May 2012 - further up and further in

Saturday, May 26, 2012

my hope is found.

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my hope is found.

This song. Time and time again, when I've been hurting. When I've been lost. When I'm sad. I turn it on, and it helps heal my heart. It's a balm to the wounded soul. This is the song. This is my anthem.

In Christ alone, my hope is found

He is my light, my strength, my song

This cornerstone, this solid ground

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace

When fears are stilled, when strivings cease

My comforter, my all-in-all

Here in the love of Christ I stand

There in the ground His body lay

Light of the world by darkness slain

Then bursting forth in glorious day

Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory

Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine

Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me

From life’s first cry to final breath

Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man

Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home

Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

It's good to know that Jesus never fails.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Beautiful People - Evil Edition

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Beautiful People - Evil Edition

As you could probably tell from the title, this month's Beautiful People is focused on one of the key players in your story: Your villain.  

But first, what is Beautiful People? Beautiful People is a monthly blog event created by Georgie Penn and myself. It's designed to help you get to know more about your character by asking questions about them. It's simple: every month we post 10 questions, and you answer them on your blog with your character of choice. To learn more, check out the introductory post and the FAQ.

I'd like to give a shout out to Alexandra, who mentioned that she'd love to see a villainy version of BP. I'd already had the idea on my mind, but thank you, Alexandra, for giving me the extra push to do it!

Also, thanks to Finvarra Penn for helping us with some of these questions.

*said in a dramatic TV-announcers voice* And now... the moment you've all been waiting for...

Come on down, you're the next contestant on The Price is Right!

I kid, I kid.

This month's questions:

1. What is their motive? 
2. What are they prepared to do to get what they want? 
3. Are they evil to the core, or simply misunderstood? 
4. What was their past like? What about their childhood? Was there one defining moment that made them embrace their evil ways?
5. Now that they’re evil, have they turned their back on everyone, or is there still someone in their life that they care for? (Brother? Daughter? Love interest? Mother? Someone who is just as evil as they are?)
6. Do they like hugs?
7. Are they plagued by something? (Nightmares, terrible thoughts?) 
8. Who are they more similar to: Gollum or Maleficent?
9. If your villain could have their choice of transportation what would it be?
10. If you met your villain in the street, how afraid would you be? Are they evil enough to kill their creator?

And, the most important question of all: Does the dark side really have cookies?

Now go, tell us about your villain, my young padawans. And don't forget to sign the linky!

(It appears villains have taken over my blog this week. My latest antagonist, Zane, is quite pleased about this, albeit slightly unnerved & confused by all the attention he's getting. And all the hugs. O.o)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Loving Your Villain

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Loving Your Villain
I don't think I've posted a post full of writing advice in a while. Rather, lately I've used this blog as an outlet to vent my frustrations on my personal endeavors. I sometimes feel silly posting tips for you guys when I'm just as new to this craft as anybody. I'm just a normal writer too. (Er... well... maybe not so normal...) That said, villains have been on my mind as of late. So, the innermost workings of my mind have once again overflowed into a blog post.

This post is a mix of both advice and musings on my personal journey, I think. I've posted before about villains and the trouble they give me. I can make quite likable heroes, but villains? Bah, humbug. Get me out of here before the tension starts.

It's hard to make a likable villain, but this is what I've been striving to do with Corruption. My villain in Silver Tears, Tyris, was downright evil. Rotten to the core, you might say. But as for my villain in Corruption, Zane, I've been trying to make him more likable, and much more human.

As an author, it is incredibly important for you to love your villain. Yes, it may sound evil at first, but really. It's important to treat your villain just as highly as you treat your protagonist, if not more. Your villain is the core of the story, in some respects. Therefore, it helps to make him as deep and multi-layered as possible. And you have to love him.

Love isn't the first thing I think of when I think of villain. But I think it helps if you adore your villain nearly as much as your hero. Here's some tips I've been employing with regards to Zane, my latest villain, and how I've been making him lovable.

#1. Give him a face you love.

As of late, I've been picking out actors to represent my characters. For my evil Tyris, rotten-to-the-core Tyris, I picked this guy:
Star Wars, anyone?

There's nothing wrong with that face. He looks stern, austere, and pretty evil to me. But I realized that for Zane, my likable-lovable-oh-so-adorable villain, I needed to pick a better face that I would adore. Thus it was that I picked this guy to play Zane:

Yes. That is William Moseley.
*cue crickets*
Whaaat? I'm a Narnia fan. Sue me.

See? Adorable face. I love Narnia. I liked Peter. I liked his face. So it's going to be pretty darn hard for me to hate a face like that.

#2. Make him relatable.

