Monday, September 20, 2021

I Still Exist!

Sorry I've been gone so long. I don't know if I've ever mentioned it on here before, but I've never been good with change or disruptions to my routine. And starting college has definitely been a major change in my routine. Especially since this night owl scheduled herself 8 am classes every day. 35-40 minutes away on a good traffic day, leaving early enough to beat the rush hour traffic. Knowing that she'll get migraines and/or stomach aches if she doesn't get enough sleep which means going to bed several hours earlier than she likes.

Wasn't I brilliant?

So yeah, it's been a pretty major change and a little overwhelming, and a lot of other things going on including routine but expensive car repairs and finding out I have osteoarthritis in my right foot (yay, ballet!). But I think I've finally started to settle in and get a handle on what I'm doing (I say as I just finished a 4 test week that had me swamped). Hey, I've started sneaking in a few minutes of reading when I'm waiting for my classes to start, I'm on my fifth Ranger's Apprentice audiobook of the semester (commutes are good for something), I'm loving my statistics class (who knew? actually, I was really looking forward to that one), and in general I like being in school. Which I guess is a good thing given that I'm getting a degree in education so school will be my life.

Writing? What's that?

Okay, so I haven't exactly been writing other than adding bits and pieces to random fanfics, BUT that isn't to say I've been ignoring Acktorek. See, going to Realm Makers always seems to tell me I'm missing major pieces in my current WIP. And while the sessions didn't point out all of the missing pieces, they started a snowball effect of noticing all the pieces I don't have. One of the big ones was a series goal.

See, this episodic series format is TOTALLY different from anything I've ever written before. The only series I've written was Time Captives and that actually wasn't intended to be a series. It was one book that kept ballooning until I had to split it into first two then three (two really didn't work structure-wise). Also, Acktorek wasn't originally intended to be a series at all. It started out as a short story from a writing prompt, became a non-serious novel project just to learn to have fun writing again no-stress, then became a serious novel, then I decided to leave it open for a sequel in case I had ideas, then I had a tiny spark of a concept idea and jumped into a sequel knowing next to nothing about what I was doing with it. Sounds like a terrific process, right? Nope.

I want it to be a series because I love the concept, I love Emma and Mitchell, and I have tiny sparks of ideas that I want to develop into full novels. Like space pirates. But even aside from my book specific villains not having a well-defined plan (obvious issue), I realized I really needed something more coherent to tie everything together.

I started looking at series that I enjoy for guidance. Primarily Timeless (somewhat similar concept except time travel, not world travel), and Jedi Apprentice (one of the major inspirations behind Acktorek the company and the concept of the series/structure). I also looked a bit at Jedi Quest, Young Jedi KnightsMonk, and Ranger's Apprentice, though not as much. Some things I noticed were the existence of overarching storylines, recurring villains and other characters, multi-episode/book story arcs and a finale that brings it all together (sometimes that finale is for the series overall, sometimes it's just for the story arc...or sometimes both). 

For instance, in Monk, it may not be explicitly mentioned in every episode, but a series long storyline is Trudy's murder. There are pieces along the way that drive it forward, but it's not actually solved until the series finale. 

In Timeless, they may be in a different time period with different supporting characters in each episode, but you've got a recurring villain (first Flynn, then Rittenhouse and I'm not going to explain that any better because MAJOR spoilers). You have continuing storylines, like Lucy trying to get her sister back after she was erased by their first trip. You also have Wyatt trying to Back to the Future his dead wife back to life. (And things get way complicated and are not at all what you thought they were, but anyway.) And something the writers said about how they chose where to send them stood out to me. They looked at where they needed the characters' emotional arcs to go in that episode and then picked a time period/historical event that could do that for them. 

Jedi Apprentice has multiple story arcs: Xanatos (which has a couple of mini arcs within it, like Melida/Daan), Jenna Zan Arbor, Tahl's kidnapping...and a couple of other books that are more like standalone adventures (my favorite was The Fight for Truth because of baby Siri, but I also liked how the last book brought things full circle by placing Obi-Wan in a situation reminiscent of Melida/Daan and showing how much he's grown and matured since the early part of the series). Then Jedi Quest picks up some of those threads from the previous series with Xanatos's son Granta Omega being the recurring villain, working alongside Jenna Zan Arbor (and Zan Arbor then was a fairly major factor in Last of the Jedi). Not every Jedi Quest book contributes explicitly to the Granta Omega story, but those that don't are still crucial in developing Anakin's emotional journey as well as his relationship with his friends Tru Veld and Darra Thel-Tanis and his rival Ferus Olin, which contributes immensely to the final book titled—wait for it—The Final Showdown. (Super obvious title aside, that book destroyed me as a kid, and again rereading it as an adult, and every time I reread the ending when I pick it up for a moment at the library. I'm never going to get over it. Or the end of Secrets of the Jedi.)

All of this is to say, I've been thinking about how episodic series actually work, and what makes them coherent stories even when each installment takes place in a different time or on a different planet (or in a different world). And I've been brainstorming how to accomplish this in Acktorek based on unexplained things in book one, background worldbuilding I did for the post-RM rewrite of book one, and other things that pop into my head. I'm not going to say what I've come up with because (1) it's not solidified yet, and (2) *River Song voice* spoilers, but I'm coming up with stuff. Hopefully it will revolutionize the series and make things really work (and be amazing, obviously). And you're not going to know where it's all heading for awhile because I'm not going to spill, but it will be heading somewhere. (And then maybe I'll rework a plot I came up with for a different project as a next generation story. I'm actually pretty excited about the idea of doing that.) Don't know how long it'll take—I'm not the fastest writer even when I'm not in school—but things are happening, if slowly and not in ways that are easy to see and measure.

And now I'm going to go read because every once in a while I manage to find a little time to do something fun.

Ta ta for now!

Monday, August 9, 2021

The Mysterious Benedict Society Show Review

 

The Mysterious Benedict Society season one is complete!

I first read the book years ago and loved it, then listened to it this year to refresh my memory in preparation for the show. I can't say the details of the book are completely ingrained in my head—twice isn't quite enough for that—but still, it's a book I love and I was anxious to see a well done adaptation.

There will be two parts to this review: Spoiler Free and Spoiler Filled (where I'll mostly be talking about specific changes from the book and how I felt about them. Don't worry, I'll give a warning before I head into spoiler territory.

