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  • Why I Killed My Main Character

    S1:00. I pulled out my laptop and settled down on the sofa to write. 1:40. Tensions were growing higher; the end of the book was getting closer and closer. 2:15. I dug up the scene I was using for inspiration for the epilogue. 2:40. The deed was done. My main character, the one who narrated the entire book, wad dead. And though I was sad (and still am), I didn't regret it, nor am I planning to change it. Why? No Plot Armor Here! We've all been there - casually watching a movie or reading a book in a group of friends. The hero is in mortal peril; the villains are getting closer- And then, miraculously, they and their team make it out alive. Farewell, random side character who popped in five minutes before. Hello, everyone with any character development. At this point, someone's always bound to give a chuckle and murmur, "Plot armor." Agreement will sweep through the room. Some authors always tend to protect their main characters, no matter how logical that is in the moment. The result is forced, unrealistic action and plot that, at best, leaves readers frustrated, and, at worst, leaves them feeling cheated and likely to walk away from the story. That's one of my decisions as a writer - plot armor will never be an explanation in my books. Sacrifice To sum the premise of this project up, it's about two characters who have to choose between murder and death. One chooses the first; the main character chooses the latter. The theme that keeps popping up in the last few chapters is best illustrated in this snippet: We fill the bare room as so many times before—all eighteen of us, trained to be the very worst of the worst for a king with a crown forged from the blood of his people. So many times we’ve trained, talked, challenged each other. All of us are here. It is the same. And yet so, so different. Because here we are. The moment the last three years have been leading up to—the final decision. The decision that has been hovering in the back of everyone’s mind ever since we first stepped into this underground fortress where the Ten hold council— Will I ever make it out alive? And the answer is no. For all of us. Because some will die and some will not. Yet no one will live, not truly. Because children should never be murderers. Children should never have that look of pure terror that I saw in Martin’s face. Children should never try to convince someone to leave their injured friend behind as Harmonia tried to do. Children should never be relieved that their friend killed someone as Cole was. One way or another, the children that entered this fortress will never come out alive. Those who do come out will be weapons. Assassins. Slaves. Right is right, no matter what it costs. The phrase is echoing through my mind as a constant reminder of why I chose to forfeit this training. Because right is right, no matter what. There is always a choice in life. Sometimes the choice is between the bad and worse, yes. Sometimes the cost of that choice is drastic. And yet there is a choice. And we have been called to choose what is right, even unto death. The End? The epilogue I mentioned above actually happens after the main character's death. How's that? Well, without getting into a long and complicated explanation, I'll say that, as in our world, death is not the final ending. And that sometimes what comes after death is so much more beautiful than what comes before. I am a follower of a Prince who conquered Death itself. I do not like the idea of death, no. Death hurts. Yet I am not afraid of Death. And I wanted my book to be a reminder of that. With that in mind, the epilogue finishes with this: We whisper our names to each other and dissolve into tears and laughter and memories as the others smile at us, as our ship sails forward, onto a land we’ve placed all of our hope in— A land where we can smile. A land where we can be free. And, above all else, a promise-forged land where even children trained to be traitors can trust. What do you think of killing characters? Drop your thoughts below!

  • Beta Readers Wanted!

