Saturday, May 30, 2015

Serial Saturday: "The Telmar Trilogy, Vol. 3: The Legacy of Telmar" Part 8

 
[Excerpt from Chapter 14]
 
Everyone in the court at Gildon rose to their feet as His Eminence Lord Protector Samson entered. Slowly, regally, he mounted the steps and sat on the large throne at the very back of the room. There stood against each wall three chairs on each side, one for each of the six Lords of Telmar. Only the chair for the Lord of Nast stood empty. The regent for that province stood on the floor of the court before Lord Samson's throne as the accused.

Lord Samson raised his royal staff to signal the beginning of the trial.
"Who stands accused?" he asked formally.
Lord Maletus stood, "The Lady Melanie of Nast stands accused!"
"What are the charges?"
Now an important part of the Lords' plan came into play. Maletus had warned them all that this Melanie was a great orator, so they contrived that as long as they prevented her from speaking, perhaps her "enchanted tongue" could not sway the Lord Protector. Their accusations thus filled the air thickly.

"She is a witch, and she has the whole province of Nast under her spell!"
"She has stolen from the rest of us!"
"She is a swindler!"
"She has destroyed Nast, and soon it will spread to the rest of the country!"

As soon as one Lord paused for breath, another took his place. They were so intent on accusing the woman in front of them that they almost did not hear the Lord Protector pounding on the marble floor with his staff for silence.
"SILENCE!" the Lord Protector roared.

Instantly, all movement and speech ceased. He pointed to Lord Maletus, Lord Burg, Lord Daltan, and Lord Perrin. "All of you, leave this court at once, or be held in contempt for disrupting the peace! And you," he pointed to Lord Vern, "stay and await my orders!"
This was certainly the last thing the Lords wanted! Lord Maletus tried to negotiate.
"Your Eminence must not be left alone with such a malicious traitor! I swear she is a sorceress, and once she—"

"OUT!"

The Lord of Telami scurried from the court at a speed surprising for a man of his girth.
Once their footsteps died away, Lord Protector Samson turned to the lackey next to him.

"Fetch a scroll and pen for Lord Vern."

The servant produced them immediately and handed them to the terrified Lord. Lord Samson pointed to a desk at the back of the court.

"Now, Vern, you will sit there and write out all your accusations against this woman. Surely one as practiced as you will be able to recall them all!"

Lord Vern trembled and bowed low. "Your Eminence, I cannot—"

"DO IT!"

The timid Lord bowed again, "Yes, Your Eminence."

Melanie, meanwhile, continued to stand quietly at the center of the court. Her deaf life had made her eyes keen, and though words may lie, eyes seldom do, and she had been watching Lord Samson carefully all during this false trial. She had seen the wisdom and the keen shrewdness in his eye. She had watched him hear at least the first few accusations with skepticism that quickly transformed from annoyance to irritation. Perhaps she would find him to be a just man.

An hour had nearly passed before Lord Vern finished his assignment. He stood meekly, "I have finished, Your Eminence."

"Bring the scroll to me," Lord Protector Samson demanded.

Lord Vern scuttled forward and laid the scroll in the Lord Protector's waiting hand.

"You may leave the court, Lord Vern."

"But—"

"At once!"

"Yes, Your Eminence."

Finally, Melanie stood alone before Lord Samson as he read the scroll Lord Vern had just written. […] He looked at her, obviously amazed at what he read.

"Now, Lady, I wish to know of this odious witchcraft to which they refer. What is it? Give an account of yourself!"

>>>>>
How does Melanie respond? Read CHAPTER 14 to find out!
>>>>>>>

[Excerpt from Chapter 15]
 
To His Most Regal Majesty, King Caspian VIII in Narnia,

Greetings, and may your reign never fail!

Though Your Majesty may not consider a letter written by a common citizen of your illustrious country hardly worth merit next to those written by the hand of His Eminence, the Lord Protector, the contents of this letter may be of interest to your most Royal Person.

It has now been a month since the trial of the Lady of Nast. Of course, your Majesty no doubt intended that the rule of a country should never go to a woman, but as that cannot be helped, Your Majesty is wise to permit it.
Your Highness, if you would permit a request, I pray you look back on your records for any mention of this Lady's singular beliefs. I happen to know that they are of the same kind as the people you now rule over, the accursed Narnians whom your ancestors fought so hard and conquered. What sane Telmarine would ever think to believe in a god less powerful than their own kings? Very few; Lady Melanie herself is no Telmarine, but a stranger from another land. Did Your Majesty not say that any regent in your land must be a natural-born citizen of the country, if not of the province itself? How then did this foreigner ascend to the throne of Nast?
It is my unfortunate, yet patriotic, duty to also inform you that I have heard rumors that the Lord Protector, whom Your Highness so carefully selected for his judiciousness and forthrightness, has succumbed to this odious opinion, or at least feigned interest. You may have heard that he pardoned Lady Melanie on the grounds of "lack of evidence," but there are more than a few who believe that this was only a blind for his sympathies concerning her radical ideas.
I write to you out of duty; you ever and alone are my King!

In your own Most Illustrious Name,

A Concerned Citizen


Friday, May 29, 2015

Spring Reading List


Mistborn (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Glorious and epic. Some authors exhaust their genius on a work of this caliber—but Brandon has cared to practice developing his characters first in other novels, and so this comes out in vivid Technicolor with "Mistborn"! The world of his novel is grey and ash-laden; the characters can't even imagine plants that are green, not brown. In this world, there exists a science called Allomancy, which is the ability to "burn" metals within one's digestive system, which enhances or unleashes certain abilities (pewter enhances resilience; tin super-enhances the senses, and so on).
It's a world that should be as complicated as "Dune", but Sanderson keeps it all relatively confined to one city—Luthandel—and one resistance group seeking to bring down the Lord Ruler who has set himself up as God and Chosen One. Whereas I felt like Herbert was deliberately setting up Arrakis as his land of all the anti-Protestant religions, such as Islam and Catholicism and even pantheism as a definite exclusion of said Christianity, Sanderson thought to include religion in just such a way that the resistance affirms the Lord Ruler is not the god he claims to be, and there is another character, Sazed, whom I absolutely adore, who has all of this knowledge about hundreds of different religions, and he is always recommending religions to his fellow fighters, based on their personality. There's a definite gravity and respect for religion there, not just a "grind-it-in-your-face" attitude. It's funny, but respectful.
Meanwhile, you have the one girl who is a natural Mistborn without realizing it, so the others must train her in the art of Allomancy; the Survivor who endured unspeakable torture and has the most to gain or lose depending on the outcome; and—because Sanderson is awesome—then you have Lestibournes, renamed Spook because one of the characters can't pronounce his name, who is by far the most creative, crazy character I have ever encountered in all the books I have read. It seems like Sanderson, exclusively for this character, invented the most convoluted, upside-down-and-backward way of speaking EVER. For example, the name "Lestibournes" is actually derived from the phrase "Lefting I'm born", or "I was abandoned as an infant." At another point, Spook says, "Wasing of the wishing to happen he had!" (Or something like that) meaning "He wanted this to happen!" There is even one whole conversation the others have in this crazy "street slang" that I had to read THREE TIMES and I was laughing so hard because I could not make head or tails of it! Sanderson's characters will tug at your heart and take your breath away. I highly recommend any of his books!

