Sunday, March 30, 2014

Wedded Bliss

Hello, old beans! I hope you've had a pleasant and restful weekend. I have had a rainy, quietish weekend of attending the wedding of a good friend and hanging out with my church family and a couple of friends (literally...they are a couple) whom I haven't seen much since their marriage. It has been a lovely weekend and despite being stressed over an interview I have at the start of the week for a part-time nannying job, I feel quite relaxed. I am sorry for the lack of truly interesting posts on this blog. Editing a mystery means I have to keep pretty mum about my actual writing--even quieter than while I was writing the actual thing...sorry! I will let you know, though, that my first two beta-readers loved the first draft and I even made one of them cry. So. Now you know. But while I am not allowed to say much about Anon, Sir, Anon, I can talk all I want about Fly Away Home! First off on that subject: I made a decision to lower the price of the Kindle edition to $2.99, so now it costs far less than a complicated Starbucks drink and will certainly afford you more pleasure. I've begun to think about books that way--once upon a time, I never would buy books, thinking them too expensive. Now I think of them in terms of how many coffees they cost, and it's really not all that horrible. This may or may not be some odd form of psychology. I don't know. I don't inspect it. It allows me to buy myself books without feeling guilty for spending the money. I approve this method. ;)

At this wedding of which I spoke, I was faced with the odd position of chatting about Fly Away Home with a ton of people. The complete stranger at the end of my pew asked what I did. I told her I'm a writer. What do I write? I write novels. What sort of novels have you published? Just one, Fly Away Home. What is it about? Insert my very unpolished blurb I hate here. This conversation turned into the woman scribbling down the title and my name on the wedding program right under the bridal-party announcements. While I felt a stab of compunction at seeing my sales pitch actually kind of work and adorn the program of a friend's wedding, I had to laugh. It is so funny how people react to meeting a real live author. Most of them don't even look disappointed when I tell them I independently published and therefore am not likely to become famous. At the reception, several acquaintances I haven't seen since the last out-of-town social occasion bobbed up and congratulated me on my book, told me they were planning to buy it, and asked about sales. Others told me they had just finished reading it and thought it wonderful. Another told me she had only just started but couldn't stop feeling excessively pleased that she was reading a real book written by her own dear friend. I felt my face growing red with pleasure and embarrassment mingled. I mean, what do you say to these well-meaning, lovely people? It's certainly gratifying to be recognized as an author by people who have read and enjoyed your work/blog/stuff, but I found myself automatically discounting that praise and deflecting it. "It was independently published," I'd repeat, as if that made any difference to them.

The point is, people don't care. I think those of us who have finished and independently published a novel feel a bit wary over accepting praise because a big fat editor in a bit fat publishing house hasn't reached down to help us set our "beetle-crusher on the ladder of fame" (to borrow Wodehouse cant). I love the fact that I self-published Fly Away Home, but I admit to feeling that people wouldn't be quite so excited if they knew they could publish just as easily as I did...and they might not have a lick of talent. But the thing I've had to realize is this: it really is a thing worthy of commendation to have finished a novel and to have people like it. How many people have really done that? Let people love you. Let people become fans and laud your talent and get excited. It is their privilege as readers to appreciate what they want to appreciate. If they like what you write, haven't you succeeded? Constantly correcting people with, "It was independently published" is the literary equivalent of having your outfit complimented and feeling compelled to say, "Oh thanks. It's a hand-me-down". People don't want to know that. They want to give you the gift of kind words. Discounting those kind words is neither polite, nor generous. It's like unwrapping a present, looking at it and saying, "Thanks, but no thanks."

The thing that ground this concept in for me was when Michelle, the bride, came through into the reception room. After the initial "hug each other and bounce up and down squealing" thing that is her trademark, she pulled away and stared me in the eye. "Did you bring me my book?" she asked. Now, Michelle had told me a couple months ago to give her a copy of Fly Away Home as her wedding present. If I had come up with that idea on my own, it would have been gouache, but Michelle doesn't say things she doesn't mean. So when I was hugging my wedding-gown-clad friend and celebrating this monumental moment in her life and she asked me that, I just laughed.
"Yeah, I brought it," I said.
"YES! I was so hoping you wouldn't think I was kidding!" she said, and hugged me tight. "I wanted it so badly!"
Michelle is having the hugest day of her life to date and she is just as giddy about my silly little book as she is about her new husband. I didn't bring it up; she did. She genuinely wanted my book as a wedding gift and wanted it badly enough to ask me right in the first moments of her Mrs. Karl Hertzler-ness if I'd remembered to bring it. Honestly, I felt a tad ridiculous but a little giddy too. This is the perfect example of being able to take a compliment graciously. Who am I to tell her that's no kind of wedding gift? If she is going to be delighted with a signed copy of Fly Away Home, just let her be.

This is the sort of thing we authors dreamed of. Let's start letting ourselves enjoy being loved.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fly Away Home Art!

I am busy busy busy with editing Anon, Sir, Anon, and cannot stop to say too terrible much. I did, however, want to share with you the most beautiful piece of art inspired by Fly Away Home. I literally gasped when I saw this pop up in my Facebook is so perfect. Those of you who have read Fly Away Home: is this how you saw Callie all spiffed up? It is remarkably like her, I think, and I am so glad artist Kendra Yoakum decided to draw her. Kendra's attention to detail as described in the book is crazy-good. I have always loved her drawings so you can imagine how it thrilled me to hear my character had inspired one:

Enjoy your hump-day, darlings! I am off to do more edits and hope it won't be long before Anon, Sir, Anon will be out to my beta-readers.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

{Just For Fun} 9 Gifts for You or Your Writing Friends!

