Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Half-Asleep, Half-Awake, and Emotional

I posted something on Facebook the other day when I was half-asleep.

Usually my Facebook posts evolve like this:

     I write something

     I think about whether it could be taken the wrong way

     I edit it to make it clearer

     I think about who is going to read my post and what they might think about it

     I edit it again

     I think about whether or not anybody out there in cyberspace really needs to know this

     I delete the post without publishing it

     The end

But this time, I just wrote.  I wrote because I was exhausted.  I wrote because I had seen some crazy things and needed to let a little bit of it out.  And I wrote exactly what was on my mind.

And, then, because I was too exhausted to care what people thought about it and whether or not they really needed to know it, I posted it.

And I got a lot of responses back from people.  It meant something to them because it meant something to me.

My brother gave me this advice: Write when you are half-asleep...and half-awake...and emotional.  If that is what it takes to let go of your fears and inhibitions, if that is when you tap into the deeper thoughts that we as humans related to, then write at those times. 

Just let go and write.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Last Day to Submit Story to Rooglewood

Everyone who is entering the Rooglewood contest this year has already submitted their entry forms.  And, in a couple days, all the stories that people have been working on for this contest must be submitted.
     My story is already in, but this will still be an exciting day for me.  I feel like the judging begins in earnest now that all the contestants have arrived.  I can picture my little story making the rounds through the various levels of readers, piled into Word Document folders along with many other brilliant stories.  It's a fun thought, and I look forward to March 1st when the 5 winners are announced.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Showing Abstract Words

He will feed His flock like a shepherd...He will gather lambs in His arms....

     My siblings and I were talking about language.  My brother mentioned some Star Trek episode where the universal language interpreter machine (a machine designed to quickly learn a new language within a few minutes of listening to it) was unable to make sense of a new language.  It was able to come up with words, but the arrangement of words didn't mean anything to the crew.
     In the end, they found out that every abstract word (failure, anger, friendship) was described by a historical reference.  Essentially, the only way to understand this new language was to first know their history. 
     We could do this, too.  For example, instead of saying "Let's be friends" maybe we would say "David and Jonathan."  Or instead of saying "defeat" maybe we would say "the people of Ai at the second battle with the Israelites."
     The more I thought about it, the more I thought of how we DO do this.  We make a lot of references in our language that don't make literal sense or that would not make sense if you didn't understand the story of where that "saying" came from.
     [But exploring that train of thought belongs in another post.  I wanted to talk about what I thought about AFTER I thought that through.]
     My brother went from that into a comparison of how that was similar to parables...which led me to a pretty cool idea:

Jesus liked to show instead of tell.

     In other words, he could have just said "God cares about you," but instead He told a story about a Shepherd who left 99 good sheep in the fold and went out to find the one who was lost.

    And maybe our abstract words are not as important as the stories behind them after all.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Snippets from 100for100: Week Fourteen

     I have really good news...
     ...I think.
     It will depend on how it works out.
     I am rewriting Broken Clouds.
     So, if you have been following my blog, you know that I have been writing Broken Clouds in a nonchronological fashion, jumping around to write the scene that strikes my fancy.  You also know that I chopped my scenes up and spread them out on a table to sort them out recently (a great idea, by the way).  And you further know that I had a big, important backstory that I didn't know how to fit into the story.
     I pulled it apart and took a look at it and now I am putting it back together.  With the richness of the scenes I already wrote under my belt, I am starting at the beginning.  For me, there is so much to weave and so much to build upon from one scene to the next, and so much of it appears as I write and not before; I lose some of that when I don't write from front to back. 
     I wrote an outline that was a little richer than the ones I used to use for a research paper, and I made it all the way to the end.  And then I started writing from the beginning.
     As a result, I have more snippets to share.  Here they are:
     He was asleep.  His eyelashes were still wet from his tears.  But his face was peaceful.  In his dreams, he found rest…at least, when he was in my arms.  
     The bleak walls of the orphanage glided by me as I walked down the hall and up the stairs toward my own room.  I passed by a window and the sunlight hit my face, reminding me that this was not a midnight nightmare but as real and tangible as the little boy in my arms.  I shuddered.

“It’s a bad breach.  We should have moved her before she made a scene.”


Tory and I locked eyes for a moment. When she spoke, all of the bitterness and accusation was gone from her tone. “There’s nothing you can do, Kelsey,” she said.

It’s only for a little while,” she said.  “We are working on a really nice place for you, Kelsey.” 

     The problem with the system is that the real enemy is always something you can’t see.  It’s rules, regulations, red tape, protocol, the people at headquarters, secret powers that throw obstacles in your way.  And as hard as I kicked against it, I never felt that my blows connected with anything solid.  It was too far out of my reach.

