the devices became available to those who could afford it, which quickly caused immigration issues, along with space/time continuum issues. The Ebrarian government placed restrictions on world travel, but damage had already been done.

Affected worlds got together and formed the Council of Worlds to determine how to handle this growing problem. It resulted in the foundation of Acktorek, and the permanence of the Council of Worlds. Both institutions are somewhat independent of each other, but yet work closely together. A little more on that when I get to how I actually came up with Acktorek.

Initially, Acktorek focused on repairing damage directly caused by world travel. Within a few decades, they began getting requests for assistance on issues not directly related to world travel, which prompted a major expansion of Acktorek's services. This expansion caused a huge influx of immigrants into Ebraria turning it into a city world that's a melting pot of species and cultures.

Acktorek has a four-year training program (which is their primary program) that typically takes students of high school age. They also have an accelerated program that takes only one year but is harder to get into. Also, they have more specialized training, and everyone is required to do some form of continuing education.

Okay, history lesson over.

So what does Acktorek do? Well, think of it this way: put the Jedi Order and Team Flash into a blender with a heaping spoonful of Doctor Who and a dash of the Wood Between the Worlds, mix it up really well, and you've got Acktorek.

First off, this isn't a parallel world story. TBH, parallel worlds only make sense if you don't think about it too hard. Like, usually so many things are so different, yet the same people got married at the same times and had babies at the same time for enough generations for you to have a doppelgΓ€nger? So while I do enjoy stories with alternate realities/parallel universes, I prefer the more traditional fantasy concept of other worlds...even when said worlds have technological advancements and world travel is done by technology rather than by magic.

The portal technology is somewhat similar to the technology Team Flash uses to go to parallel universes, etc. though I actually came up with mine before I started watching The Flash. And as for the sorts of situations they help with, it's also similar both to the sorts of situations dealt with on The Flash and on Doctor Who. Weird science incidents, invasions of alien-like creatures, supervillains, honestly, the imagination's the limit.

But the primary inspiration for Acktorek actually comes from the Jedi Order. I'm most familiar with the workings of the Order from Jude Watson's books, and I started there and discarded the things I didn't want (like the no attachments rule, and taking small children to train). There's also nothing like the Force, but there are species with abilities such as telekinesis and telepathy, as well as there being empaths, though I don't delve deeply into all of that in book one. (Yeah, I know it's minus so many iconic things about the Jedi, but it was still my jumping-off point, and it's not like I could copy it.) But the main way that they're like the Jedi is that their whole purpose is to serve and help others. People ask for their help, and they send agents out to do it.

How do they work with the Council of Worlds? Well, I haven't gotten too deep into it, but it's similar to the Order. Actually, it's somewhere in between the old Jedi Order and Luke's Jedi Order (Legends). Basically, not as much a slave to the government as the old Order, but not quite as independent as Luke's Order. (Though he did move them off of Coruscant because the GA oversight was getting overbearing, assigning them government observers and keeping them from helping where people really needed help. But I digress.) Acktorek does have to keep accountable to the Council of Worlds, but they don't have to run operations through them. (That would get ridiculous really fast. But I haven't exactly worked out how they get their funding either.) 

When it comes down to it, I think of Acktorek agents as something like Jedi without the Force (and unfortunately without lightsabers) who travel to other worlds to help instead of to other planets. And with more specialized divisions. (Not that there aren't any divisions within the Jedi Order, but they're not emphasized much in the media I've seen.)

So that's a snapshot of Acktorek, and a (probably very vague) idea of what you can expect from the series. But hey, go ahead and check out these worldbuilding boards. 😊

Monday, September 14, 2020

Acktorek Cover Reveal!

The cover is finally here!!!

This is my favorite of all the covers I've made so far, and I'm super excited about it. I can't wait to be able to hold the book in my hands. 😊

But before I give you the cover, here's the book description:

Which would you choose—save your sister or save the world? 

Emma Edsel’s first priority has always been protecting her blind sister Carla. So when Carla begins to develop science-defying abilities that threaten her life, Emma will stop at nothing to save her. With nowhere else to turn, she seeks help from Mitchell, the new boy at school who seems to know much more about it than he will admit. 

After his last mission went horribly awry, Mitchell Banks is relieved to have a simple task: seal a small, accidental portal between Earth and other worlds in the multiverse. He didn’t count on his growing feelings for Emma—and the dangerous levels of dimension energy contaminating Carla. 

Carla knows the voice in her head is evil. Manipulative. Feeding her with a strange energy she can control. She doesn’t know that she is the key to a coming global catastrophe and Mitchell’s boss will use any means possible to prevent it…including blackmailing him into murdering her.

Coming October 26!

And now...


What do you think? I really can't wait to share the book itself with you. It's definitely the one that's gotten me the closest to crying while writing, and these characters are very dear to my heart.

October 26 will be here before we know it! (And I just realized that it's the same week that season 2 of The Mandalorian premieres, so two things to be excited about!)

