Novel Update: Twinkle, Twinkle, Aderyn

Hard to believe it’s already another month. Of course, it’s also hard to believe that the school year is in full swing. Where did summer go, again?

While the actual writing has slowed over the last month thanks to planning and returning to classes, there still has been plenty of progress. The 10,668 words has increased to 15,208 words that seem to be flowing together beautifully. That’s been accompanied by some much-needed world building. Part of the story takes place in outer space, but I had failed to consider the fact that I had better figure out what that looks like. What types of ships are at their disposal? (Am I really talking about spaceships and fantasy tropes in the same breath? It delights and frightens me at the same time.) How long does it take to travel between celestial destinations? Or, most importantly lately, what does the sky look like for them?

Perigee Moon

Needless to say, constellations became an important matter, and one that made me sigh and mutter, “Duh!”

Right now, there are fifteen major constellations, each with their own story. Some are based on the developing theology and philosophy of the world. (There’s still a great deal to do on that front.) Others are a nod to other stories.

For instance, one of the constellations is the Cat: partly because its story is similar to Rudyard Kipling’s Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and partly in honor of the one who’s sitting on half of the chair as I type right now. (He prefers to sit pressed up against me instead of on the back of the chair now that he’s older.)

Another is Aderyn and Temman, a nod to Luthien and Beren from The Silmarillion. (If you don’t know about them, you have to check them out! She’s no damsel in distress, and he’s quite heroic himself.)

Since the story is still so young, these three (and the other twelve) might not make it into the final draft, but odds aren’t bad that they will. Even if they don’t, though, they’ve made for a great starting place, and a great mantra for the protagonist as she prepares to become a spaceship navigator.

Have you created anything new for your story’s world lately? Ever tried your hand at constellations?


The Silmarillion Recap: A Tale of Two Sons, Inziladûn and Gimilkhâd

Want to catch up on The Silmarillion so far? Check out the Silmarillion Recaps page here.

Last week, Ar-Gimilzôr (one of the Kings of Númenor) proved himself to be yet another ruthless opponent of the Valar, the Elves, and their Dúnedain friends, the Elendili. This week, things change right under Ar-Gimilzôr’s nose.

Akallabêth part 8

During times of persecution, it’s not uncommon to find groups of people hiding in the shadows who disagree with the popular view. They might not come out and openly proclaim their feelings, but their loyalties don’t lie with the rest of the culture. This is also true on Númenor. So far, only the Elendili have been mentioned for their faithfulness to the Valar and the Elves. However, there’s another group lurking in the shadows who still care about the old, right ways.

These secretive loyalists are called the Lords of Andúnië. Like the Kings of Númenor, they’re of the line of Elros, but they’re descended from a daughter who didn’t inherit the throne back in the fourth generation of Númenorean Kings. In these hard times, the Lords of Andúnië help the Elendili secretly and keep their loyalties quiet to avoid exposure.

Among these is Inzilbêth. She starts off as just another part of the Lords of Andúnië but soon finds herself Ar-Gimilzôr’s queen. Understandably, she never wanted to marry him. After all, he stands against everything she believes in, but she has no choice in the matter, so she’s stuck.

However, something good comes out of this union. They have two sons: Inziladûn and Gimilkhâd. The firstborn, Inziladûn, is just like his mother, not only in name but in beliefs. Gimilkhâd, on the other hand, is his father’s favorite and for good reason: he’s just like him, but more proud. Needless to say, it makes for an interesting family dynamic.

Even though Ar-Gimilzôr wanted to pass the throne to his younger son, Gimilkhâd, he has no choice but to pass it on to the firstborn, Inziladûn. This turns out to be a great thing for the Elendili and those secretly faithful to the Valar. He chooses to return to the traditional Elvish of his forefathers and takes on the Elvish name Tar-Palantir. He also fixes many of the wrongs of his father and other forefathers, like taking care of the precious White Tree that the Elves had brought as a gift so long ago and visiting Meneltarma, the sacred mountain where they honor Eru.

He does all that he can to restore things to the way they used to be, but unfortunately it’s too little too late. Few people join him in repenting for turning their backs on the Valar, and no ships come from the West, no matter how much he wants them to. The connection with Valinor is still gone.

