Saturday, February 27, 2016

Fortune and Glory

It is the late 1930s, and the Nazis are scouring the earth for rare artifacts to help them take over the world.
Duke Dudley, prestigious British Lord, and Sharon Hunter, daring press photographer, are embarking on separate missions to save as many of these artifacts as possible from the greedy hands of the Nazis. Will Dudley and Sharon be able to defeat their enemies, and will they be able to gain fortune and glory in the process?

Sharon starts her journey from her newspaper's office building in New York City. They've given her a special assignment: accompany the archaeologist who is being sent to recover The Shield of Pharox from the ices of Antarctica and return with an article in photographs, documenting the search. What Sharon's paper doesn't know, however, is that she is the archaeologist being sent to recover The Shield of Pharox...

Sharon stares out the window of the plane she's chartered. She's already taken several photographs of the clouds, of the interior of the plane, and of her pilot.
"Are we almost there?" she wonders.
"Have patience!" replies her pilot, through a wad of chewing gum. "We'll get'der when we get'der."
Sharon sighs and looks out the window again. What was the speck in the distance? A bird? No... it was travelling much too fast to be a bird...
"I think—" Sharon says, but it cut off by the pilot.
"I see 'em!" he says. "They're hot on our trail!"
"Nazis?" Sharon wonders, while snapping a photo of the rival plane.
"They're firin' at us!" yells the pilot.
"Well, outmaneuver them!" Sharon yells back.
Her pilot turns around in his seat.
"Look, lady," he says. "I didn't sign up for this! I don't even have my pilot's license yet!"
"Then why are you the one flying this plane?" Sharon shouts.
"You said you needed a pilot right away! I was the only one around."
Sharon stares incredulously at the pilot. Just then, the enemy fires another volley of ammunition. Sharon's plane is hit!
"We're headed straight toward the mountainside!" Sharon shrieks.
"Don't worry!" shouts her pilot. "I can crash anything!"

Meanwhile, in England, Duke Dudley retires his monocle and dons his fedora, ready for his next adventure.

"But where are you going, Dudley?" asks the Duchess.
"I've already told you, mother," replies Dudley. "I am going to the countryside for a few weeks to clear my lungs from this London fog."
"I don't understand why you refuse to keep a phone in your country house," huffs the Duchess.
"I don't like to be disturbed when I'm in the countryside," replies her son.
In reality, Dudley is going to India, to search for The Amulet of the Cursed Eye, but he doesn't want anyone to know about his secret life as an archaeologist.
In addition to his fedora, he grabs his trusty wrench, which he never leaves at home. You never know when you're going to need to fix something... or conk someone over the head.

"We are NOT going to crash into the mountainside!" Sharon says fiercely. "Strap yourself into a parachute!"
She quickly stows her camera in it's case, thrusts the case into bag, and slings the bag over her head and shoulder. Then, she struggles into a parachute. The pilot has opened the side door of the airplane.
"Jump!" Sharon says, and leaps out of the plane.
For a terrifying moment, she plummets toward the mountainside amid a barrage of gunfire from the Nazi plane. Then, she pulls the cable that releases her parachute. She floats down from the sky and lands in the snow at the foot of the mountain. She looks up; the plane is about to crash into the mountain! Rather than thank the heavens that she had gotten out in time, Sharon pulls her camera from her bag, unlatches it from its case, and takes a photograph just as the plane hits the mountain and explodes in flames.

