Sparring and Scheming

This scene comes from the 2nd draft of my epic fantasy book, Storge. This is a villain POV chapter from the middle of the book, when the anarchists are planning their next strike against the Atilan government. I thought it would be interesting to explore a dynamic in which an antagonist wasn’t just a lofty individual manipulating others, but truly believed in a twisted ideology with a group of trusted friends. As an introduction: Esil is one of two main villains and the ringleader of the group. Amika is their tank, Samoth is the logistics guy, and Divad is the spy. They’re best friends who commit arson and terrorism! If you aren’t familiar with the story, you should first check out the WIP page. I wanted to share a different fight this month, but realized I already posted it, so if you want to read The Arena, you can also find that here! I hope you enjoy the scene!


Two days after their greatest victory and greatest defeat, the new Master of the Anarchists fought for his life. At least, that’s how it always felt when he sparred with Amika. Esil ducked under a crescent kick, dodged the spinning backfist strike, and danced away from hook punch just before it collided with his temple. Shifting his footing, he countered with a strike to her ribs, and she flinched back as his palm made impact. He retreated to reassess. There was his opening.

Master, I wish you would focus.” Samoth’s exasperated admonishment dripped with sarcasm. If Esil wasn’t so focused on making this shot, he’d have rolled his eyes. He cocked his leg up and-

Crashed to the ground as pain cracked through his shin. Across from him, Amika hopped on one leg, rubbing her own shin where it clashed against his.

“Good roundhouse,” she said through clenched teeth.

“Same to you.”

In an instant, he regained his footing. She moved into a fighting stance, ready to fire off another round of attacks, and grinning like a wild thing. He couldn’t see her teeth behind the mask, but he recognized the wicked glint in her eye and angle of her head. Inviting. Take another swing. I dare you.

“Carry on.” Esil called to Samoth, before diving at her with another combination.

That eye roll was audible.

Block. Counter. “We lost thirteen soldiers in the attack on the arena and of the ten others injured, all are making speedy recoveries,” Samoth droned.

“Very good!” Dodge a strike. Triple punch. Retreat.

“Divad led an intelligence mission today to collect data on the Atilan response. He’ll be arriving back with the news soon. I hope.”

Esil nodded, distracted by the report. Long enough for Amika to catch her breath. She responded with a rush of strikes and punches. He stumbled back, attempting to block, but blinding pain stung his nose as one elbow hit. Eyes blurred with automatic tears, blood dripped onto the drill floor, and Esil raised a hand for a cease.

Amika saluted to him, pulling off her mask to show the self-sure smile, and handed him a towel. Samoth glanced up for a second and raised an eyebrow, but didn’t pause for a breath as he continued, “It would be most advantageous to continue sowing dissent and fear amongst the people of the city to undermine what remains of the Council’s power. Already we’ve received news of a curfew, and funerary preparations for those we killed in the arena. It would be difficult to attack the temple itself, but undermining the religious efforts would be ideal. If the queen is a figurehead, striking to the heart of the Atilan bureaucracy would destabilize the whole construct.”

Esil gave Samoth a tired look past his watery eyes. “I can assure you; the queen is not a figurehead.”

“Regardless, my point stands,” Samoth said. He flipped a page, but before he could rattle off the next batch of notes, the door banged open and Divad appeared, beaming like a performer on the night of their opening show.

“Esil, tell me I’m your favorite!” he sang, before stopping dead in his tracks, “Oh sick Sotha, what happened to your face?!”

“I happened,” Amika said with a self-satisfied grin, “And Samoth, if you count his excellent decoy.”

“That was hardly intentional!” Sam protested from the sidelines.

Esil ignored both of them, “Divad, you’re my favorite if only because you haven’t caused me physical harm yet today. Please tell me the mission went well.”

“It. Was. Brilliant. I squirmed may way into the banquet hall itself,” Divad said with the smugness of a griffin stealing food. He sat next to Samoth and laid back against the bleachers to regale them with the story.

Why did you stay all night? Samoth asked. “I was worried they captured you, too. So soon after Mechat… they must be on high alert.”

“They had the most wonderful wines, I had to enjoy myself a little,” He protested. “But I appreciate your concern. If I left too quickly, they might have caught onto my ruse. I didn’t sneak in as a servant. They were all far too frightened to give me the pass. Instead, I gained entry to the banquet by impersonating a merchant—either high class Debilan or the insignificant cousin of a minor Atilan house. They’re crawling all over the palace like an infestation of roaches. It’s rather pathetic.”

“You got close to Lyss?” Esil asked. “I thought she knew everyone.”

“She was distracted,” Divad assured him. “I didn’t risk speaking with her, but I could overhear some plans, including- “ He leaned in and lowered his voice conspiratorially, always the actor. “-the time she will be most vulnerable to an attack.”

Amika lit up and gave him a friendly smack on the back. “You sneaky bastard, well done.”


February Goals Recap

Hello everyone, and happy March! I am more than ready for spring, and it’s already nice to feel my energy picking up as the days get longer. I really am just a plant. Seasonal depression sounds fake until the first warm day when you can smell the grass growing and you suddenly feel you can conquer the world. This was a busy month for me, with school hitting full stride, but I’m quite pleased with what I could accomplish so far!

