Friday, June 15, 2018

In Which I Commence A Stack of Improving Reading

via Pixabay
Marianne Dashwood started a stack of improving reading by the end of Sense and Sensibility. I wonder if she finished it; somehow I think she did. Her book stack was a result of a heart change, and I don't think it met with the fate of Emma's 101 titles.

I'm starting a list of my own--twelve titles that I'd like to read this summer in company with a summer reading program I'm taking part in. This reading program is from the Holy Grail of bookstores--the place with good deals, one that invites you to linger and breathe in the scent of it all and find some introverted soul peace.

This reading program has specific categories to choose from, so Wednesday morning I was busily looking at my TBR stack and seeing which categories I can fit the books into. And with great success--I've even got a couple of books to spare past the ten book requirement! (silent screaming how is this going to happen) Here's what I'm looking at so far:

(These categories were created by Baker Book House.)

Biography: Martin Luther, by Eric Metaxas
I got this book for Christmas; I'm really excited to read it and would like to finish it in this calendar year, HALP.

A Problem in Society Today: The Gospel Comes With a House Key, by Rosaria Butterfield
I'd heard of this book before, but it was also mentioned in our church newsletter and the subject coincides with an initiative our church started where they're encouraging households to reach out to someone with the Gospel in the next week or so.

Published in 2018: Speak Truth in Your Heart, by Sarah Mally
This is such an important book for girls, equipping them to address spiritual lies and battles with the truth of God's Word. I'm looking forward to digging into it this summer to prepare my own heart for discussing it with my Bright Lights group this fall.

Teen Novel: Fawkes, by Nadine Brandes
Not only is Nadine Brandes the Queen Ninja of connecting with her fans, but I'm hoping to meet her this year at Realm Maker's, and I really want to get a copy of Fawkes to have her sign it (as well as bring my whole Out of Time series, who are we kidding.)

Recommended to You: Culture Care, by Makoto Fujimura
This book I think would have some good thoughts on art and Christianity to tuck away in my brain for the fiction class I'll be teaching later this year. It's a book my sister likes and recommended to me!

Book You've Waited Too Long To Read: Flame of Resistance, by Tracy Groot
My friend Amanda Barratt recommended this book to me, and we're going to read it together soon. I'm SO EXCITED!!

One-word Title: Hamlet, by Shakespeare
A friend is working on a Hamlet re-telling, and I really want to read this story, not only because she likes it, but so I can understand the original to better understand the retelling when it comes out!

Kid's Chapter Title: The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis
And thus will finish my Chronicles of Narnia re-read.

Author I've Never Read Before: A Higher Loyalty, by James Comey
I just picked this up from the library. The committee questioning with Comey last year was fascinating to watch, and I'm looking forward to reading his book for myself.

Made Into a Movie: A Light Between Oceans, by M. L. Steadman
It's gonna rip my heart out. A story about a husband and wife who tend a lighthouse and decide to keep a shipwrecked baby when they can't have kids of their own--even though they know who the mother is.

A Country I'd Like to Visit: Victoria: The Queen, by Julia Baird
When Suzannah Rowntree shared about the 1.99 Kindle deal, I picked this book up because I had a biography about Queen Victoria on my TBR for this year. First I flipped through it, then I started to read it in earnest. I'm geeking out, and it's already fascinating.

I only have until August 25th. Wish me luck. 

Are any of these books on your summer list? What are you hoping to read this summer?

also, half of these are nonfiction, who kidnapped schuyler 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Halfway Into Memory

via Pixabay
This year has slipped almost halfway into memory.

It's always startling to think that a year is half-way gone. Don't laugh; but twenty-three feels older than I've felt before, not just because I am, but maybe because I have passed an invisible inner curtain. In some ways it has felt like a season of spiritual heart-searching and uncomfortable questions; in other ways it has felt like a season of selling books and housesitting and enjoying those things.

Half the year is almost gone. I told my mom the other day that I'd read more children's books this year. They are easy; fast; beloved. A lot of them are books I hadn't read in my childhood, new worlds of wonder (A Wrinkle in Time, Boys of Blur). Some (Narnia, Gone-Away Lake) are remembered books I'm returning to.

