Sunday, January 29, 2017

Last of the Memory Keepers: Cover Reveal and Sneak Peak

A couple of years ago, I set out with an idea and a dream to write a fantasy short story series. And for the past year and a half, that dream’s only grown and grown. Now, I’m putting the final touches on my now novelette series, Last of the Memory Keepers, and I’m proud to reveal to you the cover and the title for the first story!

But first, a little something about the plot:


Rhona Farlane is among the top three apprentice Memory Keepers and an advocate for the unification of the remaining three races. But some days, she feels like she’s the only one willing to put in enough effort. Her closest friends, Finley and Ellard, are either too reckless or too reserved to make a positive impact on the world, and her uncle doesn’t even believe she deserves her apprenticeship.

Determined to make a difference anyway, she joins her father on her first diplomatic mission in the Southern Rim where negotiations are going smoothly. Almost too smoothly. Until a tragedy threatens to cease all negotiations within her lifetime and even start a war. Will Rhona ever be able to achieve unity when everything she believes about her world is shattered? 

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Here comes the cover…



*drumroll*




Much thanks to my critique partner and fellow writer, Faith Boggus! You did such a great job on bringing Rhona, my protagonist, to life through watercolor. I can’t wait to share her adventures with the rest of you, my dear readers. Mark your calendars for March 3rd because that’s when I plan on unleashing “The Diplomat’s Daughter” on the world! 

You can pre-order your copy here

Until then, here’s a little sneak peek to tide you over:


Ancients’ Memory, Summer Equinox, 4137
Keepers Present: Rhona and Ervin Farlane

Father once told me that we’re all still a part of the human race, no matter what the Elders claimed. Which isn’t entirely true because thousands of years ago after our world began, we murdered the human race. Now we’re all that’s left.

Or so I thought.

Spring of the year 4137, Finley proposed his most wonderful, foolhardy idea yet. Even at twenty years old, he was coming up with reckless ideas that would probably get us killed. Naturally, I supported his idea and Ellard protested. But not much. Not this time. Even as the pitch black of night in the stable shrouded his face, I could just hear the smile behind his tense voice.

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

I cinched the girth and slipped the bridle off my shoulder. “Are you?”

It wasn’t a question of whether we wanted to get caught but rather if Finley and I wanted to lose to him. Again. Despite being Apprentice Communicator, Ellard was a natural-born rider. With his parents both working in the stables, he was practically born in the saddle. 

I heard the creak of leather behind me as he swung himself into the saddle. Of course he could tack up and mount in the dark twice as fast as I could. Show off. I frowned and reached out in the dark, feeling for my mare’s head. Just as I managed to slip the bridle over her ears, I heard Finley mount up.

“Come on, slowpoke!” he said.

I adjusted the chin strap and ran my hand down the horse’s neck, searching for the saddle. In the two seconds it took me to mount, Finley and Ellard were already leading their horses around me in opposite directions. I squeezed the reins tight, wishing to stare down both of them, but I knew they were doing it just to get on my nerves.

I pressed my heels into my horse’s sides, urging her out of the stable. Finley’s horse skirted out of the way, and I glanced back with a smile. “Are we racing or not?”

I kept silent from there on out as we rode past silhouettes of buildings, glad for the cover of clouds overhead. Just as long as my mare, March, could keep her footing—and we didn’t get caught—we’d be all right. After another minute, the last of the stone buildings gave way to rows of trees. The moon came out, lighting up the patches of the underbrush before us.

We rode on at a walk for another ten minutes, then stopped just behind two tall spruces, a place we often met in the daylight. Finley turned in the saddle to face Ellard and me. “All the way around the Haven. First one to make it back wins.”

I chuckled. “Wins what?”

“Why, respect of course,” Finley said.

Ellard scoffed.

“Ready?” Finley said.

I adjusted the reins in my hand, and March swung her ears back, tense, awaiting the word.

“Go!”