Check out these other reveal posts, some including interviews:

And by the way, this is my 500th blog post and the cover reveal for my 10th book, so I've got nice round numbers and two milestones. I feel like Monk would be proud. 😊

Monday, September 7, 2020

Backstory Affects Character

Another Star Wars oriented writing post this week. 😊

I've been watching Rebels with my family here lately, and before I get into the main point of the post, I just want to say how much I love this show. I mostly wanted to watch it because Ahsoka is in it, and so are Rex and Thrawn, but I didn't expect to love my space family so much. Seriously. I love all the Spectres 1-6 (haven't met Spectre-7 yet) so much...well, except maybe Spectre-3, AKA Chopper. Okay, I like Chopper in his own way, but he's certainly no Artoo. πŸ˜† It's just a really great show with great characters, and Ezra sassing Darth Vader is just about the best thing ever.

Today I want to talk about one particular member of the Ghost crew: Kanan Jarrus. More specifically, I want to contrast him with Rey and talk about how backstory does (or doesn't) affect character. (Kanan is awesome and he and Hera are so cute together, and I really need to get to the point of this post because I feel like I'm starting to go full on fangirl.)

Kanan is a Jedi who survived Order 66. He was raised and trained at the Jedi Temple, taken as a padawan by Depa Billaba after the Temple bombing, and escaped death in Order 66 on Kaller thanks to Master Billaba's sacrifice. He then had to learn to survive on his own as a young teenager in a new Empire where literally everyone and everything he's ever known is gone. He apparently (I'm getting this bit from Wookieepedia because literally the only comic I've ever read is "Union" [Luke and Mara's wedding, duh, of course I dug up that one] and I haven't read A New Dawn either) teamed up with a smuggler for awhile until he met Hera on Gorse and joined her on the Ghost, fighting against the Empire.

There have been multiple times throughout Rebels where I'm like "You can tell Kanan didn't finish his training." And just so many little things that show how his backstory has an effect on who he is as a character. I'm going to go through a couple things about Kanan that show that his backstory really had an effect on the way they wrote his character and the things he does throughout the series. (Well, part of the series. I'm only in season 3.)

Lightsaber skills. Kanan knows how to handle a lightsaber. But...he's certainly no Master Yoda. In fact, he's no Ahsoka, even. Ahsoka held up against an Inquisitor much better than Kanan did. Because Ahsoka had spent several years as a padawan, at the "Skywalker Academy" πŸ˜‰ and actually had quite a bit of combat experience. Kanan was only a padawan for a few months, and so had much less training and much less experience.

Early on, Kanan experiences much self-doubt in regards to teaching Ezra and tries to find another teacher for him. He never completed his training, and so he feels inadequate. But in the words of Ezra, "I don't want the best teacher. I want you."

Kanan's Force skills sometimes—to me, anyway—feel less refined than what we see out of the Knights and Masters. Like when he and Ezra overshot and threw Sabine over the edge of a cliff. Oops. Kanan's powerful, and he clearly has been trained, but it's not the same as a full-fledged Jedi Knight.

One of the things that stuck out the most to me about Kanan and his backstory is meeting Rex. Kanan has PTSD from Order 66. And Ahsoka knows it. I mean, duh. How could he not? But she's very adamant that Kanan trust her friend, and when Kanan meets Rex, he finds out why. Kanan has trouble interacting with and accepting clones after what he went through. He and Rex have a rather testy relationship for quite a few episodes. (I loved how Kanan called Hera to talk about how hard it was being around Rex.) And while I wanted Kanan and Rex to get along, I really appreciated the way it was handled. With Kanan's past, it shouldn't be easy for him to get used to being around a clone, and it's not.

This is still a season away for me.
I don't care. I'm putting it in anyway.

Finally, there are many little things about his personality and beliefs and the way he handles things that show how he was raised with Jedi ideals and he still believes in them, but he's been away from the Jedi, out in the world for a long time. Again, lacking the refinement you see in a Jedi Master like Obi-Wan or Yoda, but the core is still there. He knows the teachings, and he's got that selfless nature, but he's not as anti-attachment as the Jedi are supposed to be, and while he's not a volatile character by any means, he isn't as generally calm and composed as the aforesaid Jedi Masters. It's a lot of things in the nuances of his personality. And I really love how you can tell watching him that he was raised as a Jedi and is no longer a part of the Order.

"Do or do not, there is no try."
"What does that even mean? How can I do something if I don't try to do it?"
"Well, see...actually, that one always confused me too, but Master Yoda sure used to say it a lot."

Now to talk about Rey.

Rey actually has a really good characteristic moment/introduction. Scavenging the old star destroyer, going to Unkar Plutt for her portions, going back to her home in the old AT-AT, scratching another mark into the wall. It shows how alone she is, how she has no one, no friends, she's been abandoned, but she's counting the days expecting her parents to return. It sets her up as a loner who trusts no one and has no friends, who relies on herself to survive. It sets her up to be an interesting, complex character.

The problem with Rey is follow through. The only real follow through we get on this impression we get from her introduction is her desire to go back to Jakku...until Maz tells her "they're not coming back." This loner whose sum purpose in life is to survive on Jakku until her parents come back for her befriends multiple people, joins the Resistance, develops Jedi skills, and devotes herself to the selfless cause of saving the galaxy from Snoke/Kylo Ren/Palpatine with little apparent motivation.

