Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Steadfast Pen Blog Launch & Interview!

In my last post I promised a special guest was coming. Well, joining us today is my younger brother, Josiah! He just launched his blog, called The Steadfast Pen, this week. To celebrate his splashdown into the blogosphere, I'm interviewing him about his perspective on creativity and life, two of my main topics here at Adventure Awaits.

You may remember him from Four Elements of a Successful Villain, a guest post he did here over a year ago. Or you may recall that he and I shared college adventures recently. You may also be unable to forget that, ahem, darling picture of him and I dressed as Mario and Princess Peach (featured in S&S May 2017) .

Josiah neglected to give me an official bio for this post, leaving his introduction in my very capable hands. (I've known the guy for nineteen years, so I'd like to think I'm an expert at this sort of thing.) Josiah is the creatively inclined, fastidiously detailed, uproariously funny person responsible for many a brainstorming session or Marvel fest in my household. Stories were what paved the way from our squabbling phase of siblinghood to the friendship phase we enjoy now. He's got a quirky sense of humor, an affinity for puns, and a boatload of patience developed by the trials of having three sisters.

Without further ado, please welcome Josiah Dyck to the stage!

Tracey: Art and life have a way of intersecting. How does your life influence your art, and how does art influence your life?

Josiah: Interesting question! I think that my life influences my art—or, more specifically, my writing—in a host of different ways. When I struggle in life, I can work those struggles into my writing. My story The Tournament of Convicts is a good example of this. The main character fights against the feeling of never seeing his dreams come to pass. This is something I’ve had to fight as well, and that makes it more poignant in the story. Another scenario is for my first book in The Portal Chronicles. One of my characters, Mark, tries to prove himself because he wants his parents to be proud of him. I can relate to this, which strengthens the story’s emotion.

If there are things I’ve wondered and want to work out, stories are good places to do that. For example, Of Beauties and Beasts toys with the concept of actions and consequences, especially when said actions were bad, but the intentions were good. Darkened Slumber deals a lot with honor and asks if someone can be honorable when they’ve killed someone else. Maelstrom is going to be focused on grace versus judgement, especially when people don’t deserve grace. Being able to figure these things out on the pages of a novel is always a joy to do in the end.

Through this answer, I think I’ve also partially answered the second part of this question. By working through the struggles and questions I have, my art influences my life when I find the answers. Also, when one is a writer, one pays attention to different things than most people would. I sometimes try to remember how someone looks so I can incorporate part of them into a character. I’ll notice quirks, habits, and mannerisms—all worth noting should I someday want to use them. I could go on, but I think I’ve rambled on long enough for this question, seeing it’s only the first one.

Tracey: You write, but you also engage in a number of other creative outlets—both as creator and as an audience member. What creative art forms influence your writing?

Josiah: ALL OF THEM. Well, I should specify that every art form I engage in has an impact on my writing. That includes books, movies/TV shows, music, video games . . . There are art forms (e.g. dance, theater, painting/drawing) that either don’t have any influence, or only a bit, but maybe that’s because I don’t participate in these outlets. I couldn’t tell you which one has the most power in my writing, but what I do know is that my writing is indeed impact by the major forms of art I engage in.

Tracey: Soundtracks are a big favorite of yours, and I know that asking you to pick a favorite is cruel of me . . . but tell us. What’s your favorite soundtrack? (You can stab thank me later.)

Josiah: Ha. Ha. Ha. You just had to pull this one, did ya? I can’t pick one favorite, because I’ll think of another and think to myself, “Oh yeah, there’s that one, and that one, and that one . . .” Pretty soon, I’ll be saying all of my soundtracks are my favorite.
But whenever I’m asked this question, one soundtrack often comes to mind, so I’ll just use that one. If someone were to ask me what you just did, I might be tempted to say that the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack (the extended version of it) is my favorite. “Why?” you might be asking. Because Junkie XL is a phenomenal composer, that’s why. You start off with lots of intense or suspenseful sequences, filled with scratchy strings, pounding drums, and eerie sounds I can’t properly describe. Then, out of the blue, an emotional theme appears in the music. You’re hit with tracks that seem to be influenced by classical music. Suddenly, this soundtrack is very different than what you initially thought. It’s just so amazing! Hans Zimmer himself describes the soundtrack as being “absolutely phenomenal and mind-blowingly brilliant.” Which should tell you something about the Fury Road score.

Tracey: If you had a theme song that played whenever you walked into a room, what would it be?
Josiah: I have legitimately thought about this beforehand, and all my answers are goofy ones. Like, if I walked into a room and the Imperial March started playing, or the Black Rider theme, I’d find that absolutely hilarious. But if I were to seriously consider a theme, maybe Rohan’s theme? Or perhaps Ballad of the Goddess from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Ooh, there’s also the LEGO Ninjago overture! So many to choose from, and I don’t which I’d pick. I would probably change it . . . a lot.

Tracey: Who are some of your fictional heroes, and why?

