Sunday, December 31, 2017

POV in the Last of the Memory Keepers Series

I can’t believe it’s the end of 2017 already! At the beginning of this year, I set out on a self-publishing journey. In March, I published the first of my novelettes in e-book form, then in September, I released the entire Last of the Memory Keepers series in print. What fun this has been!


For fans of The Chronicles of Narnia and Paradise Lost, Last of the Memory Keepers is a compilation of six sequential stories and one poem. Follow Rhona Farlane and Ellard Coburn on their adventures to befriend members of other races while they fight to save their own. 

Today I’ll be discussing the point of view (POV) in the series and the way I strove to resolve any issues that arose with writing in first person. For those who have not read my series yet, I have done my best to keep this post spoiler-free.

*Winners for the giveaway have been selected.

Dual Perspective

The first novelette in the series, “The Diplomat’s Daughter”, is told from the perspective of Rhona Farlane. She’s knows what she wants out of life and she’s spunky, perhaps a little too much so for a diplomat-in-training. But she’s determined to follow her apprenticeship through to the end and unite the peoples of her world.

Notice Rhona’s detailed enthusiasm in the following excerpt:

“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.”

—Rhona Farlane, “The Diplomat’s Daughter” (LMK, vol. 1)

The second novelette, “The Quiet Apprentice”, takes a different approach, told from the perspective of her friend Ellard Coburn. Like Rhona, he’s an apprentice to one of the masters of the Memory Keepers, but unlike her, he’s skittish and gets along better with animals than with people.

Now compare that scene with Ellard’s confusion when his friends keep interrupting his study session:

“Finley held his hands up, then looked at me. ‘Ellard, can you please help me change the subject?’

“I couldn’t think of a single interesting thing to say. I was still trying to wrap my mind around their disagreement. Leave it up to a Memory Restorer [Finley] to argue about the color of a historical figure’s clothes. I couldn’t even remember who Zaire was, much less what he’d done.”

—Ellard Coburn, “The Quiet Apprentice” (LMK, vol. 2)

When it came to writing each perspective, Rhona’s and Ellard’s, I had to take their backgrounds into consideration. Rhona was raised by a diplomat, the Master of Deep Memory, and Ellard was raised by a stable hand and a horse trainer. Rhona comes from a privileged family of intellectuals, and Ellard comes from a more rural background who had to work harder to earn his apprenticeship.

A Verbal Account

The main issue I had with writing these stories arose because I decided to go with first person. After all, how was I supposed to tell the narrative from the perspective of characters who don’t write their history down? At one point, there’s even mention of Ellard, my second protagonist, being illiterate. So how is somebody who can’t even read supposed to write a story?

To resolve this issue, I went with a verbal account instead of a written one. Because the Memory Keepers have the ability to access the memories of the trees, they keep their records by speaking to the trees, like one would write their thoughts in a diary or recite their memories to a starship’s log in science fiction. As a result, I read each story aloud to my sister to ensure it flowed well and actually sounded like people might talk.

“The Quite Apprentice” (LMK, vol. 2) explores the concept of recording memories more so than the first story. At the end of the novelette (don’t worry, this is not a spoiler!), Ellard explains that he’s storing his memories in an oak tree. And in the final volume, a certain character reveals that he listened to each verbal account and wrote them down for public record.

The Problems with Memory

Memory can be fleeting. Sometimes, people ignore certain details or remember others incorrectly. Sometimes people forget things. And as alluded to in “The Memory Thief,” some people are made to forget.

Last of the Memory Keepers isn’t just a recitation of adventures written down by a scribe. Like some works of fiction, it’s the narrators who are putting together the pieces of their stories after they are resolved. Sometimes the stories may be an exaggeration or a reflection of the past. Sometimes they leave you wondering what’s real and what’s not.

Any mistakes are my own, or you can blame it on the troubles with memory. Most of all, this series—this book—is just a story. I hope you enjoy it.

Giveaway Time!

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! So I’ve been hosting a lot of giveaways this month, but I can’t help it. I like my readers! Today I’ll be giving away two prizes: 1) a signed copy in print and a desert rose; 2) the entire e-book series (Volumes 1-6). Enter to win one of two prizes below:

Let’s chat! Which prize sounds more appealing to you? Have you added Last of the Memory Keepers to your To-Be-Read List yet? For those who have read the first two volumes, whose perspective did you enjoy the most: Rhona’s or Ellard’s? If you haven’t read any volumes yet, which character sounds most appealing?


