Monday, April 27, 2015

“While things that are uncomfortable…may make a good tale.”

Imprisoned GirlWriters are notoriously cruel to their characters. Our job description is practically, “Killing and torturing people for a living.” An embarrassing amount of hours in our days are spent thinking about how we can make our characters’ lives worse. And yet we turn around and claim they’re our “precious, adorable babies whom we love ever so much!” Because, ya know, they are. You may walk into a bookstore and pick up the mildest, sweetest looking book out of the thousands, the cover glittered in pink and flowers and a girl with every tooth showing in a wide grin, white ribbons flowing from her hair. “What a pleasant looking book,” you say. And you may be right, but don’t be entirely fooled! That girl with ribbons in her hair certainly won’t be holding that grin for every page. No. She may cry, become angry, get hurt, all of the above. “That poor girl! How could the author be so cruel?” you think, even while turning to the next page. What spurs on this incessant character torturing, and for goodness’ sake, why do we want to read it?

I was just discussing The Hunger Games with Deborah and saying I didn’t know WHY I love those books. They’re dark, depressing, icky even, and yet that’s one of my favorite book series of all time. WHY?

My favorite scenes to write are the dramatic ones, whether they’re sad or scary or just full of action—I look forward to getting to those parts of my novels every single time. WHY?

Sometimes I like to go back and read one of my old stories and when I do I almost every time choose one of the sadder scenes. WHY?

If a movie makes me cry there’s a 99.8% chance I’ll love it. I want movies to make me cry. WHY???

One of my favorite quotes of Tolkien’s is from chapter 3 of The Hobbit:

Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have
and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to;
while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale,
and take a deal of telling anyway.

In our fiction we get bored with all the happy bits. We want to read about the uncomfortable and gruesome. The struggles and hardships and fears.


Why would we ever want to read about people suffering? Or to write about the characters we love being tortured and torn down?

Many hours of my life have been spent pondering this very question. Shouldn’t I be disturbed about enjoying uncomfortable and gruesome stories? I’m a very sunshiny person. I love pink and glitter and unicorns and poodles. Why ever would I want to read and write about dark things?

Well, I certainly don’t have all the answers, but all my musings have come up with this answer:

Life isn’t fluffy.

It doesn’t matter who we are or where we come from, life isn’t always sunshine and peaches. We’ve all struggled. We’ve all had bad days and shed tears and grown angry and messed up and gone through hard times. That’s a part of life.

C.S. Lewis QuoteWe want our fiction to feel real, even if we don’t necessarily read realistic fiction. In The Hobbit they’re a company of dwarves and a wizard and a hobbit going off to slay a dragon inside a home made under a mountain. Not exactly the most realistic of plots, right? But a lot of us have “dragons” of our own that have tilted our world—health problems, a best friend moving away, a loved one dying.

Life isn’t an easy place, but when we read fiction and see the characters we love struggling as well, we can take their situations and mirror it with our own. We can get a new perspective of our hardships, we can sympathize with the characters and learn from them. Who wants to read about someone who has life handed to them on a silver platter and from birth to death they experience nothing but frolicking through fields of happiness? *gag* What kind of character would that be?

No, we want someone who doesn’t have it easy, who pushes and pushes past those struggles and grows with each step. In the Marvel movies Tony Stark AKA Iron Man starts out as nothing but a rich, bratty, spoiled guy who seeks nothing but to serve himself. But when his perfect little world flips on its head, he struggles and grows, and this man who has spent his days only ever thinking about HIM, is willing to sacrifice his very life to protect those he loves.

Iron Man

It is through the struggles that we grow. God allows hardships in our life to batter and shape us into His vessels. because He LOVES us and wants us to be the very best we can be. As writers, we throw curveballs at our characters for the very same reason—to form them into someone to look up to.

Life isn’t fluffy, sometimes it’s downright hard, but fiction helps us to understand our struggles, to mirror our lives with the characters’ and learn from them, to grow into the people God created us to be.

So yes, we writers torture our characters. But the moment that silver platter was snatched away from Tony Stark, he became loveable.

C.H. Spurgeon Quote

Monday, April 20, 2015

Beautiful People - Meet the Twins {April 2015}

Here we are with a new month, which means a new edition of Beautiful People! Wait. . .it’s not a new month? Are you positive about that? Because I’m pretty sure March was just yesterday, right? Or maybe that was January. *shrugs* How am I supposed to know? Time is all wibbly wobbly after all, and it’s pretty mischievous at that.