Last month the sis and I spent the most time we've ever spent away from our parents, house-sitting by ourselves. It was another milestone; a passing of something. On those days I propped open my eyes well after midnight to read a bit of Henry V and feel impressed with myself--or to read The Borrowers, with their clash of whimsy and bittersweetness. A book like The Borrowers leaves you with a gentle ache afterward.

And there are more memories still--memories of reading about a sweet-souled girl fighting for right and justice after she is pulled out of Earth into a new kingdom of responsibilities. (Crowning Heaven) That book was read on a Saturday with drizzle in the air, as we traveled to an open house. And it was read again the following day on the way to church--cramming in a tense scene as we pulled into the parking lot. Another memory.

I won't remember all these memories. Life moves fast--sometimes it's hard to remember what I did a few days ago. But those memories are becoming me--heart and soul layered with the richness of living, whether I can call them to mind or not.

It's really a wonderful world--sitting with a warm breakfast plate and an open Bible, looking out our back window at the chipmunk who likes to sit on our step of a morning. Eating a warm British muffin with jam and then cracking open Psalm 119 for another round of working at getting its words into my mind. Deciding at random to open The Valley of Vision and start the day with a prayer. Sometimes I forget life is wonderful when there are things to stress and wonder at--niggling sins in my own soul that can lead to a cess-pit of naval-gazing. But it is, after all, the remembrance of the small things that helps us stay steady--something a friend's quote on Instagram reminded me of:
Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. ~The Hobbit
 If my heart while writing this post could be summed up in a piece of music (and I am so not the person to draw these sorts of comparisons) it would probably be John Debney's Elephant Waterfall. The frailty--the love--the change--they all ache in a terrible, wonderful way which the music perfectly captures.

So here's to new memories this summer--a cascade of them, found in turning book pages and coffee shop visits--in my first all-girl road trip and maybe, at long last, conquering Psalm 119. In dreaming of the next teaching year. In nights of gladness and tears.

I am eager for more layers in my soul.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

7 Stories:1 Week {what I read and watched on staycation}

do i want to post this expression of me....hmmm....
A couple of weeks ago after selling War of Loyalties at our state homeschool convention, I retreated with a pile of books and movies and the aspiration of taking a staycation. My teaching was finished for the year, I had a couple weeks off another job, and it was time to recharge the batteries. So I read and watched, constantly taking in stories both new and familiar. It felt like a steady stream of good nutrients filling up my mental compost heap--not a firehose of stories crammed in without the time to chew them; just a constant stream of goodness. Here's what I took in.

Little Women
We caught this as it aired on PBS on Sunday night. While I wasn't quite sure after the first episode, I was crying by the third. While I don't think Beth's personality was correctly portrayed, and Laurie's first scenes felt awkward, I loved Meg's sweet face and grew to love Jo's tempestuous and emotional experience of life. The fight scene where Amy burns Jo's book and the way they hurl hurtful words in that scene was a particularly vivid fight--and as an author, I understand the hurt. I loved the scene where John Brooke goes off to war with the girls singing Land of the Leal over the clips. And Episodes 2 and 3 hit me because they capture the bittersweet pain of growing up--a pain our family is experiencing as we all go on life adventures.

Monday morning I curled up on my bed with the Paddington movie, which I had gotten the previous week from the library. I had timed it all carefully so I got it before our busy weekend, especially because the library is closed on Monday--just when I wanted it. There is no greater luxury than watching a movie on a Monday morning. And to be honest, kids' movies are a great choice for vacation, because they're a little less drama than anything schuyler picks   Dickens and whatnot.  Paddington is a bear who comes to London from Darkest Peru and is adopted by the Brown family. In the movie, Mr. Brown is a hyper-vigilant accident analyst played by Hugh Bonneville (who I like to imagine as Peters in WoL.) and Mrs. Brown is Sally Hawkins (2007 Persuasion, 2016 Great Expectations.) The theme of family in this movie, and family defending Paddington from an evil taxidermist curls up in my heart and stays there, along with the perfect actor performances. Sally Hawkins' sweet, adventuresome spirit in contrast with her husband's cautious reserve makes this her best role yet--and Mr. Brown's character arc is simply perfect.

