• an interview with human sunshine // paper crowns •

One of my dear friends, Mirriam Freaking Neal (yes, Freaking is her actual middle name), has published her second novel!

Mirriam is one of the most talented young artists out there (+ I’m not just saying that). Even the first draft, which I had the privilege of reading, was hilarious, witty, and a joy to read! With the editing and her growth as a writer, the completed version is something like Christmas in May. Paper Crowns is one of those rare literary jewels (that’s not cliche at all in case you’re wondering) that appeals to children and adults alike. I highly recommend purchasing a copy for yourself, your siblings, your child, your niece, your nephew, each of your extended cousins, and that one old man at the bus stop who looks like he could stand to smile a little more.

I’m a very picky reader when it comes to contemporary literature and a stingy penny-pincher, so believe you me when I say that this is a delightful story worthy of your time + $$. My sister and I have laughed out loud so many times throughout this novel.

That said, following is the required author-bio + official Paper Crowns description and then the interview.

• introducing mirriam neal •

Mirriam Neal is a twenty-two-year-old Northwestern hipster living in Atlanta. She writes hard-to-describe books in hard-to-describe genres, and illustrates things whenever she finds the time.  She aspires to live as faithfully and creatively as she can and she hopes you do, too.

• an interview with human sunshine // paper crowns •

• where you can find her •

//Amazon

//Barnes & Noble

//Blog

//Email

//Goodreads

//Publisher’s Page

• paper crowns •

pc

Ginger has lived in seclusion, with only her aunt Malgarel and her blue cat, Halcyon, to keep her company. Her sheltered, idyllic life is turned upside-down when her home is attacked by messengers from the world of fae. Accompanied by Halcyon (who may or may not be more than just a cat), an irascible wysling named Azrael, and a loyal fire elemental named Salazar, Ginger ventures into the world of fae to bring a ruthless Queen to justice.

• le interview •

R: You usually write darker, grittier novels and the Paper Series is basically the polar opposite of Monster, your last published novel. What inspired you to write Paper Crowns, a lighthearted story?

M: I was writing another dark, gritty novel and I wanted a kind of palate cleanser. The Paper books help keep me from going ‘too far’ when working on darker things, pulling my focus toward something more lighthearted and simple. They help keep me grounded in moderation.

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R: In what ways has your writing style changed since you released Monster?

M: My style tends to change and shift to suit whatever project I’m currently working on. This makes it hard to pinpoint exactly how it’s changed, except to say it has matured and evolved as I have. Practice makes better.

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R: How was the publishing process this time around different from when you published Monster?

M:Self-publishing and Indie-publishing are very different. With Indie-publishing, the process isn’t entirely in my hands, and everything goes through the publisher, meaning I have a good deal of say – but not all of it. It’s easier for things to get lost in translation and it takes longer, but the novel ends up with more reach.

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R: There are typically a few themes floating around in each of your novels; are there any we expect to identify in Paper Crowns?

M:*laughing* I get asked this so often. Not exactly, no; it doesn’t have any of the usual gritty or complex themes I like to explore. It’s a fairytale, which means it’s good versus evil – and that’s always a good thing, I think.

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R: What keeps you inspired and in love with your writing?

M: This is such an interesting question. I’ve never fallen out of love with it, but I don’t do anything to stay ‘in love’ with it. My love for writing just ‘is.’ Sometimes I’m not in the mood to write, but sometimes I’m not in the mood to hang out with people I love. It works the same way. You have to give it time and attention, but I don’t necessarily ‘try’ to stay in love with my writing. I just do. Everything is filtered through my love for it.

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R: The world of Faerie is quite beautiful and you describe it in such a way that the reader feels that they could actually be there without bogging us down with detail; you must have a visual for that. Where do you draw your aesthetic inspiration? 

M: I’ve never been fully satisfied with the worldbuilding in Paper Crowns, so I’m very glad you feel this way. I draw my aesthetic from usual sources, of course – Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ for instance, but I also drew inspiration from Neil Gaiman and Cornelia Funke. Not specifically, but the way they create and envision without constraint. I imagine the world of faerie as a giant curiosity cabinet, with pieces borrowed from everywhere. A piece of broken blue glass, a sea shell found on a beach, a button, a bone.

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R: Are there any specific places you go to gather inspiration?

M: I find a lot of inspiration writing in coffee shops. Typical, I know; but the energy inspires me. As much as I love writing in seclusion, it’s refreshing to go where people are. The vibe is inspiring. Also, writing in front of a great view is wonderful.

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R: What is your favorite thing about Paper Crowns? Character interaction, plot, world…?

M: The characters are always my favorite part of what I write. Every time.

R: It my favorite part of your writing, too. ::ignores the sound of her heart shattering::

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R: What are your favorite personality characteristics of both Hal + Ginny?

M: I like Ginny’s stick-to-activity. She doesn’t take guff and she doesn’t give up, even when she’s in way over her head. As for Hal, I like how he manages to stay completely devoted to Ginny while keeping a very broad view of things. He doesn’t lose his focus.

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R: Are there any writers or stories that inspired you to write the Paper series?

