Thursday, October 12, 2017

Childhood Book That Made Me Love Reading

I have been thinking a lot lately about what shaped me as a writer. I have decided to do a few posts on this but what better way to start than at the beginning! One of my favorite activities as a child was reading, and so I thought it appropriate to reflect on what stories I loved, which stories made me want to write, and which have stuck with me all these years.

I don't remember when I decided to write. I only remember always wanting to tell stories, to create and to build. Everyone else in school was building things with their hands, solving difficult math equations, and choosing careers that made sense but I had no interest in those things. I just wanted to create worlds and weave stories. Making something from scratch was more interesting to me than following a set of instructions to make a pre-designed plan work out.

My first experience with reading was being read aloud to, before I knew how to decipher the letters and sounds myself. Those nightly routines of after-dinner devotions and before-bed stories were highly influential in how I perceived the world and live in it today. It was comforting to listen to my father's voice after my belly was full of supper and my schoolwork finished. My parents were loving and wanted us to know God as a loving Father, too. Sometimes we heard about people in the Bible but other times, if one of us had a particularly rough day, my father would choose a passage of instruction, comfort, or reassurance- what he chose would sometimes depend on the situation and what we all needed to hear. God is like that; He knows what we need and if we talk with Him daily we can see that He provides in a very specific way for us.
The day ended with other stories from picture books, not from the Bible, either spoken aloud by my mother or father and snuck into bed with me after lights-out. There were certain stories that each parent had a knack for. Sometimes mom would cuddle us. Sometimes dad would do funny voices. I often share stories that I read now, but rarely stories I have read before. In contemplating which stories have shaped me as a writer, I wanted to think a little more deeply on which stories I started out with, even if they don't seem that significant.

Trumpets in Grumpetland
This particular story had to be read by dad. Mom just couldn't do it right. There were voices for each of the characters, and multiple sound effects. The illustrations inside were wonderful, with lots of detail, and the whole world it takes place in so imaginative and detailed! The creatures looked like hippos, who rode in cat-faced helicopters and wore World War II uniforms. The story itself is quite simple and easy to follow, but told in a completely original way with those unique illustrations.

I Love You Forever, I'll Like You For Always
This was one that mom always read. Tucked under her wings, pressed close and our bodies finally still after a busy day, she would say the lines like she had written them herself and drop kisses on our foreheads after.

A book whose title I can't remember :(
I tried to find it, and alas, it was not to be found. I remember nothing about the words in the book, because I spent so much time pouring over the illustrations. I remember sitting up late paging through it over and over, making up stories to go with each page. Each picture had detailed cross-sections of animal homes inside trees or underground, complete with kitchens, furniture, and decorations. In some of the pictures, mice had pet snails on leashes and held picnics. It was such a charming book, that I am a little sad that I couldn't find it and can see the pictures so clearly in my head.

Bread and Jam for Frances
I loved Frances. She was sort of a snot sometimes, but I was entertained by her wit and confidence. I specifically recall how she ate her lunch one bite at a time, alternating food, and how I tried to eat like that in kindergarten more than once. I liked how mom read this one, though I can't remember what, exactly, she did when she read it that I liked so much. It was just the pattern of her voice, I suppose, something about its cadence that is stuck in my head.

Dr. Seuss
Like with the Grumpets, there were certain voices and sound effects for each page, and the illustrations for Dr. Seuss stories were unique and imaginative. Our favorite one included a character who played his violin badly, and Dad would make sounds like a wretchedly played violin that would have us in fits of laughter.

Harvey's Hideout
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Equally as entertaining to me as Frances was Mildred, the sassy muskrat who wouldn't share with her brother Harvey but she was so interesting because she had a secret hideout and tea parties. Besides which, in the end she and her brother made up and that was nice. Even though Harvey and Mildred were sassy little muskrats, they were not above forgiving one another to mend their brother-sister friendship.