    In the writing world, there are two main-types of "pre-publishing" readers: alpha readers and beta readers. Alpha readers look over a rough draft and give feedback on big-picture things; beta readers receive a much more polished draft and focus on word-choice type things. (Also, purely for my own curiosity. . .) Today, I'm opening up a short story of mine for beta readers! Details below. . . BLURB: Life and Death, Hope and Despair—what did these four think of the life of Jesus? And even more, of his death? These four have watched the teacher grow and have payed attention to his ministry, some more comfortably than others. But on this day, the scene opens with Life and Hope as they watch Jesus being led to the cross—and the victorious smiles of Death and Despair. Yet Jesus’ ministry is one even these don’t understand. And their entire world hangs on the life—and death—of one man: Jesus GENRE: Christian speculative fiction WORD COUNT: ~6500 SENSITIVE TOPICS: Death and Despair as characters, crucifixion (the actual method of death not focused on), temptation of Jesus, and, therefore, Satan APPLICATION: Fill out this form, and I'll get back to you if I think you'd be a good fit! <3 There are all the details. . . for a little of the inspiration behind the story: At the time when I started writing this, I had hit a dry spot as far as inspiration went. A couple friends were trying to help me out. One of them asked this: "What do you think the angels up in Heaven thought when Jesus died?" We zeroed in on that. Went further. Maybe not angels in general but specific angels. Maybe emotions or concepts turned into characters. Hope? Life? Death? Despair? What about them? What were they thinking and doing on that day? I loved the concept. So I started writing it. There were very unique challenges to this short story, yet, for all of that, it has a very special place in my heart. <3 Click here to read it! Applications will only be open for so long, as I'd like to focus on working through it with the beta readers I have without constantly taking on new ones. I'd love to have you as one of them! <3 Here's that link one more time. (;

  • I Kept My Promise

    (To be honest, not posting on a Saturday feels very odd. But I have the pleasure of participating in a blog tour this fine Thursday, so I'll share a quick snippet I wrote a while ago before moving onto the blog tour.) I kept my promise, Talia. I took Teddy to the park today. I carried him in front of me, and he watched the passerbys with his serious black button eyes. As we walked together, Teddy and I, the memories walked with us. You always loved the park, Talia. You’d skip and sing and twirl until you tumbled into the grass. Then you’d climb up on my knee and point to the clouds, trying to show me your world of fancies that kept you laughing all day long. Finally, I couldn’t keep walking. I couldn’t keep remembering. I couldn’t even breathe. I sat down on one of the benches. It was damp from last night’s rain. We sat there, Teddy and I, and I remembered. Teddy sat on my lap. His left ear was bent over slightly from all the countless times you had carried him by it. Then we saw a little girl. She had dark hair and wore a pink dress like the one you used to wear when you would beg me to come to your tea parties. She was alone. She walked up to us, fascinated by Teddy. When she caught sight of me, though, she shrank back. She looked behind her, searching for her daddy, but he was gone. Then she began to cry. And so, slowly, I held Teddy out to her. She took him and wrapped her arms around him, burying her face in his soft fur. After a moment she looked up, and through the tears that blurred her eyes I saw two sparkling blue irises staring back at me. Just like yours. Then her daddy came. He was so relieved to find her. He picked her up and threw her into the air, and she giggled, holding Teddy by one arm. Her daddy nodded to me, and tried to make her give Teddy back. She didn’t want to. She started to cry again, hugging Teddy with all her might. Then, slowly, though my throat burned and my heart ached with memories, I whispered, “She can keep him.” Her daddy smiled at me and nodded, then they turned and left—, Teddy with them. And I sat on the bench, alone. The memories came then, Talia. The memories came thick and fast. I remembered you climbing on my knee at my home, asking me to take care of Teddy, since he didn't want to move with you and leave his home. And I promised. I remembered crying as you left, and you wiping at my wrinkly old cheek with your soft little hand, saying, “Don’t cry, Grandpa. Whenever you feel sad, go out and make someone happy.” And I nodded, kneeling and hugging you and wishing that I would never have to let you go. Your small arms wrapped around my neck as you promised you’d be back by my birthday. And then, two days later, when I heard about the car crash, I went up to your playroom where Teddy sat on the shelf. We watched the memory of you twirl through the room, laughing and dancing and building towers and inviting us to tea. And now, on my birthday, I miss you more than words can say. Teddy was happy today, and his new little mistress even happier. I kept my promise, Talia. If only you could have. Now onto the fun part. (; A dear friend of mine, Agnès Cromwell, recently launched her blog: The Rainy Day Writer. Agnès is an amazing girl and a dedicated writer, and I'm so thrilled to be able to participate in her blog tour. The schedule for the tour is here: So tomorrow, head back over to her blog to see what else she's cooking up! (; Be sure to check out her blog and leave a comment! <3 It'd mean the world to both her and I.

