Saturday, June 30, 2018

Interview with Emily Hayse

Good morning, friends! On this very hot day I am pleased to share with you a small interview I did with Emily Hayse, a speculative fiction author who just recently released her debut novel, Crowning Heaven. I met Emily through Schuyler McConkey, when she was still in the midst of writing her story. I can't tell you how fun it is to watch friends from the writing and brainstorming stage develop and release their novels! 

First off, Emily, please tell me the last thing you ate, and what you are wearing on your feet. ;)

The last thing I ate was a samoa cookie and I have nothing on my feet! :D

Lol, Samoas are delish!What can you tell me about who your MC (main character) is?

My main character is a twenty-year-old girl named Heaven Cassidae and living in the foster care system her entire life, she's learned simply to take care of herself.

What is the story about and is there something you would like people to take away from reading your story?

The short answer is that it's about a girl who becomes a queen and how doing the right thing is important even if it seems like a very little thing.
What I want my readers to take away from this book is a healthy dose of courage. Courage to do the right thing, courage in the face of loss, courage to face life because life is hard sometimes.

That's a good lesson to learn. Sometimes it is the most mundane of situations or the smallest of persons who can make the biggest difference. Where does it take place? 

This you will have to read the book to find out! Though the book begins in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. This book is portal fantasy.

What influences are a part of your story? I'm wondering what cultures and people give shape to your story, to give us an idea of what inspires you. :) Can you share with us any fun facts sprinkled within the story?

The two main cultures in the book were very loosely based on Nordic and Greek cultures. As for people and experiences, take your pick. Everything I see and do filters into how I write.  
All the musician stuff in the book is 100% accurate. If not from personal experience, it's drawn from family or friends in the professional music world. Also, the songs she plays are fun to look up. Most or all of them can be found on YouTube. And last, the very first paragraph and the very last paragraph have not changed since the first draft when I wrote those words by hand in a notebook.

Do you have a character who was easiest for you to write, or who you related to them most?

Nic Thorsen was probably the easiest. I am not sure that I relate to him a ton (yet we do have some similarities in personality)  but he was just one of those characters that takes care of everything on the page and you don't have to do too much to the character. They just show up.

"They just show up,"- I so love it when that happens! It is a great and rare feeling and these characters are the most fun to work with. On the opposite side of the coin, which character was the most difficult to write or that you least related to, and why?

This may come as a surprise to those of you who have read the book, but Athen Stellanos was very hard. I don't think I got him right until the very last draft. He was too nice and because of that I simply couldn't make his character strong enough. But then I finally understood what made him tick.

Wow! That is a surprise. I enjoyed Athen in the story. Are you a plotter or a pantser? ;) (For those of you who don't write, a plotter is someone who plans very carefully every step and typically uses a strong outline before writing. Pantsers "fly by the seat of their pants" to write, using instinct or intuition first, and then editing the plot later. You would be surprised at how many authors do quite well on this second method, as wild as it may sound! Brian Jacques, author of the entire Redwall series and The Flying Dutchman was a true pantser.)

I call myself a solid plantser. I tend more towards the pantser side, but I usually have to have a vague idea of where I'm heading first.

Is there a verse that has encouraged you on this writing journey that you would like to share? 

There were many, but on thinking of it, Psalm 16:5-6 really spoke to me in the process because it helped me get my eyes off of the small picture and remember what was truly important.

"The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant plances; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance." (Psalm 16:5-6, ESV) What a beautiful reminder of His care for us! I can see why this was special to you.

Is a sequal planned or is this a standalone (for those who have not read your story, can they expect a closed ending or an open one?)

There is no sequel planned. This book is a standalone. However, I am already working on my next book to be published, so if you liked Crowning Heaven keep your eyes out!

Now for a fun question! Are you Castellani or Rodhacarian?

I am very Rodhacarian, though I have some Castellani qualities.
(Scroll down for a quiz to find out if you are Rodhacarian or Castellani!)

