Friday, January 30, 2015

Great Scot, I've been interviewed!

My good friend Jenelle Leanne Schmidt has interviewed me! Check it out HERE (and while you are over there, check out her fabulous blog).

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Norwegian Wood

I already used "A Day in the Life" for the title of one of these update posts, so I had to use a different Beatles song. "Norwegian Wood" was the first one that came on Pandora radio.

What have I been...

I'm frantically trying to memorize my pieces for my senior recital... We just added the final piano song today. Chopin's Berceuse. Wish me luck with the chromatic thirds.
Also playing a lot of classical music on the radio.

Watching? (I'm building up to the big ones)
...Gilmore Girls...
Also, some Frasier. 

Oh boy. Get ready for the list.
A biography on Claude Debussy (my nonfiction for the month).
Another nonfiction (that I'm reading for history class) about Islam and why they were super advanced in the Middle Ages, but then never advanced any further until the 1800s, when they decided they really needed to advance their technology a bit.
Second Son by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt. Brant is about to meet Arnaud and I'm excited!
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. This is my book challenge book for this month.
WAAAAAAAYYYY too much Calvin and Hobbes. I've finished four books so far this month.
I'm a little worried about finishing all the books I'm supposed to this month... but if there's one thing I'm great at, it's not finishing books when I'm supposed to. Hahahaha...

Writing? (This is the most exciting, guys!)
I finally started editing my fantasy novel! Eeeee!!
I've been thinking about editing and how to edit for twenty-two days, and now I've finally begun! I wrote up a plan last night. Here it is:

Step 1- Read through book, writing down inconsistencies, plot holes, and disappearing details. Also, taking note of changing scenes by separating them by a line.
Step 2- Go through story again, this time writing down each scene on a separate note card. Also, note (in the notebooks) all character traits and quirks with sticky notes.
Step 3- Arrange, rearrange, add, and subtract note card scenes. Eventually, come up with a detailed outline, complete with places for theme and character and plot development (via sticky notes attached to the note cards).
Step 4- Rewrite.
Step 5- Analyze. (Send to beta readers*?)
Step 6- Rewrite and analyze some more.
Step 7- Edit. Copiously.
Step 8- Decide what to do with brilliant, finished manuscript.

*Here is the difference between beta readers and editors:

Look! Here's my stack of Book and editing supplies!



And I got FIVE whole chapters done! That's not very much in the grand scheme of things because the first few chapters are short (and there are 50+ chapters), but it's WAY more than I've gotten done all month so I'm happy! 

What have you guys been up to?

Live long and prosper.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Fly Away Home by Rachel Heffington

I'm so delighted that I found Rachel Heffington's blog because she is such a delight to read! Her blog posts pop with Wodehousian wit. Anyone who can write so entertainingly (and well!) online, must have fabulous books, so I ordered Miss Heffington's first two novels, Fly Away Home and Anon, Sir, Anon and have not been disappointed! 
I recently finished Fly Away Home and here is my review, though first I must tell you a deep, dark secret. I buried it so deep that I only realized it recently. My secret is this:
I love a good romance novel.
NOT the kind that you see discarded at the thrift store with half-naked actors clinging to each other and stupid titles like "Moonlight Kisses by the Silent, Silver Pond" (*gag*) or the unreadable Fifty Shades of Gray. No, I enjoy the kind of romance novel where the romance is understated and you constantly wonder when and how the two characters will overcome all the obstacles in their way and just get together already! Then, at the end, they kiss or get married or something you let out your unconciously held breath, lean back in a satisfied way, and say "Finally! I knew that was going to happen!"
These kinds of books urge me to keep reading to find out what will happen next like no other type of books. Adventure, fantasy, mystery... you name it, and it won't hold my attention as much as a romance novel.
When my friend coerced me into reading Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, all I wanted to do was keep reading Twilight.
When I read Wuthering Heights the same thing happened.
When I re-read Pride and Prejudice all I want to do is cuddle under a blanket and read Pride and Prejudice. 
I read Austenland by Shannon Hale recently and my mind kept straying back to it.
When I read Fly Away Home my brain buzzed with questions and "what if?"s as I tried to bed down for the night.
I'm not too fond of this new side of myself, but I supposed I'd better admit it. Admitting you have a problem is the first step towards fixing it, right? Haha.
This is probably why I've watched The Decoy Bride about a million times (or maybe it's because of David Tennant? Yeah, David Tennant definitely has something to do with it).

Still, I don't think I could read a straight romance book. I need something else happening as well. With Wuthering Heights it was the drear atmosphere of the English moors and Heathcliff's atrociousness. While I read that book I spent my time wishing that Healthcliff and Catherine wouldn't end up together because they were so mean to each other. With Austenland it was the literature references (they mention Miss Havisham!) and the the blurred lines between reality and fantasy. With The Decoy Bride it was the charming island of Heg and the snippets of Katie's guide book.
Fly Away Home has its "extras" as well, despite being mostly romance. But you'll learn more about them in my review:

Summary: The year is 1952 and journalist Callie Harper is chosen to work with journalism's leading celebrity, Wade Barnett, on a new magazine. Before she knows it, the past she tried to drown is swimming back to the surface and the paper umbrella on top is that she's falling in love with Mr. Barnett. An angry ex-co-worker offers Callie an ultimatum: dish the dirt on Mr. Barnett or he'll dish Callie's past to the whole world. As is says on the back cover, "Self-preservation has never looked more tempting."

