July 11, 2017

the oxford hymn

I had the unbelievable privilege of attending the Oxford Creative Writing Master Class in April. Along with eight other writers, I walked the streets and surrounding areas of the oldest university in Britain. My soul loves stories, and every building and statue had one to tell. By the end of our eight-day jaunt, I'd come away filled with so much more knowledge of the writing craft and awe of God's grace and majesty, not to mention the blessing of new friendships along the way.

Rather than just telling you more about it, my mind decided to be all mysterious and spit out a poem instead.

. . .

the goodbye of familiar things
wakens both joy and uncertainty.
longing creates
anticipation awaits
the magic of a new journey.

though plans shift beneath my feet,
excitement for adventure takes the seat.
through paths uncharted
the course now started,
evermore on God do i lean.

new faces and new places alike
replace my fear with emphatic delight.
with reverence
i sit entranced,
caught by the moments in between.

our heroes look down from their walls,
while the air of martyrs yet fills the halls.
the stones do speak,
these beams to seek,
to tell us of their stories.

i walk as one does in any century;
alleyways and gateways hold time for me.
for these spires
no day expires
they stand witness as long as need be.

yet even beyond quads and gardens i see
the created substance of no material thing.
interwoven mystery
throughout history
hangs as a providential tapestry.

for the hills and fields i'll forever long,
the woodland path an eruption of song.
a hymn of glory
for the ultimate story
written by words with no ending.

from the moment i beheld this country
i knew i didn't deserve what i'd seen.
could i ever write
without sounding trite
of the poetry of my feelings??

what does one do at the end of journeying
but purpose to live in light of what they've seen?
this new reflection
of my inaction
bids goodbye to familiar things.

- yours truly

April 10, 2017

welcome to my world

What if you could time travel? What are some eras and events you've always wished you could experience for yourself? What would you give for that opportunity? (Forget for a moment that entering a wormhole would result in instantaneous death.)

Enter the world of my sci-fi novel. The following questions are from the Beautiful Books linkup from a while ago, modified with some of my own questions I needed to answer. 

What is the title of your novel?

The Forerunner

What is your novel’s logline?

The daughter of time travelling historians must find a way to restore the family name. Catching time travel’s most wanted criminal seems a good place to start.

What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

I don’t even know. I just recently rediscovered a napkin with the note, What if time travel was possible?!?! Where and when would I go if I only had one chance to travel back in time? I don’t remember what prompted this thought, only that I was sitting in the grocery store parking lot waiting on my mom and got so excited about the idea I grabbed the napkin so I wouldn’t forget it.

I've tweaked and added and overhauled it now for over six years, so it doesn't remotely resemble what it was when I started.

Describe what your novel is about!

Well, there's this family of time travellers, and then there's this whole society of time travellers, and then there's a lot of politics and dissension in the time travel community over how things should be handled, then there's quite a bit of mishandling of the things until before you know it the history of the world is at stake (which isn't at all cliché for a time travel plot). Also, a camera named Lyle, evil antique collectors, and a race to kill everyone’s grandfathers.

What is your book’s aesthetic?

Low-key sci-fi. Academia. Cameras. Organized chaos. Disgruntled British professors. 

Introduce us to each of your characters!

Just a few, because six years of plotting has a tendency to expand the dramatis personæ beyond logical proportions.

Morgan Anderson
Avid photographer. Undergraduate at Providence College. Student Traveller.

At seventeen, she’s the youngest student of the Historical Exploration Agency (and technically an underage agent). Despite her enthusiasm and energy for the cause, very few of her superiors take her seriously and feel she is more of a liability than anything—something Morgan unfortunately confirms in their minds after several of her inventions wreak havoc.

Daniel Anderson
Inventor. Traveller.

The middle Anderson child, he’s the glue that binds the siblings together. He’s Morgan’s best friend, and the two are never not scheming together.

Gregory Lyle
Retired professor of philosophy. Author of history texts. Traveller.

Lyle is the rain on Morgan’s parade, and the “F” on most of her grades. He is the namesake for Morgan’s camera, due to his proclivity for despising the sound of the lens shutter and her greatest opponent for photojournalism of history. He loves using pithy lines, and often pauses for dramatic effect. His and Morgan’s dynamic is my favourite to write.

Christopher Swift
Diplomat for THE Agency. Traveller.

The traveller of the community who usually disagrees with his father and is usually right, but no one listens to him since Richard Swift is the modern legend of Time Travel. Christopher believes he bears the responsibility of making the world a better place, and time travel is the means for achieving that. 

How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)

1.      A considerable amount of head-banging occurs. 

2.      I create a rough outline and try to play as many scenes as possible through my head like a movie (it helps writing the dialogue go more smoothly). This step either takes a few days or six years. There is no in between. 

3.      Research happens throughout the process, often causing me to revert to step 1.

4.      Theoretically, I get past the plotting stage and write.

What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

Writing Morgan’s character. Exploring the time travel community. Having an excuse to research time periods.

List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

Providence, a fictitious college town in Northern England, and HQ of The Historical Exploration Agency. 

1760s North Carolina. 

1940s Edinburgh.

What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

Morgan’s goal is to graduate from training in order to become a licensed Traveller and photojournalist. The only problem: the time travel community believes travelling + personal technology is synonymous with sure and swift doom.

How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

She makes a stand for Truth, even paying the price for that conviction. For the first time she experiences loss, grief, and the gnawing ache for revenge. She learns to take responsibility for her actions, and while she may not trust the Powers that Be, she learns to respect them.

