Saturday, May 20, 2017

I Graduated!

"Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different?"

These wise words by C.S. Lewis have always struck a chord in me, but perhaps never as strongly as here at the end of college. Because looking back, it's been one crazy amazing adventure from start to finish. But in the day to day, I experienced hard moments, challenges, frustrations--long days when it felt like no matter how much time or energy I poured into it, nothing was changing. Yet now that it's over, I look back and I am astounded at the ways I and my classmates have transformed this year.

Of course, none of that would have been possible without some very key people!

My teachers. (I nicknamed them Bob and Larry for their opposite personalities.) Both are very wise, godly men who have become dear mentors to me. They taught me and my classmates, coached us, equipped us, and poured their hearts into us.

The ministry leads. They were all amazing, but this year I got the chance to work under the leadership of the fantastic people in the youth department and the creative department. In youth, my love for teens grew even deeper, and my courage strengthened as I took opportunities to form relationships with them, teach them, and serve them. In creative, I learned new skills with my hands, started thinking outside the box more and more, and realized how much work and forethought go into event planning.

My family and friends. Without a home base of people who loved me, understood my crazy schedule, and supplied me with food, hugs, and listening ears, this year would've been a lot harder! Their support, encouragement, and of course prayers made a big difference.

My classmates. They rocked! I learned something from each and every one of them, whether they were aware of it or not. The team we formed got some pretty darn remarkable things done during these past nine months of college, and some of the friendships I formed will last a long time.

I have learned so much at college. Leadership principles, people skills, communication and public speaking, how to serve wholeheartedly, relationship building, and the list goes on. I've learned more about God, His Word, and His real purpose for my life.

But it's one thing to acquire more head knowledge--you can pick up a new book or take a class just about anywhere. It's a whole other thing to actually apply what you've learned, and that was one of the best things about this program.

Through designing chapels for elementary and high school, doing group projects, ministry afternoons, and volunteering at youth, inner city, and big events, we got many chances to really live out exactly what we were being taught.

Perhaps the biggest example of this was the day camp we planned from the ground up. Working on that project, we actually had to lead both each other and the kids. We had to work with each other's personalities. We saw each other's strengths shine out, and we came face to face with each other's flaws. Yet we still chose to build a team, a family.

As a recovering perfectionist, I learned to beat the shame storm. Excellence is just doing the best you can with what you have, and that is enough.

I grew in my public speaking. In September, presenting a speech brought on nervous butterflies and even dizziness. But just two days ago, I delivered a valedictorian speech at grad and--apart from shedding a few tears--felt pretty comfortable behind the mic. (This post, in fact, is a modified version of that grad speech.)

I stepped out of my comfort zone, especially in the area of leadership as I was put in charge of the aforementioned day camp.

Some of my D personality* classmates rubbed off on me, and I became more direct and honest with others, lessening my people pleasing side a bit.

*from the DISC system; D's are the direct people who cut to the chase and get stuff done.

I learned better strategies for managing my time.

I learned that life is all about relationships, and that tasks are secondary (and really are meant to serve relationships in the first place).

I learned to ask why, to stay curious, and to apply new knowledge to my life at this very moment.

I learned in a greater way that we are all reflections of God's nature, and so is everything that's right and true in the world.

It's been said, "In any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety."

My classmates and I took many forward steps between September and now, and it would be easy to stop there, to think of this as the end. Truthfully, I've just begun this journey. Many new chapters lie ahead. But I'm well-armed with the tools God has helped me forge this year. I'm sad to see my year at college come to a close, because I've made so many good memories. But as my classmates and I move into new adventures, we'll be cheering each other on.

And faith tells me that no matter what lies ahead, God is already there.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

First Lines (Part 2)

Back in January, I posted a collection of opening lines from various stories (in various stages of completion), but didn't have room to include them all. So we're back for round two!*

*Sorry, no graphics today. I barely had time to get the post itself ready, and it was already mostly prepared. XD

Legend tells of a great treasure deep in the heart of the Fortress of Eternal Winter, a treasure so valuable that the one worthy enough to find it should experience ecstasy beyond belief. And not only that, but they should find themselves with a life longer than any other. It was this prize the noble knight sought, and already it had cost him dearly . . .

[The Fortress of Eternal Winter, short story (a parody), complete]


The little girl shuffled through the dew-spangled grass, blinking sleep from her eyes. Just ahead, a man sat on a rock at the edge of the overhang.

