The (belated) post of Writerly goals and resolutions

 

Technically this post was supposed to go up last month, but January = insanity. Which means today you get to hear all about my 2016 writing goals and plot bunnies and all that good stuff! I’m using the Beautiful People questions (hosted by Sky and Cait) because as always they suit perfectly, and I like lists and such things. They give a sense of order in the universe. *dramatic music*

Shall we?
What were your writing achievements last year?

*in which Annie does a happy dance because SHE ACCOMPLISHED STUFF*

In March I found out that I was a finalist in Rooglewood’s Beauty and the Beast re-telling contest. Of course, I was disappointed not to be one of the winners, but finding out I was one of the Top Twenty? I still get happy chills over that.

For the first time I participated in Camp NaNo July which was a blast (shout-out to Schuyler and Emily for being such amazing writer buddies). I’ve never written so much in one month, and I’ve never had that much fun, or that much pain (I write longhand). Also, it had the added bonus of creating a habit of writing daily for me. WOOT. I’m a procrastinator, folkies, hence why July was so important. Not to mention I added over 25,000 words to the third draft of I am Juliette so there’s that. I worked on typing it up over the next few months – my sister-in-law helped me tremendously – and in the meantime I started Blood Thread, my fantasy steampunk novella about a cat-fae and his unruly human charge. In November I joined in NaNoWriMo for the first time and wrote about 11,000 words of Witching, the sequel to I am Juliette. I would have written more, but life happened. I finished and edited Blood Thread in December.

All in all, I feel happy about what I did last year. I finished two books, one full-length and one novella. I learned good habits and more about my own style and voice. And my social media platforms grew steadily – I made connections with some brilliant, lovely people. Also, I discovered that Fantasy is my life’s blood; I suspected it already, but now I know for sure.

Tell us about your top priority writing project for this year?

I feel like I should maybe have a microphone and a holograph right now.

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I am Juliette takes Top Priority for sure. It needs an extensive edit of the Draft 4 (that’s actually what I’m in the middle of right now). But after that? Once IAJ is sent out to beta-readers I have no idea what I’ll be working on, and I am incredibly excited about it. There’s this glorious horizon awash with bright ideas and I can hardly wait to have a blank slate and a fresh story to work on. A few I am dying to get my paws on are:

the Zorro re-telling: in my head it’s all a palette of dusty roads and orange sunsets and rad motorcycles and political tangles and swashbuckling rescues and Spanish food/jargon and deliciously suspenseful bad-guy-is-two-steps-behind-Zorro-on-the-staircase scenes. I need this book in my life, people.

Witchling: It’s a bit untrue that I’m wild to write this one since most of it takes place in outer space and that can be a hampering setting for me. I crave the color and life and air of Earth. Not even kidding, humans; this is an actual, legitimate problem I face as a writer. Space drains my creativity. BUT. There’s also Hansel and Gretel who are just so sweet and adorable and wring my heart, and I want to spend more time with the Witchling. The Wolf Master is one of my favorite villains of all time, and as for Halsey? He is a precious charrie who deserves to be set loose on paper again.

The Runner Chronicles: Again, Fantasy is my Kryptonite. MUST HAVE THE FANTASY. I’ve been half-brainstorming this series in the back of my mind, and then I wrote a Beautiful People for two of the characters which just made matters worse, and now I want to write all about this gifted, confused, prejudiced world with its gorgeous scenery and bone-chilling creatures. The problem? It’s a series. I have no wish to start another series right now. I get cranky just thinking about it. Someone give me chocolate chips.

List 5 areas you’d like to work the hardest to improve this year.

Writing description: I never used to be so unsure of myself in this area, but now when I write it’s like I’m looking through poorly-made glasses at the world around me. It’s incredibly frustrating.

Keeping to a consistent schedule: Honestly, I’m doing much better at this, but it’s too easy for me to slip up. I want to get up earlier, start writing earlier and accomplish my set word-count/goal each day. Lists are my best friend.

Plot: I know I’m pretty strong on the character front, but plot is my Waterloo. I don’t like simple, I like convoluted and surprising—it’s just a matter of learning how to replicate that.

Writing humor: My brand of humor tends to always take place in dialogue and a lot of time it sounds similar—snarky one-liners and the like. I plan on learning how to write different kinds of humor, focusing on working it into the prose.

