Sunday, January 31, 2016

Subplots and Storylines - January 2016

Well, my friends, the first month of 2016 is almost behind us. I hope yours was a good one! Mine was. It started with a belated Christmas gathering, was sprinkled with various social doings, and ended up being a productive writing month in the midst of all that.

I stepped out of my comfort zone by driving to my friend's place an hour away, in a part of the city where I've never driven by myself before. I was going to take the GPS, but it went on the fritz, leaving me to check some maps, punch the address into my phone, and tape written directions to my dashboard. It sounds ridiculous, but I wanted to be prepared. Getting lost is not my idea of fun. Anyway, I'm proud to report that I made it there and back just fine, and had a great time with my friend to boot! I hadn't seen her in several months, so it was awesome to catch up.

City driving happened again when I spent an afternoon in the city with another friend, discussing the details of her upcoming March wedding. (I'm going to be one of her bridesmaids!) A few days later, we met up again to find bridesmaid dresses. They're going to be gorgeous: wine-colored, floor length . . .

Life at work has definitely been different than usual lately, as we've had a crew renovating certain parts of the store. Funny anecdote . . .

I met possibly the strangest customer yet--a young man (wearing rainbow socks) who thought he could take a pair of boots out of the store . . . without paying . . . in order to compare them to something in another store. Um, no. "What if I jezt take one boot?" he asked.

"Sorry, I can't let you leave the store with unpaid merchandise," I replied.

"What am I going to do wiz only one boot?"

I shrugged and reiterated the policy.

"Well, what eef I leave you my wallet? It has one hundred dollars een eet!"

Apparently there are people who think we still use a medieval bartering system . . .

On another note, Old Man Winter has been a capricious beast this month, first dropping the temperatures down to minus thirty degrees (Celsius), then warming up to near-melting weather. None of us are fooled, of course: a month or two of winter still lies ahead.

Between the bitter cold and yucky slush, I went ice skating twice and had so much fun.

Oh, and guess what came in the mail?? Just kidding, don't guess. I'll tell you. The Raising Dragons graphic novel! I was so excited. As a Kickstarter backer, I'd pledged enough to get a copy, so I've been following James Art Ville's journey of adapting a book into a graphic novel. He has worked so hard, and by the looks of these beautiful illustrations, it's really paid off!

January Films & Shows

  • Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation - I didn't realize how much I loved spy/heist movies until watching this one. (My first MI, actually.) Seriously. I LOVED IT SO MUCH. The plot, the humor (Benji's lines were the best), the suspense . . . So good! Now I want to watch all the ones that came before. Also the Bourne movies. Really need to see those.
  • About a dozen Once Upon a Time Season 2 episodes - My sisters and I are almost finished the season. One of my favorite episodes was Manhattan. All the relational conflict! All the secrets revealed! The family relationships are seriously messed up, though.
  • Everest - I can sit back and calmly watch entire fantasy armies run at each other, or superheroes fight to defend a city, or teenage girls overthrow their government. But watching human beings attempt to scale Mount Everest--and not only try to make it to the summit, but to make it back down again safely--that is intense on an entirely different level. I literally gasped aloud numerous times. My forehead hurt from being scrunched into a frown of apprehension for so long. One character had it right: "This is suffering." People walk across ladders set up over impossibly deep crevasses. They endure the buffeting winds and freezing temperatures and freak storms. Some freeze to death. Some succumb to frostbite. Some, their brains swelling from the high altitudes, go crazy and do things that could (and do) kill them. Brave people on the way down to safety turn back to help their fellow climbers. And how do I feel about all this? Let's just say I won't be looking to climb any major mountains anytime soon!
  • Hotel Transylvania 2: 89 minutes of nothing. This was a sequel that needn't have been made.

January Reads

Illusionarium by Heather Dixon: Remember me buying this last summer whilst on holidays in the States? I bought it solely based off Deborah's glowing recommendation, which is really saying something. [I almost never purchase a book that I a) have never read, or b) have never read anything by its author. If a UBO--unidentified bookish object--looks interesting, I'm much more inclined to get it from the library first. Anyway. Deb convinced me so thoroughly of this book's awesomeness, and the cover is gorgeous, and HELLO, STEAMPUNK, that I actually did buy it.]