M: Diana Wynne Jones was a huge inspiration, although in an odd way – much of it was subconscious. It wasn’t until I went back and re-read the Howl trilogy that I realized how much of an influence she had really been.

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R: Should Paper Crowns become a movie, who would play the main characters?

M: It’s the dream of every author, I think, to see their book become a movie. (A well-done movie, that is.) I would cast Birdy (the singer) as Ginny and Jin Yi-Han (R: 100% ready for the film) as Hal – he’s far older, but he plays younger characters very convincingly.

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R: What was your greatest struggle in writing Paper Crowns?

M: There really wasn’t one. It’s the easiest novel I’ve ever written.

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R: You’ve mentioned that there are going to be additions in the Paper series (personally, I’m stoked for Paper Hearts). Is there anything that ties them together (other than the location + characters) or can they be read independently from each other and still make sense?

M: They can be read independently, but reading them as a series would be more fun, I think. There are small nods, cameos, and references that would add a lot of enjoyment.

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R: What is one quote or phrase that you think captures the feel + tone of Paper Crowns?

M: The quote I put at the beginning of the novel sums it up. ‘The world of faerie is a dangerous place.’ John Howe gave me permission to use said quote, for which I’m eternally grateful.

R: I will forever be jealous of your friendship with John Howe, honestly.

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R: What is one lesson you’ve learned from writing and publishing Paper Crowns and will apply to future novels?

M: A) Indie publishing is just the next step toward traditional publishing, and B) don’t stress. This entire process has been exciting, but I’ve stressed about it so much that the excitement was dulled. It’s taught me to relax.

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R: In 50 words or less, tell us something random you’d like us to know about Paper Crowns.

M: Hal’s accent is, in fact, a blend of South Korean (Busan dialect, specifically) and Scottish. No, I haven’t spent time talking aloud trying to figure it out, why?

R: I need the movie now so I can figure out what that sounds like.

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Not convinced yet? Then I shall channel my inner-Ursula and cry over your poor, unfortunate soul. I don’t often recommend anything as highly as I recommend this book and supporting this starving artist. (Okay, well she’s not

Pick up a copy and you too can be this happy.

Pick up a copy and you too can be this happy.

starving, but still…)

Mirriam, thank you for your time + for sharing your skill with us! I’m still doting over my signed copy (this life is surreal) and really looking forward to your future novels!

Eternal love,

Rana || xoxo

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• why you should write multiple genres •

Good morning, my wonderful writing buddies!

This one’s for you because I haven’t written a post about writing in  a g e s  which is absolutely shameful. But hey, that’s why I changed the blog name. I didn’t want to be limited in the topics I could write about. Incidentally, that’s what we’re going to discuss now!

• why you should write multiple genres •

• YOU SHOULD WRITE MULTIPLE GENRES + HERE’S WHY •

It’s like drawing the same picture over and over or reading more than one type of fiction. If you limit yourself to just fantasy, that’s all you will know. If you read only non-fiction, you’ll have a hard time writing fiction. If you read only horror, you will only know how to write suspense.

Essentially, you can expand your skill + learn more about yourself + learn more about the world around you.

About four centuries years ago, I started writing seriously. Because of my love for fantasy (Lord of the Rings had absolutely no influence on that [/sarcasm]), I started with fantasy. That was too hard. So I cut the magical elements and just wrote a novel set in medieval times. Three or four drafts later, I got tired of that.

Cue dystopia (following my enjoyment of The Hunger Games series). One dystopian trilogy later, I shifted my focus to mystery/suspense (probably not very successful, but enjoyable all the same).

Finally, back to fantasy which is my current WIP, Falling Sky.

Each of these genres taught me something different about writing, my style/voice, plotting, modern mortuary practices, and myself. If you limit yourself to one genre, you’ll only learn about a fraction of yourself. Darling, you are far too wonderful and complicated to know only one facet of your being.

Expand your horizons.

Develop your talents.

Find your voice.

Explore new worlds.

The only way to do that is by constantly stretching your mind.

Don’t be afraid to revisit a theme or genre, but don’t limit yourself to it.

Writing is a calling. And I believe that we are led to write different things. Do what you feel led to do and go for it with your whole heart.

Love always,

Rana

Count Your Blessings

Hello, lovely!

I want to take a few minutes to let you know what’s been going on in the world of Rana. My aunt and uncle-in-law celebrated their one year anniversary a few months ago and, because they didn’t really have a party after the papers were signed and their marriage was legally legit, they threw a party at their house a year later.

>>Now, they have a friend who owns a gluten-free/paleo bakery and you really ought to check it out if you live in South West Florida. It’s called Epiphany Gluten Free Bakery and you can buy their goods at Neighborhood Organics (just call before visiting – all the info is on the FaceBook page).

Anyway, this friend made their cake. It was literally the most beautiful cake I’d ever seen and one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever eaten. Seriously. Take a look:

Count Your Blessings | The Gingerling

Photo Credit to Epiphany Gluten-Free Bakery.

I jokingly asked her while she was cutting it up if I could work for her. She laughed and said absolutely. I kept thinking about it and realizing how much I really do love to work in the kitchen. I called her up and asked if she would mind my working there for free. Sweet soul that she is, Ruth said she would love to have me.