He pulled me down until I was kneeling in front of him.  His sympathetic little face felt like a balm to my frustration.  Then he reached out and touched my dry cheeks.  “It’s okay to cry sometimes,” he said softly.


...Maybe they weren’t as dead as I thought. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

If My Book Were a Movie...

Hello everyone! I'm Emily Ann Putzke, author of It Took a War. I'm honored to be guest posting on The Pen of a Ready Writer this morning!

I think every writer likes to dream about their book being turned into a movie. (I'm not the only one, right?!) Well, while I'm dreaming, I can pick some amazing actors and actresses to play my characters. If It Took a War were a movie, here's my dream cast.

Joe Roberts
Age: 16-18 through the span of the book.
Appearance: Brown, curly hair. Brown eyes. Smirks more than he smiles. Tall.
Personality: Adventurous. Loyal friend, brother, and son. Patriotic. Brave.

I think Jeremy Irvine would do a great job portraying Joe. I've only see him in War Horse, but he was really great! He just needs curlier hair and he's good to go.

Coralie Roberts:
Age: 13-15 through the span of the book.
Appearance: Long, brown hair. Big brown eyes. Sweet smile.
Personality: Stubborn. Loving. Tries to act like a proper young lady, though it is hard for her.

Lucy Boynton was so wonderful playing Esther in Copperhead, which was a Civil War film, so I'm sure she could pull off Coralie!

Isabelle Roberts
Age: 4-6 through span of book.
Appearance: Brown, curly hair. A messy face and sticky hands are usual for her. Blue eyes. Dimple.
Personally: Full of life. Sweet. Energetic. Smiley.

Now, Isabelle was hard to find an actress for. I couldn't find a child actress who fit her exact description. But I decided that Annie-Rose Buckley could play the part, though she looks older than Isabelle, but what can ya do? Also, she just needs darker hair.

Lucas Holmes
Age: 18-20 through span of book.
Appearance: Dark brown hair. Deep brown eyes. Always scowls.
Personality: Bitter. Rouge. Angry. Hurt.

Skander Keynes could pull off a convincing Lucas, although he'll have to loose the British accent.

Genevieve Roberts (Mama)
Age: 37-39 through span of book.
Appearance: Dark brown hair. Gentle, brown eyes. Loving smile. Short. Youthful.
Personality: Gentle hearted. Loving. Sweet. Motherly.

Just mentally crop Stonewall Jackson out of this picture, and you have Mama! Kali Rocha would be great...although I've never seen her in anything besides Gods and Generals.

It would be a pretty epic movie to have all these actors and actresses together, making my book into a movie. It's fun to dream. =)

About My Book:
1861 - Sixteen year old Joe Roberts leads a mundane life as far as he’s concerned. His world spins in the same circle each day: working at his family’s store, taking his sisters on boyish escapades and bickering with his rogue of a cousin, Lucas. Joe can’t understand why his mother allows Lucas to live and work with them after all the pain he caused their family. When war is declared, Joe is quick to join up and become a soldier with the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteers, but war is nothing like he imagined. To make matters worse, he must endure having Lucas in the same regiment. Can Joe put the pain of the past behind him? Forgiveness is easier said than done.

You can purchase It Took a War through:

Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle)

Entries are only open to people in the U.S.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Emily Ann Putzke is a 19 year old Christian, homeschool graduate and history lover. Besides writing historical fiction, she enjoys photography (especially photographing her nieces and nephew), reading, spending time with her family, Civil War reenacting, traveling and a good cup of coffee. She resides in New York State where she drinks in the beautiful autumns and tries to endure the long winters.

Visit her online:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Upcoming Blog Visit from an Author

Hello!  I am popping in quickly to make an announcement.  On Thursday, I will be hosting Emily Ann Putzke on my blog to talk about her new book, It Took A War.  I haven't read it yet, but it looks like a good book and I love her cover!
Here are some places where you can see more about her book...while you wait for Thursday!

Amazon Link:
Book trailer:

Rooglewood Entry Deadline

If you are entering the Rooglewood contest, today is the last day you can turn in your entry forms.  The story itself doesn't need to be submitted until the 31st, but today you should make sure you have entered.  Here is the link to Rooglewood's page with the rules for the contest and the entry form:

On a separate note, I was looking at Anne Elisabeth Stengl's blog last week, and I found a mention of the contest and its many entries.  Anne said,
"I've been so excited to see the stories coming in. So many great titles, full of intrigue! I'm looking forward to January when I'll be reading the stories that go on to the second round (though I rather suspect I'll end up peeking at all of them). I've had excited responses from several of the contest readers so far, which definitely makes me that much more eager."
This makes me wish I could read all the entries, too.  :)  And it is fun to think that my story is getting read now, that A.E.S. might end up reading mine (whether it makes it to round two or not), that my story might make it to round two in January, and all the other things that a dreamer can dream about her work.