First, what it's about, for those of you who may not know. 
After winning a scholarship competition, four gifted orphans are recruited by the peculiar Mr. Benedict for a dangerous mission to save the world from a global crisis known as The Emergency. Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance must infiltrate the mysterious L.I.V.E. Institute to discover the truth behind the crisis. When the headmaster, the sophisticated Dr. Curtain, appears to be behind this worldwide panic, the kids of the Mysterious Benedict Society must devise a plan to defeat him.
On the whole, I really enjoyed the show. Hollywood has a strong history of completely ruining books, totally missing the point, and stripping out the heart of the story. (A Wrinkle in Time 2017 comes to mind...) This show stuck to the heart of the book, to the message of it, to the main point. It had the same quirky feel, most of the main characters were true to their book counterparts (I'll get into the ones that were not in the spoiler section), and most of the major plot points were the same.

The kids were well cast. The only one I wasn't sure of for a while was Kate, because I just wasn't feeling a lot of emotion from her performance or seeing a lot of variety of facial expression, but she grew on me. And, I mean, she had her bucket! The bucket's a pretty big deal when it comes to the Great Kate Weather Machine. Reynie was great (I've always felt like I related to him the best), Sticky was pretty spot on, and then there's Constance. Constance was fabulous. They did age her up from the book, which I understand was quite necessary and they completely avoided specifying her age, but man. That personality was spot on.

Okay, I'm not sure how much more I can say without a spoiler tag, so here's just some generic comments. It's clean, quirky, fun, relevant to today even though the book came out nearly 15 years ago, enjoyable for all ages, and on the better end of book to screen adaptations, even if it's not at the top of the scale.

****SPOILERS****

Like I said, the casting of the child characters was good. Each child did a good job embodying the heart of his or her character. Constance especially. She's supposed to be obstinate, stubborn, and, well, in the book she's two. Obviously, they couldn't pull that off, but she still managed to embody Constance Contraire's essential contrary characteristics and just make me feel that she is Constance. Number Two, Rhonda, Milligan, and Miss Perumal were well cast as well. The only thing I'm not sure I care for with the casting of Number Two relative to Mr. Benedict is that she doesn't look significantly younger than him. In the book, both Rhonda and Number Two passed Mr. Benedict's tests, but he couldn't put together a team before they grew up, so he ended up adopting them. TBH I thought Kristen Schaal was older than Tony Hale, but she is younger...just not enough for it to make sense for Mr. Benedict to adopt Number Two. So I guess it's a good thing they never really explained why Number Two and Rhonda are there.

Mr. Curtain, or rather Dr. Curtain as they call him in the show, well, he's different. In the book, Mr. Curtain is in a wheelchair and always wears dark glasses so no one will be able to tell when he falls asleep due to his narcolepsy. In the show, no wheelchair, no glasses, and not only do they not really touch on his narcolepsy until the last episode, when Sticky says that his trigger is anger (as it was in the book) Reynie corrects him that it was actually feeling vulnerable. I feel like they tried to humanize him, particularly by making S.Q. Pedalian his adopted son. In the book, S.Q. was an adult executive who was very loyal to Mr. Curtain, didn't see his evil, and wasn't particularly bright, likely all because of being repeatedly brainswept (having his memories erased). In the show, he's a kid, Mr. Curtain's adopted son, and I guess he is still pretty loyal to Mr. Curtain, but a little more willing to see that something's wrong. They also changed up Mr. Curtain and Mr. Benedict's backstory by having them together in the orphanage until they were twelve, at which point, Mr. Benedict was adopted and Mr. Curtain wasn't. This did create some interesting drama between the brothers, and illustrated how even from a young age Mr. Curtain was all about controlling others, but it completely contradicts The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict. I don't know, I'm not really on board with the changes to Mr. Curtain and S.Q. It kind of worked, but I would have preferred for them to stick to the book on that. Also, just in general, it seems like they forgot about narcolepsy all together for several episodes. Mr. Benedict should have fallen asleep a lot more than he did, and Mr. Curtain shouldn't have waited until the finale to show any signs of narcolepsy.

I did like how they added a storyline about the adults. The book is primarily from Reynie's POV, so from the time the kids arrive at the L.I.V.E. Institute until the adults actually join them on the island at the end, we really don't know what they're up to, other than watching from shore and sending the kids messages via riddles in Morse code. So it was cool for them actually to have stuff to do. I felt like it added to the story rather than detracting, and it felt authentic to the tone of the whole story.

TBH, I didn't really like the whole tetherball storyline. It wasn't in the book, and it served to make Martina Crowe a sympathetic character. See, in the book she's a dedicated messenger and she hates the Society, mostly, I think, because she feels threatened by how well the boys are doing and how quickly they become Messengers. She's a minor antagonist to them (minor because Mr. Curtain is obviously the primary antagonist). In the show, Kate fake-befriends her to get her keycard (rather than using a code found on a note S.Q. left for himself), then betrays/frames her, then Kate confesses and that makes Martina decide they're friends after all so she helps defend Kate in the finale. It was kind of weird. I don't want Martina to be good.

Which somewhat leads into another change I was disappointed about, though maybe I shouldn't have been? See, in the book, when Kate gets back from her scouting mission, her sneakers are wet, so Reynie spills orange juice on them so there's an obvious reason for that. Jackson and Martina, trying to track down a spy (Kate), don't find the clues they're looking for in her bucket, so the kids think she's safe. Until it's mentioned that Jackson lost his licorice, which is on the bottom of Kate's shoe. The kids pass it around to get it away from Kate, but Constance eats it, and looks a little green, which they blame on a fake stomach bug the boys supposedly had earlier in the book. Which gives the kids the idea to make everyone get a "stomach bug" to ensure that Sticky and Reynie are the only Messengers available for use in the Improvement wherein Mr. Curtain will boost the power on the Whisperer and totally control everyone. They...skip all of that by having Sticky be Mr. Curtain's favorite Messenger. I guess maybe they thought everyone at the Institute puking was a little gross or something, but I was disappointed they changed it.

The Whisperer was (mostly) done very well. The only thing I didn't like about what they did with it was that they had it get to Sticky to the point that he was turned against the Society for about an episode and a half before he snapped out of it. But it was that perfect soothing that's actually secretly sinister and Constance breaking it by simply being her obstinate (and also somewhat psychic) self was fabulous.

