It's been a crazy week for me, since I had my last day of classes, graduation, and my formal (prom for all you Americans!). So I thought...

It's been a crazy week for me, since I had my last day of classes, graduation, and my formal (prom for all you Americans!). So I thought I might do a fun tag to calm myself down from all this week's excitement! Sara created this blog hop as a means for bloggers to chat about their favourites, and stretch the boundaries beyond 'reading' and 'writing' as answers! Victoria tagged me for this, so thank you!

1) Photography

When I see something I love, like a lit up ferris wheel against the coal black sky, or a new flower in bloom, or a stack of books, I'm always quick to pull out my phone for a snap. Or twenty. There's something about capturing a good angle and lighting of something beautiful that excites me! I don't post on instagram as often as I should, but here's my current feed:

2) Walks

I'm blessed to live in an area that has national parks nearby, with open trails for all to go on. I can also go for walks around my home without fear, to enjoy nature and get in some exercise for the day. Walks always help me unwind, and come back to my work more focused and energised!

3) Mint and chocolate

If it has mint and chocolate in it, I will eat it. Guaranteed. In my opinion, this classic combination cannot be beaten!

4) Bookshops

I know I was supposed to try and steer clear of reading and writing things, but I couldn't resist. Bookshops are my happy place! If I walk into one, it's very rarely that I will walk out without a new addition to my bookshelf. Browsing the latest titles, and the hidden gems, gives me a mix of fear and desire for the future of my own career.

5) Nature

Our God has made a beautiful world. I live in a bushy area (translation = area with a lot of Australian forest plants) and in a suburb filled with colourful gardens. As much as some birds scare me, we have plenty of visitors at our house bird-wise, and they always bring much amusement to my day. Like this little fellow below, who watched me through a window make chocolate cake:

6) Audiobooks

This is a new favourite for me, and perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself since I've only listened to a couple. But I've almost finished listening to "The Hunger Games" and wow, has it been fantastic! I love being able to draw or walk while I listen to it, and the narrator's voice brings a special element to the story. I'm eager to start on "The Raven Boys" audiobook soon!

7) Storms

I know some people are frightened of them, but, provided I'm inside, I love thunderstorms. Recently through my window I watched one approach, and was in awe of its grandeur and dangerous beauty. I jotted down what I saw (with a bit of fictional ending):

I watch the storm crawl in.
Blackened cotton suffocates the sky. A desperate white bunch flees with the wind, eager to escape their bitter cousins. The insects lift their warning toll, an alarm blaring across the bush, sending birds fluttering to nests and echidnas to caves.
Lightning splits the grey. A dark overhang of clouds cuts off its power, but for less than a stuttered heartbeat, the world flashes. Red first, like a searing ember. Then a pale wisp of colour, which hesitates between ash and roaring yellow.
Wind stirs the branches, and they bend and bow in hellos.
A flash. Then another.
The lighting bolts spasm to life, cracking the sky as if it's glass. The splinters rain down in the distance, cutting open the earth with rain. Beyond the trees, miniature towers and houses quiver under distant flashes. When the white blinds, their thousands of window lights, their twinkling of electricity, is diminished by the power of the bolt.
We cannot compete. We cannot even run.
So I stand with my feet planted in the hillside, watching the blackness roll in swathes of cold silk overhead. Red, white, yellow. Thunder moans underfoot.
And I smile.

8) Notebooks

Notebooks are, simply, amazing. I have more than I can count, and would never refuse a gift of one. They're blank canvas for the mind to pour out the imagination. Why wouldn't you love them?

9) Cimorelli and For King & Country

These are my favourite ever bands. (Technically they should be in separate categories, but sshhh.) Cimorelli is a group of sisters who have been singing and writing songs together for years, and they have such wonderful harmonies and energy! For King & Country's songs always come to me when I need them, and their skill with lyrics and beats is truly a gift from God.

10) Doodling

Every couple of afternoons, when I need to relax, I'll listen to an audiobook or watch a show, and doodle/draw. I can't draw realistic images to save myself, so most of the time I end up experimenting with lines, depth, and colour. Here's the latest doodle:

I tag... YOU! If you'd like to do this tag, please do! I'd love to see what your favourite things are!

What are some of your favourite things? Do we share any faves? Am I the only one who likes storms, haha?
Have a wonderful day! <3

Asking questions, more questions, then even more questions, is the best way to world-build, in my opinion! When you ask yourself questions, ...

Asking questions, more questions, then even more questions, is the best way to world-build, in my opinion! When you ask yourself questions, you go beyond the 'what' to find the 'why', the 'how', and so on. And those elements can make up a fantastic world!

