Abbie’s Early Writing Tag (=Rambling about Embarrassing Things)

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Hello there!

Today I have something slightly different to do. It’s a tag, created by Abbie over at her music/writing/WAFFLES blog, and I said I’d do it ages ago because it looked interesting, but I never got around to it. So…

I shall now proceed to regale you with some information about my early writings and what I learnt from them.

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Dragon Riders [So, this was the first story I ever tried to write down. I started writing it when my mum was reading the Inheritance Cycle (which was, at that time, just a trilogy). I think I was about six or seven when I wrote this. The story probably never got beyond two hundred words, but it sparked a passion that’s lasted ten + years. It was basically a blatant rip-off Eragon, though I inserted my four best friends into the story as dragon riders. Oh, you’d like to know the dragon’s names? Hmm….*cough, cough*, fine. The dragons were named Sapphire, Brisinger (Yes, I do think I added the e at the end), Gem and Thorn. Yep *blushes shamefully and crawls away*. Anyway, I had fun writing whatever was written and I actually attempted to resurrect this story a few years ago.]

  • What I learnt:
  • Um, plagiarism is not the way to go?

Warriors fanfics [Ah, now we get to the stories I truly am ashamed of and cringe at the thought of. Oh well, I am revealing my deepest darkest secrets here, so here I go. Maybe you’ve heard of Warriors by Erin Hunter? Well, I used to write fanfic for Warriors whilst I was reading the series which revolved around a clan of my own, MossClan. MossClan was appropriately led by Mossystar. Anyway, it was these fanfics that really fanned the sparks of my writing into flame, so despite their awfulness I am indebted to them.]

  • What I learnt:
  • That I really, really loved writing. That I could tell stories which were (hopefully) entertaining and make people care about my imagination.

Celia [I think when my mum saw that I was really enjoying writing my Warriors stories, she decided to get me a program called Learn to Write the Novel Way. This was a really cool book which basically introduced the concept of novel-writing to students and guided them through the process of writing a novel in a year. As part of this program, I came up with a story idea. I was tired of stories along the vein of Narnia, where children from our world entered a mystical world. So my story idea centred on a girl from another world who entered our world. Her name was Princess Celia and she was the most spoiled, horrible character I could come up with, because I wanted her to have an arc similar to that of Mary in The Secret Garden. I loved this story a lot and eventually I abandoned learning to write the novel way in order to work it by myself. I honed the story, the plot and the writing several times, though I never managed to finish the story. It had a lot of drafts. I’ve now left it buried peacefully, as I lost all my old drafts and ideas when our old computer crashed last year. R.I.P. Celia.]

  • What I learnt:
  • How to create characters, plots and new worlds. It also taught me about turning clichés inside out. How to write grammatically and coherently and a host of other things.
  • It also taught me that I could not write a unlikeable protagonist to save my life.

Blue Moon Trilogy [This is literally the most clichéd piece of writing I ever came up with. I never finished it because I eventually outgrew the clichéd plot and characters. This story focussed on a boy with the delightful name of Adrian and a girl (his cousin) with the adorable name of Sandra  (do you detect sarcasm here? Yes, you do). When Sandra stumbles upon a blue moon ring she is transported into another world, a world of quests and magic and dragons and good-looking archers… (P.S. please don’t ask what a blue moon ring is either. I literally came up with the name Blue Moon Trilogy because it sounded good, it didn’t matter that I had zero idea of what a blue moon ring was or that I had no clue what came next in the story, let alone in two sequels…) the less said about this story the better.]

  • What I learnt:
  • I’m pretty certain I learnt nothing useful from this story.
  • At all.

Otter Storm [An early piece of writing that I’m actually very proud of. It was my first ever completed novel (though it actually classes as a novella). It was the story of a young otter named Violet and her best friend, Fergus. They are both orphans, taken into the peaceful walled city of Otterwald. When a mysterious young otter with no memory turns up in the middle of a storm, Violet and Fergus take it upon themselves to restore her memory, and they lead a clan of enslaved otters to freedom from the tyranny of the Ferret King while they are at it.]

  • What I learnt:
  • This story showed me how to use other authors and stories as inspiration without completely plagiarising it. I used the Redwall, Warriors and Guardians of Ga’hool as inspiration for this story, and combining elements of those tales with my own imagination and plot twists, I managed to create something which was definitely amateurish but was my first step towards originality.
  • I also learnt that to make a readable story, I had to edit. My friend (and frankly the best editor in the world) read over it dozens of times, pointing out grammar and continuity errors, plot holes and other random miscellaneous things. So, not only was it the first novel I ever finished, it was the first novel I ever edited several times over.

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Well, there we go! We have a long post in which I ramble about old writings of mine. Some embarrassing old writings of mine.

Oh, and I tag anyone who feels much like doing this! It was actually really fun, so I encourage you to!

What about you? What were some of your embarrassing (maybe downright cringe-worthy) early writings? Will you do this tag?

Spider-Man: Homecoming–A [Spoiler-Free] Review

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I’ve finally been to see Spider-Man: Homecoming! I’ve been waiting for this movie for what seems like forever and I wasn’t disappointed. I enjoyed it so much. So, here’s my hopefully spoiler free review of the new Spider-Man movie!

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Young Peter Parker (Tom Holland), thrilled by his brief stint with the Avengers, clumsily begins to navigate his way through his new powers with the help of his watchful mentor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.). But Peter is desperate to prove him something more than a “friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man”.

But everything he holds dear is being threatened by a new, different sort of villain, the ambitious, bitter Vulture (Michael Keaton).

***

Things I liked:

I wasn’t entirely sure what I was expecting from the plot. I had no idea what it was about, but I enjoyed the plot. It seemed far-fetched occasionally, but in the end the plot was original, exciting and entertaining.