All along the way, though, there would be little things out of the books that made me very happy. There were almost no changes to the tests at the beginning, even down to Number Two mistakenly saying that children caught cheating would be executed. πŸ˜‚ Reynie gave Mr. Curtain ribbon bookmarks so they could spy on his notes, they had to help the girls cheat in class, they did get rid of the mud in the Waiting Room but I guess that's a minor thing, a lot of the riddles were from the book, Milligan was very Milligan and while they didn't delve into his proper reunion with Kate what they did give us was sweet, Miss Perumal still wanted to adopt Reynie, they broke the Whisperer and Mr. Benedict got Mr. Curtain's men to stand down by pretending to be his brother, Mr. Curtain got away so he can wreak havoc in the next installment...

****END SPOILERS****

On the whole, The Mysterious Benedict Society on Disney+ was an enjoyable, satisfying adaptation. Even if they deviated from the storyline and certain character portrayals at times, they did appear to understand the true heart of the book and Mr. Curtain's plot, as well as who each of the four kids truly is.

Yes, I'm going to nitpick the differences. Always. The Hunger Games movies are pretty darn high on my book-to-screen satisfaction scale and I still nitpick the changes they made with those (particularly the omissions of Madge Undersee and Delly Cartwright and how splitting Mockingjay into two parts totally messed up the story structure...and how they made Gale a nobler character by totally changing the reason he was whipped in CF).

Even so, this is an adaptation I'd watch again. That's definitely a recommendation from me, since I flatly refuse to rewatch Johnny Tremain, Ella Enchanted, The Secret of NIMH, Caddie Woodlawn, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, A Wrinkle in Time (2017), The Westing Game, The Tale of Despereaux, won't even try Percy Jackson...you get the picture. This show isn't perfect, but it's still a good one. The book is still better, as it always is, but this is a good adaptation that hopefully will lead to more of my beloved Society. 


P.S. I don't honestly know how much I'll be blogging going forward. School starts in a week, and until I'm in it, I don't know how much I'll be swamped with homework. Also, with that limited time, working on Acktorek 2 will be more of a priority than blogging, which I'm sure Acktorek fans will appreciate. But I'll try to pop in here once in a while to let you know I'm not dead. πŸ˜‰

Monday, July 26, 2021

Realm Makers 2021 Recap

Realm Makers was awesome! Still one of the best experiences of my life. There's nothing quite like Realm Makers. 

Before the conference started on Thursday, I, my sister, and our other roommates, Jaye L. Knight and Tricia Mingerink, went over to the St. Louis Science Center. It was cool and we had a good time hanging out. Then it was time for the conference!

Frank Peretti's keynote was really inspiring, and I had no idea he was so hilarious! He talked a lot about having a long term perspective rather than being focused on the difficulties of our current circumstances and really, about how God knows what He's doing. The things that seem bad now may actually turn out to be the best things for us. We don't want to end up marrying Hephzibah. πŸ˜‰ It was also really great having a mentor session with Frank Peretti. Tricia hadn't gotten an appointment, so I invited her to come along to mine just as she'd invited me on her appointment to see Jill Williamson last time. I really enjoy doing mentor sessions together. It's a lot of fun. And we had a good conversation that reminded me to go back to the basics when plotting my stories. I really think I've been overcomplicating things.

With Frank Peretti after my mentor session

Kara Swanson's Shadow launch party was a lot of fun, though I didn't get any pictures. I still need to read Dust, but I'm certainly planning on it! It's been on my (way too massive) library to read list for awhile and I'm looking forward to it. So many books, so little time!

I went to all of Caleb Breakey's marketing sessions, and they were good. The biggest takeaway I had was that we should all be ourselves. God made us unique from each other. He put His thumbprint on each one of us. We can admire other authors, but we can't be them. We have to stick to the truth of who we are. If we try  to be someone else other than who God made us to be, we'll only be miserable.

Also, I met Nadine Brandes!!! She is so super awesome! I even got a hug. 😊 Yes, I carted all five of her (not exactly small) books to St. Louis and had them signed. I had to! My backpack was a lot lighter once I took them and my signed Frank Peretti books back to the room...  Seriously, though, meeting Nadine was one of the big highlights of the whole experience.

Nadine is so awesome!

Speaking of meeting authors...

My sister and me with Dave Wolverton/David Farland!

This is Dave Wolverton, author of The Courtship of Princess Leia and Jedi Apprentice: The Rising Force! I've met a for real Star Wars author! We didn't realize it was him beforehand since he was listed as David Farland, which is the name under which he writes fantasy. But yes, it's the same guy, and yeah, we were totally fangirling over his Star Wars books when we went to meet him. I haven't been able to watch his sessions yet (he was in the room they were having trouble streaming and I've been too busy playing with our new kitten to watch them even if they were available last week, though as of yesterday, they're finally up), but my sister went to them and they sound pretty awesome. He was really cool and my only regret is that I didn't realize ahead of time who he was and order a copy of The Courtship of Princess Leia to have signed.

My favorite sessions were Carla Hoch's. She's hilarious ("No one's getting stabbed sloppy on my watch." "This is a bullet wound. It's all cleaned up and ready for church.") and super informative. She taught three classes on wounds and fighting and they were all really cool...in spite of some graphic wound pictures. 😝 She initially took one self defense class because she needed to write a fight scene, and then she just kept on taking classes on all kinds of different fighting techniques and learning about all kinds of different injuries. She wrote Fight Write to share her knowledge and help other authors with their fight scenes, and I can't wait to dive into it! Also, I had a really productive mentor session with her where she helped me brainstorm some much needed worldbuilding for Acktorek: The Vanished. She's great.

At my mentor session with Carla Hoch

Of course I have to talk about the awards banquet. It was so much fun! SOOOOOO many people stopped us for a picture. It was great. I even had a little boy (who was dressed as the Eleventh Doctor) ask me "Are you Obi-Wan?" Certainly made me happy. 😊 And mostly it was fun because it was a thing we did together. I mean, the four of us did a lot of things together (including eating at Fuzzy's probably a few more times than was good for us), but doing a group cosplay is tons of fun. And there were lots of other great costumes as well. My favorites were probably Kate Wetherall, Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope, and of course Baby Toothless and Family (Hiccup and Astrid). I mean, how can you really beat a baby dressed as Toothless? It was the most adorable thing. And some really awesome-sounding books won awards! Between my sister and I, we brought several of them home, and I can't wait to dive into them!

