Thursday, December 29, 2016

New Years, New Beginnings

A new year is beginning and in common with several other bloggers revamping their blogs this month, a new look and style are coming to TSF in 2017.  Here's some of what you will see in the new year....

~ I will be posting hopefully twice a week, in one of three categories:
  • Writing = the writing craft, snippets + news of my writing
  • Academia = character/movie/book analyses, historical people I find fascinating, people who have inspired me, random research-related posts
  • Lifestyle = basically everything else

~ I will rarely be answering tags.  I’ll answer the questions sometimes and if it’s a writing tag I’ll probably answer it but not the usual pass-around tags.  I just don’t have the time, though I’m grateful for all of those who’ve thought of me when passing on tags and/or awards.

~ Quote Queste is coming back!  The first week of each month I’ll post a quote prompt, you take it and write a scene, then come back here and leave me a link to your post.  I eagerly anticipate reading your scenes!

~ For a personal blog, I don’t post very often about myself (which is weird...and rather defeats the idea of a personal blog, doesn't it??) but if you want a taste of what the Muffin is like, you’ll finally get one.  Posts about my interests, my opinions, ahem possibly a few rants ahem, and a few random For Your Information About Me posts.

~ Are there any topics you'd particularly like to see me cover?  What are your 2017 blogging plans?

Monday, December 26, 2016

She Would NOT Have Smiled: A Rogue One Review ~ Take Two

Today I welcome my mother to the blog to give us her review of Rogue One.  Welcome, Mom!

When I saw the trailer for Rogue One, I had high hopes for this fill-in drama in the Star Wars saga; hopes that it would be an elemental piece of the puzzle that would direct the emotional connection to the story in the right direction.  Rogue One was an opportunity to take us back to the beginning of the telling of the saga, the place where we were with A New Hope.  But it failed to do so.

From the opening crawl of that original movie, we already have the skeleton of the plot for Rogue One.  All that was left was to give life to that story by providing us with characters that would draw us in, give us a reason to cheer for the rebellion and hate the Empire, and then leave us with sorrow over losing them, but Hope for what was to come.

Nope. Nada. Zilch.

I will not bore you with a rehash of all that was wrong with the writing, (and possibly directing?) of this film, and how that materialized in the main characters.  You can read THIS POST for all of that.

What I do want to give you, is a perspective from someone who saw the original trilogy ‘in the day’, and who, HAD to go to YouTube and find the beginning of A New Hope, (yeah, still don’t like calling it that), to make sure that I knew that I knew what I knew.

And what is it that I know??

Princess Leia would not have smiled.

What???????  What in the blue blazes does that have to do with anything? you ask.

I happen to think that it has a lot to do with it.  It is the final character scene of a movie that has just spent all of its time trying to tell you that an epic, control of the universe tug of war has just been initiated through the fact that a handful of rogue rebels have stolen plans to the Empire’s greatest weapon of mass destruction and died in the process.

But the Princess Leia, a galactic ambassador, none-the-less, smiles.  A Disney Princess kind of smile.  (Carrie, looks like you are in.)

We are supposed to believe that this is the demeanor of the courier burdened with the task of transporting those vital plans back to the rebel base, and who, as we know from the ‘next’ part of the saga, is very quickly captured by none other than Darth Vader, and calmly, seriously, and rather boldly, points a blaster at three, yes, I said three, storm troopers in a single-handed attempt to draw attention to herself and allow the droids, C-3PO and R2D2, to escape.

Yeah.  When she was handed those plans ……She would not have smiled.

Because, you see, although the Rebellion did now have hope; and they did have courage, which had just been displayed and bolstered by not only winning a battle against the Empire, but also by the fact that they did have the plans to the Death Star, everyone, I repeat, EVERYONE connected with the Rebel Alliance knew the gravity of the situation.  They were in the midst of enemy territory, they had to get those plans back to the rebel base, and they all knew that Darth Vader was going to show up eventually.  That appearance wound up being sooner, not later, as we have his destroyer materialize from hyper space and board the Rebel ship before Leia even has the plans.  Princess Leia received those plans, ‘just in time’, and she knew Vader would be after her once her ship began its voyage.

Princess Leia is the connection that we have to the rest of the story.  And we cannot believe that connection when the demeanor of the character is so drastically different from the end of Rogue One to the beginning of A New Hope.  Honestly, I could have lived with the other character issues, which is really a lack of a persona for most of them.  But to take a main character of the saga, and alter her to this degree, and then try to tell us this is the part of the story that leads into one of the greatest space battles of all time?  Seriously!  As one sister of a friend put it, “Star Wars failure/Disney win”.

Because that’s what it felt like.  A Disney fairy tale that consists of all kinds of tragedy, but the pretty princess is happy in the end.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Rogue One: A Travesty Reviewed

It was 8:30 at night and I had just barely arrived home from the theater.  Mirriam had waited up for me and pounced on me with those words when I came online.
“AHAHAHA yesssssss,” she replied. 
I’ve paraphrased here but in a nutshell, this was the bulk of our sentiments about the eagerly anticipated newest Star Wars movie.  Like me, she adores the Star Wars saga.  It’s of my all-time favorite stories ever.  But we sat there for twenty minutes and ranted over the disappointment that was Rogue One.

I did not love the movie.  I didn’t even really like it very much, for a variety of reasons, but all coming back to the central point that there was not nearly enough emotional connection with the characters.

It was a flat movie.

The plot itself was good- as far as the plot points and how it ties into the overall Star Wars saga.  But a basic plot is never enough to carry a story.  The characters must make the plot come to life and it’s their chemistry with each other that carries or does not carry a movie, or even a book.  Familiar faces Mon Mothma and Bail Organa from the prequel trilogy returned as did Darth Vader, Moff Tarkin, and Red Leader from the Original Trilogy.  Unfortunately, while Vader gave a classic performance, the new characters were flat and un-inspiring and not even Bail Organa and Mon Mothma did well with their roles.

I felt no emotional connection whatsoever with the characters.  I’m used to not feeling as much emotion in a story as someone else might, but even my mother ranted over how flat the story was.  Rogue One is a suicide mission.  You already know everyone is going to die- the title crawl of A New Hope told people as much 39 years ago- so Star Wars fans enter the theater knowing that most of these people would die.  Everyone else figured it out pretty quickly.
  And yet, at the end of the movie, as Jyn and Cassian hug each other and wait for the approaching death, I was not feeling moved nor did I feel the satisfaction tinged with sadness in reaction to deaths sacrificed willingly in a greater cause.  I felt irritated and annoyed and was already mentally listing how many writers I know who could have written the movie better.  [There were at least four names.]

We should have seen the tale of a survivor who didn’t give a green fig for the rebellion vs. a man who had been fighting for the Rebellion his whole life, their opposite views juxtaposing and clashing... until their conflict became a magnetic force driving them toward each other as their opposing small-picture/in-the-moment and big-picture-future viewpoints melded and they realized they needed each other; as Jyn came to believe in hope and the Rebellion and the greater good and Cassian remembered that love and belief in people counted for something and that once they lost sight of that, the Rebellion would be no better off than the Empire.

Instead?  Instead the scene shifting was choppy with sidewalk flat dialogue and speeches, zero character chemistry that told you things without words, and no overall, grand, binding theme.

Jyn couldn’t care less about the Rebellion.  All she cares about is surviving and keeping her head down.  She agrees to take the rebels to Saw because it serves a purpose for her, too, not because she actually believes in or cares about any of the reasons given her.  Over the course of the movie, she supposedly comes to believe in The Cause of the Rebellion to the point where she leads a voluntary strike team on a suicide mission for the sake of the galaxy.

Cassian believes in the Rebellion but twenty years of being a soldier in its cause have hardened him, evidenced by him coolly shooting an informant and escaping in the melee, his calm acceptance of the charge to kill Jyn’s father (even if he doesn't quite agree with the order) and then his single-minded determination (at first) to carry out his mission.  He doesn’t trust Jyn, he thinks she’s a whiny brat, he regards her as a necessary nuisance, and he would love to drop her somewhere and not see her again.

