blogging, community, writing

Spring Cleaning Writer Tag Challenge


Good morning, everyone! So, I’ve been nominated to participate in this original tag, created by Deborah O’Carroll, and it’s a tag just for us writers!

Image result for spring writer's tag


1. Link back to the person who tagged you
2. Share the picture
3. Answer the questions (naturally…) or even pick and choose which ones you answer
3.5. Tag 3 other writers and inform them that you tagged them (via comment/message/email or hey, even carrier-pigeon or smoke signal; I’m not picky)

1. Dust-bunnies and Plot-bunnies: Reorganize Your Writing Goals (Or Make New Ones)

Most writers do start out the new year with specific goals in mind. As of early January, my plans for the next 12 months were to: finish Volume 3 and start on Volume 4, do some more work on the field guide, and plan out the prequel.

As of March 21st, here’s where I stand on all this: Volume 3 is almost ready for editing. But I’m going to take some time on that. My hope was to get it published sometime in April; hopefully that will still happen, but I am not pushing myself to make it occur no matter what. I want Volume 3 to be as good as it can be, and that means lessening my self-imposed deadline for its release.

Also, while I do hope to still finish the draft of Vol. 4 by the end of summer, since I have also promised White Fang we will work on our Super Secret Co-Project once the school year is over, I am being totally realistic about Vol. 4 not being available until the fall. Nothing like long-range goals, eh?

Also, the field guide and the prequel I’ll probably work on in fits and spurts, when the inspiration hits. There’s no rush right now on either of those (though I am excited to create both of them!).


2. Which Stage Are You At? Expound!

a. Remodeling layouts (planning the story)
b. Painting the walls in colorful hues (writing)
c. Polishing the windows and scrubbing the floors and putting flowers in vases (editing)
d. Blueprints (not to the cleaning or remodeling yet… just drawing up plans for the very beginning inklings of a story)
e. Some combination of those things (cleaning out a closet)

At the moment, I am in Painting The Walls In Colorful Hues with Volume 3, and very soon it will be Polishing The Windows And Putting Flowers In Vases. (I love the analogies, Deborah!)


3. Treasure From the Back of the Closet (Share one to three snippets you love!)

“She’d only been 19 years old when a nervous, confused, mid-twenties Daniel Novak approached her…seeking a nanny for his newborn halfbreed child. …Lily quickly fell in love with the beautiful baby girl who had astounding violet eyes and could make objects float above her crib.”

“Mom! Can we go yet?! I haven’t played Minecraft in 36 Earth hours!”

“Avery had never learned to play solitaire… Hence, she was constructing a house of cards while she waited… And she was using magic to do so, meaning this deck of cards was rapidly coming to resemble a 3-story mansion with a balcony and an astronomy tower.”


3.5. Bonus: Do Some Actual Spring Cleaning of Your Writer Self! (and share a picture!)

I shan’t be doing this part of the tag (since we are having technical difficulties around my house, and camera software is not easily accessible at present). But here are some tips from Deborah for those of you who wish to:

  • Organize your notebooks and papers if you’re a physical type of writer
  • Sort your computer files and tidy them up if you’re a digital sort
  • Do some real-life cleaning up of your desk or writing space or room in general, if you exist in the physical world at all (which I rather hope you do)  



(Sorry I can’t prove it right now, but I do exist somewhere out here, I swear!)

Thanks so much for the fun tag, Deborah! Visit her at:

I’m tagging (and you most likely have already been tagged, but take pity on my poor overwraught genius brain): Kyle Robert Shultz, SM Metzler, Hannah Heath, and Aria E. Maher. Happy spring cleaning, writers!


children's television, entertainment, family, television

I Give Up (Or, Why I’m Basically Done with Television for the Forseeable Future)


(Yes, this is the face Toby gives most cable shows. He has good taste.)

So, a while back I was griping about how far downhill (try the bottom of the cliff, in many respects) the medium of TV shows as a whole has gone. At least, in my opinion. I don’t like “reality” programs (since most of them are faked by wannabe actors, anyway), or stuff like “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race”; I don’t care for police procedurals or most medical dramas (anything that can fall into the formulaic tropes way too easily); the only sitcom I’ve watched in the past 10 years is “The Big Bang Theory.”