Won by 2 points – 6/9

Do faebruary marker arts – For those who aren’t familiark, #faebruary is a monthly drawing challenge focusing on different fae! Sometimes there are daily prompt lists, or weekly themes. I featured three fae from my middle grade portal fantasy, Runaways, and one illustration of Jayel, who is a character from Faye Fight’s story Flames of Courage! You can see these up on my instagram.

Start Mistborn – Outside of rereading The Terebinth Tree Chronicles for my review and interview with Faye last month, I have not picked up a book since coming back to campus. Part of that is being super busy and no longer having an excuse to listen to audiobooks at work, part of it is laziness from scrolling through social media. However, I am giving up social media for Lent, so hopefully this will change for next month.

Read OOTI for Lila – Same as above. Order of the Ice is the 2nd book in a trilogy by one of my good friends, who you can find @writeblrfantasy on tumblr!

Take a stab at rereading the fanfic while runaways is out with beta readers – Yet again, I ran out of time.

WordPress tags, fix up posts– Would you believe I’ve been procrastinating this for over 4 months and it took 4 hours to finish? Anyhow, check out the tag cloud to see if there’s anything that catches your fancy!

author interview author platform book review changelings character development Character Introduction children's literature classics creative writing editing education epic fantasy fairy tales folklore high fantasy horror indie author indie books magic magic system middle grade fiction Monthly Goals my writing newsletter outlining plotting productivity reading recommendation Runaways science fiction short story siblings Storge story structure storytelling the count of monte cristo The Laoche Chronicles WIP excerpt work life balance worldbuilding Writing Advice writing community writing goals writing resources writing tips

Website and Instagram schedule – I scheduled AHEAD this month – you’ll be getting a Storge excerpt next week that continues to tie into February’s fighting theme.

Play at least one session of each dnd game – For context, I am currently in 5 different dnd games with three different groups of friends which all meet with varying regularity. I love collaborative storytelling, and when we’re not in session, we talk for hours about the dramatic backstories and reveals. I also do a ton of art for my PCs, so I made a new tumblr blog to ramble about those! You can find me @spitebears. That url is a long story haha.

Rewrite chapters 1&2&3 of Storge – I completed chapters 1 and 2 and got distracted from 3 by a new space-set-dragon-riders story called World Wanderers, but I wrote a ton of words in brainstorming that effects Storge, so I’m counting it as a win anyhow!

Check in with remaining Runaways Betas – They’re getting there… One of my new group has finished already, another new beta is making their way through at a steady pace, and my mother and family friend from home are… getting there, haha. However, the story (all two chapters of it) is kid-approved so far by my little siblings, so I’m taking that as a good sign!

That’s all I have for today, so thank you for reading! What are you working on this month? I want this blog to be more than me shouting into the void, and so if I can use this platform to help boost other creators, I’d love to see your work too. If you want to have your recommendations and/or your own writing featured in a Resource Rec post, or if you want to collaborate with me, you can leave a comment below for both, or contact me on either tumblr or IG! Happy Writing! 🙂

Torn Universe: An Interview with Faye Fite

Today I’m pleased to introduce you to Faye Fite, one of my longtime writing inspirations, and the author of The Terebinth Tree Chronicles, which I reviewed last week! I am thrilled to have her on my blog today to talk about developing characters, specifically fighters. This was such a fun interview, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed conducting it!


Welcome! First, for a general introduction, can you tell me about yourself, how long you’ve been writing, and what you write?

Faye: Absolutely! My name is Faye Fite. I’m a disabled author of Christian speculative fiction and author of the Torn Universe, an expanded universe of science-fiction and fantasy short stories containing such things as desert elves, Aztec-inspired vampires, and sci-fi mermaids. I primarily write YA fantasy with tough, raw characters, vibrant cultures, and themes of strength, courage, and brokenness. I have been writing long before I knew how to spell properly. In my spare time, I am a college student studying nutrient metabolism and research assistant studying nutritional metabolomics.

Etta: Ah, that’s such a good pitch! It absolutely fits what I’ve seen of your work so far, and I love you say you do college “in your free time” haha. Big mood there. I’ve most recently read your Terebinth Tree Chronicles, so I’m most familiar with those characters, but if you think another character fits better for the questions, feel free to tell us about them too!

When you start a story, are your characters built from the ground up as the story forms around them, or do you start with a plot and create characters to fit the story you want to tell? Or is it a combination of both?

Faye: That’s a great question! I almost always start with a character first, as well as a theme or a question I want to explore, and then the story falls into place around them. Because my characters have such strong personalities, and because my world-building is very specific, I’ve found that letting them lose into the world results in a fairly instantaneous plot.

Etta: That makes sense! The themes in your stories are also super interesting and I want to circle back around to talk about that later. I love that you’re able to make your characters both so dynamic and distinct so it’s cool that they guide you through the story as you go. I can absolutely relate to that feeling.

What are your favorite types of character arcs to write?

Faye: I really enjoy writing angry, hurting characters who mean well, but don’t always know how to direct their emotions in a healthy way. As for arcs, I tend to enjoy writing what I refer to as “non-linear” character arcs, in that the characters don’t follow a clearly improving or backsliding trajectory, but instead take steps forward, mess up, try again, fail, rinse and repeat. These types of characters are interesting to write because they feel like a more honest reflection of most human beings, and also help myself and my readers learn how to pick ourselves up after we fall.

