Tuesday, December 31, 2013

CE: Christmas Tree

I hit the play button on my laptop and the room immediately fills with the sounds of Andrea Bocelli's voice. The song is one of my favorites, and I can't help but hum along. In alto, of course. It's always the most fun to harmonize.

"What song is this?" 

I cast a quick glance at the girl standing next to me. "God Bless Us Everyone. It's..."

"Sung by Andrea Bocelli, written by Alan Silvestri, and appears in the end credits of Disney's A Christmas Carol?"

I grin. "Jo, you know me too well."

Josette gives me a smile as well. "I know your brain too well."

"And that's a rather scary thought. Here."

Josette stares blankly at my hands. "But there's nothing there."

"Just pretend there is. I don't have a real Christmas tree to have you help me decorate, so we're going to make up our own." 

The princess's eyebrows jerk upward, but Josette says nothing and cradles her hands together to accept the invisible ornament. "Where do I put it?"

"The tree is standing..." I scrunch up my face in an effort to see the desired conifer and wave my hands around to determine the size of the branches, "... right about there. Just hang the ornament on one of the branches."

Timidly, Josette reaches out and delicately leaves her ornament hanging in the air. "Like that?"



The sudden sound of someone clearing his, or her, throat startles the both of us.

"Kiri, you know you're supposed to put the lights on first."

"Derec! Don't sneak up on me like that!"

The boy only grins. "Well, since I'm here now, can I help you?"

"Might as well." I say, cocking an eyebrow at him. "I don't suppose I can talk you out of it."

"No, you can't." He catches sight of Josette and throws himself rather gracefully for a twelve-year-old into a bow fit for royalty which, as Josette is a princess, is probably the right way to do the job. "Derec, at your service, my lady. I am but a humble blacksmith, but I can see at a glance that you must be the Princess Josette Fierte of Findenland."

"How did you know?" Josette is trying to hold back a smile, but I cannot mistake the wonder in her voice.

Derec winks. "Everyone knows Kiri's favorites."

"And where are you from?" Josette asks.

"The beautiful, but small, kingdom of Darancia." Derec replies easily. "I'm from The Masked Pianist."

"I don't believe I've ever heard of you."

"That's because he's only had one scene." I cut in.

"Indeed, Princess, my story is one of such twists and mystery that not even the great Kiri Liz herself can figure it all out."

"That's hogwash." I retort hastily, determining not to be shown up by one of my own characters. "I do know exactly what the mystery is, and I know a lot more than you do."

Derec only shrugs. 

"And how are you going to reach the top of the tree to do the lights?" I press further. "You're not six-foot."

"Ah, fear not, my beloved but frustrating creator." Derec holds up one finger. "I have thought of that already."

Almost as if his words are a cue, the door behind me opens and in strolls a tall man with dark hair and eyes twinkling with fun.

"Brother Van Leign, my lady." He, too, bows to Josette. I, however, am not amused.

"Leign? What's going on?"

But he is spared from answering as just at that moment, Josette breaks out in a delighted cry. "You're from Secret of the Hazel Tree, aren't you?"

"My lady speaks the truth." Brother Leign bows again. "My young friend here asked if I would assist him in his light task."

My lips tighten. Something's not right, and my mind hits upon it the moment I hear a muffled thump against the door. "How many did you bring with you, Derec?"

"Many?" The boy freezes with a sheepish look on his face, and the ecstatic strains of the Russian Dance from the Nutcracker fill the silence after his single word.

When he fails to answer, I stride to the door and yank it open. A conglomeration of people, piled against the door, tumble into the room the moment their supporting structure is gone. I stand back and survey the mess.

"Well, well, Jelly, Token, Swipe, Dick, and Nathan. What are you all doing here?"

"It was Derec's idea!" Nathan protests as he struggles to his feet.

"Yes, it was." Derec beams proudly.

"Please, we wanted to help decorate the tree, too!" Token's red hair bounces as she rushes to my side. Her hands fold together in a pleading gesture.

"And can we put a popcorn ring on it?" The speaker's tiny green wings flutter excitedly in my face, and I back away.

"A popcorn what, Jelly?"

"I think she means a popcorn string." Dick offers, brushing his uniform off. 

"Yes, that!" Jelly exclaims. " A popcorn sling! Ooh, who's that?" She flys over to Josette and perches her small body on the princess's shoulder. 

I catch about a million confused glances going back and forth around the room, and since I'm the only one who knows who is who, it looks as if I'll have to make the introductions. "Everyone, this is Princess Josette Fierte of Findenland."

"The Twelfth Kingdom, right?" Nathan asks, but not before giving a bow.

"Right." I waste no time and move to the man standing just behind Josette. "Brother Van Leign of Troisem, priest in Secret of the Hazel Tree."

Leign acknowledges the company with a nod of his head.

"The fairy on Josette's shoulder is..."

"I'm Jelly Cardon!" She interrupts gleefully. "And I'm from... well, I don't really know where I'm from, but I live in Kesia right now, and Kiri's promised to take me on an avenger! Princess Lianne and I are going to all sorts of exhibiting things!"