Rex, Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka before the banquet
AKA Tricia, Addy, Me, Jaye

The book festival was fun too. Chocolate covered strawberries and meeting Sara Ella who was also really awesome and hanging out with my friends and chatting with fellow Realmies and just wishing it wasn't all about to end. Then Addy, Jaye, Tricia, and I went out to the fountain to chat about everything from our characters to the Bible, again, trying to forget that it was coming to an end.

With Sara Ella at the book festival

The worst part of Realm Makers is saying goodbye. It's a really unique group of people, and there's really nowhere else that's just as (if not more) focused on building your faith as on building your writing craft and author platform. And Jaye and Tricia are some of my very best friends. I'm very glad we text each other all the time, but it's not the same as hanging out in person for days, talking about everything under the sun, learning new things, meeting cool people, and building up and supporting each other. But alas, the time always comes to go home.

Last picture before going home 😒

Still, I now know that I am capable of driving halfway across the country, even through cities (though I'm still not sure I'm ready to tackle downtown Atlanta...metro is enough for now). I may not like it, but I can survive. And audiobooks like William Shakespeare's Star Wars and Thrawn: Alliances make the drive much better.

And then last Tuesday we got a kitten! I know it's not really Realm Makers related, but I have to mention him, because he's super cute and 100% the reason I haven't gotten much done this week. He's sleeping on me as I'm writing this, and it's the sweetest thing ever. His name is Pippin after Peregrine Took, his birthday is Star Wars Day, and even though I've never been much of a cat person, I already love him dearly. 


Pippin watching The Clone Wars πŸ˜

Monday, July 12, 2021

Costume Pictures, Realm Makers is Almost Here, and I Actually Wrote Something!

 Yeah, I don't have a fun, snappy title for this.

Anyway, I passed my last CLEP test last week, so I've gotten back into writing. It's not going as fast as I wish it would, since I'm blazing a new trail right now, but it's interesting, and, as my friend reminded me, "books are written one word at a time." Still, I'm determined to finish this draft of The Vanished before I start school in mid August. I really want to have it done by then. And maybe this time the second half will work well enough to just edit.

There's my writing update. Can you tell I've already killed my brain with studying? 

Anyway, Realm Makers is THIS WEEK!!! I CANNOT WAIT. 

But I know what you really want to see after that title. Costumessssssss.

I finished them! And of course my sister and I had to try imitating the poses from the Revenge of the Sith promo photos. Which was fun. If you're on my email list, you've already seen some of these, but I have more. Here ya go. Let me know in the comments what you think!

Monday, June 21, 2021

Interview with C.E. Stone, Author of Starganauts

Today C.E. Stone is visiting my blog to talk about her new Christian space opera, Starganauts! I haven't read it yet, but it sounds pretty cool. I mean, how could it not? She was inspired by Star Wars and LOTR. 😊

First, a little bit about the book.


Kaity Anderson was a new bride on her wedding day. Samantha Harris was an engineer who had given up all to follow God.

Kaity’s reception is ruined when an alien gunship incinerates the surface of Earth. Rescued from the apocalypse by a strange prophetess, Kaity, her husband, and five others are drawn across the galaxy. While the prophetess promises God has a plan, Kaity grows increasingly desperate as their chances of survival—and water supply—dwindle.

Samantha didn’t ask to be God’s prophetess. Yet once she answers the call, the Spirit leads her to an inhospitable world with Kaity and several of Earth’s survivors. Hounded by the master of the gunship, the Earthlings search for water as their alien pursuers and dehydration close in. Only God’s promise of a future in a distant city gives Samantha any hope of survival. But could the answer to all their problems lie in eight, mysterious orbs? The discovery of these crystals will change their lives—and the destiny of galaxies—forever.

Thus begins Starganauts, a clean, compelling Christian space opera adventure by C.E. Stone. Fans of Star Wars and Star Trek will enjoy this series that explores how God’s plan prevails, even against impossible odds.


And now for the interview!

Where did you get the idea for Starganauts?

I can’t give you a single source. The idea first came to me as I was playing Legos as a child, and grew as I continued watching many sci-fi shows and movies. Star Wars, Star Trek, Starcraft, Lord of the Rings, and Titan A.E. all influenced it. I grew up with the first 2 franchises, which cultivated my love of sci-fi. “Knights of the Old Republic,” in particular, inspired some of my characters’ backstories. The Lord of the Rings inspired me to create an expansive history and universe. The video game Starcraft influenced my actual stories and peoples, as I literally created Starganauts stories using their world-builder and making mock video game campaigns. Titan A.E. is where the premise comes from: the end of Earth was their beginning.

Which of the characters is most like you?

Kaity Anderson. I’ve often been described as empathetic, cheerful, and an encourager. I like to be there for others in hard times. Yet I’m timid by nature, I don’t like being in the spotlight, and change is hard for me. My character Kaity is very much like this. She’s a quiet, behind-the-scenes encourager. She likes to make sure everyone is okay, and she prefers a predictable life. Indeed, the only great differences in our personalities are that I’m a fairly content/cheerful person and I don’t have trouble letting go of the past. Kaity is discontent, struggling to accept reality and move on from the loss of what she wanted her life to be.

What was the hardest part of writing this book? The easiest part?

Figuring out the science. I have a great love for science, and God’s creation continually blows my mind. Unfortunately, I have a terrible memory for scientific facts! I can read about infrared sensors and 100% understand how they work, in the moment. 15 minutes later, I’ve forgotten most of what I just read, so I have to reread everything again to incorporate scientific elements into my story. I lean heavily on my husband to help me, because facts and data are my weakness. He’s got a brain wired for science, and will give me answers that often blend actual science with theoretical. It helps immensely when I’m writing space opera.

The easiest part was world-building. I’d already created a rich history, distinct worlds, and varied aliens over 7 years of Lego play. It was super fun finally realizing all these cultures and planets on the page. I also enjoyed updating some of my sillier childhood ideas, making them sound plausible or even cool. I enjoy world-building and, if anything, I have to scale back from including TOO much detail. πŸ˜‚

What is your favorite thing about writing?

Writing is a way I connect with God and glorify Him through my words. My favorite moments are when I’m typing away and the Holy Spirit suddenly fills my mind with an idea. I know it’s totally not what I had planned, but I go with it…and the result is an incredible scene. Consequently, my favorite thing about writing is being inspired by the Holy Spirit. And those exact scenes are often the ones that touch people the most.

What do you hope readers get out of Starganauts?

