Saturday, August 27, 2016

Rethinking My Publishing Plans

At the beginning of the month, I mysteriously mentioned that I was "reconsidering publishing tactics." Well, since then I have spent about half a dozen journal pages--and a fair bit o' brainspace--tossing the ideas about. Though it scares me a little to move these thoughts from a private journal and personal conversations to a place as public as a blog . . . I shall bare my soul. (Not really. Just inform you of my thought processes on this topic.)

The blog post that knocked me over

In July, I read a post on She's Novel that tossed all my plans upside down. (By the by, if you've never checked out Kristen Kieffer's blog, you're missing out on some awesomely detailed writing advice!) In How to Create a Smart + Savvy Publishing Plan, Kristen talks about how your first novel is not necessarily the one you should publish first.

The whole post is golden, but what really jumped out at me was this: for a publishing house, signing a brand new author is always a risk. But it's riskier to publish a debut author's first-book-in-a-series than it is to publish a debut standalone novel. Because what if that first-in-a-series flops? They're left with an unfinished series, which is kind of awkward for everyone involved. If it's a standalone (especially one with series potential) however, it's not as big a deal if it bombs; and if it succeeds, they can capitalize on it by having the author write follow-up books.

Or--here's another thing--if you have a series you want to publish, but you're a new author . . . You could publish a standalone in the same (or similar) genre to prove to publishers, "Hey, I can actually sell genre X. I have an audience! They like what I'm writing! And, just a little aside, I also have a four-book series in that genre I'd like to get out there."

And the publisher might say, "What's that? A series in the same genre? Can we have that too, please and thank you?"

Because you've got a track record, taking on your series is now less risky.

What does this mean?

Remember my long-time baby, The Prophet's Quest? For years, it's been my dream and my plan to publish that first, and to follow it up with The Prophet's Key and at least a couple more books in the series. Epic high fantasy with dragons and world-hopping--that's my jam. It's a series I've poured time and effort and pieces of myself into since I was twelve.

Now all of a sudden, I'm hearing advice that suggests delaying that plan. Again. If there was one word that could sum up the journey of writing this Journeys of the Chosen series, it would be DELAY.

I read the She's Novel post, nodded along to some parts, but kind of passed off the rest as a "that might be good for you, but not for me" sort of thing. (Don't we all like to think we're the exception to the rule?) But I gave it some more thought, and uncomfortably realized she made a lot of sense. Plus, I don't relish the idea of shopping The Prophet's Quest around for months, if not years, waiting for a bite.

Now I'm thinking it would be the wisest course of action to first put out a YA fantasy standalone, and then get TPQ & Company into the big, wide world.

The next question is what that standalone should be. Why, The Brightest Thread, of course! While trimming it down to size for the Five Magic Spindles contest last year, I ached because there was so much more story to explore, and the word limit kept me from doing so. But even in its lean, streamlined form, this story made it to the top ten list,* which gives me hope that it could become a successful debut novel--once I expand it, of course.

*I'm still in shock when I think about it!

There was something special about writing The Brightest Thread. I felt as if I'd truly discovered my voice. The story and I just clicked, and though there were struggles along the way, most of the writing felt very natural. Very much me. In the context of a fairy tale world, I could paint in vivid color and deepest black. I could craft my sentences with musicality and rhythm and punch. I could draw out themes in a fantastical way different from the more grounded Journeys of the Chosen books. Thinking back on Luci, Hadrian, Aleida, and Vyntyri, I sense they have a fuller story to tell.

But reaching this decision was not one resolute nod of the head and squaring of the shoulders. Like I do with many big decisions, I deliberated. A lot.


  1. It feels like abandoning my "baby," Journeys of the Chosen. I've never been the type to leave a good story in the dust to chase after a shiny new one. I hate quitting things I'm passionate about.
  2.  It feels like betraying the mentors who helped me so vastly with The Prophet's Quest.
  3. I'm scared that after expanding and publishing The Brightest Thread, I would return to my series and discover I've outgrown it. And if my love for it does grow cold, maybe TPQ was never meant to see the light of day. Oh, it pains me to entertain such thoughts!

My brain offered arguments against all three hesitations, however.