Then, after a few short, stilted conversations with her, suddenly he cares about her.  On Eadu, he doesn’t pull the trigger to shoot Galen, he is desperate to call off the Rebel starfighter attack, and he races pell-mell to save Jyn on the platform.  WHY.  Theoretically, it’s because he’s slowly been realizing that killing a person without being sure of the facts behind the reason to kill them is wrong.  OR because he’s come to care for Jyn, who is a bit of a lost puppy.

BUT NONE OF THIS IS SHOWN OR EVEN HINTED AT.  It’s implied but it’s badly implied.

Or how about Jyn’s speech to the Rebel Council where she repeats Cassian’s words: ‘Rebellions are built on hope.’  After having rejected the words earlier, speaking them now is supposed to signify her growing belief in them and (for the viewer) a triumph in the change in her.  Instead, it’s eyeroll inducing and feels Mary-Sue.  In fact, more than once I mentally contrasted Jyn with Rey and was annoyed that Jyn was coming across as more of a Mary Sue than a well-rounded female lead.  

After she leaves the room, and determines to go to Scarif on her own even if no one else goes with her, all the sudden there are twenty+ men willing to follow her on a suicide mission.  She’s shown no convincing change of character so far, but we’re supposed to believe that they aren’t just there because they believe in and trust Cassian but also because they trust her.  Did I miss the memo on how to earn trust?  The transformation of Jyn was too rapid and shallow to be believable.

A good story leaves something to be inferred, something hinted at that readers must think about or figure out themselves.  It does not draw a skeleton and leave readers to put the muscles, flesh, tissues, skin, and clothes on the person.  That’s an outline, folks, not a story.

Jyn and Cassian had absolutely fantastic opportunities for chemistry, they had great chances to bounce off of each other and instead, it was like eggs hitting a wood floor every single time.  Contrast them to Han Solo and Princess Leia - Leia held a strong belief in the Rebel Cause, Han only cared about getting paid.  Their feisty arguments became a pop culture legend.  While no relationship could or should be the same as theirs, Jyn and Cassian had a fantastic chance to spark off of each other, instead of each just looking vaguely at the other in many of their scenes.

K2S0 on the other hand was one of the few characters who was good.  His snark, his banter with Cassian and later Jyn, plus his commentary on events all made for a memorable, delightful character.  Ironic, no? that one of the most emotive characters in the movie was a droid, theoretically incapable of emotion.

Chirrut is blind but has a strong faith in the Force, evidenced by his constantly chanted mantra ‘I am one with the Force, the Force is with me’.  His high degree of attunement to the Force and his belief that good will eventually win provides grounding for the other main characters, but it could go no deeper than a certain just-below-the-surface point because the chemistry between everyone else was non-existent.

Baze, on the other hand, had great chemistry with Chirrut.  Holding more faith in his gun and what his eyes tell him, he often scoffs at Chirrut’s seemingly blind faith and confidence in the eventual victory of right.  Yet, he is ever at Chirrut’s back ready to defend his best friend and himself.
  The two bicker good-naturedly, they argue over faith and belief, but they balance each other perfectly, as shown by the scene in which Chirrut sets off down a rocky path under a pitch dark sky pouring rain to go after Jyn and protect her if need be.  Baze scoffs ‘Good luck’ after him.  Chirrut retorts calmly, ‘I don’t need luck, I have you,’ and Baze huffs and follows him.  There is chemistry there: it’s a partnership, a relationship vibrant with their very opposite personalities.  

Now contrast their first scene with Jyn and Cassian’s dialogue on board the ship before leaving for Jedha- when K2S0 was complaining about Jyn having a blaster but not him.  Cassian asks Jyn where she got the blaster, she returns an evasive answer and the scene moves on.  It's vague and unsatisfactory.  Whereas when we meet Baze and Chirrut, we’re told in dialogue that they are Jedi Temple guardians, but now that the Empire has stripped the Temple of its invaluable crystals, there is nothing for them to defend and they stir up trouble instead.  This is borne out by their involvement in the fracas started by Saw’s guerrilla terrorist fighters.  Instantly, we feel a kinship with the oddly-matched pair and we’re hoping that it’s not just a one-time appearance; that these two will be around for a while and we can learn more about them. Sympathy, curiosity, interest are all immediately present.

The other secondary and minor characters weren’t much better than the two leads.
Bodhi was a decent character but again he wasn’t given enough depth for one to really feel properly attached to him.  He knew Galen, he wanted out of the Empire, he wanted to fight for something he believed in and he fought hard to be someone worthwhile.  But the way this came across was all surface emotion, it didn’t go beneath that.

Saw had enormous potential that again wasn’t elaborated on.  Why was he so vicious against the Empire?  We are told that he broke with the Rebellion because they weren’t radical enough for him.  But the wrongness or rightness of his actions is never dealt with, nor are the reactions of the Rebel leaders toward him- aside from him being an inconvenient annoyance who they need at times.

Galen was stilted, lacking the passionate character undertone that signified both the depth of pain he’d been through as well as the iron determination to fix what he had done wrong.  His death scene was a good attempt but it wasn’t poignant enough to motivate painful, sad emotion.

Krennic was... Krennic was boring.  Instead of being worried about how he would obstruct the mission, what his actions meant for the Rebels and whether he’d be suitably punished in the end or not, he left me wanting to smack him and push him into a puddle to see if he’d stomp and throw a fit about it.

Vader was excellent, although his body language and walk differed a little, which was only natural considering that a different actor was wearing the suit this time around.  His sass is unchanged and he lit up the screen in his brief appearances.

Mon Mothma lacked the emphasis her character had had not just in A New Hope but also in Revenge of the Sith.  She might as well have been ordering pizza for dinner as telling Jyn she could not sanction a mission without the full approval of the Rebel Council.

Bail Organa was too lighthearted.  This is a man who lived through the Fall of the Republic, who raised one of the only two hopes to eventually defeat Darth Vader and who has gone for nineteen years covertly helping rebels while he pretends to be a part of the Empire.  His wife is a queen and has ruled a planet for at least two decades, his adopted daughter is a diplomat, he knew Anakin Skywalker, Obi Won Kenobi, Padme Amidala, Mace Windu, Yoda.  The greatest Jedi and statesmen of their time.  Of all of the Rebels, he and Mon Mothma had the greatest realization of the gravity of their situation.  Yet his lines are delivered with light smiles and barely any heaviness behind them.

Do I blame the actors for the pancake flatness of the movie?  No.  From what I’ve seen of Felicity Jones’ acting before she’s a decent actor, Donnie Yen is an amazing actor, and I’d love to see more of Diego Luna’s work- because his facial and body language could be fantastic given the right script.  It takes a lot for any character of Mads Mikkelson’s to feel stilted, but Galen was.  Jimmy Smits was fantastic in the prequels and in other works but here it was like he kept trying and just couldn’t quite reach the correct level.  Which tells me that it’s definitely a writing issue and possibly a directing issue, and has nothing to do with the actors themselves.  Had they been given better dialogue and overall script and possibly a better director (I don’t know much about this director so I can’t say this for sure, but I suspect he had something to do with it feeling like a flop), they could have made one heck of a movie.  But they weren’t given enough to go on.  A movie can stand or fall on its actors but it also sinks or floats based on who’s helming it and the writing in Rogue One was pathetic.

The space battles were okay (and the hammerhead ramming was genius and fantastic) but most of the dialogue was taken right from A New Hope.  I did enjoy the tiny touches that tied it to ANH such as: Red Five being shot down, leaving that call-sign open for Luke to use a few short days later.  All of the Easter Eggs were fun, but they should have been the icing on top, not the cocoa in a chocolate cake.

Music, sets, scenery, and cinematography were pretty good but all of them were far eclipsed by the horrible writing.

At the end of Rogue One, people should have felt an elated triumph engendered by the Rebellion and galaxy now having a chance to defeat the superweapon, mixed with a deep sadness and realization of the price paid for that chance... not ‘oh. well. that was okay.’

And lest you want to say ‘well, you’re just very picky and hard to please anyway, you never think anything is good enough’ allow me to point you to the other SW posts coming soon to my blog, because I love most of the other Star wars movies and The Force Awakens was fantastic- as I’ll illustrate in my follow-up post contrasting Rogue One with TFA.

