Monday, December 13, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone has a wonderful, beautiful Christmas this year! What are you planning? Justin & I are going to Missouri until the 29th--the longest time we've gotten to be with our families yet. It's going to be a blast!

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

~In The Bleak Mid-winter by Christina Rossetti

Merry Christmas! God Bless!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Christmas of Classics 2010

Every Christmas season, especially with snow on the ground, I want to curl up in a blanket with a hot drink and read what I call "my classics", which may not be "classic" or even "old". Here are some of the ones I've enjoyed this year:

Auralia's Colors by Jeff Overstreet (a very new book, but definitely a classic in my mind).

The Rose Rent by Ellis Peters (in the Brother Cadfael Chronicles, about a medieval monk who solves mysteries. Almost as good as Agatha Christie's novels).

The Oath by Frank Peretti (very scary and interesting).

And, once again, At Home In Mitford by Jan Karon (I've been reading it aloud to Justin--it makes such a good book to enjoy at the end of the day).

Merry Christmas, all!

Monday, November 29, 2010

November Break Down

November was a weird month for me. At least, the first two weeks were weird. Feel free to laugh at the following mishaps. :0)

I tried to do NaNoWriMo (sort of) and finish up my novel Night Sword, conveniently forgetting that when I have a large, specific word count each and every day, I freeze up. I think I did about 4 days, realized my mistake, and went back to my usual method of setting chapter goals. It sounds weird to be able to work with chapter goals and not word goals, but hey, whatever floats your boat, right? (And I never claimed my mind was normal!)

Soon after, I got an email saying my article "The Gift Given Year 'Round" was published in 31Ten Magazine...as the Feature! Yes, I squealed, I cried, I woke Justin up to read the article and cried some more! I was so very happy!

That Saturday (the 6th, I do believe), I got hives, for reasons unknown. Although I suspect the Dayquil I'd been taking for a cold. he doc put me on Pepcid (weird, but the antihistamines in it work great!) and a double dose of Benadryl.

I went nuts. I literally think I turned schizophrenic for a couple of days. That has never happened to me before with Benadryl, so I guess that it was the double dose that did it. I quit taking it after 2 days, and I'm again a normal person and very grateful to God for my sanity! :0) I have to say, Justin was extremely sweet, put up with a lot during that time, and really kept me semi-sane. Thank you, sweetheart!

After that little drama, I received an email stating that I was one of 11 whose stories were picked for possible inclusion (based on rewrites) in Port Yonder Press's Elves anthology. Again, I squealed--loudly. Justin came running into the room from talking to his brother, demanding to know what happened. :0) But a few days later, all that came to nothing, when the editor told me there would be "light language and allusions to adult situations" in some other stories. The book was a crossover, so I really should have had fair warning, I suppose. I ended up pulling my story because of certain standards and convictions I'd set for myself before I even started seeking publication (more on this in 2011). I did have a hard day or two, but I ultimately felt better. And besides, it's not every day that an author rejects the offer of publication, so I guess I'm just being as nonconformist as usual. :0)

So, that was the first two weeks of November for me! Thankfully the rest of the month was very normal--I got a lot of writing done despite my jerky start on NaNo, and Thanksgiving went wonderfully without a single kitchen disaster.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Starfire: The Mending by Stuart Vaughn Stockton

Storyline: Rathe has managed to rise above his hatch status, but all it does is give him trouble. First, everyone keeps asking about the jerkrenak tooth he wears—second, he stumbles upon an ancient technology named Karey Or who is determined to get to this thing called the Starfire. Third, it seems that he is the main player in a prophecy that warns him not to allow Starfire to be activated. Top that with a traitor trying to steal Karey Or and a mass invasion of his country, and he is one confused saurn.

My Thoughts:

First of all, this book has no objectionable content WHATSOEVER! I was incredibly pleased to finally find an adult Christian spec fiction book that was completely clean. Thank you, Stuart Vaughn Stockton!

Something that is very neat about this book is that it features no human characters. Everyone in the book is a saurn—a sentient dinosaur. I know that sounds strange, and when I first heard about it, I thought, "Weird. How could he pull that off? I don't know if I'd like that."

I love it.

I loved the characters—even the traitor (before I knew he was a traitor). Stockton has a knack of turning his non-human saurns into lovable military types, from the new kid who keeps getting in trouble, to "the bigger is better" weapons expert, to the tough-talking leader. That's not to say that they're stereotypes--far from it.

I enjoyed the spiritual element. Struth displayed a very bold faith and made no apologies for his beliefs—something I thought was wonderful. I also can't wait to learn more about the jerkrenaks and why the Wayfarers seem to hold them in such high respect.

The writing style felt a little stilted to me, but the story overrode anything I noticed.

This book is action-packed, and one of the few that I've lately read where I couldn't get enough of it. I really want the second book to come out…now!

A FUN NOTE: Brandilyn Collins featured Stuart Vaughn Stockton in her Kanner Lake series as S-man, an author who was always muttering over his novel in the Java Joint coffee shop. How fun is that?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Goodbye For November!

I'm doing a sort of NaNoWriMo this year (for those who are unfamiliar, National Novel Writing Month, where the challenge is to write 50,000 word novel in 30 days). I say sort of, because I'm planning to finish my novel Night Sword, since it's about time it should be finished. It has about 61,000 words to go.

So, I'm taking a blogging break during the month of November (with the except of November 8th, when I'll be posting a review of Stuart Vaughn Stockton's amazing book, Starfire). If anyone is interested in keeping up with my word count, I'll continue to post it here once a week for this month. I'll also update my sidebar ticker once a week.

Until December!

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Letter From Apostle Paul

NOTE: This is from one of my writing assignments. I had to write a newsletter from Paul to his followers. I thought you guys might enjoy this.

Greetings, brothers and sisters in Christ!

Thank you for the many letters of encouragement I've received since my arrest. I'm able to bear my trials with even better spirits because I know that you are all praying for me.

My latest public appearance has been before the Roman governor of Caesarea, Festus. The Sanhedrin priests brought charges against me, which they could not prove.