Etta: I respect that perspective, it great that you’re trying to capture the more nuanced and messy parts of life in your fiction – because that’s what makes the characters feel real and relatable. I especially noticed that personality with Jayel, especially in her fight with the magician. She’s doing her best to make a positive change in the world but is as often a victim of her own impulsive decisions as dire circumstances, putting her in that place where she has to act. It’s compelling, because there’s not always a right answer. The three books in the Terebinth Tree Chronicles all set up these characters’ arc and leave you with a satisfying conclusion of one arc, but you can tell they still have more growth ahead of them and I’m cheering them on.

Faye: Thank you for that awesome summary of Jayel! She is my beloved disaster child. I’m glad to hear you’re excited to see where their stories go next. I’m looking forward to publishing them!

Etta: Ahaha, “beloved disaster child” is such a fun way to describe her! I’m super excited to see her dynamic with Wanderer that you teased at the end of Flames of Courage. They’re a fun duo.

Tying into the comment about angry hurting characters who mean well, you write a lot of fighters, which I think is super cool! They face a ton of challenges in their world – be they physical threats, societal pressures, disabilities, or spiritual attacks. How do you decide which battles to give to which characters?

Faye: This is always one of my favorite parts of character creation! All of my main characters have some form of a disability (except for Ishtaka from Vengeance Hunter in the Phoenix Fiction Writers Antiheroes anthology), as I am disabled myself and am working to increase disability representation in sci-fi and fantasy. So the disability is pretty much always a given. The other circumstances are ones that I feel most threaten something important to that character, as it pushes them to grow and change. For example, Wanderer faced a lot of societal pressures in Colors of Fear because he is a fearful character who needed something to spur him into finding his purpose and his strength.

Etta: I love that, “circumstances are ones that I feel most threaten something important to that character, as it pushes them to grow and change”, what a succinct way to sum up character development, wonderful writing advice right there I will definitely take to heart. Wanderer’s story especially resonated with me when I first read it in high school working on college admissions. Maybe it’s not the same as joining the hunters, but the competition, anxiety, and “three in five” motif really hit home. And yes! I’m so glad you brought up the disability representation, because I was going to ask you about that next. It’s one thing that initially drew me to your stories and the indie author space as a whole, since you don’t see a lot of characters like that anywhere else!

When you write a character with a disability you don’t experience yourself, what do you research to represent the experience accurately?

Faye: I love this question! I do a combination of things. I watch YouTube videos created by people with those disabilities and read blog posts by them. I also tend to follow a lot of disabled people online and am always actively learning from them, so I absorb a lot that way. Additionally, I am involved in a lot of disability activism at my university and thus work alongside many other disabled people, so sometimes I will ask them for insight about their specific disabilities (if they are open to that). It’s a lifelong process and I’m always in “educate myself” mode.

Etta: Oh, that’s awesome! I can ditto following disabled folks online – I have a blind character in my book Storge and Molly Burke’s YouTube channel has been such an invaluable resource. Completely agree with lifelong learning, it’s great to connect with other people like that.

Another general character development question because now I’m curious about your process. How are your character’s strengths and weaknesses related to their motivations?

Faye: I often like to take a look at how people have the tendency to try to push through their weaknesses when they should instead by asking for help. This means that my characters are motivated to “overcome” obstacles that are usually of their own making….or that their motivations stem from them trying to fix external problems so they can ignore internal ones. I also like to play with character dynamics so that one character’s weaknesses result in them relying on another character’s strengths to ultimately succeed.

Etta: That’s interesting! On some subconscious level, I understood the tension that comes from conflicting internal and external, but hearing it articulated like that just made something click for me, wow. I also really like that “no man is an island” message. Team dynamics are always a ton of fun to explore and that setup is great for pushing characters to grow in ways that are outside their comfort zone.

You often have rich supporting characters who are fighters in their own rights. How do their lives affect your protagonists, and would you want to tell their stories too?

Faye: Yes, I love me some fighters! Often they are there to push my protagonists in a specific direction, either through inspiring them, teaching them, or showing them how not to behave. Many of them are characters that we will see later on, such as Fendred from Colors of Fear and Shelumiel in Flames of Courage. In fact, Wymund from Sounds of Deceit is making an appearance in the 4th Terebinth Tree Chronicles: Taste of Rage. These are all characters I’m excited to explore further.

Etta: Yay! Oh, oh, oh, now I’m so excited to see more of Wymund in the fourth book. That’s the first time I’ve heard the title, and it sounds so intense! And that’s cool how all the characters we’ve met so far are all there for a deeper purpose and will reoccur in the series. I’m looking forward to seeing how their stories all tie together. It’s like that saying, everyone is the protagonist of their own story.

Faye: Thank you! Character creation is always my favorite part of the writing process, so I love getting to pull side characters back into the spotlight in later stories.

Do you have any advice for writers about creating a compelling character arc?

Faye: Oooo. Yes! Don’t be afraid to be bold. Remember that people in real life are complicated, messy, contradictory, and that they don’t exist in a vacuum. So let your character have real highs and real lows, let them think they know what they want only to realize it’s not what they need, and remember that character arcs are often influenced by the arcs of surrounding characters.

Etta: Ah, that’s great to remember. Thank you so much! I will keep that in mind as I’m editing Storge and working on the arcs. My first draft suffered from hesitating and not going for the hard emotional beats, so it’s good to hear that reminder. 🙂

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me! This was super informative and interesting and I’m glad I had the chance to chat with you! Where can we find you and your work online?

