30 January 2012


When writing you need to be careful of the word you. In a non-fiction piece this can be a call to action for the reader. If you are writing a fiction piece too many yous can make it seem like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. When the narrator, first or third person, uses you it can pull the reader out of the story. You may think it is a clever and funny, but in all actually it is breaking the fourth wall.

Jessica bought a green Christmas sweater. You know the kind. They often show up in family holiday pictures and you later mock them relentlessly on the internet.

While this statement is funny the you draws the reader out of the story. Instead try writing it another way.

Jessica bought a green Christmas sweater. She knew the risk. It looked like one from a family holiday picture that is later mocked relentlessly on the internet.

As I mentioned earlier when writing non-fiction articles or essays using the word you can be a way to engage the reader in a call to action.

29 January 2012

*The Art of Conversation

Intro: I loved the idea of two people speaking the same language without actually speaking the same language.

Orifel felt someone tap her shoulder and looked up. A tall man with white hair stood there, a grin plastering his face

"Xewdan, I'm glad you made it," Orifel said. She always loved signing his name a combination of silver and distinguished. When she finished she scooted over making room on the bench.

"Did you wait long?" His long fingers danced in a way that no one else's did.

"I have a good book."

Xewdan took the tablet from her and flipped through a few screens. He handed it back. "Nice pictures."

Orifel laughed and tucked it in her bag. "Are you ready for our date?"

"Date? I didn't realize this was a date."

"What would you call it?"

"A social execution."

Orifel laughed. "I think you meant excursion."

Xewdan frowned and formed both signs mouthing the words. He asked, "What did I say?"

She explained it and he laughed.

"I hope it doesn't turn into an execution," he said. "But it would be exciting."

She stood up and slung her bag over her shoulder. As they walked down the sidewalk they continued the conversation. Orifel talked about her experience at her new job cataloging at the library while Xewdan explained his research at the college. They laughed about the last year's experiences as she taught Xewdan to sign. They passed a few people on the streets who eyed them. Orifel knew it was because people didn't often see someone from Vexanar walking with someone from Puliry. She only came to his shoulder and her pink hair and pale complexion was a stark contrast to his orange eyes and reddish complexion. Their races lived on opposite sides of the galaxy from each other.

Xewdan held the door for her. Once inside the aquarium Xewdan led the way to the first display. Never before had an aquatic exhibit of this nature been to the moon base.

"I've never seen a whale before," Orifel said.

"Did you know they sing? Some of them do, anyway."

Another exhibit.

"Look at the penguins," Xewdan stepped closer to the glass.

"They keep their eggs on their feet away from the cold."

The last exhibit left them both breathless.

"This is what a garteous looks like?"

Xewdan stepped closer to her his eyes flashing between her hands and the exhibit.

"I had no idea they were so small."

The dark room made it hard to see his reply and she stepped closer as she replied.

"Do you think I can take one home?"

"I'll help you get one if you let me come and visit her," Xewdan said.

"Why not get two and then we can breed them."

"I like your thinking."

He tapped her shoulder. "They just announced the exhibit is closing."

She nodded and glanced at her watch. "I need to be getting to work anyway. I'll see you tomorrow?"

Orifel had to run to make it on time to the library. The head librarian frowned. "You're late."

"Sorry," Orifel didn't know what she sounded like. She had been deaf since birth and used her voice as little as possible, one reason why she appreciated Xewdan's friendship. He didn't require her to speak and had made an effort to learn how to sign. She paid close attention to the librarian's mouth as he continued.

"I need you to do some translation for me if you have time. We just got some Vexanar documents in and if you could catalog them."

"I don't speak Vexanarist," Orifel replied.

"But your friend, isn't he a Vexanar? I've seen you with him."

"Yes, but we only sign to one another. He doesn't know Puliranian."

"But he signs to you." The librarian frowned and Orifel shrugged.

"What does that have to do with what language he speaks?"

The librarian rubbed his forehead. "What did you do today?"

"Social execution."

He paused. "Never mind. Forget I asked."

Orifel laughed and logged it away in her mind to tell Xewdan when she saw him later.

27 January 2012

A World Without Heroes (Beyonders #1)

by Brandon Mull

Where do I start? I loved the FABLEHAVEN series and have been looking forward to A WORLD WITHOUT HEROES for months. This is the first book in Brandon Mull's new BEYONDERS series. I got my audio copy from the library the day it came out (last year) and started listening to it on my drive to and from work. I would even sneak a few minutes in here and there to listen to it. This book really made my day. The basic story is about Jason and Rachel who are transported from our Earth to another dimension. There they learn of the evil infesting the land and choose to go up against the evil overlord when few will.