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Guest Post, Character Types: The Twins by Sarah Fluegel

Welcome to the latest post on Character Types in fiction. Today, I’m featuring a post by a guest writer and a dear friend of mine. Please welcome Sarah Fluegel as she writes about twins and their common tropes in fiction!

There’s something about twins that’s naturally intriguing to people—something about their similarities and the way they act around their twin draws people in. A lot of this curiosity and interest overflows into books and media. Whether they are identical or fraternal, the same or different genders, the interest exists whenever twins appear in a story. The thing is, though, that just like any other character, twins can fall into common tropes. They can even become a trope themselves. Though interesting to read, these common tropes can become boring for viewers or readers but oh so easy for the writer to fall into.

The first trope that often goes along with twins is the overly identical trope; this is when characters go beyond being biologically identical. This is creepy identical, like the twins from The Shining identical. They look, dress, talk, and act exactly the same. They’re so similar that they might as well be the same person.

Twins who fall in to the overly identical trope are left with out much character development and gain most of their interest from the fact that they are twins. Tim and Jim from Kim Possible act almost exactly alike, and the only thing that really separates them is the color of their shirt. Padma and Parvati, like Fred and George in the Harry Potter movies, are even sorted in to the same house and dress in nearly the same dress for the Yule ball.

The problem that happens when authors take identical twins to the extreme is that they loose opportunity to develop character for each individual person. Not that any of the authors did a horrible job of writing their characters, but it also goes to show how easily this trope can be fallen into.

The second trope that pops up a lot in media is the polar opposite twins. They may look alike, but their personalities are night and day. This can be a good thing, but like the identical trope, it can easily go wrong. This trope is where when one twin likes something or does something really well, and the other likes or does the complete opposite. If one is artsy, then the other plays sports. If one can sing, the other is tone deaf. Or if one is suave and a romantic, you can bet the other one can barely even talk to the opposite sex.

In the Sweet life of Zack and Cody, Zach is the “cool”, athletic, ladies’ man while Cody is the nerdy, genius with no skills with the ladies. By playing into these stereotypes, writers can run the risk of flattening their characters. Instead of the rich characters that writers hope to create by creating opposite personalities for their twins, they can become one-dimensional. Their characteristics can become so reliant on the other person that it doesn’t allow the character to surprise you.

When you know that one twin is going to act a certain way and that the other twin will act in the opposite way, the plot and characters becomes too predictable. You lose a lot of what makes the characters seem real, that each person is unique, and their interest don’t always follow the status quo. Now all authors can fall into stereotyping, but it seems to happen more easily with twins because you have another character to use the “opposite” traits.

In the end of the major problems with twins is that authors often forget that they are not writing one character but two. In my own life, I’ve meet people who just don’t get that twins aren’t identical in everything. They each have their own brain and thoughts and experiences that are entirely separate from their “other half.”

Twins aren’t photocopies of each other and they also aren’t photo negatives of each other. There’s cross over in interests and in friends. There’s similarities in speech patterns and mannerisms. But they are each uniquely their own person.

George and Fred from Harry Potter are a good example of twins that are identical but still stand as their own person. Sure, they may look and act similar, but enough character development has gone into making them their own person.

There are also twins that have the polar opposite personality but still seem like twins. Dipper and Mabel from Gravity Falls are a good example of polar opposites who still seem like twins. Dipper is a smart and focused monster-hunter while Mabel is a sparkle-obsessed, joy filled ball of sunshine. Throughout the show, they display interest in the other twin’s passion and have a loyalty that can really only come from being a twin.

My favorite set of twins in media is Marvel’s Wanda and Pietro Maximoff. When you are first introduced, you don’t know they’re twins, partially because they are fraternal, partially due to good writing. They act like twins—truly they do—even though some audiences may disagree. They don’t wear similar colors or talk in the same way, but they have a loyalty and a connection that is something different than regular siblings have. It’s not that they are polar opposites or exactly the same, but they are people that just happen to be twins.

Which is how twins should be written, whether they are identical or fraternal—just as people who happen to have another person running around who either looks startling similar to themselves or simply shared a room since before they were born.


Meet the author:

Sarah Fluegel is an artist, English major, and art editor at her university’s literary magazine. She grew up with two older sisters who happen to be identical twins. When she’s not in class, she spends the rest of her time trying to keep her dragons from burning down her university.