"She means adventure and exciting, of course." I correct hastily before anyone can ask about Jelly's odd use of words. "Jelly suffers from a little something known as Malapropism. It's rather funny, actually. But, moving on..." I place my hand on the little redhead by my side. "This is Token, and she comes from my story Tabby."

"Is Tabby your sister?" Josette bends to better see the young girl eye-to-eye.

Token shrugs. "I call her my sister, but I don't know if we are. She gave me a real name, you know! There's Tiara, too, but I think I like Tabby best. Her kitty's nice. But I like Tiara, too. She has pretty hair. Carl doesn't. He's nasty, and his hair is so messy I don't even know what color it is."

I carry on the introductions once the laughter from Token's speech dies down. "Some of you probably already know of Nathan Penser of Pennin."

Brother Leign strokes his chin. "Ah, yes, the man whom Kianna claims to be her mortal enemy. Tell me, friend, whatever did you do to her that stirred up such wrath?"

Nathan's head fell. "I don't know. I wish I knew." His voice bordered on the edge of a deep sadness, so I knew it was time to move on quickly. 

"Dicksen Elnefar is from Dron."

"Oh, we all know about him." Derec breaks in. "He's from Rebirth of a Legend. I think he's probably the biggest character we've got in this room so far, unless we're counting Princess Josette, of course."

"And that loudmouth is Derec from Darancia, very minor character in The Masked Pianist."

"Minor? What?" Derec's shock brings another wave of laughter to the group.

I look around. "Is that it?"

"No, you forgot him." Token jabbed a finger in a corner. "I don't know who he is."

"And he hasn't said, either." Dick remarked in an undertone. "Do you recognize him, Nathan?"

"Never saw him before in my life," the young man from Pennin admitted, "and he doesn't look anything like Kiri's other characters that I know."

"That's because I haven't written his story yet." I say bluntly. "And he cannot tell you his name because he is mute. He hasn't been able to speak since his birth, or at least, I think that's how it all is. His name is Swipe, and he's from Black Fox."

"Black Fox?" Derec gives a low whistle. "Well, in that case," he strides over to Swipe and sticks his hand out. "Very nice to meet you. I think your story is the one that everyone is dying to hear, yet no one knows anything about. It's an honor to finally see who's in that great story."

Swipe eyes Derec's hand warily for a moment, but accepts it slowly, only to pull the boy into a full hug as soon as their hands touch.

I cringe, knowing the real reason for the hug. "Derec... check your pockets. He isn't called Swipe for nothing."

Swipe grins as he pulls back. Derec's face adopts a look of alarm as Swipe dangles a thin, dirty book in the boy's face. "Hey, he took my notebook!"

"Give it back now, Swipe." I shake my head in amusement as the mute thief hands the notebook back to a very relieved son of a blacksmith. "He makes his living that way, and I'm afraid you won't be able to knock that hobby out of him. Okey dokey," I turn back to the company, "are we going to decorate this tree? I assume that's why you're all here."

"Oh, Kiri, can I pleeeease do a popcorn sling?"

"Certainly, Jelly."

"Do we have any bells to hang?" Brother Leign picks up the invisible lid to a box and peers into the pretend depths. A moment later, a smile breaks out over his face and he pulls something upward with two fingers. As he shakes his hand, I get a preliminary shock when the sound of bells jingle softly across the room. But no, that's only Carol of the Bells playing on my laptop. I'd almost forgotten I'd put music on. I must have missed several songs while making the introductions. Pity.

"Kiri, you didn't forget the ribbons, did you?" Dick asks with alarm in his eyes.

"We don't normally put ribbons on our tree," I answer back, "but you can if you want to. Look in those boxes over there." I point vaguely off to the right.

"Can I do a Nutcracker ornament?" Token pleads.

I run a loving hand over her red hair. "Of course! Whatever you would like! Where did I put those candy canes?"

The next half hour goes by so quickly that I'm hardly aware of the time. Laughs break out as Nathan describes the fish ornament he wishes to put on the tree, and Josette scolds Jelly for eating the popcorn string instead of putting it on the tree. Dick drapes the tree in ribbons from top to bottom, and upon surveying the transparent decor, Derec frowns and states that there's no room for his tiny anvil. Swipe dances about, throwing tinsel into the air and snitching everyone else's ornaments, I'm sure. Token insists that every single one of her ornaments has some reference to the Nutcracker, and while I'm not even sure how she recognizes the music, she has everyone become silent any time one of Tchaikovsky's songs plays from my laptop.

When I finally stand back to imagine our final product, I can only gape in awe. "It's beautiful, everyone."

Josette steps up behind me and places her hand on my shoulder. "Thank you so much for letting us help you."

"My pleasure. I always have fun decorating trees, and I am glad that I could share all of this with all of you." I throw a glare at Derec who cowers playfully behind Brother Leign. "Even though most of you were uninvited. But this was a lot of fun. So, thank you. All of you."