One of my few complaints of the FABLEHAVEN series was in the beginning Seth was too rebellious and seemed to be disobeying orders because he could and that Kendra has no backbone. In BEYONDERS, however, I really liked the main character, Jason. I saw his reasoning what he did and agreed with him even when he made his decisions against the advice of others. The other main character in this story is Rachel. I wasn't sure how I felt about her at first, since she had this strong feminist attitude about life, but as the story went on, I really grew to appreciate her cleverness and understanding of the situation.

A WORLD WITHOUT HEROES kept my attention through the whole thing. I also really enjoyed the voice actor in the audio version. I liked the various voices he used and thought he brought the characters and setting to live. I highly recommend this book to anyone, but I will also add that it is a little more violent than what I expected but nothing too descriptive to be off putting. Once again Brandon Mull has drawn me into another great world and situation and I can't wait for the next one. I am counting down the weeks until March 13th. I posted this review in preparation to reading the next one in a month and a half. I'll post the review to SEEDS OF REBELLION when I finish it.

25 January 2012

Younker vs. Yonkers

I have a fairly unusual last name. It isn't one of a kind, but not a lot of people have heard of it where I live. My husband's family pronounces it "yonker" though traditionally it is suppose to be "yunker" and it at one point in history was probably spelled with a "j" instead of a "y." Because of how it is pronounced, most people don't know how to spell it when we just say it. Most people assume that it is "Yonkers" as in the city in New York. I don't know if I want to admit it but I had no idea that Yonkers, New York existed until I got married. Part of this can be traced back to how my husband tend to introduce us "Hi, we're the Younkers." I try and make an effort to say "Hi I'm E Younker and this is my husband Moose Younker." This seems to help until the next time we are introduced and when they try to remember who we are the only thing that comes to mind is Yonkers.

The other day I went to writing group. A new fellow was there and was introduced to everyone. I introduced myself as "E Younker." The man looked at me for a moment. "How do you spell that?" I spelled it out for him. He nodded. "I see. Like the city." I am sure I stared at him dumbfounded for a moment before saying. "No. Not like the city." This is the first time that I have spelled it out and the person still says it is like the city.

23 January 2012

Chronological Order

Don't lose your reader. If your reader is confused it is likely that they won't continue reading. One of the most common ways authors confuse their readers is by jumping through time. They may not even realize they are doing it. I'm not talking about flashbacks to scenes that happen before the story happens. There are times when we don't show a conversation in real time but refer back to it later. Normally only a few pages, or even paragraphs, after where it would have fallen in the real timeline. Having these small jumps in time may not seem like a big deal but every time you do it there is a chance that your reader would get lost.

You may think this is a good way from keeping your reader in suspense. In all actuality most of the readers will be irritated that you are withholding information.

Betsy-Lou looked at the paper in her hand with only one name. She would know who the killer was.
Cuts to another scene. A page later she confronts the killer in a darkened alley.
A man steps out of the shadows.
"I know you are the killer."
"How do you know that?" he asked.
"Because of this." Betsy-Lou held out the paper with the name scrawled in red. "The victim wrote down the name of his killer with his own blood. Why did you do it . . . Jeffery?"

Cheesy example but hopefully it gets the point across. Instead try to build suspense another way.If you want to keep information from your readers it is better to do it in a more subtle manner.

Betsy-Lou looked at the paper. The blood had dried into a blob. The name of the killer was still unknown, but the killer didn't know that. She folded the paper back up and put it in her pocket. It was time to bring all the suspects together. She only hoped her acting skills were up to it.

If it can be in chronological order, do it. Don't use a screwy timeline to keep information from your readers. They will see through it.

22 January 2012

*Barn Door

Intro: This came from a writing prompt but it is another one that has the influence of my husband in it. Some of you may understand the joke already. My husband enjoys taking other people's cell phones, finding a name (most commonly a Mom) and then texting animal noises to this person. I think my favorite was when he did it to my sister-in-law's mother. She texted back wondering if her daughter was okay. It was quickly explained that it was just my husband. Everything was cleared up with just that piece of information. So, if you ever get random animal noises in a text message it is probably my husband playing with a cell phone somewhere.