A moment later, her pilot lands beside her.
"I saw you: you didn't even look to see if I was okay. I coulda still been up there," he says.
"Sorry," says Sharon, not sorry at all.
"Don't apologize," says the pilot. "I can tell you're dedicated to your work. I'm Randy, by the way."
"Hello, Randy," says Sharon.
They shake hands, strip out of their parachutes, and then look around. Nearby, camouflaged in snow, is a little wooden hut. Smoke trickles out of the disguised chimney.
"Maybe they can help us," suggests Randy.
"Let's get closer," says Sharon, taking a picture before starting to walk.
As they near the hut, they hear chanting coming from within the walls. Sharon puts a figure to her lips and listens, her ear against the wall of the hut.
Her eyes widen when she realizes what's going on inside the hut. She backs away quickly and beckons for Randy to follow her. They run toward the mountain, though what protection that will give them, Randy doesn't know.
"What was that back'der?" he pants, as they stop for breath.
"That was a meeting of the Order of the Crimson Hand," Sharon replies, holding her sides. "They're a cult, and not to be messed with."
"Oh, well, then, I'm glad we ran all this way," says Randy.
Sharon leans against the snow drift next to her—and disappears!
"Sharon? Sharon! Where'd'ya go?" shouts Randy.
He peers at the place where Sharon had been standing just moments before. She had fallen into an ice hole!
"Sharon! You alright?" Randy asks.
"Fine, fine," grumbles Sharon. "Come join me down here. It's very pretty."
Randy steps into the hole. The ice cave is pretty. It gives off a glowing, teal-ish tint.
"Wow!" Randy exclaims. "I'm gonna go in a little further." He starts walking down the tunnel, but soon stops.
"What is it?" Sharon asks.
"Um... haha... uh, Sharon... This ice cave is already occupied."
"What do you mean?"
"There's a Yeti!" Randy says, backing away.
Sharon walks forward and, sure enough, there is a sleeping Yeti at the end of the cave!
Sharon spins around to face Randy. He has bubblegum covering his mouth.
"Sorry," he says. "When I'm nervous I blow bubbles."
"Cut it out!" says Sharon.
Randy's last bubble was the biggest. When it pops, the Yeti stirs. It stretches. It opens one eye.
"Now you've done it!" Sharon whispers.

Dudley's flight to India was uneventful. Now, he is off in search of The Amulet of the Cursed Eye! He has an idea of where to look: a shadowy castle hidden deep in the jungle.
"Fedora, check. Bug spray, check. Water, check. Wrench, check."
Dudley goes over his checklist and is finally ready to find that castle. He pulls on his hiking boots and sets off. It takes him most of the day, but he finally reaches his destination. The dark walls of the castle loom above him. It looks abandoned. Could this really be the hiding place of the The Amulet? Will it be this easy to find?

Dudley must break a window to enter into the castle. Once inside, he turns on his flashlight and begins looking around. The castle is much bigger than he expected. He enters room after dark room, but finds no clues.
What was that?
Dudley's heart beats quickly. He realizes that he is not the only one in the castle.
Stealthily, he creeps into the next room. Light and sound come from under the crack of the door at the far end of the room. Someone is having a party. Dudley backs up, intending to leave the way he came, but bumps into a lamp! It falls to the floor and shatters. He hopes that there is enough noise in the next room to cover his clumsiness. But, no. The door opens. Dudley is momentarily blinded and deafened by the bright light and loud music. Then, four strong arms grab him and pull him into the next room.
Dudley's eyes adjust to the light and he recognizes his captors: Nazis! Slightly drunk Nazis, but Nazis nonetheless. They had raided the castle's cellars and had set up a makeshift bar. They had brought in a band and a singer and were celebrating.
"Oh, no... you won't capture me so easily..." Dudley mutters to himself.
With a burst of strength, he frees one arm from the Nazis' grip. He grabs his wrench from his back pocket and smacks the other Nazi in the nose. The Nazi reels backwards. When he regains his footing, he swings a punch at Dudley, but Dudley ducks and the Nazi hits his compatriot. Rather than attack Dudley, the two Nazis begin fighting each other. Accidentally, one of them hits the trombonist. The trumpeter comes to the trombonist's rescue, but hits the wrong Nazi. Soon, the whole room is fighting. Poor Dudley is stuck in the middle of a bar brawl!

Sharon and Randy are frozen in fear. If the Yeti wakes up, they will be killed. They wait for fifteen agonizing seconds, but the beast only turns over and begins snoring.
Sharon and Randy slowly back out of the ice cave. When they are in the open, they run back to their parachutes.
"What do we do now?" Randy asks. "The Order of the Crimson Hand is on one side, and a Yeti is on the other!"
"We'll head that way," Sharon decides, pointing away from the mountain. "We can't be that far from the temple where The Shield of Pharox is hidden. Let's take one of these parachutes with us for warmth, in case we have to sleep in the snow."
She and Randy fold one of the parachutes as best they can, and then begin walking.
They walk for hours, the exertion of wading through the snow while carrying a heavy parachute the only thing that keeps them warm.
Just as night begins to fall, Sharon spots something on the horizon.
"That must be the temple," she says confidently.
"It will take hours to reach!" whines Randy. "Please can we stop for the night?"
"No," says Sharon. "It will get even colder during the night. We have to keep going or we'll freeze. Come on."
So, they continue walking. They walk and walk and walk, until they finally reach the temple, long after dark.
"Can we stop now?" asks Randy.
"We have to get inside first," replies Sharon.
She pulls her camera out of her bag and puts the flash bulb on. She takes a picture of the temple and the momentary flash shows them where the entrance is. There is no door, but there are lit torches in the entryway.
"I don't like this..." says Randy.
Sharon steps forward and a poisoned dart flies out of the wall and narrowly misses her cheek!
"The floor is booby trapped!" Sharon says. She grabs a torch from the wall. "We have to be careful."

Sharon tests each floor panel with her foot before putting her whole weight on it. This way, she is able to reach the other side of the room in safety. Randy follows in her steps.
"Now where do we go?" Randy asks.
"Let's explore this way," Sharon replies, and leads the way into the next room.
As soon as they pass through the doorway, a large stone falls from the ceiling to cover the doorway. Their only escape, blocked!
"Oh no!" Randy cries.
"There has to be another way out," Sharon says, and starts feeling the edges of the room for a secret door.
Just then, they hear a rumbling, scraping noise coming from above them. They look up.
"Is it just me..." says Randy.
"No, I see it, too," says Sharon. "The ceiling has been booby trapped, too! It's coming down to crush us!"

Someone punches Dudley and he reels backwards, into the makeshift bar. Glasses and bottles fall to the floor, sending shrapnel into the feet of anyone nearby.
Dudley clambers over the bar and spends a few seconds crouching behind it, catching his breath. Then he spots it: a sword hanging on the wall in front of him. Dudley has to admit that a sword is a better weapon than a wrench. He grabs the sword and re-enters the battle. With his new weapon, Dudley is able to fight his way to the door. He breaks the nearest window and escapes outside.

Now, Dudley is in the backyard of the castle. Grass rolls down to a lake. Thinking that he'd like to wash the blood from his sword, hands, and face, Dudley walks down to the water's edge. He washes his sword first, and then his hands. He washes one hand at a time so as to keep one hand on his weapon at all times, just in case. As he's splashing water on his face, someone taps him on the shoulder. Dudley reacts fast: he whips around, sword pointed at his enemy, only to find that his enemy is a gnarled old man holding a diving suit.
"You search for Amulet of Cursed Eye?" asks the old man in broken English.
"Yes, that's right," replies Dudley.
"I throw in lake when Nazis arrive," says the old man. "I wait for someone worthy to rescue it and bring it to museum in Bombay." He holds out the diving suit and beckons for Dudley to put it on.
"How do I know this isn't a trap?" Dudley asks suspiciously.
"No trap. No trap," replies the old man, and waves the diving suit in Dudley's face.
Dudley contemplates the old man and the diving suit for a few minutes.
"Alright, fine," he says at last. "I'll trust you."
"Quick. Hurry," says the old man. "They come after you."
Dudley dons the diving suit and hands his sword to the old man.
"Wish me luck," he says.
"Luck," says the old man.
Dudley wades into the water. Soon, he is fully submerged. He turns on the light on his diving helmet and begins searching for the Amulet.
Everything is so quiet under the water, Dudley thinks.
He swims past fish and sea plants, which look like the tentacles of monsters. He swims all the way to the bottom of the lake. An hour has passes. Now, an hour and a half. He only has thirty minutes of oxygen left before he has to return to the surface of the lake.
And then, Dudley spies it. It twinkles in the light from his diving helmet. The Amulet of the Cursed Eye.
Dudley surfaces, the Amulet gripped tightly in his hand. He has gone much farther away from shore than he expected. He can barely see the castle in the distance. The sun is rising behind its spires. Dudley pulls off his diving helmet and takes a moment to look at the Amulet. Then, he hears an engine! Dudley ducks beneath the water so only his hair and eyes are poking above the surface. A U-boat is sailing the lake. He would be able to reach Bombay quicker if he had a boat... Dudley swims toward the U-boat. He climbs aboard and hides himself behind a crate. No one knows he's there. Shortly thereafter, Dudley hears that the U-boat's destination is Bombay. Perfect! Dudley makes himself comfortable behind his crate and enjoys the free ride to Bombay.
Once there, he sneaks off the U-boat and makes his way to the museum. After haggling about price, the museum buys The Amulet of the Cursed Eye from Dudley.
His mission is a success! Dudley only faces one more difficulty: how to explain his bruises and cuts to his mother.

Sharon wakes up in an American hospital.
"What happened?" she wonders.
"Oh, good, you're awake!" says a familiar voice.
Sharon turns her head and there is Randy, sitting by her bedside, his head and arm wrapped in casting.
"Randy? What happened?"
"The ceiling collapsed on us, remember?" Randy asks. "Well, we were both nearly crushed, but, then, the Nazis showed up. They were taking us to interrogation when some American soldiers appeared outa nowhere! I guess they got that S.O.S. I sent out from da plane. There was a shoot out, but they rescued us and brought us back to America. You've been unconscious for a week."
"What about The Shield of Pharox?"
"The Nazis got it," Randy says. "I'm sorry." His face brightens. "But we got your pictures developed and they look great!" Randy waves the pictures in Sharon's face. "Look at this one of the plane exploding. Fabulous, if I do say so m'self."
"Let me see," says Sharon.
Together, they go through the pictures, reliving their adventures, and, though they did not recover The Shield of Pharox, they gained an everlasting friendship.

Fortune and Glory is a pulp fiction board game. You can learn more about it on

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Long and Winding Editing Road—Characters

I've been inspired by Katie at Spiral-Bound's "Editing Diaries" posts to do my own editing series. Currently, I'm in the process of editing a fairytale-fantasy novel I wrote in 2014, and I want you to join me on this journey! Maybe, together, we can learn a few things about writing along The Long and Winding Editing Road.

In my last editing post, I talked about how I outlined my novel and then rewrote it, focusing on the plot.
Now, I'm working on the third draft of the story. This time, I'm focusing on character development, which is something I've never focused on before.
In my novel After the Twelfth Night, I don't remember doing any character edits, and the extent of my character-building was to write out my character's names, ages, descriptions, and one or two random facts about their personalities and hobbies on a piece of paper.

In the first draft of my fantasy novel, I didn't write anything down about my characters. I had a few vague ideas in my head about who they were, but mostly let them develop on their own. Surprisingly, this worked rather well. By the time I finished, I knew who most of my characters were, and they've stayed relatively the same since then.
There were exceptions, of course. Namely, my main male protagonist and a random character named Timone who showed up halfway through the story and decided to stick around.

Finn, my main male protagonist has gone through the most changes since the beginning of the story. I intended for him to be a mysterious and brooding hero, but he ended up being a secretive and slightly-annoying know-it-all.
He started the story in the king's dungeon and had been there for twenty years, which made me ask, "What has he been doing in the dungeon for twenty years? He's best friends with his guard. Why doesn't he use that to his advantage and escape?" I couldn't answer these questions, and it caused Finn's whole character to crumble under my fingertips. His motivation and personality didn't match his past. I had no idea how to write him.
It wasn't until I was at least halfway through the second draft that I came up with a solution. Why did he have to be in the dungeon for twenty years? Wouldn't five years be better?
"I've made an executive decision," I declared to my parents. "Finn has been in the dungeon for five years, not twenty."
"Okay," they probably replied, unsure what I was talking about, but used to my random outbursts.
Suddenly, Finn was much easier to write.
Funny how one tiny detail can change the way one writes a character.

Timone also gave me a lot of trouble in the beginning. Here is an excerpt from a post I wrote on NaNoWriMo's forums, shortly after Timone first showed up in my story:

"...instead of saying 'Guard, take them to their cell,' like any normal leader, he said, 'Timone, take them to their cell.'
I know, I know... once you name something you get attached... I wasn't going to get attached, but now Timone wants to join my two main characters on their quest and I don't know what to do! I have no clue who this character is! What's his background? What's his personality? What are his motives? Is his name even Timone? I don't know!
What do I do? Should I let him tag along and see if he reveals himself to me later on? Should I tell him to 'stay!' and hope he doesn't follow me home? Should I kill him?
During outlining, Timone decided to reveal his secrets to me. Knowing who he was made him easier to write.
Something else that helped me to understand Finn and Timone was to outline what happened to them prior to my novel. I wrote out their childhoods, teen years, and adult years in chapter synopses [side note: I just found out that "synopses" is the plural of "synopsis"! Who knew]. Now, I have outlines of their pasts so, if I want to, I can write novellas about them to complement my novel.
After writing the second draft, I knew I needed to develop my characters outside of the novel, so I decided to write character profiles.
But I'll save that for the next post.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Fantasy February: An essay about Aragorn

Today, while going through a box of old stories and art, I came across one of the first essays I ever wrote. It's about Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings and dates back to "May 2010," shortly before I turned fourteen. Since Jenelle Schmidt is celebrating the fantasy genre on her blog this month, I decided to join her link-up and share my essay! I hope you enjoy.

By Abbey
May 2010
   Elessar, Strider, Wingfoot... These are some of the many names of Aragorn, one of my favorite book characters. As well as having many names, Aragorn has many virtues, such as, wisdom, courage, and loyalty.
   Because Aragorn was raised by Elves, he learned from them and gained their wisdom. Although he was raised by Elves, Aragorn was really a man. He was part of the race Dunedain, which were descendants of kings and had exceptionally long lives. So, along with having Elven wisdom, Aragorn had 87 years worth of knowledge stuck in his brain.
   In the third Lord of the Rings book, The Return of the King, Aragorn must walk the Path's of the Dead. Let me explain the Path's: a long time ago, one of Aragorn's ancestors was fighting a battle. His men got cold feet and ran away from battle. Because of this, Aragorn's ancestor put a curse on the men, saying that, until they could fultill their oath to him or one of his descendants, they would live forever, not living and not dead. To fulfill the oath, they must fight alongside the Heir of Isildur and then they would be able to rest in peace. Well, Aragorn, being Isildur's Heir, walked the Path's of the Dead where he met the cursed soldiers. There, he convinced them he was Isildur's Heir and they followed him to battle, fulfilling their oath. It took a lot of courage and bravery for Aragorn to walk those paths. He knew that anyone who went in never came out, but he knew what he had to do. That is only one of the many times Aragorn had to be brave.
   Another defining point of Aragorn is his loyalty and perseverance. He had a very hard life, journeying, fighting, hiding. Even though his life was difficult, he still persevered and stayed loyal to the right side. An example of Aragorn's loyalty is Arwen. Arwen was an Elf whom Aragorn was in love with. Even though her father forbid them to be together, Aragorn still stayed loyal to his beloved until her father let them marry.
   Longshanks, Elfstone, Estel. As you can see, Aragorn is a man of brains, bravery, perseverance, and a lot of names! I think that these characteristics are what makes Aragorn one of my favorite characters.

For fun, I decided to rewrite the essay tonight:

By Abbey
February 2016
“What’s in a name?” asked William Shakespeare, and went on to say something about roses. “Power is in a name,” I would reply, and mention something about sunflowers. Foreign names have the power to befuddle. Long names have the power to intimidate. Dull names have the power of slipping from the memory as a Mario Kart character might slip from the Rainbow Road. Someone with many names may have the power of confusion if they keep switching from name to name. Aragorn, a character from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, has many aliases, including Elessar, Strider, and Wingfoot. In addition to having many names, Aragorn also has many virtues, making him a beloved hero.
One of Aragorn’s virtues is wisdom. In The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn was raised by the Elves, one of the wisest races in Middle Earth. Aragorn had the fortune of learning from Elrond, who was Lord of Rivendell, a valley hidden in the shadow of the Misty Mountains. Elrond, who is over six-thousand years old at the time of The Lord of the Rings, no doubt had many things to teach Aragorn about history and the good and evil in the world. In addition to learning from the Elves, Aragorn gleaned wisdom from his own experiences. As a part of the Dunedain race, Aragorn lives an exceptionally long life, and is already eighty-seven years old at the start of the story. In nearly nine decades, he has learned much from both Rivendell and travelling throughout Middle Earth.
In the third Lord of the Rings book, Aragorn’s travels take him to the Paths of the Dead. Many years ago, Aragorn’s ancestor was betrayed by his own soldiers, and cursed them into an eternal state of being, neither living nor dead. To be able to rest peacefully, the soldiers must fight alongside Isildur’s Heir, who happens to be Aragorn. Aragorn musters his courage and enters the Paths of the Dead to convince the ghost army to fight with him against the forces of Sauron. This is only one instance out of many where Aragorn shows bravery in fearful situations. Such bravery is inspirational, especially to readers who may be facing difficulties in real life.
Another virtue readers admire in Aragorn is his perseverance. Although his father was killed when he was a small boy, and although he and his mother had to flee their home and live among the Elves, Aragorn has always remembered his birthright: he is heir to the throne of Gondor. Throughout the story, Aragorn fights against Sauron so that he can reclaim his throne and bring peace to Middle Earth. Aragorn also showed perseverance in his relationship with Arwen, Lord Elrond’s daughter. Often, they could not be together because of Aragorn’s work against Sauron, but Aragorn remained unwaveringly loyal to Arwen throughout his life.
Aragorn’s wisdom, bravery, and perseverance has endeared him to many readers. Aragorn is an unforgettable hero, whether he is known as Elfstone, Longshanks, or Estel. “All that is gold does not glitter,” said J.R.R. Tolkien of Aragorn, and William Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Though he does not always look it, Aragorn is the long lost king, and, somehow, all of his aliases reflect that birthright.
Who are some of your favorite fantasy characters?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

All the single ladies, all the single ladies (and gentlemen, too)

The witch cackles maliciously. Her victim is strapped to a chair in front of her, helpless, with tears dripping down her cheeks.
"I curse you!" screeches the witch. "I curse you with everlasting singleness!"
"Nooooo!" screams the victim.

I've never had a witch curse me, but I have noticed that our over-romanticized culture often views being single as a curse.
Countless books, movies, television shows, and other media tell women that they shouldn't feel happy and fulfilled unless they are loved by a man. Even stories with the so-called "strong female character" broadcast this message.

Tauriel, from The Hobbit movies, is an excellent example of this. She was added into the movies because The Hobbit book has no female characters, and Peter Jackson wanted to represent women in his film.
He made Tauriel into a strong, independent Elf, and a great fighter. But, instead of making her character interesting by giving her an individual storyline, Peter Jackson decided to make her the center of a love-triangle. As a result, she is not remembered as a capable captain of Thranduil's guard, but is, instead, remembered for falling in love with a dreaded Dwarf.

In The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, the four main characters are strong women, but they all fall in love. In fact, I can't think about Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter without thinking of their boyfriends as well.
This is Biblical, I suppose, as Genesis 2:24 says that when we get married, we become "one flesh." When we marry, we become a new being: instead of two, there is one.
Being single, however, does not mean that we are one half of a two-piece puzzle that can only be completed if we find the piece that fits perfectly with ourselves.

Marriage is beneficial: it creates a special intimacy between two people (physical, emotional, and mental), it leads to children and fulfills the command to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28), and it is an illustration of Christ's relationship with the church (Ephesians 5:21-33).
But being single has advantages, too: there can be a higher allowance of risk in decisions because you don't have a family to care for, there is more freedom to pursue hobbies or a career, and, most importantly, you can devote yourself "to the Lord in both body and spirit" (1 Corinthians 7:34).
In 1 Corinthians 7:35, Paul says that the right way to live is in "undivided devotion to the Lord." It is easier to achieve this when you are single because your interests are not divided between the Lord and your spouse (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).
Paul also says, however, that it is "better to marry than to burn with passion" (1 Corinthians 7:9 and 36).

Marriage is a wonderful, God-given gift, but marriage is not in God's plan for everyone; or, maybe, marriage is not in God's plan for you right now. Take comfort that God formed you in your mother's womb (Psalm 139:13). Certainly, someone who took the time to form each one of us has a plan for each one of us. Whether that plan contains marriage or not, we can trust that everything will work together for the good of God's ultimate plan (Romans 8:28).

I know that being single is hard, especially when the media tells us that romantic relationships lead to ultimate happiness, but being single does not mean that you are "forever alone." Platonic relationships can be fulfilling. I encourage you, if you are feeling alone, to grow your relationship with friends and family, and to find a supportive church family.
Additionally, I encourage you to use your time as a single man or woman to refine your God-given talents, to use those talents to glorify God, and to grow closer in relationship with God by spending meaningful and focused time reading the Bible and praying every day.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Long and Winding Editing Road—What I've Done So Far

I've been inspired by Katie at Spiral-Bound's "Editing Diaries" posts to do my own editing series. Currently, I'm in the process of editing a fairytale-fantasy novel I wrote in 2014, and I want you to join me on this journey! Maybe, together, we can learn a few things about writing along The Long and Winding Editing Road.

In December 2013, I had the first idea for this story (since it is still title-less, it shall hereby be known as the Fantasy Novel). When I started writing in January 2014, I had no outline and only a vague idea of where I wanted the plot to go. I love outlines, but I was curious about where the story would take me if I didn't have a plan.
Three hand-written notebooks and twelve months later, the plot had changed so considerably that I was lost. I needed to go back and plan; so, I spent much of 2015 re-plotting my novel.
I wanted to write a summary of every scene on separate notecards so that I could rearrange, add, and subtract scenes at will, but I soon discovered that writing out every single scene would lead to and overwhelming amount of notecards. Instead, I decided to write out a summary of each chapter as it appeared in the novel at the time:

Much more manageable, as you can see!

Then came the hard part: fixing the plot problems! I rewrote and rearranged countless cards until I was satisfied with the story.
Cait from Paper Fury says that when she rewrites, she starts from scratch and every single word is different. That astounded me—until I began rewriting my Fantasy Novel in the Fall of 2015. Though not every word is different, I changed almost the entire book!
My only previous novel-editing experience—with my first book, After the Twelfth Night—was completely different. With After the Twelfth Night, I wrote the first draft on the computer and the second draft on paper. With my Fantasy Novel, I wrote the first draft on paper, and am working on subsequent drafts on my computer. With After the Twelfth Night, I had an outline from the beginning. When it came to rewriting, I only had to add scenes to make the story better. With my Fantasy Novel, nearly the entire plot had to be rewritten, which is why I changed nearly every sentence.
I finished the second draft in November 2015. I needed to distance myself from the story, so I put the book away during December. I've only just started working on it again, but let's save that for another post, shall we?

If you are a writer, what does your editing process look like?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Nightstand Books. But, first, What I Read in January.