I asserted my innocence, saying, "Neither against the Law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything."

Festus seemed to want to favor the priests. They tried to convince me to go to Jerusalem to stand trial. But I refused, stating my right as a Roman citizen to be tried in a Roman court. I do not fear death, but I will not be handed over to men who will find something to accuse me of, even when they cannot disprove my innocence. Therefore, I appealed to Caesar.

Festus replied, "You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you will go."

So, I am on my way to Rome as I write this, to stand trial in Caesar's court. Please continue to pray for me—I am not sure where God has my life going at this point. There is a bright spot in this, however—those Jews conspiring against me cannot touch me, as I am under Roman guard.

Thank you for every kindness and prayer that you have sent my way. Remember me to our brothers and sisters.

In Christ!

Paul

Monday, October 18, 2010

Learning to Listen

I hear it everywhere; Christians write novels to say something to the world. Christian publishers want a "purpose statement" for books. For some time, I rebelled against that. Why, I thought, does everything have to have a "message"? Can't Christians just have FUN? Why can't I just say, "I write because God called me to it, I enjoy it, and I want to give Christians more options for enjoyable fantasy novels"?

Slowly, I started trying to figure out why I wrote, if for nothing than to satisfy whatever publisher I eventually contracted with. Over the last couple of weeks, though, God has shown me why He's called me to write.

I started a Bible study called "Write His Answer: A Bible Study For Authors". It's amazing. I love it, and I'm only a few days into it. The first verse that it mentions as applying to a writer is Habbakuk 2: 1-2: "I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what He will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. Then the Lord replied: 'Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.'"

Oh.

Never mind then, Lord. All that complaining I did? Please ignore that.

I know neither Tolkien or Lewis wrote with a message in mind--however, their beliefs shone through. At the VERY least, my stories should shine the light of Christ. I think some of them will do that and only that. However, I think I understand now what God wants me to show in my stories.

My blog header says it all.

I'm concerned with how lax and conformist Christians have become. That's not to say that I don't struggle with the same things, although by very nature of who I am, a conservative Christian homeschooler, I'm very nonconformist. I want to show a struggle between light and darkness that is very tangible. I want to remind people that evil is real and without being on our guard, we will be struck down. I want to provide people with heroes who look up to the Ultimate Hero.

By learning to listen, I now have direction in my writing. That is a wonderful thing.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Blood of Kings Books 1 & 2 by Jill Williamson

Book 1: By Darkness Hid

Storyline: Achan Cham's name means trouble, and he seems to attract it in large quantities, from getting in fights to falling in love with a girl he'd never be allowed to marry. He's resigned to a life as a stray (orphan and slave), but Sir Gavin Lukos has other ideas. He picks Achan for his squire. After Sir Gavin deprives him of a tonic he's had every morning for his entire life, Achan begins hearing voices--lots of them, both male and female--in his head. Suddenly, everyone seems to take an interest in Achan's life.

Vrell Sparrow is in hiding from an undesirable marriage. She masquerades as a boy stray in the home of one of her mother's dearest friends. Their plans are turned upside-down when two Kingsguard knights show up, claiming Vrell as an apprentice for a master bloodvoicer. Vrell can only hope that her disguise will fool everyone, even the knight who is determined to pry her secret from her.

Book 2: To Darkness Fled

Storyline: In escaping from the false prince Esek, Achan, Vrell, and three Old Kingsguard knights are now in Darkness. They plan to go to Tsaftown to free many Old Kingsguard that have been imprisoned there. Before they can do that, there are enemies to face and fears to conquer in Darkness.

Achan worries about his duties now as the true prince of Er'Rets. The Kingsguard keep talking about how he will push back the Darkness with Arman's help--but how can he get Arman's help when he doesn't believe in him as the only true God?

Vrell worries about traveling in the company of so many men. How will she ever get home to her mother without revealing her secret?

My thoughts: Jill Williamson's world of Er'Rets is wonderfully crafted. The scenery and different cultures make it easy to get immersed in the storyworld.

The characters are also wonderfully crafted. Their thoughts and actions are thoroughly believable and the dynamics of the group in Book 2 are at times hilarious. I especially love how developed all the characters' backstories are, and how the author brought them out. Oh yes, and Sir Gavin's blunders in trying to deal with people made me laugh time and again.

A couple of things I didn't like: while realistic, one or two of the things that Vrell had to deal with while traveling as a boy were a little much. One of the Kingsguard knights is a drunkard and a womanizer. And, there are a lot of tragic love stories--realistic in a medieval fantasy setting, yes, but still, one or two many for my taste. :0)

However, the redemption and overall coolness of the books more than make up for the things I didn't like. Jill Williamson's books are definitely a worthwhile read.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Legends of the Guardian: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

Storyline: Soren and his brother Kludd are just learning to fly when they fall out of their nest and are kidnapped by the Pure Ones, owls who are intent on building an empire. Kludd embraces the Pure Ones while Soren and his friend Gylfie escape. Soren thinks that the only way to save all owls may be the Guardians of Ga'Hoole—but first, he has to find out whether the legends are true.

My Thoughts: The biggest problem I had with this movie was the predictability. I nailed it from the start who was going to be the bad brother and who was going to be the good one.

Characterization seemed a little stereotypical, mostly because of Kludd's immediate connection with the Pure Ones. Everything seemed to move really fast, too, but this film was based off the first three books of the series, so that's understandable. Some may have problems following which owl is which, but I kept track pretty easily.

Other than that, the battles were pretty cool, and the characters were likable. Young kids will especially like Twilight, an owl who fancies himself a poet, and Digger, Twilight's companion who is hyper and supposedly dislikes Twilight's songs. The animation was extremely well done, with plenty of slow-motion to show off the realistic owls and scenery. The Great Ga'Hoole Tree was stunningly rendered.

My only caveat is that some young kids may not be able to handle the intensity of the film. The violence is bloodless, but it includes owls falling into and fighting in a forest fire, an owl being stabbed with a sharp, fiery stick, a friendly owl being brutally knocked around and murdered, and plenty of sharp swords and talons being brandished.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What's New...