I walked into the local witch's shop with red, itchy eyes, and a sore dripping nose. Between sneezes I asked if there was any cure for the ailment that afflicted me every year. Hay fever should be a four letter word or a form of torture. The witch just looked up from the bowl she was mixing and raised an eyebrow.

"Do you honestly expect magic to solve all your problems?"

"Yes, isn't that what it is for?" My light tone vanished into one of despair and anger as another fit of sneezes left me winded and scrambling for a tissue. "Just make me stop sneezing. I hate sneezing. Fix it."

"I can make you stop sneezing, if that is what you really want." She moved to her shelf and came back with a small green pill. "I call this the barn door."

"Because it covers all allergies?"

"Not exactly. Let me know if the sneezing continues. Have a nice day," she said with a smile.

I should have recognized the toothy grin. She only showed her teeth to people who were bothering her. The next day I felt the tightness the building in my nose and just when a normal sneeze was about to happen I let out a bark. The next sneeze was a cluck and the third a cat's meow. These weren't the typical onomatopoeia. It was truly an animal noise. If I went back to Kristen she would just laugh. I only hoped that my allergy medication worked for once and that I wouldn't embarrass myself at work. I honked. Too much, maybe I wouldn't embarrass myself too much.

"This month's reports show that we have a net growth of—"


Every gaze in the room flashed to me.


"Of seven percent."

"Roar, squeak, moo."

A few people snickered. The meeting continued with the financial adviser speaking as quickly as he could between my outbursts.

As he said, "To go over our marketing strategy" I managed to sound like an elephant and everyone cheered.

"We will make our product desirable to our clientele by using social media. Since no one has any questions we'll conclude." The financial adviser almost ran to the door with his papers in hand.

I managed a "cock-a-doodle-do" before the door closed. Everyone turned to me and the blood rushed to my face.

"Best meeting we've had in a long time," one coworker said.

The thanks continued and I accepted it through another onslaught of snee-mals. When I was free of the conference room I headed home. The pill wore off the next day. My coworkers expressed their disappointment at the lack of entertainment during the weekly planning meeting, I was content to only disrupt through the sneezes.

After the meeting ended the financial adviser came up to me. "Here, I heard this helps."

He dropped a small green pill into my palm and walked away. I nearly dropped it as I sneezed again.

20 January 2012

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

A lot of my reviews revolve around YA and speculative fiction. So to show that I read other books I am going to review THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. When I first heard the title of this book I chuckled. I never thought I would actually be drawn into this world. The first thing to note about this story is that it is written in epistolary format. It took me a little while to get into it but once I did I couldn't stop.

THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY is about Juliet Ashton, a popular author, during 1946 shortly after WWII. She received a letter from a fellow named Dawsey who lives on the island of Guernsey. During WWII the island, located in the English Channel, was a jumping point for Germany. They were occupied by Germany for many years. During this time the people of the village would get together in the evenings. One time they broke curfew and one of the soldiers asked them what they were doing and the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was created. Juliet exchanges letters with all of them and learns about what happened on the island.

All of the stories are touching and they really pulled at my emotions, more so than usual. I really cared about the characters and was invested in what happened to them. I related to Juliet as a person. I mean she breaks off her engagement because her fiancé moves her books so he can put up his own stuff. That is my kind of lady. Granted there was a lot more behind the broken engagement than just the books, but that was the last straw.

18 January 2012

Cinnamon Rolls

I love to cook, that doesn't necessarily mean that I am any good at it. I have a wonderful husband who does most of the cooking. He is better at planning meals out so when we go shopping we pick up all of the ingredients in one go. Most of the time when I did the cooking I would look in the cupboards and just throw stuff together. I didn't often plan out five meals from different cook books. I gave my husband two different cookbooks for Christmas and I was really worried because I didn't want him to take it the wrong way. He was really excited about them. In addition to Oriental and Amish cooking we now have Indian and Italian.

I have mentioned before that I like to make cakes. I have learned since moving that I can't just make cakes directly from the recipe. I now live at 6,500 feet and I have to learn how to work with high altitude cooking. So far none of my cakes have really turned out, which makes me sad. Because none of my cakes turn out, and because my husband prefers cookies, I haven't made pastries lately.

We didn't have time to go to the grocery store on Saturday and we don't shop on Sundays. I was trying to decide what I could make Sunday that we could also eat for breakfast on Monday. I made cinnamon rolls. Dessert and breakfast, the perfect solution. Years ago my little brother gave me a cookbook that has a lot of basic recipes in it is a recipe for sweet rolls. I used to make them when I was in college but my yeast never worked. I looked at the recipe and decided to give it a go.