Josiah: Obviously, the first one on this list is Captain America. He’s such a patriotic hero who upholds his morals, and when he’s made a decision, he’s determined to stick with it. He was one of the first superheroes I saw in a movie, and I couldn’t help but love his character. I just don’t understand people who think he’s lame. Obviously, such people don’t know a great hero when they see one.
Another hero would be the Flash—as in, Grant Gustin’s version. He strives to be a noble hero, but at the same time, he’s also very human. He makes mistakes and doesn’t always admit it right away. He wrestles with the punches life keeps throwing his way. I love the combination of hero/human, because then I look up to him and identify with him. He’s a relatable character, and that makes him awesome.
Finally, Charlie West from Andrew Klavan’s Homelanders series is one of my heroes. He’s fiercely loyal to his country and will go great lengths in his fight for it. He’s also got a family, friends, and a girlfriend who he loves and wants to protect. I cheered for him throughout the whole series. He has to be one of the most memorable protagonists I’ve read in a book series. (I don’t know about you, but I’m detecting a theme here.)
Captain America // The Flash // Charlie West featured on the cover of The Last Thing I Remember by Andrew Klavan

Tracey: If you could spend a day with any character, yours or someone else’s, who would it be? And what would your day together look like?

Josiah: Gah, this is so hard. I think I’m going to cheat and say I’d love to hang out with the three main characters from my Portal Chronicles books: Mark, David, and Warren. They would be so much fun to spend a day with! We would probably do things like go watch a movie in theaters and then rave or rant about it afterward; we’d play video games and probably do it loudly; we would go to a cozy café, sit down with beverages, and just talk about life. Now you’re making me wish I could actually do this. You wouldn’t happen to know how to make book characters come to life, would you?

Tracey: You’re a very detailed movie-watcher. What things do you look for or notice first in a movie?

I’ve never really thought about this. I guess one of the things I notice is the music. Because I love soundtrack and am always on the lookout for something new to listen to, I’ll pay attention to the movie’s score. This, however, doesn’t happen all the time. There usually has to be something that triggers it. One case of this is in Big Hero 6. During the chase scene in San Fransokyo, the music changes from orchestral to electronic with electric guitar. My ears perked up, and I decided to give the soundtrack a listen.

San Fransokyo

There are other things I look for, such as an opening that catches my attention, characters that I can feel emotional about, a gripping plot, cool camera angles, realistic sets, et cetera. Like I said, I haven’t even thought about this before. I suppose I’ll be paying more attention to that now.

Tracey: You don’t hesitate to follow the advice, “Kill your darlings.” Talk to us about character deaths—what is their value, how do you go about it, what to avoid, etc.

Josiah: Ah, yes, I do tend to kill off a number of my characters. I think they’re valuable because they heighten the emotion of the story, and that’s our number one goal as writers: to give the readers an emotional experience. Plus, there are other reasons for killing off a character. Sometimes you need to raise the stakes and show the danger of what the protagonists are doing. Other times, a villain’s demise is just satisfying.

The way I do deaths, if I want the readers to care, is to give them plenty of reasons to become attached to said character. When readers love characters, the scene of their death will be so much more powerful. There are some character deaths where I do it “at a bad time,” if you will. If the protagonists are at the crux of the plot, when things are getting darker and hard, kill one of them off. Make things even more difficult for the others.

Another idea to do it is when there should be satisfaction, like when a final battle has been won. Mortally wounding a character just at the end increases the emotion. Or perhaps things are finally looking up for your character; kill them, and your readers will become frustrated—in a good way, of course. I’ll even give the villains a bit of humanity to spark even a little bit of emotion from the readers.

However, here is my major precaution in character deaths: if they’re supposed to matter, do not do them just because. See, when it’s a minor character, you can kill them off easier because they don’t matter as much. But when it comes to major protagonists, or even antagonists, tread carefully. Killing them off willy-nilly doesn’t incite emotion in the reader if there’s no reason behind it. I have to remind myself of that too sometimes. Whenever you’re debating removing a character permanently, always ask yourself, “Do I have a sufficient reason for doing this?”

I could give more advice, but this answer’s getting pretty long. I guess I’ll just have to do a whole post on it sometime.

Tracey: If you couldn’t write, what would you do?

Josiah: I’d probably be a filmmaker. I would save up and get a nice camera, establish a small crew, and make all sorts of movies. Even now, though I am a writer, I wish I could pick it up as a smaller hobby. I think it’d be a lot of fun to do.

Tracey: Quick—sort yourself! Which faction from Divergent? Which race from Lord of the Rings? How soon would you die in The Hunger Games? Which Pevensie are you most like from The Chronicles of Narnia? (I’d ask you which Harry Potter house you’re in, but neither of us has read it. #behindthetimes) (I took a quiz once, and I’m apparently Gryffindor?)