And I don't regret a single nickel spent. This book is fabulous! The steampunk settings range from an aerial city to the Tower of London to airships to an alternate-reality-London that's all crumbling and decrepit.

The characters are just--gah, I don't even have the words. The first-person narrator, Jonathan, is so lovable and ordinary, with a dry wit and a smart, science-y brain. I love his family too. And then there's Lieutenant Lockwood, a cocky, eye-patch-wearing firebrand brimming with snark and mad fighting skills. I'd mention other characters, but it could be spoilery, so let's just say some of them are maddening and some are evil and some are both with a  dash of sympathy thrown in.

This book definitely has a creepy factor, which I loved in a wide-eyed, horrified way. There's a disease that turns the victims' veins black. Later on, we meet people who are splitting . . . they have multiple eyes and noses and mouths and fingers and blegh, it's gross. But also fascinating. The whole concept of the book actually contains some great symbolism regarding moral choices and our sin nature. I loved it immensely.

Oh, and there are footnotes! Footnotes in a fictional book! Sarcastic footnotes! It's delightful. Go read it this instant, I command you.

Shadowmancer by G.P. Taylor: Atrocious. I started my reading year off so wonderfully with Illusionarium, only to find in myself the desire to throw Shadowmancer across the room. See, I read book 2 (Wormwood) years and years ago, and liked it. But I hadn't realized there was a book that came before. So I picked up both books at second-hand book fairs some time ago, and finally got around to reading the first one this month.

Where do I even start?

The writing was . . . passable, I guess. It had its moments. The comma splices were annoying, though. The POV was so distant that it floated around from head to head, never settling anywhere. We'd be with Character A knocking on the door, then suddenly we're observing Character B waking from a drunken slumber inside the building. I wouldn't even call this omniscient; it's just poor writing. And let's not get started on the all the botched sensory details! He could see, she knew, they could hear, he felt angry, she was sad, they were all THIS EMOTION THAT MUST BE SHOVED IN MY FACE BECAUSE I'M TOO DUMB TO PICK UP SUBTLER CUES. Ahem. Sorry for the rant.

Moving along. This is a Christian fantasy. I wish that were a good thing. In this case, it meant watered down Scripture references, weird (and inaccurate) supernatural dealings with angels and demons and a mystical object of power, and unrealistic stuff everywhere. Instant conversions. Instant turnarounds in beliefs and feelings and thoughts. People being good just because, or bad for the sake of being bad.

A character doesn't know which door to take when sneaking through the bad guy's house, so he prays. Fine, that's good. But then dust swirls up around the door to the right, and he just knows this is where God is leading him. The narrative even says something to the effect of: "He didn't stop to think that Demurral [the villain] could be behind the door." I'm all for praying for direction, don't get me wrong. And I totally believe that God guides us. But it's not usually with swirling dust, and it's usually guidance given in conjunction with the usage of our brains. You have a brain. Use it.

The book's pacing was off. The main characters were passive. Thomas, the Main-main character, hardly ever thinks about his dying mother, whom he supposedly loves very much. Kate, another main character, spends far too much time crying when she's supposed to be a rough-and-tumble tomgirl.

Demurral, the villain, blabbers his plans to just about anyone who'll listen. His backstory reveals a moment in which, surveying the land and its resources, he suddenly and instantaneously turns evil. (Because that is so realistic, and the path of evil is a sudden drop off a cliff, mm-hmm.) Every trace of goodness flees him. He is overcome by greed. He goes on to trick the current vicar out of his position (by getting him drunk and then racing cockroaches across a table--um, what?) and seizes the vicarage.

I could go on, but that rant is long enough. I normally don't like to bash books because I feel bad for the author, knowing how much work and heart goes into a novel . . . but in this case, it was a real slog to reach the final page. My family heard of my distaste, and asked why I didn't just quit the story. Problem is, I hate quitting.

Moving along! Those are the only two books I finished this month, though I'm well into a couple others. Apparently I had a lot to say about both January reads. Eheheh.

January Writings

I'm a rather happy dragon, because I reached my January writing goals a week early! Woot!

I've no clue where this gif comes
from, but isn't it cute?
To jog your memory, the goal was to finish the final read-through/edit of book 1. There was very little to do, but still. I did deal with a couple issues that had been hanging over my head the last few months as I worked on The Brightest Thread, so it felt good to clear them up for good.

