Take the Adventure That is Sent Us

Recently, I finished my yearly read-through of The Chronicles of Narnia. Each time I read them or listen to them, something new strikes me.

This time, the concept of adventure stood out to me.

Reepicheep

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Reepicheep is always harping on honor and adventure. The little mouse’s courage pushes everyone on the crew to greater heights of courage because they refuse to be outdone by a mouse. The others sometimes become annoyed with Reepicheep because everything is an adventure to him. Any time they want to turn back or be cautious, Reepicheep pulls the adventure card, and they can’t turn back.

“This is a very great adventure, and no danger seems to me so great as that of knowing when I get back to Narnia that I left a mystery behind me through fear.” Reepicheep in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

But for all his annoyance with Reepicheep, King Caspian seems to have remembered Reepicheep’s words because in both The Silver Chair and The Last Battle, descendants of King Caspian also emphasize adventure.

“Doubtless,” said the Prince. “This signifies that Aslan will be our good lord, whether he means us to live or die…let us descend into the City and take the adventure that is sent us.” – Prince Rilian in The Silver Chair

In the end, Eustace and Jill begged so hard that Tirian said they could come with him and take their chance–or, as he much more sensibly called it “the adventure that Aslan would send them.” – The Last Battle

The amazing thing about these quotes? They all happened, not when the characters were facing something fun and safe, but when they faced danger and a great possibility of death. Actually, death was the most likely outcome.

Death, an adventure?

Yes, that’s the point. Everything in our life is God’s adventure given to us. The good things. The bad things. The horrible things we’d rather never, ever face.

Let that sink in.

Life is an adventure.

Death is an adventure.

Everything in between is an adventure.

As Reepicheep would say, it is the greatest adventure that has ever been heard of.

But we don’t always treat life as an adventure. We live like it’s the dullest thing ever. A lot of times it is, but even epic voyages had long days of sailing on boring, empty seas with barely a breeze to push the ship along. But that’s still part of the adventure. You can’t get to the next island without the boring sailing in between.

This was something I’ve been thinking about even before re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia, which is probably why it struck me this time. I’ve been thinking about it ever since reading A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes, a book that asks the question: how you would live if you knew when you’d die. Would you live your time or would you waste it?

And when you find you have time, what do you do with it? That’s one theme of the sequel A Time to Speak that releases on October 16. You’ll be hearing a lot more about that book since I’m a part of Nadine’s launch team and it’s made me think a little more about what I’m doing with the time I’ve been given.

God has given me this life, this adventure. It can be scary. Overwhelming. Adventures usually are. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be a little bit more like Reepicheep and face it with courage and an adventurous spirit. Because what biggest regret is there than turning back and leaving an adventure undone?

What about you? What adventures has God given you?

My First ACFW Conference

ACFW Conference

Over the weekend, I joined almost 500 writers, editors, and agents at the annual American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Dallas, TX.

Besides being my first time flying and/or traveling alone, I was a little panicked about what a writers’ conference would be like. Would the people I met online be as nice in person? Should I hug them or not? Will I even have the courage to speak to anyone? And many writers’ blogs talk about going away from their first conference feeling like they knew nothing about writing. Would I feel that way?

Nadine and I get a couple of pictures in while waiting for dinner.
Nadine and I get a couple of pictures in while waiting for dinner.

I shouldn’t have worried. That first night after dinner, I turned around to Nadine Brandes calling my name and giving me a hug before I even had to think about whether or not to hug her. It was the first of many hugs. 🙂

I also got lots of hugs from my fellow author and prayer warrior Angie Brashear, but we missed getting any pictures together.

I met Gillian Bronte Adams, author of Orphan's Song. I absolutely love her book, and I was hiding my fangirl squealing when I met her.
I met Gillian Bronte Adams, author of Orphan’s Song. I absolutely love her book, and I was hiding my fangirl squealing when I met her.

I met several other new friends who I plan to keep in touch with. Besides a few moments of panic or trembling hands, I didn’t experience most of my normal social anxiety. Perhaps it was the confidence of being in a room full of writers where I didn’t have to pretend to be normal. Maybe it was the freedom of telling people I’m a writer as the first thing they know about me instead of one of the last. Above all, it was an answer to a prayer.

While I learned a few things from the writing workshops, I didn’t learn as much as I thought (or feared) I would. No panicked realization that I knew nothing of writing. In fact, what I did learn was that I knew more than I thought I did. I learned a lot from writing and editing Dare. Yes, I have stuff to learn yet. There’s always more to learn. But a lot of what I need to work on is applying the things I do know consistently.