Amity faction
Josiah: According to a test, I’m part of the Amity faction, but I might prefer to choose Dauntless. I’d either be an Elf or a Skin-Changer. I’d like to think I would win, but realistically, I’d probably die somewhere in the middle. Eh, probably Edmund, after he’s done the whole betrayal thing. (I did the HP house quiz, and I’m fairly equal in all the houses, which means I can choose my own. Yay . . .?)

Well, thanks for allowing me on your blog, Tracey! I had a lot of fun with this interview.

Tracey: So did I! Thanks for stopping by, bro! To all my fellow adventurers, head on over to The Steadfast Pen to read Josiah's very first post. Hint: if you like pizza, you'll get along just fine. Feel free to leave him some comments, here or there (or both!). I think I can persuade him to loiter around my comment section and chat with y'all. ;)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

11 Things to Do When Your Writing Feels Like Rubbish

graphics mine, image via Pinterest 

What happens when you spend your week absorbed in writing and putting in your hours at work and neglect to plan ahead? The blog schedule falls by the wayside, that's what! I apologize for missing Saturday, folks. (Although you did get a bonus post last Wednesday, so you can't complain too much.) I decided to pop in this fine Wednesday as well, because I've got something important to discuss with you.

A couple days ago, a lovely young lady reached out and asked for advice on her writing dilemma.

"I've had a lot of trouble writing lately, feeling like my work is rubbish, and sounds cheap. I took a little break and want to get back to it now but I still feel like my work is not cutting it."

Her timing was uncanny, because that's similar to what I was going through last week. In fact, it's something every writer contends with. So here are some ideas to get out of that slump!*

*I'm pretty sure about 72.8% of the items on my list are things I've unconsciously pilfered from other sources, but that's neither here nor there.

1. Study other writers' work

Sometimes when you feel like your writing is junk, it's not because you've fallen out of love with your idea, your plot, or your characters, but with the very writing itself. I sporadically go through slumps where it feels like I've forgotten how to string one word after another. Every paragraph sounds the same, and I get sick of it very quickly.

One way to jumpstart your way out of that is to pick up a book by a favorite author, someone who really knows his or her craft. Copy a few pages of their book out on paper or a fresh Word doc. The physical act of retyping every word will make you pay attention to their style, voice, and sentence construction--and it may just breathe some fresh life into your own.

A slight caveat: when you return to writing your story, this may make your first chapter or two sound like Jane Austen or J.R.R. Tolkien or Maggie Stiefvater or whomever you copied. (That happens to me sometimes even when I'm just casually reading! Suddenly half a page sounds like a knockoff of somebody else before it returns to my voice.) It's pretty much the writer's version of osmosis, but it will pass, and some editing later on will get those copycat words to sound more like your own.

2. Reread the parts of your writing that you love

I wrote/edited my way to the end of The Brightest Thread recently, but it's still too short, so I'm rereading everything to see where else I can make additions. As I was reading over it, my mom pointed out that I was grinning at my laptop. The scene I'd been reading was just too wonderful not to smile!

I don't say that as a pat on the back, but merely to point out that remembering the scenes you're proud of is a great way to produce another good one. When you're deep in the drafting or editing stage, your focus is often on one scene, one sentence--goodness, even one word--at a time. You're too close to your work, especially when editing, and so it's easy to see all the flaws. But going back to refresh your memory will bring to mind the parts that really shine, which may be just the boost of confidence you need.

3. Give yourself permission to write junk

I picked this lesson up from Gail Carson Levine's lovely little book called Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly. Sometimes you're just in a slump, okay? That's no reason to beat yourself up, because we all have been there, and unless you find the magical elixir that allows you to transfer your brilliant stories from your mind to the page with a snap of your fingers, you'll fall into a slump again. That's not meant to be a discouragement, dear writer. Just a reminder that you've been there before, and you got out of it. You're in it now, but you'll get out of it. And you'll be there again, and once more you'll get out of it.

In the meantime, allow yourself to write junk.

Even if it means typing I AM NOW COMMENCING THE GARBAGE FEST AND ALL WORDS FOLLOWING ARE JUNK, JUNK, JUNK on the page, do it. Even if it means talking to yourself in the middle of a scene--Bartholomew drew his sword and yelled, "That's the last time you'll do anything of the sort!" Good grief, this is lame. Bart has obviously been reading cheap comic books and picking up bad habits. Gotta get him some better reading material. The dark knight chuckled darkly and replied, "The dark will always win, little hero." AYE KARUMBA, EVERYTHING IS DARK AND DASTARDLY AND UTTER GARBAGE--

Do it.

Eventually, you'll find that the junk gives way to something halfway decent. Write yourself straight through that slump! I've heard it said that done is better than perfect.

4. Write something else

Take a break from that story you're so worried is rubbish, and switch gears. Pull out a writing prompt, make up a writing exercise, write some fanfiction, whatever! Try your hand at a genre you've never attempted and scribble out a page or two. Dream up some new narrative technique and experiment. If you normally write lyrically, go for something stark. If you've been writing in first person, try omniscient. If fantasy is your gig, try out a Victorian mystery. You don't have to finish it; the point is simply to limber up those writing muscles again. Creativity feeds creativity.