I was thrilled I got to see the movie- I had not expected to see it in theaters, so I was euphoric when Mom surprised me with the tickets and I will always be grateful and overjoyed that I got to see it- but as far as Star Wars movies go, it was a travesty.

[Also, this should hardly need saying, but in case anyone needs reassurance, yes, we can still be friends even if you liked and/or loved Rogue One.]

Friday, November 25, 2016

Black Friday Book Deals!


It’s that time of year. The time for buying presents, making wish lists, and planning New Year’s Resolutions. If any of those activities involve books for you, Indie Christian Authors has a perfect event for you.
From Nov 25 (that’s today!) through Nov 28th, more than 70 independent Christian books are on sale. You can find free shipping$0.99 ebookspackage deals, and more! And if your budget is depleted from Christmas shopping, they’ve got you covered with some freebies!
Think 70 books is overwhelming? Narrow it down and find the perfect books for you or someone on your Christmas list by using this quiz to generate a customized book list.
What awesome reads of 2016 are you grateful for? What books are you looking forward to reading in 2017?
A note on the Ebooks Only page. All books are listed as "Sold Out." This only refers to paperback copies of these titles. Please click onto the product pages to find descriptions and links to discounted or free ebooks. Also, some of the authors this year chose to not sell their paperbacks directly through the site. Those books are also marked "Sold Out" but if you click them open, you'll find a link to the site where they are on sale and a discount code for you to use at check out.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Leah E. Good and Kendra E. Ardnek for their work organizing this sale, and Hannah Mills for her fantastic design work on the website graphics. Hannah can be contacted at hmills(at)omorecollege(dot)edu for more information about her design services.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Beautiful Books: Queen Beauty and the Beasts

1. What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
In late August/early September 2014, K-pop band Super Junior released a trailer for two new music videos: 'This is Love' and 'Evanesce', and then a few weeks later the music videos themselves dropped.  I watched the trailer three times the day it came out and it implanted the idea fully grown and armored in my brain... no wait, that's myth not fairy tales.  Well anyway.  In sprang the idea more or less fully formed, along with the theme message of Owl City's song 'Wolf Bite'.  And I've sat on the idea for two years now until this was finally the year to write it.

2. Describe what your novel is about!
Though too poor to afford a teacher, Belleza still dreams of becoming a shining star under gleaming lights. When the masked lead singer of a popular band offers to tutor her, she eagerly accepts, too caught in the spell of his voice and her dream to heed the warnings of those who tell her he's dangerous; not even her childhood playmate, now an intense, popular singer himself.

A rash choice of her father's shatters her budding happiness, and she sacrifices herself for him, becoming an inmate of the Mansion of the Beasts. Amid the turmoil of preparing for her first concert, a web of brooding secrets from every corner of her new home threatens to choke her as a bizarre curse takes shape before her eyes, terrifying her with its reality in a world where it shouldn't be possible. 

Torn between brilliant, passionate light and fiery, alluring darkness, impelled to find the truth in a sea of masks, held captive by her own code of duty... if Belleza does not make a choice, she'll doom not only her life, but her soul.

Beauty and the Beast meets Phantom of the Opera under glittering music stage lights in this tale of love and sacrifice vs. lust and selfishness.

3. What is your book's aesthetic?  Use words or photos or whatever you like!
Rooms silent because no one has laughed in them for years, teal, snarling cats, black, brightly lit stages, screaming fans, dark red, morose, tiny gleam of hope, dark purple, blood red roses, lightning, midnight, rain, gray.

4. Introduce us to each of your characters!
There are too many to introduce them all but the main characters, in a single word, are:





5. How do you prepare to write?  (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)
For this book I didn't have to do a lot of research.  I already know the k-pop world from 3+ years of listening to kpop and reading news articles extensively and I've loved Beauty and the Beast for most of my life and know the story well.
I did read Phantom of the Opera and re-read several different incarnations of Beauty and the Beast, including Cupid and Psyche.

6. What are you most looking forward to about this novel?
Retelling a fairy tale I've loved since I was 3 years old with some new twists and setting it in a place and an industry close to my heart.

7. List 3 things about your novel's setting.
Old mansion
Rose garden
World stage

8. What's your character's goal and who (or what) stands in the way?
Saving her father from further disgrace.  There's a lot standing in her way.

9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
I... can't say anything about that.  Spoilers, sweetie.

10. What are your book's themes?  How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?
Love.  Hope.  The dangers of selfishness and not learning or practicing self-denial.  I can't really say how I'll want them to feel until I'm done writing it.

ALSO, I'm opening up this book for beta this year, so if you'd like to read it while I write it, leave me a separate comment with your email address and I won't publish it.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Lady Dragon, Tela Du Cover Reveal

Hey everyone!  I'm popping out of oblivion to take part in a cover reveal for my friend Kendra's upcoming book Lady Dragon, Tela Du; the second book in the Rizkaland Legends series.  Book One, Water Princess, Fire Prince, is an excellent fantasy novel and I recommend both it and Lady Dragon, Tela Du.  (Yes, I am a beta reader.  Be jealous. :D)

Amber, the Lady Dragon, has been promised a fifty-year reign over Rizkaland and nothing can stop her from claiming it. But when you've lived six thousand years, fifty is such a pitiful number. Only one person can keep her from making this reign permanent - the Tela Du, a girl who shall share Amber's face.

The last thing Petra wants is a magical world interrupting her plans for a normal life, let alone an ultimate battle against the Lady Dragon with only one prophesied survivor. She has her childhood best friend, Reuben, at her side, but she's not sure if he's more of a help or a hindrance right now. Though she'd much prefer to just return home and forget about this whole crazy affair, things change when she discovers that the world has surprising connections to her own family - including her sister who disappeared without a trace two years before. Still, Rizkaland can't possibly expect her to risk her very life, can it?

Kendra E. Ardnek is a homeschool graduate who picked up a pen at an early age and never put it down. The eldest of four, she makes her home in the Piney Woods of East Texas with her parents, younger siblings, giant herd of giraffes, and honor guard of nutcrackers.

Book links:
Preorder Book:

As a special offer, the first Rizkaland book - Water Princess, Fire Prince - is free on Kindle today:

Connect with Kendra:
Official Website:

Cover Design Credit: Benjamin Ingalls -

For fun, take a look at one of the visual inspirations for Petra, the FMC of Lady Dragon, Tela Du.

Kendra says: Petra’s mother grew up in England, so Petra has some very British tendencies. Such as drinking tea. The ignoring people, though, is just Petra.

Are you ready for the cover?

Keep an eye out for the book this fall!

Monday, July 25, 2016

I've Put This Off For Far Too Long....

I've been reading Fellowship of the Ring aloud to my siblings and have all the quotes from both book and movie fresh in my head. :D

With a title like that I've probably got all of you searching through your heads for some reason as to why I'd write that.  I regret to announce that...

I am moving to South Korea and therefore am saying goodbye to blogging.

No, not really.  If I were, I sure as blazes wouldn't be regretting it, and I would most definitely blog about it... rendering unnecessary the real announcement.

I am taking an official semi-break from blogging and some other online activities.

It's been a looong time in coming.  I haven't posted regularly since early last year sometime or even before that.  I keep trying to, keep meaning to, and it hasn't been working.  I've been tagged by people (Carolyn most recently) and haven't yet done the tags.  I have a zillion drafts sitting in my blogger draftbox.  I have literal lists of topics I keep wanting to post about.

My mother has been telling me for YEARS that I need to take a break and I refused to listen.  More than once this spring and summer, she's repeated that.  When my MuseTwin and I were discussing stress recently, I suggested that what she needed was an official semi-hiatus from many online activities.  She agreed and immediately implemented it.  For three days I fought the idea that I also needed one, and then finally, in another discussion between us, she (figuratively) grabbed me by the shoulders and insisted I needed to take one also.  I finally capitulated.  (FYI: if you want to be a super stubborn person your whole life who wins almost every single battle ever, don't get an awesome soul sister and don't have a mom who knows you very well.  Especially not a soul sister who can threaten as well as you can... or a mom whose 'I told you so' look is as fiendish as your own.)