My website is my one-stop-shop to finding me and my stories. You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram (@_FayeFite).


Thank you again to Faye for agreeing to do this interview with me and for sharing such thoughtful and thought-provoking answers! If you enjoyed this, be sure to go check out her other work. Thank you for reading, and until next time, happy writing!

Reading Rec: Terebinth Tree Chronicles

Hello everyone and welcome back to another reading rec! This month I want to talk about an author that I’ve enjoyed for quite a while now: Faye Fite. I found her blog back in high school when she still wrote under her other name, and the perspective she shared in her writing advice inspired me to get serious about my writing. Her books introduced me to the indie publishing space and the worlds of possibilities that open when you can control the content of your stories. Faye writes Christian speculative fiction that isn’t preachy and features badass disabled characters.

The Terebinth Tree Chronicles is a series of high fantasy short stories that share the backstories of Wanderer, Jayel, and Ailith – the future protagonists of an epic who are on a mission to assassinate the dark lord that’s plagued their world and ruined their families. Currently, three books have been released in this series: Colors of Fear, Flames of Courage, and Sounds of Deceit, but there are more on the way! Faye also has a few standalone books, including Skies of Dripping Gold, and So I Accidentally Killed the Chosen One, which are both part of the same expanded story-world as the Terebinth Tree Chronicles, called the “Torn Universe.” I’m not sure how they all connect yet, but it’s a really cool concept! Faye is also a member of the Phoenix Fiction Writers, and has published three short stories in their anthologies.

I can wholeheartedly recommend all of her writing, but today I especially want to focus on the characters in the Chronicles and how their arcs are set up to have satisfying conclusions within each backstory book, but leave enough open-ended questions for the rest of the series to continue building.

Colors of Fear

The first book in the series follows the story of Wanderer, a desert elf who’s desperate to join the Hunters – an elite group of fighters dedicated to taking down the dark lord, Elgar. Three out of five Hunters dye within their first year of service, but he has a family to protect: his mother and chronically ill younger brother, Twig. While his brother wastes away from the disease that plagues their world – called Muria – Wanderer recovered, only to be left with a strange ability. He sees emotion as blinding color.

“Some days, he couldn’t even see the sky through his fears.”

When the colors choke his vision and make him stumble on the qualifying obstacle course, the Hunters turn Wanderer away, and force him to find a different path. He must choose between staying home, and watching his brother suffer, or leaving, following the orange strings, pulling him West, and putting his life on the line to kill Elgar and end their suffering once and for all.

Flames of Courage

The second book in the series follows Jayel – a partially deaf she-elf who also wanted to join the Hunters. Despite a perfect run, she’s turned away for her half-blood status. Boiling with anger, she returns to town, where she finds a slave trader abusing another young half-blood boy. Jayel springs to his defense, and when she escapes the guards and makes it home to her mentor Shelumiel, she’s concocted a new mission: bring justice to her people. Shelumiel warns her she won’t be able to accomplish her goals alone, that her plan is half-formed and that she must learn how to wield a sword. Unwilling to be dissuaded, Jayel sets off into the desert alone.

A day’s journey and a sandstorm later, she finally reaches the Spirit-Arch, a gateway to Maiah’s afterlife. There, she’s attacked by a human magician, and a slave, sent by Elgar to kill her. In self-defense, Jayel’s fire powers erupt, and betray her true identity as one of the Athelan – the Holy Warriors of Maiah. Upon realizing that she’s fighting slave, Jayel tries to persuade the magician to surrender. The woman reveals that if she doesn’t bring Jayel back to Elgar, he will kill her village. There are no right answers, and no innocent parties. When the fight finally ends, Jayel is left mourning the stranger and holding her blade.

“It was a lie. I don’t protect. I just… fight. For me. Not for anyone else.”

With her plan in shambles, Jayel follows the last directive she has left – learn how to use a sword. She continues West, and encounters a familiar figure – a fellow fighter, an elf cursed by colors, and a partner in training. The story ends with a hopeful, resolute tone. We don’t know how their stories will end, but we know that there’s a cause worth fighting for.

Sounds of Deceit

The third book in the series doesn’t take place in the same desert as Wanderer and Jayel’s stories. In a city controlled entirely by Elgar’s forces, Ailith and her brother Durran are ex-Hunters who struggle to survive by taking dangerous jobs from the remaining Faithful. Her powerful magic lets her perform incredible feats at the expense of her sanity, as the cacophony of noise that accompanies each spell causes her incapacitating brain-fog. She takes impulsive risks to distract herself from the lies and fear that rule her life, but that changes when they’re approached one night by Wymund – an acquaintance from their Hunter days. He asks them to join the group that plans to assassinate Elgar, but the siblings refuse to break their self-imposed exile.

As Ailith watches the suffering in the city, she keeps her head down. In the shadow of the clock-tower, she hides when she could help the Faithful being persecuted, because she is afraid of her magic, and is losing faith herself. With the encouragement of her elderly priestess friend, Nyara, and the long pressures of her past, she reaches a breaking point.

“I want our pain to be worth something… I want to stand tall.”