Long story short, I’ve been there twice now and have had a blast both times. I’m going to keep going once or twice a week over the summer to see if this is something I might want to do with my life.

Through this, I’ve learned that I need to step up and ask for things if they’re important enough to me. Which is something I’ve always had a hard time doing.

>>In other news, I think I’m leaning more towards not doing speech and debate for this, my senior year. It’s a hard choice because I’ve done it since I was 12 and this is my last eligible year. But like I said, it’s senior year, and I’m going to be incredibly busy succumbing to the pressure and trying not to be committed (to the funny farm).

The hardest part about that is I’ve just started to get good placing 4th and 6th at two different tournaments in debate, getting 13th place in speaker points, and moving on to semi-finals in all three tournaments with my speech. Plus, that’s when people start to know who you are and notice you and I’m not going to lie: That feels good.

But it’s a temporary thing as it’s always been and I need to let it go sometime. It’s either going to be now or next year.

>>For my writing buddies, I’ve started something new. It’s been going on for a while and still has no title. But it’s fun and I’m hoping I’ll be able to finish it. 😉 It’s about a girl from our world who gets zapped into a faerie world (think Tolkien elves, not the Christmas movie, Elf) and everyone thinks she has the power to move the stars (which, in their world, are people who have died or not yet lived). If she can do that, she can bring people back. But she doesn’t believe it and the prince of the fey people is in a perpetual rotten mood, so he’s put in charge of getting her to do the will of the evil king as a punishment for talking back on an issue he felt strongly about (and rightfully so).

Cliche? Maybe in some aspects. Fun? Definitely. And that’s (one reason) why I write. 😉

Fantasy is what I started with as a budding novelist and that crashed and burned. I’m hoping I can revisit it with more success this time, four years later.

Essentially, God has blessed me a lot so far this summer and I’m grateful. ^_^

So what’s going on in your world? What things are going your way?

Love always,

Rana

Why “LOST” Works

I finished this roller coaster of a show on May 14, around 10:20 p.m.

I’m not going to spoil it for you, but the ending – it was satisfying. It ended in a place I’m happy with. It didn’t leave me waiting for more because loose ends weren’t tied up (EXCEPT FOR ONE THING THAT I REMEMBER: WHAT WAS JULIET GOING TO TELL SAWYER RIGHT AFTER SHE BLEW EVERYTHING UP AND BEFORE SHE [LOST CONNECTION//ERROR 589006//TRY AGAIN WHEN YOU’VE WATCHED THE SHOW]???????).

It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen and I’m so thankful it happened. So, what can writers learn from this show?

1] How the diverse cast works

The diverse and muli-racial cast works because there was a reason for there to be people from so many backgrounds. Unlike Once Upon a Time (excuse me, but I cannot stand that show), it made sense for there to be an American, Asian, and Australian in one scene.

OUAT just gives me the impression that they were so desperate for actors that they pulled names out of a hat and gave the part to the (un)lucky winner. (Consistency is key for me.)

LOST, in comparison, had a reason for this difference. It’s logical and each background (whether through personal stories or cultural traditions) contributes to the plot. Sayid knows how to torture because that’s what he grew up around and did for a living. Jin and Sun – we understand how and why they act they way they do because they come from a country where the behavior is very rigid.

2] Common Goals

There’s always conflict. It reflects reality. But each group has a common goal, whether that conflicts with another group’s goal or not.

But the bottom line is: they all need to survive.

All these people – strangers – come together, sacrifice for each other, and work together to stay alive. That’s their common goal. And these strangers need to work out their differences so they can do that. They use their different skill sets, knowledge, and even apply their professions from back home to this mission.

Life is the glue that keeps them together.

3] It’s relatively realistic

Obviously, not all of it. But the fact that there’s no dictator – they all choose to work together, make their own decisions, and contribute in their own ways – is entirely realistic.

Jack keeps them together for a while and creates an efficient unit that focuses on keeping them alive. But that doesn’t stop each of them from doing their own thing.

One of the biggest lessons we can take away from this is the fact that each character is the star of the show. And that’s how a book – any story – should be written. No one sees themselves as the side character in their own lives.

Think about it: you do what you do because that’s what’s best for you (or, at least, what you perceive to be a good thing) or someone you love. It all comes back around to us. Our lives. We can see ourselves as the side character in someone else’s life, but never our own.

Everyone in LOST has their own agenda. Some are better at putting it aside for the common good than others, but they still do what they do to keep themselves alive.

Bullet-point list (because I need one and they’re so organized):

Let’s recap:

  • Point 1: How the diverse cast works:
    • It makes logical sense.
    • They each use their experiences to contribute to the group.
    • Everything they’ve been through has meaning and made them the person they needed to be on the island (except Shannon).
  • Point 2: Common Goals:
    • They need to survive.
    • They do what they need to do to stay alive (except [censored] *cries forever*).
  • Point 3: It’s relatively realistic:
    • Everyone’s their own star of the show. No one just sits out because they don’t want to interfere. They all have their own agendas and worries.
    • There’s no dictator. There are leaders. And everyone has the right to choose who they will follow.