Is you could pick one dish from the books, which would it be?

Oh that is hard. I love food. There's a drink in it called Fraeth, and I've made a version of it before and it's really, really good.

We would love to hear how you made it sometime! Thanks so much for allowing me to do this interview with you, it was great fun!
If you would like to read Crowning Heaven (and I suggest you do!), you can purchase it from Amazon, and also leave a small review there when you're done, and on Goodreads, too. The best way to you support your favorite authors is to share and review. She can also be found on Facebook.

If you're interested, here is a little quiz to find out if you are Rodhacarian or Castellani. If you have more 1's, you are Rodhacarian, but if you have more 2's, you are a Castellani.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Spring Have-Read List

It's time again! Summer is officially here (says the calendar) and even though it's been a slightly chilly week, it has been grand. I've already made the first of the annual trips to my favorite Michigan state park and experienced the first summer sunburn. (That actually happened before the camping trip, and in my defense, I was wearing sunscreen so I can't explain it.) The yard is filled with blooming beauties and as is usual I'm scrambling to keep up with the weeds. There have been nightly walks to breathe in the fresh air, and baby kisses from and to nieces and my nephew. To make room for all of this, Ember has only gotten one night this month and my idea-bank is overfilled. Or maybe you could say the Muse has gained some weight. But it has been so worth it.

Here are some books I hope you will be encouraged to read this summer, and enjoy them as much as I did this spring!

Till We Have Faces, by CS Lewis
Till We Have Faces was a surprising read for me. I have a confession to make, one which I hope you won't judge me too harshly on... I am seriously lacking my knowledge of Lewis's works. I have only actually read the first four of his Narnian tales (The Magician's Nephew is so good, by the way, and sorely underappreciated!). With that in mind, I did not expect such a dark and depraved world as was presented in the story of Orual and Psyche. If you're not even a little familiar with Greek mythology beforehand, some of the story might even be more unexpected. What follows is a re-telling of the Psyche and Cupid mythology. I think I may need to read it again at some point. There are several themes throughout, and it is obvious Lewis loved writing this story. Though Orual is frustratingly, obviously faulted, you feel a sympathy for her and you want to keep reading because you want know her, not just because you're seeking answers...

Maggie Bright, by Tracey Groot
This, oh, this.
I'm sorry but I have to babble a little here because the reason I chose this book was not because I saw it on Goodreads or a shelving cart and nabbed it. It was because of Tracey Groot herself.
I met Tracey Groot at my first ever Breathe Christian Writer's Conference in 2016. She was spell-binding; it was evident in the way she carried herself and spoke of her characters that she knew them intimately and loved them deeply. There are some words that you carry with you for a long time, and hers were some of those. We had heard James Scott Bell already at the conference (the King of Outlines, if you didn't know) and I was struggling with determining my direction as a writer (were the Atremento Chronicles just a stepping stone or were they meant to be more?) and how to put together outlines in a way that felt comfortable and actually helpful to me. Tracey Groot said this most wonderful thing which carried me through that very blank tab in my brain that is labeled Outlines: the Bane of My Existence and quoted the Tolkien: "One writes such a story not out of the leaves of trees still to be observed, nor by means of botany and soil-science; but it grows like a seed in the dark out of the leaf-mould of mind: out of all that has been seen or thought or read, that has long ago been forgotten, descending into the deeps. No doubt there is much selection, as with a gardener: what one throws on one's personal compost-heap; and my mould is evidently made largely of linguistic matter." It's difficult for me to explain this to someone who doesn't write, but I will try to explain it from my memory of how Ms. Groot explained it. It basically means something like this: take all the information in, learn it, and then put it aside to your mental "compost heap". At some point, writer's instinct will kick in and the important pieces of that information will seep into your work, and you can pull it out and arrange it just so. I remembered that and applied it. That was the magic. I found my way around this terrible problem of being unable to write or use an outline. I have my own kind of outline, however non-traditional it is. (Bell could probably laugh at me and still say "I told you so!") I also had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with Ms. Groot and she offered some great advice that was difficult to swallow and hard to grasp, but with such compassion. This was ultimately the final realization for me that I couldn't hold onto the same story forever, and sometimes it is okay to shelf something for a little while- even indefinitely- though it is painful. She did not look at me like I was crazy, and I have had very few people talk to me to genuinely about the stories that I weave or how alive they are. She shared with me a similar experience of letting go a story that she'd had years ago, and encouraged me. I was inspired by Ms. Groot's kindness to read this story and I'm so glad I did. This story reveals a deep compassion for human souls and a wild love for words. The characters can be seen in your head as if they are one of Murray's drawings come to life. This sweet and sad miracle-story of Dunkirk inspires the reader to an appreciation for those who fight for life and honor it.