It just struck me today, that sometimes we need a bit of spoiling. Why did I just think of this today? Well, last week I spoiled myself by buying P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters in hardback. It came yesterday. Already a fascinating book and I'm so glad I splurged the fifteen dollars to buy it and ship it to myself. Now and then you ought to spend some of that coffee-money on something a bit more lasting. Today I've rummaged up a few spoilings under $10 that you might be interested in lavishing on yourself or another writer-friend. :)

This gilded filigree journal from The Victorian Trading Co. is on clearance for $6.99.

Hand-stamped key-chain from Michelle Mach is  $10.00

Book Quote necklace from SilverRapture for $9.00

Writer's Pen necklace from MonsterBrand for $10.00

Word Geek upcycled bobby pins from PigseyArt at $10.00

Bwahahahaah. This pin is available from geektuary for $1.88

A vintage pink typewriter iPhone case? Apparently it exists from familycase for $9.99

Ummmm, now I want a guy writing-friend to whom I can give these type cuff links from thatsreallyclassic at only $9.90!

Well that was fun! Now I am going to run off and focus on my work for the afternoon: beginning the rewrite for Anon, Sir, Anon in preparation for sending it out to beta-readers! Hold your breath they like it.... ;)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Globe-Trotter: In Which I Leave American Soil {Again}

The spring is always a time for new beginnings, goals for the rest of the year, and impossible projects. But nothing is entirely impossible, is it? Especially when God's hand is in it. :) Some of you will remember that I went to Romania on a missions trip last year. If you want to read more about that mind-boggling trip, click on this link and it'll take you to the posts about it on my other blog!

I kept a meticulous travel journal while there which has proved to be amazing to look back on...

This year we are going back! Our tickets are purchased, and I will be leaving for Romania on May 12th for another two-weeks' trip! Absolutely cannot wait... Last year, I was full of the excitement of a first trip out of the country. This year, I am filled with the tremulous excitement  of going back to a place my heart loves well...

This year, we are leaving most of the cities behind and forging deeper into the mountains to more churches, more villages. We're going to TRANSyLVANIA, people! And I have it on good authority that we are stopping by two castles on the way, including the one wherein lived Count Dracula. (The man. I don't think he was a vampire. :P)

As I said above, we have bought the tickets, but our team still needs to raise over the half the funds needed (about $1800 total per person) by the time of our departure. I know God will provide as He did last year with just the right amount of funds at just the right time, but I would really appreciate your prayer for wisdom as to how to raise the money. 

This year we are pairing up with our friends' church to go. I think it's such a cool thing that two American churches are able to pair up and travel to a couple dozen Romanian churches. The world-wide body of Christ is such a beautiful thing. I will be keeping you updated as to what fund-raising schemes we are up to (if any of you have ideas, by all means pass them on!) and for now, if you would like more information on the trip, how you can pray, and any other information, please head to The Missions Trip Blog for more! I know God will provide...I look forward to seeing His hand. :) Cannot wait to set foot on Romanian soil and again see these beautiful beautiful people. <3

Pace, darlings. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

"Why Can't I Write Like Tolkien?" A Rebuttal, of sorts

I was reading an article the other day that complained of why current Christian writers can't rise to the level of the Tolkiens and Lewises of last century; why Christian fiction now is so dull and drab in comparison. I didn't finish the article so I can't offer a comprehensive answer as to whether I agreed with the writer's logic or not. I think my tablet crashed of there was a baby to rock to sleep or something along those lines. Or kittens. I think it might have been kittens.
So this question ("Why don't we have a new Tolkien yet?") stayed in the back of my mind and collided this morning with idle musings over the fact that Tolkien's translation of Beowulf is going to be published this spring. (incidentally, I've never read Beowulf but I think I need to now.) At first I thought, "Oh, of course. Translation of Beowulf. Tolkien. Right. Okay, what next?" and then my brain wheeled around like a dog that has just galloped past a cat and squeals to a stop on his rump.

Well that, my darlings, is the answer to your question.

J.R.R. Tolkien was fluent in or at least had a working knowledge of 35 languages, including those he invented. (But a ruddy lot of the languages he knew were real, not concocted.) Lewis was equally intelligent. Both were professors at Oxford and Lewis took a spell at Cambridge too. These were brilliant, disciplined, crazy-academic minds, not your average aspiring novelist.

When people complain about today's Christian fiction, I don't think they are entirely complaining about its preachiness. You see, an unskilled writer is always going to disappoint in putting forth their subjects. You might notice the glaring lack of tact in portraying the Gospel ("I've got to have God in here somewhere. Might as well bang 'em over the head with it."), but if you care to look deeper, you will also find a lack of tact in portraying almost anything. The general question is, "Why can't authors today portray Christianity in their writing like Lewis and Tolkien did?" but I think the underlying question is: "Why can't authors write today like Lewis and Tolkien did?" and there is an answer to that question:

We don't bother enough with our education and intellect.