That night, they take out the guards, free the Faithful caged within, and destroy the clock tower that tormented her with its noise all along. She’s taken the leap of faith, and though we don’t know where it will take her, there is a promise that her power will prove to be a blessing in the end, when she joins forces with the other protagonists to set their world to rights.

If any of these stories sound interesting to you, I highly recommend you check out Faye’s site and read her books! These are just some of a wonderful universe to explore, and I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about the characters. Make sure you check back next week to read our interview, but until then, Happy Writing! 🙂


How To Write A Fighter

If you’re here looking for a guide on how to write a fight scene, I’m afraid you’re in the wrong place. There are approximately 59,900 results on google about descriptive verbs and pacing, which are useful, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. Today we’re talking about characterization.

Everyone loves a fighter. They’re compelling by nature – someone who’s willing to put their life and safety on the line for something they believe in or a person they care about is someone the audience will root for. But how does this archetype act when they’re not in combat? How might a trained character approach a battle differently from your average Joe? I think the mindset of a fighter is interesting to explore in slice of life scenes, and this article will break down some ways to think about your OCs in a different context.

What are my credentials to talk about this? I did Shotokan Karate for 9 years, fencing for 3 semesters (started with Epee and switched to Sabre recently, if you’re curious), and just started taking Tae Kwon Do on my college campus. I am not a sharpshooter, but I have some experience with both firearms and bows as well. This article won’t get into details of different weapons or fighting styles, but the advice will apply to a broad range of contexts and genres. So, shall we begin?

Continue reading

January Goals Recap

Hello everyone, and happy February! This last month was a super productive one for me, thanks to winter break, and then a week of zoom-class to start the semester. I packed every day full of work to take advantage of my free time and marked off 19/24 general goals! I also prioritized reading this month, since it’s more difficult for me to find uninterrupted time during the school year. During breaks, I work in an IT job, and I never thought I’d be grateful for blue-screening computers, but I finished beta-reading a couple books while waiting on system restores and updates to run haha. My one gripe is that my friends aren’t on Goodreads yet so they don’t “count” towards my public goal – officially, I’ve finished 3/50 for my yearly resolution!

I think I’m going to focus on writing progress in February, before the semester gets too intense. My class schedule this year is really nice, where every day starts at 9:20. If I can get up on time, that gives me roughly an hour of writing time in the mornings. Hopefully that won’t be eaten by writing lab reports lol. Without further ado, here’s my recap for January!

Won by 4 points – 9/10

Finish Order of the Sun – This is a book by a good friend of mine, Lila Mary (@writeblrfantasy on tumblr), and the first in a romance-political-intrigue-fantasy trilogy. I really enjoyed this story, and I’m super excited to read the next two books!

Read + Comment on Dreams Shadow – I read Dreams last year, and helped Siarven as they further developed the story, so I was HONORED to read the latest draft this month. It’s incredible, and I cannot wait until they publish it so I can yell about it with other fans. It has some of the coolest worldbuilding I’ve ever seen, and if you want to hear more about it, you can check out my interview with them here!

Read Youth Sunken for Katie and Review – Youth Sunken is a new horror novel by Katelynn Koontz (@abalonetea on tumblr), and I received a free copy as part of her Patreon. It’s a thrilling story that feels like an episode of the twilight zone, and I highly encourage you all to check it out!

Make a new website schedule for the year – My original plan for the year involved serially posting a chapter of Runaways a month and launching a new pen name, but I realized I was far too busy and burnt out from school and other obligations to dedicate the time I would need to make this happen. I also didn’t want to rush the story and put out sub-par work, so I decided I would stick with my regularly scheduled posting for now, which meant reworking my plans. I’ve got some exciting ideas coming up for extra content, and taking this extra time and energy means that Runaways will be better than ever when it’s ready for release!

IG and WordPress scheduling for January – Starting the year out strong with not missing a week! I’m hoping to do a scaled-back version of #faebruary on Instagram this upcoming month and I’m super excited to share some of my illustrations and concept art with you!

Finish and send out mailing list story – I had the worst writer’s block coming off a weeks-long writing hiatus and trying to manage three different tenses for this, but “Brigid’s Visits” is now available to my newsletter! In case you missed it, you can sign up here and get access to my backlog, including “Matter”, and “Jack of Fables”!

Research and fix wordpress tags – pffff I’ve been promising myself I would do this for months, but when I spend so much time coding for class, the last thing I really want to do is more CompSci stuff in my free time. One of these days I’ll put my Responsible Businesswoman hat on and get my platform act together, but for now I’m just vibing on my tiny corner of the internet.

Finish Storge Read Through – I’m SO PROUD of my new outline guys, you have no idea. It’s huge. I have an excel sheet with 16 columns, and 114 rows to track every aspect of the story, tabs with an “easier to see overview”, character arcs, worldbuilding trackers, and themes/motifs/foreshadowing. This was a huge amount of work, but it’s serving its use as I rewrite! I also completed half of the first chapter! I’m tentatively hoping to finish this rewrite by the end of the year, which means I will need to do 2-3 chapters a month. I’m not holding my breath on this, but I think it is a strong start. There’s a saying that goes “5 minutes of organization is worth 15 minutes of work” and I’m hoping that holds true for this project.

