Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Beautiful People: June 2016

I'm very late on Beautiful People this month. Somehow among all the other blog posts and things to do (you know, read books, play games, watch a baby walk totter around) I ran out of time. But alas! I am here to answer these questions and explore my beloved characters.

The theme for June is childhood. All the questions are based on the childhood of the chosen character. I admitted to Sky (from Further Up and Further In) that when I saw the theme of the questions I internally groaned because I realized none of my characters have 'happy' childhoods. I know, problematic? I have some characters that do have decent, even good, childhoods, but the ones I first thought of to spotlight do not. (It's actually pretty sad how many characters I had to list before I found one with a decent childhood.)

Anyways, it's always hard for me to choose one character to spotlight. I want to share about all of them. They're all important even if I'm not writing all of their stories right this minute. So I had to narrow it down. I decided to write about Leezander, the main character from my science-fiction novel Glimpses of Stars. While his childhood has some trauma and not-good things, he does have some happiness in brief glimpses. Plus I don't get to talk about him enough. (Yeah, yeah, I know he was spotlighted in A Novel Idea recently, but come on, I haven't spotlighted him for Beautiful People in a long time.)

What is their first childhood memory?
His first memory is when his mother took him down to Earth for the first time. He'd been born on a starship and lived there for the first four years of his life. His parents are both from Earth, so he'd heard about it before. This was the first time he experienced it for himself though. And as the shuttle descended on to the planet, the sun was just setting in the West and the sky was alive with dazzling colors and the stars were just starting to peak out of the sky. He was astounded at the sight. It made him fall in love with the stars all over again.

What were their best and worst childhood experiences?
His best childhood experiences were running around the starship with his two best friends, Emmett and Grace. They had many misadventures, and they explored every nook and cranny. His worst childhood experience is when one of his misadventures backfired and caused the death of his mother. (I know.)

What was their childhood home like?
Cold, sterile, and hollow. The starship was big for a ship, though tiny in comparison to the Void outside the windows. While they had sufficient heating, there was always a coldness to the starship--as if it could feel the Void beyond the walls trying to get in. It was always clean and tidy, everything had to be in order on the starship, everything they owned was necessarily and had a purpose. There was no frivolity. His father also enforced a strict schedule and set of rules.

What’s something that scared them as child?
He wasn't easily scared as a child. Living in space helped him overcome most fears, and because he loves the stars so much, he's never been afraid of outer space. However, he was afraid that someday the stars would all go out and the Void would become only darkness.

Who did they look up to most?
He definitely looked up to his mother. She was smart, beautiful, and brave. He wishes he could be more like her, but he knows he has his father in him. He also looks up to many of the famous starship captains.

Favourite and least favourite childhood foods?
He didn't get much of a choice. He ate what was given to him on the starship. He wasn't fond of the vegetable paste he was forced to eat to "become strong" in space. On the rare times they would step foot on a planet, he would beg to try the best foods from the area. He's fond of real fruit.

If they had their childhood again, would they change anything?
He would spend more time learning about how a starship works instead of running around causing trouble. He learned a lot growing up on a starship, but he also missed a lot of things to pull pranks or explore places he knew he wasn't supposed to go. He would also make sure to spend as much time with his mother as possible.

What kind of child were they? Curious? Wild? Quiet? Devious?
He was a mixture of a lot. He was always curious, he was wild when he was with his friends, he's very clever so he could be devious, but at times, he was also quiet and unsure. He's adaptable. He likes to observe people get a feel of the atmosphere in a room before speaking up or taking action. He's very analytical, and he has been since childhood.

What was their relationship to their parents and siblings like?
Leezander doesn't have any siblings, but his relationships with his parents were very different. He respects his father, but he somewhat feared him. His father was strict and stern, which made Leezander feel that if he did something out of line that he was a big disappointment. He was a child, but his father treated him like an adult and expected him to act like one. His mother, however, was his closest friend. He could do no wrong in her eyes. She always smiled and played along with him. She let him be a kid. She would take him to do fun things, even to places children weren't supposed to go. She was his light.