You cannot seriously expect to write like some of the most brilliant minds of our century if you don't take care with your own brilliant mind and cultivate it. Deciding you've finished high-school and therefore have no compulsion to read anything but historical romance the rest of your life is not going to stand you in good stead. Because writing is an out-pouring, we must counter that egress with an influx of something hearty. Read good books, read strong books. Talk to and meet people and travel when you can and always keep a mind active and open to learning new things. Just because you are out of your formal education years can't mean you stop learning. It's madness. The strength of your writing is going to be directly proportionate to the strength of your mind. I realize the opposite end of ignoring the furthering of you education would mean becoming one of those annoying academics who do nothing but read, discuss philosophy, and debate ethics with you when all you asked was whether the bananas were ripe or whether they wanted a few days more.

I don't intend to urge you into that boorish style of living. I only propose that, did J.R.R. Tolkien stop pouring into his education at eighteen, he might never have written The Lord of the Rings or translated Beowulf or taught at Oxford or learned all his languages. I also propose that if you, dear Christian Writer, make an effort to continuously broaden the horizons of your mind, there is no limit to the things of which you might be capable. Build your mind, nurture your intellect, and write to the depths of your being. That is the secret of Tolkien, the genius of Lewis. Stop asking why we aren't them. Start paying heed to the methods and path they forged before us.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Books like Chocolate Cake

Pleasure reading.
How many times do we let ourselves read books that really have no bearing on what we are researching, or what we are assigned or what we think we ought to read. How many times do we let ourselves dwell in the literary version of a piece of chocolate cake: a thing in which we partake because it is familiar and good and conjures up the best memories? Well I think we ought to indulge more frequently in the good old favorites. Oscar Wilde said it first:
"If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all."
 So today I'm featuring a list of my favorite comfortable, chocolate-cake-y books. I wonder what your lists look like, and if we share some of the same favorites?

The James Herriot series is one that I always forget about until I slip back into the gentle cadence of the stories and feel how soft and worn they are, like a favorite pair of jeans. I always wonder how I ever left the world of the Yorkshire Dales and the real-life experiences of this beloved veterinarian.

An Old-Fashioned Girl is one of those books cursed with an unfortunately boring name. This book quickly became one of my favorites ever with its witty, improbably romances and gentle but clever heroine. The story is now so well-known to me that I have favorite chapters, and I have found a friend on the road before me in Polly Milton. Don't let the prudish name scare you: this story is probably my favorite book by Louisa May Alcott...though Eight Cousins follows close behind.

I have talked about The Railway Children before, but I don't know that anyone believes me when I say that it's one of the best kids' books ever. I just love E. Nesbit's way of spinning a story of three children in a grown ups' world. Hilarious, poignant, and never grows old. Read it.

Anything Wodehouse makes this list. Again, if you will only take my word for it, there will never be a need for ibuprofen when you have a headache again. Just crack the spine of one of these awesome stories and your cares will soon be gone the way of Aunt Agatha. Hilarious, light-hearted and always worth it, Wodehouse is the panacea for the world's woes.

Similar to the James Herriot books, Jan Karon's Mitford series is also a homely, precious set of books that don't require much brain-power. I don't mean to suggest that you can't relax with a book that does require brain-power. I'm only stating the facts. I like some of the novels better than others, but through the whole series you will find an awesome cast of hilarious, touching, fabulous characters. I think by the end of the series, Jan Karon had invented over seven-hundred characters. Ay yup, Jenny, she's giving you a run for your money!

You know those books that you read so many times as a kid that you can still remember the topography of the pages and where you were while reading them, and even now can still point to definite things inside you that were affected by that book? Anne of Green Gables is this for me. I don't care if it sounds typical. I really don't. I know you'd expect this title to show up on a list of favorite books. But maybe we're just chronological snobs. There is nothing wrong with Anne of Green Gables that should make me exclude it. Maybe it's on so many lists because it is just that good and deserves to be a classic. I love this story and its people and I plan to love it forever an' ever, amen.

This is a book that a friend told me I would enjoy. I was a little skeptical because it didn't sound that interesting and I don't usually like books about orphans. But when I was at the homeschool conference, I found a copy and decided I would try my luck. By the end of the first reading, it had thoroughly endeared itself to me. I don't know what it is about this book that is so wonderful and just is. I don't know what else Jean Webster has written, but she gave the cozy world a gift with Daddy Long-Legs

Winnie-The-Pooh. Oh come on. You knew it was going to happen. I think every swinging one of you knows exactly how I feel about A.A. Milne. this. Please. Think how much money some people spend on Prozac and counselors when what they could be doing is reading about Pooh-Bear and Tigger and Christopher Robin and finding themselves so much less stressed.

Well. These are the first books I thought of. I know there are other old favorites that would also fit this list, but these are the ones that stepped forward and volunteered as tribute. Also, you may have noticed that the majority of these titles are kids books. OH WELL. I happen to like well-written children's literature just as much as I like regular literature so LET us not quibble. Here's to one more day of my North Carolina "vacation". The sun finally came out and heralded spring, and life here is pretty much beautiful. Also, I randomly (not so randomly, actually) bought a hard-cover volume of the letters of P.G. Wodehouse. I am so excited! Book splurge. I never do it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Whence Came the Scars

This short story or flash-fiction is rather different than usual. Thoughtful. I wrote it after thinking for some time about the gift of grace and how--for one of us--it isn't free. And what a wonder it is that Jesus keeps extending that grace to us. Anyway. I hope you enjoy it and can, possibly, relate.

He bent over his knees, the suffocation of guilt pressing him to the marble floor in a way no discipline had yet managed. Breath seemed futile in his shame, but breath came anyway, swift and hot in the pocket of air between his belly and knees. The throne room was empty and silent, but he would come. He always knew when one of his brothers had arrived. Armeddeonan spat a curse on himself into the stillness and his breath quickened. The skin of his belly and chest flashed on and off his sweating thighs like the sleek sides of a hound after a race.