Let's look at some of the particulars. Rey's been alone on Jakku since she was a little girl. She's not unaware of the other beings around her, but she has no relationships with any of them. But then it takes very little convincing for her to take in BB-8. Sure, she and Finn escape the stormtroopers together, but there's not really any reason for them to become attached to each other the way they do so quickly. And this is coming from a Finn/Rey shipper. She just met this guy. It doesn't take much for her to start seeing Han as a father figure, and because why? In-universe all I can come up with is that she admires his smuggling exploits. But I highly suspect it's simply because he's the main one of the Big Three in TFA and she's the protagonist. She appears to fairly quickly develop a connection with Leia and Chewie, some sort of strange connection with Kylo Ren where she's determined to bring him back to the light, she stubbornly refuses to give up on Luke, she's friends with Poe...and we're supposed to think she's always been a loner? If she struggled to accept being a part of this Resistance family, it would make sense with her backstory and be more earned. Or if we saw that she was the kind of person who befriended people/helped people regularly. Or if she was Luke or Leia's kid. But it doesn't match up.

Then there's her powers and abilities. Literally every other Force user we've ever seen in Star Wars had to be trained. Light side and dark side, Jedi, Sith, Sith Assassin, you name it. They trained. Rey doesn't get any training until Leia trains her at the beginning of The Rise of Skywalker. (Luke's "three lessons" aren't real Jedi training.) Yet Rey is able to figure out how to do a Jedi mind trick without ever even having the skill modeled for her. How does she know what that is? How does she know how to levitate rocks, something Luke struggled to do with training? The most Ezra did without training was a reflexive Force push in a moment of strong emotion. And honestly, Rey can do whatever Force power the plot requires. With no training. It could have been explained if we found out she'd trained at Luke's Jedi academy before she was taken to Jakku or something like that. But instead she has magical powers that come out of nowhere.

When I'm working with a kid I'm tutoring in creative writing, the question I ask her most about her story is "why?" Why did this plot element happen? Why did this character do this thing? Why is the character invested in the story? The characters have to have motivation for the things they do, and said actions should be integral to the plot. Character arc and plot should be so closely interwoven that you can't determine which is influencing which. Rey (and nearly all the characters in the Sequel Trilogy, TBH) just feel like chess pieces being moved through a predetermined plot. Especially in TROS.

Why does Rey join the Resistance? I guess she has nothing better to do now that she's accepted her parents aren't coming back? And she's the protagonist, so she has to, I guess. Why does Rey want to become a Jedi? Because she's the protagonist and she's Force sensitive? Why does she want to bring Kylo Ren back to the light? Because they're trying to mirror the Original Trilogy? Why is she putting her life on the line constantly to save the galaxy when all she ever wanted was to survive on her own until her parents come back? We're not even given a "because I'm one of the idiots who lives in it" answer, which is, btw, my favorite answer to that type of question. πŸ˜† She doesn't grow from being someone who only looks out for herself into someone self-sacrificing. She just suddenly changes once she discovers she has information the Resistance needs.

Why did Luke want to be a Jedi? Because he wanted to be like his father. (Not his fault he didn't know his dad was actually sad murder dad Darth Vader.) Why does Kanan want to fight the Empire? They destroyed everything about his life. And actually, he doesn't want to be a part of a real war because he did that as a kid in the Clone Wars, and it was traumatizing. He agrees to join the Rebellion rather than just independently being a troublemaker because it's what Hera wants and they're "very close friends." Hera wants to fight the Empire because of what they did to her homeworld of Ryloth, and it's not enough for her to just gain freedom for Ryloth. Why did Anakin turn to the dark side? Because he kept having visions of PadmΓ© dying and his trusted mentor Palpatine convinced him that turning to the dark side was the only way he could become powerful enough to save her. Though we all know how that turned out. Why did Ahsoka help out Trace and Rafa? Because as a Jedi she was raised to be compassionate and selfless and to give aid to all who needed it. It was trained into her since she was three years old.

I really could keep on going, and maybe at some point I will write a post on how character and plot work hand in hand, but I think I'll stop now.

Let's leave it at this: Backstory should always affect character. And in plot, character, motivation, etc. you must always ask why.

Have another Kanera gif. 😍

Monday, August 31, 2020

Every Character Counts (+ Acktorek Cover Reveal Sign-Up)

The cover reveal for Acktorek Book 1: The Void will be in 2 weeks! Mark your calendar for September 14! If you want to help share the cover on your blog and/or social media, fill out this form:

Now, onto the main post. I saw this on Pinterest a couple weeks ago and it struck me as interesting.
Dexter Jettster was the person who identified the toxic dart for Obi-Wan after he ran into a dead end with the Temple droids. This set off a chain reaction that sent Obi-Wan to Kamino where he discovered the clone army, met Jango, followed him to Geonosis, discovered the beginnings of the Separatist plot, sent a message to Anakin, got captured, and then Anakin, PadmΓ©, and a bit later, the Jedi and the clones showed up and the first battle of the Clone Wars happened. Dex is an important link in the chain of events that led to the Clone Wars. Without him, the clone army wouldn't even have been discovered, and then who knows what would have happened.