That God works through even the most impossible odds. He is living and active in our lives, and has a plan and a purpose for us. That He can bring beauty out of the deepest tragedy and that He loves us, not for what we accomplish on our own strength, but for the simple fact that He made us. Our identity rests securely in Him.

Those are the messages I hope to convey as an encouragement to fellow Christians. For those who aren’t believers, if they do read my book, I hope to demonstrate that Jesus is real, relevant, and that His grace and mercy are only a prayer away.

Thanks for interviewing me and for your fantastic questions!

You're welcome! It was great to have you!


Make sure you go check out Starganauts!  

Monday, June 7, 2021

Observations As I Study Biology

This is where my brain is right now. But hey, I've passed two CLEPs so far, so I'm making progress.

I can't say I've always loved science. I kind of hated it before we discovered Apologia, though I do remember enjoying my report on cuts and the presentation my sister and I did on the digestive system, complete with a hand drawn diagram named "Mary the Body Girl." Still, it was when we discovered Apologia that I decided I loved science. (The first Apologia book I did was the elementary astronomy course, and then I went into General Science and the rest of the high school books. Anatomy is HARD. But I still did it because it was my elective that I chose because I'd finished the required sciences, didn't want to go my senior year without science, and Apologia doesn't have a high school astronomy course. But I digress.) Science is awesome and super cool and extremely fascinating. And brushing up on biology for my CLEP, I'm rediscovering why I loved it so much in school.

So a couple of observations.

1. Writing style really matters, even in school books. Maybe especially in school books. I'm rereading my high school textbook and also using some online CLEP-specific resources to study. They're all covering the same basic information, but I have to say, Apologia is my favorite. It's the most engaging, you can tell Dr. Wile actually cares about what he's writing about, and I get the most out of it. Dry recitations of facts aren't enough. You have to actually engage your audience.

2. Worldview really does affect your interpretation. Obviously, Apologia is Creation-based science. These other materials most certainly are not. Thing is, they present the same data, the same processes, the same facts. Mitosis is mitosis, no matter if you're a creationist or a secular scientist. However. There are big differences in how things get interpreted. The thing that stands out most to me is how in the secular texts they keep saying how the common elements/structures/etc. between different types of living things are evidence for a common ancestor. Whereas I look at it and see evidence for a common Designer. Just like writers have unique quirks, certain tropes they tend to use, and so on, you would expect for life designed by one Creator to have the same building blocks. But these building blocks can create incredibly diverse organisms that truly are mind-blowing.

3. Biology really is mind boggling. Seriously. Even the "simplest" of lifeforms is INCREDIBLY complex. Heck, even the simplest protein is extremely complex and specific. Not only is it mind boggling to me how these atoms fit together to make molecules which work together to make cells which combine and reproduce and process food into energy to create larger organisms which can think and do all kind of things, it's mind boggling to me that people can really believe it happened by accident. If even one amino acid in a protein is wrong, life won't work right. And the odds of that simplest protein assembling accidently in that precise way is roughly the same as the probability of a poker player drawing a royal flush 19 times in a row. And that's only if we limit the available amino acids to the 17 in that protein. Basically, successfully navigating an asteroid field is child's play compared to the odds of life happening by accident. Makes me want to go reread Yellow & Pink. It really does take more faith to believe in evolution than creation.

4. There's an element to life that just can't be explained in scientific terms. See, as I read about molecular biology and biochemistry and cells and enzymes and everything, it all seems abstract and like it's missing something. Like you could put those pieces together, but it takes something else to make it truly alive. And as I'm typing this, I'm thinking back to the creation of the Middle Earth dwarves in The Silmarillion. Forgive me that I don't remember which of the Valar made them. I guess I'm not enough of a LOTR nerd. But this member of the Valar created dwarves which were really just puppets. They'd do stuff when he made them act, but they weren't truly alive until IllΓΊvatar breathed life into them. There's a spiritual and supernatural aspect to life. God formed Adam, I'm sure creating and arranging all the atoms and molecules and cells and everything, and then He breathed life into him. Scientists will never be able to replicate that. And someday I will finish reading The Silmarillion.

5. This is why I love science fiction. As I read about biology (specifically things like cloning and viruses and GMOs), it gets the wheels of my imagination turning just like it used to when I was a teenager. I love biological experimentation oriented sci-fi, and things like cloning, biological experimentation, and eugenics fascinate me in a dystopian kind of way. Yes, I do have some vague plans for Acktorek books involving biological warfare/experimentation. I just...have to figure out the plots. Right now I've only got concepts. There's just so much scope for imagination in science, speculating on where things could go and contemplating the ethics of such developments. It so makes me want to write.

So these are the things that have been going through my head lately. Someday these things will come out in new science fiction novels, I'm sure. And in the meantime, science is awesome. Go read some Apologia (but make sure you get editions written by Dr. Wile).

Monday, May 24, 2021

Why I'm Going To College

I had this whole post written up about why I'm going to college, how it's never too late to follow your dreams, yada, yada, yada. And now that I'm ready to make the official announcement...I'm not going to post it. Because as time has gone on, I've felt the conviction that I just need to be real with y'all. This is not my dream.

See, if my life went the way I'd planned it, I'd have gotten married at 22, started having kids pretty much right away, I'd be selling lots of books, have a solid, steady music studio, and be looking forward to being a homeschool mom once my kids get old enough. As it is, I'm 25 and still solidly single and childless, book sales are difficult to sustain, between COVID, kids growing up, and families moving away my music studio has dwindled (though I'm still incredibly grateful for the students I still have), and being a homeschool mom is nowhere in sight.

I've never been against college as an institution. All I've been against is shoving everyone into college when that's not the right path for everyone. I believe we should all discover what God wants us to do, and then get the training/jump through the hoops to do that. For some that's college. For others it's technical school. For some that might look more like learning a trade in an old fashioned apprenticeship-style method. For some that might be getting married at 22, becoming a mom right away, and using abilities in the arts to work from home.

And there might be different methods for different stages of life.

I know I wasn't supposed to go to college straight out of high school. For one thing, if I had, I'd probably have majored in something like creative writing, which tbh, would be pretty useless for paying rent and putting food on the table. And I'd still be looking at going back now for something more useful. I've learned a lot in these past seven years since my high school graduation. I've learned a lot about violin, about writing, about book design, about people, about teaching, about life, about myself, and most importantly about God. And I've learned it in a way that I couldn't have if I'd gone straight to college. So while I often wish that I'd come to this decision sooner so I wouldn't have to go through college now, I don't regret the path God has taken me through, particularly in the last six years since we moved from my childhood home. Has it been easy? Not at all. Has some of it been painful? You bet. But I look back on all the people I've had in my life in these years (even if only for a short while), at the things I've done and learned and the lives I've touched at the library, of the various music students I've taught, of the friendships I've built, of the books I've written, and I wouldn't exchange it for anything.