My rating: 8/10 stars.

The Bad/What You Should Know: A few grammar mistakes here and there.
The d*** word is used twice—or maybe thrice?— but it fit the circumstances and was not condoned.
Since this is a romance book there is kissing. Nothing is detailed. (Even if I do enjoy romance books, anything more detailed than "Then, they kissed" or "They held hands" has me wondering the same thing as the grandson in The Princess Bride movie:


Although the main storyline knotted quite nicely, I felt like a few lose ends were tied sloppily. For the most part, however, and for a first novel, and for someone who has admitted to being better at characterization than plot (I'm the opposite in my own writing), Miss Heffington did a fantastic job. I can't wait to read Anon, Sir, Anon and see how her writing and plotting has improved, as any writer must with a second book.

The Good: The characters! O, the characters! They were wonderful!
One thing that makes a character a person is the little everyday quirks. Such as the character who notices the crooked painting next to the elevator door not just once, but three times during a story—it's not a needed detail, but it's a character consistency.
Miss Heffington had many such consistencies and it made Fly Away Home all the better for it. Callie's consistencies included chocolate on the table and a cat to confide in. Jerry, the front-desk man of Callie's apartment building constantly cleaned his bell (when Callie was around, that is!).

Then, of course, there were all the references to books. Any book that mentions other books immediately scores higher in my mind (hence, my love for Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. It's a book about books with bad guys and a sarcastic old lady and Dustfinger. What's not to love [other than the bad guys]?).
And the references to old songs... One of Mr. Barnett's quirks is that he likes to sing "Somewhere Beyond the Sea" (I can barely contain myself from writing: Sommewheere... beyond the c! Sommmewhere... waitin' for me! —the "c" and "me" should be sung rather shortly and that's why I wrote "c" instead of "sea").

I felt like I was reading a Frank Sinatra movie, which is a hard mood to capture because, well, Frank Sinatra is one cool bird!

It takes a very special person to capture the suavity of that hat-tilt.

I've already mentioned Miss Heffington's wit and I shall mention it again. It is a delight to read her sentences. A well-crafted sentence goes straight to my head and makes me giddy. P.G. Wodehouse's books are full to the brim with them and Fly Away Home isn't far behind.

Something else that P.G. Wodehouse infiltrates his books with is allusion. Allusion is where you casually slip a globally-known story or idiom like The Bible or Shakespeare or Star Wars into a story or nonfiction piece. It grabs the reader's attention and says "Hey, look, something familiar!"
Here is my favorite allusion from a Wodehouse book, Joy in the Morning:

 We both took a long look at it. I shook my head. He shook his. Wee Nooke was burning lower now, but its interior was still something which only Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could have entered with any genuine enjoyment.

Character quirks consistently (but not over-persistently) portrayed and allusions are two tiny "extras" that can turn a book from mediocre to spectacular. Allusions are not expected, but when they do show up, they pull the reader in just a little more, because the reader can relate to the world of the character—and the reader can also relate to the writer. When an author adds an allusion into his (or her—if we're going to be gender inclusive here) work, it's like he shares an inside joke with his reader.
Rachel Heffington peppers Fly Away Home with allusions. Here is my favorite (from chapter 6):

I nodded at the illuminated doorway in front of us. A golden chain stretched across its opening and a grave, respectable man clad in black stood watch over it like Saint Peter guarding Heaven's gates.

Speaking of Heaven, the "religious" side of the book is very well-done. Part of the past that Callie has tried to forget includes God. Mr. Barnett, on the other hand, is a Christian.
Worse than a romance book is a Christian romance book, but even worse than a Christian romance book is a historical Christian romance book. 
Maybe I shouldn't say that, because I've never actually read one (before Fly Away Home), but, I'm sorry to say, the covers alone drive me away. They look exactly like the thrift store romances except the actors on the cover aren't half-naked (and, usually, they are on a farm, not in a bed).
As a historical Christian romance, Fly Away Home did not, in fact, send me flying towards home.
The historical part wasn't based around an event (like a war or an assassination) but, instead, was included with the clothes and glamor of the 1950s, which I think is a spiffy way to write historical fiction.
The romance part was... well, it was two people falling in love. What did you expect?
The Christian part didn't take over the novel and that's the way I like it. I think that a Christian author's worldview will shine through his or her writing without having  to turn the story into a conversion story or allegory and without having to include the "Christian talk." While Mr. Barnett did give Callie a "Christian talk," it was not like I was expecting, and I enjoyed it. It was well done.