Bravery: In keeping with my word for the year I want to be braver when it comes to my writing. I want to incorporate the themes I feel called to, even if they scare me. I want to try new styles and modes of writing, and delve into my imagination and creativity without thinking about how other people might respond negatively. I’m going to query this year and work more on the publishing side of things which terrifies me. Hence, this resolution.

Are you participating in any writing challenges?

Since I loved Camp NaNo so much last year, I really want to join in again. April will probably be too busy (pleasedontbepleasedontbe) but, Lordwilling, I will be writing up a storm in July. I may or may not do NaNoWriMo this year… WE SHALL SEE.

What’s your critique partner/beta reader situation like and do you have plans to expand this year?

There are several lovely humans who beta-read for me, and I’m hoping to increase their number this year; specifically, a few male readers/writers since I don’t have any at the moment and a masculine viewpoint is invaluable. I don’t really have any steady critique partners, but I’d like to have a few (I need to, would be more accurate). My sisters are stellar in the critique department, but I would also like some writers who are more advanced in their craft.

Do you have plans to read any writer-related books this year? Or are there specific books you want to read for research?

Yes, indeedy! I have a list with a plethora of writerly books I plan on digging into sometime. Top of said list being Bird by Bird, The Emotion Thesaurus, Revising and Self editing for publication, Structuring your Novel and Outlining your Novel among others.

As for research I need to read the original Zorro book, re-hash various fairytales for my I am Juliette series, study some more well-written science fiction (recommendations, anyone?), and I’m planning on reading Quiet since I need to have a better handle on how introverted people think. Also books about ninjas and aromatherapy and gunmanship and Spanish culture and outer-space and blindness. Beyond that? Who knows? That’s half the reason a writer’s life is so exciting.

Pick one character you want to get to know better, and how are you going to achieve this?

Only one? That’s adorable.

The Wolf Master from Witchling fascinates me and, since he’s the antagonist for the whole of the series, I really need to learn more about him; what makes him tick, what his driving motivation is, why exactly he became the way he is. I have strong inklings and I am eager to find out more. I’m hoping to explore the Witchling and Halsey’s friendship more too because a) they give me many Best Friend feels, and b) they help each other grow in ways I can’t quite grasp yet. I need to understand exactly what their dynamic is and how they view each other.

Another character I’m anxious to get to know is my “Rapunzel” from the third book in the I am Juliette series. She’s going to be grand fun to write because she is just so blunt. That girl has absolutely no filter, I tell you. Or any concept about the normal way to behave, and her mistakes are hysterical and embarrassing and adorable. She’s like a wide-eyed, innocent child in a 17-year old’s body, but she has startling flashes of insight and womanly intuition. Plus, she and her AI have the cutest, grumpy fits at each other which make me happy.

And then there’s this assassin charrie from another book….

Lots of character sketches, questionnaires, interviews, and excerpts are in store, methinks. *rubs hands together gleefully*

Do you plan to edit or query, and what’s your plan of attack?

I shall be editing I am Juliette like a small, maniac tornado and then querying it out like said tornado’s scared twin. Of course, I’m terrified to my very bones. This is all as new as the first sunrise for me, peoples. But secretly (well, less secretly now) I’m also wildly optimistic so hopefully there won’t have to be too many comfort-blanket forts built (I promise, I am a serious adult, but right now I’m listening to Spanish music and it’s bringing out the unquenchable child in me. And I struggle with hyperbole anyways).

Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”  What are the books that you want to see more of, and what “holes” do you think need filling in the literary world?

I have strong opinions on this subject.

Firstly, I would love to see more books that are clean, but still have depth. There’s no earthly reason why a book can’t be free of foul language and innuendoes/scenes and still be deeper than the Mariana Trench. No reason at all. Half the reason I don’t want to market my books as “Christian” is because of the bad name so many Christian authors have given that market by writing shallow, preachy, bland books—see here. I want to see more of my fellow authors-in-the-faith tackling tough issues head-on. Be brave, darlings. The moon shines all the more clearly in the dark (I keep telling myself this because I know I need to write a book that deals with human-trafficking and the idea scares me stiff).

More thick historical novels that aren’t solely romance fiction would make me happy. More anthropomorphic fantasy is always good. I would be thrilled to see less of the strong-woman-who-don’t-need-no-man and more of the strong woman who can still have a man without thinking it degrades her (maybe I’ll write an article on this at some point).

Please, more books with a male protagonist. I BEGS.