The villains I like most are the deeply human ones, the ones that struggle with things that I do, too. I'm still working on this with Zane. The qualities I've given him thus far seemed to be more sympathy-inducing than anything, but hopefully they'll be relatable too. Zane is incredibly locked up in a prison of his own guilt and failure. He hasn't forgiven himself, and therefore he has a hard time forgiving others. His past is colored with so many mistakes that he has a hard time moving on from the past into the future.

So I don't have much more to say about this point except to just play around with it. Give him a flaw that people can relate to. Make your villain create sympathy in the reader. Make him so pitiful and misguided that people can't help but love him.

#3. Ask questions about him.

Last night, I realized how helpful it is to ask yourself questions about your writing. Obviously, because I help run Beautiful People, I already knew this, but it hit me again with full force last night. I was deeply struggling with my outline and what Zane's motive was. So I opened up my journal, took out my new purple pens (thanks, Mom!), and penned out some questions.

What is his motive?
What does he want?
What is his plan to achieve what he wants?
Why doesn't he care that he's ruining the lives of others by trying to get what he wants?

This isn't exactly a plug for Beautiful People, though BP helps. But even when it isn't time for the monthly BP post, try asking questions on your own in your private notebook. That's what I did. Believe me, it helped. After taking some time to think about it, I got deeper insight into who Zane is, what he wants, and why he's so evil. Which brings me to another point:

#4. Why is he evil?

Take some time to consider this. It's not bad if he doesn't have a reason for his evilness. Villains can be evil just for the sake of being evil. However, this can add more dimension to your villain. Zane had one defining moment in which he made a huge mistake, and it cost someone her life. Since then, he's never been able to forgive himself, or others, for what occurred in that one moment. And he's made a ton of bad choices because of it.

Most of the time, I think villains have a life-altering moment in which the course of their life is changed and they become evil. Think about that one, you might be surprised.

Okay, I think that's all I have. Villains are still a major struggle for me. (Just ask Zane.) But I'm finding how they can be intriguing to write. They can even be fun. So in that case, bring it on.

Also, Zane loves hugs. Just so you know. He'll be hanging out in the comments in case you want to walk up to him and engulf him in a big bear hug. (But don't tell him I said that.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Character Letters: Elleri Cay Bastion

Wednesday, May 16, 2012 8
Character Letters: Elleri Cay Bastion

I stumbled across a new character development tool for writers, and the idea intrigued me. Started by Rosamund Gregory, the goal of this new monthly blog event is to focus on first person character development. As she says, "it's very good to be able to get inside one's characters' minds in order to understand them. Even if you're writing in third person, you learn new things about your friends that you would never have known otherwise." This new prospect is titled Character Letters, and the description is pretty much what it sounds like: Write a letter from the perspective of your character.

For this round, I've decided to use Elleri Cay Bastion, the main character in my Camp NaNoWriMo novel, Corruption. As I've mentioned before in her Beautiful People post, Elleri lives in a refuge for superheroes. It's got a long, complicated history, but in short, it was founded by Heath and Elleri's mom, Catie. Unfortunately, Catie died, which profoundly affected all of those who knew her. Elleri's fellow students are Theo and Ayden, and you'll get to know them a bit more in this letter. (I've been pondering the idea of putting a post together introducing my entire cast. Would you like that?)

Elleri wrote this letter in her sketchbook, on a plain piece of tan paper. Her handwriting is simple and straightforward. She's more of an artist than a writer, and doesn't believe much in her writing abilities. But she is an artist, so she can use artistic and poetic metaphors to get the point across when she feels the need.

One of the prompts to choose from this month is yesterday's events. I didn't stick to that idea as much as I could have, but I felt like a little introduction was necessary to help you understand Elleri. Enjoy.

 Dear Mom,

I miss you. I guess I should get that out of the way before I say anything else.

It's just the same old routine since you left. Not much has changed by way of our schooling and everyday life. Emotionally, we're all different, but our life has carried on, whether we wanted it to or not. And of course, Zane has left, but other than that, it's just me, Theo, Ayden, and Heath.

Heath misses you. I know he does. It's not the same without you. To be honest, if he had to pick between the death of you and the death of me, I think he'd pick me. It's understandable, of course. He loved you, you know.

Ayden, Theo, and I are continuing our studies. We're pretty much the Three Musketeers. Heath keeps to himself most of the time. There's still a huge hole where you left. You were so patient. I miss your smile, your sweet kindness. It's not only Heath that has suffered from your loss. We all have.

Yesterday the three of us went out into "the real world" for the first time in a long while. Heath was reluctant to let us go. It's getting harder to hide our powers. You know that. I guess I have it the easiest out of all of them. All I have to do is slap on a pair of sunglasses. Ayden, though... man. How on earth does he hide the flames that burst from his fingertips? He's learned how to hide it well. We all have.