  1. It's not abandonment, just postponement. I don't want to give up Journeys! I will come back to it, just at a later date than expected.
  2. Practically speaking, it's not betrayal. The mentorship I've received has affected all of my writing, not just this series.
  3. I have outgrown them numerous times, and each time the series has evolved along with me. Every break away only fosters my love for it, so that when I come back, it's new and exciting again.
At the end of the day, I really just need to trust God with this series. Trust that He knows best, and that every delay and detour is for a reason. My dreams, including my dream career as an author, is safe in His hands. Whatever twists the road may take are not surprising to Him.

So what's the plan?

Once I get back into agent research, this means I'll be researching with The Brightest Thread foremost in my mind, and Journeys second. And it probably also means I won't begin querying this year like I thought. There's information to gather and things to write first.

But I don't like leaving one project hanging unfinished for long, so I will finish drafting The Prophet's Key before moving on. It's currently sitting at just under 60k words. I've been consistently adding approximately 10k a month, so at this rate I expect to finish sometime between the end of 2016 and the end of my first year of college. That's a big window, I know, but it's impossible to predict how much I'll be able to work on it while in school!

TPK is trying to throw a bit of a wrench into those loose plans, though. It's telling me it needs to be split into two books. Say what now? Well, the pacing is weird. According to my outline, I kind of have two climaxes. There's a very distinct line between the first half of the book and the second half--and the first is becoming quite a large half, even though there are lots of details I've left out. We'll see. I'll have a better idea of whether or not to split it up once I reach that halfway point.

(And today is not the day to get into the concern that if I split it, book 2 will be a letdown for readers. After spending most of book 1 in Alewar, who's going to want to hang out on Earth for a whole book? But I said I wouldn't go into that . . .)

Anywhozens. Once that draft of TPK is complete, whether it's half my outline or the whole kit and caboodle, I want to rewrite an expanded version of The Brightest Thread.

And then we shall think about querying agents and such!

It's my not-so-secret hope to go to the Realm Makers writing conference . . . hopefully next year? It's being held in Reno, Nevada, which is a long ways away for me--but Ted Dekker is going to be the keynote speaker. (!!!) I mention this now because wouldn't it be the most awesome thing ever to have The Brightest Thread rewritten in time to pitch it to agents at the conference?! Big dreams, yes, but it's something to shoot for, right?

Flexibility is key!

Some of these things are next to impossible to plan because there's no way of knowing how full life will be or how well the stories will flow. If nothing else, I have the sequence of events laid out--finish drafting The Prophet's Key, write the new and improved The Brightest Thread, get TBT published, then start publishing the Journeys of the Chosen series. It's the timeline that is very much subject to change!

And now I've talked about myself for more than long enough. I wanted to keep y'all in the loop, but didn't mean to get so longwinded.

So. A question for you: as a reader, do you prefer standalones or series? How about as a writer, if you are one?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Author Spotlight: Bryan Davis

Last summer I posted my first Author Spotlight, in which I flailed about Ted Dekker. Has it really been over a year since that spotlight post? It's high time for another, this one on another of my top favorite authors of all time . . .

Bryan Davis! (Link leads to author website. Check out his Facebook, Twitter, and especially his awesomely helpful blog, The Writer's Chair.) With 28 books published and more to come, he's a fantastic author with masterful skill.

C.S. Lewis introduced me to fantasy, and Wayne Thomas Batson beckoned me into modern YA fantasy, but Bryan Davis locked me into that genre for good. I received Raising Dragons on my thirteenth birthday, and the Dragons in Our Midst storyworld was a place I lived throughout my teenage years. It feels like Billy, Bonnie, Walter, Ashley, and many other beloved characters are my friends. They took me on such a wild ride, and taught me so much.

Billy Bannister taught me to fight with truth as my sword and faith as my shield.

Bonnie Silver exemplified trust in God and a steadfast purity.

Walter Foley made me laugh.

Ashley Stalworth showed me how to surrender.

Sapphira Adi was a picture of longsuffering.

These books showed me what a true hero looks like. It isn't perfection, not an absence of doubts or a lack of failings. They question, they make mistakes, but they press on anyway. They hold fast to the good, the true, and the beautiful, even when it's incredibly hard. Characters like these give me something to aspire to.