If you write stories, I challenge you to try and work some of these lessons into your WIP.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wonder what to do with my life now that LOST is over, cry a bit over everyone, get school done, and catch up on the 17 years of sleep I’ve missed.

God bless!

Rana

Define “love”

Good morning/afternoon/evening!

I’ve been watching LOST.

Don’t tell me to stop before it’s too late.

It’s already too late.

Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the premise: a plane on its way from Sydney, Australia to L.A., U.S.A. crashes on an island in the South Pacific. People from all over the world are stranded. There are Americans, Aussies, Koreans, Canadians, Arabs, Nigerians… A rescue plane hasn’t come, so they need to figure out how to survive. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones on the island and the other people aren’t all that friendly.

You get my drift (when you watch the raft scenes, you can laugh at my pun).

Now, as I was watching, I realized that there are different types of love we can utilize in our novels. Let me share some using the LOST couples as examples:

(NOTE: There may be spoilers.)

Claire + Charlie = Innocent/Naive

I think this relationship is born out of a mutual need. Let me explain.

Claire, a pregnant single mom, is kind of avoided by the other members of her flight once they crash. Why? Because she’s pregnant. She’s a “ticking time bomb of responsibility” I think was how she put it. When Charlie, a drug-addict and kind of self-absorbed “rock god” befriends her, she begins to like him.

Who wouldn’t, right? She doesn’t know he’s an addict. And when you’re lonely/shunned, someone sweet to talk to is not unwanted.

Mutually, Charlie likes Claire. He’s used to being adored by fans. Now, he’s just another one of us. Attention wouldn’t be unwanted when that’s what you get your energy from and are used to.

They satisfy each other’s needs.

Bernard + Rose = Faithful

Rose is religious. I assume they were traditionally married in a church and pray a lot together. They are a very committed couple. And something Rose said early on to Charlie struck me…

“There’s a fine line between faith and denial. What I’ve got is better.”

She doesn’t need Bernard. But she loves him. She’s faithful to him. To me, it’s clear that she loves God more than Bernard and that’s what keeps her sane. She has faith that He will guide her through her trials.

Michael + Walt = Family

Yeah, they’s been through a lot of rough crap. But as the show goes on, we see Walk begin to look up to his father and Michael begin to put his son before himself. They begin to enjoy each others company and look forward to working with each other.

Sun + Jin = Loyalty

Jin begins to put his work before his wife all the while justifying his actions by the fact that he loves her. And she loves him. But when things start to get in the way of your marriage, I would assume it ain’t easy working things out. But what would I know about that, right? My family is perfect.

The bottom line is, they do work it out. They love each other and they learn to do that more perfectly.

Jack = Work/Commitment

Oh, Jack. I really do love his character. He’s probably one of the most consistent characters in the show. He’s constantly putting others before himself and shows that he cares by his actions. He’s also very committed.

Boon + Shannon = Kind of shallow, but hopeful and sort of protective/supportive for a bit

Boone and Shannon are step brother and sister. He loves her. She’s a brat. He wants to care for her because he loves her but he’s kind of fed up with her bratishness. It’s probably not something that would last, but it’s sort of hopeful and, dare I say, cute.

But here’s what’s not cute: love triangles.

Jack + Kate + Sawyer = the wretched love triangle of doom

Kate’s character bounces between interesting and uggggggggggggggh. Her back story is her only salvation really. And if she could choose between Jack and Sawyer, maybe she’d be really awesome. Or maybe, if she could become independent and then choose, it’d be fantastic. But she can’t choose and Jack’s fed up and Sawyer’s in love.

Sayid + Shannon = Mutual need

I think Sayid needed to be whole again and Shannon needed personal validation although I also believe that they did love each other.

I’m sure I missed some couples or types of love, but I hope this helps. And here are some things to keep in mind as you write love (but also keep in mind that this doesn’t come from a professional, so use your discretion):

Rule #1: Some relationships are shallow and should be used only if they’re going to add to the plot or character arch. Love triangles should generally not be used in my opinion.

Rule #2: The relationship you utilize should add to the story plot/a character arch (this is essentially how the character grows/changes throughout the story).

A good rule of thumb for using anything in a novel is if you can take it out and the novel still works, then you might want to consider just leaving it out. 🙂

God bless!

Rana

//child’s play

Hello, lovely!

I hope you’re having a fabulous Monday because mine started off with anxiety! 😀 I needed to record a video of an informative speech, but had no better means of doing that than with my lousy computer camera. Ah, well. That’s behind me because I did it, submitted it, and now just have to worry about the grade (and how my poor professor will respond to all the “um’s” and “so’s” and “essentially, what that means is that’s,” and grammatical errors – me!

A post on how to make the child in your novel sound like a child. <-- One of my biggest pet peeves is when a child sounds too aware in a film/novel! Don't let that happen to you.

A post on how to make the child in your novel sound like a child.

The Writer! Sheesh.).

Is it just me, or do weekends feel like a pause from a video game and returning when all the bad guys are about to attack?

But I digress.

Today, I want to talk about dialogue. And not just any old dialogue. But a child’s dialogue.