All of that to say that no, I'm not disappearing from blogging- stars, no.  I'd miss you all too much.  I'll still post now and then, but for now, I need to set the official seal on taking a break and restoring some energy and fun to my spirit.  I'll also be less active on Facebook, and other online areas.  I don't know for how long, but it won't drag on for months and months, I can assure you of that.  I'll still be /around/- reading blogs, commenting here and there, emailing, FB messaging... but I won't be forcing myself to do online things on days when I just want to write or go do something else.

I wish each and every one of you a happy, blessed summer, and look forward to seeing you more when I return.  Thank you for staying with me this long.

Until our next meeting....

Friday, July 22, 2016

Cover Reveal ~ The Rose and the Balloon

Many months ago, one of my dearest blogging friends emailed me to say she'd finished the short story retelling of Beauty and the Beast that she was writing and did I want to beta read it?  I immediately said yes and pounced on it when it appeared in my inbox.  I laughed my way through it and clapped at the end.  Now, Kiri is publishing that story and today, I'm delighted to reveal the cover!

In a kingdom where fauna and flora are held in higher esteem than breakfast, Dmitri is a prince who yearns for change and plans it in a single daring act that will alter his life forever. However, when his demented mother accidentally causes the destruction of a prized garden of roses, Dmitri is horrified when she proposes his hand in marriage to make up for it. Not only will a wife hamper his glorious plans, he doesn't even want one.

Janelle has spent her whole life on her father's rose farm, tending the roses and staying simple. But she really yearns for something greater than the flower beds. But now there's a wrench thrown in the works – the crazy Queen Maeva wants her to marry the prince, and all for ruining her father's beloved roses.

This is Beauty and the Beast with a twist like you've never seen it before.

The Author:
Kirsten Fichter is a twenty-something Christian writer who is trying to find the balance between being one of six kids, a church pianist, a college student, a movie buff, a disaster in the kitchen, and a writing INFP. If you know what the secret is to balancing all of that, she’d be grateful to hear from you. Otherwise, don’t contact her unless you want to send her homemade gingerbread. Or a new piano book. Or an autographed Charles Dickens novel. In the meantime, she’ll be somewhere under a maple tree – trying very hard to finish the seventeen and half other stories she unwisely started all at once.

Connect with Kirsten:
RatB on Goodreads
RatB on Pinterest


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Green: Envy or Healthy Jealousy?

'Healthy jealousy?' you ask.  'Oh stars, Melody's off her rocker.'  Ehehe, maybe and maybe not.

Apropos of using spare moments in the last several weeks to analyze the various friendships I have and how they all fit together- like different colors in an embroidery tapestry- I've been doing a lot of thinking on the different kinds of love that exist, the different kinds of friendship, and on jealousy.  As usual, when I finally came to some conclusions late last night (showers are wonderful places for helping one think) I bounced the thoughts off my soul sister, the final step in my thinking.  Bouncing thoughts off of her clarifies them for me.

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines 'jealous' as:
1) 'feeling or showing envy of someone or of their achievements and advantages'
2) 'feeling or showing suspicion of someone's unfaithfulness in a relationship'
3) 'fiercely protective or vigilant of one's rights or possessions'
4) '(of God) demanding faithfulness and exclusive worship'

We're taught that jealousy is a bad thing.  In the context of the first meaning above, it is.  Being jealous of someone's achievements or their skill or their personality is understandable, but frustratingly silly at times because God made each of us different.  Sometimes it seems like one person has better talents or is more likable than you are, but your focus is in the wrong place if you think that makes you less than them.  Instead of wishing you had someone else's friends or their talents or skills or their advantages, take a long, hard, HONEST look at who you are and what you do have and try to understand how you fit in the world and God's plan.

With the the second and third meanings above, the prevailing belief in many Christian circles seems to be that jealousy is an evil thing that poisons relationships and that if you feel it, you're giving in to Satan's evil influences and you're being weak and silly and you need to do something about that.

But.  God says more than once throughout the Old Testament that he is a jealous God (see meaning #4).  That if His people turn away, He won't strive with them forever and will at some point punish them because He won't tolerate other loves in their spiritual heart.

A lot of people (including me at one point) assume that jealousy in human relationships exists as a result of sin in the world.  But we're made in God's image, are we not?  We are created to have certain kinds of relationships that are exclusive.  The 'eros' love- what we in the Western cultures call 'romantic' love- is the foremost example of this.  We are created to only have one romantic love at a time.  (No, people, I don't subscribe to the 'polyamory is actually fine and possible' belief.) 

It's actually natural and right and /in His image/ that IF there is suspicion that your romantic partner is wandering in their love to you, there be jealousy.  Thinking that there might be unfaithfulness is you being protective of your rights in that relationship.  It's not clingy or needy to notice that something might be wrong.

But sin enters in where we're all fallible humans.  We make mistakes.  Sometimes we'll think someone is wandering in their love and they aren't.  But we won't know that if it's not discussed.  The only surefire cures for jealousy are 100% honesty and then faith in the other person.  'Hey, wife, it feels like you're spending an awful lot of time with him.  Can we talk about this?  Can we spend more time together?'  'Hey, husband, I know you and she are friends from way back but that familiarity with her, that's making me uncomfortable.'

Sometimes, it really is an issue that needs to be changed and sometimes, after it's been discussed, you figure out it's not really an issue after all, but either way, it requires ABSOLUTE HONESTY.  And then having faith in the other person that when they say 'I really do love you more than anyone else in the world' and then DEMONSTRATE IT, that they mean it.  (And to clarify, yes, there are a lot of people who have a difficult time balancing emotions with reason or faith and belief in their partner, and hence do become ridiculously jealous and needy and clingy.  Also, there are plenty of people who say they love you but don't back it up with actions and yes, that's also a problem.)

In friendships, the issues become at once both simpler and more complicated.  We are not created to exclusively have one 'phileo' love- what we in Western cultures know as 'platonic love'.  We were created to spread that around.  Because of the way human personalities interact and intersect, people usually have 'levels' of friends.  Some people only have one friend period (I feel sorry for them).   Some have one best friend, others have five best friends.  Beyond those, they have close friends, then good friends, then friends, etc.  Friendships are not supposed to occupy the exact same place in our hearts that romantic relationships do.  They have their own place and yet they are no less important, and can be almost as deep as the relationship with your spouse.  But, although each of those phileo loves is unique, it's common for jealousy to exist in friendships, and it's not always a bad thing.

Firstly, it means that the friendship means enough to one or both of the participants for one of them to feel protective of their place in the other person's life or of the other person's place in their life.  Secondly, it means that they're observant enough to have noticed a change in the relationship and to feel concern over it.  As with romance, there is one way to handle it if you even want to try to fix it.  100% honesty.  'Hey, A, we don't spend as much time together as we used to, can we change that?'  "Hey, B, I feel like you're not talking to me as much about the important things in your life; why not?'

'Well, all this is fine and good', you say, 'but what about clinginess in either friendships or romantic relationships?  People do get awfully clingy sometimes.  Jealous girlfriend/boyfriend is a cliche for a reason.'
Yes, they do.  But.  Healthy jealousy is often mistaken for clinginess.  There is a difference and sometimes it's very hard to tell where the line is.  The New Oxford American dictionary defines clinginess in regards to relationships as: 'overly dependent on someone emotionally'.

Clinginess isn't saying 'hey, there is something unsatisfactorily different about our relationship now, is there something we can do about that?'- whether you're talking to your girlfriend, husband or friend.  Clinginess is calling someone a dozen times a day because you feel insecure about your relationship unless you are talking to them almost incessantly.  It's pitching fits about every little thing that your friend does without you.  It's constantly guilt tripping people with 'I thought we were friends; don't you like me anymore?'  It's freaking out when someone doesn't reply to your FB message within an hour.

In conclusion, sometimes jealousy isn't the green of envy; it's the green of an alive relationship realizing there might be something wrong that needs to be fixed, some dead growth to be pruned to keep the relationship healthy and growing.  100% honesty is not an absolute fix- sometimes it won't work for a variety of reasons- but it's the best starting point you can have.