While I was nervous for my critique with Jeff Gerke, I shouldn't have worried. After bonding over a shared love of Mountain Dew, the rest of the critique went by quickly.
While I was nervous for my critique with Jeff Gerke, I shouldn’t have worried. After bonding over a shared love of Mountain Dew, the rest of the critique went by quickly.

I was really disappointed that it was over so quickly. Next thing I knew, I was packing my bags and slipping out of the hotel for my airport terminal.

Once on my plane, still high from whatever streak of courage that got hold of me all weekend, I turned to the lady sitting next to me (something I never do) to strike up a conversation. She was a young mother, her chubby cheeked kid sitting on her lap, her husband in the seat on the other side of her.

Every mother likes to talk about her kid, right? So I asked, “How old is he?”

She gave me this cold look. “She is a girl.”

Oops. Guess my socially inept self was going to make a reappearance sooner rather than later. I’ll go read my book now.

Fun Fiction Friday – Makilien Trilogy

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these Fun Fiction Friday pieces. Not that I haven’t been reading good books. Summer vacations and working on Deny keep taking precedence.

Speaking of vacations, this is a scheduled post since I’m gone this weekend. I’ll reply to any comments when I return.

I’m a late comer to The Ilyon Chronicles fandom. I didn’t read Resistance until a few months before The King’s Scrolls released. Recently, I made time to read Jaye L. Knight’s earlier works that she wrote under the pen name Molly Evangeline.

The Makilien Trilogy – Molly Evangeline

PicturePicturePicture

The Makilien Trilogy follows the adventures of a girl named Makilien and her band of friends. This series shows the influence of The Lord of the Rings even more than The Ilyon Chronicles do. I could tell these books were written earlier. The characters are less-fleshed out. The writing less experienced.

Did that make the books less epic? No way! I absolutely adored them!

I had a big deadline in editing Deny that I had to hit, and I was busy preparing for a weeklong vacation. I still ended up reading the entire series in a week (I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep).

Overall, I’d definitely recommend these books to anyone looking for action-packed Christian fantasy.

My thoughts on the individual books:

Book 1 – Truth

PictureI was drawn into the storyline almost immediately. I felt for Makilien as she tried to discover the truth in a city determined to hide it. I love how Makilien grows throughout the book, and her decision at the end.

The elves? Need I say more? These are everything you think of about elves: tall, graceful, live in the woods. But with a sense of humor. Lots of humor.

I enjoyed the adventure of this book. It’s a straight forward good-vs-evil, epic battle, adventure story with Christian themes weaved into it.

Book 2 – Courage

PictureSome of this book follows the same pattern as book one. It starts in the same town. Moves through the same places, and ends with a big battle in the same place as before.

Still, I enjoyed how this book took the same battles of book one and went one step deeper. In Truth, Makilien faced the final battle with the innocence of one who has never fought before. This time, she fights with the knowledge of just how scary and horrible war is. It makes for an interesting parallel that I couldn’t put down.

And the ending? Let’s just say, you’d better just buy books 2 and 3 together because you will be starting book 3 mere seconds after finishing book 2.

Book 3 – Trust

Picture   Of the three, this book was my favorite. It has a different storyline than the first two and kept me guessing. While the battle might be smaller, the challenges are tougher for the main characters.

And Sirion? *sigh* I’d already loved him in the earlier books, but I absolutely adored him in this one.

A few of the character storylines might have wrapped up a little too neatly, but I honestly didn’t care while I was reading. I wanted everyone to get their happy ending, and the ending of this book definitely delivers. 🙂

Short Story – Captivated

PictureThis short story was totally worth it to get a final glimpse of my favorite characters one last time, especially the elf Elmorhirian. I couldn’t stop laughing the entire way through this story, and I read it twice in as many days because I loved it so much.

Have you read the Makilien Trilogy yet? Thoughts?

Freestyle Writing Challenge

Michigan Woods Freestyle Writing Challenge

A little while ago, Lauren tagged me in the Freestyle Writing Challenge.

Here are the rules:

  1. Open a blank document.
  2. Set a stop watch or mobile phone timer to 5 or 10 minutes.
  3. Your topic is at the foot of this post. DO NOT SCROLL DOWN TO SEE IT UNTIL YOU ARE READY WITH YOUR TIMER!
  4. Once you start writing, do not stop until the alarm sounds!
  5. Do not cheat by going back and correcting spelling and grammar using spell check. (The challenge is only meant for you to reflect on your own control of sensible thought-flow and for you to reflect on your ability to write with correct spelling and grammar.)
  6. You may or may not pay attention to punctuation or capitals.
  7. At the end of your post, write down “No. of words = ____” to give an idea of how much you can write within the timeframe.
  8. Copy and paste the entire passage on your blog post with a new topic for your nominees, and copy / paste these rules along with your nomination (at least 5 bloggers).