I couldn’t remember who shouted it, but I gave one kick and March surged ahead. With a pounding gallop, we tore off, bearing northward. The moonlight poured through the trees, just enough so that I could make out the underbrush and the boulders, just enough to tell that I was barely ahead of Finley on my left. Ellard was nowhere in sight, but I hadn’t the time to worry about him.

We were riding hard, and I focused all my attention on the path. Just as we skirted around the northern rim of the Haven, Finley’s horse veered to the right, dodging a tree and nearly running into me. March stumbled, recovered, and blasted right through a bush, setting us behind Finley by several yards. I grit my teeth as he took the lead and squeezed with my knees, urging March for more speed.

Finley held the lead all the way down the eastern side of the Haven and along the south. Just as we were curving back up west, I kicked again, letting out a shout, and managed to pull up next to Finley. We were riding neck-and-neck.

We had mere seconds before we reached the western rim where we’d started. Mere moments before I had to pull ahead of Finley. Mere breaths before—

Ellard’s horse charged between us, startling our horses. We pulled apart for a second, then galloped after him. But Ellard was already letting out a loud whoop as he charged through the trees where we started. He pulled his horse to a stop as Finley and I passed the trees simultaneously. I pulled back on the reins before we ran into Ellard.

Finley was laughing. “I’m going to need to see your memory on that last bit. How do we know you didn’t hang around here the whole time?”

“I didn’t cheat,” Ellard said, sounding offended. “That’s your job.”

Finely chuckled. “That it is, my boy. That it is… Oh, but not this time, I assure you!”

Ellard scoffed. “Sure.”

But even as we headed back towards the stables, I noticed how Ellard sat up a little straighter.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Character Types Intro: The Best-Friend-Turned-Evil-Villain

I’m adding to my regular blog posts! Surprise! Okay, for some of you, it’s not such a big surprise. I’m addicted to writing. Send help. No, really. Please don’t. I’m perfectly fine with the itch to put down words and stories and characters who won’t leave my imagination alone. Last year I added poetry, which was a success! Thank you, my dear readers. (I’ve added a whole page dedicated to poetry just for you). This year, I’m adding posts on the different types of fictional characters.

But I won’t just be discussing heroes and villains, love interests and mentors. No, it’s time to get more specific and include some wonderful examples. Anybody up for a session of fangirling/fanboying over your favorite fictional characters? Here we go!


Caution: because of the nature of this post, discussing characters, some attributes may be spoiled for the audience, though I have done my best to select well-known characters that people may already be aware of. Spoilers are specific to Captain America: Winter Soldier and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

The Best-Friend-Turned-Evil-Villain, here on referred to as the BFTEV. (Is it just me, or is that pronounced bef-tev in your head?) You think you know them. The hero and their friend have been on many epic adventures together—or ordinary ones depending on the genre. They have inside jokes, secret passwords, and great stories. They share a particular bond common among best friends. I mean, you can relate to their friendship so much! Then they stab you in the back. What’s not to like?

Okay, so it’s not always exactly like that. Usually the BFTEV is a product of brainwashing or some serious manipulation. And because this poor character is often forced to go against his/her hardcore beliefs, and his/her best friend, it makes for some excellent character conflict. How far would the hero go to save his/her best friend from the villain? Ah, but take it one step further. How far would the hero go to save his/her best friend from himself/herself?


Likable BFTEVs

Often times, this is either the character who was captured and brainwashed and/or manipulated. Although there are several characters I could list, I’ll stick with using Bucky Barnes as my primary example. He’s Steve Roger’s best friend. He was always there to get Steve out of trouble, but now he’s trying to patch his memory back together while running from various governments because Hydra turned him into one of the most notorious assassins.

Even when it means dying or fighting against his own team, Steve sticks to the catchphrase he and Bucky have, “I’m with you to the end of the line.”