Whatever the time is, there’s an edition of BP I’ve yet to do this month and it just happens to be a SIBLINGS EDITION. Siblings are kind of awesome, just so you know. Kudos to our ever resourceful hosts Sky and Cait for coming up with such a fun theme. I am thrilled. Do join in over at THIS POST or THIS ONE, snag the questions, and link up to your own post!

Beautiful People Button

Now normally I like to focus on the characters of whatever project I’m working on at the time. There are some siblings in Burning Thorns, but when the subject of my character siblings pops up my mind always jumps to a certain pair. I couldn’t let this special edition of BP pass up and not do what I consider THE siblings of all my characters.

Naidren and Nyria are male and female twins from my Colors of a Dragon Scale series, which is the series I always work on during NaNoWriMo. Their specific book was the 2nd one, More Pink than Sunsets, but they will be coming back in the one I’ll be writing this NaNo so we’ll call this early research. Ha! Who am I kidding? I know this duo backwards, forwards, and sideways. I wrote their book way back in 2011 and I VERY much look forward to returning to them again this November.

Naidren and Nyria are from a long line of royals. Their father is a duke and uncle the king himself. These 4 year old, excuse me 19 year old, twins are quite the pair. They act like 4 year olds. >.> Okay, Nyria mostly. Though twins, Naidren almost immediately switched on to “big brother mode”, spending most of his days chasing around his overly extroverted, rambunctious sister while wishing he could just hide away in his room with a book. But Nyria has a way of always pulling him out of his comfort zone. Like way, way out. They keep me on my toes. One time my younger sister said when she has kids she would love twins and my response was, “NOOOOO! THEY’RE SO MUCH TROUBLE.” Of course I got some strange looks. *cough* Writers, right?

But in all seriousness, these twins stole my heart and even after all this time and many, many new characters attempting to snatch away my love since, I’ll always have a special fondness for them that can’t be replaced.

Oh yeah, I was doing BP, wasn’t I? See? Proof I love them. I get so rambly over the things I love. I’m quite excited to introduce you to my crazy twins. So here we go!

More Pink than Sunsets Book CoverRem nodded. "I don't easily break off engagements as all that. Besides, I thought it would be best if I brought you your breakfast myself." Mischief gleamed in his eyes. "I was out in the barracks when I encountered a very disgruntled maid who curiously had porridge stains all over her dress. Upon asking what had befallen her, she informed me that a very rambunctious girl, to whom the porridge was meant for, bumped into her and went running straight for the castle's healing house. Seeing the woman so put out, and guessing who this ‘rambunctious’ young lady was, I offered to seek her out and bring her breakfast myself. The poor maid seemed most relieved."
Despite her cheeks warming, Nyria could not help letting out a laugh. "I might have been in a bit of a rush this morning," she said.
"Nyria, don’t tell me you spilled porridge all over one of the maids," Naidren moaned.
Her initial reaction was to punch him in the arm, but she stopped herself when she realized she could not do that now with him in his state. Instead she just gave him a condescending look. "I only spill porridge for the sake of those I love."
Naidren rolled his eyes but she could see the amusement on his face.

~ Naidren and Nyria ~

1. What is the first memory they have of each other?
Well, they’ve been together since the womb and all, so any first memories are pretty hazy. I think one of Naidren’s firsts was when they were 3 and Nyria climbed atop the counter to reach a cookie and fell so hard she nearly busted her head open. The situation would have been much, much worse if he had not been there to get help. After that he took it upon himself to be his sister’s protector. . .and spend all his energy worrying about her. He’s not exactly the laid back type.

2. Describe their relationship in 3 words.
Reckless, selfless, everlasting.

3. What kind of things do they like to do together?
Oh, anything and everything. Climb trees, jump in rivers, stuff their faces with chocolate, become dragon riders and save the world. You know, the usual stuff.

4. What was their biggest fight?
Oh good grief. These two clash a lot. They’re such polar opposites. But to Naidren’s credit, he’s a peacekeeper (and sometimes a pushover. . .) and doesn’t allow their arguments to go too far. Half the time they just banter for fun, normal brother-sister stuff. Most of their worst fights come out when Naidren scolds Nyria for her irrational behavior and her hot temper gets out of control, which occurred so much in their book I’m not sure I can choose a specific incident.

"So that is how it is, then," Naidren said. "First you suggest dressing like beggars then you blame me for everything. You're as foolish as a goblin, Nyria."
"At least goblins have much more sense than you!"
"Maybe the brain capacity of a boulder is more what you possess."
"Boulders do not even have brains."