Dagger's Sleep, by Tricia Mingerink
Dagger's Sleep (Beyond the Tales, #1)
This book received it's very own post and review, which you can read here. I loved this tale, woven with beautiful themes and sweet friendships. I was genuinely in love with this story, and it nearly brought me to tears.

Crowning Heaven, by Emily Hayse
I met Emily through my friend Schuyler, and I'm so glad that I did! It was evident when we first met that Emily has a vivid and bright imagination! She has a big heart and big ideas, and I didn't know what to expect in her debut novel. Crowning Heaven takes place mostly in another world, one which it is obvious Emily poured her heart into. Her efforts bring forth a full and fresh new earth and cultures, and getting to know Heaven after hearing about her from Emily was intriguing. Emily's strengths in this story lie in her tender, careful effort of worldbuilding and knowing each of her characters intimately. At this very minute, I'm actually tasting Heaven Cassidae tea in my mother's Faith Over Fear mug from the Re:garding Him Conference 2018. It takes like vanilla-y peachy goodness! It's soooo tasty. (I wonder how it would taste with a little milk?)
I will be posting an author interview with Emily Hayse in the near future, Lord willing!

Happy reading, friends!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Book Spotlight: Dagger's Sleep

A prince cursed to sleep.

A princess destined to wake him.
A kingdom determined to stop them.
High Prince Alexander has been cursed to a sleep like unto death, a curse that will end the line of the high kings and send the Seven Kingdoms of Tallahatchia into chaos. With his manservant to carry his luggage and his own superior intelligence to aid him, Alex sets off to find one of the Fae and end his curse one way or another.
A hundred years later, Princess Rosanna learns she is the princess destined by the Highest King to wake the legendary sleeping prince. With the help of the mysterious Daemyn Rand, can she find the courage to finish the quest as Tallahatchia wavers on the edge of war?

One curse connects them. A hundred years separate them. From the rushing rivers of Tallahatchia’s mountains to the hall of the Highest King himself, their quests will demand sacrifices neither of them could imagine.
Tricia, oh Tricia. This was truly my favorite of all the novels she has written so far. Blades of Acktar will always have a soft place in my heart, but this was a beautiful, beautiful story.

I didn't know what to expect when I received the ARC of Dagger's Sleep. I knew it was going to be good, but different. I was yet again immersed in a world that melds Western influences with Midieval structures and ideas. As before, it's a familiar landscape with the dense forests I imagine myself playing in during my childhood, but the political and social structures are feudal, with Kings and Princesses. In this case, it's also very Native American influenced, and I was intrigued. Beyond that, however, it was the story itself that really shines this time around, as well as the characters. Tricia has grown so much since her debut Dare, and this is really a beautiful story. It is allegorical in nature, and powerful at that. I was surprised at the combination of Fae with these characters who wore moccasins and talked about the Lord of All, but it works so well in this story.
Tricia is gifted at writing sensitive but strong characters, and Rosanna is just that. I loved her immediately. Hers and Isi's friendship is sweet and loyal. Alex, although arrogant, has a soft side that kept me turning the pages knowing, and waiting, for him to change. And Daemyn... how can you not fall for Daemyn, really?
The ending was sweet and made me teary; it ties in all the loose ends, and all your favorite characters are viewed in a redeemable, forgivable light (which is my favorite way to end a story). I'm going to stop here lest I give away too many details. Just go read it!