But it's time to move into that next stage of life.

I'm not giving up writing. I'm never giving up writing. In fact, I firmly believe that God prevented me from pursuing this path two years ago when I first started to seriously consider it because I would have been giving up writing and running away from everything that was making life difficult and painful. Now, I have a different attitude. Writing is a calling God placed on me when I was a child, and it's something that I can't walk away from. But so is teaching. And while I love teaching music and intend to keep doing it as long as God allows, I know it's not the extent to which I am supposed to teach.

So what am I doing and why?

I'm going to Kennesaw State University, starting this fall, to major in elementary ed, with the intention of completing the degree in three years. I'm also planning to CLEP out of several classes this summer, so even though I don't technically start until mid August, I'm already studying.

And why? Well, I can't deny that part of it is financial. Reality is, as much as I love the library, it just doesn't pay enough to sustain a single income household, and I don't think it's right for me to expect my dad to foot the majority of my bills indefinitely just because my life choices result in an income too small for me to live on my own. Being female doesn't give me the right to expect someone else to pay for my life, particularly as a single woman. We're not called to idleness. I mean, look at the Proverbs 31 woman. She had several successful home businesses.

But the bigger thing is, this is where God is leading me for this next phase of my life. How long will it be? I have no idea. Does God have marriage and children in my future at all? I also have no idea. But what I do know is that God has given me an ability and a desire to teach children, and that in more than just music, and I can't just let that fall by the wayside because God hasn't put me in a place where I have my own children to homeschool. So it's time to jump through those hoops and get the training needed to teach elementary school. And it's time for me to really trust God that He knows what He's doing with my life, even if it's the complete opposite of what I always expected.

And don't worry, I'm still working on Acktorek 2: The Vanished, albeit slowly. I really can't make any promises on timeline, but I'm not going to abandon it and I really am hoping to somehow get this one out while I'm still in school. But again, I can't make any promises because I just don't know how things are going to play out.

In closing, I want to share with you a song that's really meant a lot to me over the last year or so. God really does know what He's doing.


Now I'm off to go relearn logarithms for this algebra CLEP.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Good Soldiers Follow Orders

No, this isn't a Bad Batch review (though it's totally awesome so far and you should absolutely 100% go watch it). It's just a good illustration of some things I've been thinking about lately.

Good soldiers follow orders.


How often do you make your own decisions? And I'm not talking about whether to wear a green shirt or a blue one today, or whether to eat eggs or a blueberry muffin for breakfast. I'm talking about real decisions. Ones that affect what you believe, how you live your life. And how often do you just do X because someone in authority or someone you respect said so or because you've been taught just to obey without question? How often do you personally test the things you've been told before you adopt them as your own belief?

I know most of us like to think of ourselves as rebels, as independent thinkers, but how many of us are really? And how many of us just pick which authority we want to follow and trust that if we do what they say everything will turn out fine?

I see it everywhere, good soldiers following orders. People getting outraged because the media said to be outraged over said thing. People complying because a supposed authority said this will keep them safe, even if it's directly contradictory to what was said last week. People raising their kids according to a strict standard of rules because their religious leader said if they do that their kids will automatically turn out great.

And you know what? It never seems to turn out the way they say. Instead, more and more rules and regulations get piled on, people just accept more and more, until they find themselves in a disaster and wonder how that happened. It's because good soldiers follow orders. And because, like the proverbial frog in the boiling water, it happened gradually. They never start with the things that are blatantly wrong.

None of us actually have inhibitor chips conditioning us to follow orders without question, though sometimes I wonder. Because it does seem like a lot of us have been conditioned to follow one authority or another without question.

I'm not saying that all authority is bad. I'm not saying "children defy your parents" because that's obviously unbiblical. And I'm not even saying there aren't situations where it's important to obey immediately without asking "why?"

In fact, when I was little, probably about four or so, I got the "obey immediately" lesson. We were out in our backyard when my parents told me to go inside immediately. I, being the person I am, asked "why?" They made me go inside anyway, invoking the story from Little House where Ma slapped a bear and told Laura to go inside immediately (and Laura did it). Turns out, there was a skunk outside and obviously my parents didn't want anyone getting sprayed by a skunk. (No one did, thankfully.) And there are situations far more dangerous than getting sprayed by a skunk where it's important to obey immediately. My sister's example is of when Maul tries to run over Anakin with a speeder bike.


That said, it was never really an "obey now, end of story." It was "obey now and it'll get explained once this immediate danger is past."

If it's always and forever "Just because I said so" no one learns to make their own decisions. No one learns how to have discernment. Everyone's just, well, sheep.

Because the truth is, there is only one absolute, infallible authority. And that's God. Everyone else, well, news flash, they're not right 100% of the time. Even the wisest, most knowledgeable, most spiritual leader gets stuff wrong. And reality is, most of the leaders people follow aren't the wisest, most knowledgeable, most spiritual people. They're just the most convincing people who are great at marketing. And often they're doing it for power and money. Just look at all the prominent people with huge followings that have big scandals come out.

"But my leader isn't like that!" you might protest. "He's wise and studies the Bible intensively and really cares about me." Or "my parents are great, and they've been great role models and I really trust their judgement." 

That may be entirely true. I'm not saying don't respect those people, don't listen to them, don't value their insight. What I'm saying is don't take it as Gospel truth. Don't follow blindly. They're human. They're fallible. They will get things wrong, just like you will get things wrong. Test everything according to Scripture before you make up your mind. Do your own research.

I don't know if I have any parents reading this blog, but if I do, parents, you're not doing your kids any favors if you don't teach them to think for themselves. Don't just say "this is what we believe, this is what we do because I said so." You're setting them up to fail. Teach them to test things, to use critical thinking, to do research, to compare everything with Scripture. I've seen it far too many times where kids aren't taught to think for themselves, and they end up picking the wrong thing to blindly follow.

Blindly following is the easy path. But it's not the Biblical one. You have to test everything.