The Alchemyst (Nicholas Flamel #1) by Michael Scott

Not bad! Certainly not as good as some novels with teenage heroes that I have read—but then again, better than others.
Siblings Sophie and Josh are likable enough, as far as "chosen heroes" go. And the cast of immortal/mythical characters surrounding them is great. Scott sets up his series and the plot arc well enough.

It's just... Of all the quirks to give your teenage characters, you had to pick an obsession with electronic devices? To the point of said devices like cell phones and laptops being more important than one's life or, I don't know, finding out more about the mystical realm one has been transported to? If the siblings spent more time exploring and less time worrying about the total absence of cell reception and the ensuing "boredom," the story would have been a lot more fascinating. Not that it wasn't, but more like it was only 75% fascinating. And the other 25% was completely unnecessary—but still not terrible enough for me to stop reading. I only hope that this series gets better instead of worse.

Steelheart (Reckoners #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Wow! Sanderson has done it again!
Sometime in the future, Calamity (some kind of celestial entity) explodes, turning some of the human population into Epics: people with superhuman powers. One Epic in particular decides to use his elevated status and power of invincibility to set himself up as ruler of Newcago: Steelheart. He is unstoppable, incalculable, untouchable... 
Except this one time, when an innocent young boy saw him bleed as Steelheart killed his father. From that day, David devotes himself to the study of the Epics, intent on making Steelheart bleed a little more fatally this time. He crosses paths with the Reckoners, a group of resistance fighters intent on bringing down the Epics, and it looks like he might get the chance he's been waiting for.
Once again, Sanderson uses real-world concepts in astonishing new ways, populates his world with relatable, funny, intriguing characters, and imparts relevant life truths for the reader's benefit even after the book is over.
I loved reading Steelheart because of the fantastic adventure it was. The whole novel is poised with calculated artistry and the signature Sanderson Flair. Totally going to read the sequel!
 

Prince of Fools (Red Queen's War #1) by Mark Lawrence

Joss Whedon once said: "Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough... Then for the love of God, tell a joke!"

As a committed Whedonite (Whedonian?) it is most certainly a high compliment when I say that Lawrence has officially succeeded as "the Joss Whedon of Fantasy." The man just does NOT slow down!
Just when you might think a spin-off from a series will likely not be as good as the original—or at worst, just a copy of the other characters and plot— Lawrence gives us Jalan Kendeth: a prince of far less ambition than Jorg, which he makes up for in cowardice—but at the same time, the dry humor Jalan plies makes this book much lighter than the Thorns trilogy (I giggled quite a bit through this one!) but no less compelling, as Jalan unwittingly ends up on the business end of a curse that should have killed him, but instead ties his fate with that of a big burly Norseman named Snorri.
I loved Snorri. He balanced Jal perfectly: brave where Jal was cowardly, strong where Jal was weak, wise where Jal was foolish—and the two of them traveling together was downright funny!
The stakes are even higher on this trilogy: what is killing people to become Emperor compared to breaking a curse, finding the key to the supposed Underworld, and stopping a war?

Atlantia by Ally Condie
I admit, I was kind of hoping for something more than Matched. But no.
People have lived in Atlantia for at least two generations: it's an underwater environment in supposed harmony with those who chose to remain on the surface during the "Great Divide." There's a coming-of-age ceremony in which teens decide whether to go Above or remain Below; if one goes Above, the other must remain, or they can both choose Below. There are two sisters who lost their mother a couple years back, and though one has "always dreamed of living Above", her sister begs her to stay... Only to commit to going Above when the choice comes!
But wait, the other sister also has a secret ability that makes it dangerous for her down Below: she's a Siren. 
I picked up this book hoping that, because it was fresh and new, Rio would have more personality and dimensionality than Cassia did. I distinctly remember enjoying Matched at first... Till I realized Condie kind of had a "flat static" style and tone to her writing. By "Reached", the trilogy smacked of "sameness," and here again, we find a plot too similar to that trilogy to have come from any other author. I guess that makes her plagiarism-proof... but it also makes for a boring story. Boo.

Virals (Virals #1) by Kathy and Brendan Reichs

Oh my stars what did I just read? It's like a Goonies revival set on a little island off the coast of Charleston, with some Crichton-esque biological experimentation conspiracy mixed in!
The main character of this series is Tori Brennan, the great-niece of renown Temperance Brennan, the inspiration for the star of the show "Bones." Having only watched the pilot of "Bones", I admit I was not wholly familiar with the franchise, so I merely judged this book based on the writing—which was great!
It's a unique premise: five friends, and one of them is the daughter of a research scientist on a small island off the coast of North Carolina. One of the scientists also working at the facility has been conducting illicit experiments with animals—experiments that inadvertently affect the lives of Tori and her four friends. 
"Virals" scores big in the area of characters. The plot takes a while to get off the ground, but that's understandable seeing as this is the first novel in the series and this has the most groundwork to do. I will definitely be reading the other books in the series, though, now that I know the fourth book is done so well, compared to the first!

Absolute Power by David Baldacci

Oh dang... Shades of "Disclosure", but Baldacci definitely beats Crichton in the thriller department!
A seasoned cat burglar breaks into a house to lift a few things and disappear without a trace... Only to be caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar by the arrival of the lady of the house in a violently passionate affair with the President of the United States. Love turns deadly, and this burglar is witness to a murder, witnessing the Secret Service's attempt at cleanup and even absconding with the murder weapon—but how can he accuse the man with absolute power?
The ordeal with the affair makes for more than usual of those scenes, which I write off as "gross"... But in spite of it, Baldacci gives plenty of personality to his characters, and, just when I was beginning to feel like the book was dragging on toward what I suspected would be an unsatisfactory ending...

The last five chapters literally took my breath away. I will never doubt Baldacci again.
Exposure (Virals #4) by Kathy and Brendan Reichs

I know; there oughta be some kind of rule against reading books 1 and 4 consecutively... But what the heck, I did it anyway!
Here is somebody who really can write a bunch of teenagers! Tori Brennan is the niece (or great-niece) of Temperance "Bones" Brennan... The one on the show based on the other series that Kathy Reichs wrote. If that sounds a bit Mary-Sue-ish... Yeah, it sort of is glorified fanfiction... But, as with the Richard Castle novels, Reichs strives to do justice by her own characters. Certainly, out of all the books I've read with teenage main characters (especially if it's a girl in the midst of boys) this one ranks near the top in style.
There's a good chunk of the adventure I missed, I know. At this point, Chase has been investigating the Virals and is getting closer, they've caught some big baddie that was doing horrible things I know not of, and the use of their special abilities is starting to unravel. 
Still, the interactions between the characters is not as cheap as some others I've read (see Atlantia or The Alchemyst above) and the mystery is energetic enough to keep me reading. Nicely done!