Do 3 marker arts / Watch the Witcher – well, I started the Witcher, so I’m calling that good enough. I’m mainly watching it because ALL of my friends have recommended it, and I love Joey Batey’s music in The Amazing Devil, so Jaskier is the highlight of the show for me. I struggled to get past the nudity and sex scenes, but maybe I’ll pick it up again later. I have done quite a lot of marker art though, so this goal of “Do some fun, creative, low stress things you’ve been meaning to mark off” is done!

Check on Runaways Betas – A few of my lovely readers have finished the draft and left me incredibly kind comments, and a few had to quit for time-constraint reasons, so I threw it at a few more family friends. I’m hoping to have a clear consensus soon – it’s difficult to tell sometimes with a DNF if the problem is the story being boring or just life being crazy, but I’m hopeful they’ll help me turn this story into what it deserves. If you’re interested in joining as a beta reader, please fill out this short form! It contains all the information about the story and logistics.

That’s all I have for today, so thank you for reading! What are you working on this month? I want this blog to be more than me shouting into the void, and so if I can use this platform to help boost other creators, I’d love to see your work too. If you want to have your recommendations and/or your own writing featured in a Resource Rec post, or if you want to collaborate with me, you can leave a comment below for both, or contact me on either tumblr or IG! Happy Writing! 🙂

Realization: A Runaways Excerpt

“Cecelia is gone!”

“Gone? Gone where?” their father asks, and stomps the mud off his boots at the door.

“She’s not upstairs, but the window is unlocked.”

“She didn’t go outside with you?” their mother asks their father. He shakes his head. Ma slams the skillet of sausages on the table and starts calling through the downstairs for her daughter. Hannah joins her, even though the mounting feeling of dread tells her their efforts are a hopeless cause.

“Her coat and shoes are still here,” Dad says, checking the rack.

“She doesn’t wear those half the time anyhow,” Hannah informs him.

“But in October, after a rainstorm? There’s frost on the grass between the mud puddles.”

Hannah can’t explain why a nagging thorn sticks in the back of her brain. Why would Cecelia leave without even writing a note? She should know better than that.

Hannah decides the discomfort is nothing more than annoyance as their mother comes back into the kitchen and throws off her apron, gesturing for them to sit at the table.

“Maybe she ran away? You know how flighty she is. Remember last year when she said she was going for a walk, and we found her three miles down the road an hour later? Or the time she went missing for an afternoon hiding in Snub’s pen. She couldn’t have gone far. Have your breakfast while it’s still warm and then we’ll go looking for her,” she says.

“I can take the car into town and ask if anyone’s seen her walking along the street,” dad offers. Ma nods her agreement.

“I’ll search around the immediate neighborhood,” she says. “Hannah, stay near the house, and check the gardens and animal pens. Someone should be here, just in case she comes back before we do.”

Hannah scowls at her plate of cooling eggs and feeds a sausage to Willow under the table. The dog thumps her tail on the floor appreciatively, but she has lost her appetite. She forces herself to finish what’s left of her breakfast in a few bites as she mulls over the mystery. Were there any clues pointing to where she could have gone? She left no note, but why not? They even had a code, in case she wanted to keep her whereabouts hidden from their parents, but she always shared her secrets with Hannah. It hurts to imagine that Cecelia doesn’t trust her anymore. But she’d acted normal yesterday! Until the storm, at least.

That storm.

“The Piper.”

Her parents don’t hear her whisper or the fork clattering to the floor.

Suddenly, Cecelia’s fears of last night return to Hannah. What had she said? Something about the Piper? She chews thoughtfully on her piece of home-baked bread and retraces the path of their conversation. That’s right. She said that she could hear his pipes on the wind, and not to call his name. She said that you could only hear him if he was coming for you. And now, she is gone, just like the children in the story. A shiver shakes Hannah’s spine.

“I’ll go look in the woods,” she announces, pushing back her chair with such urgency that it nearly falls over on Willow.

Their father shakes his head. “No. Your mother said to stay here, and we can’t have you wandering off too.”

“I’ll blaze a trail! I have to go!”

“If she comes back and finds an empty house, she’ll wander off again to search for us. Besides, we haven’t cleared the woods yet. We’ll have two lost daughters.”

“But what if she got kidnapped?! Or lured off by the fae! They wouldn’t take her into town.”

“No, don’t be ridiculous.” Their mother says empathetically as she plunks her spoon on her plate. “It’s too dangerous for you to go hiking alone.”

“You could search the woods with me!”

“The woods are so overgrown that she couldn’t have gone far, if that’s the case. It’s much more likely she went along the road,” Pa explains, not unkindly, but speaking as if she’s only a foolish child. “It’s just a matter of how far she made it, if she ran away last night or this morning. We’ll be faster to find her if your Ma and I split up the search.”

“Stay here,” Ma agrees. “She might have just wandered off to climb a tree, and she’ll be back before we know it. You can welcome her back and make sure she’s safe until we return. I trust you to stay in the house alone. It’ll be alright, Ana.”

Yes, it will be alright, but not for any of their efforts. Despite the plastered smiles of reassurance, Hannah can see the fear written in the creases of their mother’s brow and the hunch of their father’s shoulders. They should be worried, but not for the reason they expect. She knows that this is not another simple case of Cecelia being weird. Not after her scare last night. She knows her parents don’t know what’s at stake, that they mean well, but they will not heed her warning.

Faeries stole her sister. Hannah will bring her back.

I hope you enjoyed this Runaways excerpt! If you enjoyed the piece and want to read more from the same world, consider checking out my other posts in the tag, or signing up for my mailing list to get a copy of “Jack of Fables”. Thanks for reading!