May you have happy, healthy, honest relationships.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Death More Than Usual; Or, Random Mirrody Conversations #2

[For #1, see this post.]

One of my favorite parts of every day is chatting with my best friend, MuseTwin, and soulsister Mirriam.  Our conversations zigzag from history ('The Ptolemies made the Lannisters look normal') to philosophy ('If people won't learn, they deserve to be ruled by those who do learn') to every other subject under the sun.  She's always up for whatever bizarre topic I throw at her and many and varied are the discussions which make up the mosaic of our friendship.  A few nights ago I came online after supper and a conversation ensued which had each of us laughing harder than we have in a while.  I present the conversation here for your amusement, with a few minor rearrangements made for better reading flow.

Me: Just finished dinner, which was a hilarious meal.

Mirriam: Why was dinner hilarious??
Me: Because it consisted of (among other things) beginning a discussion on hanging vs burning alive as the least desirable method of death with my 12-year-old brother- which was quickly shut down by Erudessa (my sister) because APPARENTLY some people don't like to discuss that kind of thing over dinner. Go figure.


Me: RIGHT? So boring.

Mirriam: Also, I've thought about it multiple times and I would much rather be hung, thank you.

Me: I'd rather be hung, too. There is only type of death that I find more gruesome than hanging and it's being burned alive.  But if I get to choose the way I go, it's poison or firing squad.

Mirriam: SEE FOR ME HANGING IS LIKE. A GOOD WAY TO GO. HANGING IS A+ compared to things like burning alive or the iron maiden or skinned alive or dismembered by four horses etc.

Me: Well, when you put it like that, it is definitely an attractive option.

Mirriam: That's my thought.  
I mean, poison + firing squad are definitely the best, but hanging is a pretty decent way to go
.  comparatively.
  Particularly if your neck snaps. xD

Me: Exactly. The main reason I find hanging rather distasteful, as far as manners of expiration go, is because I dislike the struggle if the neck does not snap.

Mirriam: True; I'd rather not slowly suffocate while my insides burst, /but/ I would rather suffocate than, say, be crucified. I mean honestly I've thought about this quite a lot and hanging is in the second-best death category, after firing squad or poison.

Me: I've thought about it, too, though not usually including more medieval forms of death. But in light of those supposedly less 'civilized' kinds of death, I would place hanging in third best, I think. Second best would be having my throat cut.

Mirriam: How did we get onto this subject again?

Me: Because it's JuNo and our thoughts run to death more than usual.

Mirriam: TRUE.  I would say it depends on where the throat is cut, because it can be either immediate and painless, or you can drown in your own blood; soooooooo it would all depend. xD

Me:  Exactly. Depending on WHERE it was cut, it would be my second favorite death. Though hanging is certainly looking more attractive by the minute.

Mirriam: I'm trying to bring hanging back as a method of swift justice XD

Me: There is definitely something poetic about a rope noose, or a necktie party.  My stomach is very full and is starting to slightly ache with how hard I'm laughing.

Mirriam: I'm sorry I can't help you I'm laughing too xDDDD


Mirriam: Here I was like 'ah yes all showered, all clean, got coffee, time to settle down and do a little quiet writing'.

Me: And then I burst onto the stage.


Me: Resplendent in bloody philosophical glory.

Mirriam: This conversation is Ferdinand + Isabella approved.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Space Kitties 2 Cover Reveal, Giveaway and Interview with E. Kaiser

Several months ago, a friend posted on FB asking for someone to fill in for a judge who'd had to drop out of an anthology contest.  I volunteered and that's how I came on board the Space Kitties 2: Searching the Cosmos team.  I enjoyed reading the submissions, scoring the entries and following along with the rest of the process.  Today, I'm thrilled to introduce you to the finished anthology!  My Standard Operating Procedure still holds - you have to scroll through the whole post to see the cover at the end. :)

Throughout the week, each of the seven authors will be featured on a blog.  If you comment on any of the blog tour posts, your name will be added to a drawing for an ebook copy of Space Kitties 2.  (If you win the Facebook party giveaway, you are not eligible for the blog tour giveaway.)

June 4 - Facebook party 1:00 - 6:00P.M. Central Time
~ Tour kickoff and cover reveal at E. Kaiser Writes A Blog
~ Interview with E Kaiser at The Splendor Falls
June 5 - Interview with Jamie Mortensen at Lesa McKee
June 6 - Interview with Lesa McKee at Bookworm Reading
~ FB giveaway winner announced
June 7 - Interview with Rachel Harris at Bookish Orchestrations
June 8 - Interview with Faith Blum at Rachel Rossano's Words
June 9 - Interview with H.L. Burke at Jessica Greyson
June 10 - Interview with Aletha Bakke at H.L. Burke, Author
June 11 - blog giveaway winner announced and tour wrap-up at E. Kaiser Writes A Blog

Here today for an interview is Space Kitties contest mastermind, editor and author E. Kaiser Writes.,1,213x249/ 
 E. Kaiser Writes credits her nearly nomadic childhood for the vast reach of her fictional worlds; she has lived (and gotten to known the locals) in the Rocky Mtns, the Smoky Mtns, the plains, the deep forest, the searing Texas summer and frozen Minnesota north.

She wears many hats: writer and editor of ad copy, web copy, office correspondence & fiction; a cowgirl, animal trainer, seamstress, jeweler, artist and... authoress!

Welcome to The Splendor Falls, E!

What is the synopsis of your Space Kitties tale?
Well, when an A.S.P. ship (Air & Space Patrol) unwittingly gets involved with a monopod stealing Company princess, someone must go down onto a young world and get the runaway golden kitty back. Two somebodies get picked... and it's too bad that the young lieutenant and the Scotch Terrier have been quarreling thus far.

What inspired you to write it?
I wanted to play with some classic lines from pop-sci-fi, so I built the story to accommodate a subverted usage of some of science fictions most popular catch phrases. It really came to life, and I think many people won't even notice the way I snuck the lines in amongst the action of the plot.
[My favorite was the 'Beam up, Scotty'.]
Oh, well.

How long did it take you to write?
I probably came back to it over the course of a month or two. It's only 10k words, so it's not that big of a deal. I write in spurts, so the first 10k of anything is usually pretty easy to get... putting the finalization on it is always the hardest part!

Was there any music you liked to listen to while you wrote?
I am a "silence is golden" type of writer. I like to "hear" the special effects in my mind while they're playing out, so too much auditory stimulation is actually a terribly frustrating thing.

What was your reaction when you found out that your story had been selected for the anthology?
I was thrilled! Of course I was... as the main host editor, I have the lovely job of accepting the submissions, stripping them of all identifying info, and then compiling them into documents for the judges to assess "blind." I put my stripped story in amongst the rest and it had every chance of "getting the gate" like any other! As it was, reading the judges scores on the tales was twice as suspenseful because they had no idea they were talking about my tale in there!

As it was, I really enjoyed the experience, because I felt the judges comments were completely truthful since they didn't know. Therefore the positive opinions were that much more valuable!

Are you a plotter or a panster?
Definitely a panster. I start with a premise, a general idea of a theme, and generally a compelling character. Then I see where it goes.

What elements does your ideal story contain?
Oh, I'd say a lot of sly humor, some action, and a whole lot of realism being clever. I love to read about clever things that could actually be done in real life. (I share an appreciation with my brother for "true crime" stories of very smart heists, scams, etc. where someone was extremely tricky about something.) Other than that, I love a good turn of phrase and realistic, witty dialog. 

A lot of dialog I read is just so flat, it's terribly boring.

Has there been an author or non-author person who has influenced your writing more than anyone else?
Hmm... as far as person, I guess you could say my Abi-sis is a huge influence because she crits everything I write... though authorly, Tolkien, O. Henry, and Robert Lewis Stevensen are major influencers on my general craft.

Have you written any other books?
Yes, two in the Five Gems series where Fia Brithin gets her dream of a jeweler's apprenticeship, but it includes total removal from her family and childhood home. That leads to dangers and growing, which home-body Fia never really craved!