N is for Noose (ABC Mystery #14) by Sue Grafton

Kinsey getting herself in trouble. Go figure... At least this one is interesting because the case comes post-mortem! A woman comes to her after her detective husband has died, wanting Kinsey to find out what had troubled him so badly in the week before his apparent heart attack. So our intrepid heroine goes out to a podunk little town where everybody knows everybody and everybody's business is keeping tabs on everybody else's business... Rumors start flying, Kinsey has to figure out what people aren't saying about the deceased and his issues... Book 14, folks! Grafton is still on a roll.




Thursday, May 28, 2015

Introducing: "Persuasion and Pixies" A Jane Austen Mashup

*Searched for an hour, and couldn't find a suitable "regency era with fairies" image!
(Special prize goes to whoever can find me one and message me the link!)
 
A while back, somebody got the idea: "The classics (like War and Peace, Wuthering Heights, and Pride and Prejudice) are great writing, but compare them to a list of popular fanboy characteristics like pirates, ninjas, zombies, etc., and you understand why they aren't so widely read anymore... So why not create a mashup?"

Thus "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" was born, sparking a literary movement of irreverent creativity that went on to produce such wonderments as "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters" and "Android Karenina"... And opened up the potential for more.

Some might object, out of respect for the original author—something I recognize, but at the same time... Kids these days aren't really being trained to recognize the nuances of culture that these classic novels are saturated in; therefore, to understand the rigors of entailment and the difficulty of having daughters instead of sons, look at it this way: in light of a zombie outbreak, Mr. Bennet would want to ensure his home is protected. He has no sons, so his daughters must be trained. In light of being women in such close contact with zombies (highly improper because of the danger) this would grow into a reason that the Bingleys (and Darcy) would disdain having a Bennet girl to wed: who knows but she might be infected herself, or a carrier to infect them?
I'm not saying this was the intention of the author; I've mentioned before that I sometimes tend to psychoanalyze things to try and understand them instead of just writing them off for reasons of prejudice. Not that I support this, either; I am squeamish enough that I don't really ever enjoy the horror genre.

But anyway, when I saw this, in the midst of planning out "Merely Meredith" and having Austen on the brain...

I instantly saw the potential for rewriting the book in my hands (Persuasion) with my own kind of twist, without so much horror and gore:

Persuasion and Pixies

The beauty of a mashup is that you really don't have to rename characters or invent original characters; for all intents and purposes, work with just the characters provided by the author, but tweak the circumstances a little.

The principal conflict of "Persuasion" has to do with the issue of a titled family sneering at a naval family. The backdrop of the novel is the ongoing war against France, led at the time by Napoleon Bonaparte. Hence I needed a twist that both reflected this war, and enhanced the class distinction in a way that modern classless society would understand. Since my favorite genre to write is fantasy, I decided that the genre of "dark fantasy" suited my purpose.

I think I picked up a bit of trivia somewhere about a magician hired in connection with the Napoleonic wars somehow... Because that grew into the premise: Napoleon, in a last-ditch effort to dominate England, hires a magician who ends up opening a portal into dark magical realm, which unleashes hordes of goblins, ogres, and werewolves on the island. This threat awakens the latent fairy element in England (how else do you explain all the fairy stories that originate there??) as the pixies rise up to defend their home. Their magic is more powerful than conventional weapons, so some people opt to fight back against the evil creatures with that. The hitch is that the fairies require humans who use their magic weapons to be recruited in their army. 
There are some who disagree; they would rather fend off the creatures without magic. These are the "Purebloods" who do not dabble in fairy magic. 
 
The Elliot family has long been one of these. The early generations received vast sums of money for their valiant acts, which successive generations have used to fortify Kellynch Hall to the point of impregnability. Sir Walter is proud of this lineage, even though the recent generations have been more concerned with getting the next new defense mechanism or fortification equipment, even though there hasn't been a "Darkling" sighted in the area since the half-starved, dying werewolf that bit and killed his wife.
The one married daughter, Mary, fell in love with Charles Musgrove and moved out with him. The Musgrove family, while they have maintained a status of "Pureblood" by avoiding the fairies, also do not present any kind of threat to the Darklings, as they attempt to merely subsist under whatever laws they have to keep to avoid confrontation. Their house is not as fortified, as it has never been attacked, so the defenses have never been tested, but Mary is paranoid about the potential.
When Anne Elliot was young and less cloistered, she happened to be in Somerset to meet a young man named Fredrick Wentworth, who had just accepted a commission as a Fairy-recruit. They hit it off quite nicely, and he even taught her a few of the tactics he had learned, but as he was going to be sent to another location, Anne's good friend Lady Russell (whose husband had been slaughtered by an ogre) advised her that the "fairy-chasers" were not to be trusted, and she should end the relationship before anything serious developed.
 
A lot of the fighting is just within the coast. The Darklings do not like water, but the fairies keep them pushed outward toward the sea, so the most inland places have less fairy presence, but the towns along the coast that are regularly patrolled by the fairies are better-protected.
 
Some human soldiers have proven themselves in battle and have gained ranks in their service, even so far as to have fairies and not just humans in their command. Admiral Croft is one of these, and he has received a vast sum of fairy-gold in payment and allowed to retire. He and his wife move into Kellynch Hall, while the Elliots decide to move to Bath, where there aren't as many fairies.
 
There is a potential heir to the Elliot estate, young Sir William, who has—unbeknownst to his family—run up many debts credited to businesses that end up being run by Darklings in disguise. His apparent dealings with them is frowned upon by the family, but Elizabeth is willing to overlook that as long as he would pursue marriage with her.
 
Frederick comes back into town, to visit his sister, since most of what they're dealing with are Darklings that don't know when to stop: they remain resistant to any attempt to corral or direct, lots don't even know that they have basically lost before this time, so they are hyper-vigilant and tough to kill. Fred wants to get married, but Anne has already convinced herself that he could not possibly share her feelings.

And so, my dears, it begins...

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Word on Wordspinners

Image credit goes to this artist on DeviantArt

Good afternoon, dear readers!
Have you been enjoying the excerpts from my latest (and most complete) work-in-progress, "The Last Inkweaver"? If so, that makes me very happy!

Today I just wanted to take the time to explain a few things about the premise and the world, which a few readers have expressed confusion over.

First and foremost...

What are Wordspinners?

Wordspinners are basically a guild of "regular" craftsmen and women. I put regular in parentheses because the world of the Wordspinners is slightly different than the real world in that storytelling has an innate power in that world, the power to build, fashion, and mend. 

It started with an idea I had, of a woman who had made a dress by telling a story, and by and by, the dress tore, but the rip actually caused a "wrong turn" in the story. To mend it, the woman merely retold that part of the story, changing it a little so that the characters could survive the aberration. 

From there, it grew along the lines of: what if there were these kind of Wordspinners for the other elements, too? I am deeply committed to such fantasy works as the Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke and the Bayern Books by Shannon Hale, and those had the same storytelling idea (like the Silvertongues in Inkheart) and the "select group of people who hear voices in the elements and resonate with these voices in order to manipulate said elements" (each Bayern book deals with a character with a different ability, and how they all have to work together or their powers will get them into trouble) which I borrowed and mulled into my own idea.

