Candid Opinion: The Eye-Dancers

Michael S. Fedison, author of The Eye-Dancers, sent an email thanking me for commenting on his blog and letting me know his book was on sale at a discount. I’m an avid reader, and the book cover is really eye-popping. (Heh.) Add to this the analytical writing style he uses in his blog posts, and you know I had to grab it up and give it a try.

The Eye-Dancers is a young adult sci-fi/fantasy novel that explores alternate realities as four adolescent boys try to help a girl living in a parallel universe.

Technically, the story is splendidly laid out. The typos are few. The overall attention to grammar makes this a pleasing read. I was thrilled to discover the book has no profanity. Fedison’s style is descriptive with lots of imagery. The narrative shifts between the perspectives of each boy with clarity, which I found impressive. The style of prose is consistent; Fedison does not polarize readers by dropping in erudite words.

Mitchell, Joe, Ryan, and Marc are mapped out and developed with attention to character. Each boy has his own problems to deal with, his own weaknesses, his own strengths. I related to all of them and picked up on their personalities with each perspective switch. I appreciated this focus on characterization. Unfortunately, they were so thought-out I had difficultly remembering a character like Mitchell was only 12 or 13 years old. I would say the focus on the boys’ characterizations overshadows the plot of the story.

For a fantasy novel with sci-fi elements, I expected the storyline to move quickly through the plot points. The pace of The Eye-Dancers drags from the first chapter. Because of the focus on character development, there is a ton of introspection – which has worked before in sci-fi/fantasy when juxtaposed by danger or action-packed scenes. The Eye-Dancers does not draw its reader forward with intense action or a feeling of impending doom. It lacks momentum.

Overall, I think The Eye-Dancers shows Fedison’s strengths in the areas of POV switches, description, characterization, and technical skill. This book does not receive my full recommendation in its current state because it doesn’t hold the reader’s attention, and it doesn’t have what I think is a satisfactory resolution to the conflict. I would consider reading a future book by Michael S. Fedison because of his visually descriptive style and his grasp of characterization. I would hope to find a more honed approach to his plots in future works.

Thanks to Mike for allowing me to be honest about his storychild. With a completed novel in circulation and a sequel in the mix, he’s definitely further along in his writer journey than I am.

You may have a different opinion. Feel free to make your own decision about The Eye-Dancers.

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Save the Dangling Characters!

I needed to read Essential writing skills: why a bad first draft is better than no first draft by M J Wright this past week. I’ve been beating myself up lately. Here’s why:

I began a story last year in a flurry of excitement. I finished chapter 10 or 11, and the going got tough. After writing approximately 30,000 words, I started to wonder, “Is this really good? Am I wasting my time?” It was the “make or break” phase. My fear of commitment kicked in. I thought, “What if I invest in these characters, fall in love with them, and find out they aren’t who I think they are?” Weird? Maybe, but that’s how I tick. So, what did I do? I hung it up. Left it. Left my characters dangling. I don’t want to admit to you how many characters I do this to. It’s painful.

And I hate to quit. So I told myself, “You are going to finish this, even if it’s bad!” I wanted to commit to the project, to put my heart into it, but I couldn’t. I needed to know my characters were lovable, relatable. I needed feedback to continue.

None of that friend-y stuff would do. I’m talking about your best friend who reads three lines and says, “Oh, this is wonderful! You’re such a great writer! I don’t know why you’re not submitting to every publisher!” I needed the real reaction of the reader who wasn’t influenced by my wonderful personality and incredible wit. (heh)

Where could I find that? Where could I find an audience who would only pay attention to the story? If it was good, I’d know it by the following it garnered.

This is where I cracked. I gave up the dream of professionally publishing the book. I changed the story up a bit and posted it on Fanfiction, knowing I was giving it away for free. Why? Isn’t that like shooting myself in the foot? Ah, my friend, a free book is better than no book at all.

I’m deep in my latest obsession, The Kiss of the Gobboling King. It’s one of those fairytale-revisited works. It’s fun. It’s freeing. No requirements. No target audience. It’s already found a little following. Readers tell me they like Esda and Draill, so I feel safe that these characters won’t disappoint me. I can love them unreservedly. I can finish the story.

Is it written the way I imagined it, shined and polished for the bookstore shelf? No. It’s a first draft. But when I’m finished, it will be the entire first draft. That’s what matters.

My View As a Stay-At-Home Mom

I read Being a Stay-At-Home Parent Is a Luxury…for Your Spouse, and I could relate to a few of Chaunie Brusie’s thoughts.