How many times had he folded himself in shame, dissolved in submission and fear...and lived to hurt his older brother again? For he knew it hurt him, somehow. He was not certain how, but he knew he inflicted pain on this most gentle of men and the thought dirtied him further.
Armeddeonan flinched at the sound of the heavy doors being thrown open and the inward rush of jasmine-scented air. His brother had been walking in his gardens again among the pure beauty of the warm summer night while Armeddeonan had been less...nobly occupied.
“Brother, why lie you on your countenance in so sorrowful a state?” His voice was rich and quiet and he drew near with an easy step.
Armeddeonan crumpled deeper into his fold and despised the kindness that chose not to accuse him.
“Please arise,” he said and his courtesy held a regal command both imminent and gentle.
Heart pounding, senses alert, Armeddeonan arose and stretched himself to his full height. In stature, he now stood a head taller than his brother, but he had never felt more insignificant and yet significant than he did now with that comprehensive gaze on his features.
“Good evening, my brother,” Armeddeonan murmured.
“Good evening.”
He watched the uncertain torchlight burnish his brother’s crimson robes to burgundy and play on the auburn flecks in his dark hair. His face was patient and kind but the scars driving up his arms and extending, as Armeddeonan knew, across his back and shoulders showed him capable of bearing untold sorrows. How did he get the scars? What kept them fresh and red when time ought to have bleached them skin-smooth?
“I have not come merely to say hello,” Armeddeonan said at last. He had spoken too loud and startled the shadows into activity. A dark breeze fell through the open doorway and shook the twin torches, rattling them in their iron brackets.
When Armeddeonan looked back to his brother, he saw that the man’s eyes dwelt on his features as if searching for the Truth in him. Was there truth in him? Had there ever been? Pain like branding seared Armeddeonan’s chest and bitter gall rose in his throat.
“I am sorry,” he whispered. Visions of last night--soft arms, red lips, warm bronze skin and linen sheets slayed him over again with stinking guilt. “I am so sorry.”
“Jazmeriana?” his brother asked and his glance was so swift and piercing it cut the flesh from his bones.
Armeddeonan hung his head. “Again. Always again.”
They breathed together for a quiet space of time and somewhere beyond the doors of the throne room a nightingale sang the tune of all the purity Armeddeonan had spent on the girl. The sound flayed his spirit and he clenched his tunic in his fists, willing the creature to die with its song in its throat.
“Did you enjoy it?” his brother asked. “Jazmeriana’s company?” From anyone else, the question would have seemed insufferable, laden with accusation and despising. From Armeddeonan’s brother, it was only a question.
“I did.” Armmedeonan ground out between clenched teeth. “I always do.” That was what stung like the sting of a thousand bees. It was only here, in the throne room in the presence of his scarred brother, that he ever felt the weight of his wrongs. In Jazmeriana’s arms, he had no thought but pleasure. She did not capture him--he sought her. There was no question of whether the guilt was his own. It was there, pungent and horrible in his mind’s eye.
“Why must it be so good?” he spat in contempt of himself and his problems.
“Because it was created good,” his brother said with quiet finality. “But not to be stolen and enjoyed in a hurried corner by those who will not swear the oath that makes it beautiful. You cheapen it. The gift is not yours.”
Cheap? He was not cheap--he was extravagant. That was why he stood here now, bent and sweating and horrible. He never thought of the price of anything--his nights with Jazmeriana or any of the hundred other sins that now crowded his thoughts. How much did it cost anyway? His head throbbed with the reckoning under the warm pulse of the night. The price to be paid was death--it was death to break the King’s law. How many times over would he need to die to pay it off? Gooseflesh stood up along his bronzed arms even as the sweat dripped down his chest.
His brother waited, silent and sure in the darkness.
“I know I have sinned against my King,” Armeddeonan said at last, head bent. “I am willing to pay the death-price. Forgive me.”
The nightingale sang again but this time it sounded like liquid sorrow and he felt tears joining the sweat on his face. He knew what would come now and he hated and craved the mercy of it, white against his blood-stained blackness.
His brother stepped in and pressed firm, warm lips to his forehead, and the kiss was scented with triumph and grace.“I stand in your stead,” he whispered, pulling away.
Their eyes locked. Armeddeonan tried to look away. He could not look at the golden knowing in his brother’s eyes. He could not accept this. How many times had his brother taken his death-punishment for him? For him and for every one of his subjects in the realm? How many times would he still insist on carrying for them their sins? Was he not weary of the same pageant over and over again?
“It is not a pageant,” came the voice, heavier now as if it came from the center of a soul much-wearied by a weight it bore. “You belong to me. To my King. You are my brother.”
Armeddeonan sliced the air with one fore-arm. “I am adopted! I have spat in the King’s face with my sins!”
“You are my brother,” he repeated. “I have chosen to carry your debts.”
They shared a long look and the shadows of the room closed in about them except where his brother stood, and here a crimson glow shed like drops of blood from his robes. His brother put out a hand and grasped Armeddeonan’s.
“You have been bought at a price,” he whispered, and his lips curved into a smile, curious for its mingled joy and gravity. “Go now, and sin no more.”
A feather’s breadth of a moment and his brother had gone, leaving Armeddeonan alone in the throne-room. He realized he had been holding his breath, and let it out in a ragged stream. He felt cooler and clean now, and he knew his ledger had again--for the untold time--been blotted clean. But there was another stirring beneath the relief; a pulsing in his blood that begged him to keep this moment in his soul and by it, live his life.
On quiet, humbled feet, Armeddeonan hastened across the room. He would thank his brother--he must do that, at least. He tugged open one of the great doors with as little noise as he could manage and stepped into the moon-washed whiteness of the garden. He made to descend the steps of the portico, but a gut-rending sound stopped him short and clenched his heart with cruel fingers.
The sound of a whip lashing the air. The slap of it biting into the skin. A faint cry, then silence. The whip again, the fleshy cut, the painful noise. On and on the hellish thing played and its notes wound tendrils of disgust and hatred over Armeddeonan’s chest. He could not yet discern from whence it came. Why did his brother allow whippings to be carried on in his own garden? It was not like him. Quickly now, before the victim could be beaten any more, Armeddeonan loped across the yard. The stones were cool under his bare feet and jasmine perfumed each breath he drew. A fountain burbled moon-diamonds at his right and the nightingale continued to haunt his hearing. Where was the man?
He entered a circle of pyracantha bushes planted like a thornsome crown around a white sandstone piazza and there he saw a thing that knit terror and confusion into his heart. His brother stooped below a cloaked figure with a whip, back bare and open to the bite of the leather. The figure whipped him with a sickening regularity. Lash, lash, lash, lash.

