Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Songs of a Favorite Nature

No questions this week, but since it’s the holiday, I figure you were all just busy. So, I’ll let you off the hook.

This time.

I thought I’d do something different this time.



Instead of listing random facts, in spirit of the holiday, I thought I would share you some of my favorite Christmas songs.

I have nothing against traditional Christmas songs. In fact, they are really great to sing. But, when it comes to preference, I am more inclined to go for nontraditional. That’s just my personality.

Also, you will notice very quickly that most of the songs are from Behold the Lamb of God, Let It Snow Baby… Let it Reindeer, and Christmas Stories: Repeat the Sounding Joy. If you would like, you can go listen to all of those right now and be done with it.

Or, you can read on and listen to just my favorites and learn why they’re my favorites.

All right, without further ado, my favorite Christmas songs, roughly in order from lesser favorite to most favorite:

Five Golden Rings
From: How Many Kings: Songs for Christmas by Downhere

Favorite Line: Just listen to it.



12 Days of Christmas
From Let It Snow Baby… Let It Reindeer

Favorite Line: What's a partridge?/ What's a pear tree?/ I don't know so please don't ask me/ But I can bet those are terrible gifts to get.



Matthew Begats
From: Behold the Lamb of God by Andrew Peterson

Favorite Line: All of them. This one can’t be explained. Listen to it. It’s wonderful.




In Like a Lion (Always Winter)
From: Let It Snow Baby… Let It Reindeer

Favorite Line: When February rolls around I’ll roll my eyes/ Turn a cold shoulder to these even colder skies/ And by the fire my heart if heaves a sigh/ For the green grass waiting on the other side







How Many Kings?
From: How Many Kings: Songs for Christmas by Downhere

Favorite Line: Definitely love the chorus: Cause how many kings, stepped down from their thrones?How many lords have abandoned their homes?/ How many greats have become the least for me?/ How many Gods have poured out their hearts/ To romance a world that has torn all apart?/ How many fathers gave up their sons for me?



I Celebrate the Day
From: Let It Snow Baby… Let It Reindeer by Relient K

Favorite Line: And I, I celebrate the day/ That you were born to die/ That I could one day pray for you to save my life.





Labor of Love
From: Behold the Lamb of God by Andrew Peterson

Favorite Line: Not so much a favorite line as a favorite concept. This is beautiful because of the idea, the story of the faith of Mary and Joseph. So many times we forget how greatly they were opening to being used by God.




Christmas for Jesus
From: Christmas Stories: Repeat the Sounding Joy by Jason Gray

Favorite Line: The opening lines: We celebrate Jesus once every year/ And, God’s little boy born into our kingdom here/ Is it Christmas for Jesus when I’m born into his?/ Is my heart the present He put on his list? (even typing it up now, I’m getting all teared up. <3 <3)





Forgiveness is a Miracle (A Song for Joseph)/ Man of Mercy
From: Christmas Stories: Repeat the Sounding Joy

Favorite Line: But the forgiveness that gave/ Would be given back to you/ Because you carried in your heart/ What she carried in her womb




Be Born in Me
From: Music Inspired by the Story performed by Francesca Battistelli

Favorite Line: All this time we’ve waited for the promise/ All this time you’ve waited for my arm and I am not brave/ I’ll never be/ The only think my heart can offer/ Is a vacancy




If you want to listen to them in succession without having to go through and play them all, here’s them all in a playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZY8ggLqeVIDgFulx42yAQ3iUGhqXnt7O


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Number 49- A Short Story


Short story I wrote off a prompt. Enjoy!




I stare at the gold letters on the door of the apartment, making a list of all the reasons why this was the right door to choose.
                
49 is the square of seven which is the best number out there.
                
It is the atomic number of indium.
                
It was the year the California Gold Rush began.
                
It is the parallel that runs a good portion of the border between the United States and Canada.
               
It was the year Russia tested its first atomic bomb.
                
Its cube ends in the same two digits- 117,649
                
It is a lot of other things too. Rich things, part of history and culture. But, people so often ignore it in favor of its milestone brother, 50. It is such an unassuming number and yet such a beautiful one.
                
Which is why I should knock on this one. Why this is the door that I am meant to choose. There is no need to convince myself further, no need to come up with more reasons why this door is my destiny.
                
Alaska was the 49th state admitted to the United States.
                
It is the number of a U.S. Route that ran from Mississippi to Arkansas, as well as an interstate in Missouri and Louisiana and a highway in California.
                
It’s the smallest number with the property that it and its bordering neighbors are squareful.
                
It’s the International Direct Dialing code of Germany.
                