March 1st is less than 11 weeks away!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Snippets from 100for100: Week Thirteen

     This is going to sound lame, and I apologize.  But this week in Broken Clouds has mostly been little one-liner edits that are not amazing enough to list as snippets.  So, instead, I am going to refer you to my post earlier this week that I did for Chatterbox. 

Ladies and gentlemen...

Wrestling a Fog

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Like Wrestling a Fog

via Pinterest
“I want to know who I am,” I blurted.  Tears sprang to my eyes and my voice caught in my throat, surprising me.  I hadn’t realized how deep and painful that wound was.  I thought I was doing fine in my pursuit of normalcy.  Where did the tears come from?

I sneaked a glance at Brant.  He leaned against the tree, arms folded across his chest, and stared at the ground, listening to me with a sympathetic ear.

Like cracking a dam, once I had started talking, I couldn’t stop.  “I want to know if my name is Ilona or Kelsey.”  Tears were coming faster now.  “I want to know why I am always shifted from place to place, why mysterious people seem to know me, why I’m never allowed to be adopted.”  The tears were falling on my hands, splashing and making wet spots on my pants.  Brant hadn’t moved.  “I want to know who my parents were...”  My voice caught and I drew in a long, shaky breath.  “…and how they died.”

I was out and out crying now.  I didn’t even know if my words were intelligible, but still they came.  “I want to know why Jeremy died.”  A sense of desperation came over me and my voice rose to a scream.  “Why?  WHY?”  I pounded my fists into my legs, feeling relief with the pain, and screamed again.  The agony inside my chest was almost unbearable.  No wonder I hadn’t let myself say these things before.  The weight of them was going to crush me.  I slid from the swing and sank onto the ground, sobbing.  Never had I felt so helpless.  It was me against the unseen forces of the universe – an impossible match, like wrestling with a fog.  “Jeremy!”  His name wrenched from my throat.  I dug my fingers into the grass and clutched the ground like a drowning man.  Through my tears, I looked up and saw Brant.  He still leaned against the tree with his arms folded, but he was looking at me.

And there were tears in his eyes, too.

I was not alone.  I screamed again, eyes locked with Brant’s, just for the sake of hearing myself.  Once again, his eyes were like calm pools, cooling the heat of my anguish.  The tension and fear drained from my body.  I leaned forward until my forehead rested on the grass, and I cried.  I cried all the tears I had been hiding for months…years.  I cried until I could cry no more.
I don't know how long I cried.  But, as my sobs subsided, I took a deep breath and opened my eyes.  For a moment, I stared into the dirt and grass, letting the waves of relief and sorrow pour over me.  I felt limp, like a newborn kitten who hasn't yet decided to breath.

  It was then that I heard Brant's voice, close by my head.  His words were soft and reassuring.  “You’re going to be okay,” he said.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Seasons: A Layer of Your Story

     What season of the year does your book start?

     Hadn't thought about it?  I understand.  I used to forget about seasons, too.  But then I discovered how much a season adds depth and realism to your story.  In my stories, there is always some connection with the outdoors -- a breeze through an open window, a dash across the driveway into his car, a stroll through a meadow, a hideout in the woods.  In all of these, the story feels that much more alive when I can include the feel of the season.

     For example, see how this scene changes:

Original scene:
     A breeze gusted through the open window, toying with the rich, red curtains.  Arielle lifted her head and inhaled the scents.  But her heart squeezed painfully at the absence of the sea.  There was not a single trace of salt on the wind to remind her of home.

cherry tree I'm planning to line my fairly long driveway with a whole bunch of these trees.

     An early breeze gusted through the open window, toying with the rich, red curtains.  Arielle lifted her head and inhaled the scents - fresh-plowed earth, spring blossoms, and melting snow.  But her heart squeezed painfully at the absence of the sea. There was not a single trace of salt on the wind to remind her of home.

Plan to put some kind of flowers on my back hill to naturalize. Don't want it to grow up with trees.

     A warm breeze gusted through the open window, playing with the rich, red curtains. Arielle lifted her head and inhaled the scents - roses and peonies, fresh-cut grass now drying in the fields, and warm-baked earth. But her heart squeezed painfully at the absence of the sea. There was not a single trace of salt on the wind to remind her of home.

Sure do wish we would get some red in the turning leaves here..... just have to make do with fabulous photos like this!