What’s your first sentence?

I could say my calculations were fairly accurate, or that we ended up in the same general part of the U.S. that we needed to be in, but that would be a lie.

What are your book’s themes? How do you want your readers to feel when the story is over?

Truth Wins. Family. Man vs. Technology (heh). Good vs. Evil (but of course). 

I hope readers come away with a greater appreciation for history, and how critical it is that we preserve accurate history. I also kinda/sorta want them to hate me for the cliffhanger. 

July 30, 2016

travels | europe pt. 2

I finally got the last of my gazillion photos from this trip sorted,  so moving right along...

We said our goodbyes to the happy couple and their families in Bavaria and drove down to Ravensburg, Germany with my great-aunt and -uncle, staying in their two hundred-year-old apartment for a couple days. Their landlord lives in a seventeenth century house adjacent to them, which was decidedly reminiscent of the Burrow + a fairytale cottage. I am also 120% sure I could get used to writing books there in that gloriously overgrown garden. 

We took a day trip to Lake Constance, where we walked along the lakeside, braced ourselves against strong, freezing winds, warmed ourselves with huge mugs of tea...and then ate gelato. 

Next stop: Interlaken, Switzerland. We survived driving our rental car on the autobahns for the first time, which surprised me for some reason. I had prepared myself for a traumatizing experience. The view from our hotel was gorgeous, as was pretty much every other view we saw while in the Alps. 

Okay, can we talk about this view?? This was taken near Interlaken, and it's my favourite shot from the whole trip. My grandparents and I had just come down from the cable car after experiencing a blizzard further up the mountain, and I'd thought my day couldn't get any better. Well, this made it exceedingly better, and after weeks I still scroll through my pictures to stare at it. Take me back!!

"Freaking out" is probably an understatement. I kept running out into the snow to get pictures and stand with my hands outstretched and attempting to look up into the swirling flakes. After running outside for the fourth or fifth time, I started getting strange looks from other tourists, but who cares?? This Texan was going to enjoy every freezing second of it! Even ending up soaking wet in 15 degree weather didn't bother me too much...

Our stay high up in the mountains came to an end, and we motored our way to Geneva. Our first sight to see was St. Pierre's Cathedral, where John Calvin preached. It was built, layer on top of layer, over a thousand years, and it's impossible to capture the full scale of it in one photograph. We got to go up into the bell tower and get a grand view of the city, as well as under the church to see the excavations. 

The Reformation Wall was another site I was excited to visit. It spans the length of a city park and honours the work of several Reformers and Christian heroes, among them these four: John Calvin, William Farel, Theodore Beza, and John Knox.

After Geneva, we drove to Venice, where more unexpected adventures awaited us. Upon going through the ordeal of parking our car in one of the only parking garages in the city (which was hazardous), we realized that our hotel (and St. Mark's Square) was on the complete opposite end of the island. We didn't realize this fact until we walked a good twenty minutes following signs to St. Mark's. I think it's safe to say we navigated around more bridges, stairs, and alleyways than most tourists bargain for, and once we got to St. Mark's it was almost more difficult to navigate through the teeming crowds of people. My grandparents weren't very amused, but I couldn't help finding the whole thing hilarious. It's memories like those that stay with you forever. 

After staying the night in Venice, we finished up what little touring we had left after the previous eventful day and began our drive back into Germany and Neuschwanstein Castle. It was easily the most elaborate and ornately diverse castle I'd ever been in, and absolutely worth the out-of-the-way trip for it. 

I'm not going to lie, I cried on most of our drives. I still can't fathom how insanely beautiful this world is. The only thing that made driving through the Alps better was driving through the Alps and listening to Audiomachine while doing it. The Tree of Life soundtrack was especially epic, and every time I hear those songs I'll think of snow-capped mountains, waterfalls all along the highways, quaint farms among the rolling hills and valleys, and the awe-inspiring feeling of how vast and majestic God's creation is. The pictures will never do it justice, least of all my pictures. I'm tearing up just thinking about those car rides...

Once we'd seen Neuschwanstein, our last stop was Salzburg, Austria. It's a beautiful city, and the surrounding countryside was every bit as lovely as what The Sound of Music makes you believe. 

Then there was the journey home, which became less and less real and more like a nightmare. The first flight to Munich was fine. The second flight to Toronto was fine. The plane to Houston...barely arrived, but only after we'd sat in the airport all night long. Weather. Blown-out tires. Fuel. 30 hours after first setting off, we finally boarded our last plane. It all worked out in the end, and that first night's sleep back home was bliss. 

. . .

Other Mentions (food)

Oh my word, let me tell you about a thing. It's called a döner, and it lived up to all of the hype the relatives gave it. I still cherish the memory of eating it after all these weeks. Traditionally, it's served with pita bread, but I had to be that person and order it gluten free. Still so good. It's shaved kebab meat + yoghurt dressing + veggies + pita/rice/fries. 

I couldn't resist trying these when we made a quick stop in France. I saw the packaging and thought they were Sour Patch Kids, but no. They taste nothing like Sour Patch, but they still made for a good laugh. 

. . .

In short, that was our trip to Europe! I am forever grateful to my grandparents for giving me that opportunity. I was able to work on my navigating skills as well, and managed to keep us on the right track mostly. When in doubt, I'd keep walking in the general direction we needed to follow, and hope that eventually there'd be a connecting street. We made it home safely, so I know from experience that my method works, and look forward to implementing it in the future.