5. Stop comparing

One of the quickest routes to feeling depressed as a writer (or as a person) is to play the comparison game. We tend to place our worst flaws alongside someone else's greatest strengths. Of course that's going to be discouraging! Put everyone else out of your mind and just write. Write your story, your way. This is especially crucial when you're on a first draft! They're never perfect.

It's also important to remember that everyone is at a different place on their journey. It isn't fair to yourself to compare your WIP with a bestselling author's thirtieth novel. I would even go so far as to say, if you've completed stories in the past, don't even compare your WIP to your polished drafts. Those two stories are at different stages. It's like complaining your apple tree is dying because the apple you just picked is green and unripe, and not at all like the beautiful red one you bought at the store.

6. Give yourself time

I can be straight with you brave souls, right? If you're sensitive to criticism, skip to the next point, but if you want the unvarnished truth, then here it is:

If you feel like your writing is rubbish, you might be right.

I refused to even think it back when I started writing seriously. I thought my stories were amazing. Some of them were amazingly awful, but I didn't realize it at the time, and that's okay. It's okay I didn't see it, and it's okay that they were awful. The beautiful thing about any skill is that it can be grown. And when it comes to something growing, time is absolutely necessary. You may not be where you want to be as a writer just yet, but you're on your way! Accept where you are right now, dream about where you're going, and then put in the work to get there.

Malcolm Gladwell said in his book Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert at anything. Whether that's scientifically accurate or not, the principle remains: you need practice and time to grow your skill set.

On another note, you need to give yourself time with this particular story. Maybe it hasn't had a chance to fully develop, and both you and the story are experiencing growing pains. Be patient, and as I said before--you can write your way through this.

7. Read voraciously

This is the more organic sibling of point number 1 (study other writers' work). When my writing is suffering, one of the frequent common denominators is that my reading is suffering too. Give yourself a few days away from your manuscript--or weeks if you're in a really bad place--and consume someone else's stories for a change!

8. Learn voraciously

As you're giving yourself time and giving yourself permission to write junk, you know you don't want to stay there. You want to improve. So if writing is something you're serious about pursuing, read some good books or blog posts about the writing craft! If you can afford it, attend a workshop or a conference. Go to book signings or author events. Ask questions.

On the topic of blog posts, by the way--you may want to be choosy. I'm totally undermining myself here, but look for the blogs/websites of people who are "ahead of you" on the writing road, so to speak. Of course, I believe you can learn from absolutely anyone, including peers and also those who may be "behind you." But you're more likely to learn something new from someone who's more experienced than you are. Many published authors provide helpful advice online. (I've actually wanted to do a post on writing resources ever since I started blogging. One of these days!)

But the main thing is that you learn.

9. Get critiqued

Alone, you can only see 180 degrees, yes? But with a friend, you can see 360 degrees. No matter how good you are at writing, you'll miss something, so it's helpful to get a few more sets of eyes on your work to help you pick out the trouble spots, inconsistencies, and snags.

Peers make great beta readers, and if you can manage to get feedback from a professional, that's golden! You might not be able to pinpoint what's wrong with your writing, you just know something feels off. But someone with more distance might be able to give you that eureka moment.

10. Recognize outside factors

I mentioned earlier that last week was rough writing-wise. Partway through, I realized it wasn't just because the actual writing was slow. So, feeling frustrated and unhappy, I examined the issue and found out that:

a) I was filling all my free time with writing, and then staying up too late doing things like reading books or blogs to relax--so I wasn't getting the rest I needed
and b) there had been a few stressful incidents at work that made my shifts more draining than usual.

Feelings are just signals! A negative feeling is like a window popping up on your computer to tell you that something is wrong. It doesn't always mean your writing is trash, and it certainly never means that you are trash.

Life isn't separated into neat little boxes. So many things can affect your writing: health, sleep, relationships, stress, finances. So when you hit an authorial slump, consider what else might be a contributing factor, and give yourself the grace to deal with that situation.

11. Pray

Everyone makes tidy lists of ten, but I couldn't leave this eleventh point out. The biggest outside factor is your relationship with God. Take this from someone struggling with her devotional life as we speak: when you're not spending time with God, whether that be reading the Bible, praying, or taking a walk while listening to worship music, everything else in life suffers. Including your writing.

I know, I know how it feels. Not all of you are task-driven people, but for those of you who are: I understand that putting off writing to pray or even to relax with a good book feels like . . . well, not necessarily time wasted, but time not spent writing.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. -Matthew 6:33 NIV

The thing is, you can't afford not to pursue God. And when it comes down to it, isn't He the most creative being to ever exist? Didn't He hang the stars and fashion chimpanzees and create thunderstorms with just a word? You, dear writer, dear soul, are created in the image of the Creator! You are a creative being--that's part of your very nature--but your creativity flourishes best when it is fed by a thriving bond with your Creator.