I’ve felt I had to bake pies so that the world would know I’m not a worthless member of society.

Apple Pie By Len Rizzi (photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Realm and I chuckled over this one. Occasionally, he requests homemade goodies to take to work. His top pick is apple pie. I gather his coworkers like it, too. I love the compliments, but I never thought of it as my means of giving to society. I just like to cook, and I know what it’s like to get a treat amidst the monotony of the workday.

Well, of course, it would be a luxury to the spouse who works out of the home to have a partner who stays at home with the children. Someone who is always there to take care of the inevitable days of sickness, arrange the doctor’s appointments, make sure the cupboards are stocked, and [hey], to ensure that no one steals the FedEx package off of the porch.

At my house, the kids are like security guards with their checkpoints, investigating the mailbox and the front porch throughout the day. They take the letters and packages somewhere and promptly forget about them. It’s a wonder we find our bills and get our packages at all!

I realized, in a rush of amazement, that I had spent all of our marriage feeling just a tad bit guilty for being the one who “gets” to stay home…I realized, for the first time ever, that I didn’t have anything to prove.

The Petrie family of the Dick Van Dyke Show By CBS Television [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As a keeper at home, have I felt like I had to prove something? Definitely. Logically, I know there is nothing more important than nourishing my family’s mind, heart, and spirit. Emotionally, though, this society has made its jabs at me, and I’ve been brought low for what I do. The pressure is real. The pressure is toxic. It helped me that I realized the negativity is not inherent in me. It also helped me to make a conscious decision to refuse the notion that it is good for any society to be condescending to a wife and mother for choosing to stay at home to be…a wife and mother. I hold, instead, to the godly belief that my most noble and praiseworthy service is to my family (Titus 2:3-5). On the Last Day as I face my Creator, this is one thing over which I will have no regrets or guilt.

There are many things we sacrifice to live on one income. We don’t do family Disney World vacations. In fact, my son went to DW for the first time last year through the generosity of good friends. (The girls haven’t been there at all. It’s amazing how happy they are anyway.) My kids don’t wear what’s trendy, and I don’t, either. Eating out is a treat, not a habit.

That being said, we are so, so blessed by God that I don’t have to work for a paycheck to help provide a roof, food, and clothing for our family. We have all these things and many, many other luxuries. Yet, I think the greatest luxury is the time we have to be together.

Here’s the Catch…

You guys know I love to cook. My daughter likes to cook with me. So, when a program came up to learn more about cooking for the girls in our church, I thought she would love it. Her twin sister wasn’t so enthused.20130604b20130604d

One of the criteria in the program was to gather 100 recipes for a personal cookbook by asking members of the congregation to contribute. Here’s the funny thing: My not-really-into-cooking daughter excelled at this. Her apron-donning sister, on the other hand, hardly collected any. Why? It was all about talking to folks. She said it was too embarrassing and hard to go up to people and ask for recipes. She’s good at cooking, but that wasn’t what she needed to succeed in the program.

This is so much like the writer’s dilemma! Joshua A. Sipper discusses the things a writer has to do to in his post, Life of a Non-Salesman, and gives some great tips to help a writer get his/her work out there. The bottom line: It takes more to excel as a writer than writing the story. Hey, we all know this! Unfortunately, that doesn’t prompt me to leap out there and take risks. Rather, I’m like my daughter, stepping back and shaking my head.

“You’re ruining the joy!” I wanted to say to the cooking program creators. “Why can’t you just let her cook?” But that wasn’t the sole purpose of the program, and we had to reevaluate.

It’s the same with writing. Every time I get to the point where my craft requires me to do something I absolutely hate, I have to remind myself, “Why I am doing this? What will I get out of this? Is it worth the end result?”

The answer is it’s worth it because it means more opportunities to write, which is all I want to do!

Blogs I Love Because of Who I Am

This is my last Monday post about the blogs I love on WordPress. (Did you catch on to my master plan there?) These last few are pretty special because they are not about what I necessarily have a knack for or what I enjoy but can’t do. They have to do with how I tick.

I’m a Wife and a Mom. Yes, those words need to be capitalized. Wife-wise, getting married was the easy part. I don’t know why weddings get all the attention. It’s that first year that needs a coordinator, lots of cake, and sincere promises and pacts. Just simple things, like how to fold the towels and if the toothpaste should be rolled from the bottom or squeezed in the middle, become issues that get all blown out of proportion. Oh, and don’t get me started on which way the toilet paper roll goes on! (He won that one, by the way.)

And then we had kids.