My brain can hardly comprehend the fact that I'm actually . . . done editing this book. I've been working on it for years. In fact, this March will mark eight years since I first started writing it! As I was telling a friend this week, it feels like I'm lying to say, "I'm done." It can't be true, can it? Surely there's more for me to tweak and fiddle and completely overhaul? But no. This is pretty much it.

Maybe it will sink in when I start researching the querying process next month, something I'm super stoked about. Mind you, once this book lands on the desk of an agent or editor, I suspect there'll be a whole new round of editing to complete.

In other writerly doings, I wrote a guest post (it goes up in March--I'll announce it here when that happens), and got clonked over the head with an idea for Welcome to Absurdity. I've mentioned that little seedling in passing here, but haven't elaborated much. That's because I know next to nothing about the actual plot. But now I have a few very fun ideas. It's still percolating, of course, and I don't foresee having an opportunity to write this thing anytime soon, but I'm excited for when that day comes!

So that was January.

I stepped out of my comfort zone, watched some great (and not so great) movies, read a couple of polar opposite books, and finished editing book 1. I'd say it was a good month.

Next month promises to be an exciting leg of the journey. I'll dip my toes in the waters of querying, for one thing. For another, I have some fun stuff planned for the blog! Stay tuned for a brand-new series of posts.

What did your month look like? What sort of dangerous quests did you undertake? Any dragons slain? (I hope you left the good ones alive. Kill all the Smaugs and keep all the Clefspeares, okay?)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Starting Sparks // Ann Marie

Emily @ Ink, Inc. and Ashley @ [insert title here] recently created a monthly link-up called Starting Sparks, in which they post a writing prompt and participants do what is normally done with a writing prompt: pen something based off it.

This month's prompt:

As it turns out, this fits with a thing I wrote at the end of December, when my brother and I did a couple of music-based writing dares. For the first, we swapped instrumental pieces. For the second, songs with lyrics. He chose Owl City's "Lonely Lullaby" for me. Why, Josiah, whyyyy?


Anyway, it's probably bad form to bend a link-up's rules the first time you do it (seeing as it's not necessarily my favorite song, nor did I write it specifically for the prompt), but . . . here goes.