And that's all the advice I have today, my friends. I'm off to go practice what I just preached (The Brightest Thread, here I come!), but before I go . . .

Stay tuned for Saturday, because I have a very special guest joining us!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Book Review & Blog Tour: The Reluctant Godfather by Allison Tebo

We interrupt the regular posting schedule with a special broadcast! (Ahem, you must read that in a radio announcer voice. It's required.)

Today, it is my honor and privilege to be a part of The Reluctant Godfather blog tour and giveaway! I recently got to read Allison Tebo's delightful little spin on Cinderella, and let me tell you, folks: you want to read this. I'll tell you why in my own words in just a minute, but first, here is the official blurb:

About the Book:

A humorous and magical re-telling of Cinderella from a unique perspective.

Burndee is a young and cantankerous fairy godfather, who would rather bake cakes than help humans. A disgrace to the fairy order, Burndee has only two wards entrusted to his care…a cinder girl and a charming prince.

A royal ball presents Burndee with the brilliant solution of how to make his wards happy with the least amount of effort. He’ll arrange a meeting and hope the two fall in love.

Sounds fun, doesn't it? That's because it is! This is a story you could read in one sitting, like a slice of fluffy chocolate cake baked by Burndee himself. It's a light, rollicking adventure seasoned with a generous helping of humor (one of my favorite things in a story) and a sweet dash of heart. So without further ado, let's get into a review/summary of my thoughts.

The Plot

I don't think I've ever read a Cinderella retelling from the perspective of the fairy godmother--er, godfather, in this case. That instantly gave the tale a fresh twist! While the main structure of the plot follows most of the dance steps one would expect of a Cinderella story, Allison deftly weaves them together in a different way. A way that's slightly off-kilter, a way that keeps you nodding in recognition yet still eagerly turning the page.

And that ending was so heartwarming! I enjoyed spending the last few pages seeing where the characters end up and how their lives turn out. This resolution tied up the story in a sweet little bow, while still hinting at future fun and adventures. I love it when there's closure without it feeling like all the excitement is over permanently.

The Characters

This is where the story really shone! Sit tight--I have to take a moment and gush about each of the main characters.

Burndee: He was my favorite! I mentioned on Goodreads that if you took Howl (from Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones) and made him someone's godparent, you'd pretty much end up with Burndee. He's cantankerous, temperamental, gruff, and proud, yet still has a soft spot deep inside.

Plus loves baking, which is a fun and unusual trait for a character like him. All the descriptions of food were making me hungry.

Naturally, some who's cantankerous, temperamental, gruff, proud, and soft contributes excellent sass-alogue (oops, I mean dialogue) to the story! Burndee has trouble getting along with most people, so cue the conflict and witty banter! His personality and attitude are such that he has only two wards to look after, as opposed to the dozens that most fairies handle.

Ella: As weird as it sounds, I liked not being in Cinderella's head for a change. It was interesting to see her from the godparent's perspective.

She's a sweet, hardworking girl, exactly what you might expect. But it was endlessly amusing how Burndee viewed her as, well . . . a bit thick-headed and slow. (Mind you, he has zero patience.) And by the end of the story, we see the depth of her faithfulness and efforts to show love to unlovely people.

Prince Colin: He was a hoot as well, especially since he had a penchant for making his own plans outside of Burndee's ideas! The scenes in which they argue over tea were some of my favorites. All those crushed scones . . .

Probably the best line he ever uttered was: "They're hunting me." (In reference to all the girls coming to the ball, you understand.)

I'm just going to stop there, otherwise I'll end up quoting all the jokes and leave you nothing to discover for yourself!

My Verdict

Four stars! I loved the subtle twists on one of my favorite fairytales, and the humor was A+ for sure. (The humor reminded me a smidge of Broken Glass by Emma Clifton.) The only reason I docked a star was because there were a few times early on in the story where I personally would have liked more setting details to ground me in the scene; and the writing style used more adverbs than I prefer.

But all in all, this is a fantastic novella that I recommend adding to your summer TBR (to be read) list! You'll be laughing the whole way through, and--if you're like me--wanting to quote lines to whatever unsuspecting family members are within a ten-foot radius of you.

About the Author

Allison Tebo is a Christian homeschool graduate in her mid-twenties, who works part time as a sales associate for a major transportation company.  A graduate of London Art College, Allison pursues avenues in cartooning and illustrating as well as singing and voice acting.

In her spare time she writes and blogs at

It is her goal to write fiction that appeals to many different kind of people, by writing clean, classic fun.

Her faith in Christ directly influences all she writes about - or does not write about.  Whether the story possesses a strong message or is simply fun and imaginative fiction - her desire is to bring honor to God - and to provide quality stories for everyone to enjoy.

BUT DON'T LEAVE YET! You haven't heard about the giveaway! As part of her blog tour of spotlights, reviews, and interviews, Allison is giving away some signed copies of her book, along with other goodies. Click here to check it out on her website!

