Writerly Musings

Over the last few days I’ve spent a lot of time editing. Well, in reality I’ve spent a lot of time accepting or rejecting the edits that a beta reader made for When Life Hands You Lymes
As I work, I’ve discovered something funny: When the beta reader suggests a change for a scene that has been written during one of the last five drafts, I’m very likely to be like “Oh wow, that makes sense” and push accept. On the other hand, when he suggests a change for a scene that was written during the first ten drafts, then it’s much harder. It’s literally more difficult at times for me to be okay with changing one word of an older draft scene, than to delete an entire paragraph in one of the newer scenes. 
I think it’s safe to say that I get pretty attached to my characters, settings, and even word choices after I’ve worked with them for a while. I get to the point where I begin talking and thinking about the characters as if they’re real people. For instance, I’ll be shopping and will think, “Oh, Maddie would like to have that in her room” or “This is just the way Katie likes her coffee.” In reality, it shouldn’t be surprising, because I’ve literally spent thousands of hours with the characters during the last 33 months. (Which is more time than I’ve spent with any other people, except for my family, during the same time period.) Besides, I know that in order to make my characters come alive to the reader, they have to come alive to me. 

One thing that always makes me happy is when other people discuss my characters with me, as if they’re real. I have a handful of beta readers and friends who make little comments about what Maddie would like, or how Darrick totally did the right thing, and that makes my little writer’s heart extremely content.

There are some people out there who declare that their characters have a mind of their own, and the writer isn’t in control of anything that happens, and while I don’t agree with that, they do have a point.  After an author has worked for a long time to develop a character, then it is almost as if the character starts taking over. To explain the concept better, imagine your best friend. In all likelihood, you can predict how she would react to certain situations, and it wouldn’t work out too well if you’d try and make her react in a different way, just because you thought your way was better.

My characters react certain ways in certain situations, because that’s who they are. And, since I didn’t know the characters as well back when I was writing the plot, then sometimes the plot is totally outdated and needs help, because hey, the character isn’t going to step out of character just to make the plot work better. So when that happens, it sorta does feel like the characters have minds of their own.

And now I’m off to edit again. I hope y’all have a fantastic and victorious day!

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What about you? Have you ever caught yourself thinking about a character (in a book you’ve written or read), as if they’re real? 

To-Do Lists, Monday Mornings, and Happiness.

A delightful “Happy Monday!” to y’all. This busy week dawned for me after a restless night where I kept waking up, checking the clock, and willing the morning to arrive so I could start on my mile-long list of things to do. 
I’m not even quite sure how I’ll be able to organize my time to fit everything in this week that I need to accomplish…but it should be a fun challenge. I have work to do for my non-writing job, a non-fiction book to read for review, City of Outcasts to finish (or nearly finish, anyway). I have a book I’m beta reading for a friend, short stories to write, my office to straighten (again), grass to cut, buuutttt…What I’m most excited about this week is that on Saturday I got the 15th draft of When Life Hands You Lymes back from a beta reader. So yay!
This is the most thorough going-over I’ve ever had from a beta reader. And that’s a good thing. There is only so much one person (aka me) can do to polish up a story. And, after 15 drafts and multiple rounds of beta reading, the book still had a far piece to travel.

Saturday afternoon, as soon as I got back from my non-writing job, I dove into reading through the comments the beta reader had made. I responded to quite a few of them, and gauged my reaction on the rest. That process alone took several hours. (Happy hours, I might add, because I was getting to work on WLHYL again!)

I had to take breaks to finish reading and reviewing a book, write 1,000 words on City of Outcasts, and send a few emails, but other then that I worked on the edits until midnight arrived, signaling the end of my work week.

Yesterday was brimming full with going to church, helping out with Sunday School, and then working in the nursery during the second service. I attended a baby shower after that, and the rest of the afternoon was bursting with a conglomeration of events (blessedly it also hosted a nap). It was a few minutes before 10:30 when I happily fell into bed, ready to peacefully sleep the night away. Only, by then my brain was like “Ah-ha! A new week is just around the corner, so let’s start thinking full-speed, cause guess what? You’ve got the16th draft of WLHYL to work through!” Needless to say, I’m happy that Monday has now arrived.

I hope y’all are as excited about this week as I am, and if you have any tips on how I can manage my time better, I’d be delighted to hear them. And now I’m off to beta read, so I can then dive back into editing. 