Let’s chat! Be sure to give Sarah a warm welcome! Who are your favorite sets of twins in fiction? What are your (least) favorite twin tropes?

Sunday, December 17, 2017

7 Facts About Critique Partners (For Writers!)

So you think you’re ready to publish your story? Or maybe you’re not there yet. Maybe you’re just looking for an editor. Did you know even editors like the manuscript as polished as possible? (Deep down, we’re all lazy human beings…) Have you considered having a critique partner go over your story?

What is a critique partner, you might ask? Well, they’re usually fellow writers who can look at your story objectively. Not to be confused with editors or beta readers (who look over more polished drafts and have fewer responsibilities), critique partners have the mindset of a writer and are there to help you improve the structure and logic of your story. Here are just a couple of facts writers should know about critique partners, whether they’ve had them before and need a reminder or in case they’re considering taking some on.

1)      Critique partners do not have an initial emotional connection to your story.

For many writers, their story is like their child. Critique partners, usually other writers, are like teachers. If they don’t like one element of the story, many writers may take it as a personal attack. Please allow me to set something straight. Dear writer, your story is not a human being. You’re going to be okay even if somebody doesn’t like it.

Instead of treating critiques like a personal attack on your favorite pet, treat critiques like an editing exercise. Yes, it’s hard. No, I don’t have it mastered. When I’ve been getting critiques on my story, I often have to take a step back and remind myself it’s not a personal attack. It’s an exercise to build and improve my story. Sure, I vent to one or two of my writer friends if there’s a particular issue troubling me, but I can’t let it rule me.

Don’t let somebody’s critical comments rule you.

2)      Critique partners don’t like to read first drafts.

Nobody likes to read first drafts. Rough drafts are inconsistent word dumps. They’re messy. Why would you put somebody else through that?

Perhaps one of my favorite pieces of writing advice is to write your first draft just for you. Keep it secret. Keep it safe. Hone your story through at least one round of rewrites and edits. Then you can burn the original if you want.

You get back what you put in. If you don’t put a lot of effort into at least making your story readable, your critique partners aren’t going to put a lot effort into commenting let alone reading.

3)      Critiques are subjective.

Did you know, critique partners are human too? That means their word is not always law. Take what you need, leave what you don’t.

It’s like any book review. Take your top books for example. Maybe you gave it 5/5 stars, but you’ve seen a lot of 4/5-star and 3/5-star reviews, maybe even some 2/5 stars. It’s even more difficult when such a review comes from a friend or family member. How could they not obsess over the same book you do!?

Remember, everybody has their own opinions, likes, and dislikes. I don’t like romance, but that doesn’t mean all romance books are poorly written. They’re just not my preference.

So if you receive comments about how your critique partners didn’t like a certain element, it might be the reader.

4)      At least two critique partners are optimal.

A second opinion is great. A third opinion is better. Remember how I mentioned that critique partners are human too? Even they can miss things. Maybe your first partner is great at identifying character development and points out inconsistencies. But the second partner points out how you skipped over Sunday or that your protagonist hasn’t eaten in 48 hours.

Having more than two people look over your story can give you some well-rounded commentary.


5)      More partners doesn’t always mean better.

Wait a second, didn’t I just claim at least two partners are good? True. But, if you have two or more people in a room, you’re going to have some disagreement. Try putting ten people in a room. Or twenty. Then ask them what they’re favorite color is and try to figure out why it’s not the same as yours. 

The same goes for your novel. You want to have as many well-rounded opinions as you can get, but you have to stop somewhere. The necessary number of critique partners can differ from story-to-story, but I would recommend two or three. After all…

6)      Critique partners might even disagree with each other.

Because I live in Europe, it’s hard to find fellow writers who speak English and have time to look over my stories. So I joined an online critique group, Critique Circle, where you can get feedback on your story and give feedback in return. And I was so excited for complete strangers to tell me what they thought. Until they started contradicting one another.

One reader would enjoy a particular chapter, saying they liked the description and the thought while another person would say they were bored. Wait, what? How was I supposed to make a story better if one person was happy with the chapter and another person was bored?

But such critiques were helpful. They taught me how to improve my story even more, identifying the weak bits and building on the strong ones.

I also learned that when two partners who tend to disagree with each other actually agree that something needs work, I better listen!

7)       In the end, it’s still your story they’re commenting on.

