Tuesday, March 10, 2015


So I asked my friends on Facebook to "Ask Me Anything"... and here's how they responded!

What's your favorite/least favorite key to play in on the violin and why?—Anthony

First off, let me clarify that I play the viola. It looks like a violin, and it's in the same octave, but whereas the violin strings run G-D-A-E, the viola strings are C-G-D-A.
Favorite Key: D; major or minor doesn't matter. The reason is that if I play a low D on my C string, it leaves the remaining strings G (the subdominant), D (the octave), and A (the dominant)—and the whole instrument resonates!
Least favorite: B, because NO OPEN STRINGS. Boo. Actually, any key with more than three sharps or flats in the signature is generally a pain for a string musician.

The three worst movies you've ever seen.—Lauren

This is assuming I actually remember the bad movies I have ever watched... Oh, but now that I've thought about it for the last hour...

Avatar--SO much potential... and yet an epic fail from premise to end credits! I was willing to forgive the blatantly propagandist storyline for the sake of stunning visuals... and then Cameron lost me at "Unobtanium." UNOBTANIUM??? YOU HAVE AN ENTIRE FREAKING RACE WITH AN AMAZING-SOUNDING LANGUAGE AND YOU THINK YOU CAN JUST SETTLE TO CALL IT UNOBTANIUM???? By the end of the movie I had a list of names for this ultra-specific, rare, and vital mineral that could have passed for legitimate and totally fit within the world... and an even longer list of names for lazy-butt writers who think that spectacular effects and a star-studded cast is enough of an excuse for shoddy writing. NOT EVEN CLOSE. I paid 50 cents to see that movie, and I think I overpaid. I don't care how many awards it won. The movie was just bad.

Flywheel--I realize this is the first film produced by Sherwood Baptist Church, who would go on to found a film production company and produce several more increasingly-professional films in the years to follow... but in the interest of filling out the quota of "Three of the worst films" this one makes the cut. The acting was okay, the writing was mediocre--the cinematography was home-video-grade for sure... but, like the unfortunate result of far too many "Christian" films, it fell flat as anything other than a "church flick."

Love Comes Softly--Gag me with a Hallmark film. So what if this is Katherine Heigl and Dale Midkiff? It's also Michael Landon, Jr.--the quintessential "one-trick pony" of the film-making industry. It's also a western romance (with profoundly misappropriated theological overtones!) that tries to put on its Sunday best and be a moral movie. News flash: it's a prairie soap opera, and has about as much intrinsic value. You're better off, oh, I don't know, living life in the real world, maybe.

What prompted you to start writing and reviewing books?!—Ronnie

Whoa, now! That's two questions in one, really.

As far as writing books... I think it is safe to say I started writing books (meaning "more than 20 pages"—what I used to think constituted a "book"... Yeah right...) probably when I was thirteen or so. The first book I wrote that was longer than 50 pages happened to be Chronicles of Narnia fanfiction... But the first original book I was inspired to write at about the same time was "Fairies Under Glass," and that sort of "broke me away" from writing the short stuff, and anymore it feels like my stories get so complicated I couldn't make them any shorter unless I tried really hard! (Fun fact: "Protective Custody" was one of those stories that I wrote on a whim—like in the space of two months, just because the idea would not leave me alone—that if you had asked me from the onset, I would have sworn it was going to be a short story... Seventy-five pages later... Nope...)

The reviewing thing, that came later. I had not really considered reviewing the books I read. My blog was just new, and I was working really hard and not getting a lot of followers or views and wondering what I could do to improve my readership. My dad was the one who suggested book reviews... And so I asked around in a writers' group on Facebook, just seeing who was recently published who would be willing, and to date about a dozen people have taken me up on the offer! I have thoroughly enjoyed the process, not just getting FREE BOOKS (always a plus!) but also being able to give direct feedback to the writer about their work. As a writer myself I know how valuable that feedback can be!

When are you going to publish a novel?—Shaun


No, but seriously...
I have written a novella that is going to be (fingers crossed!) part of an anthology that is set to be released this fall... But first drafts aren't even due yet, and we haven't started the crowd-funding campaign so there's no telling where this is going to go...

