Saturday, December 29, 2018

Subplots & Storylines - December 2018


Ahem. Hello and Merry Christmas and Happy Almost-New Year! How was your December? The first half of mine was jam-packed, what with finishing the college semester and studying for final exams. Now that it's over, I've been relaxing with my family and soaking in the holidays.

Fluffy snow arrived just in time for Christmas, so I even went sledding for the first time in two years!

Also my first-ever Unicorn Crate (the November box) arrived and it was beautimous.

Unicorn Crate, ft. The Light Between Worlds, Hogwarts bookmark,
Unicorn Berries wax melt, Rivendell tea, Peter Pan socks, Wizard of Oz
pin, Narnia tote, etc.

Screen Subplots

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Once Upon a Time Season 6
I finally finished watching this season! It only took me all year, wow. Overall, it was a bit disappointing, but there were enough good parts that it wasn't a total write-off. I was hoping for a more epic conclusion, especially with all the build-up. And I really don't know what to expect of season 7 . . . I haven't heard much good about it. I feel like they maybe should've quit at season 6.

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Rich Man
I started my first K-drama with my sisters, and so far we've seen just one episode.
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The Fellowship of the Ring
I actually watched the first half of this a couple months ago with a friend, and we recently watched the second half. (After baking butter tarts. Because Christmas.)
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The Incredibles 2
THIS WAS SO GOOD. It definitely didn't suffer from the sequel blues! In fact, I'd say it was just as good as the first one. I'm glad they stayed true to the heart of it. (Best part: JACK JACK.)

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
More thoughts on the actual story in a moment, since I read the book this month too, but as far as the movie goes--it was good, but didn't meet all my book-inspired expectations. It could've been more cohesive, I think, and it missed some of my favorite parts of the book. Lupin was cool, however. (I didn't expect him to be played by David Thewlis, whom I've seen only in villainous roles up til this point!)

Page Storylines

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The Scorpio Races // Maggie Stiefvater
This one is now tied with All the Crooked Saints as my favorite Stiefvater book, and it's definitely one of my favorite books of the year!

The island of Thisby crackled with life. The characters were full of a spark of their own, too, painfully lifelike in their hopes and hurts and mannerisms. Puck Connolly reminded me at times very much of myself. Sean Kendrick stole my heart from page one. Together, their slow burn romance was A+. The story itself carries the emotions of best horse stories, while steering clear of most of the inherent clichés. The cappall uisce are downright terrifying, I want ten November cakes right now, and I plan to reread this lovely, haunting book next year! 5 stars!

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Omega Dragon // Bryan Davis
Well, this concludes my epic year of rereading all twelve Dragons in Our Midst/Oracles of Fire/Children of the Bard books! What a joy to revisit these characters and relive their adventures, right to the apocalyptic (yet satisfying) end.

In this final instalment, explosions and gunfire rock the land, paths between worlds have become fraught with danger, and many dear characters shed sacrificial blood . . . some even to the point of death. Matt and Lauren have come far in such a short span of time. They're now right at home in their lineage of brave heroes. And that final chapter--it was the sigh of relief and contentment after a wild ride. 5 stars!

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban // J.K. Rowling
My favorite HP book yet! This plot takes a more ominous turn, thanks to the Dementors. I can't help but love Harry more as he struggles with a far darker and more difficult reaction to these creatures than his friends do. Also Lupin is hands-down the wisest and kindest adult in Hogwarts, aside from Dumbledore himself.

The ending had more twists than I expected, and all my favorite parts are too spoilery to talk about--so I won't. But a certain person is AWESOME, and a certain spell is ALSO AWESOME. 5 stars!

[Currently planning to finish two more books by the end of the month: The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher L. Heuertz and Horseman by Kyle Robert Schultz. Will update post with reviews if successful.]

Written Subplots


Those of you who follow me on social media have probably heard it already, but here it is in case you missed it:

One of my flash fiction stories was accepted by Havok Publishing!

It's a fantasy thriller called Dead Magic (which I've mentioned briefly here before), and it's scheduled to appear on Havok's website sometime in January 2019, during their Rebirth theme! I'll be sure to share the details with you guys in advance so that you get a chance to read it while it's available.

I'm super happy! It's encouraging every time you hear a yes, because the world of writing comes with a whole lot of no's. Even if this yes is currently just for online publication (although print is a possibility, depending on things), it's still YES. And for any of you searching for a yes--in the world of writing or anything else--let this be an encouragement to celebrate every one you receive and keep going even when there are none in sight!

It's been a great month! Between Christmas and family and good books and the news about Dead Magic, I have a lot to be thankful for. I hope your December was kind to you, too.

P.S. I'm keeping this post short on purpose, because a yearly wrap-up/looking-ahead-to-2019 post is coming up soon! There will also be a "Books of 2018" post, featuring mini reviews of allll the books I read this year! And I don't want you getting sick of me. ;)

Saturday, December 22, 2018

How Beautiful on the Mountain

[Graphic mine; image via Unsplash]

Merry Christmas, my friends!