One of my biggest pet peeves when watching a film is when the script writer gives a child too-mature-lines. For instance, my family and I recently watched The Judge with RDJ and Robert Duvall. I really enjoyed it (minus the language and a couple scenes)! It was brilliant!

But I kept cringing when the daughter came on screen. At one point in the film, she asked her dad if he and his wife (her mom) were getting a divorce. He asks why she would think that. And she says that that’s what happens when x, y, and z takes place.

Really?

A kid doesn’t get that.

A kid (generally) isn’t that mature or insightful or analytic.

So I want to keep you from making that mistake. Here are a few tips I hope can help your child sound like a child.

Tip #1: Give ’em a speech impediment.

But don’t let it get obnoxious. If they’ve got a lisp, write that in! Mark Twain gave his southerners southern accents. It makes the book more realistic.

Tip #2: Their smarts should suit their age.

Unless this is about a genius kid, keep ’em simple. Kids like to have fun, play, eat bugs, and snot all over the place (if they’re boys). They like to play with dolls, dress up, twirl, dance, put on Mommy’s clothes, ruin her make up, and fall in the pool (if they’re girls, although this last point can go for boys too).

They’re really not that insightful. Unless someone tell them, a five year old isn’t going to catch on that Mommy’s afraid of Daddy, okay? They’re happy to see Mommy and they’re happy to see Daddy. That’s it.

Tip #3: Develop their voice.

This is probably the chiefest characteristic of writing a child, in my limited experience. Develop it in a way that accurately portrays a child. Watch some kids. See how they talk, act. They’re typically not angelic, graceful beings. I certainly wasn’t. I had such a problem with balance that I walked into walls, tables, chairs, and I wasn’t smart enough to realize that I’d fallen off my dresser.

I thought it hit me.

Or maybe I was just a liar.

Either way, give them personality, but not a mature or overly-smart one.

See, the thing is, even if a kid is smart in real life, writers need to exaggerate the childishness in a book so the reader can see that that’s a child, not a know-it-all. Writers exaggerate a lot of stuff to get the point across.

Buildings don’t burn all around us right now. But in books, they do. Because we need to feel the sense that the world is in chaos and falling apart.

Know what I mean, jelly bean?

Children are innocent, oblivious, awed by everything, curious, fearless, and magnificent. Sometimes they’re shy; sometimes they have no problem walking up to a stranger and telling them they love them (or don’t). They’re honest and know they can get away with crap if you train them to.

You don’t need to make them stereotypes, but they should be fleshed out enough so that we can see that they’re a normal (if that’s what they should be) child and not get peeved that they’re too smart or too obnoxious.

I hope these help! 🙂

God bless!

Rana

P.S.

Check out my new page, The Writer’s Toolbox! It’s a compilation of some of the most helpful resources for writers. Hope it helps!

40 Days and a Writer’s Thoughts

Good afternoon, darling!

I’d like to split this post into two sections. One is more fun, but demands less of a priority for me. And the other is probably less interesting, but sits higher on the Important List. So, let’s go ahead and start with the one of more importance. 😛

1. Fat Tuesday and Lent

It’s no secret. I’m Catholic. We fast for the 40 days before we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection. This period is known as “Lent.” During this 40 day period, we abstain from meat on Fridays and, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, we fast. Fasting means that we eat only one regular sized meal and are permitted two snacks before and after.

Why do you do this?

Check out this article and this article.

Essentially, though, it’s a time of discipline (the first article does a brilliant job of explaining this much better than I can). We take this time especially to put ourselves aside and make a harder effort to grow closer to God through sacrifices (this is where you might want to read the second article).

Here’s the opening paragraph of the first article (because it does a much better job of explaining than I could 😉 ):

“…Lent is the 40 days before Easter in which Catholics pray, fast, contemplate, and engage in acts of spiritual self-discipline. Catholics do these things because Easter, which celebrates the Resurrection of Christ, is the greatest holy day of the Christian year (even above Christmas) and Catholics have recognized that it is appropriate to prepare for such a holy day by engaging in such disciplines.”

And, because sacrifices start tomorrow… today is Fat Tuesday! Or Mardi Gras. Whichever you prefer. So, I’m binging on one of the best combinations invented by man: peanut butter and chocolate.

Only… this isn’t JUST peanut butter and chocolate.

No, ma’am/sir.

No.

It’s whipped peanut butter and a king sized Hershey’s chocolate bar.

Did you know there’s such a thing as whipped peanut butter?? I didn’t. Not until last year.

What are you giving up/adding?

I think I’m going to stop eating so much excess and eat only what I need. Your stomach is the size of your fist. So if I eat that much whenever I’m hungry (not bored, but hungry), it’ll be a decent sacrifice.

Also, I’m going to try to donate to those suffering in the Middle East from ISIS attacks and such. I’m trying to shift my focus from worldly possessions to eternal prizes. And I’m hoping that doesn’t sound cheesy. 😛 That’s not to say that you can buy eternal life. For me, it’s more trying to not be so attached to money.

I’m also going to try to devote more time to prayer as I think I’ve been lacking in that department of late…

But let’s go ahead and move on to the second topic:

2. A Thought On Writers

I’m scrolling through Pinterest as I often do during school time. (Don’t judge me. Or other homeschoolers. We’re just privileged jerks. But, mind you, I have a very strict school schedule and I get my crap done. This ain’t the little kids’ playground. Homeschooling requires an insane amount of self-discipline. But I digress.)