Frissons of sickness quaked inside Armeddeonan’s gut. He saw whence came the scars.

Monday, March 17, 2014

and the rain came down in streaks

Dear Everyone:
    I am writing to you from a quiet, rain-specked spot in a quiet, rain-specked farm-house in a quiet, rain-specked portion of North Carolina. Quite wonderfully, my hectic week of finishing the first draft of Anon, Sir, Anon and celebrating the release of my first novel with a party and dear friends ended with Abigail kidnapping me and whisking me away to the nether regions of the known world and her antebellum home.

I slept well and was awakened by a rooster. I took gobs of time fixing and eating breakfast. I sat down near a clicking, ticking wood-stove and spent the morning in the faraway realm of a book I have been on needles to read. It was been a glorious day so far. It is wonderful to be able to take time off and know there is nothing hanging about your ears that you are neglecting by doing so. Revisions for The Windy Side of Care have long since been in the possession of the staff at Rooglewood Press. The first draft of Anon, Sir, Anon is complete and hidden in my files for the time in a couple of weeks when I will deem it right to start the revisions. I am blessed. Also, there are three kittens to play with and three babies in the "little house". Cora is a cuddle-bug, Zach a powerhouse, and Tabitha a sunny, smiley infant. Cora and I had a few moments alone and looked at the rainy window and sang rainy songs. It was lovely and performed in company with a downy woodpecker.

I suppose those of you who don't follow me closely on Facebook  or Twitter will want  to know my final stats and all for Anon, Sir, Anon!

Final word-count for the first draft: 59,105 words (this will be somewhat beefed in revisions)

First word: "Times"
Last word: "Tomorrow"
Favorite one-line retort: “In my day,” Farnham offered, “there was a delightful practice called conversation. You ought to take lessons sometime--you’d enjoy it.”
Favorite one-line description: "Breen was such a mother’s favorite--he hardly ever bent the rules."

Of course those aren't exactly real favorites, because I found them in a rush and there are too many I love. I am so looking forward to the second draft. As a friend said today, since you know where you're going and what is happening, you can be more colorful and definite with everything you write. But I am giving myself a nice break of a week or two before beginning again. Sometime this week I will write up a post about the Fly Away Home debut party and let you see pictures and hear about how Haymitch pressed me into giving a speech and all of those details. For now, let me strike a pose and say: if you have read Fly Away Home, would you mind terribly giving it a review on Goodreads and Amazon and wherever else one reviews books. Well, I shall leave you now and pay heed to the baby at my side and the people all around!

Oh, and happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Final Scene (plus cheesecake)

Hey luvs! I am quite busy this week and am currently drafting a stats sheet for all things Fly Away Home to be used at my book-debut party tomorrow night! We are having a Starbuck's-style coffee night and I'm making three cheesecakes and celebrating my debut as a professional author. It's going to be fun! Today, I'm making decorations (Wait till you see what I have planned for "Beyond the Sea") and cheesecakes and cleaning. Somewhere in there I want to finish Anon, Sir, Anon because I am so close to the end. scene close. We will see. Right now I'm madly scribbling stats and printing off Western Union telegrams and all sorts of jolly things. I will see you later!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Icing on my Cake

"You are the icing on my cake, you are the smile I can't replace,
You are, you are.
The way you smile, the way you laugh,
The way I can't help but catch your joy, your joy..."
//icing by charity vance//

Today I made 3096 words. Not as much as yesterday, but then again, I woke up early and my computer monitor would not work. For like...half an hour... I sat on the floor plugging and unplugging it and hoping it would work before I finally escaped to the downstairs and a very messy Dad's Office to write my dose. Also, it was some tough material (mystery endings and the like.) I picked up my contacts from Walmart (good heavens, that has been a heck of a mess) and they're still not quite right...but almost. They are wearable. Then my cousin Matthew, who is a photographer, took me to the Cultural Arts center where we shot some photos of my new pink trench-coat so I can do a review for eShakti on my other blog. Matthew is the guy with whom it always appears I'm flirting,. He's a cousin. We are close. I'm not always writing, darlings. That picture above pretty much encapsulates me. You have my permission to study it. Also, I have discovered that my spy-face (made up of laughter, sass, and my cousin staring at me with his camera) pretty much looks exactly like a winky emoticon:



Likeness? I think so.