God bless!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Letters: December Edition

Dear Blogger:
I sometimes forget that you exist. I'm sorry I haven't been around much lately, and I'm even more sorry that I haven't had time to write any sort of decent blog post. We'll have to have a major catching-up session sometime later when things quiet down. 

Dear Christmas:
You came way too quickly in my opinion. I was unprepared for you. So there. But you were marvelous, nevertheless.

Dear Beth Grace:
My favorite oldest sister, and yes, I can say that because you're the only oldest sister that I have. I'm very proud of you being hundreds of miles away and helping our grandparents out, and I'm really enjoying sleeping in your bed because it's so much better than mine, but I do need you to come back sometime. I'm tired of doing the dishes by myself. Besides, your being gone has made me so busy that I haven't had time to do the things I normally do, like *ahem* check Blogger. I LOVE YOU!

Dear Snow:
Thank you so much for showing up this year! After last year's brown Christmas, it was extremely pleasant to have so much of you for this season. Even though you were rather heavy to shovel, and you made shopping... interesting, to say in the least. I think we're over two feet now. Good job.

Dear Upcoming Wedding:
I am so excited to be playing the piano for you! I only wish I had some more time to practice. I still haven't quite gotten the page turns down in I See the Light, but I know I'll manage. 

Dear Those Beloved Friends To Whom I Promised To Beta-Read For:
I have not forgotten you, and please don't think that I have! I thought December would be a quieter month in which I could fully read and enjoy your books and have time to give you honest criticisms and praise, but truthfully, I've not been able to get past the first chapter. My sincerest of apologies, and I promise that I will read them and send you comments... I'm just not a hundred percent sure when that will be. Hopefully soon, though.

Dear Russian Tea Cakes and Gingerbread Men:
I love you guys. 'Nuff said.

Dear Disney's Frozen:
I am beyond excited to watch you! Please hurry up and come out on DVD! I have your soundtrack memorized (with the exception of certain songs *glare*), and I know you're going to be wonderful.

Dear Desolation of Smaug:
Same as above.

Dear Time:
Where did you go? Guess these are all the letters I'm able to do today.

God bless!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cave Secrets of the Pterodactyl Blog Tour

Today I have the great pleasure of introducing to you all a good blogging friend of mine, Aidyl, who just published an all-important and all-around-awesome book -- Cave Secrets of the Pterodactyl! So, without further aideu, I'm going to let Aidyl take control of this entire post. *grins* This is so exciting!

About the Book:
Cave Secrets of the PterodactylTraveling with her parents brings Lydia, daughter of explorer and singer Buddy Davis, plenty of adventure and mystery - from hidden clues in bookstores to cave paintings deep underground. 

Answer to the true or false question from yesterday: False! While I do have a lot of fun writing at night, or early in the morning, I have no trouble writing throughout the day as well. ;) 

My Introduction to Answers in Genesis Part Two (Find part one here)

A few months later we all gathered together for a family meeting. We had been planning a family vacation for a while now and the plan had been to go to Colonial Williamsburg. Mom and Dad now informed us kids that they had heard about an Answers in Genesis conference in Schroon Lake, New York at the Word of Life Conference Center, and guess who was going to be there? Buddy Davis! Yikers! And also Ken Ham and Dr. Tommy Mitchell, but the real drawing card was Buddy Davis. Our parents were wondering which we would rather go to: The AiG conference or the long-planned Colonial Williamsburg. We unanimously voted to let our parents decide. 
Me about crying as I hold an armful of my books for the first time
And we were off to Schroon Lake. (Come to think of it, I was sick right before that trip and wanted to stay home from it as well. I am so glad I didn’t!) It was October of 2007, I had recently turned fifteen and everything was beautiful. I didn’t realize then how life-changing the trip would be for me. 
This was another one of my favorite trips our family has taken together, by the way. The conference was amazing. I learned so many new things and I was extremely inspired by how important it is to know how to defend your faith. Still, I had no clue I would one day be writing creation books for kids, sharing the same truths with them. 
When I got home from the conference I would often read AiG books or watch their DVD’s. Then I was introduced to their website (I can’t remember when I first looked at it, but doubtlessly the ideas was sparked because of how often I would hear it at the beginning and end of each DVD). Getting on the AiG website opened a whole new world to me. During the next several years I would often spend five or six hours a week reading articles or watching the different speakers presentations. 
And yet through all that time I was completely clueless that God was preparing me for one day adding my own gifts to the mix and producing an AiG book for kids. Goodness, every time I start to think about it, I feel like crying for joy! (It could be that I’m writing this at 1:20 in the morning...) 
We kept in contact with Buddy and Kay Davis after the conference and eventually a strong friendship bloomed that turned into an adopted family. Our family would go to the Museum a couple times each year, always planning our visits for when Buddy and Kay would be there. Then, after I was ‘adopted’ by Buddy and Kay, I started getting to go to the Museum along with them, staying there for several days at a time. And now my book resides in their bookstores and I get to hang out there and do book signings. 
Yes, y’all. Dreams really do come true. And, even when we have no clue what’s going on, God is still preparing His children to be in just the right places at the right times. Pretty cool, right? 