The Promise of Jesse Woods
This book. I am convinced Chris Fabry has a talent for storytelling--weaving memory and personalities, conflict and hurts, nature and travel and the painful growth of the human soul. His book has a dual timeline as a grownup Matt travels home to stop his childhood friend from breaking a promise for the first time--by marrying someone other than him. That might sound cliche, but it's not. Along with that, we have chapters that flashback to the 70s and their experience of becoming friends. This book deals with the church shunning outcasts, with a boy's practical witness of Christian behavior, with baseball, and with the sin of hiding sexual abuse. I'd put it at a definite PG-13--a year ago the heavy themes would have sidelined me, but somehow I was able to take them in this time and appreciate the beauty. If I could describe his writing in one word, it would be craftsmanship. I definitely want to get my hands on a copy. 

Gone Away Lake
I planned to read this book last year. It didn't happen, but this year I picked it up again. My mom would read one of the Gone-Away books out loud every summer, so it was a classic part of our childhood. The lines were so familiar--Julian telling Portia her braces looked like the front end of a Buick. The A.P. Decoction. Baby-Belle Tuckertown. Mrs. Cheever's chocolate cake. ("I believe fudge cakes should be built.") And tons of fun cousin adventures. Not only does this book not have romance and crushes in it, which is a little unique today, but it also represents 11- and 12-year-old kids being best of friends with a senior brother and sister. Books like that are important. They normalize cross-generational friendships and dramatize how fun it is to be outdoors and enjoy stories about the past. I'm reading Return-to-Goneaway right now and loving it even more.

Far From the Madding Crowd 
Actually, this was the only strike-out this week. I started reading the book and didn't get very far, so I thought, "why not? I've always wanted to see the movie, and it's at our library, let's check it out." I watched it, but it wasn't what I was expecting, and when a movie doesn't line up with your expectations, sometimes even the best of stories end up not jiving with you. I think I was expecting Bathsheba Everdeen to be like Ada Claire in Bleak House--sweet and naive instead of a capable farm mistress. Plus, I really, really wanted another *spoilers* Gabriel/Bathsheba riding scene at the end, *end of spoilers* and it wasn't there like I expected it to be--nor was the beautiful quote on this Pinterest pin, I think? It was well done, just different than I thought.

But it's cool to hear British people pronounce Bathsheba because I always pronounced it quite differently.

How to Train Your Dragon 
This was an absolute for sure winner this week. I've listened to the soundtrack several times while writing. I mentioned it in Homeschool Diaries (one of the guardian angels has a weakness for Poptarts and How to Train Your Dragon).

schuyler, that's just weird 

I even had a student turn in a paragraph about HTTYD in a writing class a year ago. So I put that on hold at the library along with Paddington. When I was younger, you couldn't catch me dead watching many animated movies--for some weird reason they offended my cherished sense of dignity. After Inside Out in March, I don't care anymore. They can grab emotions and be just as beautiful, and I've learned my lesson. How to Train Your Dragon has some goofy teenage crush talk/sibling rivalry moments among Hiccup's fellow consorts, but it's an easily skipped element, and the whole theme of Hiccup's journey is so over-all worth it. Hiccup's friendship with the most dangerous dragon known to Vikings is enough to melt your heart. Hiccup isn't a brawny or strong Viking--but as he struggles with his smallness, he learns to use his strengths--his mind and inventive abilities--and finds satisfaction in that. And Toothless is the absolutely cutest, melt-your-heart buddy on the planet. I don't know how I'd pick a favorite between them. Toothless basically has a kitten heart in a dragon's body, and if that's not a recipe for success, I don't know what is.

Mirriam Neal summed up several aspects of my and sis's opinion of Solo. Sis and I had so much fun going to see it with our dad on his birthday, and man, that villain's double-bladed red knife was cool in the climax. But as far as canon goes, I think it would have worked better as a film with independent characters. Let's face it: seeing him with a girlfriend besides Leia sort of tastes sour at first. Also, I am concerned that Star Wars is staying too angsty, and I'm normally someone who likes angst. I feel like Rogue One and Solo are changing the flavor to a bleaker tone. In Rogue One the angst was very appropriate, and The Last Jedi was awesome, but Solo didn't hit the right notes for me. Give me some scenery with color. Give me some joy-ride adventure. Would I watch it again, though? Yeah. I always like to see a movie twice to get a good feel for it, and even if it's not quite Han, I don't mind having it in the collection. I think people who grew up with a deep love for Han might not like his representation, though.