Phasma, on the other hand...well, she taunts Finn a couple times, and deactivates the shields on Starkiller Base at blasterpoint. Take out Phasma, and not much really changes, except we lose the trash compactor joke and Han and Finn have to take down the shields the old fashioned way with an astromech or some detonators.

Contrasting the two characters and their effect on the plot was interesting to me, especially given that in one scene, Dex had a much larger effect on the plot than Phasma did throughout several scenes. And it made me think: every character should be there for a reason.

Quick side problem with Phasma is more with the marketing than with the character itself. The marketing made her seem like she was going to be a big deal character with an important role, and she turned out to be a minor character whose role was essentially to be Finn's superior when he was a stormtrooper. It is a role with a purpose, but it's not a role the marketing, and the fact that she was constantly at cast interviews, made me expect.

Every character should have an important role to play in the plot. They should have an actual reason to be there. Otherwise, they're just clutter.

Don't add characters just because they're cool, or because you "need" more female characters (or to fulfill any other PC "requirement"), or because you just want your character to have a big family (this one is a weakness of mine). Readers and viewers don't need a huge cast of characters that don't actually need to be there to keep track of.

For instance, in my original concept of Creighton Hill, the Hubbards had twelve kids and Joey was the only boy (Allan didn't exist at the time). But that was just too much. And all those extra older sisters had no effect on anything. So they vanished. Not saying all the Time Captives themselves had an important role...I tried, but there are a couple who are mostly just there to fulfill the pattern, which is not a good reason to add a character.

Say what you want about Jar Jar Binks, but if you think about it, he actually does have an important role to play in The Phantom Menace. Without Jar Jar, there's no alliance with the Gungans, and no army to keep the droids occupied long enough for the Naboo to retake Theed Palace and for Anakin to destroy the droid control ship. (And there's also no character gullible enough to give Palpatine emergency powers whose also in that circle, but anywho...) Jar Jar wasn't just randomly thrown in there. He was there for a reason. Not his fault the majority of people think he's annoying. (I personally like Jar Jar, though I'm not sure I needed to know that he had a girlfriend. Not as bad as Sy Snootles and Zirro the Hutt, though. πŸ˜›)

Sometimes a character's role is important because they are impacting the main character. Whether that's influencing them to be a kinder, more considerate person (Mater and Lightning McQueen), or planting seeds of the dark side (Palpatine and Anakin), they're playing an important role in the main character's journey. And sometimes they're actually the one orchestrating the plot of the entire saga behind the scenes. Literally the "grand plan" as it was called in Darth Plagueis by James Luceno.

Also, when you need a role fulfilled, before you create a brand new character, you should consider whether you have a character already who can fill that role. Like in Time Captives when I realized Anna was making things, well, not very interesting, I swapped her out on the adventure with the already existing Emily. I didn't create Emily to add conflict on the journey. In fact, the concept of an annoying fourteen-year-old sister is one of the few things that has been there since the beginning. I had a role I needed filled, and I had a character ready made. I just had to plug her in. (Now, I probably could have cut Anna altogether without losing anything other than the ice cream joke, but I didn't, so oh well.)

Now about minor characters and extras. Minor characters are going to be your tiny role characters that pop in to do a little thing for our main cast and then pop back out. But it's a role that someone has to do. Like Ric OliΓ© in The Phantom Menace. PadmΓ© had to have a pilot. His name was Ric OliΓ©. He flew her ship and Anakin hung out with him on the way to Coruscant, and that was about it, but without Ric OliΓ©, they wouldn't have had a pilot. Or Taun We in Attack of the Clones. Her part is small, but she's one of the Kaminoan cloners, which if you know anything about the Prequel Trilogy and the Clone Wars, you know that's a pretty darn important role. Very small, but important. And she made me so mad in The Clone Wars series when she was helping cover up Order 66 when Fives found out and then Fives ended up dying and 😭😭😭. Point is, though, these characters were there for a reason.

You're probably not going to have extras as much in a book as in a movie or TV show, since those are just the people in the background, and it's a little harder to just have people hanging out in the background unnoticed in a book. Since, you know, you actually have to mention them for them to exist in the mind of the reader. But say there's a crowd. Those people in the crowd are just there to flesh out the background. Don't really add to the plot. They're just there to make it look realistic. Like most of the clones. Or a lot of the Jedi at the First Battle of Geonosis.

The thing in Star Wars, though, is that they liked to give all the extras/people with teeny tiny parts names and then people would use those extras in other media and they wouldn't actually be extras anymore. Like Luminara Unduli, Barriss Offee 😬, "Dad" Plo Koon, Yaddle, Adi Gallia, Aurra Sing, Commander Cody, Wedge Antilles...I could go on. (Though Luminara and Barriss actually were major characters in The Approaching Storm by Alan Dean Foster which came out as a prequel to Attack of the Clones.)