Within the last couple years, there have been lots of shows I was watching that ended (and some of these none too soon, I felt), that evidently the whole world except for me is watching and I “need” to (but I’m not), and others that have been on the air for years but I only recently started watching.

Here’s a breakdown of my feelings about the whole situation:

I do not like television in 2018.


After being thrown for a loop with the series finales of “Castle” (what was that?!) and “Chuck” (still sobbing), the intense downward spiral in quality for “Supernatural” and “The Big Bang Theory,” and the incredibly unfair cancellation of “Houdini and Doyle,” I feel let down by the industry as a whole.

I could live with the end of “Grimm,” because the writers and directors did a great job of sticking to one, meaningful storyline in the last episodes, and making the most of character development and creating a satisfying conclusion. “Nashville,” on the other hand, which had reached a perfect ending prior to its cancellation and then immediate reboot by another network — which has ruined the whole thing — is crossed right off my list.

I actually got into “Grey’s Anatomy” about a year ago — yes, in the middle of season 13. I’m aware this is more than arriving late to the party — it’s the equivalent of running in the door when most of the guests are moving towards the parking lot. But I did something I rarely do — I fell for the hype. I’d seen ads for this show for years, and never thought about it twice. Okay, slight lie — twice, since Patrick Dempsey used to be in it, and he is just unapologetically handsome. However, he’d already left the program by the time I tuned in (oh, well), and I’m beginning to see why he wanted out of his contract.

So, very shortly here, my modern experiment with a medical drama will be over as well.


Although betrayal seems like too harsh a word to use when it comes to television, I have to admit, regarding “Supernatural,” I feel betrayed. For the last few years, it’s been my go-to example of excellent writing, directing, character development, and how to keep a weekly-episode show going for 10-plus years without losing your fan base. Now it’s become my primary example of how to screw all that up. Last week I caught a rerun of an episode from season 5, and there was absolutely no comparison to the season 13 episode I saw the week before. I just can’t anymore with this train wreck (crying).

Then there are the superhero shows — “The Flash,” “Arrow,” etc — that apparently have to include some sort of political statement in every single episode. Some are bigger offenders than others (I’m looking right at you, “Supergirl” and “Black Lightning”), but this entire group has become way too liberally-charged for my liking. Whatever happened to telling a story for the sake of telling a good story — and if there was a message to it, it was one that could resonate with lots of people, not just those who subscribe to a particular, inflexible ideology?

Even my pleasant surprises of last year, “Riverdale” and “The Good Doctor,” are failing me. “Riverdale” has quickly progressed from kind of unrealistic to wholly impossible and overdramatized, and “The Good Doctor” is focusing far too much on the other characters and using Dr. Murphy’s autism as baiting for not understanding social graces or being intolerant. That last bit flat out destroys me.


And if we could, for just a minute, discuss children’s television? What in the world has happened to the Disney channel? I’m not going to encourage Muffin to turn on Disney Jr now that they’re broadcasting a show about a preschool vampire. Excuse me?! 

And White Fang gave up on Nickelodeon — which was the standard of acceptable teen programming for years — ages back. Their resurgence of live-action, scripted shows, such as “The Thundermans” and “Henry Danger,” that were slightly goofy but still fine in terms of clean humor and covering appropriate topics. But even those have become too far-fetched and just plain silly. Yes, White Fang is now 15, and his viewing tastes will be different than they were in middle school. But, still. Even something that’s aimed at 6-10-year-olds needs to make sense.


So, we will happily binge library DVDs of shows that were cancelled before 2005.

And I have no regrets about what we may, or may not, have missed in primetime.


Fantasy fiction, The Invisible Moth

The Next Book Club Meeting!

Image result for rulers and mages

Okay, so I completely dropped the ball on assigning a date for the next quarterly book club for my own work. And when you consider that this is the only book I released last quarter, well, here we are on Volume 2! If you have read Rulers and Mages, or are currently reading it, feel free to wax poetic on what you loved in the comments! Please no spoilers, though! (I’ll totally understand if some comments therefore have to be compiled just of ASKJALFGH!!!.)