Echoes: Countryside Edition

Since I’ve been posting so much about my Echoes series recently, I figured I could continue the tradition. This time, though, I’m going to post some pictures from my Pinterest boards, so y’all can get a better view of what the world of Kios looks like. Today I’m posting the “Countryside Edition.” 
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Kios is an extremely beautiful land with lots of green hillsides, rock fences, plunging waterfalls, and ancient, towering trees. The land is also bordered on one side by The Forest – a forest so vast that no one in written history has journeyed all the way through it. (The Forest will get a post of it’s own, someday, hopefully.)

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Because of their superstitious practice of banishing echoes (twins) to the City of Outcasts, declaring them not fully human, Kioskins have been considered barbaric for many years. Nevertheless, they still had many advances in their country that other lands could not boast. For one thing, their architect was superb.

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Eventually the Kioskins rose to equal standing with their neighbors, due greatly to the influences of Queen Lena, the political wife of King Dalan, and a native of Turglar, a bordering country. Their skill with fabrics and cloth-making also set them up for a coveted place in the region’s trading fairs.

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 Although the countryside is idyllic and the people laid back, there is a strong emphasis on hard work and continuing to grow Kios to the best it can be. Most of the country adheres to national pride and is throughly loyal to King Dalan. 
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Princesses Nicolette and Raquel spent most of their early years within the walls of the palace. They were astounded and delighted at the glories of the countryside when they ventured far away from the cities for the first time.

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With a somewhat rainy climate, Kios has all four seasons, and rivers, mountains, hillsides, and trees aplenty. Filled with fascinating natural formations, like the tree-tunnel pictured near the beginning of the post, caves, and hot springs, Kios is a land filled with wonders and beauty. 
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And there you have it, folks. Another glimpse into the world of Nicolette and Raquel, the princesses who masquerade as Princess Rylie. I hope y’all enjoyed getting to see a little bit more of their world. Writing City of Outcasts has been going slowly, but steadily, with me breaking the 40,000 word mark last night. I’m looking forward to (hopefully) finishing the first draft sometime in September. 

Does Kios look like a beautiful country to you? Which of the pictures would y’all climb into and live there for a day if you could? 

"City of Outcasts" Snippets

Each night I sit down and write at least a thousand words on my WIP, City of Outcasts. I’m almost two weeks into the project, and it’s nearly enough to make me dance little jigs of joy (although not quite.)

Princesses and castles and feasts mixed with plots and kidnappings and girls proficient with throwing knives make up such a wonderful story. (Don’t worry – the book really isn’t violent, even if it might sound like it is from that description.) Plus, being back to writing after so much editing? Yayness! So, today, I’m sharing a couple of snippets with y’all.

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First off is a little snippet where Nicolette (masquerading as Princess Rylie), meets another set of echoes, Esther and Hadassa (who are twelve). She’s surprised when she finds out that they aren’t identical, and don’t even look like each other.

“Well, are you going to stand there staring at us?” Esther folded her arms across her chest. “I wrongly supposed that Princess Rylie would have more manners than you seem to possess.” 

Throwing my head back, I laughed. “You’re quite the handful, are you not?” I sat down on a settee and patted the cushion next to me, offering them a seat. “Tis so that I was not being polite, but calling a princess out on her manners is far more disrespectful than staring.” 

“I apologize.” Esther dipped her head for a brief moment, then darted her gaze back up to me. “Though, I must say, I would be quite fine with dispensing of all the courtly manners and behaving as friends, if that suited you.” 

“The leniency provided for you here in Agape is shocking.” For a moment I was at a loss of how to respond. Never had anyone out of the Inner Chamber Family treated me so, and although I found it amusing, I wasn’t sure if I could condone such behavior with a clear conscious. 

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In this segment, Raquel is conversing with her kidnappers after convincing them that she’s in truth not Princess Rylie. They’re riding through the forest, and Raquel has relative freedom now.

“My apologies.” Thurston looked sincere. “If it be your pleasure to converse with him,” he threw a gesture over his shoulder at his son, “then so be it. I merely was trying to help you out of boredom.” 

“Nay, it wasn’t boring.” I sat straighter in the saddle. “He informed me that Dreyden was against you kidnapping Princess Rylie.” 

“Tis truth to be sure.” Thurston’s laughter was robust and echoed around us. “Where is the boy anyway?” 

“He rode off in a huff, papa.” Titus leaned forward, as if eager to join the conversation again.

Now that I realized Thurston truly wasn’t trying to hide the information from me, I was slightly thankful for his interruption to Titus’s annoyingly unsavory manners. Not that the man himself was much better. 