Okay, so I listed Bucky as a likeable BFTEV, but that doesn’t mean everybody likes him. My sister surely doesn’t, but that’s because she’s team Iron Man. While not every BFTEV may be likeable, if they show up in a story, brainwashed, I find it really difficult to hate them despite their despicable actions because I know it’s not who they really are.

Unlikable BFTEVs

Then there’s the slimy best friend who turns into a villain either out of fear or greed or whatever motive and nobody likes him/her for it; aka the traitor. Unlike the likeable BFTEV, the unlikeable one is skilled with manipulating others and may even make some of his friends out to be villains. Take Peter Pettigrew for example—he betrayed James Potter, blamed Sirius for his crimes, and faked his own death. Nobody likes an outright traitor. Not even the villains they side with.

Mistaken BFTEVS

Finally, there’s always that character who people think is the BFTEV but actually wasn’t all along because the other characters confused their motivations. Take Sirius Black for example. He’s not a true BFTEV; he’s not a villain at all. But for years, everybody thinks he is. Maybe that’s why he’s one of my favorite characters. Unlike some villains, he truly is misunderstood. The mistaken BFTEV is a great illustration that jumping to conclusions about a person’s character before you’ve examined all the facts is never a good idea.

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” –J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

The BFTEV is one of my favorite fictional character types. I like the conflict, but more than anything, I like the potential for redemption and reconciliation.

***

Film references: Captain America: The First Avenger, Winter Soldier, and Civil War.

Literary references: J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Let’s chat! Who’s your favorite BFTEV? What type of fictional character do you want to read about next—the Pessimistic Mentor, That Guy Who Just Won’t Die, or somebody else? 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Tea Drinker's Guide to Writing

Writers, what’s your drink of choice? You may have heard the old argument, tea versus coffee. Well today I’m here to discuss the benefits of being a writer and an avid tea drinker.


Tea drinking is a wonderful thing. Back during my undergraduate studies, a group of my friends would host a tea party every Friday night. We’d gather together and fellowship and play music and, of course, drink tea. It was there that I tasted the most delicious spiced chai, which actually came from India. I’ve never had anything quite like it since, but it was those nights that introduced me to one of my favorite teas, so when I moved to England a couple years later, I knew a little bit about what to buy. 

And there are so, so many benefits to drinking tea and being a writer!


Tea comes in sooooo many varieties. 

With four general types of tea—black, green, white, and herbal—and hundreds of flavors, there’s plenty for people to choose from. My mom likes chai lattes. I prefer black, but am willing to try almost all others.


During my first trip to Oxford after my senior year, I discovered I didn’t like fruity teas. When I went to a celebration for scholarship winners, I discovered lemon ginger tea. It’s the only fruity tea I like. I also picked up peppermint and Welsh black tea along the way as well as the English tradition of milk and sugar. I’ll take my tea any way really, so long as it’s not green or fruity.

Not only are there teas for different tastes, but they can also help set the mood for your story. Writing a winter scene? Try some peppermint tea. Writing a death scene? Drink something black. Developing some morally-gray characters? There’s earl grey. Writing about a character with sass? There’s lemon ginger. I could go on and on.

The caffeine in tea is not overwhelming.

I love to exercise. But one of the downsides to that is that sometimes I get jittery. Drinking coffee doesn’t help, but with tea, I don’t have a problem. And for those who can’t have caffeine, there are plenty of caffeine free varieties to choose from.

If you’re a night-owl writer or you’re staying up late to meet a deadline, try a cup of tea. It will keep you hydrated, and the decaf varieties won’t keep you awake when you want to get some rest. Unless you’re me and the caffeine in tea doesn’t affect you at all. Then by all means, drink whatever kind of tea you want to keep yourself motivated.

Many fictional characters drink tea.

Captain Picard drinks earl grey. John and Sherlock drink tea all the time as do basically any characters from England. Come to think of it, I don’t usually read a lot of stories that include tea drinkers. Maybe I’m just not reading the right books? Let us change this, dear writers, and don’t be afraid to write about your favorite types of tea.