  • Book Review: The Last Year of the War

    “That the past is nothing you can make friends or enemies of. It just is what it is. Or was. It is this day you are living right now, this very day, that is yours to make of it what you will.” -- The Last Year of the War, Susan Meissner I don't quite remember how I first stumbled across The Last Year of the War, but it was certainly worth the find. Thought-provoking and, at times, emotionally-wrenching, Susan Meissner presents us with an entirely knew way of looking at World War Two in her beautiful book The Last Year of the War. Synopsis: In 1943, Elise Sontag is a typical American teenager from Iowa—aware of the war but distanced from its reach. Then her father, a legal U.S. resident for nearly two decades, is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to an internment camp in Texas, where, behind the armed guards and barbed wire, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar, including her own identity. The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers. Together in the desert wilderness, Elise and Mariko hold tight the dream of being young American women with a future beyond the fences. But when the Sontag family is exchanged for American prisoners behind enemy lines in Germany, Elise will face head-on the person the war desires to make of her. In that devastating crucible she must discover if she has the will to rise above prejudice and hatred and re-claim her own destiny, or disappear into the image others have cast upon her. The Last Year of the War tells a little-known story of World War II with great resonance for our own times and challenges the very notion of who we are when who we’ve always been is called into question. Plot — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ WW2 stories are everywhere - some that tell it well, others that do not. Most focus on the actual soldiers; a decent amount focus on the home-front. But The Last Year of the War is one that mixes the two together rand tells the story of an everyday girl caught in a war in a very new way. Meissner's plot points were well-thought out and, though sometimes surprising, always felt realistic. Characters — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Meissner's characters are very thought-provoking and realistic. With their own fears and desires and people or causes they'd give anything to protect, each draws out different aspects of their background. Seeing Elise grow over the course of the book was both lovely and heartbreaking as the realities of war started becoming clearer and clearer for her. Nevertheless, there was a small spark of hope in her heart no matter what that kept the story grounded. Pacing — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I was rarely bored while reading this book, though I'll admit that there were some slower parts, especially near the beginning. The story picked up later, though - the wait is worth it. (; Worldbuilding and Setting — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ From their original home of Iowa to an internment camp in Texas to a war-ravaged Germany to still other backgrounds, all of Meissner's settings were vivid. Her focus on details really set the scenes, and I admire that. Prose — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ While not outstanding, Meissner's prose did carry the story well and, on the whole, kept me engaged. There were a few times when the writer in me wished she had phrased something else, but, on the whole, her descriptions were very engaging. Theme — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ As far as I know, Meissner is not a Christian, which, in my opinion, costed the book a true bit of hope. She still managed to pull some of that out at the end, but without the framework of a Christian perspective, the hope felt rather aimless. There are also some very mature themes dealt with in the book, such that I'd be wary giving it to younger teens. SPOILER ALERT: At one point, when the French soldiers arrive at her German town, Elise is nearly raped, an event which causes what may be PTSD afterwards. This scene, though foreshadowed, is a difficult one, and parents may want to talk about it before/afterwards. SPOILER OVER. Conclusion: I've read The Last Year of the War several times, and, though I wouldn't give it five stars across the book, is a worthwhile read for mature readers. The unique look at WW2 is amazing, and Elise's journey is one you'll not want to put down. <3 Buy The Last Year of the War here: https://www.amazon.com/Last-Year-War-Susan-Meissner-ebook/dp/B07DZW5X3K/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+last+year+of+the+war&qid=1657981997&sr=8-1