And come on, humans with dragon traits like wings or fiery breath or danger sensing? How cool is that? Dragon slayers, weapons like Excalibur and candlestones, legends of King Arthur, multiple dimensions, flying demons, Nephilim, epic battles . . . This is really fun stuff, guys. (I mean terrible. A lot of that is awful for the main characters. But undeniably fun for us, right?)

Another thing in which Bryan Davis excels is complex plots driven by complex motivations. (And he's not an outliner! How does he do it?!) Twists and turns and revelations are a given in any of his books.

Anyway, I've been focusing primarily on Dragons in Our Midst, but that's only four books. Before I carry on to other series, I do want to mention the reading order, because it may be confusing for new readers who aren't sure where to start. DIOM is followed by two more four-book series, Oracles of Fire and Children of the Bard. Here's how to read them.

Dragons in Our Midst
1. Raising Dragons
2. The Candlestone
3. Circles of Seven
4. Tears of a Dragon

Oracles of Fire
1. Eye of the Oracle
2. Enoch's Ghost
3. Last of the Nephilim
4. The Bones of Makaidos

Children of the Bard
1. Song of the Ovulum
2. From the Mouth of Elijah
3. The Seventh Door
4. Omega Dragon

There. Aren't I benevolent? Now, DIOM and Co. are what people usually think of when they hear the name Bryan Davis, and as amazing as those books are, they shouldn't outshine the rest of his equally amazing novels.

There's the YA tetralogy Dragons of Starlight and its companion trilogy geared for adults, Tales of Starlight. These take place on a couple different worlds--one in which brothers Jason and Adrian Masters live, and the other where dragons have enslaved humans. Both Masters brothers wind up on different quests to release the slaves, and it's intriguing to see how their stories intertwine but can still be read separately. Once again, Bryan Davis delivers an epic tale with heart, humor, and conviction.

There's the more mainstream dystopian Reapers trilogy, (Reapers and Beyond the Gateway are published, but the third has yet to be released). Unfortunately I haven't read these yet, but I love the concept of these Reapers escorting souls to a gateway to the afterlife, and discovering that something shady is going on.

There's the Echoes from the Edge trilogy (consisting of Beyond the Reflection's Edge, Eternity's Edge, and Nightmare's Edge). It's so mind-bending you have to read the books close together, or else you may lose track of things. It gets complicated to have three versions of each character, some alive, others dead, and mostly all worldhopping--but it's SO FUN. A creepy villain, awesome mirrors and violins and cameras . . . This trilogy is seriously underrated. It's currently out of print, but Bryan Davis has been revising them for republication with different titles.

There's a standalone novel, I Know Why the Angels Dance, which takes a thoughtful and heartrending look at death, grief, and hope. There's a children's book, Beelzebed (another I have yet to read), that takes place during DIOM character Walter Foley's childhood. There's even a couple of nonfiction books. Oh, and if you like graphic novels, Raising Dragons has been turned into one, and it's very fun.

Basically? Go read them all.

Although his craft has grown since his first book, you can count on several things in each and every Bryan Davis work you pick up: deep characters, strong faith elements, awesmazing plots (awesome + amazing = awesmazing, you guys, get with the program), and quite often dragons. And we all know how much I adore dragons.

This author has hugely impacted me as a reader and as a writer. I've had the chance to meet him in person,* and the faith he proclaims in stories, he also lives out in the real world. If you've been longing for more dragons in your life (correct answer: you have been), I highly recommend his books. And even if dragons aren't your thing, but music or dystopians are--there's some of that, too.

*My family actually had him, Mrs. Davis, and two of their daughters over for supper when they were on a book tour. We had great conversations, he signed all my books, and I got the chance to go over some edits on my work (from both Mr. and Mrs. Davis) in person. It was one of the best days of my life.

taken September 2012 // this pic turned out blurry for some reason

His books are the perfect illustration of this quote:

"Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth." -Alburt Camus

By taking us to other worlds, he shows the truth of good and evil, of hope persisting in the midst of doubt, of  love spanning time and heartbreak and bottomless rifts. Maybe it sounds sappy, but his stories are truly an inspiration to me.

And now I'll stop talking, because "Too much information can make your brain choke."

Have you read any of Bryan Davis's books? Do you have a favorite book or character of his? And if you're new to this author, do any of the abovementioned novels pique your interest?