Next week, Gimilkhâd and his son, Pharazôn, stir up trouble not only for Tar-Palantir but for Middle-earth. Get ready for another war.


Making Mondays Better: Super Mario Maker Fun

My husband and I are total nerds, which means that we’ve been waiting with breathless anticipation for Super Mario Maker to come out next month. He’s excited because he wants to play it. I’m excited because creating courses looks like fun, not because I’m great at Mario.

That’s not to say that I wasn’t introduced to Mario at a young age. My aunt and her boyfriend bought a Super NES for my brother and me one Christmas when I was about six. Of course, Super Mario Bros. came with it, and I tried to play it. And constantly failed. On my own, I could never get past the first castle. Whenever a friend came over and played for hours, I would end up losing all of their progress with my endless deaths. It was sad.

A few years ago, when Super Mario Bros. came out on the Wii’s virtual consul, my husband bought it for me as a gift, and in my twenties I discovered that I was a little less awful than I was at 6 but still pretty terrible. I guess I just wasn’t born for old school platforming.

But since then, we’ve played other platformers, and I’ve been Player 2 in the more recent Mario games. (I like being Player 2. So much less pressure.) So even if I completely stink at Mario, at least there’s the fun of building levels ahead of me with the new game.

Even though it’s not out yet, there have been videos galore featuring the different levels people are creating. Below is just one of them.

Do you play Mario games? Or are you awful at platformers like me?


A Mini Love/Hate Moment: The Friday Before School Starts

I’m sorry to say that teaching prep means that I didn’t finish the second half of the Love/Hate Challenge in time for today. Instead, though, it’s reminded me about something I love/hate about my day job of teaching middle school English and (new this year) French I: the first day.

Students aren’t the only ones who feel a little anxious about it, especially this year. I’ve worked hard throughout the summer to ensure that English will run smoothly — practically on cruise control for the first semester — because teaching French is a whole new adventure. I feel prepared in that I know the language, I have a great textbook and a variety of children’s books, and the Internet is filled with countless videos and other resources to add the much-needed element of fun.

However, this is the first time in a long time that our school has had a foreign language program, so the pressure is on. What exactly does this look like in the classroom? How do I make it work in our blended environment? Do all of my students (fortunately, all at least in 10th grade) know just how much daily effort goes into learning a language? Will we all make it to French II?

Of course, in some ways, that’s part of the fun of it. Every year and every group of students is different, and adding a new class like this means one more opportunity to share something that I love. So whatever the first day brings, I know it’ll be a great start to a new year.

What’s something you love/hate about your day job?


The Silmarillion Recap: Ar-Gimilzôr and the Dúnedain’s New Low (Or How to Get Under the Valar’s Skin)

Want to catch up on The Silmarillion so far? Check out the Silmarillion Recaps page here.

Last week, the Dúnedain took some serious steps towards straying dangerously far from their origins. This week, the new king, Ar-Gimilzôr, crosses a serious line.

Akallabêth part 7

Life has been hard for the Elendili for many years now. Long ago, the decisions of the 13th King of Númenor (Tar-Atanamir) split the Dúnedain into two distinct groups: the King’s Men and the Elendili.

The King’s Men are completely loyal to the Kings of Númenor… even though they have been openly against the principles that Númenor was founded on and no longer show proper respect to the Valar, who saved them from Morgoth and gave them the blessed island to live on in the first place.

The Elendili, on the other hand, have wanted to follow the kings, but they know that the kings are headed in the wrong direction and refuse to give up their loyalty to the Valar. They still are friends with the Elves and seem to remember where their people came from, even if they do fall into the same fear of death that the King’s Men have.

Up until now, the Elendili have lived torn lives but have remained part of society. However, when the 23rd King of Númenor, Ar-Gimilzôr, takes power, things change dramatically. Ar-Gimilzôr sees the Elendili as an outright enemy and feels disdain towards the Valar and the Elves. That special White Tree from Valinor that the Elves had brought as a gift now withers in the castle’s courtyard. It’s the perfect symbol for how he feels towards the Valar and Elves, and it’s like foreshadowing of what comes during his reign.