So why not join them and make yourself a cup?

A cup of tea a day keeps writer’s block away.

Okay, so maybe it doesn’t? The only real cure for writer’s block is writing. But it sounds good, right? Go ahead and have some tea.





Drinking tea is a great social activity for writers.

If there’s anything I learned about living in England, it’s that drinking tea can be either a solitary activity or a social event. Basically, anytime two people meet, aside from passing them in Lidl or the library, tea is offered. If you’re having a meeting with other writers, why not head to a cafĂ© or make a pot at your place. Every time I Skype or hang out with my friend Faith, we end up drinking tea. It’s a great social drink, and while it may not keep us from choking or spilling it everywhere, it keeps us hydrated while we introverts talk more than we usually would.

Tea serves as a great conversational filler.


Unfortunately, not a lot of readers understand writers. To them, writers are either long-dead or strange human beings who take pleasure in killing off their favorite characters. I’ve even read a couple of pins that ask if writers sit down and have a cup of tea with Satan while plotting deaths. Thank you, readers. I’m glad you have such faith in us!

While I can’t vouch for others, I’m sitting here sipping my coffee—oh, goodness, what am I doing? Anywaaaaay… If you’re finding yourself misunderstood or somebody asks a question you’re not quite sure how to answer (e.g. “What’s your story about?), just raise a cup of tea, smile like Sherlock after he accidentally dropped an eyeball in the cup, and say, “Tea?”

***


If you’re a coffee-drinker, be sure to come back next month for A Coffee Drinker’s Guide to Writing.

Let’s chat! What’s your favorite type of tea? What’s your favorite benefit to being a tea drinker and a writer? Did I leave anything out? 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

5 Fantastic Children's Books that Broke my Heart

I don’t usually cry to books, and I don’t actually throw them against the wall, no matter how much I may rave about wanting to do so. But I have read many, many books that have woven an excellent tale; enchanted me with the stories, the worldbuilding, and the characters; then broke my heart with a shattering ending. Children’s books are no exception. In fact, they can be some of the most brutal.

Caution: Because of the nature of this post, it contains spoilers for each of the following stories. Each book has its own section, so you may skip over certain books if you wish to avoid reading spoilers.


Children’s books may not contain intense action scenes, but that does mean they’re any less profound. In fact, they can be some of the most heart-wrenching stories because they include and are geared towards children. They may be read by kids and parents, teachers and college students. They all travel along a journey where they fall in love with the characters only to have a dashing truth break their hearts.

Listed in alphabetical order, here are just a few of the kid’s books that broke my heart. How do I have any feelings left? I have no idea. And don’t even get me started on YA books…


Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia

This book is beautiful and brutal and oh, my goodness, WHYYYY?

“When my husband died, people kept telling me not to cry. People kept trying to help me to forget. But I didn't want to forget… So I realize, that if it's hard for me, how much harder it must be for you.”

Like many kids, this book was required reading for me in elementary school. Filled with imaginative lands and storytelling, insightful tidbits, and realistic relationships, after all these years the story has stuck with me. I don’t remember ever crying to the book, but I’ve cried to the 2007 adaptation at least once.


C. S. Lewis’ The Last Battle

I thoroughly enjoy the Chronicles of Narnia, but this one has got to be my least favorite. This book is basically Lewis meets Shakespeare. Narnia is overrun, there are a false Aslan and a false god, Tash, running amuck, and the king becomes a murderer. Oh, yeah, and did I mention all the friends of Narnia die in a train wreck? Everybody dies.

This is not the Narnia I know and love.

Then there’s Susan, who’s turned her back on believing in Narnia. So she’s not with her family and friends when they all die. It breaks my heart.