P.S. This is my 101st post! Crazy!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Starting Sparks // Rewritten

Ahem, so this is all a little slapdash, but today I am once again joining the Starting Sparks linkup hosted by the ever-fabulous Emily @ Ink, Inc. and Ashley @ [insert title here].

This month's prompt instantly jumped out at me as something I had to try. I'm not sure what exactly this is, but it's kind of a parody/satire thingie, kind of metafiction, kind of breaking the fourth wall . . . I don't even know. It was fun, regardless!

Le prompt is as follows:

Pretty great, right? Here's the thingamabob I threw together today. Enjoy!


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.

“Hello there, Tracey.” The voice, female, emanates from everywhere and nowhere. Somehow it fills the room without being loud. “Nice to finally meet you.”

I whirl around in my chair. “Who are you? Where are you?”

“I’m Author.”

“Excuse me?” I stand and begin poking around, first looking under the bed, then opening the closet. I am alone.

“This is the first day of your existence. It’s very exciting, isn’t it? Your story has been percolating inside my brain for months, and I’ve finally discovered my main character. You.”

I scan the ceiling for some wispy ghost floating above me, but there is nothing. A disembodied voice in my room? I must be dreaming. “I’m sorry, can we start at the beginning, please? This is not the first day of my existence. I’m twenty years old, thank you very much. I think you have me confused with someone else.”

“Take a look at your journal.”

Cautiously, I retrieve the notebook from its shelf and flip it open. But instead of the scribbles pouring out my thoughts, the pages are blank. Well, not quite. Blurry smudges of blue ink are smeared across the pages, like fresh writing soaked in a rainstorm. “Where did my journal entries go?”

“They never were.”

My furrowed brow and darting eyes must have shown my confusion.

“You have a history, but I haven’t exactly . . . written it yet. Hence the mostly blank journal.”

I point to the page. “But I remember writing this! I remember what I wrote! August eleventh, twenty-sixteen, four-something p.m. . . . I wrote down a verse from Proverbs 18, and then some thoughts on—”

“That’s good to know about you. I’ll jot that down. But listen to me, Tracey. You do have a vague history, the one I came up with. It feels real to you, but in real life it never happened. I haven’t written it, see? Only what I write exists. Today I just started writing about you.” The voice gets excited. “The story starts on a typical day to show the reader your life situation. You have a day off work, so you’re writing . . .”

“Hold up.” I toss the journal onto my bed. “This is crazy. My life never happened? I have crystal clear memories of that life! It’s a peaceful one. I have a family—”

“Oh, thanks for reminding me. They died.”

The world shifts. My stomach lurches as if I just staggered off a spinning carnival ride. It’s like the colors of the room change, and yet they don’t. It’s like the furniture rearranges itself, but it doesn’t. My cheeks are wet—I’m crying? Something has shattered inside me. I can feel the jagged shards of it scattered throughout my bloodstream.

“What—” My voice catches. “What do you mean? They’re just upstairs, my parents . . .”

“Died in the same explosion that killed your siblings.”

It doesn’t sound right, but as the girl—Author—speaks, images flash in my memory. A man at the door, grim-faced, bearing the news. Footage on TV of the hotel exploding in fire and smoke and debris. It’s not right, because I remember what it used to be: my family, intact and happy. But now I also remember the tragedy of one year ago. Which is true?

“Your backstory was too boring. I decided you needed a disaster to spur you on and give you emotional depth.”

“You killed my family?” I whisper.

“No, the terrorists did. Oh, but they’re actually dragonriders. You just don’t know that yet.”

“You killed my family!” I scream. “What is this? You rewrote my life?”

“Hmm. I’ve been thinking maybe your brother survived the blast, though. You’ll discover him at the end of the book, and it will look like a happy reunion—until you find out he joined the evil dragonriders.”

I shout a word I’d never used on anybody. It tastes dirty on my tongue.

“Goodness, Tracey, that’s not in keeping with your character.”

“You don’t know me! I don’t know how you’re doing this, changing my history, but I demand you change it back!”

“Calm down. I can’t get this story written if you insist on being obstinate. Your grief means you have nothing to lose, so when the dragonslayers rope you into their plan to send the riders packing—the dragons are all evil monsters, by the way—there’s nothing to keep you from joining their cause.”