Hence the Wordspinner guild grew into four primary factions:

Inkweavers, of course, worked with thread and cloth to make clothing, linens, blankets, and tapestries.
Talesmiths worked with raw metal and stone to carve and shape statues and weapons and tools, pots, and pans.
The Earth-Tellers shapes earthenware and pottery and worked with clay.
Story-Healers were like the herbalists of the Wordspinner guild. They could tell a story to fashion a draught or an herb that would perform exactly as the patient needed.

The Glaring Plot Hole

I thought I was done, once I had these. I was sure, at the end of it, that my character Shereya would become the next Inkweaver, and this whole "rite of passage" would end with the Inkweaver passing the mantle to her.

I got through about half the novel with this concept, but as it progressed beyond this point, I became stumped, and writing halted for a while.

My problem was this: "The Last Inkweaver" should have been a parable about the inherent power of storytelling as a general concept. Shereya had encountered many different Wordspinners in her journey, but the way she had been hearing the Tales should not have been the case of she was going to be an Inkweaver. The more I thought about it, the more the Tales felt like an extension of the Wordspinner's particular skill. For Shereya-the-Inkweaver to be able to hear a Talesmith's Tales, it would be like a weaver knowing how to make a horseshoe: improbable as well as impractical.
So... If not an Inkweaver, what exactly was my main character?


The Fifth Guild

The epiphany came when I was trying to figure out "Moon Valley." I know, it sounds strange to hear somebody who is a writer talk about the story as if somebody else wrote it, and I'm just finding these things out; we can all roll our eyes at the writers who act like the story happens in the absence of themselves... "I turn my back for two minutes, and my characters have taken over my word processor and typed up sixteen new pages in my novel! I don't even know what they're doing anymore!"
But, as I write this particular novel—more than any of the other stories I've written—because of its unique subject, I am finding that there is a large part of any story that the writer really doesn't know until he or she starts writing. I can plot it out all I want, but the novel I plan is rarely an indication of the novel that results.

Anyway, I had been wrestling with this for some time--in fact, ever since I had concluded definitively that "The Last Inkweaver" would be my testament to the inherent power of storytelling, and that, through Shereya, I would explore the different attitudes and modes of a writer: the way sometimes the lines blur between fictional characters and real-life people (as in the case of Greyna); the way some people think we are crazy... except the ones who need to hear what we have to say (like Delia); the way just trying to "get through" a scenario will often result in things getting badly messed up and we are forced to go back and take our time anyway, or risk producing something half-baked (like Moon Valley)...

I began to realize that these traits, while they deal with writing and storytelling, might not necessarily have to do with any of the Wordspinners in particular, least of all Inkweavers. Shereya isn't weaving, she's experiencing a journey. It's not any particular guild that will end up succeeding in the long run; it's all of them working together. So what unites the four guilds?

What if there was a fifth guild? One that largely escaped notice, because they didn't actually make merchandise like the other guilds did. They didn't shape any materials with their powerful storytelling. They possessed the ability to hear the Tales of any Wordspinner because it was their duty to Write the Tale, and record it for the benefit of others. This was a guild of Writers.

It made total sense, especially since--what with storytelling being reserved for a handful of people, and having such inherent power--this was a largely illiterate world. There wouldn't be any stories outside of those Told by a Wordspinner or Written by the Writer.
This revelation brought me to a possible true reason the Wordspinners "fell" from favor with the people, when their skill was usually so beneficial and wholesome: those opposed to story-Telling merely had to begin by confiscating the stories. Once the people no longer had Tales to read, the Writers could be gotten rid of quietly without anyone realizing it. And without the Writers, the Wordspinners' craft was reduced to the spoken word, which is easily twisted, misrepresented, misheard, or forgotten. From there it was easy to spread the rumor that the Wordspinner craft was actually witchcraft, and in fact all kinds of "speculation" or exercising the imagination in any way was an abomination.

This is what Shereya is up against. This is how she was raised, and now, as the first new Writer in over a generation, she must not only be willing to accept storytelling as a form of truth-telling and source of wisdom--but she must find a way to spread this throughout the kingdom as well.
Here's the fun part: It also explains why this initial story exists, and in the first person. Shereya the Writer has recorded "The Last Inkweaver" as her first Tale. The novel will also have a series of ten tales that correspond with key points in the story. At first, it was just something fun that I threw together, because I was inspired by the "Fairy Tales, ReTold" by Regina Doman, and the way she used snippets from the original fairy tale with all her chapters. Now that Shereya is to be a Writer, though, she could have preserved the Tales that she heard from the Inkweaver's tapestry during her journey, and that's why they are together.

Sometimes, writing is just SO MUCH FUN.


Catch you further Upstream!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Musings: Is Jesus The Result or the Reason?

The "Good Christian's Training Manual"....
but what is it actually teaching?
Growing up as the child of first-generation Christians who were doing their almighty best to "raise the children right," there was a curriculum that carried through the first fifteen years of my life. It was a curriculum embraced by all the friends we were allowed to have, the church we attended, and exclusively implemented (in a positive way) in the home, so that it got to the point where I could retain and spout the answers in textbook perfection, producing assignments that passed muster with flying colors...

But I didn't really think about what it meant for me personally.

It was a curriculum that was easy to put on like a dress; it was easy to spot at a distance, so that as long as nothing happened to put myself under any kind of scrutiny, I could blend in with the masses and go through the motions.
 
I am reminded of the time when we were attending a conference around this curriculum, and I came down with a cold and completely lost my voice. I was in charge of a small group of kids, but I had no voice to teach them personally. When we stood up to perform for the parents at the end of the day, I put on my smile and mouthed the words and did the motions—
And nobody realized I had no voice because all they saw was the motions.
 
This is what a lot of this curriculum was: get the motions, and nobody notices your voice. Memorize the right words, and people automatically assume that you are winning favor with God, and so they are pleased with the conformity. They preach "transformation", but the outcome is just a brightly-polished, "better"--albeit sanctimonious--conformation.

I am reminded of this as I listen to my pastor preach through the book of Colossians. We have only just begun, but I am convicted with this thought:

Is favor with God my result or my reason?

A fine example of the crux of this curriculum is the book I "studied" during the "high school" years of the program, the one with the highly-suggestive title: "Gaining Favor With God And Man."

It is, of course, a quote from Matthew referring to Jesus: "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, gaining favor with God and man." (Luke 2:52)

This book is a compilation of "treatises" on what moral and spiritual leaders consider to be traits of a successful life. As the Foreword states, "This book represents, in retrospect, the acknowledged purity in Biblical standard, Christian character, and noble achievement believed to be attainable, with the help of the Lord Jesus Christ, only a few generations [prior to the time of its reprinting]."

The fact of the matter is:

In the whole book, there is not one Scriptural lesson or reflection on the True Source of Christian Life, the Living Water--Jesus Christ Himself. 
 
Biblical standard? How can this be, when the book hardly even mentions the Bible?
Christian character? To mimic the behavior of Christ is one thing; to actually enter into an intimate relationship and listen to what He has to say to you is quite another, and this book does nothing to address that!
Noble achievement? Finally, some honesty! At least here, the book is littered with ample material of how much virtue man has achieved, the "moral teachings" imparted by man..... Whether they are God-fearing Christians or not! Transcendentalists (who believe that man has ascended to become the standards of their own morality) are quoted, Deists (who believe in God but do not revere Him) are praised, the book delineates the moral practices of Atheists (who don't believe in God or an absolute standard)... 

