Monday, April 15, 2019

What Makes a Good Story?

Hello, readers!

My life has been crazy busy (in case you can't tell by the long absence from my blog, Facebook, and my Travel Blog), but now I'm on second spring break, and this time I had the good sense to only book a short trip. Now, I have a few days to actually do some blogging.

The thing is, though, that I have a hard time trying to decide what to write about, at least as far as nonfiction goes. Most of what I've been doing really belongs on my Travel Blog, I can't talk about work the way I used to talk about school, and the articles and various support stories I've been reading for fantasy authors are just a little too touchy for me to comment on right now. I do have some rather depressing news about a fellow author, but I'll share that to my audience at a later time (spoiler: it has to do with a new book).

Anyway, as I was pondering what to write about, I got to thinking about a quote from John Stephens, author of the Emerald Atlas series. I used it for some of my work at SPU, and I've been thinking about it since:
[N]o one comes to write fantasy who is not, first and foremost, a lover of fantasy, who does not know its ins and outs, the various plot stratagems, the characters who insist on popping up. It somewhat stands to reason that when that person goes to write his or her own fantasy book—as I did— they don’t immediately set about chucking everything that came before; rather, they embrace those tropes, decide what their own spin will be, how they will breathe new life into the genre that they love. [1]

That's true, and I'm guilty of that myself - and I'm not sorry in the slightest, for the same stated reason.

But of course, there still needs to be something new to each of these tropes and stories, or else it's just not good writing. (Am I guilty of this, too? I don't think so, but you be the judge.) That's the point of Stephens' last line - "breathe new life into the genre that they love".

That, I have decided, is going to be the theme of this series of posts. It will be tagged with that "What Makes a Good Story Label", so you should be able to find them easily when you wish. Hopefully there will be some detailed research with this, but like I said, my time is limited (and my access to peer-reviewed databases tends to be iffy at best), so they may end up just being my own theories and ideas.

Anyway, I'm thinking of beginning with what I think of as the three sub-genres of fantasy (other-world fantasy, this-world fantasy, and dual-world fantasy) and considering what is good, bad, and what kind of story I haven't read yet. Then, I'll dig into my favorite part of the stories: the characters!

This probably goes without saying, but I really hope for feedback from you, my readers, for this part. I'm aiming to make this a serious part of my blog, and I want the blog to become something more regular in the future, but that won't happen without comments and support. So, if you want to read more of my blog, please be alert for these upcoming posts!


[1] Stephens, John. "On Fantasy." Journal of Children's Literature, vol. 39, no. 1, Spring2013, pp. 42-46. EBSCOhost,

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving Abroad!

Because my school is technically an American school, we get Thanksgiving off, even though the rest of China doesn't. Additionally, the wonderful HR team put together a Thanksgiving party for all the staff! 

Due to a variety of things, I didn't know whether I was going or not until after the bus left from my apartment. Then I decided I would go, but first I would sleep more, because I was exhausted. But, I had the location, so I thought I would just catch a taxi. 

Now, I should mention that I've taken taxis around Shenyang lots of times. They're ridiculously cheap, and lots of them go right by my apartment, so there's no reason not to. 

Today, however, I had the wrong location. So I ended up walking about two miles around the more rural part of Shenyang. (Seriously, I don't know how a city with 8 million people can be that quiet. Shenyang is both the biggest city I've ever lived in and the closest thing to the country I've ever lived in.) 

Fortunately for me, I got there with no more hassle. 

Anyway, as is my custom, here is my blog list of things I'm thankful for this year. 

1. My Lord and Savior

The thing about God is that He doesn't change depending on where you are. I always knew that, but it's taken on new meaning for me when I'm in a culture that has such a completely different viewpoint on gods, religions, worshiping, etc., than the western culture. It is a blessing that God does not change, no matter where you are. 

2. My Family and My Friends

My mother and father were and are extremely supportive of me moving to a different country, and they've continued to give me useful advice and support. They even helped me vote!

My friends were all extremely supportive of me moving this far away. More than that, they all go to lengths to stay in touch with me. Especially the ones who are coming to visit!

3. Writing

Need I say more?

4. My China Family

There's a couple here that has pretty much adopted my roommate and me as their honorary daughters, and I always get love and support from them. More than that, the people here welcomed me with open arms. I miss my American people, but I'm not exactly lonely, because I'm very well loved here. Someday I want to introduce all of them, so I have all my families together. 

5. My Job

I don't think it's possible to get a better "first job out of school" than this one. I love all my kids, my boss is beyond amazing, I don't have any crazy parents to deal with, and it's just a nice, useful environment. I'm not going to say teaching is always awesome, because I've heard from enough people to be reasonably sure that it can be terrible. But it's not terrible here. It's pretty great. 

6. My Home

I like Shenyang! It's easy to live here, and there's plenty to keep me happy. 

7. My Country

I also love my USA. This November was an election month, and as usual, that's a poignant reminder of the true blessing of living in a country where you can vote. Where you, the citizen, have a say in how your leaders do things. 

That list is by no means exhaustive, but it's the most important stuff. 

Now I'm off to bed, because it's late here. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 12, 2018

AWESOME News Out of Turkey!

According to the BBC, the American pastor who has been in prison in Turkey has finally been freed!