About the Author
Tricia Mingerink is a twenty-something, book-loving, horse-riding country girl. She lives in Michigan with her family and their pack of pets. When she isn't writing, she can be found pursuing backwoods adventures across the country.
You can connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, Twitter, Instagram, and her blog.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Welcome to May!

CampNaNoWriMo is finished! I'm a bit behind on sharing how it went only because the weather has been so nice. Until today. Apparently since we didn't get enough rain in April we get it now. But summer is coming, and I'm praying this year will be great. It will be great. I am so thankful for energy to spare after work, and the use of my hands without hindrance or pain. I'm grateful for walks in the evening and the desire to bake, garden, write and do all the things I love again. I am so thankful for Godly friends and family who have surrounded me with prayers.
Beyond this, I have so much to share!

I made it well over my goal of 15,000 words, somewhere into 17,000 and I am very happy with that!
Ember is growing slowly but steadily, but I've reached a point where some details need to be mapped out, so I'm exploring the Scrivener software and loving how easy it is to create folders and subfolders. Everything is right there and I don't have to leave the page! This is both very convenient and a great time-saver because then I'm not wandering off on rabbit trails through Pinterest and Facebook since I don't need to flip between the 'net and my files. My favorite part of story-telling is world-building, and this software is wonderful for that. I used to have multiple files in my documents, and pictures saved on Pinterest, but now I can have them all in one place. World-building is a complicated and delicate process that requires a lot of thought and observation, with some research, and the creation of "rules" and functions. (This, among other reasons, is why I am not a short-story teller unless it's a novella or similar of an already created world of mine. I won't take the time to create something if I can't explore all possibilities, and why use up grand ideas for something so small??? ;D )
Image result for mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger darling
I haven't used Scrivener for long and I've not used it for anything complicated yet. (Though I did just play around a bit with the name generator on it this week, what fun that is!) If you are interested in it, please feel free to message me through Facebook (or comment below). I have won a coupon for it through NaNoWriMo and as I was shared a code from another writer friend, I would love to pass it on before the code expires.

I have also done a thing which scares me half to death and also makes me very excited at the same time.
I have registered for Realm Makers! Wow! I can't believe I just said that!
I've prayed about it for two years and it is actually happening! Realm Makers is a Christian Speculative Fiction writer's conference held annually. Christian fiction has really exploded in recent years, thanks to social media and other influences (we might be able to happily blame Lewis and Tolkien for that, though Tolkien was not as intentional and people mistakenly give him too much credit for it). What used to be available was something like Amish Romance/ soft romance and other "Inspirational" literature but now we have more variety than ever before. Personally, I'm very happy about this because as a voracious fantasty-novel reader, I always found it very difficult to acquire good, wholesome fantasy literature when I was younger. The Christian Fiction market was seriously lacking, and so I never actually read any Christian Fiction at all. In a way, I think this taught me how to self-edit while reading which can be a good thing, but is not for everyone. It is my hope that by getting the word out about the Spec Fic genre, other Christians can find well-written books that share a good message in a creative way. I would like other readers who, like me, enjoy deeper literature with dimensional worlds, characters, and lots of adventure to have such books easily available to them. Literature is a wonderful way to teach us about empathy, consequences, and to think deeper about simple questions. I'm really excited to be able to attend this conference with supportive friends!

Soon I will share my Spring Have-Read list, but I didn't want to drop a huge single blog post on you this month after missing an entire month. I am so happy to that I have been able to read a little more again. I hope you're all enjoying your Spring!

