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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Feeling Most like "Me"

I'm sorry I have not posted in awhile. It's been a rough month.

I'm currently editing Hail Frost right now, which is turning out to be a lot more fun than I expected. Editing gives me the chance to seriously think about the characters and the plot without actually "writing". There is writing involved of course, but I just don't feel the intense urgency I experience when writing the first draft.

One of the aspects of characterization I have been considering is what makes a character "feel" like him or herself. It's an odd concept so allow me to try to explain it.



I'm always "me" because I'm a fairly confident person and I try not to make it a habit to change my behavior and characteristics depending on the circumstance. But there are times when I feel more "me" than other times. For example, I feel more like "me", more complete, when I am sitting in front of my computer writing. I also feel more like "me" when I am wearing my glasses and dressed in certain outfits. I feel like "me" when I step into Barnes and Noble, when I load a shotgun on a skeet field, when I read my Bible during quiet time, or when I curl up in my pajamas and watch Doctor Who. For some reason, these circumstances make me feel more relaxed and comfortable. More safe. Like it's suddenly okay to really be me and I don't have to worry about anything or anyone.

I don't know why this happens, but I think it happens to everyone. My brother seems more relaxed and comfortable when he is talking about techie stuff; a calm, peaceful look passes through my sister's face when she is drawing. I have friends who seem more like themselves when they are talking about their favorite activities: Tae Kwon Do, basketball, cartooning, design, or logic. It's a fascinating aspect of humanity to me.



Everyone wears masks. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. If something really irritates you in public, it's polite not to let your frustration and anger show- at least not to the extent you might be feeling it. There are also cruel people in the world. If we don't wear the mask, we risk ridicule and bullying from people who don't even matter. Sometimes, it's just easier. And that's okay.

Characters are reflections of humanity. A good character needs to seem human to the readers. So at times, the character will don a mask and play a part. But readers read to escape the masks and confusion of reality. So I also need to show the characters without the mask; simply being them. Sometimes this happens through high emotional stress- a tenuous situation can bring out the best or worst in a real person and so it is with characters. But I also like to just think about the places, things, or people that would make my characters feel like truly being "them".

Jamie Dornan looks like Valin

Valin, the antagonist of Hail Frost, is the one who actually caused me to start thinking about this. He is forced, by his own lust for power and by outside people, to become the ruler of the Pull. He plays the part well, but it's all a mask. He is uncomfortable in fine clothes and castles and civility. He's still bad and he's still threatening in those situations, but he hides behind a mask of cool politeness and lawful justice. He seemed to stay that way through the entire book, and while editing, I decided I wanted his true self to really appear. I want the readers to see who the Leverage are up against.

I invented an emotionally fueled problem to help bring out his true self. (I would tell y'all about it...but... *queue River Song* "Spoilers!") However, I also thought about what situations and places would make him be more himself. Valin is a rugged explorer. He loves the wildness and adventure found in nature. He seems happier and more comfortable when he is in the brutal terrain where there are no laws but his own strength. He also likes commanding soldiers. While Sicreet was a Lord, Valin is a Commander. The power makes him happy. I've found that a happy villain is never a good sign for my long-suffering heroes, which makes it all the more necessary to write.

So what about y'all? What makes you, or your characters, seem more like themselves? If you have anything to add, I'd love to hear it! :)


Friday, March 14, 2014

Pinterest + Writing = Endless Inspiration, Marketing, and Fun!

So if you follow my Pinterest boards, you probably know I'm an insane fan of Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, BBC television shows, superheroes, LOTR, and other nerdy fangirling distractions. 

But my Pinterest boards do serve some purpose! I occasionally pin recipes, or funny, snarky tidbits. But I also use it for writing. 



For those who don't know, Pinterest is a social media site where you can "pin" images and websites to "boards" so they are easily accessible. Personally, it's my very favorite social media site. I like pictures and images, and I like the fact that I don't have to talk to anyone unless I want to. It's awesome. 