My Facebook page is up and running--search "H. A. Titus, Author" and like for updates on writing and publishing!

I've started a new blog, Tales of Courtship, for courting couples and families who are considering courtship. It will contain stories of others who have courted and married, and words of wisdom from young adults/parents who have committed to courtship being a part of their lives.

"Courtship" means different things to different people, so for the blog, I've defined it simply as "not dating". This isn't a place for debate, rather for encouragement. If you know of a couple who are married as a result of a courtship, then feel free to tell them about the blog and encourage them to contact me about publishing their story/words of wisdom. I have contact information and submission guidelines on the blog's sidebar.

God Bless!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Adventures and Writing

I wish that my body would just pick a few days to be stuffed up and miserable instead of this on-again, off-again annoyance. Allergies...grrrr.

On the brighter side, Justin and I took a fall tour yesterday. Everything up here is beautiful! We spent 12 hours yesterday taking pictures and seeing how pretty the Keeweenaw Peninsula and the Porcupine Mountains are! I really want to go back to the Porkies for a couple of days to hike and camp. We stopped in Copper Harbor for supper at the Harbor Haus restaurant. It's expensive, but if you're ever in Copper Harbor, I totally recommend it! (And when you order your side salad, the sun-dried tomato basil dressing is the best!). I had shrimp and scallop penne pasta with basil pesto--yummy!

For writing, I have some big news: I'm going to be published!! Finally, I can say, "I'm an author" without feeling guilty. The article will be coming out in November--I'll post a link.

Nightsword has been on hold since the beginning of this month. But, the short story that I'm submitting for Port Yonder Press's Elves anthology is in the hands of my first readers/editors. We'll see how much they maul it. ;0)

Also, Half Blood is coming along very well--I'm almost finished with chapter 3 for the rewrite. One or two more chapters to go, then I can start my substantive edit. I'm really pleased with how Jevran's character is rounding out, and I have deepened the mystery surrounding why Varian never learned about the Highlands.

And for those of you who are on Facebook--good news! I'm in the process of creating a Facebook like page. Yes, even though a couple of years ago I said I wasn't going to. There are pros and cons, of course, but with well-regulated posting times (just as I've regulated the blog posting times), I think it may turn out to be a good thing. I'll let everyone know when the page is up and running.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Benefits of Weekly Goals

I used to be totally against goal setting of any kind. I thought they'd rope me into not being as creative.

A year or so ago, I tried giving myself a daily word count goal. Yuck! Talk about tons of stress. Every day was stressful as I tried to meet my goal--especially on days that I didn't feel very well or super motivated.

Then this June, I thought I'd try goal-setting again. This time, I set weekly goals of things to be done. My weekly goals this week are: 1) Post blog. 2) Edit short story for Port Yonder Press. 3) Send out short story. 4) Finish new chapters of Halfblood.

I like this system a lot better because it gives me a little more flexibility. I can take it easier on days when I don't have as much time, and on days when I'm really motivated, I might finish all my goals for the week all at once. Today won't be one of those days ;0). I've found that it really helps me to remember what I need to do, and when. Plus, it motivates me to beat the clock.

I do have a list of yearly goals in the back of the notebook too, where I don't look as often because that way it doesn't make me stress as much.

Of course, I also find it easier with this system to not overload myself with goals. I pick three or four, or even five if the tasks aren't much, of the most urgent or short term goals. I write them down at the beginning of the week. Also, I can adapt this system to Justin's work week. If he's working only 5 days that week, I plan for that. If he's working 8 days in a row, I plan for that. Then when he's off work, I might get a little bit done, but I don't plan for it.

How do you motivate yourself? Do you use weekly/yearly goals, word count goals, or do whatever you want?

Monday, September 13, 2010

What Lies Behind the Wall of White?

I sit at the table, cupping my hands around a steaming cup of chai tea. The window is beaded with the tapping raindrops. The wind is blowing fall leaves across the wet parking lot, and rustling the branches of the trees. A gust howls between two buildings.

I can barely see Sugarloaf Mountain in the drizzly fog. As I squint, the siren--used for calling out volunteer firemen--wails eerily over the valley that is Marquette.

Past Sugarloaf, past the dark pine forest and the turning maples, I can just make out the shoreline of Lake Superior. The lake is the same color as the sky, storm gray. The difference between the color of the lake and the fog is so slight. If I couldn't see the vague choppiness of whitecaps, there would be no difference at all.

Not far from shore, the lake disappears behind a white wall of fog. My imagination takes over.

I see a ship, sailed swelled with the wind, as it ventures deeper and deeper into the fog. When the mist surrounds it, what will the crew find? Is there a land that lies undiscovered? An enemy ship with cannons a the ready? A great sea monster?

Does the fog embrace them, protect them? Or does it chill their hearts with dread? Are they warm and content, willing to let the breeze carry them where it will? Or does the crew grip their weapons in fear, sweat prickling down their necks, eyes straining into the chill blank whiteness?

No one will know--unless I put pen to paper and write their story.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Got a Story To Tell?

Port Yonder Press will accept submissions for fantasy novels 80-100K starting in October. Also, they are compiling an Elves anthology, also open for submissions in October. They're a Christian royalty POD (print on demand) company like Marcher Lord Press. Click here for their home page.

Give 'em some brilliant submissions!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Summer Reads Favorite 2010: Raven's Ladder

The book of the year pick is Raven's Ladder, by Jeffry Overstreet.


