Saturday, April 29, 2017

Writerly Facts About Me!


Images found via Pinterest.


If you know me via the internets, you likely know that I write (if you don’t, fear not, I’m not scary). But if you know me in real life, you may know I write, but not the details. And even if you know me over the internet, you may also not know many details.

Originally this was gonna be a tag I snitched from Cait’s blog http://paperfury.com/the-writers-tag/, but as I was writing it, I thought it would be more fun to add more categories to show you all more about me/my writing. ^_^ Also, feel free to comment below and talk to me/ask questions! I’d love to talk to you, and I don’t bite. ;)

Still here? Bless your heart. Here we go!

Why I write
Firstly, to glorify God. I want my stories to honor him. That may mean my stories will have direct/indirect references to God or His Son (like the Chronicles of Narnia). Or they may not. And I think that’s okay. Even if my characters don’t mention God, that doesn’t mean I can’t still glorify Him in what I write. How I approach subjects that appear in my stories is the key. My stories won’t condone sin. Now that doesn’t mean my heroes are perfect. They'll screw up as much as I do sometimes. Sometimes way worse than I could imagine (I have character who are downright wicked). But the point is, whether the sin is in my heroes or my villains, that it is not viewed as being approved of. No world, real or fictional, is perfect (it wouldn’t make much of a story if they were!), and sin isn’t exclusive to the villains. In my stories, whether heroes or villains sin, the sin does not go undisciplined. Heroes may find that their sin has put a friend in danger, or a villain’s sin is his downfall.

Instead, my stories show that the things God does approve of are the things that help the heroes. They are what my stories do condone. I don’t overpower the bad with the good. I give it a balance. Maybe some characters have more than the other, but that’s okay. It makes them real, and, I believe, brings glory to God when I portray what He approves of or doesn't approve of correctly. I bring Him glory by portraying sin as sin, and the things He approves of as things to be pursued.




And I simply love writing. I love the stories I find drifting in my head, waiting to be snatched up. I love the “film reels” that play out scenes of stories I’m excited to get to, or exploring the deeper inner workings of my characters. I love the magic of it, and being able to let others read it is something I look forward to (I don’t keep it hidden. Just very few people have read it and I’m just excited to see what others think too XD). I tend to express myself better in written words than I do spoken words, and it’s a nice feeling when the words come so smoothly.

What I write about (genres, themes, etc.)
Typically, I write fantasy in a variety of forms. Fantasy set on Earth, fantasy in another world. Like that. But as fantasy in other worlds tends to require a significant amount of worldbuilding, story ideas usually tend to be in the other category. ;) Though I do have a few fantasy worlds floating around I’m quite proud of.

I’ve also dabbled in other areas of speculative fiction, like dystopian and steampunk. I haven’t really tried many others, but I have a couple ideas for other genres I’d like to dip my toes into someday. :3

I don’t think I really have a main theme or topic I focus on. But a lot of the time, my stories will deal with family in some form or another, whether or not it’s a major theme. The family one is born into, or the family one creates through friendships. It’s a topic that’s important to me, and whether I purposely try to or not, it makes its way into my stories somehow. XD But I love it. I think forgiveness/redemption often makes its way into my books, though I can’t say for sure. XD Honestly theme is an aspect I don’t often focus on unless I’m purposely working a story around it. XD

My style of writing is… My style is… friendly/open? I’m not really sure, to be honest. It’s not heavy, but not too light, either. Hopefully I’m making sense. XD I haven’t had anyone comment on my style, so I don’t know. XD

Length of Writing Career
Ehh… early teens, I think (I’m 24 now)? Some of it was crossovers of my favorite cartoon shows, others were original stories I never finished. Most of the time I wrote on a computer (I still have those old docs!), and those were stories I never finished. I think I finished a total of one from that era (and it’s really, really bad XD). There was also a stage where I wrote almost exclusively on paper, mostly slice-of-life stories about a small family, and other short stories, as well as a few short chapter books. :3 Being so short, I finished those. My skill had improved between these two stages, but it was still pretty bad. Then I moved back into writing on the computer in my later high school years.