But pictures and writing don't seem to go together, do they? That's what I thought at first, but I have since discovered that Pinterest can be an excellent writing tool. In fact, I use it more than Google when I am writing!



The first way you can use Pinterest for writing is research. While researching "healing stab wounds" on Google will probably find you a how-to and some images, searching that same thing on Pinterest will find you blogs, images, how-tos, books, websites, and more! Plus, after finding the information you need, you can "pin" it to an appropriate board so the information will be easily accessible forever! Also, Pinterest has many infographics which show anything from how different alcohols will affect your body to how to spot a liar based on body language. All of these are great writing resources. 

Here is a link to my "Writing Info" board where I pin information that might help me in future writing. http://www.pinterest.com/KayceeBrowning/writing-info/

Hint: This image is a pretty good summary of Hail Frost XD

Another way Pinterest can be used to help you and your readers is by making boards dedicated to book(s) you have written. You could pin anything from pictures of people who look how you pictured a character to inspiration for possible scenes in future books. You can pin images of places to help you and your reader envision your story world, you can pin costumes, blog posts, weapons, anything! Without even consciously trying to do this, your board will reflect the feel and look of your story, thus helping you create it and giving your a reader an idea about your book at the same time. I have had several of my awesome middle-school guinea pig readers say they appreciate the Pinterest boards because they make the story even better!

Here is a link to my "Leverage Series" (Ember Flame) board. I have pinned a LOT on this board, because I use it not only to show what is already in my story, but for possibilites of future stories in the Leverage Series. http://www.pinterest.com/KayceeBrowning/leverage-series/

Here is a link to Jill Williamson's, author of the epic Safe Lands trilogy, board for the first book in the aforementioned series. http://www.pinterest.com/jillmwilliamson/inspiration-for-captives-the-safe-lands-book-one/

And if you want to start getting an idea what is in store for Story D, you can check out my "Story D Board". :) http://www.pinterest.com/KayceeBrowning/story-d-inspiration/



If you find images that you think are super-cool and awesome, but don't fit in any of the stories you are already working on, you can make just a general writing inspiration board. My Writing Inspiration board has everything from spaceships to dragons in it. When I'm working on a new story, I go through the board and try to find anything that sparks more of the plot in my head. Then, I transfer that pin to the story board. It's a pretty great system.

Here is my Writing Inspiration (General) board. http://www.pinterest.com/KayceeBrowning/writing-inspiration-general/



Along with the general writing inspiration comes character inspiration. For some reason, I like keeping characters separated from everything else. I don't know if that's because I tend to be a character-first writer or because I'm just weird. Either way, I like having a board that is just dedicated for characters. Here is my Someday Characters board. http://www.pinterest.com/KayceeBrowning/someday-characters/



You can also do boards with certain "feels" to them. I'm writing a Disney fanfiction for my sisters (Well...sorta. It's a bit darker than typical Disney and I'm combining all of the Disney princesses and other Disney stories into one large story. I guess it's a cross between Once Upon a Time and Disney) ANYWAY, I have a board that has a Disney/fairytale feel to it. Here's a link to it. http://www.pinterest.com/KayceeBrowning/certain-as-the-sun/



And last but not least, you can pin quotes from other writers, funny writing jokes, and book quotes to help inspire you to write. I like these because when I hit a writing block, sometimes it helps me more to ready funny jokes and inspiration quotes than to look at a bazillion images. Here is a link to my Writing and Reading board. http://www.pinterest.com/KayceeBrowning/writing-and-reading/

Pinterest can be used for very many different reasons. I've found clothes designers, artists, and many other artsy occupations on Pinterest. It truly is a useful tool, and it is a lot of fun too! If you can think of other ways to use Pinterest to help with writing, feel free to share. I'd love to hear more ideas! :)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Songs and Writing

I don't typically write to music. Songs with lyrics tend to distract me, and I've found that writing to soundtracks-while fun- often causes me to copy the movie the sound track went with! (I once wrote an entire scene in 'Hail Frost' that I thought was genius. Turns out it was, because it was almost word for word something that happened in Once Upon a Time.) 