I looked at the list of ingredients and put in what I wanted and how much I wanted. I used brown sugar instead of white when rolling it up and mimicked the caramel that my mom's recipe uses, which I don't actually have. My first success was when the dough actually rose. I placed the rolls in the pan and stuck it in the oven until the tops were light brown. I pulled it out and though they looked good, I knew from experience that the looks don't matter. They tasted better then I hoped they could. I think I have a keeper recipe, if I can only remember what I did. Hmmm. . .

16 January 2012


Remember back in school when your English teacher taught you how to form a paragraph? You have a topic sentence, two to three supporting sentences, and then a segue sentence into the next paragraph. Maybe you have noticed that it doesn't exactly work the same way when writing a story. There are a few easy tips to separating blocks of text into paragraphs.

First is dialog. When a new person speaks it is a new paragraph. This one is fairly straightforward and most people catch on to it really quickly.

When working with large chunks of prose imagine yourself as a camera man. Every time you change camera angles you need a new paragraph. If you action from two characters and then talk about another character who isn't with the other two then you need a new paragraph. This isn't a catch all rule, and authors have creative license when it comes to deciding how you want the prose to look.

15 January 2012


Intro: I actually started writing this one during a meeting. I didn't really have a plan for it but decided I wanted to mix fantasy creatures with a science fiction setting.

"Fire her up," Grant called. He said a prayer under his breath. He knew that this was the last chance they had. If this didn't work, he doubted he would see through the night. He didn't know of any mechanic who could have done as much as he did on this ship. If he couldn't make it work, no one could.

The engine roared to life, lifting the ship to hovering level. His spirits soured. The body jolted as the engine coughed and spluttered. The ship, with Grant on top of it, fell the fifteen-feet to the hanger floor. The magnetic boots kept his feet planted but his body weight shifted and he fell forward. It felt like his ankle joints were being pulled from their sockets.

"Sorry," Josie called. Her boots echoed on the floor as she ran out of the ship.

He pushed himself to a crouched position and blinked away the tears that had come from the shock and pain.

"Are you alright?"

Grant nodded and deactivated the magnetism. He stood and walked, stomped, to the ladder. The generators weren't large but heavy, considering it was a pair of shoes. Climbing down the ladder, even with the groove in the sole, was terrifying. Grant always breathed a sigh of relief when his feet touched the ground. His throbbing ankles threatened to buckle and he stumbled forward. Josie scuttled to his side and bolstered him up. Her wings, bound by the iron straps, vibrated with her concern.

He glanced to the corner of the hanger and lowered his voice. "The air vent. He doesn't know about it. You can get out before he comes."

"I'm not leaving you," Josie said. "We can still fix this."

"This was our last chance. You have to leave, find your own kind, your family. Just away from here."

"You are my family."

He closed his eyes. "I am a dwarf, you are a sprite."

"And the thirty years you have taken care of me means nothing? You are family. Where you are, home is."

"And if you want to create your own family?"

"They had better accept you as a father-in-law."

It warned his heart, even though he knew it was ridiculous. He tried to pull away but his ankles still ached. Josie's head came to his waist but she could bear four times his weight. The sprite was the closest thing he had to family. She had shown up at his shop when she was just a child.

"Is it done?"

Grant's frame filled with terror. This elf had kept him and Josie captive for close to fifteen-years. A slave in his own home. No this wasn't his home anymore.

His boots activated and Grant nearly lost his balance again as they seemed to meld to the floor.

"Have you finished yet?" The elf glided into the room and everything seemed brighter.

Grant flinched back and covered his eyes. It wasn't because he was a dwarf. Before his captivity Grant loved working on his projects outside in the sunlight. His current corking condition involved dim hanging lamps strung up around the cave that served as a hanger. He used as few drop lights as possible because the extension cords and light reflecting from the metal encased floor played merry havoc with his ability to work.

"It's not done yet," Josie said.

The backhand sent her sprawling across the floor. He tried to go to her but his boots were still activated.

"Unacceptable. I told you it needed to be done today." He stood over Grant forcing him to crane his neck. "You have failed me. I heard you were the best mechanic there was. You told me you could do this."

"He has done everything you've asked." Josie pushed herself up. Next to the elf she looked like a child.