To find out more about the characters in CSotP and to find the answer to the True or False question, check out THIS blog tomorrow! 

For an extra chance to get a free book, check out THIS blog! 

About the Author: Whether she’s building life-sized models of dinosaurs with her adopted family, trying her hand at cooking at a private retreat, or living in a barn, author Aidyl Ewoh (aka Lydia Howe) seems to have adventures follow her wherever she goes. Check out her book, Cave Secrets of the Pterodactyl and find out more about her at her BlogFacebook, and Twitter

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Hazel Tree... Again

So, waaaay back on December 6th, I posted about my story Secret of the Hazel Tree, and I was in the middle of introducing you to some of the characters. Time ran out, and instead of hiding the post away in the middle of a thousand and one forgotten drafts, I published it with the promise to finish the cast out as soon as I could. So, here I am... posting about the rest of the cast. I hope you all could wait this long. 

The housekeeper Ahna is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters of all time. She speaks with an awfully thick "peasant accent," makes the best gingerbread in all of Troisem, and becomes Celesta's self-appointed protector/confidant/friend. She loves Celesta probably more than anyone else in the world, and she would give her right arm to make Celesta happy. However, while being a superb friend in Celesta's opinion, Ahna has a quick temper, is extremely stubborn to boot, and insists on keeping up a regrettable habit of spitting when she comes across something that disgusts or angers her, all of which make her less than desirable for a housekeeper in the eyes of Celesta's stepmother. When I originally plotted this story, Ahna was meant to be a quiet, foreign servant dedicated to Celesta, acting as a sort of fairy godmother in the sense of being that slave to the girl she loved so much. However, when I started writing the story, Ahna looked at me with her lips pursed (a sure sign that she is about to spit) and told me that wasn't the way it was at all. From her first scene, she was loud, obnoxious, lovable, blunt, funny, and everything I hadn't expected her to be. That's probably why I love her so much: she gave herself character, and all I did was sit back and watch. The most difficult thing about Ahna is her appearance... I'm not exactly sure what she looks like, but I think it's something like the picture of Scarlet Johanson above. Another surprise, because Ahna was originally s'posed to be over 50.

Duchess Nicolinabeth Perrault Le'Blancard, an impressive name for an impressive woman. She loves everything elegant and expensive, and will do anything for her daughters. And when I say anything, I mean anything. Since her first husband's death, she has become so devoted to her two girls that they have become her whole world, and she sees little else. Marrying Celesta's widowed father presented her with a chance to become a duchess (even though she had been a noble with a higher title from her first marriage), and it was a step up for her girls. She tolerates Celesta as one might tolerate a feather stuck to one's sleeve, and although she doesn't despise her outright, she doesn't feel Celesta is at the same status as her daughters and therefore must be treated differently. I like this picture of Joley Richardson (from I'm not sure what exactly), and I think the expression on her face in this picture is perfect for Duchess Nicolinabeth.

This is Jessy Schram who apparently plays the part of Cinderella in the TV series Once Upon a Time. I've never seen it, nor have I seen Jessy act, so I'm going purely by looks here when I say that I think Jessy would be a good person to cast as the role of the eldest stepsister, Veroniscen Perrault Le'Blancard. Veroniscen is beautiful and knows it. Although she is almost twenty years old, her position as the step daughter of a duke hasn't gotten her very far in society (much to the dismay of her mother), and when the invitation to the prince's ball arrives, she is more than excited at the prospect. Of course, she and her mother immediately decide that Veroniscen will be the girl the prince will choose to marry. How could he not? Veroniscen hates Celesta with a passion, and she is always on the lookout for ways to further torment her stepsister. Unfortunately, Veroniscen is an excellent liar.

Georgettica is the simpler of the two stepsisters, and most of her affection and time is taken up in the adoration of the love of her life: her puppy, a small, wiggling ball of fur and energy called The Count. And you must call him The Count. He is named such because Georgettica believes that a count will one day arrive on her doorstep and marry her; thus when the prince's ball is made known to the kingdom, Georgettica changes the pup's name to The Prince. But she doesn't have much hope that the prince will marry her, knowing that Veroniscen, being the eldest and their mother's favorite, will undoubtedly get him. A rather naive girl, Georgettica tries to keep up with her mother's snootiness and her sister's cruelty, but oftentimes the effort wearies and confuses her, so her behavior towards Celesta varies day to day, sometimes ignoring her, sometimes ordering her about, etc. The picture above is Rachel Hurd-Wood, and I rather like it, so I'm casting her as my Georgettica.

Brother Van Leign is a local priest that has known Celesta's family for years. He is the one to oversee Celesta's mother's funeral, and when he sees the duke's coldness for his daughter, Brother Leign takes pity on Celesta. He and his wife, Jenisal, open their home and hearts to the little girl and are never too busy to find a minute to talk to her. They live in a tiny cottage just down the road from the manor where Celesta lives, and the cramped quarters of their home makes it an interesting life as the Leigns have six children: five boys (Donhans, Macob, Vrasen, Nodtren, and Kemual) and one baby girl (Setayla). Brother Leign, his wife, and his family aren't major characters in SotHT, yet they're great fun to write about, so I'd thought I'd be gracious and introduce them to you, in addition to the others in this list.