Second, the Thaw quartet deals with the combined tales of Snow Queen, Snegurken, etc. with a Frozen adaptation that focuses on self growth and maturity... giving a cast of characters a wide stage to play on as they find their way toward internal balance and true happiness. This gave rise to the Fairytale Collection, which will include over 20 books and many classic tales retold in the world of Demargen and it's 13 fascinating princes.

What stories can we expect from you in the future?
Well, clearly, the 20 upcoming Fairytale Collection, for one thing! We're in the final stages of Beaded Slipper, which has a lot more action and mystery and surprise reveals than most people expect out of a Cinderella retelling... but what can you expect when Elinor only goes to the ball to steal sensitive documents?

King's Ward, #3 in the Five Gems books, has Fia once more being uprooted and immersed into a whole new place, and dangers come skulking pretty soon there as well. Readers of Fia's first two books are going to LOVE the villain of this piece, and the stakes get very high and very personal for our home-body heroine as she adapts to letting go of "what should have been" and deal directly with what needs done, now!

And of course there will be a Space Kitties 3; The Ones They Left Behind anthology, (submissions opening now!) for a planned release 2017.  [See below.]

We're also wanting to include our fantasy writer friends, so we're planning a fantasy kitties up next, tentatively titled "Cats in Black Boots".  (I love that title!!! And of course I'll be doing the cover art, so that is just full of delicious possibilities!!! Can't wait!)

After all of this? Wow, who can say? I do have several historical novels which may come into play at some time, but that's all too far away to lay any solid plans.

Thanks for having me! It's been fun talking books with you all!!

Aaaaand now.  Are you all ready to see the pretty cover?

Buy Space Kitties 2 on Amazon
Add Space Kitties 2 to your Goodreads lists

Submissions are now open for the Space Kitties 3 Anthology: The Ones Left Behind.  Visit this page for all the information you need!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Writing: Humility vs Blindness

A few days ago, my MuseTwin Mirriam and I were having a conversation about a rather well known author in the world of Christian fantasy- someone whom I have admired and whose skill level I've aspired to reach some distant day.  In the course of the conversation, Mirriam said I wrote better than this author does.  Now, Mirriam is not usually someone whose evaluations are influenced by her love for a friend.  I said I was most assuredly NOT a better writer than this author and Mirriam outright disagreed with me.  'No, you're the better writer.'

Something occurred and we moved on to a different topic for a few minutes but it bothered me so deeply that I brought it up again a little while later.  Because A) if Mirriam was right, then my evaluation of this author's work was flawed.  B) if she was right, then my evaluation of my own work wasn't just low- it was bottom layer of the underworld, insanely, ridiculously, so far out of sight that it might as well be the Planet Pluto low.  Mirriam's reply was: Yes, in her opinion, to A (keeping in mind that it had been 3 years since I had last read this authors work and my evaluations have undergone many changes since then) and absolutely yes to B, but more B than A.  I sat there processing this for a few minutes.  She went on to say that she considered the aforementioned author to be better than average but that I was still better.  She finished by saying was a difference between humility and ignorance concerning one's own work. 

For two days it's something to which I've given a lot of thought.  I knew my estimate of my own writing was low.  I just didn't think it was that low.  Last night I discussed it with another best friend and she agreed with Mirriam's analysis.  This morning, I mentioned it to my mother.  She had read a little bit of the author in question three years ago when I was reading the book, and she agreed that right off the bat, there was at least one thing she thought I did better than this author.  My mother has different literary preferences than I do, but she's almost as picky as I am about most literary elements and is not hesitant to tell me when I need to improve.

One of my pet peeves is when I come across any author with an over-inflated ego that doesn't match the quality of their work.  I've seen it in traditional authors (sorry, Cassie Clare fans) but the last year or so, I've increasingly come up against it in self published or indie authors as well young authors who have yet to be published.  For example, I recently read a book in a fantasy sub-genre.  Now, anyone who knows me knows that I ADORE fantasy in almost every form.  This particular sub-genre is one of my favorites.  This book, written by an indie author, made me want to stop reading it three chapters in and it only grew worse from there.  It was overflowing with cliches, historically inaccurate (a problem for historical fantasy), illogical, shallow and confusing.  In my message to the author, I gently pointed some of these things out.  The author replied, 'Not everyone likes the same kind of books.', implying that I had disliked the book because I didn't like that genre.  In return, I pointed out that in fact, I loved that genre; it was specific issues in that book that made me dislike it.  Not to any surprise, I haven't heard back from that author.  This is only one of several times in the last 3 months along that I've come up against this or similar arrogant seeming behaviors.

Self confidence in one's work is necessary.  But there is a line between self confidence in the fact that you've written something well and arrogance that you're a good writer no matter what anyone else says and that if someone criticizes you, they don't understand you.  There is a standard of quality in writing, and if you don't pass muster, then you need to strive to improve, not brush it off.

As someone who is a rational thinker and often aloof, I've been accused of arrogance before.  Quite frequently.  Often unfairly.  Several times, it's nearly ruined a relationship.  It's made me hyper sensitive to coming across to people as arrogant or supercilious or pretentious in the way I communicate facts or knowledge.  And it's deeply affected my evaluation of my own writing.  As much as it annoys me in others, I  promised myself I must never never become arrogant about my writing.  But in reaction to the arrogance that has annoyed me, and in determining not to become the same way, I went too far in the other direction.  I landed in a place where I can't honestly tell anymore whether what I've written is decent, good, or stinks.  There's a balance line to walk and I missed it completely.  And for an aspiring author, that's a bad thing.  It's incredibly hampering and I realized it's what's been holding me back from moving forward with publishing plans.

I'm blessed to have best friends and a mother who keep me honest.  I'm going to be spending a few months climbing out of the underworld.  It won't be easy and it will take a while, but it's vital for any of us who want to properly walk the path of authorship.

How many of you have dealt with crippling lack of self confidence in regards to your own writing?  Any tips in overcoming it?

(And yes, I'm going back to re-read said Christian author's work and see if my evaluation changes.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Beautiful People May 2016 ~ Verena and Liare

It's time for Beautiful People again!  I'm excited to dust off this story for JuNo.  I probably won't finish the book in another 50,000 words but hopefully I'll come within sight of the finish line.  

 I know that, according to the rules made up by some mythical someone whose opinion supposedly matters, authors aren't supposed to have favorites, but I never was good at following rules made up by people I don't know (or following rules at all, come to think of it).  Therefore, these two are definitely on my list of favorite characters to write.

Verena Silvesti

How often do they smile?  Would they smile at a stranger?
She hardly ever smiles.  She'll make this sideways uptilt of her lips, but smiles are as rare as blue moons.   She might nod to a stranger but not really smile, no.

What is the cruelest thing they've ever been told?  And what was their reaction?
That her aunt wouldn't take her in because she 'couldn't handle her ridiculous personality'.  She reacted by sealing herself off to love and never thinking kindly of her aunt or cousins again.

What is the kindest thing they've ever been told?  And what was their reaction?
Liare told her that he likes being around her because she's an unusual person who makes life fun.  She doesn't believe he means it.

What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood?  Why is it so powerful and lasting?
The day she was pulled out of class and told that her father had died in the bombing attack they had just seen on television.  I would imagine that the reasons it's powerful and lasting are now self-explanatory.

What book (a real actual published book!) do you think your character would benefit from reading?
Benefit from?  Probably something to do with loving your enemies or at least, not plotting revenge on them.  A book she's read a lot is Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

Have they ever been seriously injured?  How severely?  How did they react?
She dislocated her shoulder once but didn't realize it had been dislocated until it was put back in place.  She gritted her teeth and carried on through the pain, refusing to ask for special help or treatment.

Do they like and get along with their neighbours?
Like- no.  Get along with- eh, more or less yes.  She is civil and polite but she doesn't really like people so she ignores them the rest of the time.

On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being easy and 10 being difficult) how easy are they to get along with?
On the surface, maybe an 8.  She's polite but not very approachable.  Underneath, a solid 10.

If they could travel anywhere in the world, where would they go?
The galactic capital of Ceruntu.  The planet is one giant city and races and peoples from all over the galaxy gather there.  As for a place on Earth... probably Cairo.