What did they want to be when they grew up, and what did they actually become?
When he was young, he always wanted to be the greatest starship captain the Verse had ever known. He wanted to explore new worlds, help people, and keep peace throughout the Verse by commandeering the greatest starship vessel ever made. Instead, he became a well-known pirate captain in the Verse, which involved running from the starship captains, breaking the laws of space, and pillaging innocent people. It's not what he would have chosen, but he feels it's the only option he has.

Did you participate in Beautiful People? What are your characters' childhoods like?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Why I Believe in Love at First Sight

You know how it goes. Someone will ask, "Do you believe in love at first sight?" And then there's a debate. Is it truly possible to fall in love at first sight? Is it real love or just lust and desire? Is it just "attraction at first sight" instead?

Personally, I always thought "love at first sight" was kind of ridiculous. How can you truly love someone after only meeting them (or seeing them) once? You barely known anything about them. You might not even know their name or what they look like. How could you ever love someone without knowing the deeper or important things about their life? (Like how they chew their food or what their favorite TV show is.) I just didn't think it could be real.

However, my thoughts on this question have changed. It all started with a boy. I gazed upon his face, and immediately I was smitten. I was wholly devoted to him. I fell in love in an instant, and my original answer to the "Do you believe in love at first sight?" was thrust upside down. I now know love at first sight is possible.

Now before you get all moany, groany over the gushy-mushy love story, let me clarify. This is not some boy I fell in love with during a whirlwind summer romance. I don't sit and think about this boy with a daydreamy look on my face. This isn't a boy I would do anything to marry. It's not that kind of love. He's not that kind of boy. This boy is my nephew Owen, who turns one today.


When I first laid eyes on that tiny, squishy, squirming, chubby-cheeked, red faced baby, it was insta-love for me. I fell in love with that little baby boy at first sight.

I'm not a baby person. Or at least, I thought I wasn't. Before my nephew was born, I thought all babies hated me. They cry and cry and cry. And they can't tell me what's wrong like a two year-old can. (And I don't know how to tell what's wrong either.) They can't do much but sleep, poop, eat, and cry again. They're pudgy and smelly and sometimes so squishy they're ugly. Babies and I don't get along.

But in an instant, that all changed. A year later, I learned there is at least one baby in this world that doesn't hate me. He loves me; he does. I can tell by the way his whole face lights up when he sees me. How he crawls or totters his way over to me as fast as his little body can go. I can tell by how much he laughs and smiles and shines when I play with him. He's adorable, really. He's the cutest baby I've ever laid eyes on. (I'm not biased at all. Other people tell me the same thing.) And he loves me.

But let me tell you something about love. I'm young. I don't know that much about love. Not really. I'm still learning how to love and how to receive love in return. But I know I believe in love at first sight. I know it's real. I've experienced it. Maybe it's not a romantic type of love we see in movies or read about in books. It's not the kind of love you want to base your marriage on. No, I think love at first sight comes in other forms of love.

Like the love of a child--a baby boy who is cuddly and cute and hilarious to watch and entertain. Or maybe love for something you witness in nature: a sunrise, a meteor shower, a blooming flower. Maybe you see something and you feel a tugging toward it. Maybe "love" isn't the right word for it after all.

I sure do love the stars and outer space. I think I fall in love with space every time I take a gander at the night sky. I fall in love at first sight over a lot of things. I fall in love with snow every winter. I fall in love with moments of joy. I fall in love with new words and new reasons to laugh. I fall in love with lines of writing or the first bite of food.

I think the whole "love at first sight" can be true. I believe it can happen. It might not be with a romantic partner. It might not be someone you meet and want to marry. I think that kind of love takes time, commitment, and hard work. But there are other types of love, other types of emotions, that can happen at first.

Like the love for a little boy. Or for the best book in a bookstore. Or a sunset or looking out over the Grand Canyon. Or watching an older gentleman open the car door for his wife even after 50 years.

Love at first sight might be true. It could be. Maybe it's not for everybody. But I know I believe in some small way it can happen every single day.