He stood in the pouring rain, left hand loose at his side and right hand clenched around something. His clothes had long ago soaked up as much rainwater as they could. Now they clung to his shoulders like a cloak of grief and wrapped his legs like chains. Evening darkness shrouded the forest clearing. He stood alone—a solitary pillar holding up the thundering sky.
He turned a wet face to the heavens. The only way to tell the tears apart from the rain was the way they left salt on his lips. Raindrops spattered a silver symphony against the canopy of leaves.
I sang my princess fast asleep . . .
The tune played out for a bar or two before he even realized he was humming it again. He swallowed hard, then sang a phrase, the words coming as naturally as breath but as painfully as vinegar in a wound.
She was my dream come true.
He should have known better than to believe that anything from the Realm of Dreams could last here in the bitter world. Should have known better, and yet . . .
And yet she had brimmed with such reckless life and warmth that this world had seemed transitory in comparison, a wisp of a ghost next to a flesh and blood body. He should have known. Dreams come true soon become dreams slain. Hadn’t they all warned him?
The next lyric hitched in his throat. He swallowed a sob and lifted his right fist to his lips.
Arms wide, he stood on the precipice. His song rolled out over the impenetrable mist below like river-rush and summer-sun. He laughed the lyrics, grinning so wide his face hurt. Somewhere down in the mist, a birdcall voice answered. He paused. She was down there. His princess. His dream. He sang again; she answered again. Beams of light shone up through the mist. He knelt on the edge and sang her up; her song entwined with his in perfect harmony until at last—
The mist broke and she alighted on the cliff next to him. His princess. His dream, now true and present and finally here.
The song with which he’d brought her into this world had become their song. Its melody wove its way into every conversation, every shared forest path, every adventure. It thrummed in their chests and when he held her hand, he could feel the pulse of it in her fingers. As the months spun lazily by, the lyrics had changed and lengthened, growing more and more beautiful with time. Just like his dream princess. Her laugh put all the forest songbirds to shame. Her eyes outshone the stars.
But this world was too small to contain their love. By the time autumn settled in, they had explored every boundary more than once. She grew restless, as did he. This was not home for either of them. This was just in between, the little space dividing worlds. It was not meant to be a world of its own, not really. “Come with me,” he’d begged her. “To my home.”
“Is it big?” she had asked. “Is it grand?”
She had loved that word—grand. The way she used it dusted off its stuffy connotations and breathed a full, adventurous life into it. Grand. Blue mountains jagging up and falling into the sea—those were grand. Earthy hollows full of moss and musty leaves and shiny beetles—those were grand, too. So were spring rainstorms and pebbly beaches and swooping hawks and star lilies and good secrets and delightful contradictions and the way music was the voice of souls. Grand, every one of them.
He had spun her around and grinned into her hazel eyes. “Very big. And very, very grand.”
So it was decided. They would go home, where they would have years upon years’ worth of wide open spaces in which to live and love. She had never been beyond the Dream Realm until he’d sung her out. And she’d never been beyond the between. “That’s alright,” he said. “I will sing you there.”
But winter arrived early. The portal he’d planned to take her to froze over, buried under four feet of snow. No matter, of course. There was another portal, an ancient one. Rickety with disuse, but just as good as any to be found, he’d told her. Besides, his song would carry her strong and safe.
They sang together as they trekked the snowy plains toward that portal.
Now, standing in the clearing under the weeping skies, he shivered in remembrance of that icy wind.
His song had failed. Rather than singing her safely home, she slipped from his grasp—slipped from his song—and disappeared into oblivion. Her scream still rang in his ears. He swiped rainwater out of his eyes, hoping to erase the image of her terror-stricken face with it.
I sang my princess fast asleep.
Dreams always died, the others had said. And they were right. He had killed his dream, his princess from the Realm of Dreams. But in that ethereal world, dreams and nightmares were one and the same. Singing her out had rescued her from torment.
Little good it had done.
Dead dreams returned to the Realm. They fell so deep, no song could ever reach them again.
The song stuck in his throat. He sank to his knees there on the soggy grass and let the sobs wrack him. If only he could dissolve in this rain. The wind howled along with his cries. He bowed so low his forehead touched the ground, and there his weeping turned to a scream: “Why?
He pounded the ground with his fist, still tightly wrapped around its precious object. He hunched there, broken, sure his heart would bleed out, until the cries subsided. “Believe me,” he whispered. “I loved you. I didn’t want this to happen.”
Oh, Ann Marie, believe me. I loved you.
He hauled himself to his feet. Steps heavy, he left the clearing and walked into the forest. The rain slackened to a drizzle as he wove between trees, and as the weather cleared, his pace quickened until he stood on the precipice to the Realm.
There on the edge, mist swirling so far below, he finally raised his closed fist and opened his fingers. The pink star lily lay crumpled in his palm. The last thing she had called grand. One flower among a field of blooms, one flower with nothing to set it apart from the rest. Yet Ann Marie had set eyes on it, plucked it, and triumphantly pronounced it the grandest flower she’d ever seen.
He could still feel her warm hands tucking the stem into his jacket’s breast pocket. Somehow the flower had lived on, its petals as lush as the day she’d picked it.
Carefully, he slipped the flower into his pocket again. He stared down into the mist. Somewhere down there, she suffered a fate worse than death.
“It’s a bitter world,” he murmured. “And I’d rather dream.”
One step and he plummeted off the edge.
I can’t forget you.
Oh, Ann Marie, I’ll never forget you.

P.S. In favor of doing a quality Subplots and Storylines post on Sunday, I won't be posting on Saturday. S&S tends to get rather long anyway, so I'm sure you patient questers (who spend your days trekking mountain ranges and battling dragons and searching high and low for legendary objects of power) won't mind terribly.

Saturday, January 23, 2016


There are a handful of knick-knacks I wanted to share with you that are too small to merit an entire post, and too random to be grafted into any other topic. So I've cobbled them together and now dump it on the table for your perusal.

Blog updates

I've been meaning to pretty up this little corner of the internet for a couple months now. Nothing massive, no huge overhaul. Just a few little odds and ends to make this place a bit more solid and a bit nicer to look at. I can't say when I'll get around to it (one thing in particular is a proper about me page, and a proper about me page needs a proper photo . . . so I'm waiting for an opportune time to snag the skills of a photographer friend), but it is coming. Just so you know.