Out of seven stories I experienced that week, five of them were new, and four of them were fun. Three were home runs. There was an eighth story I can't talk about yet, but that was super fun too--and you know, just a week of listening to The Greatest Showman and wearing my TinyKittens t-shirt and having nothing going was one of the best things ever. Soul-restoring. Mind-renewing.

I count that a pretty successful staycation. Even if I did accidentally put our mail on hold for a few days. ;)

Do you love any of these stories? Or hate them? Flail or wail with me in the comments! ;)

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Camp NaNo Snippets {containing War of Loyalties sequel quotes}

via Pixabay
Guys--we just hit ten reviews on War of Loyalties! And so, it's time to unveil the first sneak-peek at book two. These are a smattering conglomeration of snippets from editing the sequel for War of Loyalties in April. I edited 50,000 words and could not touch it again after for a few weeks (not good timing, but we're getting there.) After catching a fresh wind, I'm back at it it is a joy to share some of the first labors with you. Not all snippets are guaranteed to appear in the final draft. Also, if you haven't read book one, some specific characters are mentioned here, so you may want to avoid spoilers!  Tell me your favorites below?

“Got any food, mister?” the boy asked hopefully.
Nathan glanced up. Brown curly hair and brown eyes flashed through the halls of painful memory.  A stab of pity went through him. “I wish I did.”
“Got any money, mister?” the boy asked, even more hopefully.
Nathan’s hand went instinctively to the euros in his pocket. There weren’t very many of them.
“Got a good reason to use it?” he asked.
“Well, it’s that or pinch something. Wolf doesn’t mind pinching.”


“I’ve agreed to this whole idea of fatherhood. But I’m not about to take on the fatherhood of the human race. Jaeryn Graham can look after himself.”


“I thought you were finally able to say no when you needed to.”
“I said no to you.”
“I’m not the person you should be saying no to.”


If you were alive, mother, your worry would be a terrible weight to bear. I hope Heaven has no window to earth tonight.


“Who’s Webster?”
Evesham shook his head. “Absolutely confidential. Webster is preparing to drop behind enemy lines for the 1919 offensive. I want that identity protected.”
“But the war won’t last that long, will it?”
Evesham’s face looked a bit strained in the bright morning sunshine. “The Americans continue to stall and France is fraying at the edges. We barely have enough manpower when the weather turns.”
“Don’t waste what you have, then,” Jaeryn said dryly.


Then the door opened.
The chat continued. The quiet thunk of glasses carried on. Jaeryn looked up and locked eyes with Fenton crossing the threshold of the bar room. He glanced down at his watch. The hands pointed to eight precisely. His face froze into rigid lines as Fenton wove through the tables and took a seat across from him.


You’re sending him to get killed. 
I never promised you safety in this job. Just better ethics. 
Please want to grow old with me.
Dark pressed in.
If we lose the notebook, we will lose everything.


“Gina, isn’t it? I haven’t seen you since the Gavin Lewis business. What happened to the poor little innocents in Nottingham?”
The shoulders under the deep red dress stiffened. She turned around, revealing the same brunette curls and crimson lips he had remembered. He flexed his fingers, and something cold teased at the center of his chest. Cold and hurting and very much unforgotten.


“I don’t like the idea of a kid being mixed up in this business.” Terry brought his boots down to the floor with a bang and pushed his chair back. “Child leaders and angels make for a strange business if you ask me.”


“We’d heard his son was coming months ago with inside British connections, but when no son came, we thought you were dead. And behold, you are here. Just when we were praying for you. Just when we needed you.”


He got out and let her slip past him, a lithe little figure in the slim-waisted dress. Gina looked back. “Good night, you old scoundrel.” She laughed over her shoulder and ran up the steps.


Vital delivery interception. 12am. Fatal methods forbidden. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Of Reading Minds and Dark Forests

I sat in the car in the middle of Texas city traffic, glued to a story of terrible intensity.

Not driving, thankfully.