“He’s got airs, that boy.” Thurston shook his head. “Living with the nobles has ruined him, seems.” 

“Nobles are ruined?” 

“Nay,” Thurston laughed again. “Just some of them like King Dalan. Thinking he can control the people by force and treat them with ill.” 

“Tell me more.” I smiled. “After all, I’ve been around nobles all my life. I am a noble.” 

“Tis so, tis so.” Thurston looked me up and down for a minute, as if fascinated by the mess I had made of my appearance. “You look a tad bit royal even in those rags. It must be the way you carry yourself.” 

“Do you have something against Princess Rylie?” I asked. I had been curious ever since Dreyden had declared me not to be Princess Rylie what they really thought about her. 

“Ach, no.” Thurston and Titus answered the question in unison. 

“No?” 

“Of course not. Everyone sings her praises.” Thurston gestured at me again. “That’s one way I knew you weren’t her after you and Dreyden both declared it. See, Princess Rylie is a sweet thing. That’s what everyone says. Sweet. Cares for her people. Has the love of the God of the Path Book in her life. You were such a fussy brat it only figured that I’d nabbed the wrong girl.” 

“Oh?” I felt my heart sink.

And there you have it, folks. A bit of what I’ve been working on recently. I hope you enjoyed these snippets. Thanks for letting me share the growth of City of Outcasts with y’all.  

Writing Buddy

I call her my little cupcake. And my blogging buddy. And my writing buddy. Her real name is Hosanna, but she rarely gets called that by me. (We won’t go into the dozens of other nicknames I have for her.) 
We grew up on opposite sides of the world, which was perfect because that meant she was awake during my late-night writing sessions, and we therefore chatted immense amounts. I went and visited her family for a month several years ago, and when I was there she would lean over my shoulder and read my story as I wrote. Since then I’ve sent her nearly everything I’ve written, only to have her gobble it down crazily-fast. Hosanna’s the only person I know who can out read me, so I’m always trying to think of books to recommend to her. (Or stories to write for her to read.) 
I call her my writing buddy because, not only does she read my stories as I write them, but she also lets me discuss all my new writing developments with her. It’s incredibly fun to bounce ideas off of her, and hear what she has to say about plot twists. (It’s also possible that I taunt her by threatening bad things to happen to certain characters, but I’m not admitting to anything.) 
Hosanna has not only read more drafts of WLHYL than anyone else (besides me), but she’s also enthusiastically reads a lot of the feedback I’ve received from beta readers, and then gives me her opinions on their opinions. In fact, it’s not unusual for me to copy and paste large amounts of feedback emails in chats to her and then demand (kindly) to hear what she does and doesn’t agree with. I also sometimes send her my responses and make sure that I’ve worded everything nicely when I’m replying to an email that I didn’t really appreciate. 
I’m often times baffled by how much Hosanna truly likes my writing. She’s forever encouraging me to keep going, and commanding me to write more. It’s seriously an honor to have someone who can read so many of the words that come out of my imagination and still want more. It’s also sometimes amusing to me, because even though she’s a dedicated bookworm, and happily listens to all of my plot and writerly talk, Hosanna doesn’t write. (Like, no stories at all. I should know. There was a time “way back when” when I was supposed to do some creative writing classes with her and a couple other people. Let’s just say it was not pretty.) 

I call her my blogging buddy because nearly every time I sit down to blog she and I start chatting and she keeps me company as I make loud laments when a blog post isn’t coming together. I also sometimes send her parts of the post and ask if it sounds okay and makes sense. Hosanna is also generally the first one to “plus-one” the post on Google+ each day, which always makes me happy. Her excitement for my writing is incredibly inspiring.

I call her my cupcake because cupcakes make me happy and Hosanna makes me happy, so it’s quite natural. Plus, it’s fun choosing a new flavor to call her each day. (Like, for instance, today she’s black cherry with cream cheese frosting and a beautiful fresh cherry on top.)

Hosanna has spent this last week with me which has been marvelous and a lot of fun (especially since she’s spent the last year on the other side of the world). I’m quite thankful to have such a staunch supporter of my writing, especially one who seems to never tire of talking about books and writing.

Hosanna, you are a fantastically amazing friend and I’m very thankful for you. (And the fact that I can be so crazy around you.) Thanks for being so enthusiastic and encouraging! 

Inner Chamber Family – Raquel and Nicolette {Part 2}

A happy cloudy, laid-back, and yet chaotic Wednesday morning to y’all. (Yes, a day can be both laid-back and chaotic, trust me.) For the last week I’ve written nearly 7,500 words on City of Outcasts and am pleased with how the story is progressing. Last November I had written 20,000-some thousand words, which means I’m over the half-way-done-with-the-first-draft mark. Yay!