Have you read The Reluctant Godfather yet? (If not, what are you waiting for?) And what would you do if you had a fairy godparent?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Beautiful People - Prince Hadrian

Hello hello, daring questers! It occurs to me that I have not done a Beautiful People post in quite some time (ahem, since January). In light of that lack, and in light of the fact that:

a) I've been immersed in The Brightest Thread this week
and b) the questions this month couldn't be more perfect for my male protagonist . . .

I've decided to properly introduce you to Hadrian, the precious, frustrated hero of The Brightest Thread!

[For more BP posts, read this one about the female protagonist, Luci, and this one about the villainess, Vyntyri. You can also check out this Dual Character Inquisition, featuring both Luci and Hadrian.]

Beautiful People is a (typically monthly) writing meme hosted by Cait @ Paper Fury (a.k.a ruler of all) and Sky @ Further Up and Further In (a.k.a master of fangirldom). Grab the ten questions, join in, and be sure to leave your link in the shiny little linkup gadget. It's a great way to dig deeper into your characters and meet other writers!

Meet Hadrian, crown prince of Bauglind.

[via Pinterest]

1. What's their favorite place they've ever visited?

Hadrian loves the outdoors. Put him in the royal garden or out in the jungle/wilderlands, and he's the happiest you'll ever find him. The specific location doesn't matter, as long as something is growing underfoot.

2. What's one mistake they made that they learned from?

the streets of Vale
[via Pinterest]
On an errand in the heart of Vale, the capital city of his kingdom, he comes across a merchant harassing a customer and trying to cheat money out of her. Hadrian, already stressed due to prior happenings in the story, is filled with righteous indignation and rather . . . forcibly puts a stop to the merchant's behavior. Later, he discovers that instead of fixing the injustice, he only pushed the merchant into even worse actions.

A flurry of more pressing events hasn't given Hadrian much time to process this, but eventually he'll realize that one can't force morality on another. (Much as he'd like to.) Taking away a merchant's wares or writing a new law won't restore his crumbling kingdom--reaching the people's hearts will.

3. What was their favorite subject in school? Or favorite thing to learn about?

He's quite the horticulturist. Cultivating, crossbreeding, all of it is of interest to him. His latest project is developing the gildleaf: a plant with roots that have medicinal properties. As far as schooling goes, his tutors were never the agreeable sort, but he has a natural inclination toward history.

4. What's their favorite flower/growing thing?

All of them! In his words, "To discover the character of each is a joy. I hope to one day know the intricacies of them all."

5. Have they ever made someone cry? What happened?

He has made Luci cry in a couple of the dreams they've shared (since her enchanted sleep enables her to enter other people's dreams), but the reasons are . . . well, crossing into spoiler territory.

6. Would you consider them a reliable or unreliable narrator?

I would say he's a pretty reliable narrator. Luci a bit less so, simply because of her rebellious side. But Hadrian's a balanced person and a good judge of character. So except for situations when his strong moral compass might blot out the shades of gray in a situation, he's a reliable narrator.

7. What do they dream about at night?

(Do you see how perfect this question is? Do you?! I am delighted.)

Ahem. Hadrian never remembered his dreams growing up, and good thing, too. If that wasn't the case, having a half-ogress for a stepmother might have caused constant nightmares. (Though I wonder if perhaps he did have nightmares that he's blocked from memory. Survival techniques, right?) But when Luci started haunting his sleep, he started remembering his dreams in the morning. They often feature strange versions of real places he's been, like his palace halls, the seaside, or the jungle. And then there's some that are completely arbitrary.

8. They've gone out for a "special meal." What would they eat?

Hearty fare, that's for sure. He likes flavor and new spices and has a particular fascination with fruits and vegetables (obviously) but enjoys wild boar and other protein. As long as it's good food, he's content.

[via Pinterest]

9. Do they have any distinguishing or unique talents?

His penchant for growing things has already been mentioned, so I won't repeat myself.

Hadrian is also an above average swordsman, but he compares himself to Chief Rook, a master of swordplay and commander of Bauglind's army, so Hadrian doesn't think all that highly of his own skills.

He's also great with people. His strong convictions might be off-putting to some, but aside from that, he's very perceptive and--unless provoked--excels in diplomacy. (In contrast, Luci is terrible at being polite. If it weren't for one of the fairies' magical gifts, she would offend a lot more people. Having Hadrian around is good for her.)

10. What's at least one thing they want to do before they die?

Uh, how much time do you have? Hadrian's dreams are lofty and large.

Bauglind is rotting from the inside out (metaphorically speaking), so one of his greatest aspirations is to reverse the decay once he becomes king. He wants to reinstate truth and justice. He wants to raise the oppressed and rein back the oppressors. This is a task that will take a lifetime and more to complete, but he's committed.

A more recent goal is to rescue Luci from her curse. She's stolen his heart, much as she hates to admit it, and he will put aside all other dreams in order to reach her.