And I second Aimee: lots of steampunk, pretty please and thank you. And more platonic/close sibling relationships would be nice too.

(aaand this question has reminded me of so many plot-bunnies/spawned more.)

What do you hope to have achieved by the end of 2016?

I want to see:

I am Juliette edited, sent out to beta-readers, queried, and even accepted (I believe in reaching for the sky, lovelies).

– the first draft of Witchling completed.

– Zorro re-telling at least plotted and out-lined.

– win a creative writing contest.

– secure a critique partner and male beta-reader (or two).

– accomplish a Thing with Blood Thread which is currently under wraps.

– lots, and lots of research done.

– attending a writers’ conference would be spectacular.

– my writing vastly improved on all fronts.

How about you? Tell me a few of your goals for 2016. I want to know ALLLLL the things, my friends! And which of my plot bunnies intrigues you the most? H

Book Review — Resist // by Emily Ann Putzke

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Synopsis

Munich, Germany 1942—Hans Scholl never intended to get his younger sister involved in an underground resistance. When Sophie Scholl finds out, she insists on joining Hans and his close friends in writing and distributing anti-Nazi leaflets entitled, The White Rose. The young university students call out to the German people, begging them to not allow their consciences to become dormant, but to resist their tyrannical leader and corrupt government. Hans knows the consequences for their actions—execution for committing high treason—but firm in his convictions, he’s prepared to lose his life for a righteous cause. Based on a true story, Hans, Sophie and all the members of The White Rose resistance group will forever inspire and challenge us to do what is right in the midst of overwhelming evil.

My Thoughts

I picked up this book with high hopes and, happily, it did not disappoint. The WWII era is one of my favorite historical periods, I’ve been planning on reading more books with male protagonists, sibling relationships make me happy, and the German resistance is something I know little of but am curious about.

Resist covers all those bases and then some.

It’s a book about war and coming of age and struggling against tyranny and the age-old battle of good and evil. At its heart Resist is the story of a young man who chooses not to take the easy path, who has the courage to act upon what he believes. Hans Scholl has his whole life ahead of him… and his country is crumbling to pieces around him. I love that he doesn’t bury his head in the sand and he doesn’t misuse his sense of patriotism by pretending that his country is so great it could never really become the monster Hitler was creating of it. Instead he takes his frustration, his passion for justice and truth, and channels it into doing everything he can to make a difference. The fact that he really lived and the events of the book actually happened only make it that much more poignant and impactful.

The story is by necessity disturbing and heart-breaking at times, but the darkness is beautifully woven in with simple, happy moments of light—such as when Sophie and Hans eat and exchange sibling-chat after midnight or at the dance scenes or the touching, sweet moment with the Russian family or when his friends gave Hans grief about Gisela. Speaking of which, their relationship made me a happy human. Nothing like falling in love over deep discussions about literature and politics and religion.

And Sophie and Hans melt my heart. I have a wonderful, close relationship with my older brothers too so it was extra special to see how the siblings looked out for each other and protected each other.

Which makes the ending of the book all the more powerful and painful. I honestly couldn’t remember what was going to happen, and reading a few of those last chapters was suspenseful to the point that I was actually feeling nauseous from the sense of dread and impeding peril. Not good for my peace of mind, dearies.

Also, this book is chockfull of stellar quotes, my fellow rabid bookworms. I’m pretty sure I ended up high-lighting about 50% of my Kindle ARC. It’s that good.

“If they allow their dreams to be dormant, I don’t see the point in dreaming at all.”

“Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be governed without opposition…”

“It is my firm belief that every human needs at least one friend in whom he can confide.”

“When, thus, a wave of unrest goes through the land, when ‘it is in the air,’ when many join the cause, then in a great final effort this system can be shaken off. After all, an end in terror is preferable to terror without end.”

“But I am your brother. I have to take care of you… no matter how stubborn you are.”

“He may call me home sooner than I’d wish, but I’d rather die for what is right, true, and just than to live with a dead soul and conscience.”

One of the many reasons Resist left such a deep impression on me is because much of it parallels the direction America is headed right now—so much of it flashes a stark light over all the missteps we’ve taken, the missteps we are considering taking, and the consequences of them. Hans’ frustration and agony of mind over his countrymen turning a blind eye and choosing to do nothing cuts me to the quick because I’ve often felt the same about the apathy and deliberate ignorance of so many Americans.