Typical artificial strawberry flavor contains 49 ingredients.
                
It was the year Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman doctor in the United States.
                
The list goes on and on. So, why can’t I bring myself to knock? Why do I seem incapable of doing anything but standing outside the door, staring at those golden numbers, repeating to myself facts about how wonderful they are?
                
All I need to do was ball my hand into a fist, lift it a little, and gently hit the door with it. It isn’t that hard. In fact, nothing could be simpler.
                
So, why don’t I do it?
                
The number 49 is composed of two digits- 4 and 9. Both of which in and of themselves are interesting numbers.
                
The number four is the square of 2.
                
It’s the only number in the English Language that has the same number of letters as its name.
                
In Chinese the word sounds much like the word for “death” and is considered unlucky, but in ancient Greece it was associated with earthly balance.
                
It’s the number of seasons in a year.
                
It’s the number of humors in a body.
                
It’s the number of rivers in the Garden of Eden.
                
It’s the number of cardinal directions.
                
And, that’s just number 4.
                
9 is the square of 3.
                
It is the number of lives a cat supposedly has.
                
It was the number of muses in Greek mythology.
                
It is the number of stitches saved by one in time.
                
It is the atomic number of fluorine.
                
It is the number associated with being dressed at ones very best.
                
It is-
                
NO! I can’t keep this up. I need to gather my courage, knock on the door. I can’t spend the rest of the day standing here going over facts like this.
                
I need to take charge, steel my courage and get to work.
                
So, before I can think enough to stop myself, I lift my hand and knock, the sound resonating off the walls of the deserted hall.
                
I take a step back, breathing in deeply. I did it. There’s no turning back.
                
I wait for several seconds, listening for any sounds of life inside. But, I hear nothing but the sound of my own breathing. So, I knock again. This time it takes significantly less courage.
                
This is my destiny. 49, the number of numbers. This apartment is here for me. It chose me just as much as I chose it. It is mine and there’s no need to be nervous or afraid.
                
I knock once more and this time I hear a stirring inside, along with a voice calling out that they’re coming.
                
I take another deep breath, a smile on my face. I adjust my tie, stand up a little straighter. This is my time.
                
The door opens as far as the chain across the door will let it. A woman in a bathrobe with curlers in her hair peeks out, eying me with suspicion. “What do you want?”
                
A rock settles itself in the pit of my stomach but I do all within my power to keep my mood positive. “Hello, ma’am, my name is Edward. I’m with-”
                
“You selling something?” she interrupts, glancing over her shoulder. I can hear a TV blaring from the other room.
                
“No, ma’am, I’m-”
                
But, she doesn’t let me finish. “Not interested.”
                
She slams the door in my face, leaving me to once again stare at the chipped, gold plated numbers.
                
With a sigh, I readjust the clipboard under my arm and start down the hall to the next door. Apartment 47.
                
An interesting number, 47…



And that's that! Let me know what you think! And, don't forget to get your question in for this Friday!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Dirndls and Christmas- Candor Questions



Cindy Sauer asked: Why a dirndl? Does it have to do with your German ancestry? :-D 

Hehe. I have been pondering this question for a week and I’m still not sure how to answer it. But, I’m going to try anyway.

To me, dirndls are the height of femininity. They’re beautiful, and stylish, but also simple and unassuming. They can be made inappropriate (as can anything) but for me, they are the picture of innocence. There’s something about a dirndl that makes me feel beautiful. It makes me feel more girly, more sweet, more innocent, more pure. Not that I’m not those things in other clothes. I just feel it more in a dirndl.

I don’t know that it has anything to do with my ancestry. I didn’t even know they were a German thing when I started liking them. They were just wonderful, and beautiful, and I wanted to make dozens and dozens of them. Then I learned they had a name a history and were like a legitimate thing. Which just made them more awesome.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of ones I’ve made, but if you want to check them out, I do have a Pinterest board devoted to them:

And, totally random, but the position of the knot on the dirndl’s apron indicates her marital status: if it’s on the left, the girl is available; on the right, she’s taken, either married or engaged; in the back, she’s a widow (though, this is also how waitresses wear them, so if your waitress has it tied in the back, don’t assume she’s a widow); and in the front, though many nowadays think it’s an indication of confusion on the girl’s part (like she’s not sure if she’s entirely available or not) it traditionally means that the wearer is a virgin.

So, if you go somewhere wearing a dirndl, make sure you wearing your knot in the proper place!


Harpley asked: Have you ever written any Christmas stories?  If not, do you have any favorites to read

According to the search function on my computer, I have used the word “Christmas” in four of my stories. In an unfinished novel called Scripted my main character, David, says, “They haven’t seen each other since Christmas.”