"The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so."
—Acts 17:10-11
"Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear."
—Thomas Jefferson
 In short, use your brain. There are too many people out there trying to control you, misguide you, lead you astray, whether intentionally or unintentionally, for you to follow blindly. Question with boldness. Things that are actually true will hold up under scrutiny. I promise.

And in closing, I want to share a conversation from Legacy of the Force: Betrayal by Aaron Allston I found especially relevant and interesting.

Ben: I hear kids say they hate it when their parents say Do this because I say so. Sometimes I think they have it easy.
Mara: I suspect they do. Of course, they don't get to run all over the galaxy and practice with live lightsabers.
Ben: Yeah, I guess. But thinking is hard. And kind of unfair. There never seems to be a right answer.
Luke: That's it. There never seems to be a right answer is a right answer.
Ben: Oh.
Mara: Watch out for people who tell you they know the right answer. They may think they do, but often they're wrong. Or they may just know that thinking is so hard, many people don't want to do it. They want a leader they can trust . . . so they don't have to do the hard work of thinking. That's one type of leader you don't want to follow.
Good soldiers may follow orders, but wise ones test them first.

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves."
—Matthew 10:16

Monday, April 26, 2021

NaNo's Almost Over

And I almost forgot I was supposed to have a blog post this week. I'm ahead, but planning on trying to keep going at this pace until I finish this book. Almost to the midpoint. And I'm still liking how it's going. It seems more solid and consistent, though I don't know how that'll hold up in the second half where I'm planning to make a number of changes.

Well, I say planning, but the changes are vague pictures in my head, so there'll be a lot of making it up as I go along. Really, though, I do have a better understanding of what's going on in the story and why, and of some things I forgot to touch on before, I just don't know exactly how it's all going to play out. Don't worry, I'm still planning on doing the horrible things to Mitchell I did last draft. πŸ˜‰

Have some snippets.

I heave a sigh and shake off [Mitchell's] hand. “Grace is making it exceptionally difficult to pack. You and Brian are both going to get it for not backing me up. She’s sent me five hundred million different options for bridesmaid dresses, and that’s not even counting flower arrangements and wedding dresses. And she doesn’t seem to understand that I have something actually important to do right now.”

“Grace’s wedding is important,” Mitchell says. “It is only important in a different way from our mission.”

I snort. “Sure, getting married is important, but flowers? Who cares about flowers?”

oOo 


“She’s asking for my opinion on flowers,” Emma groans. “If it was up to me, there wouldn’t be any flowers.”

I choose to refrain from responding to the statement. “How is the conversion process progressing?”

Emma snorts. “It’d be a lot faster if I didn’t have to manually check each one for accuracy. But some of their clerks have horrendous handwriting, and it’s super difficult to decipher the letters when the translator can’t even identify them. I mean, at least Ebrarian alphabet isn’t all that different from Arabic. This stuff? It’s a mess.”

oOo 


He kneels down to her level. “My name iss Mitchell. We have come to help.”

Gia flashes a gap-toothed smile up at me. “I know. She tole me. And ain’t that what Acktorek’s for?”

Yeah, that’s what it’s supposed to be for. But that isn’t always reality.

No, Delma’s in jail. Breach control was pretty much cleaned out. Things aren’t like that anymore. But then, they never should have been in the first place.

oOo 


I narrow my eyes. “What about doctor/patient confidentiality?”

“She did not provide specifics, but she was required to provide the department with a statement prior to your approval for duty.”

I drop my gaze. Not really feeling betrayed, but I still don’t think Dr. Wilset is right. How could she be?

Without any kind of warning, Mitchell pulls me into his arms again. I curl into his chest, relishing his warmth and solidity. I know I’d fall apart completely without him. I still feel like I’m falling apart even with him. And I still don’t think I’m the best one to help those kids. Or that I’ll be able to care at all for any other person we’re sent to save. But I’m here. We’re here. And somebody has to do it.

“The only certain way to fail is not to attempt it at all,” Mitchell murmurs against my hair.

Monday, April 12, 2021

A New NaNo Snippet

Yup, it's NaNo again, which means...I don't have an actual blog post. Nothing profound to say because I'm pounding the keyboard to get half of this draft done by the end of the month. Planning to try to keep up the pace through May to finish it, but we'll see. My brain is usually pretty done at the end of NaNo. 

I'm working on the third draft of Acktorek Book 2: The Vanished. It's going pretty well, I think I've finally figured out some things that didn't make sense before, and I'm looking forward to seeing how this all plays out.

Not every day has been amazing, but I've managed to stay ahead so far this time and write every day. Which is rare. Reaaaally hoping to get that "update your word count every day" badge.

Follow my Instagram for my progress...I've been posting my word count almost every day in my story with little updates. But here's what we're looking like right now. (Technically, these screenshots are from yesterday.)



Here, have a snippet.

I pull a flat square out of my backpack and look around for a place to stick it. The sensor will bond to any surface, so that’s not a problem. But it’s not so hardy that if people constantly walk into it or if something falls on it, it won’t be damaged. It’s sensitive equipment. Problem is, I’m not really all that sure the storefront won’t fall over, or at least that the poor excuse for an awning won’t collapse on top of wherever I put it.

“Is you ’ere from Acktorek?”

My gaze snaps to the speaker: an unbearably thin girl with skimpy, shimmery red braids and dirt smeared over her dark face. Her dress is so tattered and patched and stained it’s impossible to tell what color it used to be. Somehow she looks bright and hopeful. And definitely the friendliest person I’ve seen here. She can’t be any older than six. Which puts her squarely in the risk category. From what factors we know. I know we’re missing something crucial. Hopefully something that excludes this little girl. I don’t like the way my heart constricts looking at her.

“Yes, I am.” I do my best to answer her calmly and gently, mostly trusting my translator will get that across. “My partner and I are here to help you. My name is Emma.”

“Me name’s Gia. What’s that?” She points a bony finger at the sensor.

“This . . .” I hesitate, not sure how to explain it to her. Then I just lower my hand so Gia can get a better look. “This will, um, sense what’s happening around here so we can figure out why people are disappearing.” If we knew what we’re looking for. Hopefully it’s obvious. Though I don’t really want more kids to have to vanish just so we can figure it out.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Emma Calls the Shots

I've long since learned that it's wise to listen to Emma Edsel.