A few last points before I go. Don't introduce a bunch of new characters in the last installment of a series unless they're absolutely essential. There's already so much going on, and you won't have time to delve into all these new characters' stories and still do justice to what you've already got going. *cough* The Rise of Skywalker *cough* Something's going to give. You don't need extra loose ends to tie up that you didn't actually have to introduce at all. And finally, please, for the love of all expectations, don't act like your minor characters are major characters. Minor characters absolutely have a place, but don't hype them up to be something they're not.

And if your minor characters somehow generate a fan base (Wedge Antilles, Admiral Piett), well, it happens. I mean, I was super excited by Wedge's cameo in The Rise of Skywalker, and he did have a pretty significant role in Legends. πŸ˜

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Poison's Dance Review

Poison’s Dance

Beyond the Tales #3
If he falls to the lure of the curse, the dance might trap him forever.

Alex has survived his first year as high king. The new counsel has improved cooperation between the kingdoms, and peace seems achievable. When the Tuckawassee queen sends him an invitation he can’t refuse, Alex must once again face his greatest threat for the sake of peace.

Princess Tamya of Tuckawassee, along with her eleven sisters, has danced from sunset until sunrise every night of her life. It is her gift and her curse. When Queen Valinda wishes to use the power their cursed dance gives them to rule all of Tallahatchia, Tamya must decide if she will do what is right even if it betrays her ow
n sister.

Daemyn Rand has survived a hundred years' worth of battles. All he wants to do now is safely marry his princess. Will he be forced to choose between the love of his life and the high king he has loyally served for years?

They have faced certain death before. This time, they might not make it out alive.

Don’t miss this re-envisioning of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale.

My Review

Poor Alex. He's grown up so much since the first book, but being the high king of Tallahatchia really makes him a target for curses.

I would say, it's prooooobably better if you don't read 80+ books in between the first two books and this one as it did take a bit for me to reorient myself in the world and remember what happened before, but I got my bearings a lot better with this one than I did with the last Mysterious Benedict Society book.

I really do love the worldbuilding in this series. It's just so different from what you'd expect from a fairy tale series, having that strong Native American feel, but with castles, and somehow it really works.

I'm not as familiar with the Twelve Dancing Princesses as I am with Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, but reading through the Wikipedia summary of the fairy tale, I can see how Tricia included all the important elements, but with twists that blend it seamlessly into the already established world. And poor Alex. He's learned a LOT from his experiences in the previous book, and it shows in how he handles this difficult situation. And I don't want to say too much because if I do, I'll give major spoilers, but the ending was pretty tense there for a bit. Man. Let's just say it reminded me of a particular BBC Merlin season 1 episode, but with much more dire consequences.

There's not a ton of Daemyn and Rosanna together in this one, but what we do get is great. I love the two of them very much. 😊

All in all, a worthy installment in the Beyond the Tales series, and I'm looking forward to their next adventure!

Author Bio

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.
Find her online at: Website || Goodreads || Facebook || Twitter || Instagram || Amazon 

Monday, August 24, 2020

The Dancing Princess Review

Kendra has a new fairy tale retelling out! It's a twist on the Twelve Dancing Princesses, and it's definitely an interesting take on it. Check it out!

The Dancing Princess 

A Twist of Adventure #5
Plagued by nightmares for the last few years, Katrine only wanted answers. Instead, she finds herself trapped in a tangled web of melody as she tries to free a cursed king and his brothers. No one deserves existence such as theirs, but dare she risk her very life? 

My Review

Twelve brothers are trapped in a curse. They need a songweaver to free them. Only songweavers have tried, and no one remembers any of them.

Enter Katrine, a girl plagued with strange nightmares, who just might be able to break their curse.

This story was fairly short, but it does well telling the story within the limited space. The worldbuilding is interesting, and I do wish there had been more time to delve into it, but for what space there was, it was good. It's quite different from the fairy tale, from what I can tell, but that didn't make it any less entertaining.

The Dancing Princess is a fun, quick read and a neat twist on a lesser known fairy tale.

Author Bio

Kendra E. Ardnek is the self-proclaimed Arista of Fairy Tales. She lives in the Piney Woods of East Texas with her dragon babies and massive herd of mini-giraffes, and she is still waiting for one of of her fifty nutcrackers to come to life and marry her. When not writing, you can usually find her sitting in a random box, and she's frequently known to act before she thinks.
Find her online at: Website || Blog || Goodreads || Facebook || Twitter || YouTube || Newsletter || Instagram || TikTok || Amazon

Monday, August 17, 2020

My Favorite Fictional Characters Are Like What? pt. 2

"How 'bout a girl who's got a brain
Who always speaks her mind?"

I started thinking about common characteristics in my favorite female characters because I'm having trouble connecting with Hadassah in Mark of the Lion, and I wanted to figure out why. I think it's because she's kind of mousey. She's firm in her faith, and she's kind and giving, which are all great characteristics, but she has very little spunk, and she's not particularly stubborn. She's never going to tell someone off the way Gwen did Arthur (quickly followed by ducking her head and saying, "my lord" πŸ˜†), she's never going to take down a droideka, and I kinda doubt she knows what banter or friendly bickering even is. So basically I tend to like my girl characters spunky and stubborn with something of a mouth on 'em. Wonder what that says about me...πŸ˜‰

As a kid, there were three characters I very badly wanted to play in a movie or TV series: Jill Pole (Narnia), Meg Murry (A Wrinkle in Time), and Darra Thel-Tanis (Jedi Quest series). I'm too old for...all three of them now, but I stand by my opinion that I could have pulled off Meg way better than the girl in the 2017 movie. She was just too sweet to make Meg's attitude believable. Anywho, on to the characters themselves.