I pinch my lips together and swipe the tears from my eyes. This has to be a sick joke. “If you know me so well, you know I’m a writer too.”

“Yes, that’s a particularly fun aspect of your character. It’s kind of like a slice of me walking around in the story.” Author giggles. “And when you encounter dragons and otherworldly fighters, you’re enraptured because it’s just like the books you write. And read. I wonder which way the back cover blurb should go? ‘When dragons flame into Tracey’s life, just like the books she’s always lost herself in . . .’ Or ‘When dragons flame into Tracey’s life, just like the tales she pens . . .’ I can’t decide.”

“Shut up! I was going to say that as a writer, I can tell you that making your main character an orphan is the most clichéd tool in the box. Likewise with the just-like-the-books trope.” I cross my arms, sorrow quickly hardening into rage.

The Author prattles on, apparently heedless of my words. “You know, I wonder if maybe you killed your family and you just don’t know it yet. Yes, what a great idea! You used to be part of the riders, and you did something that enabled them to blow up the hotel. Then you left. I don’t know why yet, but I’ll figure it out. Oh, and they wiped your memory before you left them. Ha! This is fabulous!”

The whole time she’s talking, the room does that spinning, shifting thing again, and my insides heave. I double over. My head pounds as memories are created and erased and pieced together—rewritten. “I hate you,” I gasp out.

“I’ve been told that before. I’m such an evil authoress, aren’t I? You know what they say. Drive your character up a tree and throw rocks at them.”

I can’t believe she sounds delighted. I almost expect her to break out in a villainous mwahaha, but she doesn’t. I rub my temples, trying my utmost to suspend my disbelief over this horrible turn of events. If I were Author, wouldn’t I be gleefully torturing my main character too? Of course I would. The thought sickens me, but it's the truth. Maybe a more reasonable approach is best.

“It sounds like you have a cool story going, Author.”

A blatant lie. It sounds awful.

“But I’m not an interesting enough person to be your Main Character. I’ve always thought I’d be a better Sidekick. Or even a Background Character.”

They had easier lives. The whole universe wasn’t conspiring against them.

Author seems to consider this. “No, I like you. I want you to be the Main. But you may be right about being uninteresting.”

I barely stop myself from rolling my eyes.

“I know! You have dormant superpowers that you don’t know about yet! Dragon telepathy, perhaps? That way you can discover your gift and help defeat the dragons by convincing them to go away.”

Once again, the nauseating shift. I grab my head. “No, no, you’ve got it all wrong! I don’t want superpowers, I don’t want amnesia. I just want to be normal. Give all those things to someone else. Let me be a supporting character instead. Please.” I gaze up at the ceiling, not sure where exactly Author was. “They have far better mortality rates.”

“Not true. Sidekicks frequently die, and their deaths have the double benefit of being a disadvantage to the Hero, while also driving their quest forward at the same time. Mains seldom die, and when they do, they can often be resurrected. Besides, you're saving the world!”

“But life is an awful lot harder for Mains. I don’t think I can take that.”

Author laughs. “That’s what they all say until I prove them wrong. Just wait till you reach your happy ending. Wait till your story becomes a bestseller! Then you’ll thank me.”

I open my mouth to protest, but Author continues.

“I’ve also been thinking of adding a love interest. Gotta have a little romance in this thing. I think he’ll be a dark, brooding dragonslayer. But he’s a double agent, also working for the evil riders—who, by the way, are trying to take over the world with brute force and flaming beasts.”

How does one girl manage to stuff this many clichés into one story? I grit my teeth through another round of my world being rewritten at the whims of a psychopath. As I do, I glance in the mirror, not at all shocked to see the pallor of my skin. Having one’s life torn down and rebuilt within minutes would have that affect.

The voice seems to hover over my shoulder. “You know, we’re going to have to do something about that hair. It’s the wrong color.”

“What’s the matter with dirty blonde?”

“It sounds gross. Let’s make you simply blonde.”

My hair brightens a few shades, turning golden.

“Are you serious? Do you want me to have blue eyes too? There are too many Barbie dolls in fiction.”

“You’re right. Black hair.”

Glossy black spreads from the roots to the tips. “I look like a vampire.”

“Now that’s an idea—”

“Wait, forget I said anything! Black is fine.”