This time of year likes to sneak up on me, even though I should see it coming. (Y'know, it's not like it lands on December 25th every single year.) Now that I'm on Christmas break and can forget about college for a couple of weeks, I've been basking in a quieter pace at home with my family. Somehow the rushing around to mail off Christmas letters and pick up the last few gifts doesn't feel all that crazy when there are no more textbooks to study.

Something I've been doing in my quiet time with God is read a series of verses picked out for Advent. My Bible has a convenient list of suggested readings, and it's only a verse or two each day, so I get to camp out on each one for a while.

Several days ago, this was the day's passage. It's something I've read plenty of times before, but it stuck out in a new way to me.

Ah, how beautiful the feet of those on the mountain who declare the good news of victory, of peace and liberation, the voice that calls to Zion, that chosen place for God's promise people, announcing to them, "Your God rules!" (Isaiah 52:7, The Voice translation)

What are you declaring?

I want my whole life to proclaim the good news of victory, peace, and liberation that's found in Jesus. In December we sing, "Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere." But where have I been telling it? And what have I been telling?

Do people hear God's love when I'm standing in line at the mall? Chatting with friends on Instagram? Speaking to family and relatives?

Everywhere we go, our words, demeanor, and actions are a package deal. Together, they're communicating something twenty-four seven. So what are we saying?

Are we communicating stress with our frazzled tone and frantic pace? Are we sharing frustration and discord with our snappish replies?

Or could we perhaps slow down long enough to reconnect to peace--to the source of it, our Prince of Peace--and let our lives sing out a refrain of victory?

I get it. It's hard to do when all month, our to-do lists have grown longer instead of shorter. It's hard when polarizing family members are placed in the same room and expected to get along. It's hard when a loved one is in the hospital. It's hard when bills are stacked on the counter and the boxes under the tree number fewer than you wish. It's hard when you're picking up the slack for others going through crises, or you're sifting through difficult memories of Christmases past, or things just aren't falling into place.

Those things are real. They hurt, and they're hard. But the Prince of Peace came for you, too. And the beautiful thing is that by welcoming Him into your brokenness, you let His light shine through to everyone around you. They will see the peace you carry amidst the darkness. Ah, what wonder. A small and humble miracle. A declaration of good news proclaimed from the mountain for all to hear.

Merry Christmas, friends. May this peace envelop your hearts no matter what is surrounding your life today.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Book Review: Falling Snow by Skye Hoffert

When I found out that long-time friend and writing pal Skye Hoffert had won a spot in Rooglewood Press's Five Poisoned Apples, I was ecstatic! We've been beta readers for each others' stories a couple times before, and what always struck me about her writing were the characters. Stark. Gritty. Brimming with dangerous life. So to hear that the world would finally get a chance to meet some of them made me squeal with joy!

I was kindly provided an e-book copy of Five Poisoned Apples in exchange for a review of Skye's winning story, Falling Snow.* (Of course, I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.)

*And once I get my hands on a print copy, stay tuned for a review of the full anthology!

Falling Snow

Snow White at the circus--that was the first thing to grab my attention. And that grungy setting kept me entranced right to the final page. Skye succeeds in painting the two faces of the circus with vibrant brushstrokes, both the glamorous veneer and the dank shadows beneath.

The next thing to hook me in was, of course . . .

The Characters (most of whom are fae!)

Snow: She's not the timid, cutesy thing of the Disney film. This Snow is guarded, capable, and wounded. If you've read the story, you know how much her emotions pop in the wire-walking scene!

Chayse: Easily my favorite character! Fiery abilities, a tortured relationship with his mother, and a tattered/hobo-like appearance make him a unique and lovable romantic interest.

Cynfael: He's everything you expect a fae prince to be, with a healthy helping of snark added to his cunning personality. He and Chayse sort of share the roles of prince and huntsman . . . but I shan't say more. Spoilers, sweetie.

The dwarves: They're a ragtag group of clowns who, in their own gruff way, look after Snow. Goodness knows she needs it.

The queen: She's the sort of villainess I love to hate, and she personifies the circus itself with her glittering mask hiding a heart of rot.

Alilion: He doesn't show up much, but he seems to play a minor role as the mirror. Also detestable, as one might expect.

So what about the plot?

Trust me, if you think you know the tired old "Mirror, mirror, on the wall," set up, you'll get a pleasant surprise here. The classic pieces have been rearranged on the chessboard, with some very clever twists to keep you on your toes.

Plot is my biggest struggle in novellas because it's hard to contain within such a small word limit. But Skye ratchets up the suspense and advances the game so deftly, I nearly forgot I wasn't reading a full novel. Even though I'd read an early draft, my heart was pounding at all the right moments! And there's just enough time before reaching The End to breathe a sigh of relief.