“Some of us take the easy road, myself included, for why would you risk your safety if you are a decent German citizen who’s minding your own business? You can simply close your eyes to the evil your government is committing and pretend you don’t notice while they strip away every freedom you possess. Perhaps you’ll make it through the war, through the tyrannical government, but at the end of the road, you will be in utter agony. The road that seemed the easiest led to destruction. But perhaps you take the painful road instead, the one that causes you to lie wide awake at night in fear? The one that could cut your life short, but would lead to peace and eternal rest. Would you take it? Would you bear the painful road? As you see, just as Hugo writes, ‘these two roads were contradictory.'”

“If I knew what was happening but gave it no heed, I was voluntarily allowing my people to be devoured by the wolves.”

“If everyone waits until the other man makes a start, the messengers of avenging Nemesis will come steadily closer; then even the last victim will have been cast senselessly into the maw of the insatiable demon.”

The story of Hans and Sophie Scholl demands attention because they were real. They were just two ordinary young people who loved and laughed and studied and wolfed down food at scandalous hours and managed on far too little sleep and got depressed and made mistakes and liked cake. But they were willing to put their lives on the line for what they believed was right, and they persevered even when they were terrified.

They were true heroes and I couldn’t be more thankful that history has remembered them.

May we never forget.

“When this terror is over, are we going to be included with the ones who allowed death to freely reign, or are we going to resist? If we choose the former, then what are we to say when asked ‘What did you do about it?’ We will have no answer. I for one, desire the latter. I want to stand up for life, goodness, morality, and most of all, God.”

*some disturbing scenes because of Hans’ exposure to Holocaust victims. A goodish amount of swearing.

*I received a free ARC in exchange for an honest review

5 Tips for Writing on the Go — Guest Post by Emily Putzke

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(Today I am thrilled to be hosting Emily Putzke in a special guest post in honor of her newest book release. I’ll be reviewing Resist, a novel about two courageous siblings who were a part of the German underground resistance in WWII, later this week. In the meantime check out the post and enter the giveaway!)

Hi everyone! I’m Emily Ann Putzke, author of It Took a War, Ain’t We Got Fun, and my newest novel, Resist which released this week! I do a lot of traveling to help out with family so I’ve become accustomed to writing stories in different atmospheres—be it at my older sister’s house flanked by cats and children, at my desk at home, or on the couch in my grandpa’s apartment. I think a change of scene can be very beneficial to our creative minds. But, as writers, it can also be hard. So here are five tips for writing on the go:

  1. Make sure you can access your work from any computer with online programs like GoogleDocs or Microsoft Word Online. I also backup my files on AmazonCloud. Take advantage of these great online storage/writing programs for on the go use.
  2. Create a private blog for links/pictures/anything you’ll need to access. I sometimes bookmark pages which doesn’t work well when I’m using various computers and needing a website for research. Save those links in a program you can access anywhere!

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3. Even though I’m helping out with family, I always try to grab some writing time when I can, even if I have twenty-five children on my lap. 😉

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4. Don’t forget your earbuds! Sometimes it can be hard to immerse yourself in your novel when you’re not in your usual writing environment. Put on some movie soundtracks and get lost in your story.

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5. If you’re a historical fiction author like me, you need your research books with you at all times. I’d recommend buying them used on Amazon or B&N so you can highlight and dog ear to your heart’s content. Also, then the library won’t be bugging you about returning a book when you’re traveling.

The life of a writer is an adventure! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject!

Oh, and don’t forget to check out the giveaway!

Emily Ann Putzke is a young novelist, historical reenactor, and history lover. You can learn more about Emily and her books at authoremilyannputzke.com, facebook.com/authoremilyannputzke, and instagram.com/historicalhappenings

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Beautiful People — Valentine’s Edition // Quinn and Keelyne

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Today I am linking up with Beautiful People to chat about a couple I’ve never mentioned on Curious Wren before. Quinn and Keelyne are from my high fantasy The Runner Chronicles which is all about prejudice and war and love and family. Their relationship is unique because:

a) they’re the only two pure-blooded young people left of their race, and so it’s been pretty much a given since they were born that they would end up in an arranged marriage (right now they’re engaged). 

b) they both have special gifts. Quinn can manipulate gravity and Keelyne is a fire-bender. 

I love these two precious bunnies so much, humans. 

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Q1. How did they first meet?