While his predecessor, Adûnakhôr (20th King of Númenor) settled at refusing an Elvish name (as they had been doing since the beginning), Ar-Gimilzôr takes it to the next level. Not only is there to be no Elvish spoken in Númenor, but the Elves aren’t even welcome in Númenor anymore. On top of this, he removes the Elendili from the western part of the island — the part closest to Valinor and at the port where the Elves from Valinor used to visit. It’s a bold move and a strong statement.

During this time, many of the Elendili decide to spend more time in Middle-earth, where they can socialize with the Elves who stayed there (like Gil-galad) in peace. Though the Elendili do it secretly, Ar-Gimilzôr knows, but he’s just glad to have them off the island and far away from the Elves of Valinor. After all, the Elves of Valinor see the Valar face to face often, and he’s convinced that they’re actually spies for the Valar. If they were to find out all of the things he has planned, then it would be serious trouble for him.

Unbeknownst to him, though, the Valar know exactly what’s happening on Númenor, as well as what Ar-Gimilzôr is planning in secret. And the Valar are angry about it. In fact, Ar-Gimilzôr doesn’t have to tell the Elves to stop coming to Númenor. The ships just stop coming. Not only will the Kings of Númenor find themselves without the friendship of the Elves, but the Valar have removed their protection over them as well. The king doesn’t realize it, but he’s made a huge mistake.

Next week, all hope might not be lost. Sometimes the loyal are just hiding in the shadows… even in the king’s own court.


Love/Hate Challenge: Part I

I’ve been pondering this post for a while now because I wanted it to be great. Why? Because C.B. Wentworth invited me to join in a Love/Hate Challenge, and I wanted to be sure to choose just the right topic. The rules for the challenge are easy:

  • Make a list of 10 things you love
  • Make a list of 10 things you hate
  • Nominate 10 bloggers to do the same

Since she used the theme of favorite books, I wanted to choose a theme too. It took a while, but I settled on one that I can write freely on and that doesn’t require much research. However, I’ve been inspired, so don’t be surprised to see some more lists in the near future.

This list is a little different in that there’s a love and hate side to each of the points, but with this topic — the experience of being a writer — it’s only natural.

Love/Hate Challenge: Writing

1. Creating Settings Where Stories Take Place

There’s something exhilarating about embarking on a new adventure. Regardless of where a story takes place — in our world; a galaxy far, far away; or a medieval land — every story’s setting is unique. There are rules, norms, cultures, histories, and a plethora of other factors that contribute to making each place full and well-developed. When I first start developing the setting for a new story (whether it’s in the land of Carrick or a completely different location), it’s a thrilling opportunity to throw several different real cultures in a metaphorical blender and see what comes out.

However, it also comes with some daunting challenges. Every time I think I have a world completely ironed out, I think of something else I haven’t developed yet: the religion, the food, whether or not they have some outward sign that shows their marital status. It’s a seemingly never ending process… even after about 17 years of working on the same world.

2. Inspiration Is Everywhere

There is always so much to watch, imagine, and observe. When I keep my eyes open, it’s hard not to find an overwhelming supply of inspiration everywhere. Even sitting alone at home, I imagine what’s going through the cat’s head and the garbage man’s life story.

Sometimes, though, it can be overwhelming. No matter how hard I try to focus on one story, something else catches my imagination and starts dragging it in a different direction. Next thing I know, I’m writing some long paragraph about the two brothers sitting across the aisle on the plane instead of focusing on the story I’ve been working on.

3. The First Sentence

Usually a story has brewed in my mind for months before I finally open up a new document on my computer and write its first sentence. The problem I have is that I have to write stories sequentially the first time through. Until that first sentence is right, I can’t move on. Sometimes, this means writing, deleting, and rewriting the same sentence for an hour or more straight before getting it right. Other times, though, sometime the right sentence comes to mind during the brewing stage, so there’s no belaboring over the first sentence. I write what I’ve already decided in my notes and the rest of the story begins springing to life almost effortlessly.