Back Cover:
A deadly menace is breaking through the ground. The people of Abascar must abandon their stone refuge and flee into the forest. But their king has seen a vision...
Following the beacon of Auralia's Colors and the footsteps of a mysterious dream-creature, King Cal-raven has discovered a destination for his weary crowd of refuegees. It's a city only imagined in legendary tales. And it give him hope to establish New Abascar.
But when Cal-raven is waylaid by fortune hunters, his people become vulnerable yo a danger more powerful than the prowling beastmen--House Bel Amica. In this oceanside kingdom of wealth, enchantment, and beauty, deceitful Seers are all too eager to ensnare House Abascar's wandering throng.
Even worse, the Bel Amicans have discovered Auralia's Colors and are twisting a language of faith into a lie of corruption and control.
If there is any hope for the people of Abascar, it lies in the courage of Cyndere, daughter of Bel Amica's queen; the strength of Jordam the beastman; and the fiery gifts of the ale boy. who is devising a rescue for prisoners of the savage Cent Regus beastmen.
As his faith suffers one devastating blow after another, Cal-raven's journey is a perilous climb from despair to a faint gleam of hope--the vision he sees in Auralia's colors.

My thoughts:
There are trhee things I absolutely love in this book.
The first is Cal-raven's story. Cal-raven is full of hope and joy, then he plummets into doubt and struggles with his faith. That resonated with me deeply. I felt sick to my stomach when he doubted. I wanted to say, "Cal-raven! There's so much that has been done for you--how can you loose faith now? Keep going!" It just highlights just how richly rounded Overstreet's characters are.
My second favorite was Krawg's story. I read online that some reviewers said they found it boring or jarring and just skipped over it. What? The Six Tricksters was not only a great showcase of Krawg's character and storytelling talent, but a lovely story within itself.
The third thing was the true beauty/inner beauty versus false beauty plot thread. It was satisfying to read, especially given our culture's obsession with the airbrush.
This book is my favorite of the series. I can't wait for The Ale Boy's Feast!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Imagining Like A Child

Justin and I went to the beach the other day. The waves were gentle, and they'd swept the sand into miniature cliffs. We'd barely even dipped in the water when Justin went back to the shore and started digging a trench to the cliffs. Before too long, he was scooping out sand beside the trench into a sea wall. I joined him and began building watch towers, dribbling wet sand around the top to make crenellations and stairs. Justin made a harbor behind the sea wall; I built boats from driftwood, leaves, and feathers and anchored them to a wooden post with sea grass. Justin made a breakwater of sticks to stop the waves from eating up the sea wall; I reinforced the walls with pebbles and bark. Then I began imagining this place with people, ruled by a proud king and a compassionate queen, and their history. I even built the "bones" of a feared sea beast a ways from the sea wall.

We spent 2 hours building that sand castle. Justin joked about how we were doing "kid stuff", which neither of us had a problem with. In fact, we've both agreed that when we have kids, we'll be happy to play like kids again.

That got me to thinking. My imagination has never really "grown up". Sure, I think about household stuff, my husband, his work, and plenty of other "grown up" things. But I also spend a good amount each day immersed in a fantasy world, fighting sorcerers, riding dragons, talking with elves and dwarves--and yelling at my characters of course. :0) I think being "grown up" is healthy for a person of my age. But I also think that adults should spend time being a kid too.

God gave us imaginations. I think we should use them. We shouldn't shut them up when we grow up. (Isn't there a quote like that in Raven's Ladder, the third book of the Auralia's Colors series?) I think its a wonderful thing when any adult can spend time, with or without children, imagining like a child.

*note* Justin & I will be gone visiting family in Missouri next week, so no post Monday. While I'm gone, think about what you'd like my to talk about on here. Any fun ideas or insights?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Frustration Followed By Joy

I'm going to say this quickly.

I stopped working on The Second Crown.

There, I made my official announcement online. Is anyone going to shoot me? I know that writers have to persevere and be stubborn. But I worked on The Second Crown for sooooo long (7 years this October, I believe) that I was beginning to assume I knew all of the story in my head. And I really didn't.

I was trying to rush to finish the final draft. Since I'd decided to rewrite the beginning of the story, I should've looked through the first draft more carefully. I didn't and I made a couple of big plot blunders that I didn't catch until I was editing chapter 6. Justin came home from work to me in tears of frustration, shoving The Second Crown folders back into their box, and pulling out everything for Night Sword. It was a good thing, since for a while I'd felt bored, like working on TSC wasn't what I was supposed to do. Writing just wasn't fun any more. Justin supported that notion every time I complained about writing. So I finally listened to my husband and God and started work on the story that's very close to my heart.

I can tell that NS is different. I'm usually pulled to the computer every day, eager to write more of this story. I've had it in my head for so long that I feel like I know the characters, especially the main characters, inside out. And its going super well. I beat my personal writing record by writing 2 chapters (about 4,000 words) in 3 days. Maybe that's not really great, but it was to me. I'm back to enjoying my calling! Yes!!

Other writing projects: Sometime soon I'm going to start editing Half Blood and maybe even Roliwyn. I'd never planned to pursue publishing for HB, but Justin and the members of Apricotpie called foul with that plan. So...you talked me into it! :0) I'm also thinking about two fun projects, an off-the-wall chick lit narrated by a pet cat, and my next Apricotpie project, entitled Raising A Princess. And I'm playing with an idea I've had for a couple of years--an epic poem of dialog between a guardian angel, his human charge, and a tempter demon. That last idea was inspired by reading Frank Peretti's The Oath and This Present Darkness.

Also, has anyone read the excerpt of Night Sword on my blog pages? What did you think?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Auralia's Colors by Jeff Overstreet

Storyline: An orphan girl is found by two Gatherers, outcasts from the House of Abascar. As the girl, who names herself Auralia, grows older, she discovers she has a gift—she can create wonderful, colorful weaves from what the forest has to offer. The only problem is that the king of House Abascar has forbidden anyone to wear colors.

The older Auralia becomes, the more she understands that she was sent to House Abascar for a purpose. Though reluctant, Auralia forges ahead in her task, aided by the Gatherers and some unlikely allies, including the prince of Abascar.

My Take:

I love the descriptions in this book. They are breath-taking, beautiful, and awesome. Overstreet makes his book shine with the vivid pictures of people, animals, and the world. Next to The Lord of the Rings, I think its one of the easiest, prettiest worlds for me to imagine. The characters are very real to me as a reader.