  • The Star That Always Stays

    They say that writing a book takes a village. While that's true, it's true in more ways than one - the entire writing journey, from start to finish, takes a village. My village is Brett Harris and Jaquelle Ferris' The Young Writer's Workshop, and it's a village beyond a young writer's wildest dreams. On that note, I'm thrilled to announce that one of the students of the Workshop, Anna Rose Johnson, is about to publish her debut novel, The Star That Always Stays! As part of her street team, I've had the pleasure of being able to read the book before it's released - and, it. Is. Brilliant. Her writing harks back to the classics yet is clear and understandable, her characters feel real, and the concepts and themes and histories she's playing off of are very intriguing. Sibling relationships are always a tricky thing in fiction, but The Star That Always Stays captured these so incredibly well. Her characters were so lovable (excuse me as I go rant about Vernon to an empty room for hours), and I found myself constantly grinning or awwing at them. Best of all, though, her theme of hope and getting up and doing something when the world is splintering is beautiful. <3 She tackled some very hard themes for middle grade (such as divorce, race, prejudice, etc.) yet did so with so much grace and tact. As Brett Harris, author of Do Hard Things and co-founder of the Workshop, wrote: The Star That Always Stays is a sweet and gentle story in the vein of Anne of Green Gables or Little Women. Nothing in the book would fall into the Sensitive Topics categories we have on this community, for example. It strikes that delicate balance of being neither too light and fluffy or too dark and scary. It showcases strong families and even includes strong Christian elements despite being published by a secular New York City publisher. My hope is that this book will remind you of beloved childhood favorites and give you and your family that thrilling experience of getting lost in a new book together. It certainly did so for my wife and me! Her book is coming out the 12th - definitely pre-order it so that you can read it is as soon as possible! <3

  • Which Star Thief Character Are You?

    Several months ago, a friend casually mentioned that Robin Hood and Little Red Riding Hood shared the same last name. What, she asked, was the connection? Brother and sister? Mother and son? Husband and wife? That captured my imagination. Months went by, and I didn't yet have an idea on how to use it, but I knew I wanted to at some point. And, inspiration, as usually happens, came suddenly and without a specific trigger. All I knew was that it featured a girl named Scarlet, a brother who abandoned her, journeys across the planet systems, and questions about trust. Since then, the story has been completely plotted and partially outlined, waiting for me to finish the first book of the duology I'm working on so that I can finally write Star Thief. In the meantime, I've been having some fun with the characters - including making a quiz to see which of them my friends were! The five options are these: Scarlet -- Little Red Riding Hood Scarlet is my main character in Star Thief, and she's about seventeen at the time the story takes place. Naturally suspicious but with a deep longing to belong, she tends to keep to herself unless someone draws her out of her shell. She grows a lot over the course of the book, and I love her character arc. <3 Robin -- Robin Hood Scarlet's older brother who, driven by grief and guilt after their parents' deaths, abandons her and sets out for a forested moon called Shayre. Robin isn't one to ramble; what he says is short and decisive. He leads his men well and cares for them, as well as for Scarlet, but doesn't quite know how to show it. Will -- Will Scarlet/The Huntsman Will is one of my favorite characters in Star Thief, hands down. His cheerful sass, insightful nature, and caring friendliness are so lovable. <3 He's been through a lot of trauma and struggles with PTSD, which has been interesting to work into the outline. The first of Robin's band, he's the Will Scarlet from the traditional Robin Hood story, but he also ends up going by the name of Will Hunter, fulfilling the role of the Huntsman in the Little Red Riding Hoodstory. Chann -- The Wolf/Sheriff Chann is, by far, the most unsettling of these characters. He plays the role of both the Sheriff, from the Robin Hood story, as well as the Wolf, from the Little Red Riding Hood story. Ambitious, calculated, charismatic - he makes a rather good villain, if I do say so myself. ;) He's also the older brother of Marion (see below). Marion -- Maid Marian Marion is a lady out of her place - in the best way possible. Generous yet from a rich family that keeps their riches to themselves, courteous yet surrounded by caustic company, graceful beyond all measures - she is an amazing person. Love interest to Robin and quick friend to Scarlet, she acts much as a mentor to both of these characters. <3 So which of these are you? Take this quiz to find out! Which did you get? Tell me in the comments!

