Sunday, February 28, 2016

Infinity Dreams Award and Nominations

Hello, readers! With an added day this year, I’ve also included an added post! I was recently nominated for the Infinity Dreams Award, a blogger tag for writers so that readers can get to know them. Thanks again for the nomination by movie critic and blogger S. M. “Tea” Metzler (Tea with Tumnus).  I can make no promises to keep this post short.

Infinity Dreams Award rules:

1)     Thank and follow the blog that nominated you.
2)     Tell us 11 facts about yourself.
3)     Answer the questions that were set for you to answer.
4)     Nominate 11 bloggers and set questions for them.

11 Facts About Me

  1. Despite having nearly every clothing article imaginable in purple, I am not obsessed with the color. It’s one of those things where once somebody finds out you like something, that’s all they’ll give you. Yes, I like purple, but I also like a bit of variety, thank you very much.
  2. I have lived in three different countries excluding my home country: Germany, Italy, and England. No, I don’t have a favorite.
  3. I can speak survival German and Italian, meaning I can order food and ask for basic directions.
  4. My favorite type of chocolate changes from year to year. Right now it’s white chocolate. And if you don’t like chocolate, SO HELP ME… that’s fine. More for me.
  5. I have a scar on my right arm from running into a fence.
  6. I prefer pie to cake. But I really like cheesecake and zupfkuchen, a Russian cheesecake with cherries, a chocolate crust, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Yes, it is as heavenly as it sounds!
    Zupfkucken: a little piece of heaven.
    Photo credit: Michael T. Klein
  7. I have tried a variety of sports from ice skating to sailing to horseback riding to fencing. I’ve spent the longest time horseback riding (mostly Western, but I’ve done English), and I’m currently learning to fence using the foil (the bendy sword).
  8. I despise stereotypes and like thinking outside the box.
  9. I’ve never lived in the same house for longer than three years, and I can’t stand having my room with the same setup for longer than six months.
  10. I have a God-given tattoo (aka. a birthmark) in the shape of an angel on my right ankle.
  11. Although I don’t care for movies, I will randomly toss out movie quotes in most conversations. My immediate family members are obsessed with movies, so quotes are something I’ve picked up as a means of basic communication.

Questions Set by Tea

1) Your book has been published and you are asked for permission to make it into a feature film. You say yes. Which actor/actress would you pick for your main character?
Tough question! I’m not very good at naming actors in general, so I’m not really sure. I’d prefer a talented, young actress who is generally unheard or just starting her career. I think big-name actors might have too many other characters associated with them.

2) Dream job? No matter how ambitious?
Shieldmaiden of Rohan. I could live in Middle Earth, horseback ride with some of my favorite characters, and wield a sword. I see no downsides to this. Except perhaps orcs… and creepy men… and ring wraiths… On second thought, maybe there are some downsides. Realistically, I’d like to be an author who can afford to write full time and attend writer’s conferences on a yearly basis.

3) If you had a superpower what would it be?
One of my favorite questions! I always have a hard time picking between two. 1) Chameleon powers: the ability to climb well, look in two different directions at once, and camouflage myself. 2) The power of suggestion: a telepathic ability to implant/suggest thoughts, such as the slamming of a door, a phone ringing, or a bug bite, etc. It may seem small, but there is so much I could do with it. 

4) Who is your favorite character to write and why?
It’s a tie between two characters. First, I enjoyed writing Thane, one of Lorne’s friends from Breaking a Thief. I like him because even despite his shortcomings and obvious blunders, he shows great courage when everybody expects it of him the least.

Another character I’ve enjoy writing is a more recent one—Finley Craig, another supporting character in my latest project. Though he’s defiant and reckless, he knows how to see a job through to the end.  

5) What kind of music do you enjoy listening to while writing? If it helps you write, how?
Movie soundtracks. They help my mind get into a certain mood. For example, if I’m writing fantasy, I’ll usually listen to Thor or How to Train Your Dragon, but I listened to the Sherlock Holmes soundtracks while writing Breaking a Thief. Soundtracks help me to focus and encourage me to write faster when the tempo picks up.