“You need to be shorter. Petite. So it’s more adorable when your big, buff love interest sweeps you away from danger.”

My bones grind painfully as I shrink several inches.

“What am I forgetting? Oh! A mysterious scar.”

A thin pink mark draws itself down my jawline, then vanishes only to reappear on my forearm.

“There. That’s better. Facial scars are so overdone.”

I grab two fistfuls of hair. “Enough! Go bother someone else! Stop meddling in my life. I’m no longer me anymore. You’ve changed my appearance, you’ve given me superpowers, you’ve erased memories and added others, you killed my family . . .”

The lights dim. “Well . . . You have a point, I guess. You’re no longer the girl who first popped into my head.”

This time the room seems to flip upside down. I fall to the floor—or is it the ceiling? When everything finally stills and my stomach stops doing somersaults, I sit up and look around. In the mirror, my reflection is back to normal. I think back on my life. No tragedy, no explosion.

Upstairs, footsteps creak and muffled, familiar voices are talking. My family is back.

I breathe a sigh of relief. Maybe Author decided to abandon her story, or at least to scrap my character and find someone else. I settle back into my desk chair. My laptop is open, my work-in-progress novel staring back at me. Suddenly I’m not in the mood to write. Just as I close my laptop, Author’s voice returns.

“Okay, okay, but we’re keeping the telepathy. That part was awesome.”

My enraged shout is loud enough to rattle the window.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Infinity Dreams Award - VLOG STYLE

And now, questers, announcing that "brand new thing I've never done before" I referenced in the last post: my very first (and possibly only because it's mildly terrifying) vlog. Yes. I braved the camera for the sake of a challenge given to me by Emily @ Ink, Inc.* She's a fabulous blogger with a dry wit and love of books. And she writes prettiful things, so go check out her blog!

*link leads to the post in which she tagged me

The rules are simple: 11 facts, 11 questions, 11 nominees (but I'm doing less).

11 Facts
  1. I love watching lightning storms.
  2. If watermelon is an available candy flavor, that's the one I'll likely pick.
  3. My travels are not extensive; so far I've been to only five provinces and three states.
  4. There is a spider trap in my room that has been rather successful of late. Three dead spiders are sitting there in plain sight. Pleasant. (But rather there than running freely.)
  5. I quite like bookmarks, but I don't use some of my favorites because I want to keep them nice.
  6. Christmas candy lasts me months. I still have a jar of licorice allsorts on my shelf.
  7. My favorite tea is vanilla chai.
  8. I can pull off a halfway decent English accent, but my Scottish, Irish, and pirate voices seem to blend together.
  9. If I start a journal using blue pen, I hesitate to ever use black in the same notebook, and vice versa.
  10. I keep shoeboxes, with the intent of using them to store knickknacks and whatnot. Sadly, there is a stack of shoeboxes I have yet to assign a use for, and the knickknacks are still running wild.
  11. As a child, the word interrupt brought to mind the picture of a trumpet.
11 Questions Answered in Vlog Form

This is a momentous occasion. And like I said, a little freaky? Obviously you all have seen my face before. It's right there on the sidebar. And I don't mind going one step further and letting you hear my voice. You guys are friends! You're wonderful people! It's just the thought of random people strolling through the internet and happening upon my blog and watching this video that gives me pause. Stranger danger, you know.

Ahem. All that aside, I was going to edit the video to make it a bit shorter and therefore more manageable, because everyone's busy and time is scarce, but my program was giving me technical difficulties . . . so this is unedited, imperfect, and at some spots, a little repetitious. C'est la vie. Just proves I'm a human bean.*

*I like saying bean instead of being. And the sunburn I'm sporting is also proof of my humanity.

So here it is. Enjoy!