Also, I have rearranged the pages so that they are clickable. Thanks for all the input on the new design. I like making things comfy for my readership. Well, my eyes are tired from staring at my computer screen with these banged contacts, so I'm off. Cheers and may tomorrow be a productive day of writing as well!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Whistlecreig Fun

Well, it's two o'clock and I'm clocking in today with 4,096 new words in Anon, Sir, Anon. I am not exactly certain whether I will manage to get more in or not. This is already four times my usual daily dose and the plot is moving along at a rate that encourages me to think I will accomplish my goal. I got up early and managed to workout, have quiet time, and write over 2,000 words by shortly after 9 AM. Pretty good. We have some gardening work to do because the weather turned warm, so I may not try to fit any more words into the day and save my willingness to write for tomorrow.


Highlights of my writing binge so far have been:

  • Getting to the part in the story where the title makes an appearance.
  • Re-installing Allen as Farnham's confidante-caretaker, loyal servant.
  • Sending Vivi out in the company of two murder suspects; a complication which no one thought to disapprove of before it happened.
  • Writing a fencing scene.
  • Writing a scene involving toast. The little things.

I added 4,096 words which takes the total to 48,875 words, and likely to add at least another ten-thousand before things are finished to my approval.

I have consumed some chocolate (Ghirardelli Seas-Salt Seranade) so far, and not enough real food. Also, I've drunk an entire quart of ice-water which doesn't seem like much till you realize how many times you need to get up to use the bathroom. Golly. I am still feeling game for the fight, so I suppose that is a good sign. Also, I got a magenta trench-coat today which will certainly make an appearance in a fashion post on my other blog. And magenta trench coats are always a happy happy thing. I put it right on over-top my jeans and t-shirt but I was so excited, I cared little whether I looked ridiculous or not. I love you, mail-man. I also got to spend some time perusing a list of fencing terms and trying to comprehend them so I could fit them together into a feasible fight sequence. I think I managed it rather well:

“That was bang neat of you,” Farnham said. “I didn’t know you could move so fast.”
As for the characters, I've reached a certain level of complexity of which I am rather proud. I've purposely kept all of them from being much like me at all, which means I get to fathom their depths (or try, anyway) and write what I see. It's a good exercise and I'm looking forward to seeing what's what in editing rounds. I should also say that I'm going to up my four-person beta-reading team to five people, because I realized I need a British Contact to correct all my Britishness in this book. Looking forward to sending the manuscript through her and getting her take and on this particular aspect of the story. I feel blessed to have been brought in contact with someone who lives roughly near the general area of England in which Whistlecreig is thought to lay! (More or less. Probably less, but it's nearer than if she lived in Yorkshire.)

In other news, I never did find the map I made, which bothers me. Where on God's green earth could it have gone? It disappeared. It is probably a very good map which someone stole, thinking it led to treasure. I will nod sagely over that possibility and try to forget that I actually will need to redraw one. And on that note, since I am intending to include a map in the front of the book upon publication, how much does it cost to get someone to do it for you? Well, Regency Buck and lunch (which I haven't had yet--it's 2:40 PM and I've only had scrambled eggs and chocolate all day) are calling my name, and I've still got to put the baby to bed so I'm off. Thanks to all you lovely people who have supported me in the March Madcapness so far! I look forward to updating you tomorrow!

His butler’s offer of service disarmed Farnham. That any man would voluntarily cross swords with a furious Heir of Whistlecreig showed a sort of fealty he must commend. With a low grumble that was neither denial, nor assent, he turned his backsword basket-first to Allen and chose another for himself.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Skeletons, Blog Design, and A British Holiday

(By the time some of you read this post, you will be looking at a new blog design. I thought you might like to know. It's pretty fabulous, isn't it? I think so. And now there's a button you can take! Hrar-hrar.)

Once upon a time, I was a young and naive writer and my brain was full of stories. By stories, I mean little, episodic pieces of stories that I was fond of mincing up and packing together into an odd sort of SPAM that I was also fond of calling a novel. Then I began to learn about plotting and how you can't exactly write episodic hash and call it literature.

I used to pride myself on not having to edit so terribly much between versions of a given book. Let that sink in for a moment. I'm not exactly certain what sort of book I thought I had written, or what sort of genius I considered myself. Probably a cross between a child protege and Mark Twain. Suffice it to say, most versions of my books (plot-wise) looked exactly the same from one to the next, and I was quite happy with that. Perhaps I was dealing with such simple plots that they didn't need much work. Or maybe I just had that joyful assurance born of never having experience writer's block.