Quinn was seven and Keelyne was five. It was at a Feast of the New Moon, and both children were trying to escape their respective nursemaids. Needless to say, they accidentally sabotaged each other’s escape plans and neither was thrilled with the other.

Q2. What were their first impressions of each other?

Kee made a flame-imp to terrorize Quinn and he retaliated by tripping her up throughout the rest of the evening with his gravity-bending gift.

That answer that question sufficiently?

Q3. How long have they been a couple?

Their parents arranged a betrothal agreement for them when Keelyne was ten and Quinn was twelve. The engagement became official in a public ceremony six years later, and the couple exchanged rings per tradition. The actual wedding will take place a year later and both of them dread the day.

Q4: How committed/loyal are they to each other? Would they break up over a secret or disagreement? Could stress drive them apart? Would they die for each other?

Ohhhh, boy. I’ll try to answer this without spilling too many spoilers.

Since Quinn has a strong code of honor he would never betray Kee, even though being betrothed to her is not his favorite thing ever. Kee on the other hand? You can never be sure exactly how loyal she is to her reluctant fiancée.

Because they’re a couple out of necessity and obligation (pure bloodline and all that) it’d have to be a really terrible secret to get them to actually break their engagement—basically destroying a hierarchy of a thousand years. It could happen though.

Being with each other tends to stress them out so they avoid private confrontations. Formal and distant is their motto. Which is adorable, because their younger siblings ship them and are always trying to “accidentally” trick them into meeting.

They would die for each other without hesitation.

Figure out that conundrum. O.o

Q5. List 5 “food quirks” (feel free to mention non-food quirks).

— Keelyne adores pomegranates.

— Quinn firmly maintains he is allergic to them—how much truth is in that statement is anyone’s guess.

— Quinn hates eating at feasts, he prefers being all by his lonesome or just with a few friends.

— Kee sometimes eats off a flaming plate just to freak people out.

— They both love rich, hot tea.

Q6. Is there anyone who disapproves of their relationship?

Themselves? 90% of the time?

Q7. What would be an ideal date?

Dancing together in the moonlight. Alone, because their first dance at the betrothal ceremony with everyone watching was the most awkward thing ever.

Q8. What are their personality dynamics? Similar? Contrasting? Do they fight a lot or mesh perfectly?

Keelyne = spitfire with a dash of Ice Queen.

Quinn = gentleman with a strong streak of introvert.

When they’re together sparks fly. Sometimes they have calm, agreeable conversations, but the general state of affairs is all tension and unspoken feelings and turbulence and an acute awareness of each other.

Nobody makes Quinn slip from his customary politeness faster than Kee. On the flip-side nobody can get Keelyne’s attention as quickly as Quinn can.

Q9. What have been their best and worst moments together as a couple?

Best?

As children they practiced controlling their respective gifts all the time together, so now that they’re older and engaged the moments when they are most comfortable are whenever they train. It’s easiest to forgot about their future then and just be friendly. It says a lot about their relationship that while they are the most encouraging to each other in maintaining the stability of their fire/gravity abilities they also struggle to control their gifts the most when they’re together.

One of my favorite scenes between them is when one of their siblings gets hurt, and they sit together for hours in silent sympathy while they wait for a verdict from the healers.

As for the worst?

Spoilers, sweetie. So, so many spoilers. *bribes self with peppermint patties not to say anything*

Q10. Where do they see themselves and their relationship in the next few years?

Both of them are terrified to get married, but for very different reasons. I would explain more, but, again, SPOILERS.

*gives everyone freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies in apology*

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I am Juliette snippets — in honor of Valentine’s Day

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My current WIP I am Juliette (draft four) is strong on the love story front. Which makes me laugh actually because I always told myself that any book I wrote would have only romantic side plots — and then I go and write a tragic re-telling of Beauty and the Beast. 

I feel like there should be a moral to this.

That said, the couple in IAJ are near and dear to my heart. The Prisoner is trapped in a containment tube on a space-ship all by his lonesome until the ship’s quirky robotic owl Custodians decide to teleport someone to keep him company. Cue Juliette, all spunk and curiosity and sweetness wrapped up in a red dress.

And much feels and adorableness ensue.

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// their interactions when they meet are my favorite ever.

“Did you just call me a nightmare?” I interrupted, lifting my eyebrows.

“Shut up, I’m thinking.” He frowned, his eyes still closed. “I’ve never asked a hallucination if it’s real or not before… so… maybe this is real.