6) Currently, your favorite book quote?
“‘I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.’” –Puddleglum, The Silver Chair

7) If you were allowed to meet just one fictional character, who would you pick?
Just one? But… But… Fine. Mo from Inkheart. Then I could meet ANY fictional character! Because that never ends badly…

8) How would you like your writing to impact your readers?
I want to be able to move my readers. To make them laugh and cry. I want readers to be inspired and to be able to relate on a personal level with at least one character. Even if readers don’t remember my name or the plotline, I’d like something in the story to encourage them to reflect on life.

9) Your arch enemy? (Doesn’t have to be a person.)
Self-doubt and Fear. I can be my biggest critic and have a tendency to overthink everything. Many times I assume that I’m not good enough and won’t be able to achieve anything… despite how far I’ve already come. 

10) Tea or coffee?
Both! I prefer strong teas that aren’t fruity, especially spiced chai, lemon ginger, and mint tea. As for coffee, I like it strong and black, but I also drink cappuccinos and espresso macchiato on a weekly basis.

11) If you could travel to just one destination in all of your favorite fandoms/books/movies, where would you go?
Another difficult question. There are so many places I’d like to visit and things I’d want to do and see and people I’d want to talk to. But if I could pick only one, I’d probably visit the Silver Sea from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. This particular book from The Chronicles has so many portions of sheer wonder. As the characters draw closer and closer to the end of the world, gradually being able to look straight at the sun as they live on light, I’m reminded of the parallels of being so close to heaven. Wouldn’t it be something to travel so close to Aslan’s country?


Faith Boggus (A Boggus Life)
Cait Grace (Paper Fury)
Emily Tjaden (This Incandescent Life)
Alex Micati (Éditos and Poésies)

Here are my questions for you (No, I’m not sorry. But please don’t feel pressured to participate if you don’t want to.):
  1. If you could have lunch with any author living or dead, who would you want to meet?
  2. What’s your favorite place to write? 
  3. What’s your favorite genre? Why?
  4. Pirate or ninja?
  5. If you got stranded on a desert island and could have one book with you, what book would it be? 
  6. What is one of your big goals for 2016?
  7. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 
  8. What is/was your major in college/university? If you didn’t major in that, what else would you have picked? (If you didn’t attend college/university, what would you pick?)
  9. What’s one of your favorite character types? Why? 
  10. Which time travel theory (alternate dimensions vs. fixed past vs. malleable past) do you prefer?
  11. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

How Editing Flash Fiction Helped me Edit a Novel

I really like words. A lot. In fact, I enjoy writing so much that I often have a hard time saying exactly what I mean in few words. Yes, it’s achievable, but I find it much easier to write ALL MY THOUGHTS when I should keep things short and simple. This has pros and cons. For one, writing essays is (sometimes) easier. As is coming up with a novel. Because once I have an idea, I already have 3 or more subplots and a character death or two already planned out.

But there can be beauty in simplicity too.

Although I wrote my first novel at twelve, I didn’t get my first story published until I was seventeen. And it was a piece of flash fiction—less than 1,000 words. While I haven’t stopped writing novels, I went on to publish two more flash fiction pieces before I decided to tackle editing a novel.

I knew such a project would be more ambitious than any I had attempted before. Sure, I had edited a novel before, back when I was fourteen, but nothing ever became of the project aside from my learning experience. So it was that I approached a 72,000-word story and decided to completely re-work it until I was pleased or close to satisfied or ready to give up with frustration because goodness, why can’t novels edit themselves?

During my multi-draft process, of rewriting and editing, and receiving feedback from my beta readers and my editor, I learned a valuable lesson. Editing what became a novel story really wasn’t that different from editing a 1,000-word one. But what, you may ask, could editing flash fiction and editing a novel possibly have in common?

1.     Flash fiction and novels both have word limits.

Wait a minute. Aren’t novels SIGNIFICANTLY longer than short stories? Yes, they are. But unless you’re writing War and Peace or The Lord of the Rings, you’re going to face some restrictions on how many words your novel can have. Too short, and you’re writing a novella. Too long, and your story probably won’t be taken seriously by a publisher/literary agent.