Now, though, I've realized that the first draft is a skeleton. Dear mercy me, it's just a bag of bones. Halfway through writing Anon, Sir, Anon, I had a slight moment of panic as I realized that I would not ace this book on the first draft. I know for most of you, that's a silly admittance. Of course you can't win laurels on the first draft of the first novel you've written in a given genre. I've never written a mystery before and I could tell that there were gaps in the plot that will need to be filled in. Usually, this would cause me to panic and decide this story was terrible. But just about this halfway point, I began to look at my story like a skeleton and I knew it was perfectly normal to slightly freak out, and that I could go on:
The first draft is the frame of the thing. When you build a house, you begin with the footer and build up to the framing. Eventually you sheath the house, and at that point you've got a house, all right. It just doesn't look like much but a cardboard pop-up of a gingerbread cottage. The first draft of a story is just like a gingerbread cottage. In subsequent rounds, you'll need to add siding, and flashing, and shingles and porches to the outside. You'll have to run electricity and plumbing and then insulation and sheet-rock and then paint and put in all your appliances and cabinets and tile and carpet and wood-flooring and hang all your doors and put in all your windows and build a deck and cut vent holes and install all the lighting apparatuses. If you're really good, you'll even install hose-bibs, outdoor electricity, and landscaping. Do you know how many doorknobs there are to install in a house? Until you've built a house, you won't realize all that goes into it after it already looks like a house from the road.
In the first draft of any book, we've built that house on the road that looks finished. But as the author, we can give ourselves room to realize that there will be several more months of work to fix plumbing, install electricity, and make the place livable.
This the great joy of multiple drafts. I have given myself license to write a skeleton this time, rather than a full-fleshed novel. That being said, I'm nearing the end of the first draft of Anon, Sir, Anon. My goal for this week is going to be to finish that first draft. Starting Monday, I'll be doing a March Madness challenge to finish it up and count it "finished" (from the road). That may or may not leave room for much blogging, but it will certainly be fun for me! I will endeavor to keep you updated with my word-counts, snippets from scenes, and my progress. I am looking forward eagerly to the second draft in which I'll add more description, refine dialogue, expand characters, etc. This is a different method than that I've used before, but it feels like a good fit. Since I tend to be a "pantser" and not so much of a plotter, I can get panicked over not knowing what is next in my book. Writing a skeletal first draft means that I have the plot tacked down, the characters mostly developed, and I know a start, a middle, and an end. I'm eager to begin to deepen shadows, bring out highlights, and work this story till it's completely different than its skeleton. But first things first: I've got to see the first draft through to the end.

For those of you who have purchased/won and read Fly Away Home, I would love to hear what your favorite quotes/parts were. If you so desire, you can email your favorite parts to me at, or add them to the Goodreads page! I love quotes and have always enjoyed hearing what lines/turns of phrase capture other people. Also, I wanted to tell you about a fabulous reader of mine, Ness Kingsley. Ness is a fairly new blogging friend, but she knows me well enough to know that I adore all things English. She is also aware of my mania for the Lake District. Well. Ness, being the clever, sweet thing that she is, knew she was headed to the Peaks District (not quite the Lakes, but still gorgeous) and decided to bring Fly Away Home along with her so that a part of me would have been to the place to which I feel such a deep connection. She photographed it with herself, some goats, and even on a lovely old stone wall:

I probably needn't even tell you how much this made my day. Ness, thanks a mil for your thoughtfulness, and for obliging my silly whims by carting a piece of me all through your lovely Isle. <3

Well. Le Brother is here for the weekend and I am supposed to be helping to organize a fundraiser for our Romanian Missions Trip (read more about it here) for tonight so ciao! I shall keep you updated on my Mad Marchishness later on in the fresh, new week!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Cry of Hope: a brand new novel from Emily Chapman

Hullo, everyone! Those who have been lurking around the blog for a while might have noticed that there's a vivacious, charming girl named Emily Chapman who comments and participates and generally makes life fun and interesting here at The Inkpen Authoress. Well, this young lady has been quizzing me for some time about independent publishing, watching the progress of Fly Away Home, and finally told me that she is just releasing her debut novel, Cry of Hope!

Beautimous cover. I love the hair.

When a voyage to the New World is thrust upon young, unwilling Hope Ellison, her carefully built ideals begin to slip from her grasp. Clinging to the tattered shards of her once contented life, she embarks on the perilous journey with her family, caring not for the reason they are taking such risks in the first place and fearing the fate for her future. Yet, even her fears are unprepared for the trials ahead, and soon she comes face to face with choices that will define her view of life entirely.
You can purchase Cry of Hope on Amazon by following this link. But not only is this an announcement of a beautiful new book by a fabulous new author, Emily has come with a guest post and a blog "scavanger hunt"! (there is a code and the link to the next blog at the bottom). Also, there is a change to win Without further ado:

By Emily Chapman
When a person is hungry, one naturally heads for a bag of chips or a cookie. Unless you are a vegetarian. Then you would eat bacon. Anyhow, if you were hungry, you would probably eat some potato chips or something else to satisfy your cravings. I know I would. It seems most logical, doesn't it? Well, I am here to inform you otherwise. My friends, I introduce . . . the banana.
The banana is no ordinary fruit. It is yellow on the outside and creamy-gold on the inside. It is shaped like a crescent moon, which is always appealing to the many dreamers in the world. It works as a telephone, as anyone with a childhood knows, and it is great to hold when you want to hold something. All in all, it is a fantastically shaped fruit.
However, we are not speaking entirely of its shape. We are also speaking of its nutritional aspects, which tends to be of importance to most formerly or currently homeschooled beings who grew up in a family that generally crawls with children ranging from nineteen to zero and eats gluten-free food religiously. It's nutritional aspects are . . . well, they are astounding, to be quite honest. I was astonished—shocked, really—to discover that bananas are healthy. Through the most unlikely turn of events, it turns out that bananas contain high levels of tryptophan, which is converted into seratonin. Obviously. It is high in potassium and low in salt, which actually protects against heart attacks and strokes, and it lowers blood pressure. Now because these facts may or may not convince you to eat bananas, I shall tell you that bananas also assist your digestion, chelate toxins from your body, prevent kidney cancer, make you smarter, protect you from chronic diseases, lower body temperature, improve your mood, conteract calcium loss, remove warts, and can actually fly you to the moon.
The thing to keep in mind, however, is that you must be intensely cautious when selecting the banana of your choice. A bunch of bananas may certainly look tempting, but after much observation, you may discover they are . . . well, they may be green. This may mean nothing to your funny little brains, but in truth, that small detail can have dire consequences. What I mean to say is that the banana may not be ripe, which further indicates that it is unripe. However, with a simple eye of understanding, you should have little trouble choosing a golden-yellow banana . . . a healthful snack to brighten your day.
Which now proves my entire point. If you are plagued with Writer's Block, write about bananas or other nonsensical notions. You should leave quite satisfied with your work, prepared to take on even darker challenges.