Who was the last person they held hands with?
Her older foster brother Won Jae a few years ago. 


How often do they smile?  Would they smile at a stranger?
His default expression is a smile.  He smiles at everyone he comes across- friend, foe or stranger.

What is the cruelest thing they've ever been told?  And what was their reaction?
That he knew nothing of real pain or grief.  He took it with a strained smile, and managed to not stagger back at the emotional punch in the gut.

What is the kindest thing they've ever been told?  And what was their reaction?
That he's a ray of sunshine that never dims.  He blushed and thanked the person.

What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood?  Why is it so powerful and lasting?
His father hugging the man who had been the cause of his mother's death and saying, 'I forgive you.'  Liare couldn't forgive the man for years and didn't understand how his father could.

What book (a real actual published book!) do you think your character would benefit from reading?
Machiavelli's The Prince.  Verena will persuade him to read it at some point.

Have they ever been seriously injured?  How severely?  How did they react?
Not really.  The most he was ever injured was bruising after boxing fights with fellow members in his father's dance troupe, and even then it wasn't too serious because they didn't want their star dancers messed up.

Do they like and get along with their neighbours?
He's a very friendly person who's always willing to help.  He's quite popular among people and likes almost everyone.

On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being easy and 10 being difficult) how easy are they to get along with?
He's a 1.

If they could travel anywhere in the world, where would they go?
A planet in the Outer Fringe of the galaxy.  He likes adventure and exploring.

Who was the last person they held hands with?
A random old lady he helped to cross a street.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Happy Birthday Dearest Melody

Mwahahahaha!  This is Melody's younger sister Erudessa.  And I, along with some of her friends, am hacking her blog.  Completely unbeknownst to her!

From: Me
I know you won't be surprised by this, and that you will chase me to Mars and back just to kick my rear, but I couldn't resist it.  Having you for an older sister is very amazing.  You show me Whole New Worlds, New Fantastic Points of View (but sometimes you do tell me that I am only dreaming! ;)), you say that 'salmonella' is the sea's version of 'Cinderella' and so many other things.  And, although we don't always agree, and you insult me by calling Frank a 'toad', and telling me that "We don't need you having a crush on Viggo Mortenson", I'm very proud of my baby who's 'all grown up and saving China'!  You are an amazing, talented young woman and you help so many people.  One day all of your dreams will come true.  Just have faith and remember, "There can be miracles, when you believe..."  I love you, Mulan.

From: Mirriam
I've been trying to think up something to say.  That sounds bad at first, right?  Like I don't have enough thoughts to translate into words.  The truth is just the opposite - there's so much to say that I don't know how to condense it into a simple birthday message.  It's fitting I should write this so soon to the anniversary of the day our friendship really began.  It's hard to believe it was less than a year ago - it feels so much shorter and so much longer all at once.  You could say we've known each other
for far longer, since the day you sent me that first email, but we didn't truly form a bond until June 2015 when, for some divine, magical reason, the act of writing a novel drew us together like magnets.  Since then we've had countless brainstorms and lengthy, deep conversations.  We've shared heartache, tears, and numerous struggles; but they don't outweigh the laughter,
amusement, and joy.  I've never known anyone like you.  I could talk about this for hours and write a novel about our exploits, our talks, our agreements and disagreements (here's an itemized list of 30 - I kid, we've never had that many) but I'm trying to keep it short and sweet.  You share a piece of my soul, Lion Yin, and no matter what happens, I know it's in safe hands.
  Thank you for everything - and I mean everything in the full sense of the word. The laughter and the tears, the downs and the ups that outnumber them.  I know you will grow even more spectacular this coming year, and every year afterward. I can't wait. — Dragon Yang

From: Jessica
Dearest Ari,

Happy Birthday!!!! Reflecting on another year of fabulous friendship, a lot of words come to mind.

Thoughtful, meditative, snarky, lovely, wise beyond years, loyal, fierce, Lioness. These are just a few of the things that make you the amazing, caring and wonderful creative human, friend and writer that you are. You have a fierce and beautiful heart that sees beyond shells, walls, armor, and into souls.
When I was in Taiwan, I always appreciated that you were willing to stay up late and chat with me when I was struggling to make sense of difficult things, I know you gave me lots of your time, talking listening, caring and plenty of virtual hugs and encouragement. I always knew even though I was half a world a way that I could come running to the internet and find Ari—willing to chat and sympathize to get me through times where my world didn’t make sense.

Thank you for being a friend I can trust, lean on and love. You’re amazing!



From: Jamie
"So... I heard it was Lody Appreciation day... More or less >.>

When I first joined the pack you were the very first member to introduce yourself. You were very open and warm with your introduction. It may have seemed like the simple or obvious thing to do to you, but to me it was the ice breaker I needed. I kept the thought with me that you had made me feel welcomed and accepted in the group right off the bat. Continuously, you reminded me- be it in big ways or small- that I was wanted and loved... And learning of our common interests certainly didn't hurt my opinion of you  *cough, cough* mostly kpop *cough*
Over my first year in the Pack, I really needed the support, without even realizing it. This year, I've needed you and the others more than ever.
You're always there, making sure I and all the other packlettes know that you're praying for us and offering advice and support time and time again without fail.
During the skype call I felt like I got to know your personality better. I came to realize you aren't just a person, you are a painted galaxy. Fierce, insanely beautiful and when you get to know more about it, irreplaceable.

We may not be incredible close, and we may not talk a lot, but I want you to know you've made a significant difference in my life. And I want you to know that I love you lots

                                                                 -Your incredibly cute dongsaeng,

(P.S. We should get to know each other better and maybe spend some time together if you're ever nearby.)"

From: Lisa
"Lody is like the big sister I never had. For being the 'unni' of our group, it's so nice and refreshing to know I have an unni too XD I feel valued and appreciated when she asks my opinion or thoughts on a subject. Many times I've gone to her with my mess of emotions and feelings when I didn't want to tell anyone else. She's amazing and I am so tremendously blessed to have her in my life. I love you, Lody ^.^"

From: Rana
"My first impression of Arielle was: sass, snark, and consistent encouragement. You can tell she really means it when she says, "Praying!"

From: Katherine
Oh, Katherine, if you ever need another beta reader (for any of your stories!)... I would be thrilled and honored to volunteer!! =) =)

Not many friendships have a beginning that can be traced to a single sentence. 

In this case...well, I turned her down. (Horrors.) As a general rule, I just did not send out my stories to blog readers. But Miss Melody Muffin continued visiting my blog, leaving comment after insightful comment that time and time again nailed the heart of what I had been writing. After about a month of more such responses...Dear reader, I sent her a novel.

I thought I was getting a beta-reader, even as she noted that she'd never beta read for anyone outside her family before. I've never asked her exactly what all she expected. :D But I certainly had no idea that the next 3 3/4 years would be the establishing of a friendship that really is the stuff of stories. They knew each other's heart. It's a phrase from a book we both love, and it is the essence of our friendship. 

Melody is incredibly clear-sighted, with a rare ability to see others and to know them for who they truly are, and beautifully strong - few people are as mentally disciplined and rigorous in what they require of themselves as she is. What she loves, she loves deeply and passionately, and while she is constantly searching and trying what she believes, attempting to argue against what she knows to be true is simply asking to be verbally taken apart. She will fiercely fight for what she loves, and her skill is a thing of beauty. Trusting people absolutely does not come easily to me, but she has proved herself to have my back time and time again, and I have rare belief in her loyalty. This is a woman with a sense of responsibility as wide as the ocean, talents that are a delight to watch unfold, and a glorious, if occasionally wicked, sense of humor. 

May you have a truly beautiful birthday, Melody, and may this year be full to overflowing with the blessings of God. Looking forward to many more years of a friendship filled with everything from heavy theological discussions to magical midnight chats - I love you!

From: Gabrielle Martin
We’ve only just met a short time ago,

And yet our friendship had grown a whole lot.

There’s so much about you I want to know

And yet there’s a lot I already got.

You’re smart and creepy as a mind-reader

Our biases often of the same things.

Your tastes are good, it’s becoming clearer

Your favorite band the amazing younglings,

Our favorite Song? Of course called Joong Ki!