Fly Away Home is not the kind of book I would typically read, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The characters behaved like humans and Rachel Heffington's allusions and word choice were a delight to read. I would definitely recommend this book, even to the most staunch anti-historical fiction reader out there.

Live long and prosper.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Rainbow bookshelves!

The weekend before school re-started I figured I should do something special so I reorganized my bookshelf to be rainbow colored!

What do you think? How do you organize your bookshelves?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2015 Reading Challenge!

If you want to join me reading one, two, or all of these books, feel free!

Forbidden Romance-
January: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
February: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

March: 1984 by George Orwell
April: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

May: The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
June: Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Science Fiction-
July: From Earth to Moon and Around the Moon by Jules Verne
August: The Complete Robot by Isaac Asimov

Historical Fiction-
September: Death Comes For the Archbishop by Willa Cathar
October: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

November: Dracula by Bram Stoker
December: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Some nonfiction I will be reading this year-
Claude Debussy by Paul Roberts (January)
The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
John Quincy Adams: American Visionary by Fred Kaplan
J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter
The Gershwins by Robert Kimball
The Piano by Jeremy Siepmann

Do you have any reading goals this year?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014: A year in review

What totally epic or character-building things did I do in 2014?
  • I took the train all by myself to visit my friend at her college.
  • My family and I went to Europe! 
Big Ben, in case you couldn't tell

Typical Dutch countryside

  • I got my driver's license!
  • I wrote a semi-epic fantasy novel.
  •   I wrote and performed in our church's Vacation Bible School skits.
  •  I went to the beach, hiked up a mountain, roasted marshmallows and stayed out late, explored a corn maze and a pumpkin patch, saw some Christmas lights, and brought in 2015 with people my own age and had fun. In short, I made an effort to have some semblance of a social life.
  • I led a Bible study with church girls.
  • My choir donned Victorian garb and caroled in the mall.
Photo via A Choir Parent
Here were my goals for 2014 and their degree of fulfillment:

1. Continue to get to know God, study his word, and make him first and foremost in my life. Read my Bible, pray everyday, and I'll grow... grow... grow...
While I didn't read my Bible every day, I did make an effort to get to know God better and I have grown in my faith since last year.

2. Continue to study studiously. Finish my Algebra book!!! And get through Algebra II if possible...
Check, check! I finished Algebra, Algebra II, and am halfway through Geometry! Then I will be freeee!

3. Continue growing is my musical pursuits.
My voice has grown significantly in the past year and my piano playing has too!

4. Visit my friend's college and start looking into which colleges would best fit God's plan for my life.
I visited my friend's college, but haven't looked into any other colleges yet.

5. Witness to people about the love of God.
I haven't witnessed directly to anyone, but I hope that God shines through me in everyday life.

6. Do NaNoWriMo and win! Write a short story a day. Or, just write every day. Especially in my new story idea... (Last year my new story idea was a Defenders of the Realm which fell through. But this new story... well, I think it will stick around for awhile. At least, I'd really like it to.)
Yup, I won NaNoWriMo! I didn't write every day... but I did write quite a bit this year, especially in the "new story" that I mentioned.

7. I'd really like to catch up on Doctor Who... if that's possible.
Sort of check? There are three or four episodes from season 8 that I haven't seen, but other than that I'm all caught up.

8. Read 100 books! Scary... I don't know if I'll be able to complete that one.
Aaaaaand... I definitely didn't. I'm sitting pretty at 53 (not counting comic books like Tintin or Calvin and Hobbes).
Not only was I introduced to The Phantom of the Opera this year, but also to P.G. Wodehouse. I read twelve Wodehouse books this year!
19 books were rereads.
Of the new books that I read this year King's Warrior by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, and The World of Jeeves (all the Jeeves and Wooster short stories) by P.G. Wodehouse were my favorites. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf was my least favorite and also wracked up the least amount of stars. Only two books ever got below six stars. Maybe I'm too lenient with my marking method.

9. Get more geeky clothes.
Hahaha... What?! How is that a goal? I don't even know how to answer that one. xD

10. Re-watch Star Trek Deep Space Nine.
I remember adding this one spontaneously at the end because I felt like I needed more fun goals and not so many serious ones. While I didn't rewatch DS9, my mom and I did rewatch Voyager.

11. Read Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.
Nope. That didn't get done.

Here are my goals for 2015:

1. Read the entire Bible.

2. Graduate with good grades.

3. Extensively plan and plot the fantasy story I wrote in 2014.

4. Write the final two Daniel and Varina novels.

5. Read 100 books. (May as well try again!)

6. Implement my Book Challenge. (To be explained shortly, in another blog post)

7. Get a job, join a non-highschool choir, research colleges, and generally keep busy and not become a hermit once I graduate.

Sorry, Doctor, I'm not going to be the next member of Hermits United
8. Continue with my music. Take a music theory class. Have a FANTASTIC senior recital in May.

9. Exercise more.

10. Read one nonfiction a month.

11. Write every day of the year.

"If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life.
"You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next.
"You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads.
"I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories—science fiction or otherwise.
Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world." 
-Ray Bradbury