The action scenes were well-done, well-balanced with the rest of the story, and filled with humour. I occasionally felt they were a bit over the top and unbelievable, but generally they were fun, entertaining and not too violent.

The acting and casting were great. I liked Tom Holland’s fresh take on Peter Parker, and the more teenaged feel he brought to the character. I love Tobey Maguire’s Peter, and though I not sure that I liked Holland more, I liked the fact that he was less serious and less socially awkward.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Peter and Tony Stark. I love the fact that as the movie goes on Tony becomes a mentor/father figure for Peter and genuinely cares for him. He also isn’t afraid to give Peter a sharp talking to, if he feels that’s necessary. I’ve never liked Tony a whole lot, but this movie actually made me think, “Oh, hey, he’s not so bad after all.”

***

Things I disliked:

The secondary and minor characters would have benefited from some fleshing out. I felt there was a lot of missed potential with the other characters, particularly with the other members of Peter’s decathlon team. Other than Tony Stark, Ned was probably the most in-depth character, but he never really went beyond the weird, computer-nerd best friend.

The beginning seemed forced and a bit rough, but about fifteen minutes in it smoothed out and I began to enjoy it.

To me, Vulture, the main villain, was shallow and lacked any real motivation, but I did appreciate the fact that he was a villain quite different to other Spider-Man villains, or other villains in general.

There were some points where my highly practical and knowledgeable brain was a bit like “What? Seriously?” A fight scene in particular, towards the end, really stretched its believability. That didn’t stop it from being entertaining though.

***

Overall

It was really good. I’m still trying to work out whether or not it was better than the original Sony movies, but I definitely enjoyed it. It’s rated M, so I wouldn’t it suggest it for younger than thirteen or fourteen (having said that, a lot of kids younger than that have already seen it). It was a good, entertaining, well-done movie, and despite its few flaws, I give it five stars.

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What about you? Have you seen Spider-Man: Homecoming yet? What did you think? Shall we fangirl over it together? 

Beautiful People–July

 

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Hey there!

First of all, I must apologise for my lack of blogging this week, life’s just been crazy between NaNo and all that, I’m sure you understand. Anyway, I’m here to do a random Tuesday post. It’s time for Cait and Sky’s Beautiful People Meme! This month things are a bit different as the questions are aimed at the writer not the characters. This should be fun!

 

How do you decide which project to work on?

I don’t really decide, it just kind of happens. It seriously does. I’ll finish one novel or writing project and then the next one is there for me to begin right away. I just start writing it!

 

How long does it usually take you to finish a project?

It depends on the length. I wrote a 20,000-word novella in less than two weeks, but a full-length novel tends to take about six weeks to two months. The longest I’ve spent on a first draft was about three months. To completely write and edit a novel several times takes me too long to count.

 

Do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?

Not really, I’m very much an opportunist. If I have five minutes I scribble down a paragraph. I write everywhere and anywhere, between customers if I’m volunteering at a shop, at lunch time, between science and math. Wherever. If I happen to decide a specific time to sit down at the computer and type, I try to do some of my dance stretches first (But who am I kidding, when does that ever happen?)

 

What time of day do you write best?

As I said earlier, I really can write any time anywhere, but I like writing late at night, when my copious number of siblings have gone to bed and it’s easier to concentrate.

 

Are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?

Not really, I don’t think. I like the style that John Flanagan writes in, but I’ve never been able to convincingly write in omniscient third person. I just can’t do it. I probably have a similar writing style to Marissa Meyer, but I find her writing very abrupt, maybe that’s just me. I don’t really like saying I write like such and such, because it’s ultimately my own voice.

 

Why did you start writing and why do you keep writing?

Thinking about this very philosophically, I probably started writing because I’m a very introverted person and used to be very shy as well. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but writing started as a way for me to say things that I couldn’t or wouldn’t say out loud. I keep writing because of the same reason, but also because it’s a God given gift and I can use it to His glory, and that’s what I strive to do.

 

What’s the hardest thing you’ve written?

I’ve written a lot of hard things, but I think one of the most emotional scenes I ever wrote was at the end of my novels that took place inside a cathedral with my hero, villain and bunch of police officers. It didn’t make me cry, because my own writing rarely makes me cry, but it was heart wrenching to write.

 

Is there a project you want to tackle one day, but you don’t feel ready yet?

There’s a lot. One of them would be an epic fantasy book I’ve been planning for several months. I love the story idea, but I just don’t feel its right to begin yet.

 

What writing goals did you make for 2017 and how are they going?

I made five goals for 2017

  1. Write four new novels [so far, I’ve written one, but shush!]
  2. Write five new short stories [I’ve written four and I’m finishing up on my fifth, so whoo!!!]
  3. Read a hundred books [I think I’ve read sixtyish, I’d have to check my log for the exact number]
  4. Enter four competitions [I’ve entered one and by the time you read this, I’ve probably entered my second one (depending on when you’re reading this, of course)]
  5. Edit two novels [currently working on my first novel to edit for Camp NaNo]

Describe your writing process in three word or a gif.

I wrote that?

[Author’s Note: To clarify, that is either a “I wrote that?” *cue impressed face* or “I wrote that?” *cue horrified face and running to the overworked shredder*.]

What do you think? How are your goals for 2017 going? What three words describe your process? What time of day do you write best?

Winter TBR + Coldness + Writing = June’s Happenings

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All photos were taken by myself

Yes, that’s right, my Winter TBR. For all my lovely American friends (actually, all of you who reside in the Northern Hemisphere) Australia is currently in the grip of Winter, we have, in fact, just had the winter solstice.

So, for your enjoyment, here’s a snippet of things from my Winter TBR before we move on to other things:

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Some of my TBR. (I apologise for the funny background; however, I was quite pleased with how this photo turned out).