And this book is part of a curriculum intended to "inspire our children to pursue God's perfect plan for their lives." 
^^Another direct quote from the Foreword^^
 
Seriously? How can a book on the triumph of man do anything to encourage an adolescent to pursue God? Isn't the very nature of the material the direct antithesis to a Gospel-centered life? 
 
According to the tone of this book as a "Biblical standard," John 3:16 might read something like this:
 
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Son, that whoever lives a completely moral and virtuous life shall not fail but have everlasting success."
 
Does this make you stop and rethink your life purpose to see it in that way? It certainly made me rethink mine, when I realized what I was actually hearing and accepting. I'm the one who wrote an essay on "The Power of True Success." For fifteen years, I was convinced that this was the end goal of the Christian life:
  
Be good and gain favor with God and man.
"Set standards for your life so that you won't ever compromise your beliefs."
"Follow this model and you'll have people banging down your door to give you the kind of job/life/experiences you desire."
"Say this pledge, write this vow, wear this dress, act this way--and God will send the perfect man to knock on your door and want to devote the rest of his life to you."
"Implement these principles and you will become so successful that you will have world leaders falling at your feet and business magnates willing to pay you millions to find out your secret, and then you can tell them this Five-Point Gospel sermon that you've specially prepared for just this moment, and they will immediately become Christians and experience that same success--all thanks to you, because you were ready and rehearsed for exactly that scenario!"

Fifteen years later, and I've only just emerged from my passivity to hear the truth:

When I start focusing my faith on principles, standards, or virtues, God's favor becomes the result of my behavior, instead of the reason for it.

Earlier, I mentioned that the title of the book was quoting Luke 2:52, about how Jesus "grew in favor." The whole purpose of the book is to teach the reader how to "grow in favor", at least insofar as others have "succeeded" at it. But this completely disregards the context of the verse: Jesus had just been in the temple, "wowing" the Pharisees with their lofty morals and their "pure-white" virtue--by simply speaking from His intimate relationship with God. 
 
Every "good Christian"--every moralistic, legalistic Bible-worshipper (of which I was one!)--knows the story. We know that Jesus told His parents "Do you not know I am about my Father's business?" 
 
But that's only part of the story.
 
Reading the passage again just now, I noticed that, in the English Standard Version, the translation runs, "Do you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"
 
That puts a whole new spin on it, doesn't it? We, as the "next generation of spiritual leaders" have been meticulously trained that "the Father's business" is going out and sharing the Gospel and winning souls to Christ...
 
When Christ Himself regarded this "business" as first of all being in His Father's house. Being in close relationship with Him. 
 
When I am first of all intent on establishing an intimate relationship with God, and recognizing who I am in Christ, I will understand that I ALREADY HAVE FAVOR WITH GOD, and from there, I find the motivation to behave in a way that pleases Him.
 
Luke 2:40: "And the child grew and became strong, and filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon Him." 
Jesus was strong and wise, but did He actually do anything to merit God's favor? Not directly stated in this verse, which comes a mere 12 verses before the one in which He gains favor with God and man. As in, the acceptance of God's unmerited favor (which is grace) was the REASON He was able to give the wise answers, and the REASON behind His drive to be "in [His] Father's house" of His own volition, rather than riding the coattails of His parents. The favor was not the RESULT of His moralistic training. We get so caught up in the "business" of Christianity--the "busy-ness of Christianity"--that we are distracted and diverted from the true purpose of Christianity: to follow Christ. Not just His teachings, not just His actions or behaviors.

A Christian's pursuit is realized in a deeper understanding of and intimacy with the God-Man Himself.
A RESULT is an end goal.
A REASON is the starting block.
 
When God's favor is the REASON for virtue:
 
--We respond to salvation by truly understanding the substitution Jesus has made, and the fact that BECAUSE OF THE SACRIFICE OF JESUS WE ALREADY HAVE FAVOR WITH GOD.
--From the wisdom that comes from understanding first WHO WE ARE in Christ, we respond to the grace and seek to demonstrate our gratefulness by THEN SEEKING TO BEHAVE IN A MANNER PLEASING TO HIM. 
--Because our behavior is a response not a regimen, it INHERENTLY MANIFESTS THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
--These Fruits of the Spirit serve as recurring evidence to us and affirmations that the things we have believed about God are in fact true, and OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD INCREASES WITH OUR EXPERIENCES OF HIS QUALITIES.
 
Paul summarizes the Gospel in Colossians 1 thus:
 
"He (God) has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)

This is what God's favor gets us. This is what the Christian life is all about. Not success, not "more converts," not "the picture-perfect life." 
 
There is nowhere in the Bible that promises success or material gain or favor with man as a RESULT of salvation. What God promises us is REDEMPTION AND FORGIVENESS OF OUR SIN. This is the only "result" we should ever expect--and it is out of gratefulness for this redemption that the desire to please Him should spring.
 
At any rate, that's as far as my understanding takes me. Jesus should not be my "end goal", but He should be my whole reason for living. Instead of striving to be like Him,  I should be most active in pursuing a deeper understanding of Him as He Is.
 
What do you think?
 
*For other "Sunday Musing" posts, check out the Articles Page
 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Serial Saturday: "The Telmar Trilogy, Vol. 3: The Legacy of Telmar" Part 7


[Excerpt from Chapter 12]
Melanie saw nothing, heard nothing, but she knew something was different the instant she opened her eyes and saw the light shining weirdly through the windows.
She looked down at the foot of her bed and saw an old, stooped serving-woman just finishing the fire in the fireplace. Melanie threw back her thick covers and gasped as the cold bit through her nightgown. The maid instantly leapt up at the noise and grabbed Melanie's dressing gown and slippers, which had been warming by the fire. Melanie smiled gratefully as she put them on.
She crossed over to the window. The sun reflected of the snow so brightly, it hurt her eyes to look at it. She placed a hand on the window to let in fresh air, but the maid stopped her.
"O, Lor', Ma'am! You'll not want to do that! Feel the glass!"
Melanie, puzzled, placed her hand on the glass, but drew it away sharply. The panes were so cold, touching them was like touching panes of ice. Melanie knew if merely the window was that cold, the air must be colder still.
"Is the blizzard over already?" she asked the maid.
The old woman peered outside, "I have only seen one blizzard like to this, Milady, and I can tell you, it is not over yet!"