"Josie, go to your room," Grant said. He never took his gaze from the elf. He let out a hiss of breath as the elf pulled a pulse laser from the holster on his hip.

The elf glanced at Grant.
"She has done nothing."

"If there isn't a consequence you won't learn."

"I won't fail you. Please." Grant didn't have time to blink before the butt of the pulse laser caught him above the eye. Grant fell sideways and his right ankle snapped. His vision blackened for a moment. The blackness turned to red as a laser bolt struck Josie's temple. She toppled to the ground. The iron bindings crashed against the floor. The elf's boot pounded into him.

"I don't accept failure."

Grant's vision remained on the lifeless body. "She didn't do anything."

The next time the boot rammed his gut, Grant caught it. His fingers latched onto the fastenings and around the top.

"Let me go, you filthy creature."

A bolt burned into his shoulder, his leg, his side, and his fingers relaxed. The elf pulled free.

"Just lay here and die."

The elf left. Grant remained laying on the floor with his leg twisted under him. His body burned.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

Grant closed his eyes. His vision changed from red to white. The pain from his body drifted away.

A small figure hugged his waist. "Welcome home. I want you to meet someone."

13 January 2012

The Last Unicorn

by Peter S. Beagle

Some of you may remember the 1980s cartoon of THE LAST UNICORN. The movie is actually fairly close to the book, but the book just gives more details to the characters. The novel and the screenplay were both written by Peter S. Beagle, which explains why the movie is as good as it is. Interestingly enough, Beagle wrote the screenplay for the animated 1978 LORD OF THE RINGS film based on someone else's draft. The book was originally published in 1968.

The story follows the Unicorn. At the beginning of the book she comes to the realization that she hasn't seen any other unicorns in years. She thinks that it is just because unicorns are solitary creatures. After talking to a butterfly, she realizes that there is actually something wrong. Fearing for the lives of the other unicorns the Unicorn (she doesn't have a name) heads out looking for the land with the Red Bull. While she is traveling she comes across a traveling carnival and meets the magician Schmendrick. While he speaks as if he has seen many years, he looks like a young man and has little control over his power. He helps the Unicorn escape and tags along to try and find out where the other unicorns are. They run into a band of bandits and this time the Unicorn saves Schmendrick and in the process Molly Grue joins their party. Their journey continues and Schmendrick's faulty magic leads them into even more trouble.

I actually saw the movie of THE LAST UNICORN first and it captured my attention. When we listened to the audio book on a car trip, which is actually narrated by Peter S. Beagle, I was struck by the imagery. I always tell people I am a sucker for happy endings. But there is a passage in this story that has always stayed with me since that first time.

“The true secret in being a hero lies in knowing the order of things. The swineherd cannot already be wed to the princess when he embarks on his adventures, nor can the boy knock on the witch's door when she is already away on vacation. The wicked uncle cannot be found out and foiled before he does something wicked. Things must happen when it is time for them to happen. Quests may not simply be abandoned; prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit; unicorns may go unrescued for a very long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story.” -- THE LAST UNICORN, Peter S. Beagle

This is the image for the graphic novel. I just learned about this version and I really want it now.

11 January 2012


I have recently started taking a kickboxing class at the local gym. I really enjoy the class but the downside is that I have to get ready for work at the gym. I have never felt very comfortable in any locker room. I think the majority of the population agrees with me. Luckily, since I am at the gym so early in the morning there aren't many people who are there. Thank goodness.

This last couple of times there has been a woman who talk to me while I'm in there. At first I felt rather awkward. However, the other day she starting telling me quite a bit of information about what was going on in her life. I was taken aback at first but after as the day went on I realized how cool it was. I don't even know her name. It didn't matter in the long run, she just needed someone to talk to and I happened to be there.

I think that technology has caused us to live more isolated lives. We just stuff our headphones in our ears and live in our own world. I remember a time when my older sister and I rode the bus into the city to visit our dad. As we rode the bus home there was a lady who was hilarious. She talked to everyone, and even convinced the bus driver to take a different route to save time. When I rode the bus to work I made a point of having my headphones because I didn't want to listen to what the kids were saying but on the ride home I made several friends. There are times I enjoy the isolation but other times I try to make more of an effort to interact with the world around me.