Since I only got around to posting about Raquel yesterday, today I’m posting about Nicolette. Of course she has the same physical attributes as Raquel, but she isn’t quite as muscular, a fact that is easily hidden by the fancy and flowing gowns they wear.

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Nicolette – Calm and collected, Nicolette finds it easy to stay on task and focus on getting a project done. Although not nearly as competitive as Raquel is when it comes to physical activities, she strives to learn the laws of Kios better than even her father, and can keep up with anyone while playing board games.

With a serious nature and a sweet disposition, Nicolette is known for forgiving quickly and not holding one’s faults against them. She studies the Path Book daily and strives to always act upon the lessons she learns. Her willingness to give others the benefit of the doubt quickly fades when one of her Inner Chamber Family members are in danger, but that’s because she’s fiercely loyal.

Nicolette’s sass isn’t nearly as strong as Raquel’s, but her wit is quite equal and they enjoy word sparring from time to time. At times she even tricks Keagan into an argument simply for the sake of entertainment. Her logical is generally flawless and she enjoys asserting her superior vocabulary when visiting males doubt her ability to rule because she’s a princess instead of a prince.

While willing to do nearly anything to keep the peace with those closest to her, Nicolette also has a strong set of values and is loath to stray from the path she’s set for herself. Despite the fact that her father hates Echoes, Nicolette still loves him strongly and prays for him daily.

With a keen sense of humor, Nicolette faces the world and finds joy in most situations. Her laughter brightens the lives of everyone around her, and her facial expressions often send the Inner Chamber Family into spasms of laughter.

There is nothing that raises Nicolette’s ire faster than hearing disrespect for echoes. Her passion in life is to see her father love her and Raquel as echoes, and see the kingdom united and unbiased under their joint-ruling.

Loved by everyone, and respected by those who she passionately adheres to, Nicolette is trustworthy, fair, and not to be trifled with. 

Inner Chamber Family – Raquel and Nicolette {Part 1}

Last Thursday I posted a little blurb about each of the members of the Inner Chamber Family from my book except for the identical princesses. Today, I’m going to give y’all some insider insights to who Nicolette and Raquel, aka Princess Rylie, are.

First of all, they’re identical echoes (twins), who go by the name “Princess Rylie” in public. They’re sixteen winters, tall, willowy, and have light blonde hair, dark brown eyes, and a sprinkling of freckles on their faces. Despite being identical in looks, they’re quite different when it comes to personalities.

The birth order was purposely not kept track of so that they would grow up co-ruling. No one besides the rest of the “Inner Chamber Family” knows that Princess Rylie is actually two girls, so we’ll go ahead and talk about Princess Rylie’s personality, too.

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Raquel – Competitive almost to a fault, Raquel will work endless hours to master a skill, be it javelin throwing or the proper etiquette for receiving a visiting dignitary. Although book learning isn’t her favorite, she pours over her lessons until she knows them inside and out, refusing to ever miss the answer to a question. 
With a quick wit and sharp tongue, her attitude is often taken as being sassy and she constantly has to check her impulses while masquerading as Princess Rylie. Keagan is her chief target of choice when she’s in a word-dueling mood, and she’s endlessly thankful for all he puts up with from her, although she doesn’t express her gratitude overly often. 
As a born leader, Raquel is completely comfortable with handing out orders and taking charge in any situation. She prides herself on her cool and collected manner in which she handles even the most stressful of moments. 
Her chief delight is being coached by Keagan in the training studio, where she’s learned knife throwing, sword play, javelin throwing, archery, and all other manner of dangerous activities. She’s also been trained for hand-to-hand combat, should that ever be an issue, and knows where different nerves and pressure points are located, a knowledge which she takes great joy in. 
Ignoring the words from the Path Book, Raquel has allowed bitterness regarding the king’s hatred over echoes to seep into her soul and stain her whole life. Determined one day pay him back, Raquel loses no love in the mock relationship, and is quick to remind Nicolette of the king’s many downfalls. 
Although unhappy at the king, Raquel does grudgingly admit to his skillful hand at ruling, and applauds him for it. Her steadfast goals in life are to free the echoes and make the equals, while helping Kios rise even further in the world, providing a safe and stable environment for the next generation of Kioskians. 

And… It’s actually time for me to head to my other job, so I guess I’ll have to post about Nicolette and Princess Rylie at another time.