The old woman proved correct in her assertions. The sky clouded over that night, and for the next week there was little to be seen of the sky for the clouds and the driving, stinging snow and ice. The only means of measuring the passage of time Melanie and Martan had were the clocks in the palace and the slight variance of the light shining through the clouds.
Because of their leaders' foresight, however, each Nastian had plenty to eat, and no crops or livestock were ruined by the storms that ravaged the land and filled the Nastian Valley with snow and ice.
Elsewhere in Telmar, however, the larger, richer provinces did not fare so well. At the start of the season, many "agriculturalists" (they owned the land, tools, and produce on the farms, but did not do the work themselves; to own a farm was profitable, but to work on one, degrading!) still believed they had time to harvest as they required it, the past twenty winters having been so mild, each one assumed this one would be no different. Besides, the first harvest had already filled their barns too full for the ignorant farmers' comfort, but more barns must be built before the agriculturalists would allow a scythe to be lifted. The farmers protested, but what did they pretend to know? Consequently, not a few Telmarine farms had corn, wheat, and other crops still standing in the fields when the first storm hit.
Others were so ecstatic over the prospects of a bumper crop that they readily sold every sprout of the first harvest, in preparation for the bigger harvest the next day.
This "next day" these men waited for never came. They awoke the following morning to the horrific sight of ice and snow flying past their windows. Strong winds blew down tall trees, crushing the tender, ripe produce, and hail struck the fragile grapes from the bush. Icy sleet flooded the tender sprouts, and everything not stored in a barn, the blizzard utterly destroyed. The snow and ice falling on Nast was tame in comparison to the driving gales that pulverized the rest of the nation.
Those who waited to build bigger barns found no opportunity to build them. Furthermore, the constant barrage of ice and snow caused the wood of the overstuffed barns to rot, which spoiled the harvest along with the grains and vegetables still standing in the fields. Those who sold their produce found little comfort in their stores of gold, that could neither feed a family nor keep it warm.

[…]
Meanwhile, the arrogant provinces that had so rudely spurned Nast in their pride were suddenly made to recall them and long for their generosity.
Martan was shocked at the blizzard's end to receive letters from nobles throughout the other provinces, actually begging him to send the delegations back to them.
He tossed the handful of parchments onto the table in front of Melanie, who glanced over them, guessed their content, and grinned. He turned to Aslan, who was standing beside her, clearly recalling his words not too long ago expressing his fear that exactly this would never happen.
"So soon, Aslan?" he gasped.
The Lion nodded. "Go, for I am with you."
Though Martan's faith increased, and he obeyed Aslan instantly with his whole heart, the delegations were not so easy to convince.
"Milord," one hesitant bowed timidly, "Ah, do you not recall the way we were treated last time?"
"My good man," Martan replied, "Aslan will be with you."
"As he was last time, and look what still happened!"
"But," another continued, "you say we are now sought after? How do we know this is not a trap, to trick us?"
"Yes, and what if we give away our food and have nothing for ourselves? Will we be forced to starve till spring harvest?"
"By the Lion!" Martan cried, suddenly jumping to his feet. "My people! Have we not just survived the bitterest winter Telmar has ever known for over two hundred years? Can you not deny it was by Aslan, and Aslan alone? We have food left over; they have nothing! Aslan has brought this storm for this express purpose! Go forth, I say, in Aslan's name!"

The delegations that issued forth, some timid, some grumbling, came back nearly a week later. All five of them returned in the same day, wagons empty and mouths filled with the praises of Aslan.
[…] Lord Martan thenceforth caused it to be written as law that every harvest, a delegation of farmers and artisans shall depart to every province, giving to them in remembrance of Aslan.

Though the nobles and citizens were grateful, there were some who still harbored their disdain for the little province. A certain summons went out from the castle at Maretum, the capital city of Telami, inviting all the Lords to hold a council. Nast was the only province not notified, and the Lord Protector did not receive notice of this meeting as he should have.

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\


[Excerpt from Chapter 13]
"Let all those present report!"
"I, Lord Perrin of Eveston, with my chief advisor, present!"
"I, Lord Daltan of Puriva, with my chief advisor, present!"
"I, Lord Vern of Sordell, with my chief advisor, present!"
"I, Lord Burg of Venna, with my chief advisor, present!"
"And I, Lord Maletus of Telami, with my chief advisor, preside!"
Lord Maletus smiled evilly, "Very good; I thank you all for responding so promptly to my summons. I believe there is an—ah, hm—an issue you wish to discuss, Lord Daltan?" His voice dripped in hidden meaning.
Daltan stood nervously, holding in his trembling hand a paper that had come with his summons. He read from the paper, glancing up at the president Lord at every other phrase.
"Yes . . . it is the Lady . . . who now rules . . . Nast."
"Incorrigible wench!" Maletus spat charmingly. "What say you, Lord Vern?"
The Lord of Sordell stood, "My people were starving, Your Emminence, and a delegation of Nastians came and—"
"Swindled you, didn't they?" Lord Maletus interrupted, his eyes glinting daggers at the weak lord, "They cheated you into paying for these wares they feign to give freely! They extorted money away from your fair province, didn't they?"
The Lords were weak, but not foolish; they knew Lord Maletus' power, being Lord of the capitol province, and they realized the hidden plan behind the Council of Lords.
"Yes," Lord Vern said, and as soon as he sat down, Lord Perrin jumped to his feet.
"Those Nastians are liars! They cheated my people of good food by trying to pass of rotten and spoiled goods! That Lady is a witch!"
Lord Burg joined his comrade at an approving nod from Lord Maletus. "My advisors have heard certain rumors, Milord."
Lord Maletus turned his gaze to the slender, pale man standing just behind his lord's chair. "Pray, do tell us," he said, low and dangerous, "what rumors?"
"There are legends from Nast, oh Most Worshipful Lord," the flattering advisor said, striding out from behind the chair. "Legends from ancient times. It is said that she was banished from the infernal woods one hundred years ago, and is condemned to do the bidding of the Lion-demon of Narnia until Telmar is destroyed!"
[…]
"Then why is she still here?" Maletus snapped, eyes aflame, "Why can she drive out merchants, and have aught to give us? Must we be in debt to the Nasties? They must be crushed!"
"If I may speak, Milord," said Maletus' chief advisor, no less evil than his master, only more cunning.
"You may," Maletus replied.
The chief advisor continued in a sibilant tone, "If your Lordships were to have sufficient complaint against the Lady, it may be that you could compel His Eminence the Lord Protector to call a Court of Lords, and he can be the one to depose of her!"
"Yes," Maletus agreed, looking at all the lords around him, "we have sufficient reason. Let it be done!"
"But let not Your Eminent Lordship be too hasty," his advisor continued, "for how will it be if only the Lords of the provinces bring the complaint? Lord Protector Samson is a shrewd man, and he would ascribe our valid accusations to petty jealousy."
"How can we avoid this?" Lord Daltan asked.
The chief advisor to Maletus smiled craftily. "Have a petition drawn up, testifying to the faults we have identified in all Nast, including the Lady. It only needs fifty signatures, ten from each province, which money, as you know, can buy. Then we may draw up the accusation, and it will be in the Lord Protector's eyes that Nast is indeed a blight to Telmar, and the whole province must be annihilated!"
Maletus fixed each Lord in turn with a steely glance as he told them all, "Write your petitions, and call your nobles. Let it be done in two weeks' time. We will crush that puny little province like an insect!"

What will happen to Melanie and the province? Stay tuned for more!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

"Merely Meredith: A Modern Persuasion" Excerpt: The Incident at Port O'Connor

Yes, I know, you've seen this image before...
I switched it here from the original post
because I found another much better...
 