Scarlet and Heartless by Marrisa Meyer

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

The Women of Baker Street

Within these Walls by Robyn Bavati

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The Valley of Fear Arthur Conan Doyle

The Mysterious Affair at Styles Agatha Christie

Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor Rick Riordan

Sherlock, Lupin and Me: The Soprano’s Last Song by Irene Adler

That’s just a snippet, ladies and gentlemen, I actually have a lot more on my TBR.

And I promised you a taste of coldness in my header, didn’t I? Well, this morning [author’s note: actually, the morning I wrote the post, not this morning] I woke up at seven to a chilly frost covering the paddocks. It was minus three degrees Celsius (literally below freezing). I had a wonderful time running around outside in my pyjamas snapping photos of the frost.

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Writing

My writing has progressed slightly since I wrote my post on feeling overwhelmed. I cut out everything I told myself I would cut out and now my writing life seems so much more carefree and less daunting. I’ve made some progress on my rewrite of The Blade of the Dragon, which has been so good. I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed it until now. I’m also beginning the process of finding beta readers for Kameradschaft, so if you’re interested, let me know in the comments!

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Work begins on Draft 3 of Kameradschaft 

Reading

I also read a bunch of books. I was pleased with the amount I got read this month.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes, and His Last Bow by Arthur Conan Doyle. Fantastic! This is Sherlock’s rise from the dead after apparently being thrown off Reichenbach Falls by Moriarty. Five stars. His Last Bow wasn’t nearly as good, so only three and a half stars.

The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff. This is honestly one of my favourite books ever and this was a reread. I love Sutcliff’s way of weaving words into a beautiful story about friendship and understanding. Its so worth the read. Five stars.

The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm. I listened to this as an audio book because I’ve never actually read any of the original Brothers Grimm fairy tales. It was…okay. I’m not really that keen on it though. Three stars.

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer and Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan. I feel the Riordan fangirls will clobber me with slippers if I say this, but here goes…I like Magnus Chase better than Percy Jackson. Why? I don’t really know why. At the beginning of Magnus, I felt like it was repeat of The Lightning Thief but it gained its originality about half way into the book, before reverting back to Percy at the end. It was good though, very good, and I love Hearthstone so much! Five stars. Sea of Monsters was not quite as enjoyable as the first, but still pretty good. Four stars.

Hercule Poirot: Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie. A radio drama which was, to put it mildly, awful. Two stars.

The Capricorn Bracelet and Black Ships before Troy also by Rosemary Sutcliff. The Capricorn isn’t quite as good as The Eagle of The Ninth, but it was enjoyable. Three and a half stars. Black Ships before Troy was my third Sutcliff book for June, this was a retelling of the Iliad and it left me kind of cold. There’s a lot of gruesome murder in the Iliad. Still, it was good retelling. Three stars.

The BFG by Roald Dahl. I’ve read this book so many times, but I recently just watched the new movie version, so I went back to reread the book. It’s so good. Four and a half stars.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. This has been on my TBR for ages and I finally read it this month. It was…thought provoking. It was a quick read, I read most of it in one morning, but the pacing was slow. It was good though, and an interesting look into the human nature and what makes us human. Four stars.

The Great Mouse Detective: Basil in Mexico by Eve Titus. Basil of Baker Street is the Sherlock Holmes of the mouse world, solving crimes that no one else can even fathom. I was hoping to enjoy this more than I did, but I found it too childish for me (maybe because it was a children’s book, I don’t know?).

Sherlock, Lupin and Me: The Dark Lady by Irene Adler. I wasn’t expecting much from this book, but I was presently surprised. It somehow recaptured the thrill of Sherlock Holmes, which Basil had been sadly lacking in. It was also an interesting portrayal of what Sherlock and Irene Adler might have been like as kids.

Kingdom’s Dawn by Chuck Black. This is my second Chuck Black book, but despite the way I hear other people rave about his works, I’ve never really enjoyed them. I felt like I was just listening to the Bible with the names changed. You’ll know what I mean if you read it. Three stars.

The Royal Ranger by John Flanagan. I finally got around to reading the final Ranger’s Apprentice book. I was thoroughly disappointed by the first four hundred pages or so, though I did like the idea of a girl becoming a ranger. The last fifty or so pages though, made the whole long, boring story worth it. The ending was by far the best part. Two stars for the whole book, three and a half for the last bit.

The Hermit of Eyton Forest and The Raven in the Foregate by Ellis Peters. These are both murder mysteries, set in a 12th century monastery. They center around Brother Cadfael and I was actually reading Cadfael long before I’d even thought of reading Sherlock Holmes. It bears similarity to Sherlock Holmes, but Cadfael is a much more human figure than Holmes is, and Hugh Beringar is a much better version of Watson, in my opinion. The mysteries here were good and I didn’t see the twist endings coming at all! Four and a half stars.

 

Doing

Currently, I’m allowing my fingers to go numb as I type this.

I’m getting ready for winter holidays and preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo. You can look me up there under the name SeekJustice, if you want.

Watching a fascinating TV series on the history of British castles which is giving me some marvellous story ideas (you know the saying: Truth is stranger than fiction? Well that perfectly describes Britain’s history).

Finishing up the school term of my Girls Brigade (basically a Christian girls group), St John Cadets (first aid cadets), and my Highland dancing.

I’ve been doing a leadership course with Girls Brigade, which I’ve found so much fun and so helpful. Leadership isn’t really something that comes naturally to me, so this has helped me improve my skills. Currently, my captain has put me as an assistant to another one of our leaders, working with the Cadets (girls from 4—8 years old). This has been testing my patience, but I’ve enjoyed it a lot.

I enjoyed a couple of eighteenth birthday parties and had a great time celebrating this milestone with two of my best friends. 😀

And I’ve finally planned a schedule for posting on this blog. It goes somewhat like this: 1st Thursday, a detailed review of a book I’ve read, 2nd and 3rd Thursday, either a piece to be critiqued or a writing tip, 4th Thursday, a monthly wrap up post. What do you think?

