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?