Canadian winter

Some of you who read my Christmas tag mentioned snow (and how you hadn't had any for five years or were jealous of the bit you could see through my window), and Emily in particular wanted to see what a Canadian winter looks like. So while this season still has us wrapped in its icy clutches, I thought I'd show you my backyard.

I accidentally left my flash on and look! I captured snowflakes!

Randomness (because I am acutely feeling the leanness of this post and want to throw some stuff at you)

-A few months ago, an online friend introduced me to a YouTube channel called Studio C, and now I am addicted. They have tons of clean comedy sketches, like this one. (Watch it, and there is no going back. If you spend an hour of your time clicking on video after video and laughing maniacally at your screen, I refuse to apologize.)

-This week, I suddenly remembered the movie Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, and now very badly want to watch it again.

-I am in the midst of reading an atrocious book. I can't reach the final page fast enough. More later, in this month's Subplots and Storylines.

-My brother is reading Hamlet for school, which led to him reading quotable lines to me, which led to us looking up Shakespeare quotes online, which led to a weird desire to pick up a Shakespeare play and . . . actually read it?

Posts I'm loving lately

There have been so many wonderful blog posts recently, so I'm spreading the love.
  • What if? - Annie lists some thought-provoking questions daring to ask, "What would life look like if I was brave?"
  • 7 Reasons Why Every Aspiring Writer Should Work in a Bookstore - Cassia makes me intrigued (and maybe jealous) about the valuable experience of working in a bookstore. I would love a job like that.
  • One Day at a Time - Sarah offers a great perspective on worrying less while still reaching for your goals.
  • //coffee and connections - Mirriam presents the staggeringly simple power of just connecting with people.
  • Dear You - Christine basically wrote a hug personified in her post reminding us of our beauty and worth.
  • Writing vs. Editing: The Different Mindsets - Tori compares the drafting to the gruelling process of editing, and explains how one must take a different approach to the different stages of writing.
  • The Nature of Goodness - Mary just started a blog! Eeep! In this post she writes about the goodness of God . . . how needed, and how very great, it is.

Stay tuned . . .

Because of today's brevity, I aim to join a link-up this week, a rather new one that looks like scrumptious fun. (Figuratively scrumptious, I mean. Nothing to do with food. Everything to do with Words and Story, but some of us devour those very much the way we scarf down strawberry cheesecake, am I right?)

P.S. I apologize for the lateness-in-the-day of this post. I meant to have it up by mid-afternoon, and then my shift got extended. At least it's still Saturday! Or it is in my part of the world, anyway.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Write Anyway

As I sit in my PJ's and begin drafting this post between breakfast and a writing project and work, I feel the swirl of words sliding through my veins, begging to spill out. (Or maybe it's the coffee I had this morning providing me with a boost of energy. Either way.) The writing mood has hit me again. If I had my druthers today, I would not open the front door. I would stay parked in my chair, fingers on the keyboard, and I would wing my way to another world.

Unfortunately, I don't have the time. In less than two hours, I'll head to work. Before then, I need to shower, pack a meal, and maybe work on a little nonfiction project because I have a deadline. The writing mood may linger, but with no outlet, it will settle in the back of my mind and wait for inspiration to stir it up again.

When I come home at 8 pm, my brain will likely be too tired to string together pretty sentences. And so I hold out hope for tomorrow, during which I may have a few spare hours in which to write.

But there is no guarantee that I'll be in the mood.

During high school, I found ways to write even when the week was full of schoolwork and youth group and chores and other things. I thought I was busy then, but I made the effort to write anyways. I loved it too much to not write.

I feel even busier now. Twenty- to thirty-hour weeks, blogging, social outings, family time, and all the random bits of life . . . Writing happens less often now. I'm coming to accept that, but it does mean that if I want to write at all, I have to utilize my spare time--whether or not I feel like it.

I don't know how you feel about writing, whether it's a hobby or something you want to do for a living. If you, like me, want to make it a career, then we must treat it like a job. Not in a joy-sucking, "I'm obligated to do this" sort of way, but in a persistent way.

Your muse isn't cooperating? Doesn't matter. Write. Lacking inspiration? Just write. Your thoughts are too bland and listless to arrange themselves nicely on the page? Write out those bland and listless words anyway. Some days you have to give yourself permission to write junk. At least you're writing.