09 January 2012

Audibly and Visibly

These are two words that don't add much to your prose. Think about it, what do they really add. When you say: Chester sighed audibly. It means the exact same thing as: Chester sighed. It is not like you would ever say: Chester sighed inaudibly. The same goes for visibly. If the character never performs the action invisibly, then there is no point in having them perform the action visibly. The reader will assume it is visible unless told otherwise.

08 January 2012


Intro: I know that miscommunication can be a big plot point in novels but there are times I just want to strangle the characters because they are so dense. I want to think I am better than these characters but I am not so sure. Sorry this is posted late. I didn't have access to internet this weekend.

"Stupid, stupid, stupid." I slam the book shut and let it drop to the floor.

"What's wrong this time, Jen?" my roommate Becky asks.

"These characters they are totally idiots. The entire conflict of the book revolves around miscommunication."

"So the lovebirds in the book—"

I cut her off with a howl and shake my head. "They just don't talk. This isn't realistic at all."

Our other roommate pokes her head in our room. "Don't you have a class to get to?"

"Holy crap," I lunge to my feet, scoop up my bag, and run out the door.

While I like that we live in a quiet part of the campus, it meant that I couldn't just roll out of bed and walk across the street. It was a fifteen minute brisk walk to reach my class. I pick up my pace and I slide into my seat just as the professor gets up. I sit up straighter as I catch a whiff of aftershave. Neal lets out a breathy hello as he sits down two minutes into the lecture. Our professor glares at him for a second and Neal gives an abashed grin. I can't help but smile but I turn the other way so he can't see.

Class ends and I am not sure what it was about. Neal's comments during the entire lecture kept me chuckling and his aftershave. It is like a drug. I looked forward to it every day. We have the same major and he is in four of my five classes. He sits next to me in them. I am surprised that I am still passing the classes.

"Jen, do you want to have lunch and go over our notes for our afternoon class."

More than ever. Yes. I have been waiting for this day. And my mouth says, "I have a few things I need to take care of."

Neal gives me a small smile. Oh, I love his smile. The first day he talked to me I went home and gushed to my roommates about the hot guy who was interested in plain old me. Three months into this semester and he is still talking to me despite everything I say.

"I'll catch you another time."

"I'll see you later."

I head back to my apartment on cloud nine. When I get back I flop back down on my bed and pick up my book. The irritation from the morning floods back and I find myself mentally yelling at the stupid characters. I read three pages and then let the book fall to my lap. I run out the apartment and once again slide into my chair just as the bell rings. Neal looks up from his desk and the sides of his eyes crinkle as he smiles. So handsome.

We sit in the middle of the auditorium and once again throughout the whole lecture Neal whispers comments about the lecture. I find myself burying my head in my arms to stifle my laughter. The lecture ends and I stand up to put my books in my bag.

"We have a test tomorrow, do you want to study over pizza?"

I hear the excuse why I can't and watch the smile vanish. He shoulders his backpack and heads out of the auditorium. I guess I will be spending the night reading—I can't believe it.


He turns as I run up to him.

"Neal. I like you. I would love to have dinner with you."

"You like me?"

"Yes. I want to get to know you better."

He lets out a laugh. "This is awesome. I didn't know if I was bothering you or not."

"Never. Sorry I didn't tell you earlier."

"Can I kiss you?"

I step back my face flushing. "Um — maybe we should have a date first."

"Just checking."

"Feel free to ask again though."

06 January 2012

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles

by Patricia C. Wrede

I remember listening to my mom read these books to me when I was young, probably on a car ride. This is one of the books that really influenced what I chose to read on my own. From the titles of the books alone you see that THE ENCHANTED FOREST CHRONICLES revolves around dragons. I have probably reread this series the most over the years and it is one that I want to read to my children to give them a sense of wonder and make them think outside of the stereotypical high-fantasy box.

Dealing with Dragons
DEALING WITH DRAGONS follows Princess Cimorene who has no desire to be a conventional princess. Instead of taking dancing lessons, she takes cooking lessons, fencing lessons, juggling lessons, and magic lessons. Her parents finally decide that they are going to force her to marry and bring a prince to meet her. She is not impressed and when she finds out that her parents intend her to marry, even against her will if necessary. While she is talking to herself about her problem a frog directs her to someone who can help. She runs away from the castle and ends up in a cave full of dragons. Kazul, a strong minded female dragon, decides to hire her as her princess. The princess's duties consist of keeping the cave clean, organizing the treasury, and cooking when necessary. Cimorene soon finds herself enjoying her new life.