I know the book is supposed to have some parallels with Revelation, but I still don’t care for it. And all the characters end up in Aslan’s country, so I suppose it has a happy ending and all, but doesn’t this mean I can never go to Narnia now? No wonder our wardrobe never worked…


Kathryn Erskine’s Mockingbird

No tears were shed in the reading of this book, but it is was the one, for me, that showed that there actually are fictional stories out there that address disabilities. Ten-year-old Caitlin has Aspberger’s, but she’s also struggling with the death of her older brother in her own, unique way. This book was very real, insightful, and enlightening for me.


Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls

A mixture between a children’s book and a graphic novel, this story’s combination of the sketches and the intense subject-matter made for a gut-wrenching book. I read this book when I was already having a bad day. Don’t do it. Just don’t. By the time I reached the end, I was bawling.

And now they just released a movie?! I’m bringing a box of tissues.


J. K. Rowling’s The Order of the Phoenix

Is this technically a YA book? Maybe. Who cares, I’m writing about it anyway. I ended up reading all the Harry Potter books after the movies were several years old. By that point, all the spoilers had been circling around Pinterest and other social media sites for quite a while, so for the most part, I knew which characters lived and which ones died. I just didn’t know when.

When reading this book, I allowed myself to relax and enjoy reading about the characters knowing they all had until the last book. Until they didn’t. I didn’t cry during this book or anything, but I made sure to text my friend to rant about how shocked I was before I even reached the end of the book.

Not to mention the way I related with the stress of schoolwork so much that I found it hard to enjoy the book. So relatability plus character deaths made this a difficult book for me to read, not that I had any difficulty reading it. I finished it in two days; yes, I’m crazy.

***

Enjoyed this post? You might also like: Book Review: Mockingbird and Book Review: We Were Liars.

Let’s chat! Have you read any of the above books? What was your response? Are there any other children’s books you enjoyed that are heartbreaking?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Poem: Weird Winter Weather

I can’t say I’ve ever known what normal feels like. I’ve never lived in one house for more than three years. I’ve never experienced a white Christmas, unless you count a white-sand beach. I know more about sailing, fencing, and Tae Kwon Do than I do American football. And wherever I go, I usually hear the words “warmer than usual” in reference to the weather.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve experienced my fair share of cold winters. One year, it snowed the week before Spring Break, and we got four days off, a pre-Spring Break break. I got so bored with not doing homework and finally gave in to joining the girls on my floor in a Lord of the Rings marathon.

Another time, we got a snow day at school, and my friends decided to walk downtown in the snow. It was a lovely several-mile walk, and we stopped for coffee. But the moment we set foot outside again, we couldn’t handle it. We called somebody else to come pick us up. My friends caught cold. I didn’t.

Maybe warm weather follows me around like it’s my superpower. Maybe I’ve just happened to live an unusual life. Either way, my time spent in England was no exception. I didn’t get burned the entire summer I spent in Italy, but I burned in England—in January. Perhaps it’s time to stop stereotyping winter as a perpetually snowy time with dreary days. After all, winter, like well-developed characters, can change from north of the equator and south of the equator, from country-to-country, and from day-to-day.

Weird Winter Weather

It’s that odd January morn’, you know the one,
where the daft daffodils spring their heads up to sing, “Good morning!”
and where the sun stifles a yawn and carelessly tosses back the clouds,                       
asking you if it’s not time to wake from a dreary doze. 
A western wind whispers that it’s still winter, so hold onto your coat,
but nobody can hear him over mocking magpies
or the scampering, trotting joy of the bulldog.
The States may be choking on snowdrifts, but
the citizens of Nottingham are out for a walk today,
hoping to keep the thoughts of a blasted blizzard at bay,
even as the sun rolls over and pulls the grey sheets back over his head.

***

Like this post? You might also Like: Some Notes on the Three Days of Summer and Bury Me

Let’s chat! What kind of weather do you prefer, hot or cold? Summer or winter? Spring or fall? What’s the oddest, least-stereotypical day you’ve experienced?