He swivelled and gave her a soft smile. "Good morning, little one."

She smiled back, though muzzily from morning drowsiness. "Morning." She reached his side.

The man picked her up and set her on his lap. The two sat quietly for a time. Nothing was said, for the dawn spoke eloquently enough for them both. A burning red sliver of sun had already appeared along the horizon, and birds were testing their singing voices, and far, far away, the ocean surf sighed.

[This is the Day, flash fiction, complete]


"Merry Christmas, Hannah." Lisa Kehler leaned down so the elderly, bedridden woman could hear her and gently squeezed the fragile hand.

[Tired of Doing Good, short story, complete]


Vannon paused, ice-encrusted shovel poised above a snowy drift. The air tingled with a barely perceptible whine, just at the edge of the ear's range. He cocked his head and concentrated on the sound. His breath-clouds came slower; the dull roar of rushing blood slowed. At a glance, one would think him a statue: furry mantle frozen in thick tufts, short beard spangled with chilled drops of moisture, and rabbit-hide gloves wrapped tightly around his shovel's wooden shaft.

There--there it was again. A faint drone, like the blur of insect wings. Vannon's eyes slid to the southward mountains, a shattered spine of rock wracking the azure sky.

[untitled, unfinished]


I have one green eye and one brown eye. The green eye sees truth, but the brown eye sees much, much more. With it, I can perceive things no one else can. You make think this is a wonderful gift, but I assure you, it is a curse.

[untitled, writing exercise]


"Arctic, I already told you there was to be no snowfall practice in your room!" The voice, although muffled, demanded immediate attention.

Arctic winced and cracked her door open. A rivulet of water trickled past her foot and toward the stairs. "Sorry, mother."

[untitled, writing exercise]


Pheori's bare feet padded softly down the marble floor of the Emperor's treasure hall. He rolled his eyes toward the vaulted ceiling and tried to pay attention to Emperor Cho's happy prattling. But his legs ached to run somewhere and his lungs desired the hot desert oxygen.

[untitled, unfinished]


The glare of the August sun threw glints across the lake. Madison Paratore shielded her eyes with a hand. A sigh warmed her lips. "It's the last hoorah, you guys."

[untitled, unfinished]


"So Kendrick, are you going to fix it or what?"

"It doesn't need fixing, Trapper."

"Doesn't need . . .? Kendrick! Look at it! It's torn in the corners, covered in debris, and so bright a Flat-Raider could see it miles away."

[untitled, writing exercise]


I slouch on the barstool and loop my fingers through the lacy yarn. It's red and orange and burgundy, like the trees I see through the kitchen window.

"Are your parents coming back this evening?" Aunt Bailey asks. Her knitting needles click against each other and the half-made scarf drapes over her lap like a fluffy python.

[untitled, writing exercise]


Lyric reached the top of the stone steps built into the side of the hill. His tired legs were not nearly as heavy as his heart. Sharp wind slapped his face, tugged his long hair, pressed his cloak against his ribcage. "Talon," he said, but a gust of air snatched away the name. He tried again, louder this time. "Talon?"

[untitled, writing exercise]


All was silent at the train station. A crumpled piece of trash blew past three pairs of feet at a bench--a pair of thick-soled black boots, two mismatched loafers, and red sneakers. One of these sneakers jiggled up and down very fast.

The owner of the red sneakers, Owen, sighed and looked at his watch. 5:13. The train was late.

[untitled, writing exercise]


I sit up with a start, blinking in the light shining over my desk. Had I fallen asleep? I rub my eyes and look around my bedroom. Everything looks the same as it always has. The clock shows 1:47 p.m. in glaring red letters.

[Rewritten, flash fiction, complete]


"Let's go over this again." Dr. Teagan propped his elbows on the desk and leaned forward. "I know we've discussed your experiences several times, but it would help with my diagnosis if we took another look at things. Is that all right with you?"
Josiah took a deep breath to quell the familiar heat churning in his belly. You've practically diagnosed me already. Why rehash it? But aloud he muttered, "Fine."

[The Prophet's Key, novel, unfinished]


The little flame throbbed, illuminating Father’s hands as they worked. The glass rod he held with a metal tool drooped over like a strand of freshly made taffy. He began fashioning one end. His tweezers flashed in the firelight, slowly persuading the glass to take the form he desired.