She's a very temperamental character, tbh, so if she's in a cooperating mood, I have to jump on it. So I'm going from the pirate book back to Acktorek. Not that I don't want to write the pirate book, but Emma's ready for me to come back, and I'm ready to go back to her, and honestly, my emotional connection to Emma and Mitchell is a lot stronger than my emotional connection to Anthea and Edmund. I'll come back to the pirate book. But Emma's ready, and I can't let the opportunity pass.

Now, of course, I decided to go back to Acktorek in the middle of a really crazy week, so I'm not very far yet, but I'm liking this rewrite so far. Fingers crossed that it'll be the last major rewrite and I'll just be able to edit after this, but...we'll see. Emma may be ready for me to come back to her story, but she's still a complete mess, and so it's quite difficult to get right. And emotionally draining. But worth it.

And hey, audiobook recording for The Void is going well. And so is cosplay progress. My tunic, tabards, and obi are complete, and I've finished dyeing the fabric for my sister's and started on hers. Well on our way to transforming into Anakin and Obi-Wan! No, no pictures yet. But there will be. Possibly with photoshopped lightsaber blades, since I just have a hilt I had 3D printed at the library. Which is still cool.

Here, have the beginning of draft three of Acktorek: The Vanished. Probably won't be exactly like this in the published version, but here's the current version!

I hate graduations.

This one isn’t technically as bad as my last one. That one was open ended. This one gets me a job. But that job is one I really don’t think I can do.

Yes, I’ve trained for it. I’ve technically passed all the milestones, all the tests, all of everything. Mitchell thinks I’m ready. My therapist, Dr. Wilset, says it’s good for me to do.

But I can’t. They don’t know. They don’t know how badly I’ll fail. How badly I’ve already failed when it really, really mattered.

Oh, they say it wasn’t my fault. I go along with it. But it was. I didn’t do my job. I failed in my most important responsibility.

And I might know science. I’ve learned a lot of fascinating things at Acktorek Academy. I might have done well at logic and deductive reasoning. I might be just paranoid enough to be good at spotting deception. And I might have picked up the defense techniques pretty easily.

But that doesn’t mean that when it comes time to save the people I care about I won’t fail.

Just like I did last time.

P.S. BTW, watch Timeless. It's awesome.



Monday, March 8, 2021

Like and Equal Are Not the Same Thing

Ever since I first read A Wrinkle in Time when I was seven years old, that has been one of my favorite (if not my top favorite) quotes from the book. The moment of the actual quote may be brief, just like the entire climax 😜, but it's a culmination of the entire book.

"Like and equal are not the same thing at all!"
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

It's good to be different.

We are all equal. No one's life has more intrinsic value than another's. Everyone matters just as much as the next person, regardless of age, gender, race, religious beliefs, political views, socioeconomic status, health, class, IQ...any other label you can put on a person. Sure, I may personally care more about my sister than the random person I just passed on the street, but that doesn't mean that random person is of inherent less value than my sister. They're not. We are all equal before God.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

But equal is not alike. Not one person on this earth is exactly the same as any other person in the past, present, and future of this world. See, on Camazotz, everyone was the same. And Meg, who hated being different, might initially find that attractive. But it's good to be different.

In this world, we look at presidents and CEOs and movie stars and think they have more value than the plumber we hired to fix the toilet. But that isn't true.

We look at foreign missionaries and think they have more value than those of us who minister to our sphere of influence at home. They don't.

We look at bestselling authors and think they have more value than that indie author we just bought a book from. They don't. 

See, like and equal are not the same thing.

We might look at people we admire and want to be like them. But we shouldn't. We can admire traits in people. We can learn from who they are. But we don't need to be exactly like them, because that's not who God made us to be.

"When I grow up, I want to be just like you."
"When you grow up, you should be just like you."
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)

We all have a different role to play, one that fits together with the roles of those around us.

We are all different members of the body of Christ and that's the way it's supposed to be. If our role is completely different from someone we admire, that's actually a good thing. It doesn't mean we're wrong, or that person's wrong, or that one or the other has a more important job to do. We are all equal, but we are not alike.

And that's the way it's supposed to be.

"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." —1 Corinthians 12:12-27

Monday, February 22, 2021

Agree to Disagree

In today's culture, we seem to have lost the fine art of agreeing to disagree. Actually agreeing to disagree.

No one agrees 100% on everything with any one other person. My sisters and I are close, and we agree on a lot, but we don't agree on everything. For instance, my middle sister prefers LOTR to Narnia, but Narnia is more special to me than LOTR. (I do love LOTR, though, and my sister's preference for it might be because I made her watch The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe five hundred million times.) Even couples with a great marriage who are on the same page on a lot of things don't agree 100% on everything. For instance, my mom loves broccoli and my dad won't eat it.

But my sisters and I don't get into heated arguments about whether Narnia or LOTR is better. My parents don't fight over whether my dad should eat certain vegetables (though we do make sure he gets some vegetables because we want him around for a good long time).

I was raised Presbyterian in Baptistville, and so I'm around a lot of people I disagree with on certain fine points of theology. I'm reformed, I have dear friends who are not. We don't have arguments about the doctrine of election.

I'm a Christian conservative and have campaigned for conservative candidates since I was eight years old. I have worked with people who assuredly do not share my political and religious beliefs. But we work together and do our jobs, and serve the people in front of us.

Is it hard to not argue with people? ABSOLUTELY. 100%. I'm argumentative by nature. I have many times argued with people when I shouldn't. I often have to bite my tongue and just move on to another topic. And it can be hard. But it's worth it.

I look around America today, and I see all this negativity and volatility and violence. Sometimes people fight over unimportant things, like whether The Last Jedi was any good. Sometimes people fight over things that matter, like religious freedoms. But what good does it do when we just yell at each other? It only makes people more mad, more defensive, and more set on their position. It creates more violence. Perpetuates cancel culture. And I'm tired of it.

We live in what is supposed to be a free nation. The First Amendment is supposed to protect freedom of speech. And we should be willing to let other people have their own opinions and beliefs. We should be able to discuss our differences calmly and rationally, being willing to see others' viewpoints. Maybe we'll convince each other to change our views, maybe not. But if we're willing to sit down in a non-hostile environment, then just maybe, even if no one changes their mind, we can agree to disagree and unite on the things we do agree on. Even if the only thing we can agree on is that chocolate is awesome. 

Above all, "Be ye kind, one to another." All of this fighting is the opposite of kindness. You don't win people over by burning down their business, or by firing them from a job they do well because they disagree with the mainstream narrative. You win people over with love and kindness.

And if that's controversial, then so be it.

"When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind."