Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A momentous occasion!

Here's my momentous news:


March 30th, 2015 was the last time I had a migraine. Now, it is March 30th, 2016, and I'm praising the Lord for this blessing!

For the uninitiated, I have been getting migraines for about six or seven years. We never found out the cause (though we supposed it had to do with hormones) and never found medication that completely took away the pain. Usually, when I had a migraine, it would debilitate me for the whole day.

My first migraine.
I have two stories, since I can't remember which one was the first.
1. I was lying on the sofa reading a Tintin book when I started seeing "flashers" (see below). I didn't know what they were at the time, and why they were keeping me from reading my book. Then, the headache hit. I had never had a headache that bad before. I can remember lying in the heat of the sunroom because that made me feel better, but I can't remember anything else from this migraine.
2. We had had tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. It was bedtime. Daddy was reading Tintin to me when I got the worst headache I'd ever had. I began to feel sick. The pain was so bad that I couldn't concentrate on what he was reading. Eventually, the tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich came back up. I couldn't eat them again for months.

I always had a warning before a migraine. A small part of my vision would be blocked by a half-circle of flashing brightness that would grow and grow and grow until it exceeded my vision. Then, the headache would come on. The "flashers," or "auras," as we've called them over the years, always made me nauseous. Even trying to describe them to you now makes me slightly nauseous.
If I didn't take my medication before the flashes expanded beyond my vision, the pills wouldn't be of use, as the pain from the headache would make me throw them up. Sometimes, even after I took my pills, I would throw them up again. Twice I've had to be taken to the emergency room because I couldn't stop throwing up.
After a few hours of lying in a dark room, the headache would eventually go away. For the rest of the day and the next, I would be groggy with a lingering headache and a sore throat from vomiting.

Solutions we've tried:
-Caffeinated coca cola, because caffeine is supposed to help with headaches. This seemed to work for awhile, but it wasn't a long-term solution.
-Ice chips. This was the most recent solution we tried, and it worked well in three ways. 1) Pressing ice against the top of your mouth/getting a brain freeze makes the blood vessel in your brain constrict, which is somehow linked with stopping migraines. 2) The ice kept me hydrated. 3) The ice gave me something to concentrate on other than the headache pain.
-Advil. At first, when we thought my migraines were just headaches, I would try Advil for the pain, but that didn't work well.
-Excedrin. This is a common over-the-counter migraine medicine, but it never worked for me.
-Sumatriptan. This is a prescription migraine-preventative medication. I believe we tried it on its own for awhile, but that never worked well so...
-Naproxen. Yet another painkiller. I took this in addition to Sumatriptan and the two drugs together staved off most of the pain. I knew that the pain was still there, but it was as if it was hidden behind a wall.
-Ondansetron. This is a nausea medication I took to, well, stop me from throwing up every ten minutes.
-MigreLief. We thought my migraines might come on because of a deficiency of some sort, so I began taking two supplements a few years ago. MigreLief is one of them and it contains feverfew, magnesium, and riboflavin.
-Butterbur. This is the second supplement I take. I used to take two MigreLief and Butterbur every day, but, recently, I've gone down to one of each a day. It hasn't had any adverse effects on me yet.

I used to get one or two migraines a month, which then slowed to one a month, which then slowed to one every other month, which then slowed to one every three months, which then—strangely—changed into two every threeish months, except they were a day or two apart. So, instead of having only one migraine every few months, I would have two in a row every few months, which was both odd and annoying.

These migraines have tested my faith over the years. At first, I thought if I only prayed harder and had stronger faith, God would take them away from me. That is not how prayer and faith work, so, obviously, it didn't work. For awhile, I felt like God was punishing me with migraines because of something I'd done, but that's not how God operates. Eventually, I learned these lessons and learned to trust God, even in the midst of the pain.
I used to be very afraid when anything exciting was happening because I worried that I would get a migraine and not be able to go. While I still have those fears occasionally, for the most part, I'm not deathly afraid of migraines any more. I think having medication that blocks most of the pain helps, too.

Maybe the supplements balanced out whatever was missing from my body. Maybe the teenage hormones settled down. Maybe I grew out of migraines. Maybe God healed me. Whichever answer is the correct one, I am very grateful that I have been one year migraine free! It is such a blessing!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter!

Here is a song that I sang for our church's Good Friday service:

And here is a mini-choir of my favorite Easter hymn:

He is risen! He is risen indeed.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Long and Winding Editing Road—Finn

~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.~

Finn, oh, Finn, oh, Finn, oh, Finn! Where to begin?
My novel has two point-of-views. One is Rozella, whom you met in my last Editing Road post. The other point-of-view is Finn, and he has given me trouble almost since Day One. I wanted him to be a mysterious, private, slightly brooding hero that makes fangirls swoon, but he ended up being too secretive, slightly whiney, and a know-it-all. It didn't help that I wasn't secure in his past or in his present situation.
Because I was uncomfortable with the original background I had created for Finn, I focused on that instead of Finn as a character. I decided to change his past and he became so much easier to write!
But then I started focusing on the present... What had Finn been doing for twenty years in the dungeon of the king? Why hadn't he tried to escape? I decided to change twenty years to five years and, again, Finn became so much easier to write!
After writing out his character profile, I figured that it would be easy to write Finn in the third draft. And it has been... until I realized two night's ago that it isn't.

Rozella is easy to write. She has a lot of the same insecurities that I do, so it's easy for me make her relatable by writing her thoughts for the reader's to see. To me, she feels like a real character because we see her inner struggles and her decision-making process. Her chapters are usually longer than Finn's and full of character development, while Finn's chapters usually advance the plot. I suppose that should have alerted me that something was wrong. I want to have balanced chapters, or else my readers will get bored with one of the points-of-view.
What made my chapters unbalanced? I thought it was that Finn wasn't getting as much character development as Rozella, so I started adding some. I used the same stream-of-consciousness approach that I had used for Rozella, but it felt wrong for two reasons:

1. If I'm writing both Rozella and Finn's character development the same, they will cease to have separate voices and will meld into the same person.
2. Men don't think the same way as women.

My dad was telling me about THIS video and I realized my problem. I was trying to make Finn think the same way as Rozella, because I knew that method worked. Well, it worked for Rozella, but it wasn't working for Finn, because he's not a woman!
How do I write male characters? I didn't know, so I asked my dad what he would do and what he would think about if he were the main character in my Fantasy Novel. He gave me some helpful comments and also a book to read on how guys think. I read the first chapter this morning and I'm already full of ideas on how to make Finn into a better character. Hopefully, this change will make Finn a lot easier to write! At least, until the next problem pops up.

There's only one last problem... Should I go back to the beginning of the story and work on Finn's character from there, or should I continue on from where I am now? Maybe I need to do some additional research before I mess around with Finn's character. Maybe I should experiment and see what happens. Maybe I need to rewrite his profile. I can't decide, and it's halted my editing, which is too bad because I was really enjoying this draft!
Maybe I'll go fix myself lunch. That sounds like a good idea.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Magician of Melody, Herald of Harmony, Rocker of Refrain.

Are you tired of listening to same old songs—built off of the same old three chords—over, and over, and over, and over again on your Christian radio station? If you are, then you're in luck! Here for one blog post only is that magician of melody, that herald of harmony, that rocker of refrain... It's the one-and-only Abbey!!

~cue applause~

Thank you, thank you. It's an honor to be here on the blog today. So, you're tired of listening to That-One-Generic-Worship-Song-That-They-Play-On-The-Radio? Never fear, I, Abbey, am here! Here to help you—yes, you!—find the right Christian music for you to focus on while your stuck in traffic so that you don't yell at other drivers! I'm gonna tell you about albums that have originality, harmony, and variety; I'm gonna tell you about musicians who perform and write their own songs! So, lend me your ears, friends, Romans, countrymen, and anyone else who happens to reading! Sit back, relax, and enjoy the music:

"Out of Breath" by Go Fish.

If you like acappella groups, then this is the album for you! Just listen to that epic train horn at the beginning of this song. It's made completely from human vocal chord sounds! It contains no artificial sweeteners and is gluten free. While Go Fish is primarily known as a children's group now, they came out with several CDs for all-ages in the late '90s and early 2000s. With engaging rhythms and poignant lyrics, you won't want to miss this CD!

"Yesterday's a Sign" by Ken Medema.

Everyone likes stories, and what's better than a story set to music? I know—a Bible story set to music! On this CD, you will find the story of Moses, the story of the man healed at the pool of Bethesda, the story of Mary visiting Elizabeth, and the story of Ananias and Saul set to rollicking piano accompaniment arranged and played by Ken Medema himself! Additionally, this album comes with several tracks of beautiful, original hymns.

"Go," "In the Hands of God," and "Greatest Hits" by the Newsboys.

What other Christian band has lyrics about barbequing hamsters ("Shine") or Hobbits leaving the Shire ("Secret Kingdom")? What other band describes hell as a place where they don't serve Captain Crunch ("Breakfast") and where they play Celine Dion all night ("My Friend Jesus")? That's right, only Newsboys with Peter Furler at their helm has lyrics like this! That's why you should invest in these three CDs.
"Go" contains such hits such as, "I Am Free" and "Something Beautiful," as well as lesser-known greats such as, "The Mission" and "Your Love Is Better Than Life."
"In the Hands of God," Peter Furler's last full album with the Newsboys is a little out-of-the-ordinary, but that's why you're here, right? Some favorites are "No Grave," "The Upside," and "Dance."
If you're already a fan of Newsboys and are looking for a CD with all of their vintage hits, then their "Greatest Hits" album is definitely for you! It features "Shine," "Breakfast," "He Reigns," "Amazing Love," "Stay Strong," and thirteen other fabulous songs!

"On Fire" by Peter Furler.

If you still miss Old Newsboys, before Michael Tait took over as lead singer, then you might want to check out Peter Furler's first solo album after leaving Newsboys. He took Newsboys unique sound and unique lyrics when he left and you can find them, and much, much more, on this CD!

"Songs" by Rich Mullins.

"Mullins had a distinctive talent both as a performer and a songwriter. His compositions showed distinction in two ways: unusual and sometimes striking instrumentation, and complex lyrics that usually employed elaborate metaphors," says paragon of intelligence, Wikipedia.
Rich Mullins' use of hammer dulcimer adds an original layer to his already fabulous worship music. Who doesn't like interesting instruments?
Not suitable for people who don't like their faith challenged by intricate lyrics.

"Art of the State" and "Reconstructions" by AD.

Are you stuck in the '70s? Or, worse, are you stuck in the '80s??

~cue screaming~
Or, perhaps, worst of all, you are stuck in the Supernatural fandom and can't stop singing "Carry On My Wayward Son" by Kansas. If you answered "yes" to one of the above questions, you may want to check out AD. One of their principle members, Kerry Livgren, used to be a member of Kansas and actually wrote "Carry On My Wayward Son." He brought that style of music with him when he left Kansas and formed the Christian rock group AD.

"Comatose" and "Awake" by Skillet.

If you like giving yourself whiplash by shaking your head back and forth, hard rock Christian group Skillet may be for you! Their albums "Comatose" and "Awake" feature some of their most prominent hits such as, "Whispers in the Dark," "Hero," "Awake and Alive," and "Monster."
Disclaimer: Abbey will not be held responsible for whiplash damage or for the damage caused by feeling like a monster.

And there you have it! Eleven CDs to break the monotony of the Christian radio station! It's been an honor to be featured on the blog. Remember, I am Abbey, magician of melody, herald of harmony, and rocker of refrain! My agent would love to discuss any comments, suggestions, or undefined hatred toward me with you. Until we meet again, I'll be whipping my hair back and forth to some Skillet!

~cue applause, booing, and tomato-throwing~
Thanks for visiting the blog, Abbey! Wasn't she lovely, folks? I'm contractually obligated to say that. I'm also contractually obligated to say that all albums mentioned above can be found wherever good music is sold.
Come back next week when our special guest will be Cristafiora the classical music mogul!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Long and Winding Editing Road—Characters II

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 post, I talked about how two of the characters in my fantasy novel were giving me trouble because I didn't know who they were. One thing that helped me get to know them better was to write outlines of what happened to them before they entered my story.
Just like it's important for nonfiction writers to know background information on their topic, it's important for fiction writers to know the history of their characters. Past experiences make people into their present selves. If you don't know where your character has come from, how can you know where your character will go? (Please tell me that I'm not the only one singing "Cotton Eye Joe" after that last sentence.) If you don't know what has molded your character's worldview, how can you know how your character will react to the events in the story?

After finishing the second draft of my novel last November, I took December off. In January, I began working on my character arcs. A character arc is a character's "inner journey" (says Google) within the main storyline of a book.
So, on note cards (I like note cards, okay?) I wrote who each character was at the beginning of the novel, their transformation, and who they are at the end of the story. Here's an example using a character from Star Wars The Force Awakens:

Who he was at the beginning: Scared, unhappy with his life choices, wishing he were somewhere else.
Transformation: Finn takes the first opportunity to escape life as a stormtrooper and keeps running away until he realizes there is something worth fighting for in the galaxy. He sets aside his selfishness and helps his friends.
Who he is in the end: Willing to sacrifice himself for his friends, loyal to friends, in a much better place than where he was at the beginning:

For minor characters I wrote out their purpose in the narrative and a summary of their character arc.
Here's an example using another Force Awakens character.

Purpose in narrative: Comic relief, information.
Character arc: Originally created by Anakin Skywalker. He and his counterpart, R2-D2, helped defeat the Empire. When Luke Skywalker went missing, R2-D2 shut down, but C-3PO continued to serve Princess Leia. Somehow got a red arm. No character growth because he's a droid.

At the beginning of February I decided that I should probably add physical description, personality, and motivation to my character profiles. So, rather than write new cards for everyone, I typed what I had already written into the computer along with a few additions.
For an example, it is my pleasure to introduce you to my female protagonist, Rozella:

   Appearance: 5’4”. Rib-cage length dark brown curly hair. Blue eyes. Oval face. A little bigger boned/thicker, but not fat. Curvy. Inspired by Barbara Kent and Lucy Griffiths.
I'm not great at seeing my characters (or anyone else's, for that matter) in my mind's eye, but I was inspired by another blogger to make an effort to describe my characters better. It's easy to decide hair and eye color, but what about height, body type, face shape, and type of hair? It's important to know these things for, if you're writing a character with long hair, long hair is less likely to do this:

and more likely to do this:

Pictures courtesy of this Buzzfeed article.
If you want to be realistic while writing, remember that your character's hair won't be perfect all the time, especially if they are adventuring. It's also helpful to know your character's height (can they reach the tomato soup on the top shelf at the store? Does their height give them back problems?) and body type (are they self-conscious or confidant in their body? How does that effect how they interact with other characters?).

Personality: Predisposed to be timid and worry if she’s doing something right or wrong, but when she knows what she’s doing, she’s very confidant. Sweet. Kind.
I wrote three or four basics for each character's personality. When I'm working on the story, I try to keep these basics in my head so that I can ask myself, "Is Rozella too confidant here or should she be more worried? Is Rozella too mean? How can she say that in a nicer way?"

History: Kidnapped by Witch and raised by Witch.
As you can see, I didn't expound on Rozella's history much. This is because most of it is described in the first few chapters of the novel. Other characters have fuller histories.

Growth: Starts out afraid and timid and nervous. Ends confidant, knows she’s loved. Smart and optimistic.
I'm just about to start the second third of my novel, which is where a lot of Rozella's character growth happens. From this point on, I have to watch her very carefully to see if she is gradually becoming confidant, or if it's an instant change. I want it to be gradual, but I'm worried that what I have now is instantaneous change. I guess I'll find out as I continue to write!

Motivation: She wants to belong and feel loved. Also, her natural tendency to care (for animals and, later, people, too).
Just like it's important to know your character's appearance, history, and worldview, it's important to know what motivates your character. Why are they trying to achieve their goal? What motivated them to go on a quest, or to sign up for an online dating service, or start a prank war with their neighbor? Did the prank war spawn from a happy-go-lucky sense of humor, or from the childhood need to prove themselves better than their prank-master father, or from the desire to escape adulthood and regress back to childhood?
Rozella's actions nearly all come from either her compassion for others or from her desire to be loved. She was kidnapped by a Wicked Witch when she was a baby and endured the Witch's torments until she was thirteen. The Witch never loved her, so Rozella longs to be loved and accepted by someone. Her desire to belong makes her worry if people are judging her for her actions.

For each of my characters, I described appearance, personality, history, growth, and motivation. As I've gone through the first third of my novel over the past month, I've been pleasantly surprised with how well I was able to incorporate characterization in the second draft. It's way better than I expected and I haven't had to do much. The next two thirds, on the other hand, I'm expecting to be a mess. Which is why I'm writing this blog post instead of working on my story.

If you're a writer, what kind of character profiling do you do? If you're a reader, do you notice character development, description, and motivation?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Brothers-In-Arms Cover Reveal

My friend Jack Lewis Baillot is releasing a new book and I have the pleasure of sharing the cover with you today!

   Author Bio:
   Jack is one of those strange people who calls herself an Author. She spends a lot of her time writing and even less time editing. She likes to write about friendships which is partly how Brothers-in-Arms came to be. More than ten years in the making, this is the book she dreaded the most writing, but which also has the most meaning for her.
   When Jack isn't writing, which doesn't happen too often, she keeps busy with various other hobbies – such as reading, playing the bagpipes to the dread of her neighbors, and drinking tea – which might not be considered a hobby by most but which should be.
   She lives in a cabin in the woods with her dog and a library which isn't quite equal to Prince Adam's but will be given enough time and a secret doorway.
   Brothers-In-Arms synopsis:
   Can a Jew and a Nazi survive Hitler's Germany?
   Franz Kappel and Japhet Buchanan never expected their friendship to be tested by the Third Reich. Friends from early childhood, the boys form an inseparable, brotherly bond. Growing up in a little German village, they escape most of the struggles of war until the day Japhet is banished from school for being a Jew, and later has a rib broken when other village boys beat him up. Franz learns he is putting himself in danger for spending so much time with Japhet but continues to stand up for his Jewish friend even at the risk to himself. Then one day their lives are shattered when they see first-hand that the price of being a Jew is dangerously high.
   With the war now on their doorsteps, Franz and Japhet come up with a desperate plan to save their families and get them out of Germany alive. Leaving behind the lives they've always known, they move into Berlin with nothing to protect them but forged papers and each other. Convinced their friendship can keep them going, the boys try and make a new life for themselves while trying to keep their true identities and Japhet's heritage a secret. Taking his best friend's safety upon himself, Franz joins the Nazis in an attempt to get valuable information. At the same time, Japhet joins the Jewish Resistance, neither friend telling the other of their new occupations.
   With everyone in their world telling them a Nazi and a Jew can't be friends, it is only a matter of time before they believe all the lies themselves, until neither is certain if they are fighting against a race of people or fighting for their homeland. Somehow they have to survive the horrors of World War II, even when all of Germany seems to be against them.

A year or so ago, I beta read Brothers-In-Arms. In it's rough form, it was very good, so the finished project will be amazing! If you enjoy historical fiction or stories about strong friendships, go check out this book on Goodreads.
And now, the cover:

If you'd like to find Jack on the World Wide Web, check out these links:

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

What I read in Feburary, and what I hope to read in March.

I read five books in February:

Winter by Marissa Meyer. This was the conclusion of "The Lunar Chronicles," and I enjoyed it. It was a good conclusion to the series, though there was a little too much kissing for my taste.

On Writing Well by William Zinsser. This is a nonfiction book on how to, well, write well. Specifically, how to write nonfiction well. William Zinsser is a genius and I think that every person, whether a writer by choice or for school, should read this book.

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor. My friend lent me this book because she loves it. I did not love it. This is the first book that I've ever rated one star. It wasn't because of content issues or plot holes... It was because the writing was SO. BAD. It was written completely in passive voice and the author told us everything. He showed us nothing. Ugh.

The Wanderer by Sharon Creech. Sharon Creech is my comfort author. She writes middle grade books and she was my favorite author when I was twelve. I still love her stories and return to Replay, Bloomability, and Ruby Holler often. I own three of her other books that I've only read once each. I'm trying to get rid of some books (I'll give you a moment to gasp in surprise and disgust) so I wanted to reread this one and another one to see if I wanted to keep them or not.
The Wanderer is about a girl who sails to England with her three uncles and two cousins. I enjoyed the story, but thought it was weaker than some of her other books, so I'm putting it on the "giveaway" pile.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. This book uses my favorite type of storytelling: a story within a story. Sal, the main character, is on a road trip with her grandparents but, as they travel across the country, she tells her grandparents the story of her friend Pheobe. The two stories intertwine and it's great. This one is staying on the shelf.

This month, I already finished a book.

Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech. When I was younger, I thought this was the weirdest Sharon Creech book because there was a ghost... or not a ghost? Anyway, reading it now, it's not as strange, and it's going back on the shelf.
It's cool because Sharon Creech's first book, Absolutely Normal Chaos, is about a girl named Mary Lou Finney. She is also a side character in Walk Two Moons. Chasing Redbird is connected to Walk Two Moons as well because the main character, Zinny, was Sal's best friend before Sal moved away.
In Bloomability, the main character's two aunties write to their niece about Zinny, who is clearing a trail in the woods.

Here's what's on my nightstand right now:

DUN DUN DUN... I'm taking on The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien this month. Wish me luck.

Q-In-Law by Peter David. This is a Star Trek novel that introduces the two most formidable forces in the galaxy to each other: Q, omnipotent being, and Lwaxana Troi, daughter of the fifth house, holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed. If there is anyone in the galaxy—other than Kathryn Janeway—who can take on Q, it is Lwaxana. Their interaction has been hilarious so far.

Below Q-In-Law is a biography on George and Ira Gershwin that I started reading last summer and never got around to finishing. One day... For now, it doesn't fit on my bookshelf, so it stays on my nightstand. Below that is that Tintin book that I can't seem to finish, even though there's only about fifteen pages left.

I'm a little conflicted about to read next, though. On one hand, I'd love to reread The Penderwicks again.

On the other hand, I have three other books I need to read soon so I can decide if I want to get rid of them or keep them.

The first is a Christian murder mystery that I got with a gift card at the Christian bookstore. Sometimes, Christian bookstore buys can be great (Crater by Homer Hickam) and sometimes they can be "eh" (No Place Like Holmes by Jason Lethcoe).
Next is The Mysterious Benedict Society, which I have read before. I really loved it, but I'm not sure if I love it enough to keep it on my shelf.
Finally, there is The Hero of Ages, the final book in the Mistborn trilogy. I'm determined to give this book a second chance, but if I don't end up enjoying it, I think I will get rid of it and the second book in the series and just keep Mistborn: The Final Empire.

I'll probably end up reading The Penderwicks again.

What are you reading right now?