Happy 1st Birthday, Owen!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Novel Idea: 6/21/16

Aha! I'm back again. I honestly can't believe I've been able to keep up with all these posts lately. It seems every week is crazier than the last.

Anyways, the prompt for this week's A Novel Idea challenge is (drumroll, please!) to come up with what the back cover of your novel would say. While this seems straightforward, keep in mind this is usually the only thing (along with a book cover) a reader has to determine whether to read the book or not!

Like always, I've got a stack of story ideas to choose from. This week I'm spotlighting my 2015 NaNoWriMo Novel: The Secret Library Society.

Back cover blurb:

Arthur Benedict Williams, or just Arthur, is a nine year-old boy with dyslexia, but he wishes he could read without the words tumbling off the page. Instead, he has the oddest sense that the books whisper to him instead. When he meets Samantha at the library, things begin to change. She offers to help him learn to read but also to find out why the books talk to him. 
Soon Arthur uncovers a secret society outside of his realm that aims to protect books and the Library from the illiterate powers of the world. Each member of the society is given special tasks to keep the library functioning, but most important of all are the Inklings-- humans with the ability to interact with the 'essence,' or magic, of books. Inklings are the key to keeping the Library protected from outside influences.  
And Arthur Benedict Williams is an Inkling. 

Would you read this novel? What's the back cover blurb for your novel?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Novel Idea: 6/14/16

Hello! I'm back again (for a third post within a week, which is amazing to be honest) for this week's A Novel Idea prompt! Seriously, if you want fun writing exercises, you should totally participate (even if the deadline has passed.)

This week the prompt is simply to describe your character without using a picture. It sounds pretty simple, right?

Yeah, no. It's actually a lot harder than I thought, especially since I usually use pictures to help me out and to showcase my lovely characters. Thus, I'm taking this week's A Novel Idea as a challenge, so I'm not going to highlight just one character, but one character from all the current WIPs (which is probably a lot). So if you haven't been introduced to some of them, here you go!

From Killian's perspective

"She wasn’t much to look at, Killian decided... a girl, not much younger than himself, shackled to a chair at the table. This was the supposed pyrate trader? There wasn’t much to her. She was tall and skinny with pale, smooth skin and short, dark hair. She kept her head bowed, her bangs hanging in front of her eyes. She didn’t move when they entered... Her eyes--which caught Killian off guard--were wide and bright, lit up by some kind of wonder. He’d only seen a few people that resembled the Crimson citizens with their contrasting hair and skin and their odd eye shape. And those had been passing visitors, never up close and personal. And none had bright eyes as if they were from Wisteria instead."

From Leezander's perspective

"The girl looked up with wide eyes. The color of stars spun in her irises, in and out, sparkling and shining. He couldn’t help but stare. Her face was smooth, complexion free of blemish except for the thin scar from the corner of her lips to her chin. Her hair, a deep shade of brown with a few streaks of red and blue mingling near her ear fell over her cheeks...He noticed her hands, which were held near her stomach, but at an odd position, angled down by the wrists. Scars, almost hidden by her shirt sleeves, brushed around her wrists. The skin on her fingers chafed; her knuckles were ripped. She smiled, her thin lips curving up so her cheek bones reached the edges of her eyes. Those starry eyes pulled at him, tugging at his gut."

From Arthur's perspective

"He stared up at the young man, who was no older than his brother John. Dark hair, dark eyes, dark clothes, the man glowered down at him with fire in his eyes...He spoke slowly, enunciating each word with the rumbling of his voice. It was deep, but it didn’t sound scary or mysterious; it reminded Arthur of John’s voice...His eyes were dark, almost black. They gleamed. He wore a long, dark trench coat with a vest and tie beneath, all black. Even the gloves on his hands were black, though Arthur didn’t know why he wore them inside or at all...The man was clean-shaven, but his hair flopped across his forehead in waves of dark shades...The man half-smiled, his eyes glittering. Arthur could almost see flames rise up in his pupils." 