“You mean like how you’re supposed to pinch yourself to know if you’re dreaming or not and you never think to in dreams, but you do in actual, waking life?”

“Exactly.”

“Well, I can answer that.” I pinched my wrist. “See? Not dreaming. Which means we’re both real.”

There was a silence, in which I counted eight seconds, then the man’s eyes opened and he looked straight at me.

“Hello,” I said, offering him my friendliest smile and a half wave. He didn’t answer, just looked me up and down, his eyes wide. They were brown like mine, but much lighter—almost hazel.

“Now who’s staring?” I teased.

// the dynamics between them are so much fun to write.

I gave up trying to win our stare-down and rubbed my eyes.

“Well, it was still nice of him,” I said, my voice muffled. “And I’d still like to thank him and yes, I know I can thank him later.” I hated how petulant my words sounded. “And yes, I probably should thank you too.”

“You’re very odd,” said the Prisoner thoughtfully.

I huffed a laugh.

“You’re not exactly ordinary yourself.”

// the Prisoner’s matter-of-fact way of looking out for Juliette makes me squee. 

“She appears whole to me,” the Owl chirped. My mouth twitched and I glanced over at the Prisoner who gave POND a look that should have melted him on the spot. The Owl merely shifted his grasp on my finger. His talons were cold and pointy and I felt his body vibrating from internal mechanisms — like the thrum of a living creature.

“Trust the human,” said the Prisoner. “Her hands are scratched. Make yourself useful and do something about it.”

// you fluffy, cute babies

“Red,” he finished.

“—scarlet,” I said simultaneously.

“Same difference.”

“Not quite.”

“Well, it’s not grey. And when you’ve been trapped in a place where everything is grey or black—”

“—or blue,” I interjected. “Ugh, sounds like a bruise.”

“No, not a bruise. Bruises are dark purple, and then they turn orange.”

I wrinkled my nose. “And now that we’ve established that.”

“You’re such a girl.”

// and did I mention the emotional pain? And just feels in general?

“You’re not real,” he whispered. “You can’t be real.”

I gulped back tears.

“I am real. I’m here with you.”

“No.” His frantic pulse echoed in my head. “You’re just another nightmare come to torment me.”

“I’m not. “My voice quivered. “I’m Juliette. Your friend.”

“I don’t have friends.”

//

Love is odd though.

It changes your perception of someone until you’re seeing, not just their face, but their personality. A sheet of paper with everything you love about them written all over it. And they are beautiful.

To me the Prisoner is like home and a wild storm and the sound of wind and the warmth of the sun all at once.

//

“I think… if I could trust anyone,” he opened his eyes and looked straight at me, “it would be you.”

//

Tears leaked from the corner of my eyes. The Prisoner watched me, the fingers of one hand tracing a pattern against the metal underneath it.

“Now, that we have that settled…” I swept strands of dark hair away from my face, adjusted my ring, and leaned my elbows on the tube’s edge.

“We’re supposed to be keeping you calm, and that—” I pointed back and forth between the two of us, “that wasn’t remotely the definition of calm.”

The Prisoner gave me a look.

“We’re human and we’re attracted to each other—not to mention, trapped together indefinitely. Calm is not our forte.”

//

I know what it is to live.

He only knows what it is to exist.

“I want him to be happy,” I whispered into the still air.

Then as his voice repeated those same words to me in my mind, I curled up on the cold glass and sobbed.

//

My broken, beautiful monster.

(now excuse me while I go and howl over my precious, battered babies. we writers are cruel. o.o)

 

 

10 Tips to Beat A Writing Slump

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(inspired by this article about reading slumps)

You’re tired. You have no energy. The well of inspiration is officially dry. You’re so busy sometimes you forget your own name. You’re discouraged. The idea of spinning words together into something coherent makes you weep. Or you simply can’t decide what project to work on next.

Sound familiar?

It’s called a writing slump as I’m sure most of you already knew.

Last month I had the worst writing slump I can remember. I was busy constantly, and whenever I had a chance to sit down and scribble a few words the thought of writing made me cringe. My creativity was low. I missed my characters and my worlds so much I started to get panicky, but I just didn’t have the energy to do anything about it.

So, what do we do when we struggle like this? I’ve compiled a list of tips (because, as always, lists are life) that helped me smash the Nazgul-ish creature that likes to stalk us all at some point in our creative endeavors.