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Still studying Mark through my devotional. It’s a challenging book, but there are so many hidden gems to find if you read it hard enough.

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One of my favourite verses in Mark. So many times I’m liked the father of the demon-possessed boy.

And tonight I enjoyed a super nice night with a bunch of friends around a campfire, cooking dumplings (which were heavenly), potatoes and sausages and enjoying the fellowship of fellow Christians. Lovely.

So, how was your June? Is it just me or is the year going so fast? What’s on your Winter (or summer) TBR? 

God bless!

 

Praise: A Short Story

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How are you all?

Well, today I decided to share a short story with you. But I couldn’t decide which one because I have written a lot of short stories in my life. So earlier today, I spent ages going through my old files and agonising over which one to choose and I happened to come across a very old story of mine, which I hadn’t so much as thought about in the last few years. I gave it a read through and found that I actually liked it quite a lot.

So, for your enjoyment, I present Praise: A Short Story.

(P.S. This short story came from a prompt I created for a friend of mine, the prompt being the first sentence, which is in Italics and it was inspired by the Casting Crowns song Praise you in This Storm.)

Praise

The wind blew right through the screen door and a phone flashed with new messages, and a hot cup steamed beside it, the storm clouds drew closer, threatening rain.

I sighed and stared at the phone with its new message icon flashing. You’d think it would have stopped. You’d think God would have reached down by now, you’d think he would have wiped my tears from my cheeks; you’d think the rain would have stopped pouring. But it hadn’t.

The drum of real raindrops woke me from my reflections, I dropped to my knees by the screen door, staring out at the sudden pounding downpour and I whispered a prayer. “Amen.”

I opened the door and stepped out into the rain, merely on a crazy impulse. I felt the cold sheets soak me instantly and a drop run down the bridge of my nose. I almost laughed.

I sat down, right there and listened to the thunder as it rolled over the hills in front of my house. Lord, where are you? I can’t carry on! I pleaded, whether or not aloud I’m not sure. I cupped my hands and watched as a small puddle of rainwater formed in them, before trickling away through the gaps in my fingers.

Another clap of thunder echoed in my valley as I stood there, blind and unsure of what to do, salt water melding with fresh on my cheeks. Then I heard it. Afterwards I was never sure whether it was real or whether I imagined it or both. But I heard it and it helped me, “I am with you.” Through the rain, through the thunder, through the storm. “I am with you.”

I lifted my face to the angry black storm clouds, rain pelting my face. A burst of laughter suddenly escaped from my throat. I raised my hands and found myself laughing in the middle of a storm. I did a little dance around my backyard and then stared at the hills that blossomed  just over from my place. It reminded me of a Bible verse I’d learnt as a child in Sunday school. I lift my eyes to the hills, from where comes my help? My help comes from the Lord.

I will praise the Lord who gives and takes away.

I threw my head back again, “I will praise you in this Storm!” I shouted.

There we go, what did you think? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments, :D. I hope my writing has improved since this piece years ago, however it will always hold a special place in my heart. 

 

Overwhelmed

 

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Lately, my writing has made me feel, very simply put, overwhelmed. In April, I won Camp NaNoWriMo, which sucked a lot out of me, so I mostly took May off writing, with the exception of a few short stories and a tiny little bit of editing. But in June, I piled it all on again. I started the prequel to my Camp novel, with the goal to be 20-30,000 words in by the end of the month. I decided to participate in the Rooglewood Press competition and began outlining a novella, I decided to enter two essay competitions and I began research for both, I dreamed up a Sherlock Holmes retelling, I started a screenplay, and somewhere in all of that, I lost sight of what I really needed to be doing.

Towards the beginning of the year, I wrote out five goals which related to writing, which I wanted to achieve in 2017. I tried to keep them as simple as possible.

  1. Write four novels
  2. Write five new short stories
  3. Read a hundred books
  4. Edit two novels
  5. Enter four competitions

Those were my simple goals. I might not have achieved all of them by New Year’s Eve, but it gives me something to work towards. However, this month, I got so caught up in everything I wanted to do, that I lost sight of those five goals.

I was suddenly overwhelmed by everything I was trying to do at once, it wasn’t working for me. So, a few days ago, I got a pen and paper and I wrote a list. It was a list of all the projects I was trying to work on all at once. It was a long list, so I won’t bore you with it here.

I spent ages looking at that list, wondering what to do about it. Of course, if you’re overwhelmed, there’s only one thing you can do about it. Make things less overwhelming. I eventually prayed, and then began crossing things off my list. The prequel could wait till later, the screenplay could wait until later, Sherlock Holmes could wait till later, I would choose only one essay competition to enter, I wouldn’t enter the Rooglewood Press Competition, despite how much I liked my story idea.

Finally, I edited back my list to the things that were of absolute importance to me. That included editing my novel and novella—The Blade of the Dragon, and Kameradschaft, and finding some beta readers. All year, I’d been so wrapped up in a new book, a new series, a new this, a new that, that I’d left behind what really mattered to me, these two stories. I’d put off editing them in favour of writing new first drafts, and I’d suffered for that. Now I am going to concentrate my efforts on working on these two stories, stories that I’ve poured my heart and soul into for years now. I care about these stories; I want people to hear them. At the end of the day, I don’t care nearly as much about the Snow-White retelling, or the Sherlock Holmes retelling, or even about the prequel to my Camp novel, though Black & White I would consider one of my best works.

There’s a thing [look it up] called the irreducible minimum. The irreducible minimum is basically the one thing in life you CANNOT live without. For me in my writing life, the irreducible minimum was The Blade of the Dragon and Kameradschaft.