Different novels will have different restrictions depending on the genre. Young adult, for example, can be anywhere from 50,000-80,000 words. But since I like long books, I decided to add some things to my novel and ended up with 90,000 words in draft 2.

That’s where my previous experience editing flash fiction came in handy. I was already used to cutting words, paragraphs, and scenes trying to get a short story below 1,000 words, so I used the same basic principles with my novel. Basically, if it a sentence didn’t contribute to the plot, I cut it. If a paragraph bored me, I cut it. If I questioned a scene’s very necessity and worth, I cut it.

In the end, I managed to trim my bulky 90,000-word novel down to a neat 79,765 words, just within the recommended limits for a YA novel.

2.     Flash fiction and novels both have plot.

I should think this one is quite obvious. But just because flash fiction is short doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the basic structure of a novel. Although the inciting incident and the climax may not be nearly as drawn out as in a novel, short stories still have them.

Personally, writing flash fiction pieces helped me most with these two points. If I couldn’t figure out where to start the story right away, I would write WAY over 1,000 words and have to scrap the entire story. But once I figured out the perfect opening lines, the rest fell into place.

Except for the ending. Writing endings are easy. Writing GOOD endings are the bane of my existence. But trying out different endings over the course of multiple drafts was really helpful in writing flash fiction. It helped me realize how much I struggle with them and how helpful it can be to receive feedback on such plot points prior to submissions. I would not have been able to write ANY good endings without the help of my friends. 

3.     Writing and editing flash fiction and novels both taught me that being a writer is a TON of work.

And I mean a TON. Personally, I worked with a lot of drafts in my novel. So many, I lost count, but I’d estimate close to five. That’s a 1) rough draft, 2) a rewrite, 3) first round of feedback, 4) second round of feedback, and 5) professional and final edits.

Actually, this is pretty decent, considering most of my flash fiction stories underwent five to seven rounds of edits before they were ready for publication. So five drafts over the period of several months felt pretty good.

Of course, every writer is different, so the editing process and time is bound to vary from writer to writer. But if you can’t handle the process and effort of editing a 1,000-word story, editing a 50,000-or-more-word story is probably not for you.


Basically, the main difference between editing a flash fiction piece and editing a novel is time. Flash fiction can take a couple of hours, maybe a day, but a novel can take weeks if not months. 

So if you usually write novel-length projects, don’t be afraid to try something different. Like a flash fiction piece. Or a couple blog posts. All writing is a learning experience. And if you’ve completed a novel-length story but haven’t edited it yet, what are you waiting for?

How many drafts does it usually take you to polish a story? Have you ever considered writing something aside from your usual length? If you have done so, what did you learn?

Enjoyed this piece? Check out my flash fiction: “Blue Ribbon,” “The List,” and “The Lamb’s Brook of Life.”

Sunday, February 14, 2016

3 Reasons I Don't Read Romance Novels

No, this isn’t your typical Valentine’s Day post. First off, let me clarify that I have nothing against romance. Sometimes I may actually find myself shipping characters. But most of the time, I try to avoid strictly romantic novels because I’m not so much interested in the gushy love as I am the actual relationships between characters whether romantic or not.

Secondly, allow me to clarify what I mean by romance novels. I’m not referring to the literary term romance novels, a type of prose that we would associate with adventure today (eg. Le Morte Darthur). By romance novels, I mean the popular term referring to novels centered on two characters who fall in love. Here are just a few of the reasons I don’t prefer to read this type of romance:

1) Predictability.

I find romance novels predictable because they all progress the same way and have two different endings: the couple gets together or one/both of them die. Because of this predictability, there are many restrictions for the genre. Because of spoilers, I will refrain from listing a bunch of examples, but the stereotype I would say is Romeo and Juliet.

Some other genres, however, do not act this way. Historical fiction, for example, can have several different kinds of plots and subplots, and mystery deals specifically with the unpredictable and little details. Generally speaking, when I’m looking for a good book to read, I prefer something that will not just make me feel something but also make me think.