4. Being a Pantser

Several years ago, I read an article on NaNoWriMo’s website describing the two main writing styles: planning and pantsing. Planners do exactly what it sounds like they do: they plan the story out before beginning the first draft. Pantsers, on the other hand, just fly by the seat of their pants (hence the name) and wait to see where the story will take them.

I tend to fall solidly in the pantser group. I do some planning so I know where the story is headed, but before I start the first draft, I can’t even begin to describe the different plot points. Sometimes I don’t even know what the climax will be. Or the resolution. I just know the set of characters, have a few ideas of what should happen, and then start writing to see where it all ends up.

I love it because the story feels like it grows organically. I haven’t come in with preconceived notions, so I let the characters plot out the course and make their own decisions. And sometimes they come up with ideas that I never thought of.

I hate it because the first draft is usually a mess.

However, that mess always lays a great foundation for the next draft, showing me what worked, what didn’t, and where I want to go as I open up a new blank document and prepare to start again.

Looking back, I see that I wrote some confessions of a pantser last year, here. Still all true.

5. Characters

This ties in with the last point. Characters are what make the stories grow organically. I have some thoughts on where I want them to go, especially in early drafts, but they tend to make their own decisions and influence the plot as they develop.

Sometimes the decisions they make are great, adding complexity I never thought of before or coming up with clever solutions to problems that weren’t apparent before.

Other times, they are stubborn, strong-willed pests. The most notable example of this is with my first novel in The Carrick Letters (the novel I’ve been working on for about 17 years). About five years ago, I was just working on a draft and minding my own business. Then, all of a sudden, the protagonist (Prince Kelvin) found a way to weasel out of the plot we’d solidified years ago and put himself into a terrible situation. Not only could I think of no way to rescue him, but there was no way to go back and change the story so he couldn’t get stuck. We were at a terrible impasse. Thanks a lot, Kelvin.

At the time, I was mad at him. The prince had been a jerk, and part of me was ready to turn the story into a tragedy and let him rot in a prison cell. But then the narrator princess reminded me why I should care, and we set upon a daring plan to save him and the rest of the story. Fortunately, it worked and actually ended up making for a more exciting climax. Thanks a lot, Kelvin.

Since this is so long already, it’s definitely time to split this list. I’ll plan to conclude next week.

In the meantime, what are some of the things you love/hate about writing?


The Silmarillion Recap: Farewell to Elvish (Or How Adûnakhôr Brings the Dúnedain One Step Closer to the Edge)

Want to catch up on The Silmarillion so far? Check out the Silmarillion Recaps page here.

Last week, the Dúnedain continued their descent from greatness and Sauron made his first reappearance, Rings of Power and all. This week, the relationship between the majority of the Dúnedain and everything they originally stood for reaches a new low.

Akallabêth part 6

Last week’s post spent a fair amount of time in Middle-earth with Sauron using the Dúnedain against themselves in the form of Ring-wraiths. Now, though, it’s time to return to the events on Númenor, their formerly blessed island.

Ever since they started breaking off relations with the Elves and the Valar, the Dúnedain’s lives have slowly been growing shorter, and the Dúnedain have noticed. Instead of realizing that it’s a direct result of their hatred of and rebellion against the Valar (the ones who blessed them with the island of Númenor and the long life in the first place), they instead blame the Valar and the Elves who are still their friends.

In fact, by the time of Adûnakhôr (the 20th King of Númenor), he openly bans Elvish and all things related to the Elves. Up until now, each of the Númenorean Kings have had two names: one in their native tongue and another in Elvish. He is the first king to refuse to take an Elvish name. This is a huge deal to everyone and a bold statement against the Valar.

However, despite his bold stance, the Dúnedain are terrified of what might happen if they are too flagrant with their rebellion, so Adûnakhôr is still given an official name in Elvish for the records: Herunúmen. Ironically, this name is a title for the Valar, and it seems like a terrible omen of what is to come.

The whole situation has also left the faithful Elendili feeling very torn. They’ve been obedient to the Valar and friends with the Elves all along, yet their fellow Dúnedain are openly against them. Needless to say, it’s never easy to go against the crowd, even when they’re wrong.

Next week, a new king, Ar-Gimilzôr, sinks to a new low, and the Valar aren’t going to be happy about it.


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