There is one collection of stories that I can't really title and I can't really tell you where you can buy them, but it was perhaps one of the most memorable bed-time stories I was told. This collection of stories was mostly shared on cool summer nights, around a flickering campfire beneath falling stars. My father was a wonderful story-teller, his head so full of ideas that he could free them with a blink of an eye. There were numerous Ricky Raccoon adventures, and a very amusing tale on How the Cat Bird Got Its Call. Never once was a story told exactly the same, and they always became more grand than the last time- if he ever did tell them a second time. It was like magic, the way the stories were born in the dark and shaped at that very moment. I already loved words, and this was just proof that words were the least recognized but most valuable currency.
Words were shared in the morning when we woke, and whispered in prayer. They were recited midday at school and murmured after supper, then shared before bed to usher us to peaceful rests. The greatest gift Jesus gave to us was His Word, infallible and invaluable and that will always be the most precious book I have and will read.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

My Summer Have-Read List

It's that time again! Hear is my Summer have-read list!

I am feeling so accomplished! I actually finished The Triune God earlier this summer which I had been working on all winter. I may have said before, it was a little dry in places but it was chocked-full of good stuff and I was determined to get through it. So even though I took my sweet time on it (I tend to do that with devotionals anyway) I did finish it at last.

I also finished Jaye L. Knight's Ilyon Chronicles: Resistance, and loved it. I loved it so much, in fact, that I purchased it from Amazon (along with Defy and A Time to Rise) using gift cards I won from just-said authors (respectively, Tricia Mingerink and Nadine Brandes). The best way to describe this one to you is by calling it Christian Fantasy. It is set in a midieval-like world where Christians of many races are beginning to be persecuted for their beliefs. It was cleverly written, Kyrin and Jace are lovable and likable, and full of imaginative locations. I highly recommend it.

I followed up Resistance by starting The King's Scrolls, which I am devouring at this time. It has some very interesting twists and surprises, which I cannot share with you. You must read it for yourself!

Connie VanHuis has beautiful insight into small things in life; I love the way she looks at the world and finds testimony to God in something as simple and sweet as farm-life with horses. I have always loved horses, they are intelligent and magnificent creatures. I could appreciate how she sees this intelligent devotion in them and likens it to our intelligent, purposeful, but sometimes faultering devotion to Christ. Her book was encouraging to me, and I felt like she was sitting in my room telling me her stories and giving me Bible verses herself that build up and give peace.

Every artist or writer ought to have Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon on their shelf. It is short, clear, concise and extremely helpful. I read it all in probably 30 min. or less, laying on the beach with friends on a soft evening when the sun was not blaring hot and was sitting just on the horizon. It was a great feeling to just sit and finish a book all in one sitting (I haven't done that since high school) and I felt that I had taken away from it a lot of very good, insightful mental notes. I plan to buy it and put sticky notes in it and take notes and generally just love on it in the future.
*Also of note, previously in the same day I had just watched Spiderman: Homecoming and I'm telling you, if you haven't seen it by now you ought to.

Other books included Berenstein Bears which I have not read in years but my niece was pretty insistent and I couldn't say no. :)

On different note, I have not only read some great books this summer, I have also seen some really great movies (besides Spiderman).

In August I finally was able to watch The Case for Christ, which I had wanted to see several months ago and was just unable to (you know, life). I highly recommend it! It was very well-done, and really interesting. I did feel like it moved quickly. There were a lot of detailed accounts that changed Lee Strobel's mind that I wished had been explored a little more. However, it is a movie- it kind of has to be condensed in order for it to be viewable by a large audience. Most people aren't interested in long films, especially in theaters. After seeing the movie, I would like to read the book to find out more about Strobel's life in detail, and how this case of his lead him to Christ.

What great books or movies have you read or seen this summer? I would love to hear your favorite summer reads! Any recommendations for me?

Monday, September 18, 2017

September News

18 days until Breathe! I am very excited for this, because last year it was awesome. I was exhausted by the end, but so filled with information. What an experience it was! 