OH YEAH! Rabbit trail! Once Upon a Time is FINALLY back on and people, I am LOVING it! (Even though there was no Rumple in the last episode. Hmph.) The parallels between the second half of the third season and the entire first season are EPIC. I can NOT wait for it to continue. (Sorry for all the capitalization and parenthesis. What can I say? Fangirl!)

Ahem. ANYWAY, I do use music for something a bit odd, but interesting, when I write. I make playlists on Spotify of songs that are both soundtrack songs and lyric songs. I listen to those while I'm doing chores, cleaning my room, doing school, etc. because it helps me prepare to write. I don't know if anyone else does this, but it really helps me. So I thought I'd share some of my favorites from my Leverage series playlists.

Each one of the novels tends to have "a" song that just fits the entire book.

'Embers' by Owl City- Ember Flame



Everything about this song is utterly perfect for 'Ember Flame'. The theme of discovering who you are, uniting, igniting into a flame, everything. And the line "yeah, the coals are beginning to glow" makes me shiver. Plus, the tune and beat just seem to fit Ember Flame. It's bouncy and fun, but still a little serious.

'One Day Too Late' by Skillet- Hail Frost



'Madness in Me' by Skillet would also work (and is on the playlist), but 'One Day Too Late' is far more hopeful than 'Madness in Me' which fits the overall book, and Hail's character, much better. Hail Frost is definitely the darkest in the trilogy and the music reflects that. And Hail has to learn to conquer his past, which the song addresses.

'Rescue Me' by Kerrie Roberts- Flake Frost



I don't want to spoil anything, but by Flake Frost nearly all the characters have figured out that the only person who can truly save them is Elethor (God). Plus, there's a theme in Flake Frost about forgetting the past so I think it's cool that this song mentions that. Flake Frost is not as tense as Hail Frost, but it's not as bouncy as Ember Flame. It's somewhere in the middle and I think this song shows that well.

Here's a list of some of the other songs on the playlists if you are looking for songs. :)

Ember Flame

All This Time -Britt Nicole
City on a Hill- Casting Crowns
Me Without You- TobyMac
Concerning Hobbits- LOTR (Fellowship of the Ring) soundtrack
Ever Ever After- Carie Underwood
I See The Light- Mandy Moore and Zachery Levi (Tangled soundtrack)
He's a Pirate- Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl soundtrack
Eyes Open- Taylor Swift
I'm the Doctor- Doctor Who soundtrack
Amazing Grace- Chris Tomlin

Hail Frost

Hero- Skillet
Joker theme- The Dark Knight soundtrack
The Hanging Tree- written by Suzanne Collins sung by Adrisaurus (YouTube)
Ignition- TobyMac
Madness in Me- Skillet
The Medallion Calls- Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl soundtrack
Gollum's Song- LOTR (The Two Towers) soundtrack
Not Gonna Die- Skillet
In Christ Alone- Owl City
My Own Worst Enemy- Casting Crowns

Flake Frost

Silhouette- Owl City
Vanilla Twilight- Owl City
Beautiful Cruel World- Adrisaurus
Once Upon a Time orchestral suite- Once Upon a Time season 1 soundtrack
Already There- Casting Crowns
Let It Go- Demi Lovato ( I MUCH prefer the Idina Menzel version, but the Demi Lovato lyrics fit better)
May It Be- Enya (Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack)
In Dreams- Return of the King soundtrack
Safe- Britt Nicole
Safe and Sound- Taylor Swift

I don't know if this will help anybody, but I felt like I should do a blog post and my brain is so fried you could put it on a plate and eat with some sweet tea. (Okay...that's so not a cool image. But seriously, I can't think right now). This was the only blog post I could come up with at the moment! Cut me some slack though, I just went to a college fair and I'm very introverted. I had to talk to all these people who were very nice but also very exhausting. I'm such an introvert. So now I'm hiding in my room listening to music to calm myself down and this post idea popped in my head. Now I'm rambling. I'm going to shut up now and let y'all carry on with your lives...