Also, announcement: Next month will be the bookiversary for Masters and Beginners! I can hardly believe April 21st shall mark a year since the release of the first edition! To celebrate the occasion, some fun stuff will happen! If you haven’t yet read Volume 1, you can find it at It’s very affordable (only $8.95 USD), and Barnes and Noble often has free shipping deals available. Plus Kyle’s new cover will make bookworm drool overtake your common sense and instill in you the overwhelming emotion that you need this book now. Happy reading, moths!

Encouragement, reading, spiritual growth, writing

A Discussion on Writing Spiritual Journeys (Part 2)


Hello again! So, today I’m finishing up the discussion post I started last week, delving into how we authors can effectively incorporate our faith into our work without seeming irritating, preachy, or off-putting to readers. But today I’d like to take this post in a slightly different direction.

Many of us who write with a certain spiritual or religious message or theme in mind are drawing on the faith we grew up in. For lots of people the world over, religion is as much a part of who we are, in terms of heritage, as our eye color and height.

But the religion we’re born into may not be the one we embrace our entire lives. I’m not here to debate conversion experiences. I’m more interested in addressing covering this topic compassionately and objectively in fiction.

Yes, that’s right, I said objectively. If you’re writing a fiction piece that includes a character or characters that have changed their spiritual beliefs and practices, your focus needs to be so much more on the characters’ tale than your own personal testimony. The reason for this tactic is, again (vitally), not turning off readers who may not agree with your beliefs or worldview, but still want to read your fiction.


As someone who came from a generic Christian background (as far as morals and traditions went), then spent a lot of time researching other religions, I think this is a big problem among Western “Christian market” publishers. As I mentioned before, I don’t like the way Christian novels are geared specifically towards people who are already churchgoers. That turns fiction that should be showing non-believers the beautiful teachings of Jesus of Nazareth into its own little niche culture. A niche that outsiders don’t necessarily feel comfortable jumping into.

And that feeds into the even bigger problem the modern Church already has, of people seeing us as a narrow-minded, unfriendly, keep-to-ourselves, stuck-up sort. That hardly teaches the world that the Savior came to die for everybody.

When I was young and exploring (and by the way, there’s nothing wrong with that), I came across a variety of people of a variety of religions. Some of the churchgoers were horrible, hypocritical, and very prejudiced. Others were awesome, warm, caring and tolerant. Some of the people I met from “fringe” or minority religions were very tolerant towards Christians; others thought the Church had committed too many terrible crimes, and weren’t about to forgive that. The biggest takeaway I got from all this was that the world in general has become so caught up in who gets the Earthly power and control and authority, that they no longer are concerned with matters such as a Creator, our purpose here, and can we communicate with that being.


Since that was what I was looking for, I found myself much more drawn to reading from the source (rather than getting stuck in the political plays). I read up on the pantheons from ancient Greece and Rome and Egypt and Britain, on Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism. I was an equal opportunity researcher. I found some things I thought were really wonderful (like the idea of personal deities or saints that would take care of your specific needs in finances, health, etc. — indicating that the belief in a merciful, benevolent divine being is not sold simply by televangelists). Other stuff I wasn’t too fond of (the practices of animal sacrifice, for example).

Anyway, as I went, I discovered there are a lot of issues with mistranslation, history being written from only one point of view, and traditions shared between a number of cultures, and that all of this has created a hodgepodge of what we today call Christianity. These days, there’s no such thing as “pure Christianity” — unless your only goal is to follow the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament.

Not that this is a bad goal. Not at all. However, human beings have certainly distorted what’s “acceptable” (forcing Jews to convert, when they’re stated in your own holy writings as God’s chosen people, is just not cool), and what’s “real” (the ongoing debate on whether miracles still happen is raging somewhere as we speak), and it’s quite unfortunate.


What I’d like to see much more of in fiction penned by Christian authors is a respect for other religions, a tolerance for characters who haven’t been “saved,” and a true love (not condemnation) portrayed for the homeless drug addict your narrator passes on a street corner. Remember, folks, Jesus went to dinner with prostitutes and happily hung out with non-Jews. He treated everyone as worth his time and he listened to them. He appreciated their belief in him more than their social class or status. Too many people who go to church every week, always tithe and never miss a Bible study — in real life and fiction — are never seen at a soup kitchen, an animal shelter, or bringing dinner to the Muslim family down the street.