5. How far would they go to save each other?
To the death. No question. Their loyalty to one another has no bounds and they would do anything, however reckless or deadly, to keep the other safe, no hesitation. Naturally I test and stretch this loyalty to its very last thread. *evil author cackle*

6. What are their pet peeves about each other?
List gif
Nyria wishes Naidren would talk more, not be so overbearing, stop worrying about e v e r y t h i n g, and just lighten up. It drives her up the wall how he refuses to have fun for all his anxiety and self-consciousness. I don’t think she grasps that her recklessness and near death experiences caused his anxiety.

Naidren would give his right arm away if that meant Nyria would filter her words before every thought that popped in her head came spilling out. He’d also very much appreciate her closing her mouth when she ate, and maybe eating a little slower instead of shoveling it all in like it’s the last meal she’ll ever have. Then of course there’s her inability to stay quiet for a whole 3 seconds. Obviously the biggest thing is the fact that she seems to think she’s indestructible and will do anything. . .and drag him along to do it, too.

7. What are their favorite things about each other?
I think Naidren’s pet peeves and his favorite things are one in the same. Yes, I know. He’s a very contradictory person. Yes, Nyria’s careless behavior keeps him on edge every second of every day, but she wouldn’t be Nyria without it, and he loves her more than any other person in the universe. So, by the end of the day, he finds her talkative, loud, hot tempered, reckless behavior endearing. Even if it will probably put him in an early grave.

Nyria sat silent for a moment. "I suppose you're right," she finally said with a huff,
"but I think we would be a bit more cordial."
Naidren laughed. "Maybe I would but..."
"Hey!" Nyria scooped up two handfuls of dirt and threw it right into his face. "What are you implying?"
Naidren spluttered out dirt between laughs. "Oh nothing, nothing at all."

He also is in awe of her cheerful demeanor. He’s never known a more happy-go-lucky person, and since he struggles with keeping a happy outlook himself, her joy is refreshing.

As for Nyria, she loves her brother’s strength. Sure, he’s anxious and shy and would hide in his room all day if he could, but he will push all that aside to do what is right. Sometimes her sense of right and wrong gets a little askew and she can always rely on Naidren to turn her in the right direction. His ability to discern good from bad inspires her every day.

8. What traits do they share? Mannerisms, clothing, quirks, looks, etc?
Well, they are twins. They both have the same shade of brown hair, brown eyes, and are pretty short (much to Naidren’s chagrin). But that’s where the similarities end. Like I said, polar opposites these two.

9. Who has the strongest personality?
On the surface, it seems as though Nyria does. She’s social and daring and rarely backs away from anything. But as mentioned in #7, it’s Naidren’s strength that she admires most. When it comes down to it, when all hope is lost and it seems evil has won out, it’s Naidren that will pull himself up and rouse those around him to keep fighting and push through.

10. How does their relationship change throughout your story?
They’ve always had such a strong, loyal bond, nothing can shake that. In fact, it only gets stronger. When they step away from their happy, posh life of servants and doting parents and friends abundant and experience how dark and gritty the world really is, they have no one to rely on but each other and they realize that they really would walk right into the jaws of death if that meant saving their twin.

Yeah, I love my babies. Visiting them again after such a long while filled up my heart. . .

. . .and also reminded me how tiring these two can be. *cough* But, hey, what else can you expect from raising twins?

Monday, April 13, 2015

777 Writing Challenge - Burning Thorns

My dear writing/blogging/pretty-much-everything buddy, Deborah O'Carroll, tagged me for the 777 Writing Challenge. I was thrilled. This tag seems to be floating all across the blogsphere and looked way too much fun. Plus, 7 happens to be one of my favorite numbers. Fun-ness all around. I’m so excited to be doing it! Thank you, Celti dear! <3


Go to page 7 of your work-in-progress,
scroll down to line 7,
and share the next 7 lines in a blog post.
Once finished, tag 7 bloggers to do the writing challenge themselves on their own blog.

We’re going to assume lines means sentences? Hopefully I do this right.

As I’m sure you all know, my current WIP is Burning Thorns, my Beauty and the Beast retelling that was once a novella and is now being transform into a novel. The snippet I landed on happens to be the very first words Rose and the Beast say to each other, their first meeting. So it worked out quite well. As a background, Rose just stumbled into the Beast’s rose garden after a very frightening ordeal. The Beast doesn’t know what to think about a human appearing in the dark Forest of the fae. . .


Rose running

"Please don't hurt me."