  • Books with Unique Writing Styles

    Writing style, while certainly not the most important part of literature, plays an enormous role in how the book is perceived by the reader. Some books have bad writing styles. Some have average. And then there are those that just shine. Where the author’s word playing is a constant amazement and thought-provoking part of reading. Where you can read a sentence and already tell who wrote it because of their unique style. I love those kinds of books—and, today, it’s my pleasure to provide you with a few of my favorites! The Book Thief When Death has a story to tell, you listen. It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist - books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. Any story related by Death is sure to be unique, and Zusak’s The Book Thief fulfills that promise. Thought-provoking, alluring, and constantly intriguing, the style of The Book Thief will always be remembered. Island of the Blue Dolphins In the Pacific, there is an island that looks like a big fish sunning itself in the sea. Around it blue dolphins swim, otters play, and sea birds abound. Karana is the Indian girl who lived alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Hers is not only an unusual adventure of survival, but also a tale of natural beauty and personal discovery. I love Scott O’Dell’s writing style. In everything of his that I read, it’s there—a simple signature that stands casually on the page, as if saying I’m here, and I’m me. His word choice, rhythm, and structure are captivating, and they fit his stories so very well. The Screwtape Letters A masterpiece of satire, this classic has entertained and enlightened readers the world over with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to "Our Father Below". At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, C. S. Lewis gives us the correspondence of the worldly-wise old devil to his nephew Wormwood, a novice demon in charge of securing the damnation of an ordinary young man. The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging and humorous account of temptation - and triumph over it - ever written. All of C. S. Lewis’ writings have a unique writing style, but that of The Screwtape Letters is even more so. The unique way of phrasing that comes from the character he portrays is incredibly thought-provoking, and the entire tone is intriguing. Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic Ten-year-old Persimmony Smudge lives a boring life on the Island in the Middle of Everything, but she longs for adventure. And she soon gets it when she overhears a life-altering secret and suddenly finds herself in the middle of an amazing journey. It turns out that Mount Majestic, the rising and falling mountain in the center of the island, is not really a mountain - it's the belly of a sleeping giant! It's up to Persimmony and her friend Worvil to convince the island's quarreling inhabitants that a giant is sleeping in their midst and must not be awakened. The question is, will she be able to do it? Jennifer Trafton’s style is whimsical and beautiful, and Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic is a perfect example of that. It’s not “normal”, and her witty commentary and quirky characters leave you grinning, yet she has mastered the art of beauty and hilarity at the same time. What authors/books have struck you with their writing style?

  • Timeless

    A silver bell’s tinkle dances through the small shop, And the old man smiles; age-wrinkled hands beckon. The boy patters over to the book on the top, And through the frosty windows peek the stars, winking At the man, the boy, and the books: The old, the young, and the timeless. Once again the boy enters, cheeks flushed and coat gone, In his arms a small lamb with wool whiter than snow. There’s a book just for him, says the old man, voice fond, And they read it together, words steady and slow, Gently drawing each of them in: The old, the young, and the timeless. The days now stretch longer, candles left ’til next fall, Light setting the dust dancing as the boy reads on. Autumn darts through the trees leaving crimson footfalls, And he gathers his schoolbooks, yet still he returns, To sit and to listen to the hearts of the three: The old, the young, and the timeless. Then shadows veil the room, the silver bell silent. Empty is the old man’s chair; the Author’s called him home. The boy, now bearded, locks the shop, eyes distant. Yet behind the dimmed window, echoing through the tomes, Roams a whisper that remembers them: The old, the young, and the timeless.