In The Crimson Banner, Jack notes that Melinda reminds him of his little sister on Christmas morning.

In an idea I have, which I’ve only written two or three scenes for, my character, Raven, mentions not really knowing her cousins, even though she sees them every Christmas.

And, lastly, in Where the SOREM Hid the Prize (the third Kit Parker Book), a piece of Kit’s narration is her complaining about something happening over winter break. She notes that she had more important things to do, one of them being planning the perfect Christmas.

So, I guess that would be a no. I’ve never written a Christmas story before. Ever. And, I probably never will. I’m not the kind of person who is really into holidays. I love getting to see my family and eat yummy food and stuff like that, but really, you can do that any day.

Plus, any other day, there’s mail.

There’s no mail on Christmas.

That said, there are a few Christmas stories I do love. O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi is gorgeous and wonderful and I would be totally wrong not to mention it here because it’s a classic and O. Henry’s awesome and more people should read him. (Not just that one story either. If you haven’t read anything other than Gift of the Magi or The Ransom of Red Chief you need to go read something by him right now).

The only other Christmas story I can say that I have read and really loved, and that actually did something to me, is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.

If you have not read this story, you need to. It really opened my eyes to the magic of the Christmas story, through the eyes of those hearing it for the first time. It’s a wonderful book about the power of that story and about how it can change even the wildest of kids. Beautiful, beautiful story.

In fact, I need to find my copy and read it again. It’s not very long at all (I read it out loud to Mom and it only took an hour or two) but so much is packed into that story, that it’s really a great read. I would highly recommend reading it. It’s well worth it.

And, of course, there are Christmas movies. Two, in particular that are watched every year.

Shop Around the Corner, while technically not a “Christmas” movie, comes to its climax on Christmas, so we always watch it then. We have it on VHS, so it’s kind of fuzzy (just some added snow XD) but it’s a classic in our house. It stars James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan and is the original You’ve Got Mail. But, it has James Stewart in it. So, it’s better <3

The other classic we always watch is White Christmas. I always forget how much I love that movie until we’re watching it. I have seen it more times than I can count (once in theaters! :D) but still it never gets old. Vera-Ellen, Danny Kaye, Bing Crosby. What’s not to like? It’s perfect and a must watch every year for us.

And, that’s about as Christmassy as I get.


There you have it! If you have a question you would like to ask, make sure that you send it in for next week! And, in the meantime, I shall hopefully see you all on Monday! :D

Monday, December 15, 2014

Love at First Hate




I’m trying not to be bitter.

But, it’s really hard.

Really hard.

See, my sister and I watched this hallmark movie last night, When Calls the Heart. It’s not the greatest of movies, but it was fun and there were some good parts.

Then, since the movie was okay, Danielle and I decided to start watching the TV show they based off of it. I knew that they had changed things from the movie to the show, but I didn’t realize how much.

See, there was this nice character who I liked, who the main character liked. Who was nice, and encouraging, and a great match for the main character. But, apparently Hallmark decided he wasn’t good enough. They replaced him with a new character. One the main character can’t stand and who feels rather the same about her. In the first two episodes (which is all I have seen thus far) they fight nearly every time they’re on screen together.

Because according to the media today, that’s love.

Why? Why does love have to start with hate? Why are all the good shows and movies and books featured around this idea that the couple has to start out hating each other?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good they-met-and-sparks-flew story. Love. Them. But, they’re also getting old. Why do all the good relationships have to start with the couple hating each other? Why do we have to make they fight in order for them to love each other.

Now, on the other end of the scale, I’ll be honest and say I can’t stand love at first sight stories. Well, some are okay, but the whole idea of them falling in love as soon as they met and then spending the entire book mooning over how much they love each other isn’t my thing. That’s part of the reason why I still haven’t finished the first Heroes of Olympus book. Great story but the two main characters are driving me nuts!

But, why can’t we meet somewhere in the middle? Why can’t they start off as friends and have something grow out of that? Why can’t they be mildly indifferent toward each other before they realize they’re falling for each other?

Part of the reason I love Jane Austen’s Emma is because it’s a really well-done story about characters who are great friends and then they end up being more than that. Emma doesn’t hate Mr. Knightley and he doesn’t hate her. Quite the contrary. They’re friends, dear, true friends who realize that they’ve fallen in love.

In Elizabeth Eulberg’s Better Off Friends her main characters, Macallan and Levi, hit it off right away. They’re close as friends can be until the end when they realize their friendship has become more. Sure, they disagree and they fight like people are prone to do, but they never hate each other. Their relationship doesn’t have to start out with them fighting and angry and upset.