Saturday, March 8, 2014

Grandad

I'm sorry for the recent lapse in Internet activity from me. I have a good reason though. On March 2nd, my Grandad went to meet his Savior.

I have drafted two other blog posts telling y'all this, and describing how I feel about it. However, when I went to publish them, the choppy Internet in the country refused to cooperate. After thinking about it, I took that as God's way of telling me that those blog posts weren't right for this occasion.

Instead of selfishly sharing how I feel about this (He was the best Grandad in the world, He loved Jesus, and we were very close. You can imagine how I feel), I decided to share the lessons he has taught me through learning about his life and the people he has touched.

Grandad was born on a dairy farm in Georgia in 1926. He had an older brother and several sisters. When he was sixteen, he had to drop out of high school because his father became ill and his older brother was fighting in WWII.

He had to step up and completely run the farm-everything from milking the cows to delivering the milk. Grandad took over as man of the house while his father was in the hospital and his brother in a war. This has taught me several lessons. The main lesson I learned is that a young age is never an appropriate excuse. I'm ashamed to think of the time I have used, "But mommmm, I'm only sixteen!" or "I'm a teenager, what do you expect?" to try to get out of something petty. Of course, I know the Christian youth program Bible slogan of 1 Timothy 4:12. It's often taken as teenager-y angst: "Yeah! Don't look down on us! We're special!" (Though Paul did not mean it that way at all)  But I now realize that to convince people not to look down on me, I have to step up and act like an adult because I, along with every other teenager in this universe, am perfectly capable of doing that.

In his early twenties, Grandad married the lady who would eventually become Granny. They had a very happy marriage that lasted over fifty years. They had four sons. Sadly, Granny died from breast cancer in 1999.

After a few years, Grandad married Mimi, known as Miss Liz to my dad, uncles, and older cousins who had the privilege of knowing Granny. Mimi's first husband, Louis, had died from Alzheimers years before. They were married for nearly twelve years until Grandad passed away.

Sometimes, I find myself looking at all the divorce statistics and "happy marriage" statistics, that are always depressingly low. I shake my head and vow to never get married because the odds of it actually lasting are not in my, or anybody else's, favor. And yet, I look at Grandad and Mimi and between the two of them they had THREE happy and long-lasting marriages. I thought about it to try and figure out what they did to make it work and my discoveries were surprisingly simple. All four (Grandad, Granny, Mimi, and Louis) were strong Christians who strove/strive to put Jesus first and follow the Scriptures. They were selfless and genuinely cared for their spouses. Suddenly, the odds don't seem so bad after all.

Grandad was raised during and right after the Great Depression. He knew the value of a dollar, and I think that stayed with him his entire life. He wisely lived beneath his paycheck. He was very creative and could finds ways to fix anything as efficiently and cheaply as possible. He knew how to make do with what he had, and he never failed to credit God for everything: from the food he was eating to the couch he was sitting on to the sun rising above the pines in his backyard. He lived very simply and he genuinely loved his life.

Being a writer, I'm often drawn to the grand, adventurous, heroic, dangerous stories. I often forget "the little things, the good deeds of everyday folk that keep the darkness at bay." Grandad taught me that adventure is relative. I often think that adventure is traveling to exotic new locales or saving villages from destruction or vanquishing a great evil. And then I get frustrated because nothing exciting ever happens to me. But that's a lie. Grandad found excitement and wonder in everything, so his entire life became an adventure. He found adventure in going to a Chinese buffet, or taking a walk through his farm, or going out to his garden. He loved his life, and he probably would chuckle from his comfortable, old chair at culture's definition for 'adventure' and 'success'.