I watched over his shoulder and held my breath. Magic required silence.

[The Glass Girl, novella, complete]


Tree branches scraped the sides of Emi's car and leaves tinged in early-autumn gold fluttered at her windows. One hand on the wheel and the other fumbling with a roadmap, she squinted at the dirt lane, then back at the squiggly map lines.

"Way to go, Emi." She blew air through her lips. "Lost." Abandoning the incomprehensible map, she focused on the tire tracks ahead. On either side, the trees pressed in close and cast a network of evening shadows over her '95 Dodge Spirit.

[Blood Rose, novella, complete]


Not in centuries had the mountains rung with such gladness.

Aleida tilted her face toward the sun and smiled. The road winding uphill was choked with people, nobles and countryfolk alike all traveling to the castle for the celebration. Their lively chatter echoed against the crags.
[The Brightest Thread, novella-turning-into-a-novel, my current WIP, unfinished]

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Retellings - Love 'Em or Hate 'Em?

With my mind on The Brightest Thread, I've been pondering retellings lately, retellings of all sorts and all formats. Books. Movies. Fairytale retellings. Superhero reboots. Book-to-screen adaptions. We've been seeing an influx of all of them--and perhaps a decline in original ideas, but that's another topic for another time.

What I want to talk about today is the vast spectrum of responses these retellings get from people. One retold fairytale or rebooted movie from the 90's might be adored, loathed, criticized, apathetically ignored, or anything and everything in between. Now, of course any work of art, original or retold, will elicit a variety of responses, but it seems that people become rather vocal when it comes to retellings.

Why is that?

I propose it's because of people's deep emotional attachment to the original story.

Take Beauty and the Beast, for instance. (And we'll remove the LeFou issue from the equation for the moment, so we can focus on the bare bones of a retelling without whatever social agendas a director might shoehorn into a story.) Some people loved it. Some people strongly disliked it. Others feel conflicted, because they liked some parts and not others.

Maybe the big deal is because a lot of the people who went to see the movie love the original tale of Beauty and the Beast--either the animated Disney movie or the Grimm fairytale or perhaps both.

Let's take a look at an imaginary person for a moment. We'll call her Jane. Jane grew up with a big fat book of fairytales, a book whose pages she wore ragged with use. She grew up watching B&B and sang "Tale as Old as Time" often enough to drive her brother mad. She's eighteen now, and when she saw the preview for the new movie, she was ecstatic. Getting to see her favorite story brought to new life with modern special effects and great actors? Of course she's thrilled!

On opening night, she settles into the theater folding chair, bucket of popcorn in hand, and her breath catches as the first scene starts.

Two hours and nineteen minutes later, Jane staggers out of the theater with her mind whirling.

Now, this could go many ways. She could be euphoric over the magical adaptation, the perfect songs, the many little nods to the original Disney film, the new twists.

Or she could feel angry and betrayed because of how, in her mind, the heart of the original was lost.

Or she could feel anything in between! But chances are good that she's going to feel something, and it's probably going to be a strong something. Because Beauty and the Beast is her favorite, and she wants the retelling to do it justice.

This goes for any adaption on the screen or on the page, and it's an interesting topic to explore whether you're the consumer or the creator.

I think of the plethora of superhero films. They reimagine the comic books. And some of them reimagine the first reimaginings of the comic books. I mean, we've had three different Spider-Mans in the last fifteen years. If you like superhero movies, you probably have a favorite rendition, right? Even if you never read the comics (I never have), you have a certain expectation of who Spider-Man should be, and you'll judge the movies accordingly. Nothing wrong with that; it's just how it is.

Or what about the Narnia movies? I adore them, even when they strayed from the books. And I adore the books too, just in a different way. That's another complexity in this world of retellings! Some people are weird enough to separate the art forms, and they love different takes on a story. I don't think of the Narnia movies the same way as I think about the books. I love them both for different reasons, and I'm on pins and needles waiting for more news on The Silver Chair. (Not to mention very sad that there's no chance Will Poulter will get to reprise his role as Eustace.)

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I'm writing a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, so I'm growing increasingly interested in what people generally expect of a fairytale retelling. How faithful do they want it to be? How many twists do they want? How fundamental can the twists be? Gender swaps? Role reversals? Genre bending? How many different ways can you interpret the heart of the original story? What is the heart? What do you highlight? What do you downplay? Is the original story a concrete framework, or is it a set of loose guidelines to play with as you please?