On a more lighthearted note, if Hadrian had a bucket list, it would surely include fun, adventurous things like voyaging across the sea, riding a dragon, going spelunking in some dark, forgotten cave, charting the stars, visiting other kingdoms, and turning as much of his palace into a garden as possible.

Hadrian is most likely pleased to meet you, unless you're a duplicitous scoundrel, and he would love to give you a tour of his garden. Any questions for him, ask away in the comments! :)

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Subplots and Storylines - May 2017

Transitions are fickle things. Sometimes one hardly realizes that the season of life has changed, and other times one is aware of every minute detail. May was a month of transition for me, slipping from college to "normal" life.

Princess Peach (me) and Mario (my brother)
It started out with exams, volunteering at a Special Olympics swimming event with my classmates, and dressing up as Princess Peach at a church event for moms and their little ones. There was a Mario Kart track set up where kids could drive little motorized cars in a circle, and my brother and I provided the entertainment!

(Ignore my awkward princess pose. And the fact that my crown is falling off.)

On another day, my classmates and the college interns had a barbecue to celebrate the end of the year. We had written letters to God at the beginning of the year, and now we got to open them and see just how far we've come since September.

Then it was Mother's Day. In creative ministry (for college), we worked hard to put up some amazing décor to celebrate all the moms in church. It turned out beautifully. And at home, we had a quiet celebration involving Chinese takeout. (Come on, we saved her from making supper!)

And then I went to an escape room with my peeps from creative ministry! I've never been to an escape room before, but after this, I would LOVE to go again. I tried a castle-themed room with twelve other people. The logic! The teamwork! The tricky puzzles! If we'd had an extra two or three minutes, we would've made it out successfully, that's how close we were.

The middle of the month rolled around, and with it, college graduation! Celebrating with friends and family, looking back on the past nine months, giving a valedictorian speech, and spending the night at a friend's place for the afterparty--all were such beautiful, bittersweet memories.

We graduated! This is me with Jacky, a good college friend who
recently moved back home, hours away from me. *sniffle*

Like I said, May was a month of transitions. So after grad, life has switched gears. I've returned to volunteering in kids ministry at church (which I had taken a break from because of the intense college schedule). I'm back to working four or five shifts a week. And now that my sisters are done school for the summer, life at home has taken on a different pace too. You'd think it would be slower, but oddly, it's not as slow as I was expecting.


Finally // Wendy Mass
Goodness, I'd forgotten how dramatic the twelve-year-old life could be! This was a cute book about the mishaps and missteps that befall Rory when she turns twelve and can finally do all the things on her list, like get her ears pierced, babysit, and go to the mall with her friends. (Talk about a throwback to simpler days . . .) Four stars.

Crazy Dangerous audiobook // Andrew Klavan (narrated by Nick Podehl)
I read the novel four years ago and loved it then. Listening to the audiobook, I loved it again! It's intense, it's endearing, it's a little creepy at times, and Sam Hopkins is just my favorite. I was reminded of how addictive Andrew Klavan's books are! Because I can count the number of audiobooks I've listened to on one hand, I wasn't sure what to expect with this. But the narrator was perfect for this book. Now I need to go find some more audiobooks to listen to on my drive to work. Five stars!

The Purpose Driven Life // Rick Warren
Another college read. We started in September, but we didn't even finish (as a class) before grad, so I finished the final chapters on my own. I'm pretty sure I read it eons ago too . . . Anyway, there were a number of good reminders in here. It's not like I got nothing out of it, don't get me wrong. But I learned the most from the chapters I disagreed with, because they sparked great class discussions. We dug into the Word, bounced perspectives off each other, and learned how to rectify the disconnect between what we saw in the book vs. what we know of God's character and the Bible. Three stars.

Green Rider // Kristen Britain
At Jacky's behest, I began reading one of her favorite series! It felt like the pacing lagged at times, especially in the first half of the book, and later the climax kept looking it was going to happen, but then it wasn't the climax after all. (That could've been just me, though.) But the actual ending helped make up for it, especially when Karigan, the protagonist, started doing more for herself. And I liked the concept of the Green Riders, a group of special messengers/riders with magical abilities. Jacky tells me the series gets progressively better, so I'll pick up book two sometime. Three stars.

Movies & TV

I watched a fair bit of Once Upon a Time and The Flash, as per usual. My siblings and I finished season 1 of OUAT and started season 2. With my parents, I finished OUAT season 2. With just my sisters, we watched some more of season 5. Jumping around the timeline so much is kind of fun, actually. You get a really good contrast of different parts of each character's arc!

My siblings and I just recently finished season 2 of The Flash as well. Somebody help me, I think the pieces of my heart are all over the floor. (Seriously, I need to write a blog post about this show ASAP.)

The grade 6 students of a nearby Christian school made a movie based on a WWII novel, which I got to watch. They did such a good job!