1. Read beautiful books.

If you’re anything like me, when you read a gorgeous piece of wordplay, you want nothing more than to sit down and at least try to make something as beautiful of your own. Immersing yourself in the work of people who possess amazing talent with words can have huge potential for inspiration. Mull over the descriptions. Memorize quotes. Seep yourself in the beauty. Create.

Recommended Reads: Anon, Sir, Anon. Rooftoppers. Pendragon’s Heir. The Mysterious Howling. The Blue Castle. Anything by L.M. Montgomery really.

2. Go on an adventure.

A few weeks ago, I went outside to track down our renegade chickens. It required tromping about over damp, brown grass with my hands tucked in my jacket pockets and wind whipping through my hair. The day was so fresh and wild it reminded me of late autumn instead of mid-winter. I shouted at the top of my lungs for the chickens–that felt wonderfully exhilarating. After they came racing helter-skelter out from the fringe of trees, I trotted back to the house where my kitten, a roly-poly thing, scrambled up my legs demanding attention. I played with her, and took deep breaths of the pure breeze, and listened to sounds all around me: cars roaring past, cats purring, a lone bird singing, dead leaves rustling, the pine trees whispering in the breeze. I spent a total of twenty minutes outside and it gave me more energy and inspiration than anything else I’ve done recently.

Take walks. People-watch and listen in on conversations (it’s research). Do something you’ve never done before. Play with a child. Throw sticks with a dog. Count how many things you see–birds, red cars, dragons (okay, maybe not that last one, alas). Cloud-chase. Put on the mind-set of a secret agent. Get lost. Imagine you’re from a different country and you’re seeing and hearing everything around you for the first time. Compliment strangers. Go out looking for adventures with wide-eyed wonder and curiosity, and all five senses alert.
  1. Set goals.

Instead of saying you must write these many words or you must write for this amount of time, give yourself permission to write towards whatever goal you want. For however long or much you want to. I tend to stress myself out because I am so focused on writing 1,000 words in a hour, but I’ve learned a changed mental attitude does wonders for keeping my creative energy from running out.

Give yourself freedom to think without the boundaries of time and numbers, and write like there’s no tomorrow. Give yourself permission.

  1. Make a list of ideas.

(because, again, lists are life)

I like to take a piece of blank paper–there’s something delicious about tangible lists–and write down all the story ideas and quotes and characters that make my heart beat faster. The ideas that make me want to explore them further, that give me shivers of excitement, that make my heart ache because I can tell there’s so much potential for beauty in them.

Bonus: after you’ve made lists, put them somewhere you can see them often enough that they continue to fuel your inspiration.

  1. Re-read your own writing.

One of the quickest ways to knock that writing slump over the head is to re-read the parts of your books that you love. Not the writing that makes you cringe, but the writing that you know deep down in the marrow of your bones is good writing. Read it and fell in love all over again.

  1. Make a conscious effort.

This one is more difficult and a little touchy to talk about. At first glance it implies writers fall into writing slumps because they don’t try hard enough–which is simply not true. But, I do know that last month there were times I could have written, moments when I could have created the time to write, if I had only made the conscious effort to.

When it comes down to it, we have two jobs: the person who writes and the person who keeps the writer on-track, making sure they get done what they need to. Sometimes I forget that.

  1. Try something new.

Never written in present tense? Try it out. Never written from a female POV? Try it out. Never written a novella or short story? Try it out. Never written in second person? Try it out. Never entered a creative writing contest? Try it out.

  1. Listen to soul-stirring music.

Probably 90% of creative people are inspired by music. Listen to evocative songs. Soak it in. Write about what it means. Feel the emotions. Make up stories or characters based off the music.

I recently made a collection of “mood” playlists solely for writing, and I thought I’d share the linky in case anyone else finds them inspirational. Let me know if you do!

  1. Seek out other writers.

This one is almost paramount to a writer’s life. Nothing gives us more inspiration and courage and energy than a good talk with fellow creatives. I have the privilege of living in a houseful of sisters who write and I know several lovely writers who live in my state, but I know not everyone has that. Make friends with writers on-line. Ask advice. Exchange snippets. Join writing groups. Call or Skype with fellow writers, and if that terrifies you (*cough*thisismesometimes*cough*) use email instead. Reach out to other creative artists. The writing community as a general rule is just so giving and kind and encouraging. I love you people.