From Adam's Perspective

"Her uncontrollable giggles settled down. She lay there, trying to breathe normally. Her face was red from running and laughing. Her hair was messy, and she was covered in sand. Yet the bright smile on her face, and her sparkling eyes made her beautiful."

Of course, I have many other stories, but I'll leave you with these four characters. Tell me about your characters!

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Novel Idea: 6/7/16

A while ago, I participated in weekly writing link-ups called A Novel Idea. After a time, A Novel Idea is back, and I'm excited!

Basically, every week there will be some kind of prompt or questions to answer about writing, and I will feature my answers to said prompt or questions here. I'm excited for this because in the past it had been fun and also helpful to explore my own writing and characters and stories. In addition, I'm hoping this will help me keep up with writing weekly on this blog. It's been harder than I thought to keep this blog updated.

In addition to A Novel Idea, I'm also participating in another 100 for 100 challenge. Since June 1, I have written at least 100 words every day, and I will continue to do so over the next 100 days. I know, it's crazy! But at the end of those 100 days, I will have written at least 10,000 words. My goal is to edit parts one and two of my current WIP, A Girl and Her Dragon, and finally finish part three, which had been my goal for May but I started following a rabbit trail and I got distracted by other things... and well, it's not finished yet. So I'm hoping to finish up minor edits for parts one and two during June, work on part three during July's Camp Nanowrimo, and then see what's next with the days left. (I have no idea when the 100 days will end. And I'm too lazy to count it up.)

Anyways, back to A Novel Idea. To start off, the prompt is to share about our personal writing style and what we like to write. (If you're looking for a fun version of A Novel Idea to read this week, check out Sky's. She did a history of her writing journey, and I loved it! It was actually hilarious to realize how similar my own writing history is to hers. Grandman encouraging writing, short self-illustrated stories stapled together, writing stories on old computers using Word Pad, Narnia fanfics... Fun stuff.)

My Writing Style

I have always had a hard time understanding what "writing style" means. From "writing voice" to "writing process" to a hundred other terms related to "writing," I've never been good at explaining what those mean. (Don't you dare tell my English professors. I spent four years studying this stuff, and I still have no idea what I'm doing at times.) So I'm not sure what my writing style would be. I think for every story I write, it's different. Some are first person POV, some are third person. Some are present tense while most are past tense. There are stories that switch views, there are stories that have flashbacks intermingled with the main story line, there are stories divided into parts, and there are stories that don't even have chapters. My writing style changes with every new idea.

However, my writing process usually does not change. Basically, I get an idea. I write it down SOMEWHERE (a random piece of paper, my palm, a writing notebook, a facebook message to someone else) in order to remember it. Then I usually let the idea simmer for a while--or not. Sometimes I just start scrawling the words across a page or ferociously typing it on a computer. (By ferociously, I do mean ferociously.) I might make a Pinterest board. I might write ideas down or compile snippets of scenes/ideas as I think of them. I daydream a lot. I usually don't plan much. I just kind of let the story take me away and see what happens and who shows up and what the plot ends up being.

(Look, I made a graphic!)

Basically, I'm a pantser. I'm not a gardener though. A "gardener" places things to lead the story/plants to grow in a certain direction or whatnot and prunes things to make them have shape or not to overgrow too far. But I don't do that. I'm more of the person sitting out in the middle of the jungle watching everything take over and tangle up. It's great fun.

What I Like to Write

Well, the obvious answer is: stories. As in novels. As in I've tried to write essays, poetry, and even short stories, but those don't sweep me away or take siege over my brain like novels do. I've definitely written essays, poems, and short stories that I adore, and every once and a while I'm suddenly inspired to write something different, but for the most part, I like to write novels. Specifically, I like to write fantasy novels.