The Beast staggered back and snatched his wide hood closer around his face, grateful for the darkness of the night.

A human? A human here, in the Forest? A female human?

"What are you doing here?" he barked, keeping his head low.

"I—I had nowhere else to go," she squeaked.

Their first meeting wasn’t with the happiest of circumstances. Hee.

~I Tag~

Andrea @ Fantasies and Fountainpens

Sky @ Further Up & Further In

Jack @ However Improbable

Jameson @ Lovely Whatsoevers

Sarah @ Sarah, Plain and Average

Rachel @ Secret Scribblings

Melody @ The Splendor Falls on Castle Walls

Monday, April 6, 2015

Rising Shadows Book Review

Rising Shadows Book CoverSarah Matthews is nearing the end of another eventless summer in the small town of Bethany, Oklahoma, bringing her closer to the start of her freshman year of college. Disheartened over the reality that yet another unexciting season is coming to an end, Sarah wishes for an unforgettable adventure. When mysterious circumstances transport Sarah and her younger sister back in time, she gets more of an adventure than she could have ever imagined. The two sisters find themselves trapped in the twelfth century in a place shrouded with mystery and deception. Assassination plots, kidnappings, and tumultuous adventures force Sarah to rely on the Shadow, a masked hero who comes to her aid numerous times. In order to uncover a conspiracy and save those closest to her, Sarah requests help from the Shadow and also from Will, the handsome and equally intriguing blacksmith she befriends. Sarah is strangely drawn to the excitement that seems to follow the town hero and begins to look forward to their secret encounters. She also finds herself caught in a romance with Will, despite the fact that their equally fiery personalities have a tendency to clash as they attempt to work together. But Will’s past is filled with secrets and pains, and Sarah finds it difficult to break through the walls he has built around him. Can the faith and love of God that Sarah exhibits in her own life cause his hardened facade to fall away as he discovers that forgiveness and mercy are never too far from reach?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I was exceedingly happy when the amazingly sweet Ashley Townsend allowed me to read her debut novel, Rising Shadows. I mean, time travel? Medieval settings? A mysterious, masked guy? YES PLEASE. Plus, that cover. Come on. What’s there not to love? I’m a sucker for time travel stories. They’re my weakness. So I could not wait to read this one, and it was a wonderful ride!

The tale starts with our protagonist, Sarah Matthews, bemoaning the boring state of her last summer vacation before leaving off for college. She wishes more than anything she could have some kind of adventure. But, as her mother has wisely warned her: Be careful what you wish for.

The next thing Sarah knows, she and her little sister are standing in the middle of a forest face to face with a strange girl named Karen who’s adorned in some medieval-looking garments. Sarah’s wish for adventure comes true as she’s swept right up into a foreign world of danger, mysteries, and deadly secrets. Hey, one never knows what summer vacation will bring, am I right?

Ashley Townsend built a beautiful setting and realistic characters that kept me up at night wanting to know what would happen next. I really liked her explanation of how the time traveling worked, and the mystery revolving around the setting Sarah finds herself in got me greatly excited. There’s definitely some timey wimey stuff going on in this place. But you’ll have to read the book to see what I’m talking about. *grins*

The characters really tugged at my heart and were probably my favorite part of the novel, which is a definite plus. To me, the characters are the most important part. If I love them, I’ll probably read the books no matter what.
At first, Sarah seemed like your typical, begrudging fictional teenager, but after some time you see there’s much more to this girl than meets the eye. Her big heart toward others was inspiring, and even though she’s confused and not used to such a setting she landed in, she learns to adapt, and takes it in stride. Her awkwardness and the way she innocently blurts out her thoughts was endearing.
Karen was one of my favorites. She always means well, but isn’t the best at making decisions, causing a lot of trouble for herself and others. She had a fun, reckless personality that drew me to her the moment she entered the pages.
I loved how Sarah viewed “the Shadow” as a Robin Hood figure. Like her, I adore Robin Hood, so it made me like this intriguing man even more.
Then there’s Will who was probably my all time favorite. Those dark, mysterious fictional guys always are. . . Will is quiet and constantly keeps a wall between himself and others, but as that wall cracks bit by bit you see there’s so much more to this young man than first meets the eye. I loved seeing his character develop, every page of his pulling at my heartstrings a little harder each time. His character arc was wonderfully handled.
Even the more minor characters stole my heart. Karen’s family-friends were adorable and I smiled every time they appeared.
All in all, the characters were beautifully done and I miss them already.