11 New Questions
[stealing some from Emily because her questions were great]
  1. What's your current favorite song?
  2. In the context of either reading or writing (or both): do you prefer standalones or series?
  3. Have you ever met a book or movie character who was a lot like you? If so, who?
  4. What's your biggest pet peeve as a reader?
  5. Favorite meal: breakfast, lunch, or supper?
  6. What's been inspiring you this week?
  7. What does a perfect day look like for you?
  8. If the world was flat, and you came to the edge of it, what would you like to find there?
  9. If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
  10. With what word would you like others to describe you?
  11. What's one book that changed your life?
And I tag . . .
Whether you answer the questions in a vlog or just in a regular post is up to you! Of course you're not obligated to do the tag at all, but it's here should you want to.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Subplots and Storylines - July 2016

July hummed and whirred with activity, a month sandwiched between the freshness of June and the heat of August. This midsummer season was brimming with all things alive . . . Watching Canda Day fireworks while slapping mosquitos, savoring the sweetness of just-picked raspberries, shelling peas until my fingers turn green, turning off the lights to better see the lightning forking across the sky, biking to the gas station where my brother works and getting blueberry swirl ice cream. This is full-blown summer, you guys.

Some notable threads weaving throughout July . . .

My sisters did two weeks of dog-sitting again, and I joined them a few times to play with little Mocha, a Pomeranian-Yorkie mix who's always beside herself with excitement every time we show up.

My mom and sisters and I spent a day shopping in the city, during which time I let myself splurge a little on some clearance sweaters (fall is coming, unfortunately, and I won't say no to new college clothes), a Ranger's Apprentice book, some odds and ends, and two soundtracks (How to Train Your Dragon and Battle of the Five Armies EDIT: I meant to say An Unexpected Journey).

Work was full, and I opened and closed by myself several times. Opening is my favorite.

Our family garden's pea season began late, and the bean season started early, so the two collided and we had to pick both on the same day several times. The beans have been especially prolific this summer.

I got to spend a great day with a friend who'll be leaving soon for her second year of university several provinces away.

An aunt and uncle visited from the States, which was quite fun.

Last weekend, I felt a bit like a kid again. A watergun fight with the siblings, ridiculous jokes, parks, bike rides, and a library trip will do that to ya!


Raising Dragons Graphic Novel by James Art Ville and Bryan Davis
After the monstrous length of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I needed something breezy. This seemed like a great choice. Being one of the Kickstarter supporters back when they were raising funds for this project, it was super cool and nostalgic to see the fruit of Mr. Ville's labor. He did a great job reimagining Raising Dragons! I'm especially pleased with how Bonnie turned out. The story felt abbreviated, of course, because a 300+ page book needed to be shrunk down to 150 pages of pictures and dialogue bubbles, but it retained much of the heart of this beloved story. (And now I want James Ville to illustrate the rest of the books!)

The Shadow Lamp by Stephen R. Lawhead
OH MY TEA. THIS BOOK. I've been loving the Bright Empires series, and this, the fourth instalment, really really really raised the stakes. I'm talking "the universe will be in big, bad trouble if you don't do something" stakes. As one of the characters said, "Cataclysm does not seem a large enough word to describe it."

The book started a little slow, with quite a bit of recapping--which wasn't all bad, since it's been about a year since I read book 3--but once the crew gets together . . . things happen. Chapter 19 in particular marked the place where the plot started blowing my mind. One thing I love about this series is how Lawhead takes things from real life--science, theories, ancient history, geographical landmarks, etc.--and blends it almost seamlessly with the story. You're not always sure where fact ends and fiction begins, and I love that.

Also I'm very much shipping two particular characters.

And I need book 5, The Fatal Tree, right this minute.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Just like Cinder, I often caught myself composing a list of fangirly comments in my head the way I do when I beta read my friends' stories . . . and then remembering, "Oh wait, this is published and I don't actually know the author." There must be something about the hilarious and feelsy character interactions that reminds me of my writer friends.

Anyway, I liked the first book more, and prefer Cinder and Kai's romance over Scarlet and Wolf's. I'm just not an insta-love sort of person. Scarlet goes from pointing a gun at his head with the purpose to kill, to kissing him and trusting him with everything--in one day. Just one day. She is hotheaded and brash, I get that, but come on. This guy should not be trusted so quickly. That being said, Wolf has some adorable ticks like scratching behind his ear, and his fascination with tomatoes is also cute.

I guess I just identify more with Cinder, who's more practical and logical. (I do feel deeply, but I have more restraint than Scarlet, and almost never throw myself headfirst into something without thinking it through first.) So I loved the parts with her and Thorne (THORNNNNE!). And Kai just needs a hug right now.