That’s when the writing got extensive, and I wrote a ton. I had a separate computer for the curriculum we used for school (I and my siblings were homeschooled), and so I had nearly unlimited access to it (to a point where I was told to pull back a bit and limit the writing time XD). And boy, did I take advantage of it! I had several docs of stories, and this time, I finished a lot of those!

Not that any of these stories will see the light of day, but they’re finished. XD

Old Writing VS. “New” Writing
Basically: what my writing was compared to what it is now. XD

Are you all ready for this? Because I’m not. XD

This snippet is from a story I started eleven years ago this May. I was a wee child at the tender age of thirteen, and my writing skills were… well, you’ll see. Please, please do remember that this excerpt is unedited, from eleven years ago. XD I’ve left it untouched, and only adjusted the paragraphs as close to what I think I intended back then (I was for some reason into using a whopping 28 font size, so shrinking it down skewed the paragraphs a bit). This excerpt is from the first chapter of an unfinished story titled The Girl Who Wished for a Horse. Way back, this was the story I started writing with the intent to publish.


“Calm down Dana, you’re ruining your braids,” Mother laughed has her daughter wriggled underneath her.
“I can’t help it Mother, tomorrow’s my birthday, and I’m going to get a horse!” Dana said, she was turning 12 and she just knew that she was going to get a horse.
“Now Dana, you don’t know that, just wait and see, if you don’t, then just be content with what you do get,” Mother said, although she knew her daughter was going to have her wish come true, it was a cool autumn’s night, and Mother was getting Dana ready for tomorrow, Dana had a shower that night, and she wanted her friends and family to come. Dana lived on a Dairy farm, the Dairy farm only had one horse, a very old horse, Dana was never allowed to ride it.
“Of course Mother, but I’ve always wished for a horse ever since I was five,” Dana said with a sigh, “Mother, can you please read me the story about the talking animals, please?” Dana begged.
“Again? Darling we’ve already read it 20 times this week,” Mother said with a smile.
“Pleease?” Dana begged again.
“Alright, I guess it wouldn’t hurt,” Dana’s mother said with a laugh, “Then it’s off to bed with you,” Mother said as she slid into her rocking chair and Dana sat beside her mother.
“May I please stay up until father get’s home?” Dana asked her mother.
“Well,” Mother said thoughtfully.
“Please?” Dana said, she and her father knew that one of their cows was going to have a baby.
It was common that one of their cows had a baby, Dana loved watching it be born into the world, and Dana had this special talent to name a calf five minutes after it was born, she did that so often that her friends asked her to name their kittens, puppies, whatever animal it may be, after it was born. And so all the animals in the entire county had been named by Dana. That’s how Dana earned the nickname ‘The Queen Of Animal Names’.


Anybody still here? You are? Bless.

Now, this excerpt is much, MUCH better. This comes from the prologue of my current novel, Empire of Blood and Shadow (already you can see how I’ve changed!). I’m currently editing this new first draft (it’s gone through several versions of first drafts, so technically it’s not a first draft, but whatever). I started the story a few years ago and it’s finally evolved into this glorious, ridiculously long epic. XD


“Tilas?”
Seiryu’s voice made Tilas Ennan jolt, his knee jarring against the corner of the desk in the dark study as he turned quickly. Seiryu squinted to read his friend’s face, but it was too dark. His schooled his voice to be careful, cautious. “What are you doing?” Maybe what he had just seen was a misunderstanding. There was a good explanation for it.
Tilas didn’t answer for a half minute, as if debating within himself. But then he spoke, his tone bold as ever, even though now it seemed less certain than usual. “When were you going to tell me?”
Seiryu frowned. This wasn’t the direction he had hoped this conversation would go in. He shifted some of his weight off his left leg and flicked his eyes to the chandelier above them. It flared to life, pouring light down upon them both. Tilas flinched and blinked, squinting.
“Tell you what?” Seiryu asked, relaxing now that he could see his friend. He stood behind Seiryu’s desk. Seiryu noted the papers there had been rifled through. Oh, Tilas…
Tilas’ features hardened as he lifted the small, circular amulet into view. The thing turned lazily on its chain, the tiny jagged teeth of glass, left over from when the creator had smashed it, glinted in the light.
Seiryu almost laughed, forcing his voice to be light while he hurried to prepare his words. “I’ve told you about that thing, Tilas. What more is there?”
Tilas wasted no time diving in. “How about that when it takes dark magic, it kills the host?”
Seiryu paused. How had he found out? Seiryu had been so careful.
“Or how about this.” Tilas’ voice went quiet, hurt and betrayal rising in it. Seiryu felt a twinge of guilt when Tilas finished, “You planned to use it on me.”