Wonder and Wisdom: The Time Quintent

For a book that is included on every elementary recommended reading list and has been adapted into several feature-length films, I believe that A Wrinkle in Time is a criminally underrated book, and the rest of the series even more so. It’s difficult to explain my attachment to this series, but the unparalleled Madeline L’Engle created characters and a world in her works so interesting that I regularly reread and take inspiration from them to this day. So today, I want to write a tribute to my favorite children’s author. For readers, please take this as a wholehearted recommendation. For writers, this is my attempt to break down what makes L’Engle’s writing so impactful, so we can learn from her style and craft similarly beautiful works ourselves.

Capturing Wonder

For a brief, illuminating second, Meg’s face had the listening, probing expression that was so often seen on Charles’s. ‘I see!’ she cried. ‘I got it! For just a moment I got it! I can’t possibly explain it now, but there for a second I saw it!”

A Wrinkle in Time, on the Tesseract

Children are creative scientists – their entire existence centers on learning more about the world each day, and learning how to make their own place in it. If you’re reading this, you probably never lost that spark of curiosity. We live for this moment of epiphany, even as we know there is an ENDLESS amount of information yet to explore. I think this is also why speculative fiction is so appealing. Not only do we have our world to explore, but we can make whole worlds with our imaginations, be they mystical realms or distant planetoids.

In a book where the magic system works through physics and 5th dimensions, she also doesn’t shy away from the metaphysical questions of good and evil. This series treats religion and science as two different, but not opposed, methods of discovering truth. The characters grapple with questions about their place in the cosmos, what is means to be good or evil, and the nature of love. The concepts are never dumbed down, though the prose is accessible to an elementary audience. Reading these books gave me the vocabulary to talk about these ideas and made me feel like I deserved to be taken seriously. We contextualize our experiences in terms of stories, and what we don’t yet understand, we call magic.

L’Engle takes this philosophy to heart with her choice of genre. She doesn’t just blur the line between allegory, mythology, fantasy, and science fiction; she posits that there is no distinction. With every possibility open to experimentation, she created a unique spin on our universe that captured my imagination as a child. This is the book that made me say, “I want to write like this one day.”

Encouragement

“A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.”

Madeline L’Engle

Throughout the series, the characters must fight various forces of evil, which seek to tear apart their family and their word. Just because children are young doesn’t mean they don’t encounter evil. Good protectors may shelter them from harm, but they still meet it in the daily troubles of school and home life, and without stable parents and guardians, they are even more vulnerable. This book is honest. Meg and Charles deal with bullies. Their father is missing. Their teachers and principal are unfair. Life is pain, highness, and anyone who says otherwise is selling something.

But you can fight back. The story shows the characters putting their lives on the line to protect their loved ones. Their actions prove you can fight IT. The black thing is huge and terrifying, but it is not all-powerful. Meg both beats and forgives her bullies. They might not release the people of Camazotz, but they save their father. It is inspiring to read about this bittersweet, stubborn hope overcoming an evil greater than any one person. The characters earn a happy ending, but at no point do you take their struggle for-granted and it always struck me as more real than much of children’s media that takes a saccharine-saturated optimistic view of the world.

Belonging

“A self is not something static, tied up in a pretty parcel and handed to the child, finished and complete. A self is always becoming.”

A Circle of Quiet

Meg is an oddball – the “before” of every teen makeover with frizzy brown hair, thick glasses, and braces, a math genius that’s failing her other classes, quick with a witty comeback that infuriates her teachers, too impulsive and honest, which makes her socially awkward around her peers, and overly protective of a “dumb” brother. Charles is a pre-schooler who speaks in well-articulated sentences and comprehends complex metaphysical ideas, but refuses to interact with anyone outside his immediate family. Yet, their mother never belittles them for their eccentricities – she seeks accommodations, such as homeschooling or getting a typewriter, and gives her daughter gentle guidance to help weather the trials of growing up. The Murry family also accepts Calvin, who can mask his oddness to fit into a social norm, but feels out of place amongst his own siblings. Their home is a warm and welcoming shelter from the storms of both societal shunning and thundering wild nights. If you blew into town like Mrs. Whatsit, they wouldn’t hesitate to sit you around their kitchen table for a midnight sandwich.

But belonging does not mean conformity, and Meg resists IT’s statement that “everyone is equal, everyone exactly alike.” At home, they can be themselves without fear of judgement or retaliation, rather than changing who they are to avoid judgement and retaliation. Fiction is so often escapist, and giving the characters a place to retreat for comfort and safety also gives the reader that feeling of security. Whether it’s on the utopian Uriel or on Ixchel with Aunt Beast, L’Engle shows how important it is to have a small but close-knit community to act as a support structure, even when the evil is something you must face alone.

“Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.”

Mrs. Whatsit

Did you read this book as a child? What did you think of it then, compared to now? Please let me know what you think! Happy reading and writing. 🙂

5 ways to Encourage Kids to Read

When he was ten, my little brother was not a “fan” of anything. He enjoyed certain tv shows, but never got invested in the story and rarely read voluntarily, much to our mother’s chagrin. Mostly, he hung out with his jock of an older brother who poked fun at the fandom and writerly shenanigans of my marvel-obsessed sister and I, the resident Nerd and Author who “Care Too Much” about fictional worlds. Today, my twelve-year-old brother finished a 12-page-long original story, and is working his way through Lord of the Rings.