  1. Breathe. 

Creative people tend to be too hard on themselves and writers are no exception. Give yourself permission to relax, to not stress. Take off days when you need them. Spend time in prayer. Nothing gives me quite so much combined energy and peace of mind as when I take a walk and just talk out everything with my Heavenly Father.

Be gentle with yourself. Let yourself slow down and watch the sun set. Breathe.

What is your advice for conquering a writing slump?

Favorite Couples in Books // top ten OTPs

top OTPs in Books

Since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner I thought, “Why not share about my favorite couples in literature?” I have many, oh, so many.

(throughout this post I’ll be throwing out terms like OTP and “shipping.” OTP stands for “One True Pairing.” As for shipping? Well, it means you really want a couple to be in a relationship, because reasons.)
(also, linking up with the Broke and the Bookish for this.)

Are you ready?

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  1. Eanrin and Imraldera (Tales of Goldstone Wood).

Okay, ‘fess up. How many of you had a feeling these two would be first on my list? They are easily my favorite couple in recent literature. Eanrin is a faerie-bard (he likes to stay in cat-form 90% of the time) who speaks much sass and gives me multiple feels continually, and Imraldera is a spirited, sweet human/immortal/I-don’t-even-know-what.

“Her eyes pleaded with him to understand, to try. Under that gaze, Eanrin had no option but to sit and stare at the scribbles in the dust, stare with all the intensity a cat can muster. His pupils dilated until the golden irises were like rings of eclipsed sunfire. Imraldera watched him, chewing her bottom lip and waiting.
At last the cat lashed his tail and raised his whiskered face to her. “I’m sorry, my girl. It looks to me like the Greater Stick Bug pursues the Lesser Stick Bug over the back of a giant alligator. Can’t make a thing of it otherwise.”
― Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Starflower

Also, they are the most infuriating ship I have ever taken over.

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2. Foxbrush and Daylily (Tales of Goldstone Wood).

They are polar opposites and perfect suited and I’ve shipped them ever since Foxbrush’s interest in Daylily was mentioned in Veiled Rose. Their journey together made my heart ache (in the best way possible) more than once — beautifully done, Stengl.

3. Mir and Eva (Monster).

ACK. Mir and Eva are absolutely adorable. They have such a huge impact on each other’s lives, and I’m quite sure I will never tire of reading their story. All the inspiration and emotion and beauty and strength. Just wonderful.

4. Thorne and Cress (The Lunar Chronicles).

Speaking of adorable. This couple is the cutest EVER. I can’t handle the cute sometimes. And I love how their relationship evolves. It’s beautiful because it’s real, not all emotions and swooning over each other’s attractiveness — though, that does happen.

And did I mention the cute?

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5. Sydney Carton and Lucy (The Tale of Two Cities).

I will continue to ship these two beyond all reason.

6. Dan and Bess (Jo’s Boys).

The way their story ended still irritates me. Especially since it didn’t have to be that way. Excuse me while I curl up and cry over the injustice of it all.

The second window framed a very picturesque group of three. Mr March in an armchair, with Bess on a cushion at his feed, was listening to Dan, who, leaning against a pillow, was talking with unusual animation. The old man was in shadow, but little Desdemona was looking up with the moonlight full upon her face, quite absorbed in the story he was telling so well. The gay drapery over Dan’s shoulder, his dark colouring and the gesture of his arm made the picture very striking and both very striking, and both spectators enjoyed it with silent pleasure.

7. Margaret and John Thornton (North and South).

This love story is one of my all-time favorites. Everything about it is so beautiful, in the best and most realistic way. It makes me happy when love grows out of mutual respect for each other’s intelligence and opinions. It’s splendid when couples have in-depth discussions about politics and religion and what-have-you, and not just heartrending, swoony scenes.

Although, those are nice too.

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8. Valancy and Barney (The Blue Castle). 

Another couple whose love grows out of friendship, except they were married first so that makes things slightly different. I will probably never recover from that unexpected twist on a proposal scene. Also, Barney is one of my favorite male charries ever.

“Didn’t I promise you I’d never tell you a lie? Love you! I love you with all there is of me to love.”

9. Arrietty and Spiller (The Borrowers series).

I will ship these two until the end of time. Can you imagine all the cute and awkward and general perfection of this?

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10. Callie and Mr. Barnett (Fly Away Home).

The chemistry and friendship between this couple gives me warm fuzzies.

Who are your favorite couples in literature? What is your top OTP?