Our favorite singer the tall Choice One

“Swoon” you call him, he never sings off-key.K

dramas are our favorite marathon.

These are just a few ways we’re the same kind,
And why I like you: we’re of the same mind.
(I just have to say, I LOVE this poem!  And I understand some of those references!)

From: Prudence
A u t h e n t i c
R e l i a b l e
  I n t r e p i d
E n c o u r a g i n g
  L o v i n g
  L i o n h e a r t e d
E n t e r t a i n i n g
And here is the rest of my little message: There are so many reasons to love you! Lody, you’ve been with me through it all—and it’s a joy and a privilege to always know that even if we haven’t chatted in a long while, and regardless of physical distance, we’re still as close as ever, because you put up with my abrupt disappearances and long absences so unbiasedly.  I know that our friendship is a lifetime deal and I look forward to facing it all at each others side. You are and forever will be my Octopus of Encouragement. I LOVE YOU MORE THAN TIME CAN TELL & YOU ARE MY PERSON - Your Pixie Girl  

From: Shelby
So when I first met Lody through our online writing group, I thought that she was cool and nice, and she had an interesting Facebook profile picture that never showed her face, which was intriguing XD  I didn't talk to her a whole lot at first.  I didn't know a whole lot about her, and there never seemed to be much reason to talk to her one on one.
Until we did.
I don't remember exactly how we started talking more, but once we did, it was like opening up a floodgate of friendship.  She told me a few weeks after we really started talking that she had decided to adopt me as her sister and was that alright?  Naturally I said that was fine, being completely ignorant of how seriously Arielle takes adopting a sister XD
Before I knew it, she was checking in with me all the time, asking what I was up to and how my life was going.  She gave me advice on everything from my writing to my job and lots of stuff in between.
I know I've told her that her reaching out like that meant a lot to me, but I'm not sure she will ever know how much.  I had been going through a lot of changes in my life when she first "adopted" me. All my friends had been moving on and getting busier with their lives, and my life long best friend left on her mission, leaving me in a weird position of not being able to talk to her whenever I wanted for the first time in eight years.
So even though I didn't know it at the time, I really needed the support of a friend, and I was so blessed to find that friend in Arielle.
Everyone should strive to be the kind of friend that she is, and everyone should strive to be /worthy/ of such a friend.  Because when she decides to make you part of her inner circle, she makes sure you stay there.  She will be the best, most caring, most compassionate friend you have ever had, and I am so grateful that she made me her adopted sister.  I realy don't know what I would do without her.
I had the amazing opportunity to go meet her IRL and it was the most amazing Spring Break ever.  We were forty five minutes away from the nearest Walmart, and I think the closest gas station was in the next town over.  You'd think that set up would make for a really sad Spring Break, but if anything, it made it even more worthwhile.  I got to spend an entire week with my close friend and the rest of her super amazing family without any kind of distractions or obligations or any place to be.  If we hadn't been good friends before I came to visit, we would have been after.
Arielle is one of the most genuine people I have ever met.  She is exactly the same online and off, kind, compassionate, intelligent, funny.  She never puts up fronts with you, she tells you like it is, but she's always kind and considerate when she does it.  I have never had a friend I disagreed with so politely XD
I'm not totally sure what else to say... Um... Happy birthday Lody!  You have no idea how happy I am to have you as a friend and adopted sister.  Thank you for always being there for me, even when I didn't know I needed it.  I hope we have many, many years of friendship ahead of us, but for the more immediate future, have a wonderful day.
You absolutely deserve it. 

(I learned from Shelby's visit, that if ever these girls get together all at once, I am going to banish them to a mansion that covers and acre and is on a high mountain with no one closer then 80 miles!)

From: Melody 
Dear Arielle, When I first met you it was through the Pack email chain and my initial thought was “Lody, like Melody, like me!” I’d never met someone with my name before, and even after learning it was a nickname I still automatically liked you because of it. Needless to say my opinion of you has only blossomed from there. Unfortunately I do not know you as well as I would like to, but what I do know is marvelous. You are a very strong, loving, and amazing woman. You are an excellent friend. And while the barrier of the internet does stand between my ability to get to really know you, your personality still shines through the words that you write and the sparse videos that I have seen you in. You are all the real life Regina Mills I could ever dream to encounter XD. Your sass and attitude is quickly and perfectly coupled with your determination and fierce love for the people you care about. Your quick readiness and loving advice are a wonderful thing to have. You are a wonderful friend to have. From my limited world knowledge I have realized there are at least two types of friends out there: The kind that support you from the sidelines and the kind that shoulder their axe and run head long into battle with you. You are a warrior Arielle, and I would gladly go to battle with you at any moment. Happy birthday! Thank you for being an awesome example and a spectacular friend. Your comments, prayers, and friendship are great treasures to me, and I am so blessed to know you! Hope this next year is packed with adventures fit for a protagonist such as yourself.
Love, Mel.   

From: Dabby
Dear Arielle Fairy,
If hearts could be measured in size, yours would be a continent. You have so much love, so much kindness, so much strength and gentleness. You are the friend who truly deserves the world. God took extra delicate care when he made you. I love you so much! Your constant friendship even when I'm a slacker inspires me to be more genuine, more consistent. Thanks for being an example of so many good things and bring a gold mine of a friend <3

Many tiny hugs.

From: Kash
Dear Lody,
I legit wouldn't know what to do if I didn't have you in my life. You have helped me through things I didn't even knew I needed help through. You're there when people need you and that is more than enough for me.
You are a beautiful strong woman and are so very kind. You don't get upset when asked for help, and if you're busy you make time or promise to be back later and always are.

You are the best pack grandma I could have asked for 😉 and I thank God for you every day. 
Love you, Lody Love, Kash/Kashie/Kashlet/Kashrine/Kathrine XD

From: Liz
All right, so here we go.
As I'm writing this, you're totally oblivious. It's almost funny, to watch you affirm requests in the Pack Help Line chat, while several of us plot to make you cry. Honestly, I hope we succeed, even if it's just because it hit you that you. are. loved. That would be enough (for me, at least).
The point of these words is to "say something nice, if you've "say something nice, if you've got something nice to say"; I don't think my problem will be saying something nice, I think it will be summing up all the nice things I have to say. XD I'm not sure that I can be even borderline-sappy, but I don't think you'd expect sappy from me, if I'm honest. (On a related note, the fact that you pay attention to the tendencies of so many people, and keep them

straight, is one of the many reasons I love and appreciate you.)
I can continue that by reiterating: I love you a ton. You inspire me to aspire to your level in so many things, whether it be exploring different cultures, branching out in writing, or educating myself in literature - as you'll recall, I only bought Hamlet because of you. Your analytical mind keeps me on my toes - it's so nice

having someone in my life who understands how that side of the brain works. Your logic is a breath of fresh air - whenever I need an objective conversation, about pretty much anything, I know I can come to you. (I mean, I can come to you at about any point in time, but. You know.)
You're the college aunt that other college aunts only dream of being - it's not that others lack qualities, it's that they are found so abundantly in you. You love so deeply in your own Lodyish way, and sometimes that may not manifest as "I love you", though it often does. Sometimes it's sending us random messages, or things that remind you of us. Sometimes it's a "you should go eat". It's pretty much always practical and/or with some purpose in mind,
because you aren't one for excessive nonsense, thank the good Lord Almighty. You are perpetually a woman with a point, whatever the point may be.
This is getting long - whoops. I tried to condense it, but it didn't really work. XD Anyway, suffice it to say we love you, I love you, & happy birthday. Basically. (& thanks for reading this train wreck).
- Liz

 To all of the girls who contributed, thank you so much.  Especially Mirriam, who contacted everyone for me.  And thank you to Mum for the beautiful birthday banner.  We love you Melody!

From Mom:
 My dear, sweet Melody is all of this  ...  and so much more.  Yes, that is possible.  She has been my Lieutenant for more years than I can count, she is fierce, loyal, and when she loves, it is with a depth that very few can understand.  I thank God for this lovely woman every day, am so blessed to have her as a daughter, and pray that her years continue to be filled with joy unspeakable.  
I love you!!  Happy Birthday!!