If we feel that fiction is a great tool for allegories and encourage deeper thinking on spiritual matters, then let’s do that. Let’s include characters from different religious backgrounds, do our research and present non-stereotyped, healthy, loving portrayals. Let’s validate someone’s worth as a person from a non-Christian, non-monotheistic background, while we hope to show that a God they’ve never heard of loves them and wants to help them.


Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

March Mini-Reviews


Well, it’s a winter wonderland out there! At least for me — and if you don’t care for the snow and are ready for spring, then my apologies. Not too sorry, though — it looks wholly amazing, and I am once again awed by the splendor of Creation.

So it’s time for another round of mini-reviews! I’m already off to a raring start with reading this year (I guess setting my Goodreads challenge at 25 was laughable?!), which means I have more reviews to give!

Let’s start with a bit of nonfiction for a change — this I actually read years ago, but I’d forgotten how well-written it is, and my husband stumbled across it in a largely- unrelated Google search. So I decided to see if our local library still had it.

Image result for wicca's charm

Wicca’s Charm is an excellent, objective, and compassionate account from a Christian journalist who spent years researching the modern interest in ancient polytheism and the sudden surge in the practice of nature religions in the late 20th century. She never judged the many people she interviewed for their personal beliefs and customs, and while she found herself drawn deeper into her own faith, she also clearly saw a lot of the ways that the Church has let down so many of the people it’s meant to be building up. I highly recommend this one for anybody interested in bridging the gap between specifically Christian believers and those who are following non-Christian religions.

The next on this list will start a bit of extended whining. Sorry…

Image result for enchanted glass

I wanted to enjoy this. Oh, did I ever hope to open the cover and be swept away into a tale of magic and modern legend. Sigh. I’m afraid Enchanted Glass didn’t do it for me. Maybe I was still a little hung over from the anesthesia? But I had a very difficult time following the plot, and constantly got bogged down by the extremely similar names both the protagonists had (Aidan and Andrew), and felt frequently confused by the roles the secondary characters actually played. The housekeeper, Mrs. Stock, particularly was so irritating to me I wanted to chuck something at her, and began skimming the scenes she was in. And then the ending made NO sense to me, and I twisted into a bundle of discontent.

Unfortunately, my malcontent only continued with The Night Circus. Trust me, I’m aching, too…

Image result for the night circus

After hearing such great things about this novel, it’s been on my TBR (admittedly near the very bottom) for quite a while. I got to page 50 and just couldn’t get into the style. The prose felt neverending, and not really enlightening as to getting the plot going or establishing the character relationships. I struggled on as long as I could, then finally threw in the towel about halfway. When I had yet to reach any actual night circus action. (The auditions for a new illusionist don’t count, sorry, folks.)

At least I had saved my re-read of Shiver until now (after ordering it at Christmas). This will definitely perk me up.

Image result for wolves of mercy falls

I read the whole trilogy (minus the “extra” wrap-up, Sinner) a few years ago. Recently, I decided it was time to enjoy The Wolves of Mercy Falls all over again, so I bought the first book. A few weeks ago, White Fang was literally moping (yes, quite literally — sorry, dude) over the fact he was AGAIN at the end of his TBR. (I swear he must be sacrificing cans of tuna on a scratching post altar under the full moon to a cat god who grants the power of speed reading, because he went through the 8 books I got him at Christmas in NO time.) Anyway, I handed him my copy of The Scorpio Races — and the rest, as they say, is bookdragon history.

So he has now completed all 4 of the Mercy Falls tales, and he is IN LOVE with the series.

No complaints with that. But what do I give him now?!

If you guys haven’t read “the other Maggie Stiefvater series,” what are you waiting for? The Wolves of Mercy Falls has definitely been eclipsed by the phenemeon The Raven Cycle has become, but I find the writing and plot and characters in Mercy Falls far superior. The protagonists are SO easy to root for, and I love the dynamics between the secondary characters in this quartet.