That's not to say he didn't travel. When he was younger, he and Granny went on many mission trips. They smuggled Bibles into China, they built homes and schools in Africa, and ministered in Honduras. Though they were not called to be full-time missionaries, they had a heart and passion for furthering God's kingdom and helping people in need. Grandad and Granny, and later Grandad and Mimi, prayerfully and monetarily supported over twenty overseas missionaries. Grandad used his own resources to help those spreading God's word instead of making himself more "comfortable" by culture's standards.

Grandad was perfectly content without a smart phone, computer, Internet, or even a DVD player. He never judged anyone else for having these things, in fact, he'd curiously inquire about them and he liked to listen to my dad and brother talk about cool gadgets and the like. However, he just never felt like he personally had a need for those things. He'd watch the news and Jeopardy on his TV, and I'm pretty sure my uncle talked him into a cell phone for safety reasons. But other than that, he was content without many electronics. Contentment is something I struggle with. I could learn a lot from Grandad.

If Grandad had a fault, it was that he sometimes wouldn't follow instructions out of stubbornness. He'd make me a frozen pizza, and sometimes it would be perfect, other times it would be undercooked, and other times it looked like Smaug got hold of it. I guess Grandad just thought he knew better than the silly old pizza box on how to make pizza. He was very self-reliant, which is typically a good thing. Just not when it comes to frozen pizzas. XD

However, I also learned from him that self-reliance shouldn't turn into selfish pride. For decades, Grandad heated the downstairs of his house by hauling in wood and making a fire in an old-fashioned fireplace. Unfortunately, his back started aching and the arthritis in his hands hurt worse than usual, so he couldn't bring in wood anymore. If Grandad had been alone, I'm sure he would have simply put on an extra sweater and coat and not mentioned the wood problem to anyone. But because of Mimi, he had a nice, electronic heater installed with a remote control. He put her needs above his need to prove that he could do the firewood on his own. I love that.

Grandad was never afraid of growing old. In fact, I think he enjoyed it. He would casually mention his "old bones" or his "old muscles", and then chuckle as everybody jumped up to get him whatever he wanted, as if he were in on some hilarious joke the rest of us didn't know. Mimi would lovingly roll her eyes at him, but she would laugh too. I guess she knew what the joke was.

After the funeral, a cousin of my dad's came and talked to me and my sister. His name is Steve, and he told us this story: "I was at a Saturday dinner over at Nancy's house. I was wearing plaid shorts with a yellow polo. Your Grandad and Miss Liz arrived, and he was wearing plaid shorts with a yellow polo. He walked over to me and nudged me with his elbow. 'Hey,' he said, 'You know you and I are dressed alike.' 'Yes sir, I do know,' I replied. 'Well,' your Grandad went on to say, 'You know you're dressed like an eighty year old man, right?' I laughed and said, 'Yes sir, I do'."

Kara and I laughed because this was just so Grandad. And I knew about the plaid shorts and yellow polo Steve had been talking about. That might have been Grandad's favorite clothes since he wore it so much. Honestly, he might have just said that because he was a bit of a diva and didn't want someone else wearing 'his' outfit.

Steve went on to say, "I know it hurts a lot right now, but you'll always flashback to the time spent with your Grandaddy, and it'll hurt less and less. Twenty-five years from now, you'll be telling some story about Grandad and laughing. That's just how it is."

"Thank you," I replied quietly. What else could I say without making the tears come back?

Grandad was an all-around great guy, but the greatest thing about him was his fervent faith in Christ. There's a lot more I could tell about Grandad, and maybe I will twenty-five years from now when it hurts less. However, at the moment, all I want to say is that I so blessed to have known Grandad and I am absolutely honored and proud to be his granddaughter. I didn't get a chance to tell him that on earth, so I am looking forward to the day I can tell him that to his face when I see him again in heaven.