One of the best things (to me) was the fact that not all of the characters are handsome or pretty. A lot of books have beautiful main characters. I realized not long ago that I'm guilty of this very thing. While I think that Auralia herself was pretty, others--Krawg or the ale boy, for example--aren't, and I really liked that.

I also like the mysterious spiritual elements in the book. The Keeper, the Northchildren--all to me present mysteries that I ponder over even after reading the book. It reminds me somewhat of MacDonald's stuff.

There were a couple of things I didn't care for, but overall this was an incredible book.

Rating: five out of five stars

Monday, August 2, 2010

How Am I Still Alive?

Hello everyone! Since we last spoke, I've logged about 23 travel hours, slept on the ground, been talked into death-defying stunts, and gone back in history.

Tuesday through Thursday, Justin had a "business trip" to Minneapolis last week and was able to take me with him. The first night, we went to the Minnesota Science Museum and saw the Dead Sea Scrolls. It's my second time, and each time I've been inspired to quit this ill-paying writing job and become an archeologist. :0) But then I think about the heat and everything and think, "Maybe not." But I really do love seeing the history of Israel in those tiny fragments of parchment. So mysterious... We also walked around the science museum--very much Justin's thing, not so much mine. But it was still kind of cool, especially the weather section. Finally, demonstrations of all the things my husband's talking about!! :0)

We also went to Valleyfair, an amusement park. It was very much like a giant carnival. Lots of smaller rollercoasters. The best rides there were known as Steel Venom and The Ripcord. Steel Venom was a large U-track rollercoaster with a big corkscrew at one end. We got in front of the line for that one! And Ripcord...I'm honestly still trying to figure out how Justin talked me into going on the Ripcord. Basically, its a 200-foot swing with a couple of cables attached to it. You get hauled up to the top and dropped in a free-fall 'til about 10 feet off the ground, when you start swinging...very high. And the kicker on the entire ride is that you have to release yourself. Yeah. You get to pull the cord that drops you 200 feet. Needless to say, I made Justin pull the cord. :0)

Then he had 4 days off, so we spent Friday at home chillin' and preparing for a camping trip up to the Keeweenaw Peninsula. Yes! We spent Saturday & Sunday nights up there. I don't think my back is going to forgive me for that! We only took 2 big blankets...but beyond every joint popping when I got up, it was a lot of fun!! Justin's a very good campfire cook. We did some hiking, swam in the lake with some good-sized waves, and walked around the old Civil War fort we camped nearby. Oh yeah, and it rained last night. But the tent packaging miraculously wasn't lying when it said "waterproof"!

So now we're back at the apartment relaxing from our relaxing vacation. :0)

And how are your summer vacations/non-vacations going?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Some Things You May Not Know About Me...

*I usually make fun of health foods--unless it tastes good

*I dislike touching/being touched by anything sticky--counters, food, kids--anything, especially if it has that nasty sweet stickiness.

*My mom wonders how I will ever make it through motherhood (see above statement)

*Don't ask me what I'm thinking when I'm mad at you, because I'm most likely figuring out how to fit you into my book as a highly expendable character

*My pet cleaning peeve is my bed--it has to be made

*Until I met Justin, I didn't think about the fact that not all meteorologists are on TV

*I only knew that DNA stood for deoxyribonucleic acid because of Marvin the Martian from Looney Tunes

*I am not a solitary TV watcher

*I love canoing, swimming, and almost everything else to do with water, but am convinced that drowning would be the worst way to die

*I love the fact that I am a fantasy nerd and my husband laughs at me for it

Monday, July 19, 2010

Deep Within, There's Something

Every bit of George MacDonald's works that I've ever read always have some deep truth in them somewhere. But I can't ever seem to ferret it out into words.

MacDonald's fantasies (Phantastes, Lilith, At the Back of the North Wind, The Princess and the Goblin, and The Princess and Curdie, along with his fantasy short stories The Grey Wolf, The Golden Key and The Wise Woman) are the hardest to dig into. Every time I read his books, I'm left with an indescribable longing for something better than our world. It's not a specific place, like Lewis' Narnia Chronicles make me wish to go to Narnia. It's just--somewhere.

Phantastes is without a doubt the hardest one to delve into. It's almost purely narrative, accounting a man's (Anodos) adventures in Fairyland. It moves at a leisurely pace most of the time. And though I once read that it portrays a "profound sadness and a poignant longing for death" I really don't think it's quite that morbid.

Several things suggest themselves to me. Based on encounter with the White Woman Anodos' voice sets free from a marble casket (singing counts for a lot in Fairyland, apparently), his subsequent deceiving by the Alder-woman, and his search for the White Woman who he imagines is his love, only to find that her love is held by another's, I'd say that it is in one way a quest for true love. Certainly Anodos wants and pursues love, and makes several blunders along the way just like a typical person.

Also, in one point he looks into a dark closet owned by an ogre. When he leaves the ogre's house, he has a dark shadow trailing him that. Afterwards, his ability to see and hear the higher orders of fairies and elves disappears. When the shadow touches plants, the grass and flowers wither. One fairy-boy Anodos sees, the shadow turns into a plain, ordinary little boy.

His shadow constantly dogs him throughout the book, until he arrives at the fairy palace--and even then, after trying to win the White Woman's love, the shadow returns. I think the shadow probably represents sin, which can dull our own world.

And at the end, Anodos meets with two brothers, princes, who are determined to fight against three giants. Anodos becomes their "brother" and assists them against the giants. They kill the giants, but the two princes die while doing so. Their father grants Anodos knighthood, then while leaving Anodos is set upon by a rogue knight and made prisoner. Anodos realizes that he is unfit to be a knight, and after being rescued (by a girl, no less), he offers to be the squire of a man I've dubbed the Red Knight (when we first meet the knight, his armor is rusty from misuse and only "by the blows of knightly encounter" can the armor again be shiny). While traveling with the Red Knight, they come to city where Anodos recognizes evil, and defeats it in the form of a wolf, dying in the process. This might be an example of heroic self-sacrifice.

Then he awakes to find it only a dream.

That's all I can pull out of it. George MacDonald's writings definitely take a deeper thinker than me to understand them. 