Honestly, I thank God for the improvement He’s blessed me with. For all of the writing opportunities He’s given me, and all the writing friends. :3

Preferred POV Style
I usually write in 3rd person, past tense. I’ve tried first person once or twice, but I don’t think I’ve ever finished any stories in that style. Third-past is my default. ^_^

Male or Female MC
Mm, kind of both, I think. But I also think I tend to have more ideas for stories with a guy MC. I dunno why. XD I do have some stories with a female MC (EOBAS, for example), but the stories I have ideas for often have a male MC. XD But I’m good with either one. It just depends on the story. ^_^

Amount of POVs
Now, this one’s a bit harder… I think it’s usually just one, but with brief POVs (point of view) from supporting characters sprinkled in. EOBAS has two main POVs, but I think for the most part it’s just one, with a supporting character or two (or even the villain) sprinkled in to offer perspective away from the MC’s view.

Length of Writing Sessions
This depends. Usually I like to try to get in at least an hour in the morning. After that, I may writing more in the afternoon, but how long varies. So at the very least, an hour. ;)

Usual Time to Write
I’ve found I get my best writing done early in the morning, before I get started with my day. That way, I’ll have done my writing, and while I’m free to write more later, I don’t feel like I must, which allows me to do other things that need doing. And in the morning I’m able to pace myself.

Aspects of Writing I Love VS. Aspects I Hate
PARTS I LOVE
The characters. I love creating them and getting to know them, understanding what they do and why, or what they love, what they dream of or fear, and how they interact with others. They come alive to me, and often they become a part of me. And sometimes I’ll find a part of myself in them without having meant to put myself in them (usually it’s just little traits or habits). Or, on rare occasions, I even learn from them myself.

PARTS I HATE
Two words.

Plot. Holes.

I swear, they are my bane. Holes so big they make the surrounding territory crumble and I have to start over, or drastically change things. It’s awful, and I hate it. I hate the frustration that can come with it. Sometimes there are tears.

It’s not pretty.

 

That said, it’s also a wonderful feeling of relief when I fix them. :3

Music Listened To
This depends on what I'm in the mood for. Currently, it's been varying, but while I wrote this draft, I've been listening to Jonathan Young on Spotify. Another draft, I listened to Peter Hollens. Now, it just kind of depends on my mood.

Snacks Consumed
Again, it depends. Usually nothing, but if there's something sweet around, I'll probably grab it. XD Drinks also depend on what I'm in the mood for/what's available.

Overcoming Writer’s Block
Usually, I’ll rant to a friend. Or at least, I’ll ramble on and on and they’ll just listen and nod. ;) If I talk it out like that, sometimes I can work it out. Or I’ll beg a friend for help.

Projects I Plan to Publish
God willing, I have a few I’d like to publish, both traditionally and through self-publishing. Empire of Blood and Shadow will be self-published (and likely any stories related to the world), and I’d like to self-publish a Christian fantasy novella called Here I Stand.

For traditional publishing, I have a steampunk murder mystery story with a dash of feels, Clockwork Apprentice, and a Peter Pan/Alice in Wonderland crossover (which I’m really proud of, not gonna lie) titled Straight on to Wonderland (working title, but hey XD).

So I’ve got a few novels planned for the public. B)

Writing Elsewhere
I have a few stories “published” elsewhere, on the internet. On Wattpad, I have two fantasy stories,  The Empire Thief, and its sequel, Thief of Promises. Also on Wattpad and here on the blog I have the serial story Fence Jumpers. You can find links to those in the “My Writing” tab above. :D

Current Projects/Goals for the Year
Right now, I’m focusing on editing EOBAS. I would like to get it all the way to the beta reader stage, but I’m not holding myself to it (as I haven’t even reached alpha reader stage), but I would like to at least get close to that stage. I also plan to work more on Thief of Promises, and likely finish it this year.