I very much appreciated the Christian aspect of the novel. Sarah many a time looks to God when she’s losing hope or needs a reminder of why she should keep going. Her faith runs deep and blesses many. Some of the Christian parts could have flowed a little smoother, a few scenes felt a little forced, but for the most part it was well handled. One quote in particular really stuck out to me:

“When in need, pray. When in doubt, have faith.
When faced with difficult circumstances, be content and give thanks.
Then you shall receive your heart’s desire.”


The plot kept me fairly interested, though it did feel rather lacking in a few areas and was fairly predictable. The mysterious world and life-threatening plots sometimes fell in the background, the story leaning more in favor or Sarah and Will’s romance. Now, I definitely enjoy some romance in my novels, but I don’t want that being the sole focus. That said, the romance was very sweet and had me grinning many a time. I really loved those two. But I do wish more had revolved around the evil plots that were promised near the beginning of the book.

Take note that this was Ashley’s debut novel and there were a few things I felt were lacking or didn’t quite add up. I had so many questions that never got answered. BUT this is only the first book. Chasing Shadows is the sequel and promises much more plot and answers. Overall, this had an interesting storyline, loveable characters, and was an all around good start of what I think will be a trilogy.

Basically nothing. It was so refreshing reading such a clean story. There was a scene where Sarah notices Will’s muscular body under his wet shirt, but she quickly looks away when she realizes she is staring. And I think there were a couple of more circumstances where they were drawn to each other physically, but it was all very light.

Though the writing felt a little inconsistent at times and the plot didn’t always follow through to the mysteries brought out at the beginning, Rising Shadows held my interest to the last page. I immediately fell in love with the characters and was cheering them on all the way through. The writing-style provided a smooth, quick read, and the setting and history behind it kept me intrigued. And that ending! Get ready to snatch up the sequel as soon as you finish this one, trust me. I absolutely cannot WAIT to read the next book and delve deeper into this mysterious world and see how everything plays out. Which I shall be doing very soon, so keep your eye out for another review!

Overall I think Ashley Townsend has written a great debut novel and I look forward to getting my hands on more of her works in the future.

4 out of 5 stars

NOTE: I received a free ebook copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Stained With Blood So Divine

The Cross

Jesus died on the Cross for us.

The most powerful sentence in the world, and yet we toss it around without a thought. I know I do. It’s something I’ve heard my entire life. Jesus died on the Cross for my sins. Of course I know that. But there’s a big difference in knowing something over feeling something.

I’ve always loved Easter. My family is made up of mostly adults and yet we still gather around the kitchen table or on the back deck and dye eggs. I mean, come on. Dying eggs is a blast, I don’t care how old you are. I love the fresh, bright colors associated with the holiday and all the adorable plush rabbits lining the shelves in stores. It’s a fun, happy time to celebrate. But, oh, beyond the pretty colors and stuffed bunnies, what a thing we have to celebrate!


That sentence. That sentence we hear our preachers mention on Sunday mornings, the one we throw around in our own every day conversations, the one we remind ourselves from time to time when convenient. Do we ever sit down and really, deeply and honestly, THINK about it. Do we feel it?

Think about this day we casually call “Good Friday”. The Creator of the Universe’s Son went out and faced something we can’t even imagine. Jesus, God’s Son, willingly let them put nails in His palms, which held him up on a scratchy piece of wood. His blood—real, warm, sticky red blood—poured from His hands, from His feet. The pain excruciating. But that pain was nothing to what He faced next. Every single sin billions upon billions upon billions of people committed came to Him, our perfect, spotless Savior. He took our sins and cleaned them all away with His blood, through a sacrifice of His own life.


Jesus died on the Cross for us.

Whenever I say or hear or read that sentence I want to remember. I want to not just know it with my head, I want to FEEL it, to realize the history, the power, behind those words. The ultimate sacrifice our Jesus made for us.

But the story doesn’t end there. There is no “The End” to this tale. Because on Easter Sunday we are not celebrating a death, we are celebrating a life. Jesus returned to us, and we may be with Him for eternity. Life everlasting. His sacrifice tore down the wall of sin between us and our God, so we may live, not a “happily ever after” but a “joy eternal”.

“For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin;
that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
2 Corinthians 5:21

For us. Jesus died on the Cross for us. For you. For me.

Easter may be full of egg dying and goodies in Easter baskets, but the most beautiful story in the world is the real meaning of this holiday. The story about the LIFE we have been given through the LOVE of our Savior.

Because Jesus Christ died on the Cross, and rose again!

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