And here we have Ffans, the old, old, old butler. No one is really certain how old he is, and he won't tell anyone. I don't know that much about him for, while Ffans does like to talk and spin tales, he doesn't say much about himself personally. He thinks himself the master of all things when it comes to cleaning and other various house duties, so he's constantly following people around and telling them how to do their job, all the while oblivious to their smiles. He's been the butler at the manor for no one knows how long, and he was really the only one who knew Celesta's grandfather, the Baron Bladscol Marchalla, an eccentric man with odd habits and a disturbingly sudden death.

Well, there's more, but I think that's sufficient for now. The other characters are minor characters (such as some of these are) and I don't yet have pictures for everyone, so we'll leave it at this and call it good. 

God bless!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

End Of Year Book And Writing Insanity!

Mime and Cait (Notebook Sisters) are hosting a swell End of the Year Book & Writing Insanity Link-Up! Be sure to stop by their blog to check out all the bookish and writing fun (as well as the rules for the giveaway and whatnot)! And as part of the festivities, they've asked that we fill out a small tag... or two. The first is for bookworms, and the second one is for writers. Which to choose? Well, technically, I'm both, so I'm doing both. 

Well, that was easy enough to say. Let's see how actually filling out the tags go...

For the bookworms...
1. What was your overall favourite book this year? (Yes. Pick one.) I will pick just one!! Wow.... is this hard. Um... why don't we go with Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens? Although it's quite a lengthy read, it was well-worth all the effort put into reading it. The story was amazing, I loved the characters, and so far this is my favorite Dickens ever. Notice the so far. I haven't read all of Dickens's tales, and I'm currently in the middle of Little Dorrit, so I can't claim OMF as the absolute favorite. Just the current absolute favorite. Bleak House held that title until I read OMF, and before that, it was Nicholas Nickleby.

2. Favourite debut(s)? (Author must have been first published in 2013.) That's a toughie... but I'll have to say The Princess and the Sage by Anneliese Blakeney. I can't even begin to describe how much I enjoyed it, and then after finishing it, I immediately shoved to my sisters, two of which read it and loved it as much as I. And yes, we laugh about pickles, lemonade stands, and sage in general now. I shall never think of plot bunnies in the same way again. If you haven't read this book, you must. There are a few small grammatical errors, but considering this is a debut novel, that's easily overlooked in the epic awesomeness of the book.

3. Which books did you reread this year? I thought I reread a bunch of books, but looking back through my list, I discovered I only reread four! Oh, well, they're all good books. Regina Silsby's Secret War and Regina Silsby's Phantom Militia (Revolutionary War series by Thomas J. Brodeur; mystery, adventure, and suspense, what more could you ask for? Highly recommend); and then Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom (some of Louisa May Alcott's best).

4. Favourite cover(s) this year! Ummm... The World Above, Only a Novel, Annabeth's War, Regina Silsby's Secret War (above), and The Princess and the Sage (above) among many others. 


5. Worst cover(s)? I've seen poorly designed covers (I love to read, but I am very picky about picking favorite books/covers/etc.), but out of the books that I read this year, probably the following three: Every Tear, The Romance of the Forest, and Saffron's Big Plan. While I enjoyed each story, the covers themselves were kind of blah for me. For ET (by Molly Evangeline), I liked how the picture captured the tear in motion on the girl's face, but to have the whole cover be the face was a bit much. RotF is a classic by Ann Radcliffe, and I really enjoyed reading it, but it unfortunately it fell to the easy classic cover, and while the picture of the forest is pretty, it's a blah cover for me; it says absolutely nothing about the story. And then finally, SBP by Kendra E. Ardnek; another good (short) story, but the cover... eh. 


6. What self-published books did you read this year? Let's see... Annabeth's War, Saffron's Big Plan, Only a Novel, Do You Take This Quest, The Pirate Daughter's Promise, Every Tear, Christmas at the Tittletons, and The Princess and the Sage.

7. Which book(s) gave you a massive hangover? Believe it or not, probably Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. I've known the classic story of Peter Pan for years, but it wasn't until this last August that I actually read the book. I loved every bit of it, and then I was so disappointed when it was over, because it was waaaaaaay too short. The night I finished it, and the nights following consecutively afterward, I went to sleep telling myself prequels and sequels to Peter Pan. What? Don't normal people tell themselves stories when they go to bed at night? Oh... well, I do. Maybe I shouldn't have broadcasted that. But I had way too much fun thinking up more adventures in Neverland.

8. Best standalone you read? Christmas at the Tittletons!! Based on a play that my CBC wrote for a murder mystery dinner that our families did (and loved!), this is an epic Christmas mystery that everyone needs to read. And yes, that means you! Judith Tittleton is a superb character, and no, I'm not biased because that was my part in the play. *cough* Why would you even suggest that? 