And, as I’m scrolling through Pinterest, I see nice pictures of nice-looking people.

Where I would see a psychotic villain, main character, or love interest, the rest of the world sees a picture that goes onto their board… “Cute Guys?” or “Girl Crush?”

I don’t know about you, but, to me, it just seems like writers are so much deeper than the average person. This is not to downgrade anyone else. Not at all! It just seems like writers and artists in general see so much more than the average.

They see a crumbled building. We see shelter for someone on the run or a villain’s HQ (although that can get a bit cheesy).

They see a good lookin’ actor. We see our next murderer.

They see hundreds of people dashing about in an airport. We wonder what their stories are.

Know what I mean?

Just as an artist notices the way light and shadow fall, writers notice people, places, ideas.

We can turn your simply “cute guy” into a con-man, drug dealer, son of an alcoholic, or murderer.

We can build worlds, races, lives.

We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. ~J.R.R. Tolkien

Peace, love, and blessings,

Rana

Some People Are Lucky

Hello, lovely.

A few weeks ago, I wrote something of a short story. Now, I’d like to share it with you. If you’d like to download it, click the following: Some People Are Lucky V_2. Please do not claim any of this as your own (though I can’t see anyone doing so as this isn’t anything phenomenal) and if you’d like to share, just be sure to include a link back to this post! 🙂

Some People Are Lucky

The Writer

A crumpled wad of paper flew across the room as a frustrated groan wrenched itself from the man’s throat. He raked his hands through his hair and dug the fingernails into his scalp, gripped handfuls of hair and tugged until it stung.

Darkness replaced the image of a cluttered room. Books stacked upon books rested on the desk. Scattered papers made it impossible to stay mentally organized. When he opened his eyes once more, the writer sucked in a deep breath as he set his fingers to the typewriter for the seventh time that morning.

Chapter 1:

Nothing.

A slight knock sounded on the door just before it squeaked open on rusty hinges. “It’s past midnight, dear.” The woman with dark circles under her eyes twisted her thin lips into a smile. “You should get some rest.”

He shook his head and frowned. “It must be nice being able to sleep so much. But some of us have work to do.”

The writer’s wife sighed. “Well, good night then.” She turned and closed the door as she left.

He swore at the night and stared at the single flame burning beside the typewriter. The writer rested his chin in his palm, heaving a tired breath.

“It must be nice not being a writer.” He shook his head and shifted his gaze toward the window. “It must be nice having a steady paycheck; having someone other than yourself to be held accountable to if the work doesn’t get done.” He stood and stretched. “Some people are lucky.”

 

The Businessman

Two a.m., two dark circles beneath two bloodshot eyes, two deadlines to meet, two jobs to juggle, and too many lives to live.

The businessman with four kids, a wife, and three-story house stared at a Toshiba’s computer screen covered in building blueprints. He rubbed his eyes until stars danced in the darkness. He yawned and ordered another coffee from the barista behind the counter. Stretching, he swept the room with a gaze.

Only one other customer occupied the cozy room. She was burrowed in a sweater several sizes too large, slouched on a cushioned couch, hypnotized by something playing on the Mac before her. Earbuds drowned out the world. She glanced up and hit a button on the keyboard, took one earbud out.

“Can I help you?” Her voice held an irritated note.

The businessman shoved his hands in his pockets. “Did you buy that yourself?” He nodded to the computer on her lap.

She shook her head. “My parents did.”

He nodded once and turned away, muttering something about rich peoples’ spoiled kids.

Taylor Swift crooned over the speakers.

“…chose the Rose Garden over Madison Square,

And it took some time, but I understand it now.

‘Cause now my name is up in lights, but I think you got it right.

Let me tell you now, you’re the lucky one…”

The businessman scoffed at the lyrics and accepted the black coffee from the barista, exchanging his money for the caffeine. He sat back down before his laptop.

“Must be nice. You’re rich, kid.” He sipped the dark liquid. “No deadlines to meet, no one to please. Some people are lucky.”

 

The Singer

Red lips curved in a smile. Camera lights flashed, blinding her. She turned to the other side and placed a hand on her hip. A dozen more clicks, a dozen more flashes, another dozen pictures for the tabloids. She walked off the stage, waved to the ravenous crowd, and climbed into the black limo.

Behind the tinted windows, she dropped the smile and reached for the bottle of bourbon. Her producer looked on in disgust from the seat before the singer. She held the liquor between her knees and reached for the hoodie beside her, pulled it on before taking another swig.

The producer rubbed his forehead. “You need to be more careful. People will talk.”

She turned jaded eyes on the man. “They already do.” The star rubbed her eyes, smearing the previously perfectly-placed eyeliner. “Her makeup isn’t symmetrical. She looks hideous in yellow. Did she even put any effort into that song?” The singer flashed the man a dead smile. “I’m not perfect, but they expect me to be.”

Shifting her gaze to stare out the window, she inhaled and sighed. “Must be nice not being known; not being scrutinized and criticized. Some people are lucky.”