With the new life comes new troubles. The prince she ran away from, as well as a handful of knights, decides she needs to be rescued from the evil dragon. She meets several other captured princesses, a stone prince, a witch, and a few wizards. In this particular series wizards aren't good people. They steal magic and dragons are looking for any excuse to eat them. Cimorene must use all of her talents to keep herself and her friends safe. Even though the protagonist is a female this book appeals to both genders and all ages.

Searching for Dragons
SEARCHING FOR DRAGONS is the second book in THE ENCHANTED FOREST CHRONICLES. This follows the King of the Enchanted forest, Mendanbar. The Enchanted Forest is not a normal forest. It changes when you aren't looking. Mendanbar has been pressured by his family to get married though he hasn't met anyone who really captures his attention. When he comes across a burned portion of the forest scattered around with dragon scales, he heads to the mountains to talk with the King of the Dragons. Since the King of the Dragons is currently missing, Mendanbar and Cimorene team up to get to the bottom of the missing dragon and burned forest. While they are working on the mystery they call upon the help of Morwen the witch as well as a few giants on a rickety magic carpet and a leaky magic sword.

There are a few things that make this SEARCHING FOR DRAGONS so great. This is one of the first series I read where the point of view character changed from the first book. This is one of the reasons why the series appeals to a wide audience. Mendanbar adds a whole new dimension to the world as well as giving a different look at Cimorene. And I just can't get over about how cool the Enchanted Forest is.

Calling on Dragons
CALLING ON DRAGONS is the third book in THE ENCHANTED FOREST CHRONICLES and is told from the perspective of Morwen the witch. She isn't a conventional witch. She wears black because it is practical. She doesn't like pointy hats and she doesn't own a black cat. She owns at least nine cats none of which are black. Morwen is called in to help Cimorene and Mendanbar when the magic sword goes missing. They enlist the help of the magician Telemain, not to be confused with a wizard. Along their journey across the countryside they end up with a rabbit named Killer. Through the story Killer undergoes numerous changes because of magic. Morwen and Cimorene aren't sure they are going to make it back in time to save Mendanbar and the kingdom even with the help of dragons.

This book adds a new element. Not only do we get to hear a portion of the story from Morwen, but also from her cats. Though the other books you know that Morwen talks to her not so normal cats, but in CALLING ON DRAGONS you get to hear the cats talk back. They have their own individual personalities and you just grow attached to the felines. Fiddlesticks is one of my favorite characters from the whole series.

Talking to Dragons
As I was getting ready to write this review I was surprised to learn that TALKING TO DRAGONS was written and published five years before DEALING WITH DRAGONS. TALKING TO DRAGONS takes place sixteen years after CALLING ON DRAGONS. Daystar grows up with his mother and is given an education involving sword fighting, magic, and manners. When he is sixteen a wizard comes to his house and he watches in surprise as his mother melts him. From there he is given a sword and sent into the Enchanted Forest with no instruction other than to not come back until he can tell his mother why he had to leave. During Daystar's travels in the forest he learns that the sword is no ordinary sword but is in fact magic and belongs to the Sleeping King. He meets a fire witch named Shiara and she sticks with him. They meet a young dragon as well as a few other people including a witch, magician and Kazul.

Now that I know that this book was written first it kind of explains why it has a slightly different feel from the other books. I love this book and it is one that you can read as a standalone novel because it gives enough back story that you won't feel as if you are missing anything but if you read it as part of the series you really get more excited about what is going on in the story and you just want to cheer when the characters you already know and love show up in the story. This is one of my all-time favorite series and it just changed the way I thought about traditional fantasy tropes.

04 January 2012

Summer Employment Part 4

My senior year of high school I got my first real job. It was working at a wholesale nursery and I was one of the only girls and one of the oldest. In the spring months that gave me the advantage. My boss figured I was responsible and when the semis came in with the bundled saplings ready for planting. I had all the paper work and kept track of the trees as they were planted in the pots by the other employees.

In the summer my job changed. When we weren't loading the trucks with orders, we weeded pots. This nursery had hundreds of trees and bushes all planted in their own individual pots. I used to think weeded in the flowerbed was bad until this job. We couldn't really kneel down because there wasn't enough room in the aisle between the rows of plants. We kind of moved along in a hulking crouch. It took about four days to work through all of the pots and then we started over at the beginning all summer long for eight hours a day. I still hate weeding and I keep telling myself that it isn't as bad as the job, but it is still weeding. At this time I didn't like getting up early and if I remember correctly I had to be at work by 6, maybe it was 6:30. There wasn't any point in showering beforehand because I would come back filthy from the dirt and mud. I would roll out of bed at 5:50 and drive to work. That seems like a luxury now.