I remember when I was in Turkey, one of the leaders of our group brought this up:
Actually, I remember on the bus, the guide leader led us in prayer for an American pastor in Turkey who was arrested and being held on some trumped-up immigration charges.
 I don't know when he was charged with assisting the Kurdish rebel group, or whether it was before or after May of 2017 (and, frankly, I have too much work to do to find out).

According to Open Doors USA, Turkey is ranked #31 for most dangerous countries for Christians. The country's fact sheet, downloaded here, reports that it is not illegal in Turkey to convert from Islam to Christianity,* but Erdogan is trying to push the country into a more strictly Muslim country, so Christians do face national pressure.

Anyway, that's the short version of this. A Christian was set free from a difficult situation in Turkey, and now he will return to the US.

It's worth noting that Pastor Brunson had been living in Izmir (the very Western city) for over 20 years. I'm not sure how much the USA will feel like home to him. I'm sure he will have a difficult time adjusting. But, at the same time, he is safe. I actually saw a report somewhere that he had to be moved from prison to house arrest for health reasons. What a relief to be on the way back to America!

Celebrations, commence!

*I think typical laws for Muslim countries are that it is not illegal to be a Christian in a Muslim country, but it is illegal to convert from Islam to Christianity. If I remember correctly (again, too busy to really dig into this), that comes from the Qu'ran.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Fun Halloween Music!

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that fall is my favorite time of year. The time when it's chilly, colorful, and brisk just makes me smile. It's an exciting time, it's a refreshing time, and it's just a fun time!

I'm still going to figure out how to dress up here in Shenyang, but in the time leading up to that...

There are two musicians I really enjoy listening to, twin brothers named Derek and Brandon Fiechter. They mostly make soundtrack music, so it's pretty much electronic with no words. That suits me, honestly, because it makes for great background work music. 

I just discovered, to my delight, that they added a new hour-long YouTube video of Halloween music!

This is the perfect background for me to work with!

My favorite album from them is actually called Eyes of the Forest, and this is the cover:

If you click on that picture, it will take you to their Bandcamp page. 

Just sharing something cool that I found and like listening to. Fantasy music seems to be blossoming, right along with the rest of the fantasy genre, and I couldn't be happier about it!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Wraith Mouse Magic - Graystone Spoilers!

Okay, it's finally time for me to start talking about my next book! No, it's not anywhere near done, but it's enough done that I can start making blurbs about it. 

The title, I have pretty much decided, will be Arashna, and if you've read Graystone, then you know what the main struggle will be. But here's something that will add a little more to the main struggle...

Wraith Mice have magic that lets them disappear, but the flip side of that is that they are forced to obey orders from their superiors. So that should make it easy for Zuryzel, right? Mokimshim lost all his magical authority as a king because he behaved in a way the Wraith Mouse magic will not let a king behave. This means Zuryzel is officially the queen. So, all she needs to do is walk into the palace and throw her magic around, right?

Well... maybe not. 

Zuryzel has always believed, and has always been told, that her magic as queen would be absolute, but now that she has her queenly magic, she's discovered that she can't make creatures follow her orders. Not all of them, anyway -- some of them, others must follow, but others, not so much. But Zuryzel has no idea why some of them work and some of them don't! Until she knows that, she can't risk walking into Arashna and throwing orders around. She has no clue if it will work or not!

Will she ever find out? Well... we'll see. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Just An Update

Hello, readers!

Most of what I *actually* should talk about, I'm saving for my Travel Blog. I just wanted to give everyone a quick update on how I'm doing.

I am insanely busy, of course. Teacher's first year, yay! Luckily for me, I have a great class size of only 7 kids, so it's not like it's a normal first year.

As for writing, yes, I am still working on Arashna. Rest assured, dear readers, that I have not forgotten that. I actually made quite a bit of progress over the summer.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A Local Jewel - Marlaina's

Since I'm about to move to China, home is in sharp focus for me these days. Today Mom said that Dad and Karl wouldn't be home for dinner, so would I like to eat out someplace? I picked the place I like to pick with an open invitation like that - Marlaina's

It's a nifty Mediterranean restaurant (Kurdish, I think) with a nice selection of food and a pleasant atmosphere. The chef there is quite friendly, and I've seen him there every time I visited. He makes good recommendations for food and wine combinations, and I joked with Mom what an accomplishment it is to have so many wines from other countries (not that that matters to most of my readers). 

It is kind of pricey (almost $20 for most entrees, I think), so don't go there for a quick time. It's more of a special occasion restaurant, like your oldest child is soon leaving the US for a job. But it is worth the special occasion price - the food is fresh, the meat is cooked almost perfectly, and you get very, very good service. I think there's more wait time for food at the McDonald's my brother and I used to go to than at Marlaina's.

Anyway - they do deliveries to Burien through UberEats, but I highly recommend going to the restaurant in person for the atmosphere. It's such a pleasant place to eat, and the food is tasty and healthy. I joked on my Travel Blog that Turkey was the one place I ate balanced meals and actually liked them, and Marlaina's has similar food. Mom would probably disagree that what I ate tonight was especially balanced, but I think salad, lamb, and baklava is a good balance for me!

Short version - it's delicious, and healthy. I definitely recommend it for a special occasion.