Port O'Connor was your typical beach town: mostly shops with handmade trinkets and baubles, stores selling beach equipment, small cafès and diners, and a few bookstores. I stopped in and got a coffee at one of those cafès. It was crowded in that little space, and I almost spilled my coffee in an effort to avoid stepping on someone's toes when an elbow unexpectedly shifted in my direction.
"Careful now," said a voice behind me, as a hand caught my elbow to steady me. I looked up.
The man who saved my balance looked like your typical beachcomber—if said beachcomber was in a Hollister ad. He was wearing a sleeveless button-down (with none of the buttons fastened) fully displaying the extent of his spray-on tan and sculpted abs. His Ray Ban aviators balanced over bottle-bleached spikes atop his head—and clear-blue eyes winked at me.
"Thank you," I muttered, recovering my senses and scurrying out of there before my hero did the obvious and asked for my name in front of all those people.

I got back to the cottage. Cassie sprawled in the recliner with a cold pack on her face—another migraine. Helena and Lily were both curled up at either end of the large sofa, both reading. Helena had her nose buried in a paperback novel, while Lily was practically drooling over a Vogue magazine. Neither of them gave me more than a glance when I walked in. I figured no one would miss me if I went upstairs to my room for some peaceful contemplation.
I had only just settled down to read one of my novels I kept on the shelf up there, when I heard Lily and Helena charging upstairs.
"Mer!" Lily cried. "We're going walking on the beach with the guys! Wanna come?"
I could only assume "the guys" meant Fred and his buddies. I figured there would be plenty of beach to put distance between us if need be.
"Coming!" I hollered, hurling myself out of the sinking love sack. I slipped on a pair of sandshoes and bounced down the stairs.

The gusting winds of the morning had diminished somewhat, leaving a pleasant warmth and a steady string of light breezes to temper the brilliant sun. We met the guys in the parking lot of the public beach access and took the footpath along the jetty. I noticed that Ben came along, but stayed far enough from the edge he couldn't see the water. This put him some distance from the others, but I found that—as with the night before—by chatting with him, I distracted him from his fears and grief, and coaxed him a bit closer to everyone else. Then, too, our conversation kept me from minding that Lily was carrying on with Fred just like a little child.
Lily scrambled over the craggy wall of the jetty with abandon, pulling herself along as high as she felt like, and then screaming "Catch me!" before letting go and tumbling into Fred's arms. A severe tongue-lashing from Cass put an end to that, but Lily showed my sister exactly what she thought of her caution by walking on top of the narrow stone buffer on the outer edge of the jetty. She stepped steadily enough, so no one except Cass bothered with her till we came to a part of the jetty that expanded into a wide, uneven rock wholly exposed to the ocean. The rest of us were content to watch the crashing surf from the paved asphalt of the footpath, but Lily crossed the cement buffer and walked out on the rock. The winds were stronger out there, as we could see from the way Lily's shirt flapped like a flag against her body.
"Lily! Get back here!" Cass called, but the exuberant redhead spread her arms and laughed.
"Come on, Fred!" she called, dancing a jig from foot to foot as the surf splashed over her legs. Lily giggled.
I sighed.
"Wanna go ahead?" a voice asked behind me.
I turned and nodded to Ben Wyck. "Sure," I said.
We worked our way over to the staircase that led down to the beach. Behind me, I heard Fred call, "On second thought, Lily, why don't you come back a ways?"
The young woman laughed and danced around the edge. "There's no danger, silly! The beach is right there," she pointed over the far edge of the jetty. "It's just a short drop. Watch!"

The next moment happened in slow motion. We all heard the terrific roar of a huge wave at the same instant Lily jumped into the air—right into the cap of a huge wave. The shock of the water threw her off-balance and she vanished over the edge with a short scream. A tall dune obscured my view, but I could have sworn we heard her hit the beach.
"LILY!" Helena screamed, and ran toward the edge. The others followed—except Cass, who had fainted on the spot, and Charlie, who was busy trying to revive her.
I glanced at Ben. He was moon-white, and I could guess what was going through his head just then.
"Ben?" I prodded him. "Ben!"
He blinked slowly. "What?" he whimpered faintly.
"Call an ambulance!" I didn't wait for him to respond before I thundered down the stairs and onto the beach, but when I hit the sand, I looked back and saw him raise his cell phone to his ear.
I reached the top of the dune and saw that it wasn't all beach there like she said. The wave had carried a sizeable amount of water into the area with it, and Lily was nowhere in sight.
"There!" John cried, and I saw two arms break the surface before Lily emerged, flailing and spluttering.
"Help!" she cried, "Help me!"
"Oh, somebody do something!" Helena wailed, standing on top of the rock and watching her sister flounder below. Fred was still fumbling around, trying to get off the rock and directly down to Lily without meeting her same fate. John was at the top of the steps now, but he wouldn't get there in time.
I whipped off my shoes and took off down the dune and into the rising tide.

"I'm coming, Lily!" I called.
Even from that distance I heard a thin wail, "Ooh! They're going to die!" Cass had regained consciousness. "Hurry! Oh, somebody save my sister!"
I could feel the undertow tugging at my legs as I waded toward her. Thin streams of red tinted the water around her.
"Mer!" Lily gasped, and lunged for me. "My leg! I think it's broken! I can't feel it!" She wrapped her arms around my neck, and I swallowed water as my face dipped below the surface.
"Lily! It's okay!" I spluttered, my lifeguard coaching coming into play as I tried to calm her down or we both would sink. "You're going to be fine. Just relax."
"Meredith!" she squealed. "I'm sinking!" Her arms pulled tighter at my shoulders. It was deeper here than either of us could reach. If I could just make it back to the beach—
"Mer—" A wave caught Lily unawares and I felt her hold loosen as she choked on the lung-full of water. The swell carried us slightly apart, and she freaked.
"Meredith!" Her hands grabbed for me again, pulling me under. I fought my way back to the surface, but when I emerged, I'd lost Lily again. I dove toward the place I'd last seen her, and nearly head-butted her. She was unconscious and sinking. I wrapped my arms around her and kicked us toward the beach. Finally, I scraped sand with my toes, and I felt several pairs of hands pulling her away from me.

"Lily! Oh gosh, Lily!
That was Fred calling to her through the fog. I felt like I was still submerged—till I sat up and hacked all the water I'd swallowed. Everyone was gathered around Lily. Her leg was bleeding pretty badly, and Fred was hunched over her, pumping her chest and blowing into her mouth. I saw her leg kick, and Fred backed away as Lily craned her neck and coughed the water from her lungs. She gave a shudder and went limp.

>>>>>>

Also from "Merely Meredith:

Monday, May 18, 2015

BlogRoll: The Liebster Award TAG!

^^Feel free to copy this image for your post! ^^

I just won an award!!! Thank you Olivia at Inkspots for the nomination!

Okay, so the rules are fairly simple:

1) Thank and link back to the person who nominated you. (That would be me!)

2) List 11 Facts About Yourself

3) Answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated you.