It was a new trilogy; the story of Willet Dura, a reeve who investigated murders for the king. Burdened with a vault inside his mind, Willet Dura remembers spending a night in the Darkwater Forest when he fought in the war. But he can't remember what happened, or anything about the evil that dwells there. The Darkwater leaves a vault of evil inside the mind of every man who enters it—turning them into murderers when the vaults open after sunset. Normally people with vaults are destroyed, their minds shattered because of the unknown evil inside them. But Willet can't be destroyed yet--because, along with a handful of other people in the land, he has the gift of domere--reading people's minds.

This story led on some pretty intense curves. Book 1 I barely made it through, it was so intense (but I’ve since come to love it and read it again.) Book Two I had to ask for an extension on because a poor character endured so much, and like the terrible villain of reading ahead that I am, I knew before it happened and was crushed by the anticipation. That doesn’t sound like a recommendation, but Patrick Carr is honestly my favorite fantasy author of the 21st century. I was so excited to read the ultimate climax of the Darkwater in book 3, and it flipped any theories I had on their head. And no, I didn’t read the climax ahead of time. ;)

Echoing the thoughts in another review on Goodreads, I love how Carr’s characters have to face so much vulnerability about their own flaws—both Erroll (Staff and Sword trilogy) and Willet (Darkwater Saga) have serious things wrong with them—but they’re willing to seize hold on the adventure that comes anyway. Willet is a man of sarcasm. Of a recklessness that I can relate to. (“I’m tired of overthinking, let’s just take this jump and see if it works.”) He’s seen more than Carr’s other MC Errol has, but still has a heart of compassion in spite of the hard murders and gritty evil he’s had to face. He is broken by pain, but not brittle. And man, I just love hanging out with him. He’s a comrade. A guy whose loyalty you can count on. Someone you want to protect. And in spite of being broken, he isn’t an emotional wreck. He’s still in many ways a normal, emotionally stable guy that can honor his king and fight for good. He has the best of wholeness and brokenness entwined. And his friend, Bolt? Best crusty, sarcastic sidekick on planet earth.

Book 3 had some big questions to answer. And for the most part, it delivered a terrifically fun adventure that I devoured in a week. The backstory took me a bit to adjust to, because it felt even more fantasy and slightly Silmarillion-esque than the rest of the series. Some of Willet’s relationship with Gael in book 2 felt like an Anakin and Padme misstep. I think it got better in book 3 when they had some key big adventures to go on together. There was one moment in the climax where I would have loved to have seen the aftereffects be slightly more intense, even if just for a scene or two. Honestly, they’re small quibbles. I loved it. I wanted to love it. The Wounded Shadow did a fantastic job of wrapping up a lot—and Patrick Carr puts a lot in his books. I couldn’t have asked for more from the conclusion.

I liked the unanswered questions too. The ungiven endings. Maybe it’s making room for a future series (and I’d sign up to return to the Darkwater any time) but I think it also illustrates a reality. Like Gandalf says in Lord of the Rings, we fight the evil in our generation, and our children will have to fight too. This book illustrates that quote really well. The Wounded Shadow also illustrates the importance of taking the time to love, no matter how much time is given you. Love well. Love now. Don’t wait. While that surprised me, I liked the conclusion that Carr drew.

One of the themes in both of Carr’s series is the religious leadership learning that it has done wrong because of centuries of misunderstanding. It makes me think of the reactions the Pharisees had when Jesus came. They wanted to follow God, but when Christ arrived, they didn’t understand the signs because they had a broken way of doing things. Just to clarify, this story isn’t meant to be an allegory of that. But drawing the parallel is interesting. Like them, the Vigil had the right heart, but sometimes misunderstood the application. Carr’s characters have to face the fact that they have sinned and taken blood unnecessarily. They have to face past memories and a new way of working together. Eileen’s plot especially illustrates the religious elite re-learning truth in a beautiful way.

If you’re looking for a parent guide, some of the elements might be a bit PG for younger readers (Willet and his band have to go to a big city where immodesty is rampant and marriage is held extremely lightly). Carr did extremely well building new cultures even in book three, and the city didn’t bother me particularly.