In my latest installment of "Questions to Ask When..." I've brainstormed over seventy questions to ask yourself when creating fictional armies. Many speculative genres feature them, and having an intricate one that goes beyond cardboard cutouts for soldiers, can really make a world feel developed and fleshed out.

I am far from being a military expert, so these questions focus more on the culture, perceptions, and basics of an army than actual tactics used. Still, I hope you find it helpful!

1) What is their uniform? What kind of fabric is it made out of? Does the uniform differ according to rank, and if so, how? Are there other distinguishing factors of rank such as medals or patches? What kind of footwear do they wear? Is their uniform armor, or is that separate?

2) What is the army's insignia or flag? Is this worn on their uniform, or do flagbearers carry the flag into battles? What do the colours and symbols on it represent?

3) Who is at the head of the army? What are the different ranks, and what are their responsibilities? How much control do they have?

4) What is the recruitment process like? Is it by force, conscript, or choice? Does this differ depending on if the country is at peace or war? Where are the recruits trained; in a private academy, in the midst of battle, or somewhere else? How many recruits survive training?

5) What are the different sections of the army? Eg. calvary, infantry, artillery, etc. What are their numbers, approximately? How does this play into any warfare they engage in?

6) What is the army's reputation in the country/group of people they serve? Are they viewed as heroes, mercenaries, noble men and women, or villains? What has led to this view?

7) How is the army viewed by other countries and groups of people? Is it in a positive or negative light? Are there are common insults or derogatory nicknames for them?

8) Is the army considered active or inactive? How many times have they been at war, and for how many years/months? What are their most significant losses and wins?

9) How are the soldiers payed? Are they paid with their life, with gold, with land, or a cut of whatever they pillage when they conquer a territory? Is any of this money passed on to their family?

10) What mythology surrounds the army? Who are the long forgotten heroes the soldiers look up to, and the traitors whose names they curse? What tales of the army's battles or actions have been twisted and changed; how and why?

11) Are the soldiers able to contact their family and loved ones while on duty? If so, how is this done? Are there messengers whose job it is to pass letters and messages onto them? How is this changed if the soldiers can't read/write? Or is it done through magic, or some other way?

12) What weapons do the different ranks and regiments use? Is it individual, or based on their position in the army? Who produces these weapons, with what material, and to what quality? How does their choice of weapons help or hinder them in battle?

13) Are there awards or medals? Why, when, and to who are they awarded? Which ones are the most common, and which the rarest? What do they look like, and are there any extra rewards given when achieving this award/medal?

14) Are the soldiers both men and women, only men, or only women? Why is this the case? Are there any rules for relationships between soldiers? Are there any ever any internal tensions because of this?

15) What key rules and laws are there? Who enforces them? What punishments are there when these rules are broken? Are there any excuses or special cases that keep the punishments from being carried out, such as the age of the soldier?

16) What is the army culture like, as a whole, and within the ranks? What kind of language is used, and when they aren't fighting, how is the time passed? How do the soldiers have fun, or do they not have any at all? How are cowards treated? What values and traits are honoured, and which are scorned?

17) How can you move up in the ranks? Is movement between them based on achievements and merits, money, violence, or being favoured by a higher official?

18) What is the size of the army? Is it in the hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands? How does this impact what they eat, wear, and travel? Are they engaged in any projects outside of battle and protection?

19) Who funds the army? Is it the government, a monarch, a noble, or another individual? How does this impact who they fight against, and who the true leader of the army is? 

20) How long do soldiers usually stay in the army? Do they fight all their lives, only when there's conflict, a dozen years, or something else? Will they receive compensation if they're injured, or when they retire? 

More in the "Questions to Ask When..." series:

Cities      History      Celebrations      Magic
Characters (Backstory, and Interview)
Schools      Monarchies      Religion (Part 1 and Part 2)     

Tell me about some fictional armies in your stories! Who/what do they fight for? What is their uniform like?
Have a wonderful day and best wishes with your writing! <3

There are many a gravestone scattered here, Covered in weeds and lost thrice a year. But don't be frightened, on you come. You're...

There are many a gravestone scattered here,
Covered in weeds and lost thrice a year.
But don't be frightened, on you come.
You're here for the tour, that's for sure;
Even dead things have a strange allure.

On your left, are stories never told.
Angels, black carvings, and midnight old.
Weave between the marble and the stone
For here on your right, are dusty tales.
And now for their names, I will unveil.