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I broke #5. It’s such a part of my natural writing process to backspace when I want to change a word, phrase, or I type something wrong that I didn’t realize I was doing it until partway through the challenge. I still made a few typos that I didn’t go back and correct, so I mostly following the rules.

My topic was: Your two main characters from two different WIPs happen to meet. What are the circumstances? What happens? Which setting do they land in?

This presented a little bit of a problem. Currently, all of my WIP are in the same series. All the main characters already know each other.

Finally, I decided to use a main character from a manuscript I wrote with a friend of mine, who also happens to be one of my alpha readers. We started this manuscript back in 8th grade and completely deleted it and started over 3 times over the years.  Someday we hope to publish it but right now it continues to be an ongoing WIP.

One of the main characters, the Shadow, happens to be an outlaw who is tall, dark-haired and dark-eyed, amazing with knives, good with a sword, and decent with a bow and arrow (hey, I started writing this in 8th grade when clichés were cool).

When I started writing Dare, my friend and I joked around comparing Leith and the Shadow from the manuscript we’d written together. At first, I worried they were too similar, but all the re-writing I did on Dare made Leith into his own character. One of the things we talked about was who would win in a fight. The following couple of paragraphs is what we eventually decided:

Leith Torren Meets the Shadow

Leith blinked at the deep forest around him. What was he doing here? The trees, taller and broader than any in Acktar even in the depths of the Sheered Rock Hills, loomed far over his head. The leaves layered the forest floor beneath the sprouting saplings and ferns.

The forest was still. Quiet. Leith froze. If only Blizzard was here with him to alert him to trouble. But Blizzard seemed to have disappeared along with everything else familiar.

A movement caught his eye. Just a flicker. A shadow.

Something was there. Or someone. The hair on the back of his neck prickled. He drew his knives and crouched.

A man stepped from behind a tree, a knife in one hand, a sword in the other. Leith glimpsed a hint of movement and dove to the ground an instant before a knife thunked into the tree behind where he’d been standing.

Why did it have to be knife throwing? He rolled and lunged at his attacker. The other man stepped back and swung his sword at Leith.

Leith twisted to avoid the thrust, but the other man seemed to sense how he’d move. The sword grazed his side. Leith ignore it as he thrust one knife towards the man’s chest, his other knife coming up low and fast at the man’s stomach in a move that always caught a swordsman off-guard.

All swordsmen except this one. Leith’s attacker dropped his sword and grabbed Leith’s arm, deflecting the knife away from his chest. His other hand swept Leith’s strike at his stomach aside.

Moments later, a knife appeared in the man’s hand. He loomed a good foot taller than Leith. Leith barely had time to parry. The blow knocked his knife from his hand.

He reached for the second knife strapped across his chest. His hand met nothing by air and empty leather. Gone. How could his knife be gone? He’d only drawn two.

He reached for one of the knives in his boots but froze at the prick of steel under his chin.

“Don’t move.” The stranger’s black eyes glinted.

Leith’s gaze traveled down the length of the knife pressed against his chin. Down the gleaming blade and to the hilt gripped in the stranger’s fist. A hilt emblazoned with the initials LT.

His own knife. “How?”

The stranger raised one eyebrow. “I grew up on the streets. I learned a thing or two about picking pockets.”

* *

Yep, we eventually decided the outlaw the Shadow from our manuscript would defeat Leith. Mostly because the Shadow is more competitive, and I gave Leith a few more limitations.

Number of words: 406 words in ten minutes.

I’m going to leave this as an open tag. If you’d like to do the Freestyle Writing Challenge, here’s your topic: You and one of your main characters are locked in a dungeon. How do you try to escape?

I walked the Mighty Mac – Again

I walked the Mighty Mac

Every Labor Day for my entire life (except for the year my youngest brother was born), I’ve walked the Mackinac Bridge (pronounced MACK-ih-naw).

For those who don’t know, the Mackinac Bridge is the suspension bridge that connects the lower peninsula of Michigan with the upper peninsula. It is the fifth largest suspension bridge in the world. Each year, tens of thousands of people gather for the annual Labor Day bridge walk, including Michigan’s governor.

I love the tradition. I love the feel of walking five miles high above the water, Lake Michigan on one side, Lake Huron on the other.

It’s a tradition that’s bigger than just my family. It is a tradition that connects generations. My dad did it. My grandparents did it. Years from now (if I ever get married and have kids) my kids will do it. Even if I don’t get married, I’ll keep walking the Mighty Mac each year until I no longer can walk.