A dark blend of Once Upon a Time and The Greatest Showman, Falling Snow is a riveting start to the Five Poisoned Apples collection! I can't wait to see what Skye writes next.

P.S. In the meantime, go pay Skye a visit at her blog, Ink Castles! She's an artist as well as a writer, so poke around to find her paintings.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Subplots & Storylines - October and November 2018

Questers, it has been A Very Long While since we caught up! How was the tail end of your autumn? Did you stuff yourself with Thanksgiving turkey? Tackle NaNoWriMo? Do you have snow yet??? I do!

My October and November was a long stream of homework interrupted by a few fun things, so I'll spare you the monotonous details and stick to the good stuff.

Life Subplots

Thanksgiving! It was good and full of food. And it was in October, where Thanksgiving is supposed to be. *winks at all my American pals*

Tons of homework--oh wait, I said I would skip that part. Except I will say that my heaviest course involved talking to a dozen strangers over the phone, running around scheduling interviews, conducting marketing research surveys, and writing some major papers. Heh.

I went to an escape room. It was a bank heist theme and yes, I did escape. Funny thing is I managed to pass this off as research for school. (Long story.)

I turned twenty-three!

Started Christmas shopping and had some soul chats with friends and listened to a lot of music. New favorites include Imagine Dragons' Origins album and a bunch of stuff by Mat Kearney.

Screen Storylines


Once Upon a Time, Season 6 - just one episode
Nothing new to report here, really. I've been moving so slowly through the season that it's hard to update the S&S posts with anything meaningful.

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Tomorrowland (rewatch)
During a tough stint of school deadlines when I was too exhausted to read, I took to watching 20-30 minutes of this before bed. I accidentally forgot to finish it, though . . . Whoops. Fun movie, though!
<3 p="">

Fantasia 2000
A change from my usual fare. This one was at times funny, other times poignant, and generally beautiful in a turn-of-the-century-animation way. My favorite piece was The Firebird.

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Inception (rewatch)
I've told people for years that this is one of my top favorite films even though I'd seen it only once. In October I watched it for the second time and remembered why I love it! Intense and paradoxical, the plot keeps you on your toes and the characters are fantastically well-defined.

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Ant-Man and the Wasp
Scott Lang makes me laugh and this sequel was a nice breather after the intensity of Avengers: Infinity War. But that post-credit scene . . . !


Once Upon a Time, Season 6 - again, just one episode
See above.

And it looks like that's all I watched in November! Wow. I guess I really was busy.

Page Subplots


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Crazy Love // Francis Chan
A nonfiction audiobook? When does Tracey ever listen to one of those? When she spends two hours on the road every day, that's when.

This wasn't quite as good as I was hoping. It did have some great portions. I especially liked the beginning that reminded me of the bigness of God. There were more good reminders scattered throughout, but overall, some chunks seemed to be written to make me feel guilty rather than to inspire true change. Yet that wasn't the purpose of the book as the author described it. So . . . 3.5 stars, I think.


From the Mouth of Elijah // Bryan Davis (reread)
From the fiery devastation of an erupting volcano to bullet-riddled battlefields to madcap dashes through one portal after another--sacrificial love once more leads the way. Lauren’s journey is particularly poignant in this book, but the entire cast of heroes demonstrate incredible faith too.

And it was fun to see Matt and Lauren become more accustomed to their heritage, preparing them for the crazy adventures of the next two books. 5 stars!

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If We Survive // Andrew Klavan (reread)
This was a reread and another audiobook, which was excellent. I already loved the book, but it was so fun to listen to it five years later. One of my favorite Klavan books!

High points include dear Will (who just wants to do the right thing, gosh darn it), Palmer Dunn (ex-Marine pilot full of snark and major skills), Meredith (the calm, stately friend who mothers everyone), the South American jungle setting, and the theme of "pointing your soul to God" in moments of great danger and worry. 5 stars!

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Fawkes // Nadine Brandes
I HAVE BEEN LONGING TO READ THIS FOR MONTHS. AHHH. I held off buying it until Realm Makers in July and then . . . let it sit on my shelf for three months, obviously. But it was so worth the wait and the hype!

First of all, historical fantasy. I need more. Seeing the streets of 17th century London running with color magic was SO PANCAKE-FLIPPING COOL. Thomas was a fantastic protagonist and Emma pulled off "kick-butt heroine" without being annoying. (She was actually fabulous.)

The plot was twisty, the full cast of characters sparkled with life, the magic system was fun, and the White Light took me by surprise in a good way. 5 stars!

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Haven // Mary Lindsey
I am definitely not the target audience for this book. Steamy paranormal romance is not. my. thing. But I got this in a PageHabit box (I was subscribed for two months last year) and it had author annotations and I felt obligated to try it. So I did.