So that about covers it! :D Feel free to comment below! Ask me things! I’d love you talk to you!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Book Review: Egnitheos (Nicole Kasprzynski)



Alastair just wants to see his mother again. When she disappears, he waits anxiously for her to fulfill her promise to come back for him. While living surrounded by a culture of false gods and idols, Alastair encounters a God that towers above any idol of stone or metal, and it changes his life forever. More often than not in ways even Alastair isn’t sure he’s ready for.

The plot moves steadily, following Alastair’s journey as he searches for his mother. It expands greatly, and he instead finds fellow men and women who help him grow in his newfound faith. But even this hidden place of worship of the true God is overshadowed by threat, one that also holds the strings to Alastair’s own quest. Egnitheos is a journey of faith, forgiveness, and overcoming fears when strengthened by God. The themes are woven into scenes that vary between being fast-paced/intense and scenes that are a little slower in pace, but either side of the coin carries the force of the message well. While a couple scenes felt a little disjointed coupled together, they both carry a similar message, and they do it well. There’s a good balance of action to keep the characters on their toes, and readers turning pages, while also pauses to recover and time to reflect.

The description in the book shows off the world beautifully as we follow Alastair through it. The settings are beautiful and diverse, with their own cultures within them, such as Polish elves who live on an island and dark-skinned shapeshifters who hail from the desert. The narrative also appeals to the senses, describing smells, the feel of things, or the sounds. It makes the world come alive in the mind’s eye when it touches on the basic senses.

While Egnitheos is a story in which we follow Alastair’s journey to find his mother, it’s also a story in which we follow his spiritual journey, and the growth there. His arc isn’t an instant change. Instead, it’s realistic and gradual. Alastair comes from a priestly family that worships false gods, and he’s been a part of that for twelve years, despite his mother’s teachings that counter that of the family. He’s been brought up in that culture, and so he struggles to move away from that perspective. It was good to see it as a learning experience for him, instead of him up and changing his ways instantly. Like anyone in similar situations to his, Alastair had to grow into his new faith and adjust. His arc is one many readers could relate to, perhaps, making him feel more real.

Another thing about Alastair that I liked is that he’s a little shy and timid. It’s evident right away, but a little part of that stays with him even as he progresses through his arc. Sometimes he doesn’t feel confident at all. But he does what needs doing anyway. He doesn’t have to be outgoing and bold to carry the story. His strength in the face of his biggest fears carries us along in the story as he meets each challenge. Even when he’s not 100% confident, he often chooses to act without thinking of the cost to himself, or when he’s aware of the high risk of fear involved.

The villains are also well done. Jaegar, the presiding “alpha” villain, is essentially a representation of Satan, and as such, he’s very twisted and manipulative, but also dark and intimidating. He doesn’t have to do anything. Being in the room brings enough fear and darkness.

Another villain, Simperer, is also well written. He’s a peculiar man, with quirks that seem to make his sadistic torture all the more twisted. While he is under Jaegar’s influence, he’s evil in his own right, too, and that makes him even more dangerous. But on the flip side, we hear little snatches of another side of him that can make us think… I’ll let you figure that out. ;)

Other characters have their own smaller arcs. Tinsley and Lajh have arcs in forgiveness, on different levels. While theirs aren’t as vast as Alastair’s, they are no less important or powerful. They add to the weave of themes and growth the cast undergo, as well as facing their own fears. It’s interesting how while they and Alastair seem to have their own areas of growth, they also share each other’s too in some ways.

One of my favorite elements of Egnitheos (if the above hadn’t already clued you in on how much I enjoyed the book ;) ) is how diverse and colorful the cast of characters are. They come from all walks of life and all cultures, and one way that’s shown is through their voice, the accents they speak, like Breindel or Tinsley. It adds vibrancy and color to their personalities. All of the characters come from many different walks of life, too, and their own cultures and habits lend to their personalities, and make them more real to readers.

But also, in general, their personalities are just so vast from each other, you often don’t get the same personality twice. Alastair is a little timid, but can be determined. Lajh (one of my favorites) is a cocky flirt. Steffen and his son Ziven may be slightly similar, but Ziven has more passion than his father. Bri is soft-spoken but spunky. And Tinsley… well, she’s a wild, dangerous personality with an innocent, childlike charm all her own. ;)

And, without, spoiling (heaven forbid I spoil this book for anyone), I’ll also add that the climax is a beautiful display of good vs. evil, and a powerful moment of Alastair’s arc.