Something I did not share in my last post was that I started two new jobs (yes, two). How I am going to balance them out will be a challenge, but one is a temporary, seasonal job. This means... well, I don't know what it means, exactly. I will have to work writing around it (as always- that's nothing new). It is a different schedule, which will change again in October. For that reason, I would appreciate many prayers that I adjust quickly to the current fluctuating schedule and my permanent schedule when that falls into place. Change is hard for me. It tends to mess with me, and throw my creative side off-balance for a bit. I love what I am doing, but I am asking for many prayers in finding a new normal and being okay with still more change. 

Then there is FALL! Which I love. I do enjoy all seasons for different reasons (Summer is my favorite, though) but Fall also includes one other very big thing: the beginning of school and the pre-holiday season. For me, this means Sunday School begins, Christmas Program stuff needs to be finalized, and holidays planned and baked for. I'm jumping into a sea of (somewhat) organized chaos this September with my eyes Upward. 

Reading goals: To finish Samara's Peril by Jaye L. Knight. 
Writing goals: To write another chapter of the White Hawks up and have ready to send to editing friends (sorry, I am way far behind but nobody complain because it's all worth it, believe me, the trade-off is better). To also write at least a little in Ember's story, even if it is 500 words only before now and the end of the month. 
Other goals: Generally not freak out daily when I look at my calendar and trust God daily.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Happy 1st Ink Lizard Anniversary!

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my blog, the Ink Lizard! Lots has happened since that day, but there are a few writerly (yes I'm making that a word today even though spell check is angry with me) highlights of the past year that I can share with you.

1. The Ink Lizard was meant to journal my walk towards moving from writer to author. While I didn't have a clear answer when that change will happen, and still don't, there are things I do know:
     a) That while I rest in God's Word and listen to Him as I make choices in life, take chances, and work unto His glory, He will make then when apparent in His perfect timing.
     b) You never loose when you are making friends. Even if you don't know the purpose of a time in your life, God puts people around you to either challenge you, help or cause you to grow, or to support you. So make friends, and be honest with them and treat them like chocolate cake. (Don't drop 'em or smash 'em, and if you treat 'em right they will support you up with laughter and love).
     c) Write write write and never stop. You only fail when you give up.
     d) If a day seems overwhelming, pray, then consider your priorities and pursue only those things. Setting small goals is both encouraging and relieving!

2. My focus has not changed a lot since starting this blog, but what I have been writing seriously with focus has changed. When I started this blog I was pushing myself to finish a three-part series, Atremento Chronicles, beginning with White Hawks. This was the work of over a decade. But I realized it was holding me back from growing. After a lot of prayer and careful consideration I set it aside for a while to pursue other writing projects. I moved on to Lyla's story, implementing techniques I studied from books and followed from the Breathe Conference 2016. Something just never really clicked with that story, though, and I learned that it was because I was still not writing right for me. (Lyla's story is still in limbo right now.) I tried to do everything exactly right, and it was terrible. I knew I was a pantser but now I know it. I absolutely cannot write a story from an outline. I totally loose interest in it. (For those of you who don't know, there's two kinds of writers, the plotter and the pantsers, who fly by the seat of their pants. If you know me, you know this is a little odd because I really love to have everything planned out and accounted for... just for some reason I can't be controlled when I write.)
In the midst of struggling with Lyla's story, and with many other things last winter, I plunked myself down at my computer one Saturday without a plan. All I had was this strong urge to just write, and I didn't know who the characters would be or the plot. I didn't know what was going on, but somehow I discovered with Ember her own fears.
And here I am, beginning Chapter 4. This doesn't seem like much to you, but it is an accomplishment for me after the last several months, and Ember's story is only building. I have so much to tell, and I pray that you will be able to read her story in the future. I have learned to see Ember, but it was a process. Letting go of Nico and his friends was strange at first. It's slowly getting easier and I'm understanding Ember better.

3. My elbow has been 100% healed for a long time now, and I am extremely grateful for the use of my hands again and the energy to do more in the evenings. The Lord answered my prayers and healed my wrists after a time. I can weed, bake and cook, clean and give hugs and hold my favorite squishy little ones. I can write! I do not take these simple things for granted right now, doing these every-day things makes me really happy.