You can check out my full review on Goodreads, but basically this was a Twilight-reversal with a troubled teen moving to a small, creepy town (of course) and "falling in love" with a female werewolf (who was aggressive and unlikeable and walked around naked after shifting back to human form, #thanksbutnothanks).

I say "falling in love" with quotation marks because neither party had much personality going for them, but neither one cared much because hey, all it takes to build a relationship is making out, right? Gag me now.

The first 50% of the book was packed with clichés. The midpoint involved Rain, the protagonist, being disgustingly pushy with Freddie, the werewolf. And the rest was exceedingly bloody. 1 star.



The Seventh Door // Bryan Davis (reread)
Since I've been rereading all twelve books in these interconnected series this year, the parallels between The Seventh Door and Circles of Seven were even more apparent this time around--which was really cool!

There are some deeply sad scenes (the abortion clinic, for those who've read it) and some thought-provoking ones (the missile) that I enjoyed. Lauren plays a crucial role here, and the book ends on a tense note. 5 stars.

Written Storylines

In October, I dug up an old flash fiction piece and rewrote it. It's called Dead Magic, and working on it was a breath of fresh air! I submitted it to Havok Publishing so we'll see if anything comes of that in the near future.

For a teaser, here's the first line:

The door of Sebastian's Magickry opened with the tinkle of a bell precisely fifteen minutes after closing time.

Hello, December

It's been a good but very full two months, and I'm so ready for Christmas break! How about you, questers? What have I missed in your corner of the world?

Monday, November 12, 2018

Dust & Clay

Photo by Paul Robert on Unsplash // Graphics mine

On the days you feel lifeless

You are more.

When all you hold is dust

There is more.

When your mind whispers lies
And the mirror tells you lies
And the world screams lies

Look for more.

Still, Eternal One, You are our Father.

We are just clay, and You are the potter.

We are the product of Your creative action, shaped and formed into something of worth.

Isaiah 64:8 (The Voice)

Clay is common. It's dirt. It's walked on, buried, and disregarded. It's worthless.

But the moment an artist scoops clay onto the potter's wheel and shapes it into something, that clay is imbued with value. Someone with expertise and creative vision has turned it into a work of art, and the artist's fingerprints are all over it. It has become a beautiful expression of the creator's heart.

It matters.

One day the Eternal God scooped dirt out of the ground,

sculpted it into the shape we call human,

breathed the breath that gives life into the nostrils of the human,

and the human became a living soul."

Genesis 2:7 (The Voice)

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

You are not worth anything based on what you are made of. You are worth something based on who made you. The Artist's signature on your soul is living proof. The breath in your lungs--which isn't yours--is proof.

I am dust

You are God

I am breathless

Till You fill my lungs

-Dust, Steffany Gretzinger

I feel dusty sometimes. No matter how hard I try, my earthiness persists. I would rather be a vessel of polished marble or wondrous crystal, but instead I am a jar of clay. Yet I am worth more than a marble vase created by an amateur sculptor, because I was crafted by an expert artisan, and somehow He saw fit to place the treasure of His life within me.

But this beautiful treasure is contained in us--cracked pots made of earth and clay--so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from us.

...So we have no reason to despair. Despite the fact that our outer humanity is falling apart and decaying, our inner humanity is breathing in new life every day.

2 Corinthians 4:7 & 16 (The Voice)

Breathe life today, friend. Walk through the dust and keep your chin up, because you are made worthy. You are an exclusive art exhibit on display in this world, authenticated by the Artist's unmistakeable touch.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Writers: How to Engage the Five Senses

Writers, have you ever received a critique saying that your story wasn't immersive enough? Have you ever heard, "Show, don't tell?" Have you ever struggled to convey your story's setting in a way that doesn't devolve into paragraph upon paragraph of dry exposition?

And readers, have you ever read a scene that felt like talking heads in a white room, with nothing to paint a picture of the surroundings? Have you ever felt detached from the main character, like you've become an outside observer instead of being welcomed into the character's deepest thoughts and feelings?

If you said yes to any of those questions, I've got a technique that will help you!

The writers among us, that is. The only help the readers will receive is an understanding of one reason why they may not click with a story. Sorry, guys.

Let's talk about THE FIVE SENSES.

Before you roll your eyes and tell me, "Yes, yes, we learned this in kindergarten," hear me out. Your story is lush and alive and teeming with creativity . . . in your mind. The challenge of writing is to transfer that vision to the page. It's harder than it looks. You have a living movie reeling through your thoughts, but the page? The page is blank until you start putting that movie into words.

And some things get lost in translation. I've written story elements that seemed so clear and obvious in my mind, only to have beta readers get confused.

I've written descriptions I thought were the most brilliantly vivid words to grace the page, until I reread it the next day and found it flat and lifeless.
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I've been writing long enough to have gotten better at this over time, but it's still something I wrestle with, particularly in first drafts. It might be a skill we writers will never perfect, but can continue improving.