Our trip out into the open air yesterday was for once motivated for fun rather than necessity. I brought my sketchbook. It's autumn now. The leaves are crimson. You used to love this time of year. It was nice to just walk leisurely through the park. We don't do that nearly often enough. For once I felt at least halfway normal. Almost. I had a taste of fun for the first time in what feels like forever.

Ayden met up with some teens who were playing street basketball, so while he was doing that, Theo and I sat on a bench under the shade and talked a lot. You were right, Mom. He is brilliant. He's the only friend I have, and he knows me so very well. He's the only one who really gets me, now that you're gone.

Towards the end of the day, the sun was dipping below the horizon, and we came upon the fountain in the middle of the square. I don't know why, but somehow we all ended up splashing in it. We all came home soaking wet. It was marvelous. We flung water at each other's faces and created quite a scene. It's a wonder we weren't discovered, since my sunglasses fell off several times. I don't know what we were thinking. But it was fun.

You died almost four years ago now. We'll never be the same. I will say that it's a little easier to bear. We've created a new normal for ourselves. I'm almost used to you being gone. And even admitting that hurts.

I love you.

--- Elleri

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

a handful of sunshine-colored memories.

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a handful of sunshine-colored memories.
I keep my knees black and blue 
'Cuz they often hit the hardwood floor
{Wake me if you're out there.}
And I believe so I'm not praying to the ceiling 

- Owl City, Angels

I don't really know what the purpose of this post is. I just feel inspired to write.

I've been caught up in memories of the past. Wanting to take hold of them and never let them go. I look back on my past with rose-tinted glasses (most of the time). Wondering, why was my life so perfect back then? Why can't I go back to last summer?

Or with novels: Why was my NaNo novel so easy? It was perfect. And now, while I'm trying to plot for my Camp NaNo novel, why is it so dang hard?

Why can't my life stay the same?

It's hard for me to remember that those memories happened unintentionally. And the only way I can hold onto those memories is to create new ones. I wasn't trying to have a good summer. It happened when I wasn't looking for it. And that's the way it has to be this year, too. And the year after that.

I can't force my life to be wonderful. It just happens. It will happen when I don't understand why, or how, my life is so good. And maybe it won't be perfect. Last summer had its own flaws. But maybe that's what makes the beautiful moments seem so wonderful in my mind. 

I did have a rough summer. A rough year last year. But I still have a handful of sunshine colored-memories. I had my ups and my downs.

And yet at the same time, I'm struggling with how to balance this all out. I don't really even know what I'm trying to say. I feel like I'm painting an unrealistic picture for you all. My life is... hard. Seriously. It is. I've been unsure of how to say this for a while now. I think I've mentioned this a couple times before, but I'd just like to say it now, officially: I have chronic pain. It's called fibromyalgia. This means that I have pain and fatigue nearly 100% of the time. I struggle every day to do things that "normal" people don't have a problem with. I don't remember what it's like to be pain-free. 

I don't really say this to get sympathy. Yes, it is nice to have your encouragement and support. But I'm mainly saying it to get it off my chest. To be completely honest with you and tell you about who I am offline and what I struggle with. I've got tears in my eyes because this is such a personal thing and I'm afraid to post it.

So, I don't know how to do this whole life thing. As I wrote in my journal last night, I don't want to think of my life as perfect, even though I sometimes do. I don't want to forget about my struggles amidst the sunshine-colored memories. Because life is hard. And sometimes it's going to stink. But I don't want to look at my life negatively either. Because life is pretty amazing, when you look at it. And we have to take the good moments and keep them in our pockets for the rainy days that are bound to come. It's a balance, I guess. Learning to take the good and the bad.

The shadow proves the sunshine. That's a Switchfoot song. It was recently brought to my attention by the title of a good friend's Tumblr. I still need to listen to the actual song in its entirety. But it's the title itself that speaks to me. Darkness has to happen for us to appreciate the light.

Sometimes I hate my life. Sometimes I love it. But those are just my feelings. My feelings can't rule my life. Life may not feel good, but it is good. God may not always feel good, but He is. 

Now I just need to remember this myself when times get hard.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

these are the days.

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these are the days.
I'm plotting for Camp NaNo, as you know, and time is running out. So it was that I sat down at my computer with renewed fervor to attack the plot holes that are bothering me and never let them see the light of day. One of these said plot holes regards a character's death. This character dies before the events of the novel, but her death is incredibly influential to the plot and the characters. I knew she died, I just didn't know how. So I was talking to Fin, having a morbid conversation as we sometimes do, and she suggested poison.

This intrigued me. It seemed to have a lot of possibilities. So I opened a new tab and, blissfully unaware of what I was typing, started tapping away at the keyboard.

And then I stopped.

And stared.

And realized what a weird search term this was.

See for yourself.

These are the days where I feel awesome because I'm a writer.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

let your colors burn.

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let your colors burn.