  • Why History Matters: A Storyteller's Thougts

    In the past year, I did something I never thought I'd do - read The Histories, by Herodotus: in many ways, the oldest form of recorded history. As a storyteller, this made me think about history in a different way and raised several interesting questions: What caused this ancient historian to decide on the concept of a tale of mere facts, so unlike the wild tales that other storytellers were telling? How did The Histories impact later history books? And what, when it comes down to it, is the point of a history? This last question in particular carries a lot of weight with it, and, though some believe that reading history is a dull undertaking that they’ll leave behind the moment they finish high school, the point of history is so much more than memorizing dates—and, in my opinion, at least, the learning of things past should continue long after higher education is finished. Why? I'm so very glad you asked. History Illuminates the Past History illuminates the present like little else. Imagine, for a moment, what it would be like to examine traces of the past with none of the story that accompanies it. Imagine visiting the Coliseum and having no idea of the countless lives sacrificed on that wooden floor; imagine studying the liberty bell in a time when what it rang for had been forgotten. The past touches the present in so many ways—in statues, in landscapes, in cultures, and in more. History is the thread that weaves these tapestries together and makes experiencing these landmarks all the more meaningful. History Animates the Past Contrary to popular opinion, history—at any rate, history as it should be—is not a dull list of dates and names to be memorized and rattled off with no knowledge or interest in the surrounding story. History is not the date that Constantinople fell; history is the story of how Constantinople—the city that was said never to fall “until the moon was eaten from the sky”----fell the night of a lunar eclipse. History is not knowing the day Nathan Hale, American patriot, was executed for treason; history is knowing that his last words, “My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my country” were, in fact, the lines from a British play. History is not knowing Hitler’s full name or the many lieutenants who served under him; history is the story of those Germans who opened their homes to Jews, of the secret passages threading their way through German-occupied territories for these refugees to find shelter, of the children who refused to join Hitler Youth and instead did all they could to love their neighbors. History is the tale of human motivation, of wreck and ruin, of rise, of tragedies and the glints of hope that survived in them. History Explains the Past As any storyteller can tell you, without developing backstories, the present is robbed of much of its meaning. And once history has been studied, then the current state of things will make much more sense. Without knowing the Native Americans’ tale, what reason is there for the protected areas of the United States? If the world wars had been forgotten, why would countries spend so much time and energy on inventions made to protect themselves? Knowing how modern civilizations become what they are today can give much more sense to current situations—and can keep people from repeating the same mistakes that their ancestors made time and time again. So Does It Matter? History matters. Those are two words that many school children will groan at—but if history was taught as it should be, perhaps they would not. If history was presented, not as a list of facts to memorize but as a tale that showcased humankind at both its best and at its worst. . . if history classes were times to call back the times of chivalry and challenge students to act as the knights of old. . . if students could see the present through the lenses of their ancestors who fought “for the ashes of their fathers and the temples of their gods”. . . then maybe it would be clear. History matters—and without history, the present is robbed of nearly all its meaning.

  • Sneak Peek into Trust the Traitor

    My current work-in-progress is titled Trust the Traitor. TTT is the first of a duology and is a YA fantasy that follows a boy named Adrian as he is forced to discover if he can do good, once and for all, in a tyrannical empire where that means death. Today, it's my pleasure to give you a few sneak peeks into various scenes of TTT. Some claim that Larien is a myth. A story, they say. An improbable fancy meant to be a vain reassurance for those overwhelmed by the darkness of death. Others say that, while Larien itself is a myth, the Lost Legend is not. That the dead board that phantom vessel and spend all of eternity sailing stormy seas, never to rest again. I don't know how to counter such arguments. I don't even know, truly, if Larien exists. Because maybe they're right. Maybe Larien really is only a dream. I just don't know. But one thing I do know: Sometimes the truth you can’t find in reality secrets itself away in dreams. And if we’re to survive this with any shred of courage left, then may Larien be one of those dreams. Now may the love of Larien keep us all. “One day they’ll tell stories of what happened here. It’s up to you to decide what they’ll say.” Ilana was different. She wasn’t like the rest of us, even though, in so many ways, she was. She was just as afraid as us—sometimes even more so. But although she’d never try to deny the existence of the monster under the bed, she was always the one to whisper that maybe the monster was just as scared as us. She was the first to start singing and the last to stop, the one who could tell stories that would make all of us believe, even if only for a moment, that courage was possible, that love was powerful, and that goodness would win out in the end. “Adrian, wait,” she says, raising a hand as I turn. “What is it?” Even to my own ears, my words are tinged with dangerous impatience. “You can join us,” she says evenly, a strange glint in her eye. “You and me and Martin—we’d find them in less than a tick. You could get out of here alive, Adrian.” She tosses me something that I barely catch. A coin. A golden coin to seal all her promises. “Thanks for the offer,” I say, flinging it back. “But I don’t trust traitors.”