Has anyone else read Phantastes? What did you think of it? 

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye

Storyline: A seventh princess has been born into the royal family of Phantasmorania, and her name is Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne. She promises to be the most beautiful and good-natured of all of her family, as is tradition—but a kindly old fairy godmother, Crustecea, changes all that. With a wave of her wand, Crustacea proclaims, "You shall be Ordinary." And the princess was.

She grows up known to her family as Amy and everyone else the Ordinary Princess. When no one will marry her because she looks so ordinary, the king thinks about drastic measures such as princess-kidnapping dragons. Amy discovers the plot and runs away to stay in the forest. She really does have a very extraordinary adventure for such an Ordinary Princess!

My Take:

This is a cute, fairy tale that defies the mold. Instead of long, luxurious curls and blue eyes, Amy has mousey brown hair and brown eyes. She's a tomboy and is absolutely determined to enjoy herself, whether she's ordinary or not.

It's not a very long book, only 112 pages, and neither is it an amazingly written one. But it's always refreshing to read this book because it's such a light-hearted little fantasy. And it's very heartening to know that Amy, even though she's ordinary just like most of us, does finds true love.

Rating: five of five stars

Monday, July 5, 2010

Connections

I've been thinking about connections. My conclusion is that they're weird, strange, unmanageable, and God-given. :0)

Comments on Apricotpie made me start thinking about the connections. How much Apricotpie has played in my life, for example. I found it while googling Christian resources for homeschool writers. I told my friend Mary about it, who told LoriAnn, who told Kestrel, who are all my friends on Apricotpie. Mom told Justin to ask me about it, and Justin reading my stuff lead to a deeper friendship, which lead to our marriage.

Connections are everywhere in our lives. Everywhere I look I see tons of them, and it fascinates me. Even my own stories are often born out of connections my out-of-control imagination makes. I love tracing back through my thought pattern and seeing each step, each obvious connection, that my brain made while sorting out a story idea or a title.

How many stories out there were born of connections? George MacDonald is connected to C.S. Lewis because he influenced everything Lewis wrote. Lewis once said, "Indeed, I fancy that I have never written anything in which I did not quote from him (MacDonald)."

Tolkien and Lewis were connected in that they were great friends and challenged each other to write stories about time travel (Tolkien) and space travel (Lewis). That connection resulted, for Tolkien, in The Lost Road, where a father and son hear stories taken from Tolkien's own Middle Earth legends. For Lewis, it became his Space Trilogy.

Anyone else care to chime into my ramblings? :0)

Monday, June 28, 2010

12 Angry Characters

First, list twelve favorite characters, then answer the questions below.
1. Rindar (Lonoma's Map)
2. Lauren Holbrook (The Lauren Holbrok series)
3. Thomas Hunter (The Circle Trilogy)
4. Jason Bourne (The Bourne Trilogy)
5. Eowyn (LOTR)
6. Kale Allerion (The Dragonkeeper Chronicles)
7. Mr. Tumnus (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)
8. Einar Nightsword (my character, Nightsword)
9. Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice)
10. Brehlia Zulfyr (another of my characters, Daybreak)
11. Sterling "Mac" McRae (Expect the Sunrise)
12. Kieran (The Restorer's Son)

1. Who would make a better college prof, 6 or 11?
Oh brother. Kale could teach dragon care 101, or Mac could teach me undercover tactics. Hmm…tough call. Probably Mac, cause he'd be more organized and level-headed than Kale.


2. 12 sends 8 out on a mission. What is it? Does it succeed?
So Kieran sends Einar out on a mission? How does that work? Both of them are do-it-yourself type of guys. But that doesn't answer the question. I guess that Kieran would send Einar out to contact his buddy Tristan about some kind of trouble he's gotten in, because he's been banished from Lyric and can't blow his cover with the king of Hazor anyway. Even though Councilmember Cameron's thugs are in the way, Einar would get through because he's a former assassin.


3. What is or what would be 9's favorite book?
Elizabeth Bennett enjoys many books—I'd say that if she lived in modern day, her favorite book would have to be something by Dee Henderson—featuring a cool guy, a pretty, witty girl, and lots of danger. So, say, The Guardian.

4. Would it make more sense: for 2 to swear fealty to 6, or the other way around?
LOL...Lauren would swear fealty to Kale, definitely. Kale wouldn't like it, but Lauren would be so wowed by Kale's magic and dragon-handling skills that she'd do it in a heartbeat—as long as Kale promised to magically make coffee for her.

5. For some reason, 5 is looking for a roommate. Should (s)he room with 9 or 10?
Eowyn wants to room with Elizabeth or Brehlia? Hmm…. Eowyn would probably do OK with either one. Elizabeth's sarcastic wit would make her laugh, and she'd appreciate the struggles Brehlia goes through.

6. 2, 7 and 12 are going out to dinner. Where do they go and what do they discuss? Lauren, Mr Tumnus, and Kieran. Hmm. Could be interesting. They'd probably go to an Italian restaurant. Lauren and Kieran would like spicier food and Tumnus would appreciate the fine wines. Lauren would want to talk about coffee and the latest update on her hypochondriac dad. Kieran would want to talk about wars. Tumnus would want to talk about books with maybe a mention of the war he's been in. Basically, I think Lauren would get mad at Kieran for being so serious, Kieran would smart-mouth back, then they'd refuse to talk to each other, and the whole evening would be ruined.

7. 3 challenges 10 to a duel, who wins?
Thomas against Brehlia. Um, Thomas. No question. Breh's a Judge, not a Warrior.


8. If 1 stole 8's most precious possession, would (s)he get it back?
If Rindar stole Einar's most precious possession, he has no chance. Einar could track him down and defeat him in a heartbeat.

9. Suggest a story title in which 7 and 12 both attain what they desire.
Tumnus and Kieran? Brother. Tumnus wants to live in peace and Kieran wants to bring Hazor to the One. Maybe The Faun of Hazor?