Aloe vera plant
Aloe vera plant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was concerned about what kind of mother I would be. In my second year of married life, I tried caring for an Aloe Vera plant. I brought it home, talked sweetly to it, and named it Ernie. I was sure we were good friends, and then Ernie died two weeks later. Many plants have perished under my care since then, but I don’t remember them. They didn’t have names. It’s okay to mess up like that with a plant but not with a pet. So I don’t have pets. Maybe you can understand why I hesitated about having a child that would be dependent on me for nourishment and attention and…for everything! And then I had a baby boy and realized he would never, ever, ever let me forget him.

Wives and Moms need lots of encouragement and support. They are the oil that keeps the gears turning. They perform daily–hour by hour, minute by minute, breath by shuddering breath–the tasks that no one notices most of the time. That’s why I need Wife and Mommy blogs. They comfort me and sometimes make me laugh at myself.

Mrs. & the Misc. is a blog put together by four wives with interests in all sorts of things, like crafts, food, clothing, and, lately, fitness. It has a homey atmosphere. On Valentines Day, Mrs. Kristin Fincher posted a cute little trick for fruit kabobs, complete with pictures of her yummy shade of nail polish. These women also plug their businesses, like Mrs. Susanna Christensen’s lovemeapparel post, Drumroll please. (Isn’t her model absolutely adorable? Yes. Yes, he is.)

Last month I started following Smartter Each Day because I thought the name of the blog had a cheesy appeal. (Jessica’s last name is Smartt. Heh, heh.) Since then, a few posts have caught my attention. One last week was all about a simple budget she uses. I intend to try two tips she mentioned. First, I’m going to tally miscellaneous expenses on a weekly basis, instead of doing that monthly…or never. I’m not telling you the other suggestion I’m going to try. You’ll have to read the post. 🙂

The Cross at Grant Park
The Cross at Grant Park (Photo credit: MaryTClark)

At my core, I’m a Christian. Honestly, I find it incredibly challenging to blog my thoughts on spiritual matters. Just the name “Christian” means different things to different people. Writing a few lines in a blog post gives me little room to consider the perspective of my reader. It’s very frustrating, but I still talk about what God says and how He blesses me. I say it in the best way I know how. So, when I see bloggers communicating their beliefs in God, I admire their courage and openness. I want to read what they write.

At first, I placed Robintessier on my list of writer blogs from last Thursday, because she’s definitely a wonderful writer. Robin has frustrations in her life, and in every one of her thorns, it seems, she finds vibrant, blooming roses of wisdom. I have a sneaking suspicion she’s an optimist that just needs time to take in a trying situation to see something beautiful. One of my favorite posts of hers is My Sisters’ Feet, and What in the Name of God? got me thinking about what comes out of my mouth. I also have to mention her poem, Spam Fan I Am (Not), just because it’s a funny piece written in Seuss-style.

R16:16 is a blog for all sorts of Christian resources from the churches of Christ. There’s a post about a free, introductory issue of iLuminate, a new Ezine for Christian Teens. There are also posts for free Sunday school materials, like lessons and lapbooks. Hey, you can’t beat free.

Lastly, I’m a lurker reader of Dragonflies and Hummingbirds. Recently, Jennifer wrote about God being with her and her husband during his surgery. Her words were brimming with gratitude.

I don’t know any of these bloggers personally. I’ve just met them through their blogs on WordPress. You never know who is reading and getting something out of your message! I hope you guys have a great Monday!

 

The Tried and the True

Sriracha hot sauce
Sriracha hot sauce (Photo credit: kattebelletje)

There are two things I have a knack for. One is cooking, as long as there’s no serious pastry work involved. (Pastry and I stare at each other and circle distrustfully.) I enjoy trying out new recipes with ingredients I can incorporate in other recipes. I want to use up what I buy, not use it once and have it taking up space in my fridge until it curls up and dies, rots, and stinks. For example, there is an almost full bottle of Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce in my fridge leftover from an Asian dish I tried during our China unit study. It’s a niggling reminder every time I open the fridge. (The spiciness is not getting the thumbs-up from my kids. Someone please give me some mild-tasting ways to make it palatable, else I have a feeling I’m going to become all thrifty and try to add it to a homemade shampoo or facial toner. Save me!)

dolmas
dolmas (Photo credit: tofutti break)

I follow some kindred spirit food blogs—those are blogs that promote recipes with comforting staple ingredients—like Maggiesonebuttkitchen. Yes, the word “butt” is in the title of a food blog, and it happens to be a good food blog. Many of Maggie’s recipes require simple, everyday ingredients, like her Peach Snack Cake. She also showed me how to roast garlic, and her Dolma is on my “gotta try this” list. Okay, so grape leaves in brine aren’t hanging out in my pantry, but Maggie persuades me not to listen to myself about leftover ingredients. Mmm.