So how do we transform lifeless prose and blank white rooms into that Technicolor movie in our heads?

Engage the senses.

Sight. Sound. Smell. Taste. Touch.

When you draw on all of them, your setting--and more importantly, your character's experiences within the setting--will come alive.

You may find yourself leaning on one or two of the five senses and neglecting the others. I depend most heavily on sight, as do most writers, I suspect. My default is to describe what the setting looks like. Perhaps that is the most important sense most of the time. After all, if the reader cannot picture what a place looks like, it's very difficult to choreograph action or ground a scene.

But sight alone is not enough. Your character has more than eyes--he or she has ears, a tongue, a nose, and skin, and all of these are just as busy experiencing his or her surroundings as yours are. In battle, your character will not just see an enemy horde. He will taste dirt and blood, hear the moans of the dying, feel his arms vibrate with a heavy sword strike. Cozied around a campfire, your character will not merely see the flickering orange flames. She will feel their heat and smell the smoke and hear the crackle of popping logs.

When dispensers of writing advice admonish you to show, not tell, what they often mean is that instead of cruising over the landscape with a cursory "he did this and she felt that," you should dive deep into the sensory experience.

Here are a few examples, some from my own writing, others from published books I've read.


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Throngs of people choked a road winding uphill toward the castle. [The Brightest Thread]

What do we see? Crowds, a twisty road, and some sense of a castle.

Shadows pooled between the trees. [The Brightest Thread]

We see a forest, and the verb choice gives us a sense of mystery.

Norwood stood at his dented and stained herb table, the backdrop of his curio cabinet displaying rows of green-hued bottles and jars, most of which held some sort of powder, paste, or plant. [Fawkes, Nadine Brandes)

These little details--the dented table, green bottles, powders and pastes--are potent enough to create an entire aesthetic for the room.


Low, rumbly voices filtered through the undergrowth, too muffled to make out the words. [The Brightest Thread]

In one sentence we know there are multiple speakers, they are some distance away, and they are either male or monstrous. (Correct answer: they're ogres.)

The yellow flags above me snap sharp and loud in the breeze as if to emphasize my owner's words that yes, she's quite aware such a high count is utterly ridiculous. [Storm Siren, Mary Weber]

"Snap" is a punchy verb bolstered by the two adjectives "sharp" and "loud," which together call to mind exactly the sound you're supposed to hear.

Image result for pixar gifs SMELL

The warm scents of buttered loaves and seasoned roasts were all that was left of the feast. [The Brightest Thread]

Is your mouth watering yet?

Moist air wafted past my nose, carrying the odor of a brewery--malt and hops. [Reapers, Bryan Davis]

In this scene, we're getting a sense of where the protagonist lives, and the smell of a brewery adds a unique detail.

The odor of fish mixed with the scent of roses, berries, fresh bread. Blood from the slaughter stall constricted my throat. [Fawkes, Nadine Brandes]

Ah, nothing like the blend of aromas from a seventeenth century London marketplace, am I right?


It took her awhile, but her reaction is priceless!!
He tosses a berry in a high arc toward me. I catch it in my mouth and break the delicate skin with my teeth. The sweet tartness explodes across my tongue. [The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins]

Mmm, now I'm hungry for berries . . .

(Oddly enough, I had a terribly hard time finding more good examples for this sense. It seems that the mere mention of food is often enough to conjure an idea of its taste. Other tastes often found in the books I read are blood, alcohol, salt, medicine, etc.*)

*Sounds like I read fantasy. *wink*


Aleida jumped off the log and stumbled on unsteady feet. Her skin buzzed with the aftermath of magic. [The Brightest Thread]

We all know how it feels to stumble or feel unsteady. We also get a sense of electricity with the word buzzed.

Thorns scratched her ankles and tree limbs whipped past her face. [The Brightest Thread]

Rather than just knowing the character is running through a forest, we feel the scratches of thorns and branches reaching out to block her way.

Prickly vibrations raced along my cloak from the baggy sleeves to the top of the hood, tickling the two-day stubble across my cheeks and chin. [Reapers, Bryan Davis]

Here a sensation is woven into the book's first clues about who the protagonist is (a male wearing a cloak).

All Together Now!

Now that we've seen the five senses in action, let's see what it looks like when multiple senses are used together.

Image result for disney tangled i have a dream gifs

Birdsong filtered through the branches. Every rock and pine needle poked her slippers, but it didn’t matter. She was out; she was on an adventure and about to set her parents at ease. The thought of someone detecting her absence and giving chase prodded her into a light run. How good it felt to stretch her legs. [The Brightest Thread]

The only explicitly referenced senses are hearing (birdsong) and touch (poking her slippers, stretching her legs). But notice how other senses are implied? You might have pictured the forest, since branches, rocks, and pine needles are mentioned (sight). You may have even assumed the temperature (touch again) or imagined the scent of forest air (smell).