Do I want to admit the ways I relate to Jill Pole? I guess I'd better. Jill argues a lot. I mean, it's pretty constant. She's easily distracted from her quest by the idea of hot baths and sleeping in a bed again. (I like being outside and I like the idea of adventures, but, yeah, I think I'd have been tempted by Harfang too.) And she's squeamish to begin with. Throughout the fight with the serpent she was going "I hope I don't faint—or blub—or do anything idiotic." (Though she did fight and kill enemies in The Last Battle. She got tougher for sure.) She's certainly not the mousey, sweet kind of character. She's stubborn, not afraid to say what she thinks, kind of a showoff at the beginning of The Silver Chair, and she develops skill with a bow and arrows, and with tracking and moving silently through the woods. Ooh, does that mean that by The Last Battle, she was a Ranger? But I know the Four Signs better than she did. I'm still proud of that fact.

I always really connected with Meg. She's got a temper, she's stubborn, she's determined, and she really loves her family. (Still want Charles Wallace to be my little brother.) And yes, she has kind of an attitude. I'd like to think I grew out of the attitude I had when I met Meg Murry, but I'm sure I could tap into it if I wanted to. She has some major flaws, but your weaknesses are always your secret strengths. She learns to turn that stubbornness in a positive direction, holding onto her love for her brother with a tenacity unparalleled. I need to go reread this book for the millionth time.

Okay, so Darra's a little different because she's the kind of person I want to be. She's a determined sort too, and she's good with a lightsaber (except when Anakin accidentally pushed her into the line of fire or in that whole disaster on Korriban that was not her fault, but anyway). She's positive and selfless and cheerful and kind, and I love her wisecracking, sarcastic sense of humor.

*after Anakin and Ferus agree on something for one of the only times ever* "We have an agreement. Remind me to declare this an annual holiday once we get back to the Temple."

“Remind me to get you guys the next time my comlink malfunctions. You’d probably rebuild it into a cargo lifter.”

Anne is the character everyone knows. Emily is the L.M. Montgomery character I relate to most. She's also stubborn, and though she's not the chatterbox Anne is, she will say what she thinks. (Well, except when it comes to Teddy. Those feelings she holds close, and that's a situation she's also very stubborn in.) She's got the "Murray pride" for sure. Emily's "Flash" is the same kind of feeling I always got when reading the last few paragraphs of The Last Battle as a kid. She's very serious about her writing, determined to climb the Alpine Path. She's destroyed writing she wished she hadn't, though Seller of Dreams was good, and I just think it would be fun if I could pull out "The Silly Monster and the Seven Orphan Babies" or "Seven Dogs for Anda." Writing is as much a part of her as breathing, but she also went through a period of time where she couldn't write. I've written multiple letters to myself in the future because Emily did. And when I read the Emily books, I feel understood.

I mean, Peeta's my favorite character in THG, hands down, but Katniss is still important to me, and I'm not sure Emma Edsel would be here without her. She's also a stubborn one...stubborn and good with a bow, as Peeta said. Her life story is a tragic one. She'll never be the same. She may be stubborn and not come off as a nurturing sort, but she's willing to sacrifice everything for her sister. And while some of her decisions as her mind goes cuckoo may be questionable, it's undeniable that her initial motivation comes from a good place.

Stubborn, spunky, got a mouth on 'er...yup. Anne fits the bill. I do relate to Anne, even though I relate to Emily more. I'm a chatterbox, and have I mentioned I'm stubborn? I've got a wild imagination... I think we all probably know Anne pretty well, so I'll leave this here. (But I'm never dyeing my hair. Anne scarred me for that.)

Belle's a good mix of sweet and spunky, and that's what I love. She's willing to look past the outward appearance and see the heart, but she's also not afraid to yell at people if that's what needs doing. "You should learn to control your temper!" She's fiercely loyal, and self-sacrificial when it comes to her loved ones. She has to be pretty stubborn to hold out against Gaston as she has. And she loves books.

Feistypants. 😁 Anna's a very determined sort of individual. She won't leave Elsa no matter what, and even charged up the mountain by herself still in her ball gown in the snow. She's quirky and fun, but I'd say she qualifies for stubborn. And Kristoff even calls her "feistypants."

Mara Jade Skywalker is really cool. She's stubborn and loyal and her son got his mouth from somewhere. πŸ˜‰ I really do love when she calls Luke "Farmboy." She's very capable; she was trained as an assassin by Palpatine. I suppose you could describe her as a Jedi Black Widow. But what I also love about Mara is that even with her background and her skills and her personality, she's a good team player (at any rate, when Zahn writes her), and especially when she's teaming up with Luke. She's totally willing to argue with him when he wants to put himself in danger doing something they both know suits her skill set better, and she wins the arguments, but she's not afraid to step aside and let him do the thing when it's something he's better at. She's probably not "feminist enough" (kinda like Claire from Jurassic World) because despite being so awesome and capable, she's very much in love with Luke and is proud to be his wife, refusing to let people leave Skywalker off of her name. But that just makes me love her more.