"I have forced myself to begin writing when I've been utterly exhausted, when I've felt my soul as thin as a playing card . . . and somehow the activity of writing changes everything." -Joyce Carol Oates

Of course you need breaks. I'm not saying go burn yourself out. You may need that evening off to watch your favorite show, or that week to just read and sketch and wander through the trees and refill your well of inspiration. Please put the writing aside when necessary.

But a lot of the time, when you feel like doing anything but staring at a blank page, that's exactly what you need to do. The act of putting pen to paper or fingers to keys may be just the thing to wake up the ideas. Muses are flighty creatures. Yours may be off sulking in a corner right now, but if you start writing, it might get curious and slink up to your shoulder again. Then again, it might not. But if you write long enough, whether it be minutes or hours or days or weeks, the inspiration will come back. By writing consistently, you're forming a habit. The mood might start arriving more consistently then, too.

"Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on." -Louis L'Amour

For me, I'm realizing that 'consistent' does not--cannot--mean something like, "On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I will write for three hours," or "I will write a minimum of 100 words a day." I wish it did. But the way life is right now, very few activities land on the exact same day at the exact time, every time. My schedule morphs on a daily basis. So although it's harder to hold myself accountable under these circumstances, I have to take stock every day and determine if/when I have time to write. And then I aim to do it. Sometimes other tasks take longer, or I discover upon reaching my writing time that I truly don't have anything to put on the page. And sometimes I read blogs and check email when I should be writing. I'm human. Discipline is something I'm learning.

The important thing is to show up.

And show up again.

And show up again.

Write. Write glorious pages upon pages of flowing script, or write one measly paragraph that clunks onto the page like an unwieldy cement block. Write passionate, inspired scenes, or write the most boring chapter you've ever penned. Whatever it looks like today, write anyway!

(Editing, after all, fixes everything. But that's another post altogether.)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Beautiful People - 2016 plans

It's time for Beautiful People! I've missed doing these link-ups. I skipped the last three months, partially due to the Nano focus of the questions, but at last I'm participating again.

This round of questions is about writing plans and goals, which is perfectly timed. On my way home from the city earlier this week, I was talking out loud to myself and making plans for this year's writing. (What? You guys don't talk to yourself when you're driving alone?) They're rather ambitious, and I have to wonder if it's insane to ask so much of myself, especially when 2016 is full of so many unknowns. But I want to aim high, and if Life has other ideas, so be it. Contrary to my usual thinking, goals can be adjusted.

Hosted by the lively gals Cait & Sky!

What were your writing achievements last year?

I finished up a couple rounds of edits on book 1. I read over book 2, outlined a new version of it, and had way too much fun masterminding stuff about the series as a whole. I completed a novella-sized retelling of Sleeping Beauty and entered it in the Five Magic Spindles writing contest. I also helped both my brother and a friend of mine edit their entries.

Tell us about your top priority writing project for this year.

I have three, actually! And now's as good a time as any to whip out my 2016 Writing Goals.

January: Finish editing book 1.
February: Begin querying agents for book 1. (Yipes!) Review the outline of book 2 and do some research.
March-May: Draft book 2.
June: Draft Rooglewood entry.
July: Edit Rooglewood entry and send it off. (I'd like to be much more on the ball this year, so I'm going to try finishing it in two months. Two and a half, tops.)
August-December: Finish drafting book 2, and if I've actually managed to meet my monthly goals, I'd like to do a round or two of edits on it as well.

So to directly answer the question, my writing priorities are books 1 & 2 plus a fairy tale novella. Because these plans must be balanced with things called Work and (very hopefully) School, I'm trying to remember to take my own advice and have grace for myself if circumstances change and crowd out writing.

List 5 areas you’d like to work the hardest to improve this year.

Efficiency. I'd like to write more often, and write better when I do write. Even if all I can do is a little bit here and there, I want to be more consistent.

Moving forward. I'd like book 1 to be ready for the next phase.

Writing first drafts that aren't littered with dragon-sized plot holes. It's been about four-ish years since I've actually written a first draft for my fantasy series, and the most recent was possibly one of my worst. But I've grown since then, and I know a lot more about my fantasy world, so maybe the new book 2's first draft will be more structurally sound. We can hope.

Continuing to cultivate my writing craft in general. One should never stop growing, after all.