4) Nominate 9 bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers (and you can't nominate the blogger who nominated you, so I can't be one of those nine)

5) Ask them 11 questions (you'll find these down below)

6) Let them know about the nomination. (And this is important! I found out my own nomination quite by accident... Trust me, I've made sure it doesn't happen to the people I nominated!)

This is so perfect because I've followed a LOT of blogs over the last year, but haven't interacted much, (sorry!) and so this is the PERFECT way for me to give a little back to them! 

Ready? Here we go!

Part 1: 11 Facts About Me

1. My earliest memory is that of "reading" a book before I actually knew how to read words: I basically flipped through the book and made up stories about the pictures I saw. 

2. I write fanfiction. And also, I happen to take it very seriously.

3. My first experience with regularly attending a public school was when I started working in one. I was homeschooled for pretty much the entirety of my education. I now work as a public school staff assistant.

4. I dislike math because I cannot think in numerical expressions. Anything more advanced than basic algebra, if it cannot be explained using words, I do not understand it. Therefore, when approaching a math problem, I can only remember how to solve it by the steps that were explained to me--which tends to be tedious and it takes me a really long time and I don't enjoy it at all! (I also tend to psychoanalyze things, which is how I arrived at this conclusion... but that's another quirk...)

5. I prefer being too hot to being too cold.

6. I am allergic to peanuts. Now, before anyone starts asking "How do you know you're still allergic"... I know because I have actually consumed peanut products on at least six separate occasions over the course of my life, and I had an anaphylactic reaction (my throat swelled up) each time. (I blame my love of chocolate... peanut mixed with chocolate still looks like plain chocolate... boo...)

7. There was this one time I was in California for a week-long conference, and the hotel happened to have a few limousines in their shuttle service motor pool. So I rode a limo back and forth to the conference center for a week.

8. Speaking of limousine rides, I have visited 3 different properties owned by Bill Gates, spent the night at 2 of them (the property in Hood Canal, off Puget Sound; also the one in Palm Springs).

9. I am left-handed, a middle child, and an English major. (Not sure if there is supposed to be any correlation, but I just wanted to mention those three things and decided to put them all on one point; sue me)

10. This one time, I made up a language. The story goes that I had this Lord of the Rings fanfiction that was my first fanfiction (and it will never see the light of day if I can help it!) and I had a lot of fun using Elvish phrases and everything—two years later, I wanted to rewrite it as my own original work, but at the same time I didn't want to lose the Elvish. So I went and made up my own language, complete with grammar and spelling rules. It currently has over 300 individual words and I have the capacity to translate just about anything. (Feel free to send me a phrase or word you would like to see translated, if you're interested!)

11. Probably my second greatest literary accomplishment (second to the language thing) was reading a grand total of 100 books in a single year. 

Part 2: Olivia's questions

1. Favorite Author? How about Top 10? They would be: David Baldacci (Mystery/thriller), Brandon Sanderson (Sci-fi/fantasy adventure), Cornelia Funke (fantasy), Isaac Asimov (sci-fi), Marissa Meyer (sci-fi, and it's GOOOD), Kerstin Geir (what genre is time travel? Sci-fi? Paranormal?), J. K. Rowling (both the Harry Potter series and her "Robert Galbraith" novels--can't quite vouch for cleanliness of the subject or content, but I love her style of writing!), Mark Lawrence (sci-fi/fantasy-dystopian-MINDBLOWINGNESS; again, really high on the violence/graphic rating, but SOO GOOD), Simon Tolkien (didn't see that one coming, eh? This one--the grandson--writes crime novels and they're fantastic!), and Pauline Creeden (steampunk, paranormal sci-fi, horror... this author is so versatile but her style is consistently wonderful!)

2. What made you decide to start blogging? Well, I had a bunch of stories on my computer, and I was writing more all the time, and thinking about writing a whole lot—but my family and close friends just weren't all that interested. I started "The Upstream Writer" as an outlet for my writing, to make it easy to share stuff I write and potentially get feedback from people who don't know me, to judge whether my writing is worth the effort I am spending on it. That's the dream, anyway. 

3. Do you outline a story first, or do you jump right in? Outline, for sure! I've tried jumping in and just writing but I only get so far before I have to cave and plan out what I'm going to write, or I'll get lost. Either that or I'll come up with an idea that sounds good at the time, but the more I write the more I realize that it doesn't work, and it's so much harder to go back and rewrite a whole swath of scenes rather than just deleting or rearranging a few bullet points on an outline!

4. Fictional crushes? I don't really crush on fictional characters. They have their own world, their own stories. No need to set my hopes on something that doesn't exist! (Actors are a different story, but we won't get into that right now!)

5. Even if you like to jump right in, what do you do plan a book? I always start with the conflict or problem that needs solving; without conflict a story has no substance. Once I establish the conflict, I can backtrack a little to find my introduction to figure out the sort of characters I will need in my story, and then work forward from the presentation of the problem to lead my characters in solving it.

6. Where do you prefer to write? A quiet place, for sure. I can't write when there's lots of noise and movement. I write best when the loudest thing is my own imagination.

7. Favorite movie? Once again, I have SO MANY FAVORITES! Favorite fantasy movie would have to be The Secret of Moonacre; Paranormal? Frequency; favorite romantic comedy is Leap Year; Favorite War Drama is Defiance; Favorite superhero film would have to be The Avengers (both of them!); Favorite indie film is Extracted... I guess it all just depends on what mood I'm in!

8. What fantasy/medieval weapon would you prefer to use? Umm, an Elemental Stone? (I know, that might be cheating... It's a fantasy weapon I made up, a gemstone that allows the bearer to manipulate the elements; you did leave it open to interpretation, though!) 

9. Do you prefer third-person or first-person POVs? It really depends on the story. I have written in both, and I have read both. I don't actually have a preference.

10. Your favorite word? "Erstwhile" is currently cropping up in my writing; such a useful word! But beyond that, any word longer than two syllables and/or uses the letters Q, X, Z, or V. 

11. Favorite kind of music? Celtic music, symphonies, or certain selections of pop music.

Part 3: Nominations!

Whew! I made it! Now that that's over, I'd like to nominate the following:

1. Andrew Barber--Ravings of a Madman
2. Jeffrey Gartshore--Opalstar Stories
4. Ryan P. Howard--The Realm of Hearts
5. Lazette Gifford--Joyously Prolific
6. Raven--Bio Talez
7. Renee Jean--Author Musings
9. Shanan Winters--Interpreter of Inspiration

Here are my questions for you all!

1. If you could be a character in any one of the worlds you've created for your books--like take over an existing character, or be your own kind of character--which world would it be and what character would you be?

2. What's one item on your Bucket List?

3. What is your favorite genre to read?

4. What is one of the stories you have started/written? (just the title and one paragraph description)

5. What is your most prized possession?

6. What's your favorite vacation spot?

7. How would you describe your blog?

8. If you could give one piece of advice, using only six words, what would it be?

9. What is the craziest/nerdiest/geekiest thing you've ever done? (pick one superlative)

10. If you had a week (but only a week) to travel anywhere in the world and do whatever you liked, where would you go and what would you do?

11. If you could meet anybody, past or present, for coffee or drinks, who would it be?