If you made it through that rough amateur attempt at a poem, well done! What I was trying to introduce, was this post. The other day I was reflecting back on the stories that I used to talk about all the time on this blog, and how many of them have now been abandoned or neglected. So today I'll be explaining what happened with each of them!

Draped in Deception // Chained in Cunning
What it was about: A failed warrior goes undercover in an enemy country, with the task of assassinating all the royals. But when she grows closer to the prince than she ever dared, she finds herself torn between love and duty in a world where betrayal is as common as the stars.

Why it was set aside: I stopped working on it the beginning of 2017, after receiving some negative feedback on an opening I so loved. I at first intended to go back to it, but when I reflected on the story, I realized that it wasn't the right novel to pursue publishing with.

Forever dead, or just temporarily?: I'm not sure! I'd be interested in trying to rewrite it, perhaps in a few years, when I have more maturity or life experience to be able to pull off the romance in it. I may use the world in another story sometime!

The Safe-House
What it was about: A house where all criminals in fear of their lives could flee, for guaranteed protection. But when those inside it begin to be murdered, one by one, it's up to the new receptionist to put an end to the killings. 

Why it was set aside: I've never written a murder mystery before, so to go in without any plan or outline ended up being my downfall. I had no idea what to write next, and never read enough in the genre to write with confidence.

Forever dead, or just temporarily? Just temporary! I'm hoping to come back to this story one day, when I've done my research.

Splintered Crown
What it was about: A boy trained all his life to be king is slighted the throne in favour of his younger sister. When his father, the king, tries to have him killed, he flees for his life. But a king without a throne is not a king at all.

Why it was set aside: Once again, I didn't plan. I had a lot of worldbuilding for the story, but lacked a general overall story goal. I really do love a lot of the characters though. 

Forever dead, or just temporarily? I'm considering writing this story again, in a trilogy that follows different important members throughout the world's history. So this book would either be the second or third in the series!

Seven Queens
What it was about: When Rokland is conquered overnight, and the royals' heads roll, the last thing its citizens expect is a chance to win their freedom back. But the conquering nation's queen offers it; if the commoner girl she puts on their throne can rule better than any other queen, then she'll win the crown and freedom permanently.

Why it was set aside: This story deals with a lot of heavy and dark themes. I started writing it a few years ago, but when I realized how deep I would have to go into my main character's memories to properly write, I knew I had to take a step back.

Forever dead, or just temporarily? Most likely forever dead, or for at least a number of years. I love the concept, especially how it ties in with a board game, but I might need to either change the main character, find a way to deal with the themes, or rejig the plot first.

Of Traitors and Tricksters
What it was about: In an Ancient Egyptian inspired world, a servant has killed his master. But when he's marched up to the execution block, an unknown magic within him rises, and lets him live another day.

Why it was set aside: I wrote a fair chunk of this one's first draft, but I lacked clear direction. I think part of this might have been because I hadn't built up the world enough for new conflicts to come easily or make sense.

Forever dead, or just temporarily? Only temporary! I read through some of it the other day, and I really do love this story and especially the main character. I hope to worldbuild, plan, and then finish off the first draft of the story as soon as I can.

What stories have you abandoned, and why? Any suggestions on how to improve my poetry? What stories have you never abandoned?
Have a wonderful day! <3

There are plenty of writing resources and tips out there. So much so, that the sheer number of them can be completely overwhelming! I've...

There are plenty of writing resources and tips out there. So much so, that the sheer number of them can be completely overwhelming! I've spent many hours browsing blogs and sites, reading articles, or listening to podcasts. Though I've definitely not even scratched the surface, in case you'd like a shortcut, or are eager to find some new resources, today I've pulled together a list of my top five resources for writers. Let's jump in!

1) The Creative Penn Podcast

A few months ago I stumbled upon Joanna Penn's podcast, and instantly fell in love with it. She starts off each episode discussing the latest happenings in the publishing and wider business world, and occasionally discussing the future of writing in a technological world. Then she has an interview with an esteemed and experienced guest.

Joanna has a self-publishing focus, but her advice on marketing, author branding, and global perspective is invaluable. I have learnt so much from her and her guests. I really can't recommend the podcast enough! If you ever intend to publish, either self-pub or traditional, go listen! Right now!

2) The Emotion Thesaurus

Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi wrote this wonderful guide, and if you struggle to think of new facial expressions, body postures, or ways of describing emotions, this is incredibly helpful. I noticed myself sticking to the same ways of describing anger, joy, surprise, etc. but with this book's help, I've widened my choices significantly.