Around the same time, at the start of 2020, I was in one of the worst reading slumps of my LIFE. High school literature classes and a busy college/work schedule took my reading habit from several books a week to 1 or 2 a year. Thanks to a few beloved friends’ encouragement, I started the Stormlight Archive, and bounced back to reading over 30 books by this past year.

I’m not a teacher, or a parent, but I have learned a few things from watching his development these past two years, and watching the tricks that my friends pulled on me. For anyone else who spends a lot of time with impressionable kids and wants to play the (incredibly fun) role of neighborhood eccentric that sends children on adventures, here are 5 ways to encourage them to read.

1) Meet them where their interests lie

This transformation started with Avatar the Last Airbender. It just came out on Netflix, and we watched it as a family during the quarantine at the start of COVID. I could include him in conversations with my sister about fan-theories and subtext, and it made him feel grown-up to participate and contribute. When he came up with his own daydreams, I asked him to write his updates for me, and directed him to more reading material. Likewise, my friends indulgently listened to my writing rambles and gently nudged me toward a series they knew I would enjoy based on the similar tropes.

Try to introduce kids to similar genres as the ones they already enjoy. If they like a video game or tv-show, try to find novelizations or comics to accompany it. Show them how to use a library catalogue to look up the author’s last name and find other books. Listen to their rambles and ask questions, instead of just nodding and smiling. I’m sure we can all remember how hurtful, dismissive adults were when we shared our interests as kids. If they can trust you to be a supportive friend, they’ll be more receptive to your input in the future. I will accept recommendations from those same friends now with no questions asked because I trust their judgement on my taste in books.

2) Tell them stories

Making dinner? Weeding the garden? Folding laundry? Instead of putting on music or a movie for background noise, ask them if they want to hear a story. Humans have been telling tall tales over the household chores since the beginning of time, and oral storytelling is one of the most powerful gateways to voluntary silent reading. Tell them about crazy things you did when you were their age. Share your favorite fairy tales from that one obscure book in the back of the library. Pass the plot back and forth in a “choose your own adventure” never-ending story to let them contribute. Frame it as a fun way to make the chore less painful, and if they enjoy the story time, you might find them coming back to help if it means they can hear what happens next.

3) Don’t Gatekeep

Do they want to read comics? Fanfiction? Chapter books below their grade level? An epic that might be too advanced? Let them! If it’s fun, they’ll keep reading, and eventually move onto other types of literature as their tastes change. If it becomes a chore, they’ll lose interest and give up. This is exactly the tactic that English class pulled on me to put me into a 3-year-long reading slump. It says something dire when the most interesting and uplifting book we read all year was an account of the Armenian Genocide from a survivor’s descendent. If you want to nudge them toward the classics, there are easier methods than assigning something from an arbitrary reading list as homework.

4) Read together, Share favorites

Related to the above point about telling stories, never underestimate the sacred power of the bed-time read-aloud or a book club. Taking the time to read with someone else proves that you think the story is worthwhile, and there’s a special kind of joy in watching someone discover something you love. Take it from the Princess Bride.

If you know they will never pick up a certain book, such as a difficult classic, a long book they don’t have time for, or something outside their usual genre, reading it aloud to them is an excellent incentive. It outsources the work of reading to someone else and allows their hands to be free to play with blocks or work while they can still enjoy the story. If you don’t have the time to do a read-aloud, buying or renting them an audiobook can also be effective! I do most of my reading nowadays in the car while commuting to work.

5) Reward Initiative

The Annual Library Summer Reading Program was my bread and butter growing up. You logged how many minutes you read each day, which stacked onto your total tally. When you reached 200, 400, 600, and 800 minutes, you could redeem prizes and free books from the display. If you don’t have access to such a program, or it’s not summer, proposing your own challenge can take advantage of a competitive streak. Once, I bet my brother that he couldn’t read all 28 of the original Magic Tree House books before his birthday, and when he posted that last badge in his passport, he won a one-on-one ice cream date with me.

For me now, the chance to ramble about stories with my friends is incentive enough. They’re often subjected to “live-reactions” as I text my running theories. We usually meet up once I finish to have a debrief and share predictions for the next book. It’s nice to see them and share the excitement while taking a break from homework. And hey, I won’t say no to ice cream either.

Thank you for reading this post! I wish you the best of luck on all your bibliophilic adventures! Have a great day, and happy writing! 🙂

“Brigid’s Vists”

Meet Brigid! She is a minor character from my upcoming middle grade portal fantasy novel, Runaways. She is a friend that the sisters meet in the Seelie Court, and the leader of a group of “powers” – humans that the fae have blessed with phenomenal abilities. I got new markers for Christmas and had to try them out on the POV character of my next newsletter story.

Every three months, I release a new short that features a side character from some corner of my fictional universe, and Brigid is the protagonist of this year’s Christmas special! Why are you posting about a Christmas special in January, I hear you ask? Shhhh. The story includes time travel and the holiday liturgical season doesn’t end until the 6th. This is totally legit.

If you want to read “Brigid’s Visit” you can sign up for my newsletter at this link! It also grants you access to my backlog of stories, including “Jack of Fables” and “Matter.” I hope you enjoy reading!