4. Finding time to read is still difficult. I do not have lunch breaks at all anymore, but I often divide up my mornings and manage about 20-30 minutes of reading before leaving work. It doesn't get me very far very fast into a book, but it is something so I'm not complaining. At least there are no more interruptions. :)

5. I am totally planning to go to Breathe this year and very excited to take part in it and see friends again!

6. A non-writerly thing to add: Jemma is learning a new trick- to jump through my arms in a hoop! I'm not really sure she gets it yet, though.

Happy reading, friends, and thank you for sticking with me. I appreciate prayers and would love to hear if any of you will also be at Breathe (will I see you there???).

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Trying Out a New Trick with Jemma

I have nothing exciting to share at the moment in regards to writing. There are always books I can talk about (always), and there people I love to share about (who write fantastic books) and there is cats. So, I will take a break from the writing chatter to share about a hobby that I enjoy!

Jemma is a very clever cat, but she is also very playful, curious, a rather pathetic scaredy-cat, and generally just a drama princess. This cat definitely lets you know how she feels about what's going on. She loves attention so much, that I've got her trained almost like a dog. Don't laugh. Yes, cats are totally trainable. I really enjoy the challenge of pet training, I have had several animals and cats are the hardest (rats were the easiest) but they are not impossible. It just requires a different approach. Cats are just wired differently, and come at things with a hunter's perspective: if I invest in this, what am I going to get from it? You just need a lot of patience, and be willing to be flexible. Every cat has a different motivation, so you can't train every cat the same way. When something goes wrong, punishment does nothing- spanking actually makes them feel defensive and they appear to lash out in anger when it really might be fear. Cats have a strong sense of dignity and space, and feel threatened- not just angry- when challenged. The best way to deal with a naughty cat is to use a low but not loud voice, and either walk away or redirect them to something else.
Jemma sits, gives high fives and shakes, stands up, lays, and (sometimes- still working on this one) rolls over. I saw on Facebook a video of teaching a cat to jump through your arms interlocked in a hoop and thought this would be great fun. Last night I decided to begin teaching her this trick. 
I made a mistake by beginning with me sitting on the floor. Jemma prefers to follow hand signals I have modified from American Sign Language signs and my body language alongside my voice, so when I tried to get her to walk over my arm for the Step 1 of this trick, she laid down. 
I didn't realize what was happening so I told her "no" and she slapped her tail on the carpet and narrowed her eyes. Me, sighing, tried again, but she would not get up. I even showed her the can of whipped cream. Nada. Just squinting and tail-tapping and sighing back at me. Then I realized that she was frustrated because she thought she'd done as I asked since I sat down on the floor, too. I ended up having mom launch a hair tie over my arm twice in a row, and when she passed over my arm I used to clicker to indicate she'd done something I wanted. The pros do this all the time and call it conditioning. You first do a series of very simple steps to train the animal to associate the sound of the clicker as a positive thing. They look forward to hearing it because it means they will be rewarded. Once they know this, you can start training them to do more things! So you see your pet do something cut or fun; repeat the conditions that get them to do that thing and click when they actually do it. This is repeated until they understand that you want them to do that thing, and then you add a voice and/or hand signal to the action. They will soon learn that you are signalling that thing. Eventually, you can build step upon step using the clicker, and a treat when the steps are completed. It sounds complicated but it really isn't! 
I have used this clicker technique for Jemma, a pet parakeet and a pair of rats. I hear it is very easy to do with dogs, and I have seen dolphins and otters trained at water parks using it. 

Do you have a pet that you have trained to do something fun or unique? I would love to hear about it! 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Interview with Jaye L. Knight

As a proud member of Jaye's Resistance participating in the Weekend Release Blitz, I am blessed to be able to share this author interview with Jaye L. Knight with all of you! Her stories are filled with strong and lovable characters struggling to remain firm in their faith despite the Emperor's cold rule. If you enjoyed the Blades of Acktar, you will definitely like the Chronicles of Ilyon.