9. Biggest book(s) you've read this year? Bleak House by Charles Dickens at a whopping 866 pages!

10. Book(s) you followed the hype for and then loved! I'm really not one to follow book-hypes, because I like to form my own opinions about books, but I think I really did follow all the hype for Amy Dashwood's Only a Novel (pictured above). And then when I finally got to read it, I loved it. I've made two sisters and two cousins read it so far, and I'm still recommending it to people, even though I read it back in February.

11. Most disappointing book(s) you read this year? Probably Swords of the Six by Scott Appleton. I got it out of the library thinking it would be a cool fantasy, dragon story something similar to a Bryan Davis or a Donita K. Paul book, and it was nothing like that at all. I really don't know how I'd describe it; I almost didn't even finish it. The magic aspect in the book was unexpected and dark, and the characters did not leave an positive impression in my mind. Overall, I don't think I'd recommend it to anyone, even though the cover is pretty cool.

12. Favourite leading-female character? Bella Wilfur (Our Mutual Friend)

13. Favourite leading-male character? Ooh..... either Peter Pan (Peter Pan) or The Sage (The Princess and the Sage)

14. Best romance(s)? Most definitely Elizabeth and Rodney (Only Novel).

15. What book(s) hit the DNF list? (Did not finish.) I think I finished all the books I started this year. Thinking back over all the books I've cracked open, I can think of one I didn't finish. So.... none.

16. What book(s) did you read out of your comfort-zone? I read a couple that I wouldn't normally read, among them Forsaken Dreams by MaryLu Tyndall. As a general rule, I don't like romance books, and Christian romance books like Janette Oke and Grace Livingstone Hill and all the Love Inspired books I make an effort to stay away from, so it's a shock to even me that I read this one at all. However, I found it free on the Kindle and then I was sick in bed with a fever, all by myself (a rare occurrence for a family of six children), so I read it to pass the time. I actually liked it (with the exception of the romance in the book, which I thought was overplayed), and the storyline of Confederate citizens fleeing the South after the Civil War to make a new life in Brazil was extremely intriguing. 

17. Which author did you read the most from? Quick tally! 4 Dickens (possibly 5 if I can finish Little Dorrit before New Years) and uh... 6 from Shannon Hale, so there you have it. Shannon Hale. Interesting story that. Even though I read 6 of her books, I would not call her a favorite author. A few of her books I would actually put on the disappointing list.

18. Top 5 books you'd recommend from all the books you've read this year? Nooooo! I have to pick just five?!? Here are the top 5 that everyone is rightly suspecting me to recommend that I pretty much want everyone to read:
Our Mutual Friend
Great Expectations
Only a Novel
The Princess and the Sage
Christmas at the Tittletons


And here are the 5 that I really enjoyed that no one would expect me to recommend (don't look at me like that; I'm keeping the number five alive here):
Cheaper By the Dozen (by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey; there are a few unprintable words in the book, but it's a hilarious biography of a family of twelve children)
The New Treasure Seekers (I absobloominglutely love E. Nesbit's stories!)
Peter Pan (Well, that probably should have been on the first list)
The 101 Dalmatians (by Dodie Smith; the original tale {or is it tail?} that Walt Disney adapted into the popular animated film; it's loads of fun, and actually a lot different than the movie)
Westmark (by Lloyd Alexander; again, I do believe this also has an unprintable word or two, but the story itself reminded me of a cross between LOTR and Les Mis... if you can imagine that; I was impressed)

19. How many books did you read this year all up? 58 so far, but the year's not over yet!!

20. What's a book you're hugely excited for coming out in 2014?! Give me a moment to think... uh... I had started out a list of books I'm excited to read, but now I think I've accomplished forgetting that entire list. No, wait... I think I may have some titles for you... Cloak of Light by Chuck Black, The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson, and about a dozen or so self-published books that all of my blogging friends that I am regrettably too tired to think of the names right at this moment. 

Wow, that took longer than I anticipated. Now on to the second tag!

For the writers...
1. How many books did you write this year? (Estimate your overall wordcount for us too!) I've worked on five different books this year, one editing (Children of a Legend), four writing (Rebirth of a Legend, The Twelfth Kingdom, Kianna, and Secret of the Hazel Tree), and I finished none of the projects I started. Not yet. Word count? Uh... somewhere between 100K-120K. It wasn't an especially big year, but I had fun with it.

2. Which was your favourite to write? No! You cannot ask this of me! But you did... and now I am compelled to answer. So.... Kianna. It's a fresh idea, and I don't know how it ends yet for certain, so writing even just the first chapter was so much fun.

3. Which was the hardest to write? Probably The Twelfth Kingdom. I've been working on TK for over a year now, and it's only at about 21,000 words. The reason why it's so difficult to work on is because I know the whole story. Sure, it's exciting and I can't wait to write certain chapters, but since my mind knows what to expect, it doesn't want to work on that story right now. And it doesn't help that the current chapter I'm working on is a one between big plot points, and I'm finding it less than intriguing to write that go-between. 