In well-written description it's not the quantity of senses used, but the quality that depicts the mood.

The important thing isn't to reel out a grocery list of sensory inputs every time your character walks onto a new scene. It's to use whichever senses are most important at the moment and let the reader's imagination fill in the gaps.

And that, my writer friends, is one way to immerse your reader in every scene you write! It's not the only tool by any means, but it certainly goes a long way in painting a vivid picture that lives and moves and breathes.


Assignment #1: If you're looking to practice this method, try reading a chapter of your current work-in-progress and highlighting every sensory description. See which senses you use most often. Consider which senses are underused. Look for places you haven't described any senses at all. Then dive in and make some changes!

Assignment #2: Crack open a favorite book and page to your favorite chapter. On a separate piece of paper, make two columns. In the first, list all the senses that the author explicitly describes. In the second, list all the extra, unwritten senses you imagine as you read. Have fun!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Subplots and Storylines - August and September 2018

Hey friends, it's been a while! My blogging schedule laughed at me and took a plane to Antarctica, I think. What with the fantastic Silmaril Awards taking place, I haven't written a "normal" post since July. And since I missed the August edition of S&S, we've got a double feature today!

Life Subplots

  • Relaxing
  • Editing The Brightest Thread
  • Preparing for college year 2
  • Picking apples
  • Enjoying fresh corn on the cob
  • College started on the last week of the month

  • The Silmaril Awards 2018 was a smashing success
  • Nature had the nerve to snow on the very first day of autumn (thank goodness it didn't stick around)
  • I got a cold
  • Other than that, my days revolved around school. Because I switched campuses, I now spend 2-3 hours driving back and forth every day.
  • There's been a ton of homework and group work. No solitary Batman gig for me. But that's okay. I'm learning all sorts of cool things about business and marketing.
  • My biggest school project involves building a business with my team--coming up with an idea, validating it with input from real businesspeople, completing a feasibility study . . . and there's lots more to come. So if things are a little quiet here at Adventure Awaits, you know why.

Screen Storylines


Avatar: The Last Airbender Season 1 (two episodes)
It's been so long, I honestly don't remember what exactly I saw. It was probably fun, though!

Once Upon a Time Season 6 (two episodes)
Some good bits . . . but also a lot that fell flat. The new villainess (SPOILER: The Black Fairy) just isn't scary. She's hyped up as this dark, twisted being who's behind all sorts of other darkness, but when you meet her . . . eh. I didn't even flinch. Kind of disappointing.

Stay Here (two episodes)
This is a Netflix show about people who renovate short-term rentals like cottages and B&Bs, and also totally transform the owners' marketing strategies. I had to watch one episode for a school assignment, but enjoyed it enough to watch two!

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The Lone Ranger
I've been meaning to see this one ever since it came out. With a generous helping of embellishment and comedy, this wild west story was a lot of fun from start to finish. Johnny Depp is hilarious as Tonto. (And come on, that soundtrack is glorious.)

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Now You See Me
While not kid-friendly, this was surprisingly engaging! The cast was spot-on, the magic tricks were fascinating, the plot kept me guessing, and I didn't see that twist coming. Definitely need to see the sequel.

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You all know how I feel about this one. *proceeds to curl into a ball and sob in a corner*


Once Upon a Time Season 4 (just one episode)
Boy, my siblings and I are rewatching OUAT very s l o w l y. We started the season a couple months ago, and we're only on episode four. But Hook is as awesome as ever, and I'd forgotten how much I like Will (as stupid as he is sometimes).
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The Fellowship of the Ring (rewatch)
A friend and I needed a fantasy fix, so we started watching LotR. We were both exhausted though, so we only made it through the first half.

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The wizarding world is so much fun! Already Harry, Ron, and Hermione look and act a bit older than in the first movie, and I loved watching their shenanigans. Aragog was genuinely creepy. *shudders*

Page Subplots

There's surprisingly quite a few books to talk about, so let's do these reviews blitzkrieg style!*

*lightning war . . . short and to the point? I dunno, does that make sense?


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Embers // Ronie Kendig
Loved the concept! A fire-wielding princess trades places with her crippled brother, and he must go on a quest to save her from his own paralyzed fate. Prince Haegan was a well-rounded protagonist whom I quite liked. Definitely some Avatar: The Last Airbender vibes with the fire abilities too. The only snags? The book took a little while to get going, slowed down by lots of points of view. Still, things were being set up for some epicness! 4 stars. (See my full review on Goodreads for more details.)

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The Bones of Makaidos // Bryan Davis
One of my absolute favorite Bryan Davis books ever! Lots of tension as the full cast of characters gathers for war and so many people get hurt. Beautiful themes of sacrificial love are woven throughout. All the plot threads are brought to a graceful, stirring finale. 5 stars!