Beta Reading
Perhaps one reason my reading levels were down again this month is because I devoted more time to reading and responding to the chapters my friends have sent me. Knowing my inbox is swollen with beta stuff but not knowing exactly how much, I sat down to actually count them at the beginning of the month.

Seventy-plus chapters, guys.

Some are from months and months ago. WHAT. It has been decided that I need to catch up before college, and after that beta reading will be have to be rather infrequent for a while, I'm sad to say.

But! I devoured 22 beta chapters this month, including a novella retelling of Sleeping Beauty (yes, one of the entrants from last year's Rooglewood contest), a couple short stories, miscellaneous bits of novels, and a chunk of another friend's Beauty and the Beast novel. Lots of awesome story-ness all around!


The Return of the King
My brother and I absolutely loved it! And I cried again, more than once. I'm sitting here now, trying to come up with words to describe my reaction to this movie, and I'm almost at a loss. I must have used up all my words in my last post. TRotK was epic in every sense of the word, and seeing everything culminate in that huge, amazing ending was incredible. (With a goodly dose of bittersweetness as well, as the ship leaves for the Undying Lands and takes certain characters with it.) Oh, and Eowyn is now one of my favorite heroines!

Once Upon a Time (part of Season 4)
My sisters and I are about halfway through the season now, and we're really enjoying it. I've decided the Frozen elements do integrate well (and Anna is the sweetest person); I strongly dislike the Snow Queen but loved the climax of her part in the story; and the Charming family is my favorite thing ever.

The Flash (first three episodes of Season 1)
So I started watching this with my brother, and it's pretty great! I love Barry/Flash--his character is so earnest and warmhearted and down-to-earth. His relationship with his father is so good to see. A number of secondary characters are worming their way into my heart as well, and the motley villains are intriguing. I think this'll be a fun ride.


I finished the workbook stuff from session 8 of The Creative Way (the writing course by Ted Dekker that I'm taking) and also did session 9. Progress is sporadic, obviously, but still happening.

Another sort-of-writing-related thing was the Silmarillion Awards that took place this month! Narnia really stole the show this year, didn't it? I had loads of fun hosting the Riddling and Poetry award, which culminated recently with Bilbo presenting the Silmaril to the Sorting Hat, and later on, me gushing about Tolkien and how much the books mean to me. Many thanks to Jenelle Schmidt and DJ Edwardson for coming up with this marvellous idea, and for inviting me to join them!

What I did on my actual WIP, The Prophet's Key--that willful child made of rough edges and elusive magic, which I'm trying to capture--is write 11,399 words. A great month for me, considering work and whatnot! I finished drafting the Scotland scenes (sniffle . . . goodbye, Highlands--see you in editing. . .) and have just split up the crew, sending one half gallivanting to Australia and the other to Moscow, Russia. Hooray for writing about places I've never been to! And for tiring of research and then proceeding to write without gathering facts first! I will have plenty to shape up during editing, and that's putting it kindly.

But I'm getting a teensy tiny bit better at loosening up and just focusing on getting the story out. Details can be fixed later. That's the beauty of revisions. (#messyfirstdraft) I'm also happily suffering from bouts of wanderlust when I do research places. I honestly thought I'd never want to visit Russia. My mind has changed.

Also on the writing front, I've been reconsidering publishing tactics this month. But until I've sorted it out for myself (aka spent half a dozen pages journaling about it), I won't say much more here. I'm sorry, I don't mean to be cruelly mysterious! Just wanted to record the fact that these thoughts arrived in July 2016. Once they take a firmer shape, I'll explain myself more clearly. Promise.

That was July!

Full of green, growing things; a celebration of fantasy and Tolkien; books; and learning to write more freely. And I'm breathing a great sigh of relief, because I'm taking almost a week off now to kick back and unwind! I hope to get in some bigger writing days, catch up on more beta reading, and enjoy a more fluid schedule that allows time for little things like journaling or sketching or coloring or falling into a book for a few hours.

Keep a watchful eye on Adventure Awaits during August, as I have a couple of special things planned! One is something I've never done before, and the other involves another blogger. (Aren't I such a tease?)

So how was your July? (Can you believe it's August already? August. How in the world . . .) Did you enjoy the Silmarillion Awards? What's one of the best books you've read this summer? Have a glass of lemonade and share the summery stuff going on in your world!