“You realize that’s what people say about you, right?” The producer raised an eyebrow.

“There’s lucky and then there’s a misunderstood perception of lucky.” She closed her eyes and leaned back. “Some people are lucky.”

 

The Soldier

The soldier clenched his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut. He grunted as he rolled onto his back, stared at the make-shift hospital ceiling. A young man jogged up to him and saluted, raising a stiff hand to his bandaged temple. Blood had soaked through the once-white cloth. “Sergeant?”

He sat up, grimacing. “Yes, Private?”

“Your daughter’s on the phone.”

The sergeant accepted the communicative device. “Hello, baby!” He didn’t need to force a smile into his voice. The pain subsided for a moment when she spoke, her five-year old voice blurring some words together.

“Daddy!” A giggle came through.

“How are you?”

“Good. Mommy said I could call you. She misses you.” The flow of conversation flooded through the phone and he didn’t mind. “We had oatmeal this morning. Again. Can you tell Mommy to make something different tomorrow?”

He grinned. “Well, what do you want for breakfast tomorrow?”

“Um… French toast!”

“I can try, love. How’s school?” He reached down to scratch an itch on his calf. It wasn’t there. He tried not to think of the pain. They’d run out of anesthesia. The amputation was hell.

“Good, I guess.”

“You guess?” He focused on her voice.

“Yeah. Hey, Daddy? Why do you have to be away so much?”

He smiled and thought for a moment. “So you can complain about whether or not you get oatmeal or French toast for breakfast, baby girl. So my uncle can complain that writing is hard when he could easily get another job. So my brother can complain that he doesn’t make enough money or have enough time when he’s got a beautiful family and nice house. So my sister can complain about the rich and famous life when that’s what she worked hard to achieve. Darling, I’m away so you guys can complain about the results of your freedom.”

Love,

Rana

Love in Literature

“We’re all fools in love.”

Jane Austen

I used to be a romantic. Now, I consider myself a realistic dreamer. I don’t plan on getting married or having kids. If it happens, it happens and I’ll thank God, but I’m done hoping and wishing for it. Most of my friends – you can tell who they’re going to end up with. And I hate them [/mild sarcasm]. I think I’ll just end up being a crazy cat lady one day. Let’s be honest: I’m not a fantastic people-person. I can hold a conversation most of the time, but I’m always freaking out that I’m asking too many questions or boring them or not being clear or whatever.

At the practice speech and debate tournament I went to on Saturday, a kind boy said hi (you know when you never really feel like a very noticeable person and then someone starts talking to you out of the blue and it’s one of the most touching things?). I ended up asking him about fifteen+ questions. Way to go, Rana.

Oh! And I also discovered that little girls are fascinated with pantyhose. I was wearing some and they kept touching and rubbing my legs. It was one of the most awkward moments of my life.

ANYWAY, I like love as a sub-plot in my novels. And I thought, “hey, why not do a post on love in stories?” So here we go. Some of my “rules” for love in literature:

#1: Insta-Love is an Insta-No-No

Just don’t do it. Please. It’s cheesy and not realistic. In this post, we went over whether or not to make things up or make them realistic. Although fiction is fake up to a certain point, it should also be believable. We read to see ourselves. Books are like verbal mirrors. If we can’t see ourselves reflected through a character’s actions, personality, or journey, we’re not really going to like the book. So, as far as love in concerned, I would steer clear of love-at-first-sight.

In Desensitized, Cael and Ashland end up becoming super good friends and fall in love eventually. But at first, they hate each other. The character arcs change throughout the story and that’s important to me. I like to see people get better. Love helps with that. (Not the cheesy, romantic love, but pure, selfless love.)

#2: It Should Be Significant in Small Ways

So, without Cael, Ashland would probably die – not in a ‘oh-I-can’t-live-without-you’ way, but just that she’s going through a ton and needs support. Without Ashland, Cael would probably continue to be a heartless leader who isn’t concerned with anyone’s quality of life, but just that they’re alive.

They change each other for the better and that’s what love is about. Love in literature should serve as a means of communicating that no man is an island. We’re social creatures and that’s not a bad thing. Also, it’s not all about the feelings.

Essentially, if your story isn’t impacted by the love sub-plot, then it doesn’t need to be in there. It needs to be significant, but not so that the whole focus is on the love.

#3: It’s not all about the feelings

Love is sacrifice. It’s willing to give up your personal, instant pleasure for the good of someone else. This is what we should see. We need an accurate portrayal of love in a world that constantly tells us that it’s nothing more than a //feeling.// Guys, it’s so much more than that. Writers have the ability to tell the truth without getting hated (as much as we would if we said our message to someone’s face).

#4: Don’t make it easy

Okay. It doesn’t need to be Romeo and Juliet level difficult, but it shouldn’t be – forgive me for being cliche, which I warned against in #1 – Bella and Edward easy. Love is a horrible, beautiful thing. It hurts, it feels good, sometimes it feels like nothing, but requires a choice (not a love-triangle choice, mind you, but a choice that’s either going to help or harm the other member in the relationship – think of a parent and their child – the parents gives up a lot for their children and we call it ‘love’).