Stray too far, and you'll upset someone. Stick too close, and you'll still upset someone. Because Sleeping Beauty matters to this audience, otherwise they wouldn't pick up a book based on it.

I've already come to terms with the fact that I can't please everyone, so I'm not even going to try. But still, it's worth figuring out what expectations your audience might have when they crack open your book.

I don't know where I'm going with this post, really . . . I was just puzzling over why people react strongly to retellings, and I think I stumbled over one key reason. What do you guys think?

And when it comes to fairytales, what's your perfect mix of ingredients? Do you like them to stick close to the original one, or do you like a wild ride of twists and turns? Tell me your thoughts on retellings/reboots in general, too! Let's discuss them allll!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Subplots and Storylines - April 2017

Hello hello, adventurous questers! My apologies for being late again. Hopefully once college is over in a few weeks I'll get back to being a prompt blogger again.

Life Adventures

How was your April? Mine went quite well. It started with spring break, which ended up being not very break-ish and rather full of work and social things. But I did manage to get my flight to Realm Makers booked! I've never booked a flight before, and since things just weren't working out properly on my end, I got the help of a travel agent. Maybe it was overkill, but I wanted to get it right. But my goodness, why is it so expensive to hop on a plane and travel a few inches across a map? (Yes, I am a new adult clinging to her delusions as to how money and the world should work, why do you ask?) But regardless of the price, I'm very happy to have that in place!

What else happened, let me think . . .

Some college classmates and I were filmed for a year-end video. #bittersweet

I took an exam, which I think I passed.

Easter happened, and it was lovely.

But the highlight of the month was my class's trip to Calgary, Alberta! On our first full day in Alberta, we visited Banff and hiked Johnston Canyon. Those mountains are food for my soul, I tell you. The trail was gorgeous, although mostly covered in ice and snow that made navigating inclines rather . . . challenging, especially for those of us wearing fashionable shoes with zero tread. Thankfully my runners (or sneakers, as you Americans call them) had some grip, but I still went slip-sliding all over the place. By the time I reached the bottom of the trail again, I could feel every muscle in my legs. But it was so much fun!

a glimpse of the Rockies on the cloudy drive to Banff

Johnston Canyon

me at Johnston Canyon

more of the canyon

a frozen waterfall in the canyon

me and my bro

Banff in all its quaintness

walking through Banff with college friends

One of the main reasons we were in Calgary was to visit a church, so on the second day we got to help out a church picnic. I enjoyed meeting lots of people and making this outreach event possible. Calgary is a city of constant change, and the average person doesn't live there longer than a couple years. Folks commonly have trouble making friends, so it's awesome to see relationships forming in a church setting.

After the picnic, some friends and I went to a movie. Because half my group didn't have money for the c-train, we ended up walking forty minutes in the rain to our hotel afterwards.

On the Sunday we were there, we served in church, which was an amazing experience. I was placed in an area where I had little experience. Even though I made frequent mistakes, I was able to laugh at myself, learn on the fly, and move on--something I wouldn't have done at the beginning of the school year!

Overall, I had a blast, and I'm sad to see the college year coming to a rapid close.

Screen Adventures

Once Upon a Time, portions of seasons 1, 2, and 5
Again, not much new to report here, except that season 5 is . . . *sniffle* . . . very feelsy. You have been warned.

The Flash, part of season 2
I think the episodes I watched this month are some of the best in the entire show so far! The reasons why are very spoilery, so if you haven't watched The Flash--DO IT.


The Lego Batman Movie
Although I didn't like it as much as The Lego Movie (which had more heart and creativity to it, in my opinion), this was still an entertaining ride. The jokes fly at you a hundred miles an hour, Batman and Robin's opposite personalities often providing the bulk of them. Plus, the movie was very self-aware and poked plenty of jokes at itself.


Confession: I had never seen this one until now. Never quoted Mushu. Never sang along to "I'll Make a Man Out of You." But I fixed that problem this month! . . . By watching it in probably illegal five-minute video segments on YouTube. Hush, don't tell anyone. While I wouldn't say it's my favorite Disney movie, Mulan herself was an awesome character, Mushu was hilarious, and I can finally see why "I'll Make a Man Out of You" is so sing-along-able!