Anyway, the point of my ramble is this: if writing is overwhelming you, if it has become chore, if you sit down at your computer and agonise over which document to open, if you can’t post twice a week… sit down, write a list, pray over your list, find out what the irreducible minimum is in your writing life. Don’t be afraid to cut away some things, and simply because you prune it away for now, doesn’t mean you need to completely give up on it. I will probably return to my other projects at some time, I don’t know when, but I will.

If you allow writing to overwhelm you, you won’t enjoy it anymore, and if you don’t enjoy it, you will no longer be glorifying God. And if you are no longer glorifying God, there is no point to your stories.

Having said all that, I will now inform you that though it was my original plan to post on Tuesdays and Thursday, I will now only be posting on Thursdays… Maybe… We live in hope.

 

Congratulations for getting to the end of this post! Now it’s your turn. Has your writing ever overwhelmed you? How did you deal with it? Let me hear your thoughts. 😀

The Penprints Flash Fiction Dash (The Dragon in the Mini)

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UPDATE: Last night I tried to post this but the formatting ended up all crazy. Hopefully this updated version works better!

Hey there, two posts in one day! I know, amazing right?

Lately I participated in the Penprints Flash Fiction Dash, which was so much fun (check out Rosalie’s blog , it’s well worth it!)

Anyway, here’s my entry for it, I hope you enjoy.

*Note I do not own the picture below, it was merely my prompt* 

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The Dragon in the Mini

By: Chelsea Hindle

When my elder sister, Freya, suggested we go for a drive and have a coffee together, I raised my eyebrows and folded my arms.

“We’ve lived together for, what, seventeen years? And you suddenly feel like getting to know me?”

“Stop being such a teenager,” Freya replied, rolling her eyes. I was tempted to point out that eye rolling was a predominantly teenaged activity, but I resisted the temptation.

“Fine,” I replied, “But we’ve gotta be back before eight so that I can catch the final episode of Sherlock. I’m not missing out on Sherlock just so I can sit and watch you drink coffee.”

“Whatever,” was Freya’s reply.

Several minutes later we were in Freya’s ’70 model green Mini, rattling along the highway from our home. About ten minutes, she suddenly zipped onto a side road.

“Since we’re making a day out of it,” She told me nonchalantly, “We might as well take the scenic route.”

My dad was a fan of “taking the scenic route” and that usually ended us up lost. I should have taken control right then and there, demanded that we turn around and go on the highway or something. But I didn’t. I just sat there, determined to be grouchy and glared out the front windscreen.

At first everything was fine. I mean, other than Freya trying to absolute best to get me to talk to her about deep and meaningful things.

“Do you have a boyfriend yet, Sunny?” she asked me cheerfully, tapping her fingers on the dashboard in time with the Ed Sheeran song playing.

“Nope.”

“How’s school?”

“Okay, I guess.”

“Do you do anything interesting?”

“Probably not.” I paused for a minute, watching the gum trees flash past and a bird neatly dodge the windscreen. “What about you? Have you been doing anything interesting?”

Freya considered this, still tapping out a tattoo on her steering wheel. “Probably not.” She finally answered.

“You hesitated.” I said, crossing my arms.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Freya demanded.

“Well, you’re lying. You have been doing something interesting.”

Freya exhaled sharply and stopped tapping, “How would I know what you think is interesting?”

“I don’t know.”

Silence blanketed us for a long while and despite myself, I began to enjoy the trip, though I would never have admitted that to Freya. I found myself staring out the window, admiring the sleek white trunks of the eucalyptus, the never-ending fields beyond those of dusty yellow, dotted with sheep or cattle, the deep blue of the sky, the birds playing through the trees. It’s kinda nice out here. I decided.

My attention was drawn back to the car by a funny squeaking sound, like the noise baby magpies make. Another sound followed it, something that sounded like claws scratching across metal.

I glanced quickly at Freya, who didn’t seem to have heard anything.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“What’s what?” Freya replied. Had her face coloured slightly?

“Didn’t you just hear it? Like, a squeaking sound from your car?”

“Ah…. well, you know…you know my car, it makes funny sounds.”

I raised my eyebrows. Freya was definitely blushing that time. She turned the radio up and was just about to start singing, off-key, to an Icehouse song when there came a sputtering from the engine of the Mini.

There was another squawking, and the whole Mini shuddered.

The car coasted to an ominous halt just inside the boundaries of a tiny country town, beside the only concrete footpath in the whole place. Freya clambered out of the car, muttering under her breath. “Okay? What now?” she asked, maybe talking to the world in general, maybe talking to me, it was hard to tell.

“Pop the bonnet,” I advised, “Then you’ll look like you know what you’re doing.”

Surprisingly, Freya followed my advice and popped the bonnet and then stared into it, like she might stare at a page of Latin. Then a look of horror flicked over her face.  “Hey!” she hissed, plunging into her bonnet. “Hey you! Come back!”

I stared at her, “You feeling okay?”

Freya ignored me, grabbed at something inside the engine and then started back abruptly, sticking her finger in her mouth. “Burnd myfelf.” She mumbled, fingers in mouth.

I sat down on the pavement, pulling my knees up to my chin, and stared morosely at her.  “Remember what I said about Sherlock!” I reminded her as she pulled out her phone.

“Drat Sherlock! There’s worse things to worry about!” Freya snapped back.

“What do you mean ‘drat Sherlock’?” I mumbled under my breath. “This was all your idea. It’s not my fault.”

Meanwhile, Freya was tapping a number into her phone. She ignored me, and dialed the number. “Hey…yeah, I know…yeah…” she frowned, “I didn’t mean to! I don’t go around just releasing—” she glanced sideways at me. “I have Sunny with me.”

Curiosity sparked by Freya’s weird conversation, I got up and peered into the Mini. In the depths of the gloom, I thought I saw something move there, like a flick of a lizard’s tail. I bent forward to get a better look, but Freya noticed and shooed me away before I could see it properly.