Last month I was introduced to at350degrees. Warning! This one’s pretty much all about sweets. Just going to the blog homepage will make you drool. At least, it makes me drool. Carissa finds recipes, tries them, and provides links for the recipe. My next guilt trip will be the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge. And then I will be dead of sweets overdose and become an example to food bloggerdom of what not to tempt your readers to try. But until then, let’s be optimistic and pretend I can get away with eating things that pair cookie dough and fudge together, shall we?

I also have a knack for writing. Surprised? Yeah, I’m full of surprises. My forte is character-driven fiction, and I have a ton to learn. I receive a lot of encouragement in my craft from the thoughts, questions, and discoveries of other WordPress writer-bloggers. Here are the ones on my instant email list, the ones who often speak to my writer’s soul: (They are in chronological order, the first being the one I’ve followed the longest.)

Twisting Threads: There’s a rhythm to Twithre’s thoughts. I can relate to her frustrations. She talks about floundering at times. She’s not afraid to admit defeat. In fact, she gains ground as she think-writes her way through situations. Her post Home Sweet Park is a glimpse into her interesting childhood experiences.

Ayesha Schroeder—One of my favorites is: Lofty Goals and the Like, where she reminds her readers, “Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from setting your goals.”

JMMcDowell: She recently wrote Am I Good At This—Or Not, and it was a candid look that reassured me of what every writer faces.

Thursday’s Child: Her writing style has an intensity I admire. Many of her posts express how she relishes life and love, like Feelings of Nostalgia. She wrote a post in December entitled, Developing Characters. It has some great suggestions for writers with a philosophical turn.

Joseph M Kurtenbach likes to entertain with his posts, and he is super imaginative. I think we share a dread of posting something we’ll regret, but I’m not certain about that one. Maybe that’s just me. 😳 One of his adventures that makes me laugh is My Run In with a Ninja Ant.

This month I’ve added wogginswriting. His “De Baiting Game” is hilarious and so true.

What are some tried-and-true blogs that have inspired you?

What I Love…That Doesn’t Love Me

Scissors
Scissors (Photo credit: Uwe Hermann)

I love crafty things, but I’m not crafty. As I’ve told you before, I should have come with the warning label, “Don’t give scissors to this one.” Handing me scissors doesn’t mean I turn into a Gremlin or anything; I will simply destroy whatever I’m supposed to be cutting. Wait. Maybe I do turn into a Gremlin. Seriously, it’s bad.

I have a close friend, Holly, who is amazing with scissors—and anything else crafty. She shares cool ideas for what to do with paper on her blog, HS Homemade, and she just moved her blog from Blogger to WordPress! Am I excited? Honestly, when I found out, I gave a fangirl squee :o! I’ve followed her blog for over a year because I’m in awe of what she can create. It’s just paper, right? But now it’s the cutest little owl or a fancy card set to give as a gift. She shares her scrapbook layouts and easy sewing projects, and best of all are the mushy little messages she slips into her husband’s suitcase when he goes away on business. Valentines are year round at her house! And, yes, she’s just as fun in person as her writing depicts. Her enthusiasm is contagious.

Piano
Piano (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

I also have no talent for painting, drawing, or playing an instrument. What is in my mind doesn’t translate easily for me through any form of art but writing. I’ll compose a song in my head and set down any lyrics, but playing it on the piano is not enjoyable. I will visualize an image, and the sketch that follows only serves to frustrate me. My hands won’t carry out what my mind wants to express.

That yearning is key to why certain paintings, drawings, pictures, and musical compositions inspire me. One artist on WordPress continues to talk to me through shapes, lines, and, most of all, through color. Marina Kanavaki’s watercolor work fascinates me. I can’t rationally explain why I like the woods IV, but I really do. I know forest #3 and atom flowers #10 speak to me about serenity of color. Marina uses a ton of green, which makes me happy. Her work reminds me that beauty isn’t always definable.

Two months ago, I started following I like photo..!, where mac collects beautiful photos, many of them scenic landscapes. This blog lets me take a peek at places in the world, highlighting their most brilliant aspects. When possible, the picture includes a link to the photographer’s collection. These are photos I certainly wouldn’t have found on my own. One of my favorites is Lago Maggiore, North Italy. It’s like looking at a fairytale scene.

So, what do you enjoy that isn’t necessarily something you’re talented at doing?