You can’t please everybody. While it’s important to consider others’ opinions to build and improve your story, it’s still your story. No story is perfect. So you might as well write the story for you. After all, who else is going to read it over and over again until they want to set it on fire? If you enjoy your story, you’re less likely to do so.

Remember why you started writing your story. Keep the essence if it’s important to you. Tell your story. The world is waiting to read it!

Let’s chat! Has your story been reviewed by any critique partners yet? How do you find them? Do you hunt them down in your local library and bribe them with chocolate or do you find them lurking in the woods?

Looking for a critique partner for your story? Look no more! Join a critique website or comment below if you want me to look over your story. Check out my Treasured Books page for a list of books I consider excellent. I look forward to hearing from you.

Write on!


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Controversy in Fiction: Diversity

Welcome back to my mini-series, Controversy in Fiction. Each post can be read separately and in no particular order, as each one explores a different topic. This week, I’ll be discussing diversity (particularly racial diversity) and its place in fiction.

Originally, I wasn’t going to write about this topic because it intimidates me. Racial tension is such a drastic political issue in the United States right now that I find myself wanting to curl up with a book in a corner and pretend it doesn’t exist.

Seriously, how can people hate each other so much? It breaks my heart.

Then I found myself picking up more racially diverse books, from Outrun the Moon and Young Fu Of The Upper Yangtze to The Help and The Hate U Give. And I realized that since I’m writing a series on controversy in stories, I couldn’t be silent, even if I end up in a disagreement. Silence is a statement of sorts. So here goes. Brace yourself!

Disclaimer: This post may contain controversial opinions that are not necessarily the same as those of readers. While my personal experiences come from a Caucasian perspective, I have done my best to remain objective and mean no offense. Similarly, I do not claim to know everything, but I have done my best to present each argument with dignity and respect.

Having traveled throughout my life, I don’t know how a stereotypical white person is supposed to act. I don’t even know how your typical American is supposed to act. After all, I take my shoes off in my house like the Germans and the Japanese; I wear my hair down like the Hawaiians; I collect tea and look right before crossing the street like the English; and I am obsessed with recycling like the Europeans.

Then as an introvert, I wonder, “How do I even people?!”

Okay, so I’m being a little dramatic. But having been raised in a military culture and having lived overseas for a good portion of my life, I’m not familiar with the average American’s life. But I still thoroughly enjoy culture! I like figuring out where people come from; I strive for the overcoming culture shock; and I enjoy learning about cultural dos and don’ts.

Throughout my life, my main influences have been my faith (Christianity), my family (the military community!), and my books (mostly fiction). And books can be seriously influential. They can help you to see things from another person’s point of view. Words are a powerful thing!

What do I mean when I say a book is diverse?

Diverse books tend to represent racial minorities, particularly but not limited to those in the United States. To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn are two good examples of diverse—and often banned—books. But diverse books, particularly ones that are released today, are not limited to historical fiction. Diverse books come in many forms, from historical fiction to contemporary, and from science-fiction to fantasy. Likewise, these books feature various people groups, from the black community to the children of immigrants.

Today, the publishing industry is bursting with diverse books. It’s one of THE things to be writing and reading. While the publishing rage for diversity in fiction may not last forever, the books themselves shall remain and continue to be published.

Argument: Diverse Books Represent Minorities

Racially diverse books can give readers from that race characters to look up to and relate with.

Likewise, books in and of themselves can be so enlightening. Not only can they be a means of travel, taking you to places you’ve never been, but they can also be a means of communication, bringing you voices you’ve never heard before. Or maybe you have heard such voices before, but you want to understand them better. Books can help you do that.

The Hate U Give, set in contemporary America, reminded me that our justice system is biased. Inside Out & Back Again, historical fiction, taught me about immigration from Vietnam to the States and what it can be like for a child. Young Fu and the Upper Yangtze, historical fiction, taught me what life was like in the city in China during the 1920s. I could go on.

Reading racially diverse books is important because it can help readers break out of their comfort zone of things they understand. Aside from learning from the culture itself, what better way is there to research another culture than to read about it?

Argument: Forced Diversity Can Be Unrealistic

Diversity can be important, yes, but it’s not always accurate. Not every town you visit will have a diverse community. Some cities are more diverse than others. While small towns tend to have fewer differences, larger cities tend to have more diverse people groups.

So when it comes to fiction, not every story can represent racial diversity.