10. What kind of plot device would you have to use if you wanted 1 and 4 to work together?
Jason Bourne and Rindar? Hmm. A murder. Rindar would be suspected of murdering someone, and Jason helps him hide and figure out the culprit.

11. If 7 visited you for the weekend, how would it go?
Awesome! Tumnus and I could have so much fun discussing books and Narnia. I'd be hyperactive for weeks afterward thinking about everything we'd discussed.

12. If you could command 3 to perform any service or task for you, what would it be?.
Thomas! Give up your secret and let me know how you travel between Earth and Otherworld!! LOL…also, while you're at it, make me a Forest Guard captain and introduce me to Michal and Gabil.

14. If 2 had to choose sides between 4 and 5, what side would (s)he choose?
If Lauren had to choose sides between Eowyn and Jason Bourne, it'd be a toughie. She'd like Eowyn because of Eowyn's attitude, but she'd like Jason because of his movies. Probably Eowyn, because essentially (I think) Eowyn and Lauren both believe in God and Jason doesn't.


15. What might 10 shout out while charging into battle?
"Veritas Lives!"

16. If you had to choose a song to best describe 8, what would it be?
Oooh, perfect! I pick songs to describe characters all the time!! But for Einar… "Without You (I'm Not Alright)" by Article One, "Torn" by All Star United, and "Set Me Free" by Casting Crowns.

17. 1, 6 and 12 are having a dim sum at a Chinese Restaurant. There is only one scallion pancake left, and they all reach for it at the same time. Who gets it?
That's easy—Kieran. Kale would be too distracted wondering about her dragons and Bardon, and Rindar might make a snatch at it, but Kieran would intimidate Rindar (that is, if Kieran wanted it in the first place, which I doubt).

18. What would 5 most likely be arrested for?
Eowyn would be arrested for disturbing the peace by riding her horse through the streets and yelling Rohirrim battle cries

19. What is 6's secret? 
Kale loves Bardon!!

20. If 11 and 9 were racing to a destination, who would get there first?
Elizabeth wouldn't race anyone, so Mac.

21. If you had to walk home through a bad neighborhood late at night, who would you feel more comfortable walking with, 7 or 8?
Mr. Tumnus or Einar? Definitely Einar. The guy has tons of weapons.

22. 1 and 9 reluctantly team up to save the world from the threat posed by 4's sinister secret organization. 11 volunteers to help them,but it is later discovered that s/he is actually a spy for 4. Meanwhile, 4 has kidnapped 12 in an attempt to force their surrender. Following the wise advice of 5, they seek out 3, who gives them what they need to complete their quest. What title would you give this fic?
Translation: Rindar and Elizabeth Bennett team up to save the world from the threat posed by Jason Bourne's sinister secret organization. Mac volunteers to help them, but it is later discovered that he is actually a spy for Jason. Meanwhile, Jason had kidnapped Kieran to force their surrender. Following the wise advice of Eowyn, they seek out Thomas Hunter, who gives them what they need to complete their quest. What title would you give this fic?

OK, first off, what's Jason Bourne and Sterling McRae doing on the bad guys' side?!? Secondly, how in the world did Kieran let himself get kidnapped?

Those are my story questions. Brother, and what story questions they are!!

OK, so Jason and Mac have teamed up…aside note, these guys could definitely be lethal together if they could get along…to destroy the U.S. secret intelligence operations. Mac has enough knowledge to do so and Jason has a grudge because he still doesn't know exactly what's been done to him.

Rindar and Elizabeth accidentally find out about it, as Jason asked Rindar's best friend Minxa to be a spy and Minxa tells Rindar everything. Elizabeth is dragged into it when Rindar comes to the local library and asks for books about the CIA, FBI, and NSA and she happens to overhear him.

Minxa finds out what they're doing, he tells Jason, and Jason quickly sends Mac to keep an eye on them (they don't know that Mac's part of it yet because Minxa only dealt with Jason). Jason also shuts Minxa up, permanently.

Rindar also asks Kieran to help them because he's an expert in international intrigue (sort of). Mac knows that Kieran is the real threat to him and Jason, so he blows his cover and kidnaps Kieran (drugging him to do so, because Kieran doesn't go down without a fight). When he and Mac are safely hidden away with Kieran, Jason videotapes himself threatening Kieran and sends it to Elizabeth and Rindar, with instructions to give up their quest.

Rindar almost backs down, but Elizabeth convinces him to be stubborn. They find Eowyn and she suggests they look up Thomas Hunter. Upon asking Thomas to help, he goes to sleep, visit Otherworld, convinces Michal and Gabil to tell him about the outcome of this situation in the Books of History, and returns saying that as long as they find out something about Jason's past, then he'll give up the fight. Oh yes, and don't worry about Mac. He's really an undercover agent keeping an eye on Jason with instructions to arrest him if he goes nuts.

Armed with that knowledge, they visit the CIA office in Washington D.C. After convincing the CIA that their information is correct (and that yes, people from Tessamandria and 17th century England DO work together sometimes), the CIA gets in touch with Jason and gives him the information he wants.

Jason gives Mac the slip and disappears. Mac releases Kieran and apologizes to him, Elizabeth and Rindar. They celebrate in the Bennett's house and receive a message from Jason letting them know that after things settle down, they'll see him again. THE END.

Title: The Bourne Threat
This makes me curious to try this story now…LOL. Just kidding.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Apologies to Limwen that it took me so long to post this! And thanks very much for the award!! :0)

So, the deal is, I have to list 5 random things about myself, then award 5 people. However, I can't think of 5 people...

1. I've never traveled out of the continental U. S. Sad but true!
2. I don't like regular coffee but I love lattes, frappucinos, and Panera Bread's Icee Caramels...yummy!
3. I have a secret liking of hippy-style outfits.
4. I like shabby chic decorations.
5. I almost never watch TV by myself

Awarding:
Mary, LoriAnn


Sunday, June 20, 2010

MacDonald, Tolkien, and Lewis: Their Influence On Me






These three men are the ones who have influenced my writing the most. Period. Of course, every fantasy writer out there says that Tolkien influenced them in one way or another. But what about MacDonald? What about Lewis? They all have their unique additions.