“I realise that!” she growled, “What can I do? The stupid creature’s blown up my engine and I’m stranded in the middle of nowhere.  This wasn’t what I had planned!”

Fine, fine, I’m coming!” 

Freya snorted and hung up.

“You’ve got something in there,” I peered around her. “What is it?”

“None of your business.” Freya stepped in front of me.

“There’s something in there! It’s a lizard thing.” I narrowed my eyes, “You weren’t at Uni, were you?”

Freya squirmed. Then something small and brown shot from the engine and latched onto her hand. She squealed, then grabbed the creature and stuffed it into her jacket. But not before, I saw something which looked uncommonly like a tiny… dragon.

“What is that?”

Freya opened her mouth, shut it quickly, and then opened it again. “Its, uh, well. Yeah.” Her shoulders suddenly sagged. “No, I wasn’t at Uni.”

I frowned at this admission, “What were you doing then?”

Freya glanced around, then retrieved the little dragon from her pocket and held it out on her hand. “Hey, calm down, little fella,” She crooned to the dragon. “It’s okay, Benedict, Sunny won’t hurt you.”

“So, if you weren’t at Uni, what were you doing?”

Freya grinned sheepishly, then winced as Benedict bit her finger again. “I was studying fantastical creatures. That’s how I came across Benedict. He needed a mum, so I’m taking care of him.”

I peered down at Benedict, whose long tongue flicked out and licked his nose. He tilted his head and stared at me with his big eyes.

“He’s…cute.” I said finally. It should have surprised me that my sister had a dragon in her car, but it really didn’t. I’d always thought Freya might be related to a dragon. This simply proved my suspicion.

Freya smiled shyly, “You won’t tell Mum and Dad?”

I shook my head quickly, “No way!  You’re suddenly a whole lot cooler than you were an hour ago.”

Freya blushed, “Thanks.”  Then she rolled her eyes, “You’re only saying that because you want to hold him!”

I grinned back, “Nope, but…” I raised my eyebrows.

Benedict scampered onto my arm and Freya peered at her engine. “Well thanks a lot, for ruining my engine.” She muttered to him. “Hopefully, someone will get here soon and can take a look at this.” She blew hair out of her eyes.  Then she turned to look at me and Benedict flapped back to her arm and crept into her jacket.

“I’m sorry about this, Sunny. I really hope we get out of here in time to catch Sherlock.”  She said, actually sounding genuine

“Ah,” I waved my hand vaguely, “I don’t mind. I don’t even mind if I have to wait until it comes out on disc. This is the most fun I’ve had in ages!” I paused, “Thanks.”

Freya opened her mouth, probably to say something elegant and poetic, but she barked suddenly as Benedict emerged just long enough to bite her on the stomach.

“He’s—ow!—teething—ouch!”

I grinned, and then started to laugh. It was nice to laugh with my sister, laugh at my sister.

“Best day ever. You know, you’re okay.”

Beautiful People–June Edition!

In case you don’t know, Beautiful People is a monthly blog meme and link up hosted by and Sky @ Further Up and Further In ( I can’t get it to link properly, so if you’re interested in checking out her blog, you can do so here http://www.furtherupfurtherin.net/).

This round I’ll be doing Dr Spencer Verne, a secondary character from my novel Black & White and a main character from Red & White. I hope you enjoy!

  1. What’s their favourite place they’ve ever visited?

Australia must be the answer! He visited Australia when he was sixteen years old and never went home!

2. What’s one mistake they made that they learned from?

Hmm, this is a hard one! He repeatedly makes the mistake of assuming that other people are a) smarter than he is, and so to be ignored, or b) not as smart as he is and so to be ignored. Basically, he repeatedly makes the mistake of ignoring people who would make good allies or even friends.

3. What was their favourite subject in school? Or favourite thing to learn about?

Science! Especially chemistry and biology. He excelled in both of those subjects as school and now pursues science as a living.

4. What’s their favourite flower/growing thing?

Ah, such hard and random questions this edition! I’m going to hesitatingly answer that his favourite flowers are carnations and violets. He isn’t a sentimental person, but both of these flowers remind him of his mother and the life he lived in England before coming to Australia. Carnations remind him of his mother, because on her birthday every year he and his father would go and pick her a big bunch of them. Violet was her name and her favourite flower and she carried a bouquet of them on her wedding day. (Wow! I literally just made that all up then, I feel so smart right now!)

5. Have they ever made someone cry? What happened?

Spencer Verne makes people cry a lot. He isn’t callous but he often considers emotions secondary to facts (for example, if there was a fact he knew which would break the heart of someone close to him, he would see it as his duty to be bluntly, brutally honest with them. he doesn’t care a whole lot about what most people feel).

6. Would you consider them a reliable or unreliable narrator?

He is definitely a reliable narrator, as he regards the truth highly. However, while he would never lie, he does conceal things or avoid them or say things with double meanings. Thus, he might convince you of something, without ever say that something, and then completely turn it around on you.

7. What do they dream about at night?

He hates the fact that he dreams at all. He sees dreams as sentimental and worthless, so he would never admit to dreaming anything at all. However, his dreams are probably the normal kinds of weird dreams that make no sense.

8. They’ve gone out for a “special meal”. What would they eat?

For such a very English/Australian man, Verne really enjoys Thai. If he was to go out for dinner to a Thai restaurant, he would either eat Panang Curry or Pad Prig Sod.

9. What’s at least one thing they want to do before they die?

He openly admits that he has spent his entire life trying to create the kind of people that are only seen in comic books and sci-fi shows. It is his dream and one that he has broken many hearts trying to accomplish.

Somewhere deep down in his heart of hearts, his goal is quite different. He won’t admit it, even to himself, but he desperately desires people to see him as a person, rather than an emotionless machine or a mad scientist. He is neither of those, and he desperately wants to be seen for himself, and for someone to care for him enough to see past his rather obvious faults.  He openly admits that he has spent his entire life trying to create the kind of people that are only seen in comic books and sci-fi shows. It is his dream and one that he has broken many hearts trying to accomplish.