First three episodes of The Musketeers
I watched these on the bus ride with one of my college friends. Love the period costumes, the swords, the horses, and D'Artagnan, but I could do without the bits of sexual content, please.


Beauty and the Beast (2017)
There's been a great big hullaballoo over it, yes, and while I was admittedly disappointed in LeFou's supposed "gay" moments, I loved the movie overall. It was magical! Beautifully filmed and skillfully acted. I wasn't sure I'd like Emma Watson as Belle, but she grew on me. I love, love, loved the Beast. The wolf scenes were terrifically intense. Maurice was even more lovable than he was in the animated movie. And I was pleased at how closely this film followed the original, while still throwing in some lovely changes.

But since one of those changes was the aforementioned great big hullaballoo, I feel I need to articulate myself on that topic. Am I 100% sure what I think? No. But I can tell you that:

a) I'm disappointed that Disney felt the need to go that direction,
b) even so, it doesn't seem to be a step in homosexuality's favor by making the stupidest character in the movie gay,
and c) most of LeFou's comments weren't particularly overt, so I'm not sure if I would've missed some of them if I hadn't been on high alert.

That being said, CAN WE STOP FOR A MOMENT AND APPRECIATE THE LIBRARY SCENE? Oh my heart. Honestly, I think this movie made me cry three or four times.

Book Adventures

Storm Siren // Mary Weber

This one's been on my TBR for a while, thanks to the enthusiasm of its readers! It took me a little while to get into it, but once I did it was enjoyable. Nym was a snarky bundle of pain, and I loved her character arc. Her elemental powers were awesome, too. I also grew to like Eogan quite a bit. I wish their relationship had had a deeper substance to it, something beyond oh bolcranes, he's handsome and the calming effect he has on her out-of-control powers. But maybe that will come later in the trilogy.

Sadly, I didn't connect to most of the cast, even the people I was supposed to like. Not until a certain character death did I really begin to care for that person. Oops?

But I do have to congratulate Mary Weber on a unique combination of premise, storyworld, and theme. I LOVED the themes of this book! I won't even name any of them, because you'll just have to take Nym's journey for yourself.

Outriders and Trackers // Kathryn Mackel

I needed books for the bus ride, so I grabbed these two off my shelf. The first one I read and enjoyed several years ago, but the second I'd never gotten around to. So what did I think this time around? Well, Outriders was both better and worse than I remembered, if that's possible. I appreciated the characters more now, but the writing and backstory felt weaker at some points. I also would've liked to connect with characters a little sooner and a little deeper.

But. The premise was very unique, involving a futuristic world ravaged by toxins and radiation from the Endless Wars. The last of Christianity (though it's never referred to as such) has taken refuge on an Ark beneath the arctic ice. We never see the Ark, since the story follows the birthrighters, teens and young adults sent out from the Ark to build camps and begin the work of restoring the earth to its God-given birthright. Meanwhile, the baddies mistake DNA manipulation for sorcery, and use it to "transmogrify" creatures into armies of giants and grotesque creatures.

Brady and Niki are my favorite characters, although Ajoba, who annoyed me in the first book, grew on me a lot in the second. I just wish there was a third book, because there were several loose ends that the author never tied up.

(One caution, however. I'd recommend these books for roughly 17 or 18 and up, due to references to rape and the villainous Baron Alrod's penchant for "lollies," or concubines.)

The DNA of Relationships // Dr. Gary Smalley

Another college read, and perhaps one of my favorites so far! It was easy to read and offered super practical and insightful advice on how to better all my relationships. One thing I learned was the concept of the Fear Dance, describing the vicious cycle of hurt and reactions between people in a relationship conflict. It opened my eyes to the underlying problems I sometimes have with people I know, what my core fears are, and what I can do to change me. While the book focused more on marriage, I'd recommend it to singles and marrieds alike because the principles are so amazing!

Writing Adventures

I did some more Snowflake Method outlining for The Brightest Thread before deciding that the process had helped me as much as it was going to help (for this story, anyways), and called it quits early. Which means I got to start actually writing again on April 9th!

Alas, I had very little time to write this month, so I was able to work through only the first two chapters, adding about 1200 words to the story. For those of you who don't know, TBT started out as a novella retelling of Sleeping Beauty, which I'm now expanding into a full novel!

Whew, that was a long post. What sort of April adventures did you undertake? Any thoughts on the books and movies I consumed? Ever been to the Rockies?