     A crisp, cool breeze gusted through the open window, making the rich, red curtains quiver. Arielle lifted her head and inhaled the scents - sweet harvests, musty leaves, and damp earth. But her heart squeezed painfully at the absence of the sea. There was not a single trace of salt on the wind to remind her of home.

I must have a wizard's lamp amongst my lamps and torches, yet goodness knows what will meet with any person when they come across it. Seriously.

     A cold wind gusted through the open window, sending the rich, red curtains into a frigid dance. Arielle lifted her head and breathed in the smell of icy snow and burning wood. But her heart squeezed painfully at the absence of the sea. There was not a single trace of salt on the wind to remind her of home.

✯Frost touching the leaves and flowers bedazzles them in diamonds for a little while and they go out in a blaze of glory...

     My point here is not to compare the seasons, of course.  Instead, I wanted to show you that, whatever season you choose, it will enrich your descriptions and make the scenes even more real to your readers.
     Try it.  I bet you can do even better than I did.  :)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Snippets from 100for100: Week Twelve

     Trudy was just behind me.  “Don’t hold back,” she murmured, just loud enough for me to hear.  “If you perform well in the PE games, you have a chance of making one of the varsity teams.  Otherwise, you get stuck in JV.”
     Like I cared.


     I glanced around for the black-haired girl.  She was on the side-lines, whispering to one of the boys.  April was at her elbow, listening to every word.  Good riddance.
     The boy on the other team took off like an Olympian, but the boy on my team took the baton and began to slowly limp toward the next station.  Great.  We had a cripple on our team.  I rolled my eyes.
     One of the homeless men looked ancient.  His pale, watery eyes seemed to watch the race without seeing it.  Poor old guy.
     I cut across the cafeteria and headed straight for the bathrooms.  I pushed my hand against the metal plate, shoving the door open as I stepped inside.  The door banged behind me, and I went to the sink.
     My face stared back at me, slightly pale.
     Maybe it wasn’t Robert.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Wrestling with a Backstory

Dear Readers,
     I am Kelsey Harpman, a character in Broken Clouds.  I am writing to you today in hopes of gaining your insight in the art of storycrafting.
    Some time ago, my author sat down and penned my backstory.  I think my backstory is important to the tale, as it will eventually help solve mysteries that have clouded my past for 8 years.  But now, my author does not know what to do with the mini-book we created.
     She was very proud of how she showed my past life.  I suggested she stick the entire mini-book into the story somewhere, but she says it is too long to so easily dispose of it.  She's afraid readers will be bored with a long flashback.  I suggested she start the book she can include the backstory at the beginning...but she sticks her chin out stubbornly and says she likes where the book starts already, thank you very much.  Grrr.  I suggested she turn it into a prologue.  She thinks that would ruin the suspense.
     I told her she should chop the backstory up into tiny pieces and sew them through the book.  I also told her she could get off her "show-don't-tell" soapbox for the backstory.  And now she's growling...or maybe she's groaning.  Oh, look...there she goes crawling under the table.  <sigh>
     So, Readers, maybe you have some advice for her?  Because I'm done with giving tips for a while.  I'm hoping that you have experience to share from your own research in the art of storycrafting, and that she will listen to you better than she listened to me.  She's going to have to do Something, whether she wants to or not -- even if it is something she already spurned.  Thank you to one and all, in advance, for your help.
Kelsey Harpman

Monday, December 1, 2014

Deciphering the Code

     So I've been working on Broken Clouds in pieces, writing scenes as they strike my fancy.  But there's one problem...I'm still a little bit of a pantser.
     Plotters and pantsers are the two extremes of writing approaches.  Plotters are those that plan the entire story before starting to write.  Pantsters (from the expression "seat of the pants") tend to write the story, without previous planning, and see where it takes them.  Most people are a mix of the two extremes.
     I thought I had plotted this one out fairly well, but there are elements to the story (and even an unexpected character or two) that didn't show up until I started writing...Which meant I had a bunch of disjointed scenes that probably weren't even in the right order.
     It was my hope that I would be able to sort all of that out on my Word document.  After all, that's what copy and paste are for, right?  But it didn't work.  I needed to be able to see everything at once.

     So, this is what I did.  I printed it out and chopped the scenes up.  Now I can play with the order, spinning them around to see what would be most effective.  I can also scribble notes in the margins, changing the scenes to include more layers of my plot and making sure they flow from one to the next.  It really does make it easier to get myself out of this mess I created -- plus, it makes me feel like a professional.  :)
     As a fun side note, my dad came in as I was busily sorting and asked me if I was deciphering a secret code.
     "Why, yes, I am," I said, thinking quickly.  "If I solve it, I become a famous author, and if not, my story drops into oblivion."
     Not a bad analogy, if I do say so myself.