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 Padmé (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 Padmé  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

Monday, February 3, 2020

Emma Tells Her Story

Last week, I talked about how I should have listened to Emma Edsel. This week, I'm going to share the new beginning of Acktorek now that I am listening to her. I posted the beginning of a previous draft last year while I was editing my NaNo draft. It covers basically the same material, only obviously in Emma's voice and with the added benefit of worldbuilding. So enjoy the snippet, and if you want, compare it to the old version and let me know what you think!

     Fact: He wasn’t like any of the other kids in school.
     He seemed, not exactly older, but…the only way I could describe it was more experienced. Not because he was sure of himself, somehow I was sure he was not, but because he had seen things. Things none of the rest of us had. Except perhaps me. For who, other than my family, in this quiet, peaceful Pacific town, knew anything other than a perfectly happy, ordinary life?
     He sat next to me in math class, his muscular form making me shrink away from his aura. Everyone except Grace knew better than to sit within a yard’s distance of me, and even that was because after twelve years of styling herself my best friend, I had given up trying to instill boundaries with her. I tried to keep my focus on my math assignment, to tune out Mr. Willman’s droning that we all knew was primarily directed at Chloe, to ignore Ella and Hayley’s gossipy giggles, to ignore this young man with a peculiar aura about him I couldn’t quite define. Who was unknowingly invading my personal space.
     I felt his eyes on me, the girl who did all she could to remain invisible. When so many other girls would more than willingly vie for his attention. My body tensed involuntarily, and I hung my head further forward to allow my hair to obscure my face. But still I could feel his eyes. Feel his presence beside me with a strange, prickling sensation.
     Ten minutes of that was all I could take. I whipped my head up, tossing my hair angrily over my shoulder, bitter accusations clawing their way up my throat. My eyes met his, a clear, calm blue that seemed to see deep into my soul, though the idea was beyond ridiculous. It still sent a shiver down my spine, the way his attention fixated on me, the way he wasn’t cowed by the fire I knew I sent his way the way nearly everyone else was.
     He nodded slightly towards the paper on my desk, a lock of blond hair falling over his forehead, though not far enough to obscure that placid blue gaze. “Emma, is it not?” His words were clipped in a peculiar manner, his accent nothing I’d ever heard.
     My jaw clenched and I wrapped my arm protectively around my paper. “None of your business.”
     “My name iss Mitchell Banks. I am new to Gondora Heights and I am staying with my aunt.”
     Something about the way every “s” came out soft and he ignored the existence of contractions made me cringe and draw back from him. Though if I was honest, my reaction was more likely simply because he was a human being other than my sister who insisted on directing attention at me.
     I shook my head in small, but rapid, motions. “We’re in math class. We’re supposed to be doing math.”
     He twirled a pencil through his fingers, his eyes never leaving me. “You appear to already know the concepts.”
     I dropped my gaze back to my math paper, letting my dark hair curtain me once more, shut him out. He wasn’t wrong. Math and science were full of facts. Solid, dependable facts. Unlike the other facts that ruled my life. That was why I already knew them well, because in my life, I needed something to depend on. Something I knew would never change.
     A pencil scratched the paper beside me, and though I was glad Mitchell had stopped speaking to me, I couldn’t help peeking through my curtain to see just what was taking shape on his assignment. It wasn’t the formula Mr. Willman had presented to the class. In fact, it not only wasn’t a formula I recognized, but the characters were strange. Ordinary Arabic numbers punctuated his writing, but in between were symbols and structures I’d never seen, even in my father’s calculus books, or in the strings of code I’d see flash across the computer screen when I used to watch him work. I couldn’t pretend to know everything, but I knew more than the average high school student in these areas, and this wasn’t normal.
     A moment later, he looked back at me, searching through my hair for my face. “I wass wondering if you could introduce me to our classmates.”
     I snorted, parting my curtain with my fingers, but only just. “No.”
     “Why not?” The question seemed genuine, as if he was truly confused as to why the solitary girl everyone ignored was unwilling to introduce him around, and his brow wrinkled to reaffirm his confusion.
     “They don’t talk to me,” I said in a small voice. Though likely it was more accurate to say I didn’t talk to them. Either way, I was not the avenue for him to make friends. And judging by his willingness to speak to me, in the middle of math class, no less, he wouldn’t have any trouble making friends on his own. A much better chance if he didn’t associate with me.
     “I think that is a mistake on their part.”
     I flushed and dropped my hair to hide it. If Ella or Hayley got any whiff of this conversation, I would never hear the end of it.