Well, that’s all for today! I’ll be back probably next week, as I put aside blogging for a bit in the pursuit of attacking fiction drafts (most likely with a flamethrower, or a live dragon). If you’re new around here, don’t forget to check out some of my more recent posts and some of my readers’ favorites! (Links are all in the sidebar.) Happy Wednesday, everyone!


reading, spiritual growth, writing

A Discussion on Writing Spiritual Journeys (Part 1)


I’m part of an author community that prides itself on following a particular set of morals and ethics in their lives and in their writing. I’m not even going to debate the validity of that. What I’d like to start discussing today is this:

When you want your work to reflect certain spiritual values you have, what’s the best way to go about it?

There is a major issue these days with the faith-based publishing industry being just that — religious, even zealous, literally preaching to the choir, and not even attempting to reach people who don’t share your beliefs.

I like to think of myself as a pretty tolerant person. I do subscribe to a set of spiritual beliefs and try to practice them on a daily basis. I won’t deny that I believe what I believe, and that I find it extremely important. However, I want people who randomly come across my books on Goodreads or Barnes & Noble to feel that I’m approachable. That my work, while it does focus on Judeo-Christian lore and values, is approachable, even if they never go to church. Honestly, I don’t care if they alter/maintain/develop any spiritual views after reading my books. That’s not what I’m here for.


But my hope is also that people who may be spiritually seeking might take away something about the messages of love, grace, mercy, and redemption that I include in my writing.

So, we come back to the beginning point: How do we, as authors and Christians, portray these concepts in our fiction, without seeming to do so from behind a pulpit?

Here are some crucial points I’ve determined over the years of being a reader, a writer, and now an author:

1. Don’t act superior. Meaning, don’t give the impression that your Christian characters (or Christian-esque, if your fiction has an allegorical religion) are “better” than those who aren’t. You’ll definitely send non-religious readers packing. Also, please don’t make your Christian characters perfect — stunningly beautiful, intelligent, excellent job, happy family, can stand in for Superman during a city-wide emergency. Not only is this totally unrealistic, it’s very discouraging. Readers like characters they can relate to — fictional people who drop pens, forget to feed their cat, cheated on their diet, skipped that math class, swore when they sprained their ankle. People who need the compassion of a Savior.

2. Don’t indicate a religious conversion will solve all of a character’s problems. Again, this never happens in real life. Plenty of people who go to church and pray and help old ladies across the street suffer from financial concerns, sickness, unemployment, addictions, have been divorced or broken up with their partner, lost a pet, or can’t find decent parking ever. And, once more, including bumps in the road in a fictional life makes for characters we can connect to — and if we see their faith help them through some of life’s crap, we might even want that aspect for ourselves.


3. Make sure your character’s faith is at work in your pages. A narrator who tithes 12 and a half percent, never misses a Bible study, only exclaims, “Oh, drat,” when a deer runs into their car — and then is rude to shop clerks, berates a jaywalker, tells someone whose dog accidentally got off-leash they’re an idiot… Well, this type of narrator will make people throw your book at the wall. Readers will want to know more about a protagonist who apologizes to the jogger they yelled at the day before, who dumps a guy by text and can’t sleep afterwards, who buys lunch for a Goth kid that lost their wallet.

4. Embrace diversity. This is one I see a lot of Christian publishers edging away from, because the term “diversity” has gotten misaligned as a politically-hot-button issue, rather than the modern way we say “tolerance.” It goes directly against one of the instructions in the New Testament, to bring the good news of Jesus’ resurrection to people all over the world. That means different countries, different races, different religions, cultures, all of it. Even folks that think putting mayo on fries is an acceptable practice should hear the Messiah’s message.

These are just suggestions, remember. Ultimately, I can’t force anyone to write their story a certain way. But it’s been my experience that most non-Christians won’t read preachy Christian literature — and therefore could be missing out on the really important stuff.


As a younger reader, at a point in my life when I wasn’t really sure what I believed spiritually, I was intensely dissatisfied with people who claimed Christians “shouldn’t” read fantasy, “couldn’t” learn about ancient religions or polytheistic cultures, and that basically everything that wasn’t specifically “Christian” was “wrong.”

All of this is a load of bunk. Setting yourself apart from the majority of readers in today’s Western society will not bring them the love and mercy of anyone.

This doesn’t mean I’m encouraging compromise on our part. Not when it comes to your morals and values. If you find it necessary to write text in which no one swears out loud, never graphically explains their sex life, and isn’t gratitiously violent, go you.