There are seventy-five emotions in the book, and each one is accompanied by body language options, mental and physical responses, and handy tips. It's great to have on hand as you write!

3) Writing Excuses Podcast

Though much shorter than The Creative Penn, the Writing Excuses' podcast is always a delight to listen to, and informative. It's mainly craft focused, and a group of experienced, published, and famous authors gather around to discuss a different aspect of the craft each week. Having so many different authors gives new perspectives, and different tips and tricks to experiment with.

Besides being fun and quick witted, the team also recommend a book each week that does well at whatever's being discussed (in case your TBR wasn't already long enough), and gives "homework". It's optional, of course, but a great chance to stretch your creative muscles and apply what you've learned.

4) Nelson Literary Agency Newsletters

As far as I know, it's not very common for literary agencies to host blogs and send out newsletters. (You can sign up for it at the bottom of their home page.) But this one is a goldmine, especially for those who are interested in traditional publishing, or keeping tabs on the direction of the publishing industry.

In each newsletter, two articles from literary agents discuss anything and everything to do with writing and publishing, from what they look for in a fantasy manuscript, to how to negotiate contracts. It only comes out once a month, and it's always a pleasant surprise to see it in my inbox!

5) Story Embers Blog

Story Embers is a new organisation that has a rich, diverse, and passionate group of Christian writers and artists. They have wonderful communities, and also a fantastic blog! They discuss topics from how to enliven your descriptions, to how to kill characters without being assaulted by readers, to pieces on what Jane Austen did right in her books.

More than that, they have a Christian perspective that many writing blogs don't have. In many posts I've read they bring in Bible verses, if applicable, and discuss the topic in relation to our relationship with Him. Their blog is a great read!

What are your favourite resources for writers? Share them with me! Do we share any favourites?
Have a wonderful day! <3

If you offer me a fantasy book, I'll snatch it up immediately. I’ve always adored the genre, from epic fantasy, to the warm kind that ma...

If you offer me a fantasy book, I'll snatch it up immediately. I’ve always adored the genre, from epic fantasy, to the warm kind that makes you feel as if you are visiting an old friend. ‘The Crystal Tree’ by Imogen Elvis is one of the latter. It has the perfect amount of whimsy, adventure, and magic! Imogen is one of the few writers I’ve met in ‘real life’ and her book is just as lovely as she is! 

Here’s what the book's about:

Briar has finally managed to rebuild her life after losing her parents to the fire that destroyed her entire village. But when the magic-wielding Nameless Ones kidnap her sister, Briar is forced to leave the safety of her new home to save her.

With the help of some travellers on a mission of their own, and her own magic, Briar chases after the Nameless Ones, only to find that her sister’s capture is a small part in a dark plot that threatens the safety of the entire country.

A dark magician has risen, and the legendary Crystal Tree might be the only thing that can save them now.

(Note: I received an ARC from the author, in exchange for an honest review.)

- At the beginning I was afraid instalove would arrive, since Briar bumped into a mysterious young man also looking to escape. I was bracing myself for it. But to my relief, there was none! I was pleased to see a deep, caring, and sacrificial friendship emerge between them, and the others on their journey. So for those of you looking for a fantasy read without romance, this is the one for you!

- There were a number of twists in the story! They were unexpected, yet made sense, which are the best kind of plot twists. Though I had an inkling that something was up with one of the characters, it pleased me that I didn’t guess the whole twist.

- It was also beautiful to see Briar grow, and her journey. I especially loved her words during the climax! The bravery she showed was amazing. Her character is one a lot of readers will be able to connect to, and want to befriend, from her loyalty to her sister, to the guilt she harbours from past mistakes, to her struggle to use her magic for good.

- Kane was my favourite character! He has such a good and honest heart, which I admire him for. Though sometimes his good heart got in the way of making progress towards their goal, it was hard for me or other characters to be mad at him because of it.

- A few of the world-building elements could have been clarified. This might have been my fault for forgetting, since school forced me to read in small chunks with time in between. But there were a few parts in regards to the magic, that seemed important at the climax, and not being sure of their purpose lessened the impact of it a little for me. I hope to see more of the world in the next books!

- I would have preferred to see a little more of the characters’ personality infused into the dialogue. At times it felt a bit stiff to me, and it would be hard to know who would be speaking without the dialogue tags. It’s certainly not a deal breaker in damaging my enjoyment of the book, however.

Overall, it's a beautiful tale of sisters, friendship, magic, and adventure!
 Four stars!

Have you read ‘The Crystal Tree’? What books have you been reading lately; are there any I must pick up immediately?
Have a wonderful day! <3