Poetry. I wrote only seven poems last year, but I'd like to do more this year. Stretch my poet muscles. Try new techniques.

Are you participating in any writing challenges?

Only if you count the annual Rooglewood Press contest. Nano might be a possibility this year, but I'm not putting any expectations on myself.

What’s your critique partner/beta reader situation like and do you have plans to expand this year?

I stumbled into a wonderful Pack of writer gals online a year and a half ago, and have since had the pleasure of beta reading a number of their stories. Some of the girls have been betas for me too, which is heaps of fun. (My goodness, that sounds British: heaps of fun.) I'm quite content with my current situation, so no, I don't have expansion plans.

Do you have plans to read any writer-related books this year? Or are there specific books you want to read for research?

Finish Gail Carson Levine's "Writer to Writer," which I started last year. I've heard that "Steal Like an Artist" by Austin Kleon is good, so maybe that too? I don't have many specific titles in mind. I'll probably look for some good books on mental illness (specifically delusion-related stuff, though there's probably a nicer word for that). I have a character whose parents believe he's crazy, resulting in psychologist appointments. I'd like to at least sound like I know what I'm talking about.

Pick one character you want to get to know better, and how are you going to achieve this?

Basically my entire supporting cast of book 2! Aileen's and Josiah's family members. The Shifters, a group of five elementals. Rex Nelson, the pilot. Yeah. Basically everyone. I'll get to know them better by writing their story and doing character sketches.

Do you plan to edit or query, and what’s your plan of attack?

Some of both. See question #2. As for a plan of attack . . . with editing, it'll be the usual process. With querying--well, that's a whole new arena for me. So I have no idea!

Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”  What are the books that you want to see more of, and what “holes” do you think need filling in the literary world?

More clean, excellent fantasy. Whether it's Christian or not is almost besides the point. I want to see good fantasy--without all the foul language and sleazy content so many of them seem to carry.

More steampunk, because the genre is awesome and quite underrated.

And I don't know if this is a hole, exactly . . . But I want to see an off-kilter story that plays with mind. One part crazed humor, one part creepy, and one part deeply hidden meaning. I have something like this cooking in my brain, but it'll be a while before it's ready to be written.

What do you hope to have achieved by the end of 2016?

I hope to have book 1 actually, for real complete--and if all goes well, I want to either have an agent or at least be actively querying. I hope to have another fairy-tale novella completed, and I also want to have book 2 drafted. Somewhat edited too, if I have the time. Like I said before, it really depends on how these next several months pan out.

If nothing else, I want to be able to look back on 2016 and say that I made good use of the writing time I had. (But if I'm honest, I'd really, really like that whole querying thing to . . . you know, be a thing.)

What do you think? Insane or doable? (Wait . . . don't answer that.) What are your writing plans for the year?

Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Adventures

It's a new day, the second in a brand new year. And although some may argue that we've merely put a new calendar on the wall, I think that here in the confines of time, as humans we like to mark definite starts and finishes. We like to think that two nights ago at midnight, we closed one book and in the next minute opened a new one rife with possibilities gleaming on blank pages.

And so we did.

And so we do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. To a smaller degree, perhaps--but each day is fresh. God's mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.

Many of us, giddy with the idea of a fresh slate entitled 2016, make resolutions and goals for the year. Stats say only a small percentage actually reach those goals. Don't get me wrong; I love goals! But let me just encourage you to strive for this delicate balance:

Dream big.

Savor the small moments.

Start each day with thanks.

Forgive. Forgive yourself, forgive the humans in your life. We're all imperfect. Forgive the world for whatever bad turn it may have given you. Know that your Father is in the business of making beauty out of brokenness.

Divide your lofty goals into chunks, little milestones that you can celebrate along the way. The way to reach them truly is one step at a time.

Go for your goals, yes; but have grace for yourself along the way.

You cannot give what you do not have--ground yourself in God's love more than ever before, and watch as it overflows into the lives of those around you.

As the quest of 2016 commences, I'm so blessed that our paths intersect here! May the road be straight before your feet. May you happen upon unexpected beauty along the way. May you have the strength to scale the mountains and the perseverance to cross the valleys. Sally forth, warriors! The best is yet to come.

P.S. I like to be a polite little blogger and cite the sources of the pictures I use, but these two I found a long time ago and merely saved to my computer without marking down where I found them.