This is where I really learned to appreciate audio books. This is also where I learned the hazards of reading a book before going to see the movie version. I also listened to a variety of books that I wouldn't have otherwise because they were the only ones I had on hand at the time. The job overall wasn't bad but I don't want to do it again. I just don't do well in the sun or heat. I make my husband weed and I normally clean the kitchen.

02 January 2012

Writing Groups

I know that some people are very particular about their writing groups. I didn't think I was but I have come to understand that there is an advantage to picking your own group. I love my current group but there isn't as much time, and we don't all have the same interests. While it isn't necessary for your writing group to be writing the exact same type of book you should make sure that those in the group at least like what you are writing and understand the audience. I don't necessarily want someone writing a cook book who only reads motivational novels reading my hard science fiction novel. They probably don't understand all of the little nuances that you are trying to accomplish.

I had a writing group where I previously lived that was awesome. They didn't necessarily help me with my grammar, I had another group for that, but they helped me reach my weekly goals and keep my story going in the right direction. Every week we would meet somewhere around town and explain what we had accomplished. I really needed that because it was the nudge I needed to work on my novel and not just my blog or short stories.

Writing groups are for a variety of uses so you should find people who want to get the same thing out of it that you do. I recommend finding people who won't sugar coat their opinions but those who are also positive. Having people that write similar genres or at least read a lot of what you are writing. Though those who don't write may not understand what it is like to receive critiques. If you are satisfied with a group, you can always find a new one. There are plenty of writing groups online if you live in a remote area or don't mind more screen time.

01 January 2012

*Summer Cat, Winter Kitty

Intro: I had every intention of making this a fantasy story. As my husband and I were driving to the gym one morning we saw several cats along the side of the road. One was still fairly young and I said "What a cute kitten." "No," my husband said. "That's a cat. It just shrunk because it is cold. They get bigger in the summer because of the heat." That was where my story was headed. Who knows, maybe I'll write that story later. (And this is my 300th post on Blogger. Kind of cool that it is also the first one of the year.)

Stephanie loved cats, but her mother didn't. They lived in the country and owned a farm. Stephanie helped feed the 10 chickens, 9 cows, 8 pigs, 7 sheep, 6 rabbits, 5 geese, 4 horses, 3 dogs, and 2 goats. She liked counting all of the animals as she fed them. Her father and brother would help her with the larger animals but most of the time they were busy in the field. Occasionally she fed the cats that came around the farm but her mother scolded her.

"Don't feed the cats. They can find their own food."

Stephanie agreed and didn't feed the cats but still tried to pet them every time she saw one. They ran away and sat on top of the fence posts. One cat in particular always came around the same time and left presents for her at the door. The cat was gray and white and looked twice as big as the other cats. The presents weren't pretty and Stephanie wasn't sure what they were exactly, but her mother didn't like them. Her mother would edge around them and use a shovel to take them away and bury them. She never said anything about them.

When winter came the snowdrifts covered the fence posts. Stephanie trudged through the snow in pathways her father and brothers made. Her mother always made sure she bundled up before going out to feed the animals.

Other pathways were in the snow and once or twice Stephanie watched cats walk along the crusted top. She tried to walk on top of the snow but every time her boots broke through and once she had to yell for someone to help her.

One day, when she was walking back to the house after feeding the goats when she heard a meow. She looked up and walking across the snowdrift was a small gray and white kitten. Stephanie stayed completely still as the kitten leapt from the snow and landed on her shoulder. It snuggled its head under her chin and purred. She held the kitty steady and walked back to the house.

"Can I keep it?" She asked her mother. Her mother looked at the kitten and sighed. "Not in the house. Keep it in one of the barns."

Stephanie let out a small noise of delight and hugged her mother. "Thanks. I'll take good care of it, I promise."

All winter long, Stephanie checked on the little kitten and played with it in the barn. When spring came and the snow melted Stephanie let the little kitten out of the barn. The next day as she trudged through the mud she saw two cats, large gray one with a small one following behind. Stephanie went to pet the kitten but they both ran to the fence. When Stephanie went back to the house she noticed two presents lying in front of the door. Her mother stood at the screen looking out at the fence where the summer cat and winter kitty still sat.