So in conclusion? The Darkwater conclusion had one more round with characters I loved and enough drama to fully satisfy as a climax. I enjoyed that midnight chase in Cynestol. The scenes in the besieged Treflow. The interactions of flawed characters making choices to heal or break. Ealdor’s revelations. Bolt’s moment of sacrifice. Mark’s beautiful heart for redemption. It’s a series I definitely want to read again, and I can’t wait to see what comes next from this author.

This book was provided by the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own. Positive opinions were not required.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Meet the Author Behind Crowning Heaven {and join the giveaway!}

Ten and three-quarter years ago (yes, I just calculated) a girl sat down next to me at a conference-- "a chance meeting as we say in Middle Earth." Since then, we have both graduated highschool, attended conferences together, shared countless hours of conversations, and dreamed of holding our own published books in our hands.

It was Emily, first, who taught me to write with heart, simply by watching her write her own stories. She lived and loved them, and I had not been able to look at her style and imitate some key steps at the beginning of my journey, I would never be where I am today. If she had not asked me to read one of her stories, and a couple of years later, said yes to reading one of mine...but she did.

And today, Emily is bursting on the world with her novel debut: a YA planetary fantasy, Crowning Heaven, crafted with heart and love and vision. It's a story of rival queens, of kindness and danger, of courage and responsibility...of a girl named Heaven, loved by one kingdom who wants to crown her and pursued by another kingdom who wants to kill her.

It's a joy to interview Emily on the blog today.  (And stay tuned for a giveaway below!)

via Goodreads
What got you into story writing in general, and what made you pick Crowning Heaven for your first project in particular? 

I got into story writing because I told stories for years, really ever since I can remember. I hit probably twelve or thirteen and I started writing some in documents on the computer. It was just kind of a natural progression. Oddly, I would boil it down to two things. I love people, and I was scared of things as a child. All the stories I ever made up as a kid were about people in dangerous situations doing brave things. I think for me, telling stories was a way to deal with things I didn't know to deal with any other way. And then I am so inspired by people and find different personalities fascinating, that once I started making up characters I found I couldn't stop. As for Crowning Heaven, I just knew. I had been working on a heavy historical fiction project for a while that I was intending to publish first, and then Crowning Heaven came out of nowhere and swept me off my feet. There are those projects that come and take over all on their own and this was certainly one of them.

I love how storytelling brings bravery and courage. That is so inspiring. What are some themes and character personalities close to your heart in Crowning Heaven?

Man, there are so many. Heaven dealing with death and loss, for one. I feel (though she had a far sadder upbringing) that I can relate on that level--being tender-hearted and loving people and trying to with wrestle death and who lives and dies, often when there seems to be no reason. I also love the themes of hope and finding beauty in the midst of darkness or being kind or doing the right thing regardless of what anyone else is doing. As for characters, I have always been fond of Thrasi. I don't think we are much alike but I so respect his reserve and his sense of honor. Of course, there's Heaven, and both Breac and Nic are just the sort of people who I would have admired growing up. And Swithun Flood. He has a very special place in my heart. He above anyone else I think I would respect in real life. I don't know. I want to say them all.

You have such a gift for writing heroes. I always love the integrity you capture in your characters. Are there any authors or art pieces that inspired you in writing this story?

Many. With authors (this is going to be a weird mix) it was probably Rosemary Sutcliff, Kathryn Worth, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Eloise Jarvis McGraw, and Armstrong Sperry among many, many others. I tend to read voraciously and then inspiration sort of filters down and I don't even realize who has inspired me. With this project actually, I had a few specific films that inspired me: Thor, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and all three Hobbit films. Coming off of watching them flavored and inspired the direction of this book. And then a particular piece of music: Homecoming by Thomas Bergersen. I heard it at a very formative stage in the book's development and it has been my faithful companion ever since. It encapsulates the whole impression of the book. For drawn art, check out my Pinterest board. All that's on there.

Very cool! I love the mix of things you drew from in your creative well. OK, so what have you enjoyed most about this publishing journey so far?

Getting to share my book with people. Seeing them fall in love with the characters that I am so madly in love with. That's it right there.

Yes!! Do you have a favorite way to celebrate on launch day? Movies? Tasty goodies?