One summer, my friend Faith and I went to see Les Miserables in London. Although not a story known for its diversity, the role of Fantine was played by a woman who appeared to have Asian ancestry. Did you know, in the book, Fantine is blonde —like her daughter Cossette? But I fully support the casting decision. In theater and films, the best roles should go to the best actors—or in musicals, to the best singers. 

An ethnically accurate cast of Les Mis, on the other hand, would feature only French actors and would not be performed in English. Plays like Les Mis can be like movies in the sense that they are mere interpretations of the books. Yes, they’re best understood and grasped in their original language and form, but when it comes to adaptations, the part of the characters should, generally speaking, go to whoever can portray it the best, regardless of race.*

*Exceptions should be made for characters who, canonically, represent minorities. But I digress. I’m writing about books.

Argument: Diversity in Books Can be Offensive

Racial diversity can be a tricky thing to handle.

Not only are racially diverse books offensive to racists, but these books might also offend those who are the subject of such racism. Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird have been banned at one time or another for their use of the n-word, despite the way their authors actually portrayed racism as an issue rather than an ideal.

Then there’s the whole issue of fighting racism with racism, which doesn’t make a lot of sense, if you ask me. Not a lot of people actually talk about it (probably because it’s not politically correct), but racism isn’t strictly a white-vs-black issue. It’s a human issue. So whenever people decide to blame all racism on Caucasians for the acts of others or for the acts of their ancestors, that’s when I remember to take the advice of Leslie Burke to heart:

“You are who you are—not your parents.” (Bridge to Terabithia)

Argument: Diverse Books Can Improve Empathy

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” (Atticus, To Kill a Mockingbird)
Racially speaking, I’m not among any minorities, unless you count that tiny percentage of Native American going who-knows-how-many generations back. (My siblings got the good gene on that one: they tan; I burn.) So I can’t speak from the perspective of an American minority unless you throw me into a city or state where Caucasians are sparse.

I may not be a member of a minority, but I know what it’s like to feel like the odd-one-out. I may not be an immigrant, but I know what it’s like to live in a foreign culture. It’s so easy to relate with characters in books. And even if I can’t relate to a character, at least I can empathize with them. So when it comes to fiction, don’t just tell me I don’t understand a certain perspective. Help me understand. I’m listening.

If all the books were told from the same perspective, the world would be a pretty boring place. But it’s not! I’m all for diverse books. The more the merrier. When I pick up a book written from another person’s perspective (basically any book, really), it’s a risk, yes. But it’s a risk worth taking.

Let’s chat! What’s your take on diverse books? What are three diverse books you’d recommend? Do you have a particular perspective you like to read about, or do you enjoy them all?

If you happened to miss my last book giveaway—good news!— I’m running another. Tis the season for books. If you want to get in on this special offer, be sure to sign up for the Word Storm Newsletter! (And check out my post on Last of the Memory Keepers: the Five Races.) My next newsletter comes out this Friday (Dec. 15, 2017), and I’ll be giving away a signed copy of Last of the Memory Keepers along with a desert rose. Aren’t they pretty?* 

*Reindeer not included in giveaway.


Film references: Les Miserables and Bridge to Terabithia

Literary references: Stacey Lee’s Outrun the Moon, Elizabeth Foreman Lewis’ Young Fu Of The Upper Yangtze, Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out & Back Again, and Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Poem: Snowfell

No, I did not misspell snowfall. The title is Snowfell on purpose. I like the thought of a quaint little town in the mountains, slick with a layer of ice, covered in a layer of snow, and dusted with another layer of loose flakes. Where its citizens bundle up in fur coats, sporting long scarves and colorful berets. This place is, unfortunately, fictional. But I did draw from some elements of a European winter. And I can dream. 

Based off the latest snowfall in my own little town, the following poem features an early winter. 


The crunch of snow underboot
is quite unlike the rub of
some cotton ball, though they both
send a shiver down my spine.

Her aroma tickles my
nose, her pale flakes make me sneeze;
some breeze whirls the strays like grains
of sand on this lived in land.

Mistletoe hangs green on these
bare branches now cradling
white blankets, green parasites,
like some love is born of death.

Fog fills lungs, bitter iron
touches my tongue, eyes water,
souls soak, sweat freezes, smoke blows
on this here autumn morning.

I’m also running a giveaway for my novelette series. So be sure to add it on Goodreads and enter to win one of three free signed copies of Last of the Memory Keepers series!  (Offer ends Dec. 8, 2017.)

Let’s chat! What’s autumn like in your hometown? How about winter? What’s your favorite thing about snow?