Love is full of heartbreak and pain, but it’s worth it. Show that. Don’t make it a Ferris-wheel ride (I went on one maybe once or twice and they’re flipping scary. The dude running was like, “I can’t put more people on. I have to balance it out or I could kill everyone on this thing.”) with cotton candy and moonlight kisses. That’s not love. That’s a feeling. And love isn’t a feeling.

Well, I’m sure there’s more, but that’s what I’ve got for you for now.

I hope this helps and if you have any more to add, I’d love it! 😀

God bless!

Rana

Writing Tips for Instant Improvement

‘Ello, you!

I hope your week’s been going just splendidly! ❤ Today, we’ll take a look at a few writing tips that will help with showing vs. telling, something most (every?) author has difficulty with. These pretty much help make the writing style instantaneously better. But find what works for you. 😉

I’ve seen a lot of blog posts on how you should show and don’t tell, and I can see how it works in their examples, but I wasn’t really sure how to do that in my writing until recently.

Here are a few tips you might want to keep in mind while writing. I’ll provide examples of my own to show the difference between rough draft and third draft. I hope they help. 🙂

Tip #1: Use Dialogue Tags Sparingly

To cut down the telling and up the showing element, I’ve tried to use fewer dialogue tags. Take a look at the following passages from the first chapter of The Reset and notice how the writing flows as well as how you can sort of get the implied tone of the characters as opposed to me telling you how they’re speaking.

Pay attention to the words in bold in the second excerpt. That’s where I cut the tags/inserted action.

Draft 1: Excerpt 1

“What do you want?” I snap, not in the mood for any sort of conversation.

“I came to see if you’ve discovered anything,” he yawns.

“I haven’t. Now go away.”

“My dear girl, you didn’t even look. I’d bet my cat on it.”

The feline looks up at me with that strange golden eye. The other one is hidden by an eye patch.

“What do you want?” I sigh, pouring myself a cup of coffee.

“I want his blood.”

When I turn around, Fëar is standing right in front of me.

Draft 3: Excerpt 1 of the Same Passage

I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. “What do you want?”

He yawned and stretched. “I came to see if you’d been issued your new target.”

“I haven’t.” I rubbed my temples as a migraine began to torment me. “Now do please go away.”

“My dear girl, you didn’t even go in to find out.” Fëar sat up straight as his feet hit the floor. He swept the room with a quick glance. “I’d bet my cat on it.”

The feline regarded me with that strange golden eye. It adopted a defensive position as if afraid its owner might lose the wager.

I repeated the question as I poured myself a mug of steaming black coffee. “What do you want?”

“Blood.” His words were a snarl in my ear, thick as the crimson liquid he desired oozing out of a fresh wound.

Tip #2: Don’t Let the Cat Out of the Bag Too Soon/The Curse of Knowledge

This is something I’m having to work on. In my first and second drafts, I think I dropped too much backstory/fact at once. It gave the reader nothing to wonder about. Don’t do that. 😛 You want your reader to be curious. They can’t be that if you have an info-dump at the beginning or even throughout your story.

Let’s take a look at how this plays out.

Draft 1: Excerpt 2

“Tough, isn’t it?” Fëar looks sympathetic for a moment, but I know he can’t really be feeling that way. He’s incapable of feeling whatsoever. “You’re still so human. It’s a tough phase. You’ll get over it one day.”

Draft 3: Excerpt 2 of the Same Passage

“Tough, isn’t it?” Fëar appeared sympathetic for a moment, but I knew better. “You’re still so human. It’s a tough phase. You’ll get over it one day.”

Notice how Althea didn’t explain why she knew better. This is what I’ll call the curse of knowledge.

You know how there are some really smart people and they’ll be talking about how one interior angle of a heptagon is 128 4/7 degrees or they’ll go off about the current crisis in Crimea or about how ISIS is beheading people in Iran and you’ll still be wondering what the heck a heptagon is, who Putin is, and what ISIS stands for or if it’s just a name of some Egyptian goddess from times long gone.

The people talking in those situations would have what we call the “burden/curse of knowledge.” They know something, so they think you know it too. But you don’t.

In 1PPOV* novels, we, as readers, are limited to only what the MC** knows. When the book starts in media res***, we miss some information – information that makes us curious. So don’t start off with an info-dump. Keep us guessing for a while. 😉

Tip #3: Don’t State a Character’s Emotions

This implies telling rather than showing. “Felt” is often a clue word that indicates you’re telling. Try not to use it, or feeling adjectives. Avoid:

  • Felt
  • Angry
  • Sad
  • Happy
  • Mad

Instead, try to show those emotions through a character’s actions.

Example 1:

“Leave my computer alone!” I screamed, angry.

Example 1: Edited

My fingers curled into my palms. When I spoke, my voice had risen several octaves and increased in volume. “Leave my computer alone!”

Not the best example, but does this make sense?

Hope this helps, darling. 🙂

How about you? Have you got any editing tips for us? Any tidbits to keep in mind while writing?

God bless!

Rana

P.S.

For better posts on this stuff, check out:

Go Teen Writers and Helping Writers Become Authors.

* = First Person Point of View

** = Main Character

*** = in the midst of things (basically starting in the middle)