I think it’s actually dangerous for us to portray love as starting with hate. Because, in real life, is it really wise to marry the guy you do nothing but fight with? Sure, I know the message of Pride and Prejudice is that they fight because they don’t look beyond themselves. Same with Beauty and the Beast, they fight until they look past appearances into who the person really is. Which is powerful.

But, sometimes, when you look past appearances, the person still turns out to be a jerk. Or, not someone you’re compatible with. But, what the media teaches us is that as long as we feel great when we kiss, that’s all good.

I’m probably going to make some enemies here, but bear with me- in BBC’s television show Robin Hood, I in no way, shape, or form wanted Robin and Marian to end up together. Because all they do is fight or kiss. They say they love each other but they never show it.

But, it’s love because they say it is. Because when they kiss it’s passionate and beautiful. And, that’s all that matters.

Right?

Now, I’m not saying every story that features character who dislike each other before they fall in love is bad. There are plenty of them that I can name that I love. That are good, and well done, and have strong, positive messages.

But, if that’s all we’re feeding people, that’s where the danger comes in. If all we’re telling people is that if you hate him or her first and do nothing but tear each other down, they realize they aren’t so bad- usually after you kiss them- then it’s okay.

But, I’m pretty sure my mama taught me that kind of love is really called lust. And, it’s not really love at all.

If the characters can’t support each other, encourage them, or make the other a better person, they have no business being together. I’m not saying I feed into the whole “I’m not complete without a significant other” hype, but I also believe a relationship should change you for the better. Sure, maybe you’re complete without the other person, but when they come into your life, they should still encourage you to be a complete person.

They shouldn’t tear you down with their words, or their actions, or their attitude toward you. Yes, they can correct you; yes, they can challenge you; yes, they can question your words or actions. But, are their words coming out of love or hate? The “Badly done, Emma” scene is only as beautiful and painful as it is because it comes from love, not hate (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, go read or watch a version of Emma right this second)

As a writer, we should understand the power of words. Understand that they potentially have the power to change lives- for better or for worse.

So, why do we then use those words to write about characters who destroy others with their words in the name of love?

Shouldn’t we be using our words to write characters who build-up, who encourage, who demonstrate what true love really is? Shouldn’t we stop complaining about what the media is doing wrong and instead start flooding the media with that is right?

Because, I, for one, want my books to change people. Not hurt them.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I think I have some plots to go rewrite.

I’ll see you on Friday, for Candor Questions!


How about you? Are there any favorite stories of yours that don’t feature a Love-at-First-Hate relationship? Have you written any of these kinds of stories? Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Have You Questioned a Writer Today?



During class a few weeks ago, the book I was working on last month somehow came up. Specifically the fact that one of my retellings is a scene from Peter Pan and Tiger Lily is a key character.

Right in the middle of our discussion, one of my students asked, “Is she going to be stuck up? Because she really is in the movie and sort of is in the book.”

I told him I didn’t know, that I wanted to reread parts of Peter Pan again to figure it out.

But, after class, I started pondering his question. Was I going to make Shoshana (my Tiger Lily character) stuck up? What was her personality going to be? Stuck up actually might work…

Then I realized something. Out of the fourteen siblings in this book (yeah, they’re a big family) only four of them aren’t snooty, nose-in-the-air, kind of characters. Naturally, Shoshana was going to be stuck-up. It was a family trait.

And, here’s the thing that really got me about the whole situation- I probably never would have made that connection if Nathanael hadn’t asked. And, while it’s not something I necessarily need to know in order to write this book, it has certainly given me a lot of insight into my characters since I realized it.

All it took was one simple, interested question and suddenly my characters have a whole new level of depth. I understand them better. All because one of my students asked a question.

I think people don’t realize how much we writers want people to ask us questions. We crave it. Yes, we have a hard time explaining what our book is about- but that’s mostly because the only way we know how to explain it is with the long version and we’re scared you aren’t interested enough to listen to the whole thing. We can't sum our pet project up in just two sentences.

So here’s the thing, if you are truly interested, there is nothing a writer likes more than someone who asks about their writing. We like to share what we’re working on, like to talk to people about it and share what we’re investing so much of our time in.

And, if while we’re telling you about it, a question pops into your head, ask it. Ask the question because chances are, we haven’t thought about that aspect yet. We need a fresh perspective looking at things. Because better you ask it now and get a blank stare than after we publish the thing. Because before we publish, we can change it, add to it, make it better.