Fairest Son // H.S.J. Williams
I reviewed this lovely little Snow White novella in August! 5 stars!

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Quiet // Susan Cain
A fascinating (nonfiction) book on the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking. I appreciated that the author didn't really do any extrovert-bashing in the process of affirming introverts' strengths. I now feel a bit more aware of why I think the way I do, why busy social settings tire me out, how I can create space for myself to recharge, and how I can bring quiet strength into any situation. 4 stars.

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Hacker // Ted Dekker
While it may not be my top favorite Dekker novel ever, it was still a great ride. I've found that the Outlaw series reads more like allegories or extended metaphors than anything else. Hacker took a surprising look at the reality of the unseen world. Hacking the human conscience was a nifty way to go about it. 4 stars.


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The Story of With // Allen Arnold
This unique book is part allegorical fiction, part inspiring nonfiction--and its message is life-changing. I had the pleasure of meeting the author at Realm Makers and attending his classes on the very topic written about in his book. (Scroll to the end of the linked post to see how amazing that was!) There were a few typos I wish had been cleaned up, but this is still a book I'll want to reread in the future. And I actually--gasp--attacked it with a pencil and underlined things! 5 stars!

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All seven Chronicles of Narnia audio dramas // C.S. Lewis
On my long commutes, I took to listening to Focus on the Family's radio theater version of this beloved series! Bless my heart, it was so, so good to return to Narnia. I found tears coming to my eyes multiple times as I followed the characters on their wild adventures, encountering Aslan in the most unexpected places. 5 stars for all of them!

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Song of the Ovulum // Bryan Davis
This tale picks up fifteen years after The Bones of Makaidos, with a new generation of characters. The world is now fraught with danger for dragonkind. I really enjoyed rereading Matt and Lauren's adventure, and I love how strong their sibling bond becomes over such a short span of time. Joren and Selah's storyline, too, was really good. "What color is mercy?" is a question that haunts both Joren and the reader, and it is answered beautifully by the end. 5 stars!

Written Storylines


I surpassed my editing goals for the month by working through The Brightest Thread chapters 6-11. I'm still not 100% happy with the beginning (#recoveringperfectionist) but I have ideas for how to strengthen it later. The important thing is that I made forward progress.


Nothing. Zilch. Nada.

I've relinquished my writing goals during college, so I suppose you could say I accomplished everything I set out to write in September--which was nothing! Yay me! That has actually been one of the more difficult things about school, but I'm consoling myself with the truth that I'm living life right now, and that will mean more life to pour into my stories later.

Thanks for sticking around, fellow questers! I hope to get back to a biweekly posting schedule as promised, but in case all goes silent here, don't panic--probably just doing battle with the Beast of Homework. I still love you guys, and I'm positively brimming with ideas for how to shake things up around here next spring. In the meantime, tell me how your autumn is going. Happy October!

Friday, September 28, 2018

SilmAwards - Most Magnificent Dragon Winner!

All is black. But the blackness feels big, as if the ceiling must be far overhead and the walls many spans apart. There is a rustling and the warmth of many bodies gathered in one place. Hushed whispers pass back and forth.

Then with a whoosh, torches flame to life and illuminate a massive cavern. Stalactites jag from the ceiling like great teeth. At one end, a stone slab is raised to serve as a stage, and the crowd of people are gathered before it.

"Greetings!" I shout from the stage, my voice echoing without the use of a microphone. "What a fine turnout we've had for the 2018 Silmaril Awards. Welcome to the final ceremony--today Smaug himself will award a Silmaril to the most magnificent dragon!"

Cheers resound.

"Before he arrives, just a quick recap in case you missed any of the awards ceremonies." I pull a list from my pocket. "This year's winners have included a very sportsmanlike but incompetent henchman, a collection of mischevous imps, a rather strange and sock-ish fellow, a not-so-little faithful friend, a beloved silver tongue, a wise and academically-inclined counselora glamorous villain, a princely hero, and a spirited heroine."

I gulp in a deep breath. "And now I do believe I'll pass things off to--"

A great rumbling fills the cavern. Guests look around worriedly.

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Flames gush from a side passage. All at once, a humongous red-golden dragon bursts into the cavern and leaps onto stage. I sidestep to avoid the thrash of his tail.

"Smaug!" I say. "We were just talking about--"

"SILENCE!" he roars. "You have summoned me to present another Silmaril, and a Silmaril I shall present. Where are the worthy contestants?" He swings his head back and forth, luminous eyes scanning the audience. Everyone shrinks back in fear.
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A much smaller, black dragon is the only one to chitter happily, a gleaming gem hanging around his neck.

"Ah, the toothless winner of last year," Smaug says. "I should hope this year's victor boasts a few more teeth than you, night fury."