10. Do they have any distinguishing or unique talents? 

Verne has a condition called Synaesthesia (look it up, it’s a fascinating thing!), this allows him to memorise things by categorising them under colours. For instance, he can memorise phone numbers by memorising a pattern of colours. It also means he can “see” emotions and so can read people well. He is also good at observation, noticing small things about people that no one else sees, or attaches any significance to.

Monthly Update May

(So, in all honestly, I was meant to publish this yesterday, but I wrote the post and then forgot to press publish. 😛 oops)

Was it just me or did May practically fly past??? I’m sitting here now and trying to remember what I actually did in May. Here’s what I can remember of May.

May--blog

Writing

After a crazy writing month in April (I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo and won) I relaxed a bit in May. I did, however, start work on a new novel, the prequel to my Camp novel. It has about 15,000 words now

I also started work on a screenplay, the first screenplay I’ve ever tried to write. I think I’m up to scene 16, but I’ve just run out of steam. So far I’ve found the screenplay format of writing really challenging, and I’ve taken a break to think over my script and decide whether I keep going or switch to novel format for this story.

Other than that, I was supposed to be editing two previous novels of mine, which just didn’t happen.

Reading

I did really well at reading this month (probably because I hardly did any writing). I can’t clearly remember whether all of these books were read during May or during the tail end of April. Oh well. (I tried to make this post all pretty by adding the covers for the books I read… that didn’t happen. My pictures were being obstinate). All the links lead to Goodreads.

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. I listened to this one as an audiobook. It was so good! Four and a half stars.

Fortunately, the Milk….by Neil Gaiman. This is the first Neil Gaiman book I’ve read, and I honestly found it a little bit disappointing. It was funny and ridiculous, but, in my opinion, childish (which, in fairness to Gaiman, it was probably supposed to be). Three stars.

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman. The second Neil Gaiman book I read, I enjoyed it more than the previous one. It was a quick read, and I appreciated all the Norse mythology references. Three and a half stars.

Raising Dragons by Bryan Davis. This was a re-read, I first read a few years back, and unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it as much as I remembered enjoying it. It was still worth the read though. Four stars.

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne I will admit right now that I’ve never knowingly read Winnie-the-Pooh (My mum might have read them to me when I was little though, I’m not sure). I remedied that this month. If you haven’t read them, go read them right now! They are such sweet stories, which are actually very humorous as well. Five stars.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling. *Note: this is the screenplay of the movie, rather than the field guide type book of the same name* I read this, not really because I’m a Harry Potter fan, but simply because I wanted to read a screenplay. I was surprised by how good it was. It was easily one of my favourite reads of the month and I’m now anxiously waiting to be able to borrow the movie from the library. Five stars. (Plus an extra star for the cover. Isn’t it gorgeous?)

Shadow by Michael Morpurgo. Another re-read. This is a really good book by Michael Morpurgo which details the story of an Afghan boy, his mother and his dog, Shadow, escaping from war-torn Afghanistan to England. It is aimed at a middle-grade audience, but it is thought-provoking and interesting, and even heart-breaking. Four stars.

Race to the End of the World by A.L. Tait. This was a new series I noticed at the library. The premise looked promising, so I got it out. It was fairly good, written in the style of the Ranger’s Apprentice series, though it moved slowly in several sections. It is the first book in the Mapmaker Chronicles. Three and a half stars.

A Study in Scarlet and The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve just finished watching the first three seasons of Sherlock, so I had to go back and read the originals. Both books were pretty good, though they moved slowly, and I actually came to the conclusion at the end of Hound that Sherlock had improved that particular story, which is an odd thing for me to say. Four stars for both.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. I’m not usually a fan of survival stories,  but this one is an exception. Brian is stranded out in the middle of the wilderness, with only a hatchet to aid in his survival. It was fast-paced, though the lack of dialogue annoyed me sometimes (but in fairness, who is going to talk to?). Four stars.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. This was an emotionally intense novel, let me just say that. But it was good, very good, and a fascinating look at the lives of Australian lightkeepers after World War 1. I also appreciated the fact that it was Australian, because so many popular novels aren’t. Five stars.

Yulki: Our Aboriginal Sister by Phyllis Mercer. This was a biography of an Arnhem land Aboriginal lady, Yulki. It was a bit disappointing, as I would say it was self-published and had quite a few small errors. It was still an interesting glimpse into the life of an interesting woman. Three stars.

Sherlock Holmes: The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries and Other Stories by John Taylor. This was my other audiobook read. As I said, I’ve just finished three seasons of Sherlock, and I came across this, a Sherlock Holmes anthology read by Benedict Cumberbatch. The stories were okay, but not brilliant, but it was still pretty good. Three stars.

Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. I finally got around to reading Percy Jackson. It was okay…Some parts reminded me of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and I thought Percy just over came everything too easily, but other than that I enjoyed it. I’m hoping to make a post about it soon.

Doing

Watching movies and TV shows, including the X-Men series, Doctor Strange and Sherlock. 

Choreographing a dance with my sister. Both of us dance Highland, so we’re coming up with a contemporary Highland dance together.

Praying about and looking for a job.

Planning several new (and hopefully awesome) blog posts for An Ordinary Pen.

Studying the book of Mark. There is so much wisdom in this Gospel! My current devotional is called The Disciplines of the Christian Life and it’s written by Eric Liddell. I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of it (I’m not sure if it’s still in print or not, though). Its so challenging.

Anyway, that’s about it for my May. This post ended up so long! I hope you don’t mind, but if you read to the end of it, well done!! Until next time, God bless!

How was your May? What did you get up to? Have you read any books on my list? What are your plans for June? 