Snips is also stubborn and has a mouth on 'er. πŸ˜† She's snarky and impulsive, brave and kind, and she goes through so much. She was a cocky little thing when we met her, and she's so much more mature by the Siege of Mandalore. Disillusioned in regards to the Jedi, after how they handled what Barriss did to her (still mad about that), but Trace and Rafa recognize in her what a Jedi should be. Someone selfless who helps people. Plus Ahsoka's just plain cool. And her banter with Anakin is great. They're such siblings. And it's too soon after finishing the Final Season, so I need to go cry.

I have to make a list of some honorable mentions, because my list was way too long and I had to cut some. So here goes. Kit Tyler (The Witch of Blackbird Pond), Polly Plummer (Narnia), Eilonwy (Prydain), Siri Tachi (Star Wars Legends), Kyrin Altair (Ilyon Chronicles), Aravis (Narnia). And I could probably go on, but I think those are the most important.

So yes, I like stubborn girls with spirit, who aren't afraid to speak their mind, but I also like them to be compassionate. To love their families, and be willing to help others. Not every character I love has every characteristic I like, obviously, but these are the sorts of characters I can relate to, characters I can find something of myself in.

And I still want to be Jill Pole.

Monday, August 10, 2020

My Favorite Fictional Characters Are Like What? pt. 1

I always thought I didn't have a "type." Because, I mean, Teddy Kent looks nothing like Peeta Mellark, and Sam Gamgee and Luke Skywalker could not be more different. (Though Luke is short, just not hobbit short...)

But I was thinking about my favorite fictional guys (and girls too, but I'll get to that in a bit) and I noticed a pattern of...guys who take forever to talk to/get the girl, or don't get the girl at all looking at you, Obi-Wan Kenobi. And I was like, "what?" I mean, I've liked Teddy Kent (Emily of New Moon series) since I was 15, and man is that an extreme example of takes forever to get the girl, but that there are others like Teddy? Whhhyyyyyy?????? This from the girl who hates relationship drama with a vengeance. 😜 But I stick by my faves.

The king of it all is Teddy, and why do I like him? I dunno. He's an artistic, quiet, dreamy sort of person, and despite knowing Emily since they were kids, it takes them until ten years after high school to actually get together (yes, I went through Emily's Quest once counting the years). Part of it's not totally his fault *River Song voice* "Spoilers," but if he hadn't let his shyness keep him from telling her how he felt about her in person when they finished high school like he tried to do and then didn't, it wouldn't be a problem. Or any of the myriad opportunities throughout the years where they instead perpetuated their misery. Just FYI, Emily's Quest is kinda depressing. But yet I like it. Happy for deep people?
Peeta Mellark. Notices Katniss when his father points her out on the first day of school when they're five years old. Likes her pretty much from the start. Saves her life by giving her bread when they're eleven. Doesn't talk to her until they're reaped in the Hunger Games at age 16. Then doesn't tell her to her face that he likes her, but mentions it in their televised interviews after asking to be coached separately. But he really is a good guy who loves her unconditionally and does all he can to protect her...until he gets hijacked and I'm never going to get over that. But eventually it's as okay as it can ever be after all they've been through and they're together.

"Go on, Sam. Ask Rosie for a dance."
"I think I'll have another ale."
"No you don't." *Frodo pushes Sam to Rosie*

Didn't think Sam counted for this until I remembered. He wouldn't even go ask Rosie to dance before the whole Mount Doom thing happened. And that adventure gave him the courage to go straight to her when they got back (after 13 months of near death). Merry and Pippin's faces in that scene are the best. πŸ˜†

Hey, Luke and Mara also took ten years (and a near death experience) to get together. I mean, Luke did have other girlfriends, but several of them were only after him to use him/betray him, one of them being straight up an Imperial and later Sith. (I mean, Mara was a former Emperor's Hand and when they met she wanted to kill him, but that's beside the point. She stopped wanting to kill him in 9 ABY and they didn't get married until 19 ABY.) For ten years, he'd ask her to come complete her Jedi training, and then when she came he'd barely spend any time with her because he was focused on his students and so she'd leave. Until Han Solo and Talon Karrde decided they needed to force Luke and Mara to spend time together, and, well, things didn't go how anyone thought they would, but Luke and Mara ended up trapped in collapsed, rapidly flooding caves pretty much sure they were going to die, getting engaged. So things worked out. Eventually. Until Darth Caedus, but that's another story.