Toothless grins, teeth rising from his gums to flash in the firelight.
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I clap my hands together, lest these two dragons begin a fire fest, and call out, "Contestants, please come forward!"

Five figures venture out from another side tunnel and join us on the stony stage. I pull a scroll from my other pocket and unroll it so Smaug can read it. He lowers his head and peers at the scroll with one eye.

"In fifth place with twenty votes . . ." He glances at the contestants. "Kazul from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles."

Kazul bows her head to the audience and flies off the stage.

"Fraternizes with humans, that one," Smaug mutters. "I smell princess all over her. Ahem. In fourth place with twenty-two votes . . . Gem from The Ilyon Chronicles."

A blue and black dragoness flutters her wings in thanks, then joins Kazul on the ground.

"Do all these dragons make friends with men?" Smaug grumbles. "I should think such friendships diminish their magnificence, small though it may be."

"Not all dragons believe that magnificence is measured by gold and power," I say.

He snorts a plume of smoke and returns to the scroll. "In third place with thirty-five votes . . . Death-in-Life from Tales of Goldstone Wood."

An imposing dragon with black scales and glittering eyes shoots a tongue of flame. "Third place? How dare the hearts of men reject me!"

Smaug chuckles deep in his throat. "Now there's a more magnificent beast. Not quite so magnificent as myself, of course."

Death-in-Life storms from the cavern with a mighty shriek. By the relieved sighs from the audience, all are glad to see him leave.

"In second place with forty-four votes . . . Malcolm Blackfire from The Afterverse."

This time, boisterous cheers erupt as a great red dragon with piercing golden eyes steps forward. "Yes, yes, Headmaster of Warrengate Academy of Advanced Magic and all that rot. I must say, I am surprised to hear you cheering for me in this scaly form. Usually you prefer to see me in my natural state." Fire crackles and whirls around him, and he dwindles to a much smaller form. The blaze vanishes, leaving behind a tall, lanky man with grey-streaked red hair. He brushes an ember from the sleeve of his suit jacket. "Is this better?"

The audience whistles and claps all the louder.

Smaug thumps his tail, shaking the stone slab. "A dragon who is a man? Could your selection become any worse? Away with you, shape shifter."

"Careful, Volcano-Breath," Malcolm snaps. "In my dragon form, I'm really quite deadly." But he stalks off the stage just the same.

"Well," I say brightly. "It should be obvious now who the winner is. You may feel free to return to your Mountain now, Smaug . . ."

Before I can roll up the scroll, Smaug gets a glimpse of the final name. He spits a fireball, and I only just manage to let go of the scroll before it is consumed.

"WHAT IS THIS OUTRAGE?" He whirls around to face the last contestant, a small boy standing all alone with his hands behind his back.

The boy blanches under Smaug's stare. "Er . . . hullo, Sir Dragon. I'm Eustace Clarence Scrubb, but I'd prefer if you called me Eustace. Or Scrubb would do just--"

"A BOY?" Smaug roars. "I thought this award was to go to the most magnificent dragon, yet here the people have muddied the waters and voted for . . . for weak, incompetent, folly-some humans." Sparks fly from his large maw with every word, and the audience shuffles backward to put more space between themselves and Smaug's rage.

"He did receive a whopping seventy-three votes, Smaug," I say.

"Now see here," Eustace cries, "if you incinerate me, Mr. Dragon, I'll call the British Consul!"

I send him a warning look.

Eustace straightens his shirt and turns a little red. "I mean, that wouldn't be proper. You see, I was a dragon once."

"You?" sneers Smaug.

"Yes. And I'm all the better for it. It was a miserable experience, but thank Aslan I came out the other side of that ordeal a very different boy."

"Aslan?" More smoke pours from Smaug's nostrils. "And who, pray tell, is he?"

"Only the greatest king there ever was, the Son of the Emperor Across the Sea." Eustace pauses, and his eyes seem to tear up with memories. "He's a lion."

Smaug roars louder than ever and grit falls from the ceiling. "Enough! When you foolish folk decide to cease turning the Silmaril Awards into a circus, then perhaps you may call me to present again. I am through!" He beats his powerful wings and flies from the cavern, nearly snuffing out the torches in his wake.
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I chuckle nervously. "Ah, he'll cool down before next year. In the meantime, Eustace, may I just say that I think you are a most worthy recipient of this year's Silmaril." I reach into yet another pocket and beckon him nearer.

Eustace approaches and kneels before me.

"Congratulations, Eustace." I pull out a gleaming red pendant, a jewel hanging from a satin ribbon, and loop it over his head. "Let this be a reminder of where you have traveled and what you have become!"

Eustace breaks into a grin and stands to his feet as the audience breaks into the most thunderous applause yet.

"And that, my friends, concludes the 2018 Silmaril Awards!" I shout. "Thank you all! I bid you all a very fond farewell!"