Moana: While not as good as Tangled, this was a fresh twist on the typical Disney princess story. I liked that it was a friendship story instead of a romance. And the songs were fantastic! I've loved "How Far I'll Go" long before I watched the movie.

Doctor Strange: This was awesomesauce, you guys. Quite different than most Marvel movies, yes, but I think that's a good thing. The beginning--wow. Something about the subtlety and atmosphere (and Stephen Strange's awful attitude) really grabbed me. And then the superhero aspect kicks in . . . and there are jaw-dropping visuals . . . and a dash of humor . . . and gahhh, I want the Cloak of Levitation for myself. Can't wait for a sequel!


I booked my appointments for Realm Makers! Woohoo! It feels even more real now, and the pressure is on to finish The Brightest Thread in time to pitch it.

With college being over, I had some time to pick up Ted Dekker's The Creative Way writing course, so I listened to session 12 and learned more about the four types of conflict. (I've yet to do the workbook part of that session, however.)

In the first half of May, I had a little blip of productive writing time, and then wrote basically nothing until after grad. About 12,000 words have been added to The Brightest Thread, bringing it to a total of 32,824 words. The goal is to fall comfortably between 80 and 90k by the end of June so that there's time to edit a bit before Realm Makers. S.O.S. Please send coffee.

I'll be fine . . . probably. Most of this TBT work has been quite enjoyable, truly, and this week I wrote some positively scrumptious scenes, if I do say so myself.

But still send coffee. I'm going to need it.

So that was May 2017!

Whew! A lot of fun, some hard work. Goodbye to one season and hello to another. And now it's summer, and that means sunshine, gardening, and hopefully more books and more writing.

What about the rest of you? If you're a student, is school out yet? What's on your summer agenda?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Rooglewood Press Fairy Tale Contest: FIVE POISONED APPLES

The time has come once again, my friends, to announce the theme of this year's fairy tale retelling contest hosted by Rooglewood Press, and I couldn't be more excited! The previous three contests have inspired such creativity and talent as writers rise to the challenge of spinning beloved fairy tales into reimagined stories of beauty, pain, humor, and wonder.

And there's much to inspire us again this year. Because the theme of Rooglewood's fourth and final fairy tale collection is . . .

hold your breath

wait for it

scroll down

ignore the fact that you read the title already

keep going

bet you haven't guessed . . .

Snow White!

That's right! With the beautiful title of Five Poisoned Apples, and the even MORE gorgeous cover, I can already tell this final contest is going to be incredible. It seems that each collection somehow manages to top the one before--and let me tell you, the ones before have been pretty amazing! (Five Magic Spindles is sitting unread on my shelf, but shush, it is on my summer TBR list.)

You can find the full contest details and rules right HERE, including the deadline of December 31, 2017.

The cover model must be super talented, because not only does she grace the cover, she's the photographer as well. You can find Wynter Clark's website HERE. And last, but certainly not least, the cover design was once again done by Julia Popova, whom you can find HERE.


Let me tell you a little bit about my experience with these contests. If you've been around Adventure Awaits for a while, you may know most of this already, but bear with me.

Back in early winter 2013, I read Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Heartless and fell completely in love. Wanting more, I looked her up and discovered her blog, where I found out she was hosting the Five Glass Slippers contest. The deadline was a month away, but I hastily whipped up an entry anyway. My novella, The Glass Girl, was far from perfect, but I'd had a lot of fun reworking a fairy tale for the first time.

So when June 2014 rolled around, I pounced on Five Enchanted Roses and wrote Blood Rose, a contemporary fantasy-ish thing with a dash of medical science (gosh, was that part ever hard) and angst. Again, it was a boatload of fun! Having the full half a year to work on my entry this time, I got the chance to connect with other hopeful young writers entering the contest, and through that, I made some wonderful friends.

Then in June 2015, when Five Magic Spindles was announced, I dove right in once more. I'd already discovered some important things about myself as a writer, and about the nature of retellings, through the previous contests, but writing The Brightest Thread brought a whole new set of challenges--not to mention a whole new beautiful experience.

Now, after a one year hiatus thanks to the arrival of Anne Elisabeth Stengl's precious baby girl, Rooglewood Press is holding Five Poisoned Apples. I anticipate another adventure, my friends: this one centered around the iconic Snow White herself!

I can't wait to roll up my sleeves and get started (once I finish some pressing work on TBT first).

And if you've got some time and even just one creative bone in your body, I would highly recommend joining me! Seriously, you guys. This contest gives you the chance to submit your work, and not just a short story or piece of poetry like most places accept, but a full NOVELLA. Some entrants even get professional feedback from the judges at the end, which is invaluable. Along the way, you can connect with a community of other writers, bounce ideas off each other, and support each other. And who knows? YOUR name might wind up on that jaw-dropping cover. If it does, you'll also get the chance to work alongside the Rooglewood staff to refine your manuscript until it gleams.

Now wouldn't that be a fairy tale come true?