 1. What books do you think have the greatest influence or impact on what you write?

I can be inspired by just about any books, but Books of the Infinite by R.J. Larson had some of the greatest influence on me. I read her series about the time I was really developing my writing style and voice, and I think I picked up things from her. Then, of course, there is The Lord of the Rings. I probably never would have started writing fantasy if not for Tolkien.

 2. What do you hope others will take away from your stories? 

That God is in control even in the midst of our greatest trials. My characters go through a lot of awful things, but there is always a purpose in the end. I believe the same thing about life. Even when we don’t understand what is happening, God can see the entire picture and how it will work together in the end.

 3. Who is your favorite character to write and why? 

I’d have to say Jace. He will always be very near and dear to my heart. Ilyon Chronicles all started with him. While I haven’t struggled to the extent that he has, his struggles resonate with me and came from some of my own struggles.

 4. Who is the most difficult character for you to write and why? 

It’s been long enough now that I know my characters well enough not to have too much trouble with them, but in the beginning, I did find Kyrin difficult to write. For a long time, I struggled to figure out exactly who she was. It took a few rewrites before I had a good grasp on her as a character.

 5. If you could make any food or drink that your characters consume, what would it be?

While I don’t have a specific dish in mind, I’d love to try some of the crete food the characters try while they’re in Arvael in this book. Either that or those delicious beef sandwiches Jorvik and his brothers make for everyone when they first arrive.

Thank you, Jaye for allowing me this opportunity!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Ilyon Chronicles #4: Exiles, by Jaye L. Knight

Here we are on Thursday already (this week went by so fast!) and the Usborne Online party is still on. It will now be open through Monday, so if you feel you missed out, have no fear! We are still here!
It is now also time to share Jaye L. Knight's newest release with you! 

Jaye L. Knight’s newest novel, Exiles, has been released! Exiles is the fourth book in the Christian fantasy series, Ilyon Chronicles. Read about it below and be sure to check out the other blog stops on the tour by visiting the official tour page. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

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About the Book
Exiled after their defeat in Samara, the Resistance struggles to find allies in their quest to restore King Balen to his throne and put an end to the emperor’s tyranny. When the crete people refuse to lend their aid, Balen leads a group to Dorland to reason with them and win their support. However, enemies prove to be everywhere, and they find themselves in a fight to keep Dorland from becoming Daican’s latest conquest.

Back in Landale, the arrival of a new enemy forces Trask and Anne to tread more carefully than ever. Tensions are rising, and the enemy is determined to test Anne’s loyalty and root out the location of Trask and the Resistance once and for all.

Feeling trapped within the walls of Valcré, Prince Daniel must contend with an ever-eroding relationship with his father. As their clashes escalate, the situation becomes potentially life threatening when his loyalty is called into question. His sister seems bent on branding him a traitor and actively seeking to condemn him to the fate of those put to death in their father’s new arena. Daniel is certain his father would never execute his only son and heir, but with other forces at work, it might not be that simple.

One small misstep could prove fatal for all.

Available now on Amazon!


Haven’t discovered the world of Ilyon yet? The first three Kindle books are on sale August 11th - 14th!
You can find them on Amazon.


About the Author
JayeAuthor2015Jaye L. Knight is an award-winning author, homeschool graduate, and shameless tea addict with a passion for Christian fantasy. Armed with an active imagination and love for adventure, Jaye weaves stories of truth, faith, and courage with the message that even in the deepest darkness, God’s love shines as a light to offer hope. She has been penning stories since the age of eight and resides in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

You can connect with Jaye on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Etsy.

Share in the excitement of the release and enter to win a themed giveaway pack! Prizes include an autographed copy of Exiles, a pewter dragon necklace by treasurecast, and a sword letter opener! (Giveaway is open to US residents only. Cannot be shipped internationally.)

Giveaway Link:


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