Nightstand Books is a meme hosted by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt. On the first Wednesday of every month, we share the books that currently reside on our nightstands!
But before I share my nightstand, I want to share what I read in January:

1. A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck (audiobook).
My family and I listened to this on our way home from Minnesota after Christmas. Richard Peck wrote two of my favorite books EVER: A Long Way From Chicago and A Year Down Yonder. A Season of Gifts if the third installment in the "series," in that it follows the character of Grandma Dowdel out of the 1930s and into the 1950s. I highly, highly recommend these books if you are looking for a light, hilarious read filled with small-town charm.

2. The Martian by Andy Weir.
This book—originally self-published, and then picked up by a publishing company—gained even more popularity than it had originally when the movie came out last October. My dad and two of my friends read the book and gave it glowing reviews, so I decided to pick it up, too. I wasn't disappointed! The Martian is about an astronaut who is stranded on Mars after his teammates presume him dead. He uses his ingenuity and training to survive on the Red Planet. The book is, I have heard, very scientifically accurate. It is also very entertaining. My only complaints are the strong language and the occasional innuendos.

3. Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson.
One of my goals for 2016 is to read forty (which I just changed to thirty) minutes of nonfiction a day. I started by reading the above book about Dmitri Shostakovich, who is one of my favorite composers. M.T. Anderson's book astounded me. It was so good that I have a hard time talking about it. It was as much about Russia's history in the first half of the 1900s, and about the suppression of the arts under Stalin's reign, and about the power of music, as it was about Shostakovich's life. Whether you are interested in Dmitri Shostakovich's life and music (as I was), or are interested in Russia's revolutions and Russia's part in World War Two, I recommend this book to you.

3 and 4. Joseph Stalin by Sean McCollum and Joseph Stalin by Janet Caulkins.
After reading about Stalin as a "side character" is Symphony for the City of the Dead, I wanted to know more about his life. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any long biographies about him, so I had to settle for two short books designed for school children doing reports. As such, these books were fact-filled and dull. Though I didn't appreciate the dry writing, I did enjoy the information.

5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
This year, the calendar in my room is book-themed. Each month features a different classic, and I am trying to read them all. January's book was The Great Gatsby. Every time I read it, this book improves in my opinion. The first time I read it, I couldn't see past the plot, which focuses on several people having affairs. The second time I read it, I had more context about the 1920s and was also able to appreciate the themes in the story. This time, F. Scott Fitzgerald's prose captured by attention. He writes so beautifully. Here is my favorite quote: "The wind had blown off, leaving a loud bright night with wings beating in the trees and a persistent organ sound as the full bellows of the earth blew the frogs full of life."

6. Star Wars: Shattered Empire
This comic book is a part of the Journey to the Force Awakens movement, which aims to fill in the thirty years between "The Return of the Jedi" and "The Force Awakens." Shattered Empire has several stories which directly follow the destruction of the second death star. The central character is Poe Dameron's mother. Both my dad and I thought this comic was just "meh." You're not missing much by skipping it.

So, what's on my nightstand this month?

On Writing Well by William Zinsser.
This is my current nonfiction read. As the title suggests, it is about writing well. Specifically, writing nonfiction well; however, some of his points can be applied to fiction writing as well. If you write nonfiction, if you write fiction, or if you just write papers for school, I recommend this book to YOU. Yes, you. It has fabulous tips, and William Zinsser is (or, was, as he died last year) an entertaining narrator.

Winter by Marissa Meyer.
Winter is the final book in the Lunar Chronicles, which is a series of fairytale retellings. I've been trying to get through this book since November, when some friends and I went to the launch party. It's so long! This is a great series if you're looking for something Star Wars-y and romantic.

Below Winter is my journal, and, below that, are two other books on writing that I am planning on reading this month. Below those, is a poor, discarded, Tintin book that I started reading last spring and never finished. Finally, on the bottom of the stack is a book about the Gershwin brothers that I also started last year and never finished.
I'm also reading a book called The Explorer's Guild by Jon Baird and Kevin Costner, but I think I'm going to bring it back to the library because I'm just not enjoying it as much as I hoped I would.

What are YOU reading this month?