And that is all I will say. ;)

*****

Violence/gore: There is a fair amount of violence, and blood, but it’s not described in close detail. Torture scenes are present later in the book (for any who may feel uneasy about that kind of thing).

Profanity: Only referenced swearing.

Sexual content: None, really. A few characters share simple kisses.

Other: Wine is drunk. Demons, or Vrag, make up the majority of antagonists that Alastair encounters, so we see them appear and attempt to stop Alastair. There’s also a sorcerer or two who can summon up the Vrag (not including Jaegar, who is a Vrag himself), and have darker, more sinister powers.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Book Review: Piercing the Darkness (Frank E. Peretti)









This “sequel” of sorts to This Present Darkness is set a while after the first book, in another town where the Strongman has a wide network of evil brewing all around it. Familiar angelic warriors return, like Tal and Guilo (huzzah!), but prayer cover is wearing thin as the demons turn Christians against each other.

The plot was a lot more intense in this book, with several different threads all branching out from the main town, where the conflict originates. With Tom’s struggle against people who would see his Christian school shut down, Sally’s flight from people who want her dead, Tal’s struggle to hold everything together, and Destroyer’s desire to fling everything into the brutal hands of the Strongman, the story webs all over, but everything still connects and makes it complex but intriguing to follow. It made the plot feel bigger, and like there was a lot more at stake.

I liked seeing the courtroom scenes, and how the arguments went. I felt immense satisfaction whenever the heroes seemed to offer up solid arguments, and I got frustrated when the villains would weave convincing lies. It was a tug-of-war, and, like a lot of the storylines weaving through this book, it ups the tension and adds just one more thing that’s on the line.

I do think the writing in book one was better than it is in book two, though. Piercing the Darkness seemed to have a few cheesy narrative moments, but it wasn’t constant or annoying. There were simply occasional times where the narrative felt off-kilter, but didn’t take from my enjoyment of reading.

Sally’s arc was really nice, too. She’s coming out of the beliefs everybody else is essentially fighting, and she slowly clears the fog within herself. I liked seeing her gradual change, and the angels protecting her along the way. The “climax” of her arc was really amazing, too (which is all I will say because I suspect I’m already pushing the limits into spoiler territory ;) ). But I liked how the way she views the world is also how she approaches Christianity as she explores it. She seemed very factual and practical about it, and it was nice to see her use that in most of her arc, instead of surrendering it right away. She’s cautious, but curious.

Speaking of angels: I was really happy to see Tal and Guilo again! They were my favorites in the first book, and it was awesome to read about them in this one. Guilo was probably my most favorite (likely for the same reasons I had for book one XD). I really loved seeing the strategies used on both sides of the spiritual realm. And I liked that Destroyer was strategic and calculating. It made the story’s tension rise when he seemed to know how Tal worked. He was more formidable that way, and made the angels work harder.

Amber. Oh, mercy, that child had a scene that freaked me out. Early on in the book we learn that Amber is “befriended” by some imaginary pony named Amethyst, but we soon see that this “friend” is a lot more twisted. The first time we see it manifest, it’s a little dark and foreboding (it even foreshadows another scene). It shows just how powerful and dangerous the villains are, and ups the tension by, like, a thousand.

****

Violence/gore: There are several fights that ensue between angels and demons, but there’s not really blood (as they’re spiritual beings). There is a murder, and the villains are hunting down Sally to kill her (occasionally they come pretty close. A group of Satanists threatens the church with crossed goat legs.

Profanity: If there was anything, it’s only referenced.

Sexual content: People accuse Tom of abusing the children in his school. Accusations in general are made against the human heroes in Bacon’s Corner in regards to sexual affairs or abuse.

Other: There is a group of Satanists in this book, and we see one of their rituals. Amber seems to be possessed, and we see a scene or two in which the demon manifests itself, which may be unsettling. Like book one, demon characters are seen wreaking havoc among Christians (whether through gossip, or physical harm).