The same goes for genre though. While I mostly write fantasy (usually including dragons), I have delved into other genres including science-fiction/cyberpunk and contemporary fiction. (I know, you're shocked, aren't you? But I did write an entire contemporary novel once.) However, I stick to fantasy for a number of reasons. I've actually written an essay about why. But mainly it's because fantasy gives me hope--just like Samwise Gamgee's speech in The Two Towers film suggests:

Fantasy gives me hope that there's something worth fighting for in this world. More often than not, books and fictional stories--mostly fantasy ones--taught me more lessons and gave me more hope than I ever received during real life or while reading contemporary stories. While I think any story can have meaning and teach us something, I clung to fantasy and the elements that spring from the genre--things we don't normally have in our world right now--and in turn, I want to be that same beacon of hope and light in our world with my own writing.

I like to write a lot of different things. I like to write a lot of different stories. I don't have a clear writing style, and sometimes I hope from genre-to-genre or I blend genres together in a different sort of way. But basically, I like to write. I need to write. And that gives me hope.

Why do you write?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Redemption of the World

Trigger Warning for suicide and death.

I got on my computer to sit down to write toward a novel, then to maybe finally post my response to a writing link-up. But all day, I've been thinking of something else to write, something else to say. There has been a lot going on in the news lately of terrible tragedies--from an accident at a zoo to a rape trial to a beautiful singer being fatally shot to fifty people being murdered in a mass shooting--and other issues our nation and our world are facing, whether it deals with civil rights or presidential elections. I don't know all the details of these stories. I've read tons of opinions and thoughts and maybe-facts online about each. But I'm not here to add my personal opinion of each incident to the growing mountain of cyberspace. Not entirely.

Instead, I've come to realize there's a fundamental problem at the root of recent news headlines. It's present in issues of gender, in the life of a human vs an animal's, in the action of a 20-year-old man, and in the shooting of a musical artist and fifty other people. It's not guns. It's not what's "politically correct." It's not stupid choices or bad parenting or special privilege. The fundamental problem in our society is the value we place on human life.

If people were taught to value their life--to love themselves for who they are--they wouldn't commit suicide because somebody bullied them for feeling or being different, whether they are transgender, mentally handicapped, or simply just marching to the beat of a different drum. "Oh, but you don't understand how I feel." I don't? No, I do. It's never easy to admit this, especially in a public place where my parents, adults who think highly of me, and younger people who look up to me can easily access and read this. But I do understand how you feel.

I'm a Class-A perfectionist. I was the kid who would cry if I got a B on a test or received a mark for not doing my homework. I often compare myself to a mirror because I easily agree with people even if I don't actually agree simply to please them and also keep peace between us. I struggle often to appear perfect on the outside when inside I'm twisted and tangled. I strive to do better than other people, while inside I fight my own thoughts. I also have undiagnosed social anxiety. Everything I do in a public setting puts me on edge and makes me think and overthink and think some more. I'm stuck in my thoughts, which revolve around "I'm not good/pretty/smart/talented/etc. enough" and "Nobody actually wants me around" or "Nobody would notice if I wasn't here." It's a vicious mind to live in, but it's mine. And I've had those "feelings" where I wanted to give up, where I wanted to end the thoughts and the flood of feelings that washed over me in a wave-like cycle by ending my life. I never did anything though. I never cut myself or attempted suicide. I only thought it--but thoughts dig deep and take root anyways.

The reason I never attempted anything is simply because I valued my life more than I wanted to stop living in this world. I was taught from a young age that my life--yes, the one filled with an onslaught of thoughts, mindless time-wasting on the Internet, and reading one too many books--is important. And not just important, but my life has purpose. It has meaning. It has been spoken for. It was created by God for a reason, and it was saved by His grace and mercy through the sacrifice of Jesus. And I cannot fathom ever ending my life because I "feel" too much, because somebody said something that rubbed me the wrong way or made me feel terrible and started me back through the loop of "I'm not good enough." I've had those moments. I've had moments where people treated me like I was a little kid still, despite being graduated from high school for a few years, despite being only a year or less younger. I've had moments where people made fun of me, whether it was what I said or how I said it or what I did, which made my entire internal world clench up and feel very angry, confused, and sad--all at once. I've been made fun of, maybe not entirely on purpose, but there were times I was teased or bullied, but I kept through. I rose above the thoughts of my own mind, the opinions (existent or non-existent) of others, and the standards of the media to learn to love myself as God loves me--the kind of love that goes beyond our human comprehension and feelings.