After that, who knows? My biggest hurdle is knowing first of all which publishing avenue nets me the best deal—second of all, which of my dozens of good ideas can I feasibly finish in time and feel good enough about to put it forth as my "debut novel"?? Or should I go with an idea I have already finished—such as the ones I have used for Serial Saturdays? (At one point I was considering even publishing the Suggestion Box Series' as what they are: a string of short stories, and a couple really long ones; you all are welcome to let me know what you think of that idea!) I feel like once I've reached the end of a novel and I feel like "Yes! THIS IS THE ONE!" I can finally go ahead and publish it. Till then ... I'll just keep writing!

What is your favorite book from the old classics, and how did it influence your worldview?—Pamela

Hmm, this is a good question! I would have to say that, after growing up reading the pastel-colored, light and fluffy idyllic children's-literature-type stuff, finally reading "The Screwtape Letters" (how "old" are we talking, here?) really caused me to sit up and take notice of my writing. As far as influencing my worldview--I find that the best books always give me something to reflect on as I come away from them, and "re-enter" (in a way) my normal life. So in a way, nearly all the old classics helped shape my worldview in some little way. 
"Screwtape" wouldn't be my favorite, though. I would have to say maybe something more like "Eight Cousins" or pretty much anything by Louisa May Alcott. I love her characters so much, I have re-read her books like at least a dozen times each. (I may have even attempted adapting "Eight Cousins" for a radio drama at one point...)

What author has had the greatest influence on your writing?—Erin

Oh, this is a tough one! So many... But I would have to say that the few that have had the most influence--especially since finishing college--are Ray Bradbury (specifically Farenheit 451) and Isaac Asimov (his style, for sure! I have read so many of his novels, and I love them all!) in the sci-fi genre, Cornelia Funke (author of Inkheart and Reckless, two utterly FANTASTIC series!) and J. K. Rowling when I'm writing fantasy, and Marcus Zusak (predominantly The Book Thief). The thing is, I tend to "take on" the style of whatever I read or watch a lot of, so I would definitely attribute my style to a lot of sources. 
In particular, though, I list Farenheit 451 because of one specific quote from there that has stuck with me for the last five years since I read it, that has profoundly impacted my approach to writing: when one of his characters says, "Good writers touch life often." I read that and realized as I never had before that this is what makes the great literature so great. It was their use of language to connect the reader to real-life things, even in the most remote fantasy or sci-fi environment. Provided the writer stays in touch with real life, the reader can relate to the world within the pages, and it becomes that much more viable--but not as an escape from reality, rather a new way of understanding it. Touching life often means that the writer ensures that what he writes never loses touch with reality, so that leaving the world of the book is not like a culture shock that leaves one depressed and discontent with their lot in life, but graver and more grateful in their understanding of their own circumstances. 
The Book Thief was probably one of the first books with a completely unorthodox style of writing that I had ever experienced. It's hard to explain, so if you haven't read that book, you need to to understand--but rather than detracting or distracting from the story like you would expect, Zusak's clever placement and tactful writing--again, still ensuring that he is touching life--actually lent a deeper level of meaning to the book and its characters and events. It definitely came as a surprise, but I loved the experience of it!

If you could be any one of your characters, which one would you be and why?—John

Oh dear! Who to choose... You really don't know how many characters I actually have, do you?
Maybe I would be Melanie from the Telmar Trilogy, because I think it would be totally awesome to experience hearing and speaking for the first time ever, after a lifetime of not being able to do either; or perhaps Casey from "Fairies Under Glass," because I had so much fun developing that world and its creatures that I would love to actually experience it "for reals" and see if my ideas actually work!

How did you decide which degree to study for in college and why?—Rachel

Well, at the time I knew I wanted to go for something writing-related. For sure if I was going to have to focus on one subject for the next three to four years, it was going to be something I would actually enjoy so I would never get tired of it! (and at least for a few months after I graduated, I will admit I was actually tired of reading!) When I first started looking into starting college, I was deciding between three majors: Communications, Journalism, and English.
The trouble with Communications is I am perfectly AWFUL at public speaking. I detest it. So being in a degree where I would have to give speeches for my grade was not appealing.
As for Journalism, while the idea of calling myself a "journalist" was fun, there were classes like Statistics and Political Science that I would have to take... No thank you!
I chose English because it was a good "foundational degree" that I could then take into the teaching field if I so chose, it was good for lots and lots of writing and literature, which I loved, it was an easy degree—and the bonus was I only needed one math class, so I could just take the easiest one and call it good!

Thanks for your questions! Be on the lookout for more great stuff coming your way from The Upstream Writer! And if you have a question of your own, leave it in the comments and I'll answer it in the next #AskMeAnything post!