As this is sort of my first time, I will see if I perfect my launch day celebration, but here's what I decided on the other day that I think might be my ultimate favorite: a nice cake, something sparkly, and a beloved film, preferably one that helped inspire my book. Oh, and writing again. I miss my first drafts!

Aww, this sounds perfect! Just the thing. If you could be a character in your book for a day, who would you pick and what would you do?

This is way harder than I thought it would be. Maybe Jani, because Jani always finds a way to have fun. If I was Jani I would go sneak back to Earth and buy myself pizza and a milkshake. But I guess I could do that anyway.... Tell you what, I would want to be Athen, and I would want to go up to the fast-running rivers in the north and go fishing for the great fish that spawn every year.

Jani's such a fun friend. I would totally want to do that too. OK, so last question: how do you feel that Crowning Heaven adds an important voice to the YA genre, and what message would you like to send with it?

The YA genre is in general very dark right now. Teens and others around that age are finding that the world can be an unfriendly and evil place and the genre is reflecting that struggle. I feel like Crowning Heaven is important right now especially because it takes real issues and it deals with them, yet without exposing the reader to content that is harsh or explicit, and while inspiring courage and hope. Many books that try to tackle hard issues can leave you feeling dark or discouraged and I think they do you a disservice because that actually is only half the picture. Because there is a God, there is hope. And that is what I strive for in my writing, to instill hope, to inspire courage, to show the beauty that exists around us, all while telling a good story. A good book should not primarily be about an argument or propaganda, but about telling a good story. And I think YA is in need of good stories right now.

Thank you so much for doing this Q&A! It's a joy to have you on the blog and celebrate your FIRST BOOK RELEASE!

Oh, it was my honor. Thank you for having me! 

If you'd like to purchase Crowning Heaven-- 

who are we kidding Schuyler, GIVE ME THE LINK 

then you can head straight to Amazon for Kindle or Paperback

Enter the Giveaway

Comment below for your chance to
 win a Crowning Heaven themed 
candle and art print! 

Giveaway open until 5/22. International participants are welcome! 

Meet the Author 

As long as she can remember, Emily Hayse has been avidly in love with story, a love that has only grown with time. A fascination with human nature and an ongoing quest for courage, hope, and beauty drive her writing passion.

When she isn’t writing, she can be found working with dogs or horses, studying historical tall ships, or trying a new recipe in the kitchen. Her hobbies include learning Maori and Gaelic, playing the bodhran, and trying to restore a classic car.

You can connect with her on her website,, check her out on Goodreads, and follow her on Twitter

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A Million Dreams {the greatest showman}

via Pixabay
I fell irrevocably in love with The Greatest Showman soundtrack on a Saturday morning.

I had been wrestling with the second draft of War of Honor. All the best scenes in the first draft were melancholic bittersweet, and you just can't write a melancholic bittersweet book that you'd like readers to read a second time. There was something missing--too much sadness.

don't be scared, it's all going to be ok. well, maybe not all

Then I flipped on "A Million Dreams."

I'd already listened to it--in company with Tightrope and Rewrite the Stars--several times. But that Saturday morning, curled up in our fluffy red recliner, I put the soundtrack on repeat--and the outline for Folkestone Files 2 flew out of my fingers as fast as I could type. It was more balanced. More fun. It was the missing piece. It made me feel like this was the story that would match up to book one--the book I loved so much.

When you find a piece of music that unlocks the words in your brain, you put that baby on repeat and you keep it on repeat.

The Greatest Music 
Eventually, I branched out of those three songs into the entire soundtrack--a kaleidoscope of feisty circus music and contemplative longings. It's far from typical musical fare. Channelling a more contemporary sound, the lyrics pump your imagination with adrenaline and the emotions of the human experience.

After that, I saw the behind-the-scenes videos on Facebook. As a creative, the deep dreaming inside of me reached out to the years of dreaming that had put this movie together--a love so great that they kept the project in mind until all the right pieces fell in place. That awesome electric moment cannot be beaten--when Hugh Jackman got so excited in rehearsals that he just had to sing, even though he had eighty stitches in his nose from a recent surgery. I watched it over and over, as a matter of fact. I kind of wanted to see the movie. The longing grew until finally a friend texted me and said "we just got the DVD, do you want to come?"

Yeah, girl!