Obi-Wan just straight out gave up the girl because his duty to the Jedi (and her duty to the Jedi) was more important than their love. I'm talking Legends here, because it's Siriwan all the way for me. (Though to be fair, he gave up Satine too. I'm just not a Satine fan.) See, as padawans, Obi-Wan and Siri were several times paired up on missions and on one when they're in their upper teens, they discover their love for each other. And very shortly thereafter put their commitment to the Jedi above their feelings. And their friendship isn't quite the same, they're still a good team, but there's a barrier between them. And when finally they talk about it again, twenty years later during the Clone Wars, well, then she gets killed. But yet Secrets of the Jedi by Jude Watson (where this all happens) has been my favorite Star Wars book since I was 13. Whhhhyyyyyy??????? (I mean, it's a really good book, but 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭)

For Arthur, it's not his fault. Gwen's a servant and he's the crown prince and so he has to wait until his father dies and he becomes king, and then Agravaine and Morgana try to mess it up further. So they aren't able to get married until the end of season 4 of 5.

I'll finish up with Will Treaty. To be perfectly honest, Will's a real dope when it comes to girls. Brilliant battle strategist, completely clueless about girls. And so despite growing up with Alyss and her obvious interest in him, it's years before he tells her he loves her, and then it's only to break her out of a hypnotic trance wherein she's literally about to be forced to kill him. And then she's not sure he actually said that and he's not going to bring it up, and so they're all awkward about it. But at least Horace knows what went down and tells Alyss to just ask Will about it, that they need to stop thinking so much about things and come out and say them. So Alyss writes him a letter and Will goes to her and they're finally a thing, but yet 4 books later, Will's still kind of an idiot about girls. But Will Treaty is amazing. Just sayin'. November 3rd can't come soon enough.

So yeah, all these guys who are too shy or too clueless or too duty-bound to get the girl in a reasonable amount of time. Why do I like them? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I mean, they're all great characters, but that's a strange trend that I can't pretend to explain. Especially since such behavior creates relationship drama and I hate relationship drama. But yet...yeah, I can't explain why my faves have this in common.

Well, that went on longer than I thought it would, so I'll talk about the type of girl characters I tend to like best/relate to most next week. See ya then!

Monday, August 3, 2020

What Is a Plan, Anyway?

This is me realizing on Sunday afternoon that I forgot to write a blog post because NaNo.

Anyway, I started thinking while I was loading the dishwasher after lunch, and this is probably going to be rambly because I still have NaNo brain, but here goes.

I don't have everything figured out.

Primarily, I was thinking about this in regards to writing. I've been trying (with a half-functioning NaNo brain) to talk my sister through writing the second half of a book. We've talked through character arcs and story structure and reactive vs. proactive character actions, and it's been good. Actually helping me better process those things and try to identify them in my own writing. But I don't have all the answers. I can't tell her the perfect way to implement them in her book, or even a perfect way I've implemented them in mine (because I'm still learning too).

I'm also struggling still with Acktorek book 2. I know the general storyline and I have adequate worldbuilding for what I'm doing, but there's still so much I don't know. I'm struggling to figure out Emma's mental state and character arc. I'm struggling to figure out how Emma and Mitchell work as a team, what their particular strengths and weaknesses are and how they complement each other in this story. I'm having trouble figuring out how to seamlessly weave all the elements together into a cohesive whole.

But that's okay. I don't have to get it all right at this very moment. I mean, book 1 went out to betas on its 6th draft, and I'm about to head into editing again based on feedback. And I have a lot of work to do, not because it's a bad book—so far my betas and cover model have really liked it—but because I haven't figured everything out yet.

Am I going to have it all perfect by the time it's published? Well, the question we should be asking is "Is any book ever perfect?" No, it won't be, because they never are. But it will be the best I can make it at this stage in my writing journey.

Is this draft of book 2 going to be perfect? Not by a long shot. That's what subsequent drafts are for, for digging deeper, finding and correcting plot holes, fleshing things out. And eventually it'll be the best I can make it.

But it's not just in writing that I don't know everything, that I'm still learning and figuring things out as I go. It's in everything. And you know what? That's okay. I can't wait until I know everything to do things, because then I'll be waiting forever. I can't feel so overwhelmed by my inadequacies that I don't try. And believe me, this weekend in particular, all the things I'm not sure how to handle in Acktorek 2 are tempting me to give up and work on something else that will be "easier." (Though they never really are.) But I won't. It takes work and determination and risk to move forward in life. And figuring things out as I go along.

And this is only sort of related, but mostly I just want to share it because it was inspiring to me in church this week. We can't flee from hard, scary, dangerous things. We can't hide in safety away from life. Because it's easy to prize that safety and security above God. And God doesn't want us to run away from the things that are hard, to flee from our enemies, whatever form they may take. God commands us to be strong and courageous, He encourages us and is with us in everything. God rules. He is in control of everything. And He rewards those who live in righteousness, those who seek Him and live according to His will.

So no, I don't have it all figured out. Yes, I often want to give up and run away from my problems, or the things that are hard, or the things where I just don't know what to do. But that's the wrong response. It's okay that I don't have all the answers and that there are scary risks in life because God does have all the answers and He is in control of all these things I feel like are out of control, or I don't understand, or think I can't actually do.

Anyway, I'm not sure how coherent all this is, but these are my Sunday afternoon thoughts this week. I know I don't ever repost sermons on here, but I'd strongly encourage you to listen to this one, because it was really good and especially relevant. God's got this.