4. Tell us about you favourite Male Character you wrote this year! Waaay too many favorites. I love them all! But for the sake of the question, I'll say Grant from The Dragon Tamer trilogy. Rambunctious, fun, but mysterious, he's never a bore to write about, and I love following all of his adventures. 

5. And how about your favourite Female Character? Absolute favorite female character (although not a main-main character) is Ahna from Secret of the Hazel Tree. Her scenes are incredibly hilarious, and she keeps me on my toes because I never really know what she's going to do next.

6. Can you introduce us to some awesome sidekick(s)? I'd say those would have to be Brice and Denstan. If you're at all familiar with my blog, you've heard a lot about Brice (The Dragon Tamer trilogy, individual books being CoaL and RoaL), so I probably don't need to expound on that. Denstan is a new character from my NaNo novel, Secret of the Hazel Tree, and he came up quite unexpectedly. I didn't plan for him at all, he just stepped onto the scene, and when he did, I thought he was going to be a complete bore, and I was predisposed to dislike him. However, he proved me wrong, and wow, am I glad he did! 

7. Any romances in your writing? Which couple didn't go together as expected? I don't like books that focus on the worldly romances that are all fluff and nonsense. If there has to be romance at all in books, I like old fashioned stuff such as Dickens and Austen would write, or in the manner of C.S. Lewis, "[T]hey were so used to quarrelling and making it up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently." However, I have long known that I am not the master of my characters. I am merely their writer because their handwritings are illegible. While I don't approve generally of romance, I can't stop my characters from falling in love, and most of the romances (if it can be called that because I refuse to pen fluff) pop up on me unawares. Secret of the Hazel Tree is a Cinderella retelling, so naturally, one has to expect some attraction between Cinderella and the prince, however, I had expected them to first meet and fall in love at the famous ball, yet my prince surprised me by showing up at my Cinderella's door ten years before the ball. First impressions were fun to write, although I have no idea how the ball meeting ten years later is going to work out because I have yet to write that scene, and my prince has a stubborn mind of his own. If I don't throw something in his path, he's well on his way to ignoring Cinderella entirely at the ball. 

8. What's your favourite Pinterest Board for one of your books? Can we see some pics for the book they inspire? This is another hard question, but I think I can honestly say my favorite is The Twelfth Kingdom storyboard.



9. What challenges did you compete in this year? (NaNos? Personal goals? Challenges run by other blogs?) And how did you go? I accomplished NaNo this year with 72K words, and I did try to do the same challenge during June, but I only managed to get in 20K rather than the desired 50K.

10. Show us the full cast in pictures from one of your books. Okay, here are the twelve princesses of Findenland from my story The Twelfth Kingdom.

11. Epic quote(s) you wrote? Uh... define "epic." There's too many things that I think epic, so let's just go with the first one I can find.

Grant looked sullenly down at his steaming piece of venison. “I'd never thought I'd say this, but I really miss lettuce.”
“Lettuce?” Lyndee made a face that brought laughter to all those of the company. “Why? I don't like lettuce!”
Jimena poked the little girl. “Ya should. It's good fer ya.”
“Well, I don't. It ain't good ta taste!” Lyndee flashed her sister a triumphant look that clearly stated she considered the argument closed. “An' Grant shouldn't miss it 'cause it's bad.”

Grant chuckled. “Dee, I only meant that I miss it because it was something other than meat and this everlasting winter.”
~ Rebirth of a Legend

And why not a second, while we're at it?

 “There, boy! Now come on back!”
Julien held out his arm, and with a flutter of brown feathers, the sparrowhawk descended and landed lightly on the proffered perch. In his curved beak, he held a small scrap of cloth, and Julien couldn't help but grin as he carefully relieved the bird of the scrap.
“I told you he could do it.”
The man beside him gave a low bow, his royal blue musketeer tunic perfect as always. “I never fully doubted you, Your Highness. Tít Ami is inarguably smart, though sometimes I wonder if he may be the most astute of all gathered here.”

Julien cocked an eyebrow at Denstan and gave a quick glance around the quiet training yard. “We're the only two out here.”
~ Secret of the Hazel Tree

12. Last word from your manuscript(s)! Go! 
CoaL - Dead 
RoaL - Concern
TK - Them
K - Reception
SotHT - Road

13. First sentences from your manuscript(s)!
CoaL - If Davin had known the reason for his father's apprehension, if he had interpreted his hesitation differently, if he had only a small glimpse of reality and what lay before them, he would have wished the road to town to continue endlessly without ever reaching a destination.

RoaL - Lord Vernd Brisé was at his strongest.
TK - J clutched B's hand tighter and pushed roughly through the thickening crowds.
K - If Kianna had had the ability to disappear, she would have without a moment's delay.

SotHT - Many men and women claim that happily ever afters are bestowed to those who so richly deserve them; others say such an ending can only be granted to those with title and royal blood, and the majority of tales seem to favor the latter opinion.