Sis and I set out on a bright Friday morning drive in company with The Afters. We smiled the whole way home. It was a thing of beauty. Of joy. Of fiery colors and beautiful screenwriting and incredible talent. Watching the scenes along with the music this time created so. much. gladness. The movie branched into the realm of dreams bigger than life

...a huge, gorgeous moon backdrop

...dancing on the parapet of a city apartment building

...that awesome slo-mo movement of P.T. Barnum throwing on his red Ringmaster coat for the first time--desperate for this new venture to work after all the risks he's taken.

He's an absolute swindler, but he knows how to swindle out smiles all along the way.

The Greatest Character Arcs
I've watched TGS three times now, processing the story of P T. Barnum starting his circus with the rich, young Phillip Carlisle. As the movie tackles present-day conversations about racism and diversity, it follows the Barnum as he creates a joyful hoax that captures the middle classes and alienates the press, until ever so gradually, he starts to swindle himself. By the third viewing, I had so much fun noticing the character arcs in even more detail.

Barnum starts with small swindles--making a tall man a little taller; a fat man a little fatter; changing a giant's nationality. But after being needled by his daughter's rejection from her rich friends, Barnham starts his downward spiral. When his troop meets Queen Victoria, Barnum and Carlisle have coattails while the rest of his people are in their costumes. He shrugs it off when the bearded lady questions him about it. His second downward step starts when he seizes the chance to bolster up his pride. When he invites the famous singer, Jenny Lind, to tour the US, he stops the hoodwinking and starts the fraud in earnest. The next time Barnum steps on the stage, he deliberately lies to the audience--and the glow of support we've seen so far on his wife and daughter's faces stills to frozen expressions. It's a subtle but powerful moment.

As he starts gaining the hearts of all the classes, no one is his master. Not even the nearest people who should be able to require accountability. Barnum deconstructs until he faces the last swindle of all--cheating on the wife he loves best. (This plot was handled really well.) In the climax that follows, his worst fears come true in a few scenes of solidly written and redemptive story screenwriting that still leaving you loving and rooting for him to find a happy ending.

In contrast, Phillip Carlisle has a positive character arc--starting as a half-drunk rich playwright without ambition. After a rollicking, swindling deal with Barnum (semi-cool for the rhythm and semi-uncomfortable because of all the alcohol) he throws in his lot with the circus. While Barnum starts shunning the circus freaks to feed his pride, Phillip starts embracing their identity. He refuses to accept an audience with the queen without them. When Barnham shrugs the circus freaks aside at Jenny Lind's concert, Phillip stays with them in the standing room section. And while he stumbles with Anne when his parents catch sight of them, he later makes it up to her. With the circus freaks, he recognizes the love and genuineness he's been missing, culminating in a willingness to sacrifice his own gains on their behalf.

The Greatest Inspiration 
While that just might have gone deep, my two favorite things about the movie are the theme and the joy. The theme of pride leads to self-deceit and self-praise which wounds those nearest and dearest to us. It was woven through the script and acted out with subtle artistry, shown without being told. Pride hurts--it exchanges valued people for the sham of accolades, trades the best you can be for the worst you can be--and ultimately leads to the burning of your empire in a painful grace. In the scene where Barnum's wife stands looking out to sea, a deep well of hurt hidden under her thoughtful expression, you see a woman who has forgiven much--and is big enough to forgive again.

But while this theme goes deep, I honestly didn't think about most of that until the third showing. The first two times I watched it, I loved it just for its own sake. (And I really love it most for the happiness it contains.) The story itself is a pageantry of color and imagination, perfect for a Friday movie night. It moves fast, showing the sheer joy of creative imagination, colorful costumes, skillful acrobats, and sweet romance. And the soundtrack, which kept me company all the way to the last night of Camp NaNoWriMo, gave me a missing ingredient to a story that was way too melancholic and a character whose passion I wanted to honor.

jaeryn, who else could we be talking about 

While I could be a lot more comfortable with a lot more fabric on the bearded lady's circus costume, this circus tale provides a happy ending in a world of drama and angst. I love the drama and angst as much as anyone, but sometimes--many times--the world needs a reminder of happiness. And P.T. Barnum, in his glorious, larger-than-life world, gives us just that.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...