But don’t avoid the tough subjects, either. Christian-themed novels need conversations on racism, prejudice, bullying, child abuse, committing crimes, sexual misconduct, eating disorders, drug use, self-harm — all without being condescending to the characters who are going through it. 

We are all human, we all make mistakes, and we shouldn’t act like we’re better than someone who’s still struggling with the same burden we once bore. That is absolutely not the reason Jesus literally took up His cross for us.

So, that’s it for this time. Next time, I’ll be digging deeper still, into writing from the perspective of someone who wasn’t always a Christian, for believers and non-believers alike.



health, reading, spiritual growth, writing

February Recap/March Look-Ahead


Good morning! So, now that things have finally calmed down a bit and my life makes more sense, I can focus on mundane stuff like monthly recap blog posts.

As most of you are probably aware, my February was a rather intense mix of pain, suffering, struggling, despair, and a little bit of hope.

Okay, yes, I’m dramatizing, somewhat. But there were a lot of issues of valid concern that came to a head last month. Since this past summer, I’d been dealing with unexplained pain that came and went, and eventually it became constant and was growing worse. After seeing three different doctors — a primary care physician, two radiologists, and an OBGYN — finally a cause was suspected, and actual treatment planned out.

So on March 1st, I went under the knife (well, the laser and a very small actual knife — my incision is tiny, it’s amazing) to find out what was really going on. The bloodwork and ultrasounds I’d had ruled out a few things, but still hadn’t concretely established what was wrong, so the doctor needed to get a physical eye on my insides. It wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t great, but the anesthesia worked well, so I honestly don’t remember being in any discomfort during the procedure.

Afterwards, although sore, I started feeling better almost immediately. The blockage that had been created in my abdomen by endometriosis building up for probably months was at last gone. For the first time in ages, I am not in pain. I’m still a little tired (understandably), but I know that finally, finally I am on the road to healing.


Because of doctor’s appointments and managing pain, not a lot of other stuff was accomplished in February. I was able to make some progress on Volume 3 (so, yes, it is coming along!), and I got a fair amount of reading done (especially at those times when I literally didn’t have the energy to do anything else).

While I was lying down more than usual, I did make some executive writing decisions.

My initial plan for How To Be A Savage is getting put on MASSIVE hold. Although I really like the concept, I simply don’t have the time this year to attempt starting it. I may actually scrap it altogether. After Volume 3, there’s Volume 4 to finish, and the field guide needs a bunch of work, and I promised White Fang we’d get started on our collaboration project this summer. And since it’s already March…

Also, I changed my mind about not writing a separate prequel for the series. Originally, I had considered it, thought about releasing it as a collection of short stories, debated making it part of the field guide, then basically had a meltdown over the whole idea. In the end, I opted to add a novella prequel to my ever-growing list of WIPs. Just, most likely not in 2018.

And I am not putting another addition on my TBR for the rest of the year. I have several library selections checked out right now, and there are such things as renewal limits, and fines. Somehow I’ve managed to get nearly halfway through my Goodreads challenge already, so there’s no shame whatsoever in slowing down.


When you have a dilemmia with your health, it tends to put certain things in perspective. That has definitely been the case for me. As concerned as I am about promoting my books, because while sales aren’t everything, they are important, marketing is not more crucial than my well-being. So, since I need to take a break from the social media grind and concentrate on the actual creative process right now, I will be doing that, and leaving my sales in the Lord’s hands (which, truly, is where they always are, anyway).

My immediate treatment will hopefully only be medication, and they’re going to see how that goes. But there may still be an adjustment period to that, and plans may not work out. I’m optimistic, yet I remain practical and prepared for things to change, too.

My boys need me as well, and these last few weeks, worrying about how they’d fare if something serious happened to me, has been agonizing.

So, I officially don’t care about having an Instagram account, starting a YouTube channel, or putting together a newsletter. I’m grateful to have the loyal supporters I do on WordPress, Twitter and Goodreads, and won’t freak out if those numbers only climb slowly. Now is not the time to put myself under more pressure.


Winter is hanging on, but now spring isn’t too far away, and I’m happy to have made it through this season.

I’m looking forward to what comes next, small potatoes and all.