14. Show us your favourite funny scene! I love writing comedy, so I have a bunch of favorites from which to pick for this question! But this is one of my newest favorites, so I'll give you this one, where Ahna and Celesta (from SotHT) pay a visit to the local priest, his wife, and their brand-new baby:

 “An' I plumb fergot this, too.” Ahna gestured to the basket she had brought with her but had left neglected by the door in the haste to thaw Celesta out. “I put together a few things so ya wouldn't 'ave ta worry 'bout meals. Knowing ya, Brother, the way I do, I ain't leavin' ya ta yer own devices ta let yer wife starve jest after she done given ya a new son!”
Leign crossed his arms, and the side of his mouth went up. “Now when would I be as ungracious as to let my family starve?”
“It ain't denying 'em food that'll do it, it'll be givin' 'em stuff they couldn't stomach!” Ahna retorted. “I've seen an' tasted 'ow ya cook.” She patted the basket. “This 'ere's dried meat, a loaf of bread, some beans, a pie 'o sorts, an' some other little trifles I fergot. Can ya make that last fer two days er so?”
“I will do my best.”

Ahna graced him with the most skeptical of all her looks, but the new father only smiled and held out his arms for the basket. 
~ Secret of the Hazel Tree

15. Show us a snippet of dialogue you're proud of. This is more of a scene than just a snippet of dialogue, but I am rather proud of how it all went together.

Jod turned begging eyes to the man. “Can you tell me what all this means? This is my farm, and...”
“It is your farm no longer, Jod Mirtruse.” The man returned coldly. “The land of a traitor, barren though it be, reverts fully to the possession of the ruling lord.”
“Lord Vernd? Why does he want my farm?” Jod hated the way the man said his name. It was like he was being read a death sentence.
“The great Lord Vernd wants only justice and punishment upon those who dare to insult and disobey the laws of the land.”
“But we have done nothing!” Tetha cried, her face ashen.
The man's head rotated precisely enough to stare at her, but no further to in any way suggest interest in her or her cry. “Such is the protest of every traitor.”
Jod flung himself forward, stopped only by the hands of the soldiers beside him. “Please explain yourself, sir! Who are you and what is the meaning of all this?”
“My name is General Glace of the supreme Lord Vernd Brisé's private brigade. It is my duty to bring to justice those who deserve the brunt of the law.”
“We are law-abiding citizens! There is no cause for this!” Jod protested.
“Is it not cause enough that Lord Vernd commanded it, Jod Mirtruse?” The general never moved as he spoke, only his mouth, dark from the wicked stain of his master. “The ruling lord has long tolerated the disobedience flung against him, and now he can no longer allow the contrary to stay to hurt and pollute the minds and lives of the loyal.”
“The government cannot do this!” Jod wasn't certain how the oral blusters spewed out of his mouth when his mind was racing, yet he knew the idea of them had long lain dormant in his heart.
“It is not your place, Jod Mirtruse, to question the actions of your authority. The government can do and will do as it sees fit, and wise action will not be stopped by senseless words.”
“General! At least tell me our crime!”
~ Rebirth of a Legend

16. Tell us about some funny typos or writer-bloopers you've had this year! I make a million and one typos while I'm typing because I type too quickly for my brain to keep up with my fingers. Yet, I don't think I've had any funny bloopers. What my siblings find hilarious is when they hang over my shoulder while I'm writing, driving me nuts because I have the hardest time writing while someone is watching. So, instead of writing the actual story while they're watching or asking my siblings to leave, I'll type out things that aren't in the story at all. For instance, I'll kill my main character off a half a dozen ways, have a bomb explode, stick Peter Pan in a scene, send someone to the hospital, etc. Sooner or later, my siblings get the hint and leave, and then I have to erase all the nonsense I just typed.

17. What has writing taught you about yourself this year? I can't control things and have everything end up the way I originally want it to. Never expect to tell your characters what to do. Even though you're the writer, you can't command most of your story.

18. Best piece of writing advice you learnt this year? A first draft is just that... a first draft. There's always time for editing. You don't have to get it right the first time around. That's been a hard lesson for me.

19. Anything big on the horizons for next year? Plans to query? Publish? Edit? Hoping to self-publish Children of a Legend sometime next year! Not sure when that's going to happen, as there's still a bunch of editing stuff I have to do, but I'm really hoping to have that out before next Christmas!

20. Tell us a bit about a book you're super excited to write in 2014! I'm pretty much working on the same stories I worked on this year, only hopefully, actually finishing them this time! I want to finish Rebirth of a Legend as that is the second book in The Dragon Tamer trilogy, and I also want to wrap up Secret of the Hazel Tree because I only hit the halfway point during NaNo. RoaL has tons of thousands of words left to write, yet SotHT only needs about another 60K or so. I'm really excited about both of these stories, and I can't wait to see how they're going to end up! 

Whew! Hopefully you all made it all the way through this post! I know I almost didn't! Thanks, Mime and Cait, for hosting such a fun tag!

God bless!
P.S. Just thought I'd let you all know that I guest posted today for Eowyn's and Miss Jane's LOTR blog party! If you want to check it out, you can find the post here or here, and do read the rest of the scrumptious party. There's definitely a grand array of LOTR excitement going on over there!