Emily Chapman is a homeschooled student living with her parents and four siblings in the southeastern United States. With a thirst for stories and creativity, she not only writes, but enjoys exercising her imagination through dance and photography. She believes in running through sprinklers in the summertime, watching the Andy Griffith show, listening to country music, and traversing to Narnia. But above all, she is saved through faith by the Son of the Creator and is adopted into God's family of beautiful souls.

 I would always rather be happy than dignified.

Next blog: Emily Ann

Don't forget to enter the tour-wide giveaway below and show some support for this up-and-coming authoress!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

21 Ways to Identify A Fellow Writer

I originally wrote this post for Every Good Word back in February, but as most of you probably didn't see it then, I've reposted it here for your enjoyment. I give you, 21 Ways to Identify A Fellow Writer:

We have been called many things in our day, we writers. As kids we’re called “geek” and “nerd” and “book-worm” and “weird” and as teenagers we’re called “ambitious” and “creative” and if we survive all this, we’re left to adulthood where we’re sometimes written off and labeled “eccentric” or “artsy” and left to our own devices in a coffee-shop while the rest of the world goes to Barnes & Noble to read the fruit of the labors of the people they’ve misunderstood since elementary school.

And for all this, we just smile and tuck into our work with a satisfaction not everybody finds in their chosen field. But sometimes we like to know there are people like us out there so I’ve compiled a list of twenty-one ways to identify a fellow writer:

1.) He will brush the spine of a book with one finger before taking it off the shelf. He’s probably admiring the cover designer’s job and calculating the number of days left till his own proof-copy arrives. Also, he just likes the feel of a book in his hands.
2.) She will freeze up momentarily, then order something with a simple name at Starbucks. Chances are, she’s rehearsed some complicated order for days and then it all flew out the window when she saw the barista with the scar behind the counter and started wondering...
3.) She will correct her posture often. Long days spent at her desk will have taught her the pain of hunching forward.
4.) She will pick up pennies and dimes other people have dropped. This is a person who not only notices details, but is also saving change - probably for a “Buying Books Fund”.
5.) Listen to him tell you about the latest film he saw.  Mentions of the character development or plot arc will outweigh mentions of soundtrack, action sequences, or actors’ performances.
6.) She will always end up signing napkins at a restaurant. Don’t blame her. She’s not practicing autographs - her hand unconsciously wants to write and her name is the first thing that comes to mind.
7.) He will care to notice things most people overlook. Bonus points if he’s first to mention the stars or moon while walking across the driveway.
8.) She will already be watching the same people you noticed. Tried and true thing, here.
9.) He does not use the word “nice” in conversation. Any writer knows that “nice” is forbidden from civilised literature.
10.) Her written communication (email, text, facebook) will be devoid of exclamation points. Another habit learned from culling that particular punctuation mark in edit-rounds.
11.) She will not use text-speak in conversation. That is the chiefest of all sins to someone who values English.
12.) His face betrays him while perusing a book. Someone who really loves the written word can’t help but smile a little when they pick up a novel in a store and flip through the pages.
13.) She is an adult browsing the mid-grade and teen sections in a bookstore. Parents and guardians purchase books from Amazon. Chances are you are looking at an intense research session.
14.) He is proficient at typing but still hen-pecks over on the number-pad. This is a person who is familiar with all the letters of the alphabet and punctuation marks but doesn’t have much use for numbers. (Thank heaven.)
15.) You mention an unusual name and she asks you to repeat it. You know the drill. New characters are battering around in her brain looking for a christening.
16.) Her hair is always half-way tumbling down. She probably stuck a pen through her bun to keep it up and had need for the pen at some point during the day.
17.) He actually likes tea and has heard of P.G. Tips.  A guy who has gone the next level for tea has inevitably patterned his habits off C.S. Lewis. He is likely a writer/reader type.
18.) His handwriting is legible. Most guys don’t bother to take notes or scrawl phone-numbers neatly unless they are in the habit of needing to be able to read longer passages of what they have written.
19.) She is frequently neat and attractive but doesn’t look Pinterest-ready. This is the mark of a girl who finds personal appearance important but often has to skip straightening her hair because she wants to squeeze in another 300 words before breakfast.
20.) You say “Tom Hiddleston” and he mentions Henry V. Real Hiddleston fans love him for his Shakespearean performances and Kenneth Branagh will follow quickly thereafter.
21.) They give you an empty, college-ruled journal and smooth pens for a gift. To a writer, this is always an acceptable gift to give. They are handing you a bit of their soul when they spend money on paper and ink for you.