John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars is an exception to this point. While some of its aspects are predictable, and self-consciously so, it made me think on life, relationships, and mortality. If an author, like Green, can acknowledge predictability and handle it in a way that still moves and audience, I’ll probably enjoy the book.

2) Sentimentality.

Said in my best Sherlock impression: “Sentiment.”

If there’s anything that annoys me more than a boring book, it’s one that appeals so much to feelings that it’s not only un-relatable but also unrealistic. I could compare my general dislike for romantic sentimentality to my original dislike for musicals. You know the kind, where the whole story comes to a complete stop for the characters to sing a dramatic song that has absolutely nothing to do with the plot. It’s moments like these I would roll my eyes and just say, “Okay. I get it. Can we please get back to the story!”

I’m not a big fan of gushy, feel-good types of stories. And while I can sometimes tolerate a kissing scene, full out make out sessions between characters are annoying, and sex scenes are a complete turn off. I have stopped reading several books, including some historical fiction novels, for the latter reason.

3) Popularity.

And a very pretty copy it is!
Romance novels tend to be popular, not literary fiction. Notice how I wrote TEND not ARE. Yes, you have books like Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. (I have yet to read the latter. Don’t worry, it’s on my list. It has to be. I own a copy. See right.) But many, not all, romance novels today tend to lack the literary qualities that I enjoy so much. Instead, they attempt to appeal to a wider audience for the sake of popularity.

And just because everybody else is reading a novel is not a great reason I should. While there are plenty of bestselling authors whose books I have not read, there are many fantastic authors whose books I thoroughly enjoy but nobody has heard of. This is not to say that I prefer the obscure, but there’s something charming about having read a book without an overwhelming fandom. You don’t get all the drama. Of course, that won’t stop me from trying to recommend unknown books to all my friends.


Sure, I enjoy a well-written romantic subplot. In fact, whenever the romance doesn’t dominate the plot, I find myself enjoying the relationships and will actually ship characters. Some great examples include The Scorpio Races and The Alliance Series. When an author first gets me to care about the characters, then I’ll care about the romances between them.

I’ve heard it said that the biggest romantics are those who deny they’re romantics at all. Whether this post says anything about me, I’ll let you decide. Despite all my rantings, I don’t have anything against romance in a story. I just don’t think it should be the main focus. Personally, I prefer YA adventure, mysteries, and all sorts of fantasy.

Just like the historical fiction fan may find it difficult to enjoy a sci-fi novel, so the swashbuckling adventurer in me has a hard time enjoying romantic-centered books. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy The Princess Bride so much. The book has a little bit of everything—humor, swordfights, logic, betrayal—and yeah, I guess the romance isn’t so bad after all.

What’s YOUR favorite genre to read? What are some of the books you’ve read with well-written romantic subplots? And for the sake of Valentine’s day, who’s your favorite fictional couple?

Literary references: Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races, L. Nicodemus Lyon’s The Alliance Series, and William Goldman’s The Princess Bride.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Starlight: A Poem

Despite my general dislike for most movies, every now and then, I see one that really speaks to me and makes me think. Last year, my mom and I watched Words, a film about writers and a book within a book. Without giving too much away, the movie made me reflect on the way I care about my stories and the way I care about people. It also made me think about my own writing and my fear that my words will never be good enough.

Right after the movie, I rushed downstairs, my fingers itching to type something to capture such thoughts. I knew I had to write. But what could I say? How could I reflect upon a good film without being pretentious? The following poem is the result.


It’s only a shadow—
Dancing by the light of the moon.
You throw your head back and laugh
in the darkness, alone with the crickets
chirping, singing your song.
The pond swirls beneath your feet,
murky mud between your toes,
comforts of being at home—
Four walls and a roof. Until it’s a set
three walls, imagine a ceiling,
and feign the motions. Follow the cues,
the script, strictly standing before you.
Don’t think to disobey. They’ll hear you
break the fourth wall. Standing in the sunlight,
bare arms prickle with goosebumps before a winter audience.
Don’t make me do it. I can’t dance.