So, please. Ask questions. Show interest. Writers are no different than the rest of the world- we like talking to people about our passions. And, obviously, those passions include whatever we’re working on at the moment.

That one question, that one random thought asked out of idle curiosity, might just be the key we’re looking for to unlock a whole new layer of our story. Or, it might be the key to discovering a plot hole we didn’t realize needed addressed.

Everything makes sense in our heads (for the most part). Sometimes, we forget that we need to explain it to our readers. We think it’s blaringly obvious why X did that thing to Y. But, we forget that we never told our readers that part of backstory where Y did that thing to X, so to them, it doesn’t make sense after all.

Or, everything makes so much sense to us, that we don’t realize maybe it doesn’t after all. And, maybe when you ask why X did that thing to Y we’ll go, “Oh, hey, I don’t really know… Why did X do that thing to Y?” And, we need that. Because now we know how to make our story better.

And, don’t be discouraged if you ask a writer a question about their story and their answer is, “I don’t know.” Because all that means is they need time to think about it. You’ve presented them with an issue and they need time to ponder how to fix it. That doesn’t in any way mean it was a bad question- quite the contrary! What it means is you’ve stumped us so hard we need more than a few seconds to give you an answer. It means you’ve made us think about our project. And that is never a bad thing.

So, yeah. I can’t say it enough. Ask writers questions. Ask them what they’re working on, ask them those random questions that pop into your head, ask them whatever you’re thinking. Because we love feedback and interest in our stories.

But, I should address (for all the writers who are cringing right now) it’s okay to ask questions and offer insight, but never tell a writer they “should” do something. If a writer is telling you about their idea, please don’t say, “Oh, hey, you should do [insert idea you just came up with].” Either figure out a way to work it into a question, so that the writer comes up with the idea themselves, or offer it simply as an idea. Word it like, “What if you [insert idea you just came up with]?” and accept it if they shake their idea and tell you it won’t work.

Because, I have to be honest, one of the hardest parts about being a writer is having people tell me what I “should” do in my novel and then having them get offended when I politely try to tell them it won’t work. I love it when people offer me feedback and ideas (some of my best scenes and characters have come out of that). But, when people tell me their ideas like they are genius ideas I need to write, it makes things really awkward. Especially when their idea just won’t work with what I have planned.

But, that’s a rant for another day…

Anyway. I think you all have the gist of it. Ask writers questions. Show interest. We want to talk about our projects, we’re just scared you don’t really want us to tell you about them.


How about you? As a writer, do you like people asking you questions about your work? Or, as a reader, have you ever had a chance to talk to a writer about their ideas?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Ten More Random Facts

No questions for this week, so here are ten random facts about me. If you want to spare me the agony of having to think up ten more for next week, you'll have a little mercy and send me a question.

In the meantime, here are the facts:

  1. Something about rain makes me happy to be alive.
  2. My laptop’s name is Edmund
  3. Gregory Peck is one of my favorite actors.
  4. I have an affinity for old westerns, both movies and TV shows.
  5. If I had to choose one costume to sew for the rest of my life- one costume to make and nothing else- I would choose the dirndl hands down. It is, without a doubt, my most favorite thing ever. If you don’t know what a dirndl is, go look it up as soon as you finish reading this post.
  6. My Myers-Briggs personality type is INFJ/P (it changes depending on what test I take…). And every personality test I have ever taken (no matter what kind it is) has told me I am a romantic or a dreamer or an idealist. Like I didn’t already know that… XD
  7. Muffins are my favorite food item in the world.
  8. My favorite food is hash because it’s so yummy but also super practical- you just fry up potatoes with whatever leftovers you happen to have in the fridge and BAM! Hash. Now you know where Kit Parker gets it from (though, she liked the canned stuff and I’m more partial to the homemade kind)
  9. In line with my romantic side, I set characters up with each other almost as soon as I meet them. I have couples set up that would make people shake their heads or question my sanity because I don’t just set up the obvious couples, I set up everyone with everyone. If the writers don’t present me with a couple to love, I create one.
  10. I am a fairly modern old-fashioned girl. I believe in traditional gender roles as set out in the Bible but I also believe that people take them to extremes that they don’t need to be taken to. But, that is a discussion for a whole separate blog post. If you want to know all of my thoughts on the subject, just drop a comment below.

And there you have it! Ten things you might not have known about me. If you found any of these interesting, drop a comment for me. And, don't forget to send in your questions for next week!

Also, I'm done with this post, so go look up a dirndl. Now. Right now. That's an order.

Why are you still here? Go. Now.

See you all at the beginning of the week!