P.S.: y'all should check out Speyer's Farm Market. Part of the reason I'm behind on blog posts is because I've been outside gardening, and Speyer's is my favorite place to shop for flowers. #1 Their plants are excellent quality, always healthy, well manicured (I would know, I have worked there, and we plucked and pinched and groomed those babies to perfection) and hardy! #2 Great prices! Speyer's has competitive prices, especially considering that the quality of the product that you buy there is top notch. Bob and Karen personally select and maintain each plant and each produce item. #3 You can have choices! I once decided to shop at a very popular flower market that many people had suggested to me, and I was a little disappointed that they flats are arranged quite differently so that you can't select as much variety as you like. The little plastic trays that are connected to one another came in larger quantities. I prefer purchasing the flower trays in smaller quantities, in threes or fours, rather than sixes. It allows me more options in plant type and color, and, frankly, I feel this is more cost efficient for me, too. #4 They are very accomodating! I have personally witnessed employees going out of their way on a very busy day to find or retrieve an item for a customer that requires either a trip several greenhouses over or out to the field to pick it.
So there is my little rant about Speyer's. :)

Saturday, March 31, 2018

April Break

This is just a short little hello from me to you. I won't be doing a blog-post in April due to Camp NaNoWriMo (if you missed the notice, it was in the previous blog post).
Before the month kicks off, I'm enjoying re-watching my favorite show, The Mentalist, with my family. It helps to have witty characters to lighten me up before diving into something of my own... not-entirely-certain-yet characters. Patrick Jane is certainly full of good wit.
This is just a short little hello from me to you. I won't be doing a blog-post in April due to Camp NaNoWriMo (if you missed the notice, it was in the previous blog post). 
Before the month kicks off, I'm enjoying re-watching my favorite show, The Mentalist, with my family. It helps to have witty characters to lighten me up before diving into something of my own... not-entirely-certain-yet characters. Patrick Jane is certainly full of good wit.

Hehe ;)
I certainly won't be disappearing, I might pop in on Facebook if there's news to share, or Instagram for cat pictures, but I would really appreciate your prayers for clarity, focus, and generally feeling not-stressed over it. 15,000 words seems like a lot, and I am sort of anxious about this, it is new and I don't know my antagonist very well just yet.
So here's to tea, word-weaving, head-scratching, and keyboard-glaring.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Winter Have-Read List & Much More

Hello there! There are so many updates, so I will just jump right to it! First off, I have decided to do my first ever NaNoWriMo-ing by joining up for Camp NaNo this April! I'm really excited, but also very nervous. I set myself a small word count, but I'm only trying to make a comfortable habit, not knock myself out at this point. I will be working on Ember, and I think it would be incredible if I could at least make it half-way through this story by month's end.

Secondly, I am thrilled to share with you the cover reveal for Tricia Mingerink's next story. This one sounds like a lot of fun, and I know she put a great deal of effort into it so it is definitely a labor of love. 
It's a beautiful cover and I think it's going to be a great read. The release date is set for May 28, 2018, and you can learn more about it here, at Tricia Mingerink's website

Finally, I am obligated to share with you my usual Have-Read list, and I hope these books inspire you and that you try them for yourself!

Ilyon Chronicles #4 Exiles by Jaye L. Knight
I'm dying for the next one. There's no spoilers here, but it does end on a cliff-hanger. By this time in the series, we are well-acquainted with our MC and supporting characters and Knight takes us on a wild journey with them. I was seriously concerned for Daniel's life, and riveted wondering who might change... and who might not. Kyrin has grown up so much, and her worries are different than they used to be. I loved the depth we get into with each character this time.

A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller
This wasn't the devotional I had thought it would be. It didn't give me nice lists or "you should do this differently" or "start making that a habit". Instead, Miller weaves his own experiences into it to show you how his life was shaped by prayer. He gently guides the reader to an understanding of making prayer part of life, not just something you do intermittently in life. Like all devotionals, I took my time in reading it, but that really seemed to suit its pace anyway. It is the kind of book you need to read slowly and digest, so if you're looking for a fast and short book, you may want to consider something by Lydia Brownback, or perhaps Najapfour's lessons (below).