I value my life because I was taught to value my life. And in turn, I value the lives of every other human being on this planet. It's easy to look at my almost one-year-old nephew and value his life. He's precious and the cutest baby ever. (I'm not biased at all.) But it's harder to look at other people--older, of various sizes, of various lifestyles, of various social statuses,of various personalities, of various races and religions--and to love them, to value their life. But I try. I try to see the beauty in every person, whether they've committed a crime or yelled profanity at me or shared an amazing story or gave me a smile as I passed them by. I value the lives of every single person on this planet because I've been taught that every life matters and every life has meaning and purpose. I may not agree with everything they believe or say or do, but I still value their lives. I think about how they have lived and that everybody has a unique set of memories, tendencies, dreams, and purposes. Everybody is different. Nobody--not twins, not siblings--has the same life. There are things my sister has done that I can only imagine doing. There are things I've done or said that nobody else has. It's amazing to think about that, which makes it easy for me to value their lives because I think of how mindblowing it is that everybody has their own world in their head and every single one--all seven billion--is different than my own.

Which is why, if our society valued the lives of every person, some of these tragedies wouldn't happen. I could never point a gun at someone, no matter how much I might hate them or disagree with them or believe they are wrong, and pull the trigger without thinking about the life I was going to end and about the possibilities and potential of that life. I would never get behind the wheel of a car if I'd been drinking or if I was doing anything else that would hinder my senses and my focus on the road in case someone else was out on the road at the same time. A 20-year-old would never even think to rape any person, unconscious or not, if he valued his or her life enough to realize the consequences of his actions and the effect it would have on that person's life. Thousands of Internet users would never squabble about the inhumanity of shooting an animal in order to save the life of a toddler if they valued the lives of humans. Someone would not bully someone else for being different, and that person would never consider committing suicide as the only escape route. A person would not shoot a young woman with a gun or fifty others--whether the gun was registered or not, legal or not--if he or she valued life, no matter how he or she felt in the moment, no matter what they believe or what they are told to do.

The fundamental problem with our society isn't a political problem. It's not about the legality of guns. It's not about which bathroom you use or whether someone deserves a longer sentence in jail for a crime. It's not about bad parenting or terrorist intentions. The root problem of all of these tragedies and outcries of justice comes back to the simple factor of the state of our hearts. If we valued the lives of every child, man, and woman on this world, there wouldn't be as much tragedy. Yes, adversity, such as natural disasters or disease, would still occur and people would still die. There would still be some affliction, some heartbreak. But the social tragedy caused by relationships and actions from one person to the next would be reduced if we all valued life like I've been taught to value life.

I've been given redemption through the blood of Christ. I've been set free from the vicious cycle of my thoughts and feelings. Yes, it still comes and goes like tides of an ocean. Yes, I still have days or moments where I feel like giving up and not existing. Yes, I still struggle against it. But I continue to fight against it. I continue to pull through and rise above how I feel, how I think, and how I'm treated because I know there is redemption and there is hope and there are far better things I would miss out on in life if I gave up right now. The world is big and great and beautiful and full of impossible things, and I don't want to miss it because I have overwhelming feelings and one too many thoughts clouding my head. The world needs redemption--it needs hope that these catastrophes won't continue and will somehow find healing. I personally believe there is only redemption through Christ and that the world has already been saved. But here and now, it is our duty to keep that salvation and redemption at the forefront of our minds when we experience tragedy. I think the redemption for the world today begins with how we treat our fellow humans. And the only way to prevent such horrible calamities is to value the lives of every human on the planet.

I'm choosing to value life, so those around me can live without another tragedy. I'm choosing to value life so future generations can have some hope and joy in this world. I'm choosing to value life because someone else choose to give me life through His death and resurrection. I'm choosing to value life because to live in a world without value for who we are decreases the love and the joy and the redemption of our world. 
"I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life so that you and your children may live." -Deuteronomy 30:19