A Writer’s Resources

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I wasn’t sure what to post today, so I’ve compiled a list of some writer’s resources I’ve personally found helpful and that I hope you will too. Writing is not a solitary effort, even though it seems like it is pretty much all of the time. The things mentioned in this list include writing communities, material to help you research your novel, plan your novel, promote your novel and more.

 Baby Names Book/Sites Honestly, I find my baby names book one of my most helpful pieces of writing stuff. If you don’t have a baby names book, I would definitely recommend you buy one.  In one comprehensive book, you will have access to thousands of names from hundreds of different cultures and time periods, along with their meanings and alternate spellings.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to buy a names book (or don’t have room for it on your bursting bookshelves), there are heaps of websites which will do the trick. Nameberry and Behind the Name are both good options.

 Movie Soundtracks These are great resources for writing. Some people like to listen to songs as they type, but I find the lyrics distracting, so I prefer to listen to music without lyrics or movie soundtracks as I write.

The reason soundtracks are so great is simply this: they are designed to present emotion and make you feel a certain way. If you’re writing a tense, creepy scene in your novel, but are struggling to add emotion to the scene, try listening to some tense, creepy music. They also tend to blend into the background, so that after a while you don’t notice it (though it is still subtly affecting your mood) and you aren’t distracted by lyrics. I enjoy listening to The Lord of the Rings, How to Train your Dragon, The Flash and Sherlock soundtracks while I write.

(As a sidenote, there are apparently people who like to listen to other types of sound as they write. For those people there are sites like Rainy Mood, which plays the sounds of thunderstorms and rain, if that’s more your thing).

Pinterest I’ve only recently made my own Pinterest account, but I love it! It’s a great way to waste time and procrastinate to find writing prompts, character pictures, and random things that may or may not relate to your story. You can create boards (I have one for each of my works in progress and sometimes I make character boards for my main characters as well), on which you can pin things that relate to your stories. You can check out my writing boards here *(Warning: Pinterest can be a black hole which sucks out a writer’s productivity. Approach with caution, you may never be seen again) *

Social Media I personally don’t use any social media such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, but there are a lot of other writers who do. They’re useful for giving your followers quick updates on your life and writing, and also very useful for promoting a novel of yours that you’ve just had published, a magazine you’re featured in and other such things. If you are actively looking for an editor or agent it also helps to have a website, blog, Facebook, etc, for them to look up and find you.  Social media also allows you to find agents/editors and other writers, stay in touch and keep you updated on their progress as well.

Websites/Books These are so helpful when it comes to learning more about crafting stories, finding your voice, plotting, characterisation, you name it. Some books I’ve found helpful are Writing Christian Fiction by Ron Benrey, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card (this one focusses on speculative fiction, but it has heaps of good tips for writing in general), and The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White (I haven’t read that yet, but lots of writers recommend it, so I’ll take their word for it, it’s meant to be super helpful).

Some good websites are Writer’s Digest, Kingdom Pen, Teen Ink (for teen writers), Re:Fiction (I only just discovered this website, but it definitely looks worth an explore), and for Australian authors, the Australian Writers’ Resource is good.

Blogs These are also great resources. They allow us a close look at the lives of other writers, allow us to make friends, join communities and give and take advice. Bloggers often share tips, stories or snippets of their personal lives, which make each blog unique and interesting. Its well worth investing in finding and following bloggers and forming friendships with them. if you have your own blog, you can use that as platform to build a readership base, promote your novel and share your own bits and pieces of writerly wisdom. If you don’t have your own blog, why not make one?

Some blogs I find entertaining and fantastic: A Writer’s Faith, Paper Fury, Write for the King and Nadine Brandes.

Encyclopaedias We live in an age when we can simply Google everything and anything and have what seems like every scrap of info in the world at our fingertips. But maybe there is still a place for an old-fashioned encyclopaedia? The amount of random information in one of these massive old tomes can be astonishing!

Library These are great resources, but sadly so underused these days, for the reasons I stated above. However there such a wealth of info available at a library! If you’re researching medieval wedding ritual, Japanese funeral customs, how long it takes to die of a bullet wound or escape artists, your library probably has a book on it. Books are certainly still useful, even though so much of our research is done on the internet. For one thing, books tend to be much more thoroughly researched than internet articles, and are often more in-depth. Besides, libraries have a magical feel about them and it’s always nice to haunt an abandoned corner and write there, far from the screams and cries of younger siblings.

Experts, Associations and Re-Enactments

These people are especially helpful for those of us who write historical fiction or fantasy. Sometimes just reading about jousting tournaments isn’t enough and we need to go and see flesh and blood knights fight it out together. Historical re-enactments allow us a glimpse into the past which books (as much as we love them) just can’t give us. If you can’t make it to one of their re-enactments, you can always email them and ask questions. Associations and experts are also helpful as they can provide information that  isn’t available in other places.

Here are some Associations and re-enactment groups to have a look at:

The Medieval Combat Society (United Kingdom)

Danelaw Medieval Fighting Society (Australia)

Australian Re-Enactors Association (Australia)

Civil War Re-Enactment Society (America)

The Great War Society (United Kingdom)

WW2 Historical Re-Enactment Society (I think this one is based in America, Canada and Europe)

Here is a list of societies, associations and re-enactment groups if you’re interested in finding more.

Bible 

Ultimately there is no better resource than the Bible! God gave us the Bible to be our guide through life, so it should be our resource on which we base all of our writing. The Bible can direct us in how we write, what we write, when we write and who we write for. It helps us develop our themes for our stories, and gives our characters something to stand on.

Use it the most out of all of your resources.

Some verses which relate to writing:

Colossians 3:17: “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Philippians 4: 8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—thing about such things.”

Did you find this helpful? Let me know if you did, I’d love to compile an even bigger, more comprehensive list!