The Folkestone Files #1 War of Loyalties by Schuyler McConkey
I have so much to say about this one. First, because I know Schuyler, and I think she's grand. Second, because I read this and I think it's fantastico. It's long, but it is full of suspense, adventure and mystery. Ben is so nice, you can't imagine him being anything but sugared up, but he surprised and amused me when he is pushed beyond his breaking point, between morals and relationships, and forced to make difficult decisions. I enjoyed the complicated relationships between the characters, and their individual personalities were vivid, intriguing and warming.

The Gospel-Driven Tongue by Brian G. Najapfour
You can read my short-but-sweet review on Goodreads and it can be purchased from Amazon. The best way to compliment an author is by reviewing them on sites like this that help to promote the book. (Let me know if the links do not work, please.) Copied below is my short review on both Goodreads and Amazon. Rev. Najapfour was the pastor of my church, and we as a congregation enjoyed being under his teaching and learned a lot from his evangelical approach.
"I really enjoyed this book. It was written very clearly and simply, but it was also thorough and deep. It is thought-provoking and convicting, and I think it would make an excellent book for a Bible study because it also includes chapter questions to help you apply the lessons. I thought it was well-organized to also help the reader digest the information and includes an abundance of Scripture references."

Sermon on the Mount by Jen Wilkin
I have just finished this one with a Bible Study group, and it was very good. I enjoyed the in-depth study of Matthew 5-7, reading it all at once and then taking it apart daily. My only two criticisms would be that some of the questions seemed repetitive in places, and it was a difficult task to begin each study chapter by re-reading all three Bible chapters in one morning. Working full-time means that in order to do something like that, I need to split it up into manageable chunks throughout my day which I found really defeated the purpose of reading it all at once. It was less stressful and more enjoyable to me when I felt free to take my time on a small section of verses. Otherwise, I appreciated this study and learning alongside a wonderful group of women.

Well, that's about it! I hope that you have a wonderful Spring. I'd love to hear what you are reading in the comments below. I am always open to new suggestions, fun reads or devotionals alike. 

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Marching In... Like a Prayer Warrior

Ah, so here is March, that lion-like month which enchants us and irritates us equally as much, because we see spring ahead yet can't quite reach it. I promise my Spring Have-Read List mid-month sometime (after the first day of spring).

I have been thinking over the last few days and weeks what a blessing it is to be surrounded by friends, and what it means to be a part of a covenant family. 2017 was a rough year for me, I'm praying that 2018 is much better, by far, and trusting that God will continue to provide for me. He already has, too.
I was supported in prayer by so many, and in turn I know each close sister in Christ has their own struggles. I pray for them, too. You really don't know what someone is going through when you meet them. I've learned that everyone experiences their own pains in life. You can't measure their pain to yours, or yours to theirs. Your pain is yours, their pain is theirs. If you are compassionate and listen, sometimes you are blessed with the opportunity to be included as a prayer warrior for your friends- what an honor that is! It becomes a wonderful honor when you realize you have prayed so often and so deeply for one another that you realize these people are family. Family is not just defined by blood, but by the likeness of our hearts, and proven by the giving of ourselves to others. I know who those who care are not by what they have said to me, but what they shown to me.
I can honestly say that my family has grown significantly greater year by year. This past year, my family grew and continues to grow, but it had some losses, too. I realized how exceptionally blessed I am to have a church family; I learned that a lot of people had been praying for me, and I don't know If I'll ever have the time or the words to express gratitude for that to every single one of them. I may not even know who all of them were. It makes me deeply sad that there are people out there who can't imagine what it is like to have a God-centered family this grand and this great. I can't imagine what it must be like not to have one at all.
So I guess this is a thank you for some of you (you know who you are) but it is also a call-to-action for others if you don't have these things. While technically 2018 has already begun, we're still experiencing winter, and there are so many chapters yet to read in so many books. Spring is on its way, offering a chance at new beginnings, new endings, new events, new family. I'm planning to tackle all of them with a prayer warrior's heart, open hands and listening ears.