Let your colors burn 
And brightly burst 
Into a million sparks 
That all disperse 
And illuminate a world 
 That will try to bring you down 
But not this time

-- Shooting Star by Owl City

The other day the realization hit me with the weight of a freight train carrying a load of bricks.

Holy crap. I'm growing up.

Let me try to explain. I turned sixteen last month, and with that, I've been learning a lot lately, hence the growing up part. Little did I know that this was what growing up feels like. It's hard, scary, and downright painful.

Anyway. One of the biggest lessons is that I've realized that I can't care what other people think of me. I have to be me.

For some of you, this may not be a huge realization. But for me, it is. I've always tried to be the one to fit in, even to the point of changing myself to gain acceptance, over the course of several friendships. Was that right? Heck no. But for the past fifteen years, it's been the reality. My reality.

This year, God and I have been talking. He's been working on my heart. He's been leading me to realize that it's okay to be me. Because honestly, who else would I be? I have to be okay with being honest and open about where I'm at. Embracing the imperfections. And being confident in myself enough to be who I am and not care about what others think. I'm letting my colors burn.

This hasn't been easy. I've lost a lot through this process. I'm constantly hounded by the Enemy of my soul who desires to kill my light. But not this time.

Lately, this thought has been burned into my mind and heart: I am wonderful and accepted just the way I am. It rocked my world. Though I'm a perfectionist and people-pleaser, I've been learning to just let go and live my life. I may be a mess. I'm far from perfect.

But I am loved.

And I have to let my colors burn.

 And illuminate a world 
 That will try to bring you down 
 But not this time.

(Thank you, Owl City, once again, for providing these beautiful lyrics.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Beautiful People - Elleri Cay Bastion

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Beautiful People - Elleri Cay Bastion

When she was just a girl

She expected the world

But it flew away from her reach

So she ran away in her sleep

And dreamed of para-para-paradise.

-- Coldplay, Paradise

Elleri is the main character in my latest novel for Camp NaNo 2012. It's called Corruption. The basic premise revolves around a group of superheroes, and how their tidy little existence fractures when two of their members defect to "the dark side."

I'll do my best to explain Elleri the way I see her. She is quiet. Keeps to herself most of the time. Her favorite place in the world is the windowsill in her bedroom, where she sketches away while the sea breeze blows in her hair. She's a gentle, quiet, type. A fairy, if you will. She has spunk, it just comes out at the oddest times and for the most part she's incredibly quiet and fair-hearted. Two words that fit her well are: quiet strength.

"You could sweep her off her feet with the slightest breath. She's lighter than a feather, but she's twice as strong."

- Theo, Elleri's best friend

1. What is their favourite type of shoes?

Anything, really. Her favorite pairs include her black Ash Thelma trainers, a pair of sensible black boots, and white sandals. (On a semi-related note, I've made several Polyvore sets for her, but this one is my favorite.)

2. Do they journal? 

Yes, though not in the way you might expect. Rather than writing down the events of the day, she sketches them. Her leather-bound notebook is full of pencil sketches and the occasional watercolor too.

3. What’s their favorite animal? 

Generally, cats. She has a kitten of her own named Mocha. For some reason, though, I get the feeling that she likes toucans.

4. What does their average day look like?

In short, studying. Elleri lives with a bunch of superheroes at an institution, a refuge of sorts for them to explore their powers and learn how to use them for the good of humankind. While Elleri herself doesn't have a superpower, she does lots of learning. History, science, the arts. Along with that, she's been taught how to push her physical body to the limits. Fencing, archery, and running are some of her favorite activities. She's extremely quiet on the outside, but don't let that fool you. She's got spunk.

5. Night owl or morning person? (Optional: What time do they usually wake up? Go to bed?) 

She loves the night and the morning equally, if that's even possible. She loves to sit on her windowsill in the moonlight, and she loves to sit on her windowsill to see the sun rise, often sketching in her journal. Generally she's more of a night owl, but she's been accustomed to getting up at 6 due to the requirement enforced by Heath (the leader of the school).

6. Do they have a sweet tooth? 

Yes. She appreciates sugar well enough, and will eat some if it comes her way. Her weakness is sugary drinks, like pink lemonade.

7. What colors are their bedroom? 

Pale blue with accents of white. She has a balcony-window type thing opening out to the seashore with wispy white curtains and the scent of a salty sea breeze.

8. Can they cook? 

Yes, a bit. Her friend Ayden has taught her how, but he's the master of culinary talents in their house. She's good at it, but Ayden's talent far surpasses her own in her opinion.

9. What is their favorite household chore? 

Washing the windows, as weird as it sounds. She likes getting elbow-deep in the bubbles and painting pictures on the glass with the sudsy water. She also seems to like vacuuming, for some reason.

10. Favorite kind of tea?

Peppermint, or green, or Irish breakfast tea.