George MacDonald taught me that you don't have to beat someone over the head with the spiritual side of the book. It can be deep, so deep that no one but you might ever understand it, but it still makes them long for it. But it's still there. Once my friend Rachel and I were talking about a MacDonald story we'd recently read, The Grey Wolf. Rachel said, "It drives me crazy! I know there's something in that story-something deep, something I should grasp--but it's buried and I can't get at it, and all the time my brain is saying, 'You should know this. You should know this.'" Every time I read a MacDonald, I keep trying to dig into the spiritual side of the story. It makes each visit to the book unique because each time I discover something new.

J. R. R. Tolkien taught me that my world doesn't need limits on its stories as long as my passion continues with that world. Look at Tolkien. He spent his entire life designing, redoing, writing, and drawing Middle Earth. He even wrote a semi-autobiographical story about himself working so much on one world (called Leaf By Niggle, a fabulous short story). Tolkin even intertwines some of his stories together. So, if the master of fantasy should do it, why should I be satisfied with less?

C. S. Lewis taught me that no matter what, your faith will shine through. He didn't set out to write allegories. In fact, he denied that his Narnia books (especially The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) were allegory. But tons of people see Lewis' strong faith through those books, and as a result of them he had the opportunity to minister to many people.

Which of these authors are your favorite? Who influenced you the most?

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Curse of the Spider King by Wayne Thomas Batson & Christopher Hopper

Storyline: Eight hundred years ago in the world of Allyra, the Elves suffered a devastating loss. Their capitol Berinfell, was destroyed by the warrior Gwars and their leader the Spider King. Worst of all, the Spider King's assassins known as the Drefids have stolen seven babies—the descendants of the Seven Elf Lords.

Present day, the Seven are scattered around the earth, adopted by human parents. Their lives are cruelly shattered when, one by one, the Drefids try to hunt down and kill them.

Their only hope are the Sentinels and Dreadnaughts, exiled Elvish warriors who have dedicated their lives to regaining the Seven. The teens have a terrible choice in front of them: do they go back to Allyra as the final hope of their people, or do they stay to be forever hunted?

My Take:

Readers beware—this book will give you arachnophobia for life! I'm never going to look at spiders in the same way.

Wow! I've been hoping for a Christian author to write a book about Earth and another world, one populated by Elves. And finally one came!

Batson and Hopper tend to switch povs in the middle of scenes, and sometimes even include omniscient pov, but that's fine. I wasn't ever confused about anything.

The writing besides that was well done, the book tense, the world well built. I liked the kids (and their gifts), I liked the Elves who help them (especially the Dreadnaughts), and I liked the enemies they face: the wraith-like, shape-shifting Wisps and the clawed, humanoid Drefids. The Elvish history books were very, very cool too!

Since I like so much of the book, I'll forgive Batson and Hopper for killing my favorite Elf. :0) I'm looking forward to the sequels! The second book in the series, Venom and Song, comes out on July 13th.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wedding Pictures Part II--Ceremony


From left: Ben T, Jonah T, and my brother Josh


my favorite wedding ring picture ever!





Hannah T


Sarah T


Hannah S





Justin


Jake


Josh S


Josh T


The guys' "band picture"

Josh escorting my mom


Jake escorting Tammy

















with Justin's family


with my family











Justin shoved the cake into my mouth to be a turkey, so...


I smeared his cheek with icing. :0)





our car





"I'm broke after this..." :0)


Monday, May 31, 2010

Wedding Pictures Part I--The Preparations

The long awaited wedding pictures post! :0)


We had this screen set up at the front of the church, with asparagus fern and eucalyptus twigs tacked on the top.


This was a beautiful arrangement of roses, gerbera daises, and snapdragons in a basket that my mom made!


This is another basket my mom made--there was one of these at each side of the stage

Livie!


Hannah T and Hannah S trying to hide.


Jonah T and me...the poor guy was a little uncertain about coming into a room full of girls doing hair and nails. ;0)


Me wearing my engagement ring and Justin's wedding band. See how much bigger his fingers are?


Rachel fastening my veil and stabbing my head with bobby pins. LOL


Justin and his buddy Noah getting ready.


My "maw-in-law" Tammy putting on Justin's boutinniere


Next week I'll do some pics from the wedding ceremony and reception. I might be late, though, because we're going down to Missouri to see our families...yay!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Adventures

Sorry about not posting last week, it kind of skipped my mind!

Today is a very warm 90 degrees in the UP. I've spent my day trying to stay cool. It was easy this morning! Justin & I went to the beach for the morning. It was a lot of fun! But COLD! The water was about 50 degrees. Needless to say I won't be swimming much until its warmed up! :0)

I thought I'd share some of our adventure pictures today. Enjoy!




Looking over the town of Copper Harbor in the Keweenaw Peninsula

Me standing next to the marker for the Keweenaw's record snowfall--32 feet!!

Going down Brockway Mountain...would this sign make you nervous? :0)


The view on the east side of Brockway Mountain

The view on the west side of Brockway Mountain

A neat bridge we stopped at on the way to Brockway Mountain

This bridge runs over a canal in Houghton, made so ships don't have to go all the way around the Keweenaw Peninsula. It was kind of a scary bridge--the main part over the water was made of grating, so if I looked out the window and down, I could see the canal through the grating!

Looking off the shore of Miner's Beach, our favorite beach.


This river runs close to Miner's Beach. Isn't the sandstone carved into cool patterns?


Forest on one side, beach on the other. Can you believe that's just a lake?


Justin's grilling at Miner's Beach


Us at Sugarloaf Mountain


The view from the ski lift on Marquette Mountain.


Justin celebrating the fact that we made it down the mountain alive


Me being...my usual self.


Sunset off Sugarloaf Mountain.


Watching the sunset of Sugarloaf Mountain.
View of Little Presque Isle and Presque Isle at the end of March. The frozen-over bays were the coolest thing to see--and when you were close to the lakeside edge of the ice, you could hear the waves moving it.

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