There’s something special about walking in the footsteps of your grandparents. The bridge connects Michigan, but it also connects generations in Michigan. I remember walking across the bridge holding my grandma’s hand. My brothers spent several years walking across with our grandpa.

It’s a part of a culture. A culture that walks the bridge rain or shine, wind or sun. Fall isn’t allowed to start until that bridge is crossed. It’s a culture that’s tough enough to get up early in the morning to gather for a five mile walk.

It connects those who do it. When I meet someone who has walked the Mighty Mac for a number of years, we share stories. We both remember the year the wind was so strong that the whole bridge swayed, causing everyone to stagger. We remember the years it was so cold we walked in our winter coats and scarves. And we’ll remember this year, the year it was spitting a warm rain and all the early walkers got covered with a sheen of rain.

There’s a power in that. It isn’t a religious holiday or tradition. It’s a cultural one. Something that is specific to just a small number of people.

For someone who loves traditions as much as I do, it’s strange, when I think about it, how little I remember to add them to my fantasy worlds when I’m writing. But I should make more of an effort. Traditions hold a lot of value and power. They will shape our characters and hold our fantasy worlds and cultures together.

What about you? Do you have any traditions that your family has? If you’re a writer, do you have any traditions for your characters?

Getting Caught Up and Infinity Dreams Blog Tag

Whew! It was quite a week last week. I finally finished my first big edit of Deny: The Blades of Acktar Book 2. The good news is that the book is now in the hands of my editor, critique partner, and early readers so they can all help me whip the book into shape. Another step closer to getting the book into your hands! I don’t have a firm release date yet, but hopefully I will soon.

While I was on vacation two weeks ago, Gabrielle Massman tagged me on the Infinity Dreams Award blog tag. I’m finally getting caught up on doing this tag.

The rules:

-Thank the person who nominated you.

-Answer their 11 questions

-Nominate 11 other bloggers and ask them 11 questions.

On to the questions:

Who is your favorite villain (either the one whom most love to hate or the one whom you actually cheer for)?

I love Rumpelstiltskin in the TV show Once Upon a Time.  The show does such a good job about showing why he became a villain and why he is so reluctant to let go of his villainy. It’s a constant tension while watching since you’re left wondering if he is really turning good or if he’ll go right back to the darkness. Actually, I love Once Upon a Time for character development on all their characters.

Do you have a favorite food, and what is it?

I have a confession to make. I love food. A lot. I love pizza and cookies and spaghetti and chocolate shakes and…well, you get the idea. I have a hard time picking a favorite food. It usually changes depending on what I feel like eating.

So if you had to choose one element (fire, water, air, or earth), which one would you choose and why?

One of my best friends and I actually wrote a book together where each of our main characters had element magic. Hers was fire and mine was metal (which isn’t one of the four main elements, but hey, I’m a writer. I take the creative approach). We laugh, because in real life, those are exactly the elements both of us would pick.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

I live in Michigan, and I absolutely love it. I love winter and I love the deep woods. If I didn’t leave in Michigan, I’d probably want to live somewhere out west, probably in the mountains.

Who is your favorite supporting character (movies, TV, or books)?

Wow, this is a broad question. Since I’m re-listening to The Chronicles of Narnia on book-on-tape right now, I’m going to have to go with Reepicheep. He is a blast to read about/listen to, and I love his unwavering devotion to Aslan. His dedication to honor can sometimes be problematic, but King Caspian wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without Reepicheep, especially on The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

What is one interesting or weird quirk about you?

I talk to myself. All the time. Especially when I grocery shopping by myself. I remind myself about the list. I debate out loud over which deal is best, and I either talk myself into impulse buys or I try to talk myself out of it. I probably look (and sound) a little crazy. The other shoppers tend to give me a wide berth for some reason.

What is your favorite topic to learn about?

History. My whole family is history geeks. On our recent vacation, I dragged my friends through a small Civil War site just because I couldn’t bear to pass by it without stopping.

I think all of you write, so who is your favorite character that you have created?

Really? I have to choose? Fine.

One of my favorite characters I’ve ever written is in an unpublished manuscript. But Leith also holds a very special place in my heart, so it is hard to choose between them.

If you could bring one person from the past to the present, whom would you bring?

C.S. Lewis. ‘nough said.

You can jump into any one fictional world. Which one would you choose?

Narnia. Any surprise there? Years ago, I even dreamed once that I was about to embark on the Dawn Treader. But I woke up before I actually got to set foot on the ship, and I never dreamed that dream again, which was disappointing.

What is your favorite drink?

Mountain Dew. Hands down.

I’m going to leave this as an open tag for anyone else who wants to do it with the same questions.