Thursday, November 1, 2012

NaNoWriMo... AGAIN!

So, it's November.

You know what that means, right?

(aka National Novel Writing Month)

Yup, I'm writing another novel. I don't know when I'll find the time to squeeze it in around work and college and work and more college... Yeah.

But I do have some secret weapons:

-Write or Die
-Fingerless gloves
-Friends who are also writing!
-My Snowflake document 
-A NaNo playlist full of soundtrack music that fits my story
-A Pinterest pinboard full of images that make me excited to write
-My sketchbook

My novel this year is fantasy with strong elements of steampunk. It's set in Victorian London. I've been doing a lot of research in the last year or so getting ready for this, and I STILL don't feel qualified to write about a real time and place. So I'm just going to toss all my nonfiction books about Victorian London out the window and write the dang story first.

Title: Twyndyllyng

The story revolves around a young inventor named Alexander "Phoenix" Gaffney, the son of two ornithologists. He's working on a revolutionary invention that could change history forever if successful - the world's first flying machine. His only problem: ever since boyhood he has been cursed with a degenerative disease that will kill him if a cure is not found.

His mother, who gave him his mythical nickname when he was first diagnosed, raised him on fanciful stories of a powerful being called the Twyndyllyng, the magical link between humans and birds. If anyone could help him, the Twyndyllyng could. However, the Twyndyllyng has not been seen for over a century, and for Phoenix, time is running out. And if by some miracle, he can find the Twyndyllyng, he may find that she's not at all what he expected.

That's it, folks! What are YOU doing this November?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Midnight on a Lake

It is after 1:00 in the morning as I write this.

I'm staying with some friends in a real life log cabin on a lake in Wisconsin for the weekend. We've spent our time tramping around in the boggy woods, building forts, kayaking, eating sloppy joes, star-tipping, and canoeing at midnight. Pretty cool.

This evening, after returning from going out on the lake, several of us just flopped down on the dock and stared up at the multitudes of stars. It's a clear night, and the lake is secluded, so we could see everything.

The first shooting star I saw, I automatically thought of a wish. But after it was gone, I felt unsatisfied. What's the point of wishing for stuff on a dying meteorite? It's just a rock! Instead, what if every time I saw a star, I spoke to the God who created all the flying objects up there? A prayer for each brilliant streak across the sky...

Another celestial light zipped across the Milky Way. Floating beneath a canopy woven by a Creative Genius, I smiled to myself and thought of something to say.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New York and Philadelphia book

This is a virtual copy of the photobook I made for my trip to New York City and Philadelphia. Have a peek!

Visit to create your own personalized photobook.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lost in a Patch of Melancholy Wildwood

(Written while walking by the lake at my college)

Why does walking in the woods make me feel melancholy? Why do I feel sadness at the trees and birds and dirt and leaves?

The humid air can't be the reason, because I feel the same way in the fresh morning stillness and in early spring's snowy slumber.

Wild raspberries
Cattails at the lake's edge
Oaks near the sky
Wind rustling leaves all around me
Distant road noise
Ferns on my left in feathery whorls rising to my hip.
Why the bittersweet longing?
Why the deep sighs?
Why the film of water over my eyes?

Mud, packed hard beneath my shod feet.
One dead yellow leaf.
One sick red leaf, still attached to the stalk.

More ferns, an oak rising from their midst. Steadfast and older than my house.
The hill behind looms like a buried wall mossed over by time. Baby birches try to win each patch of sunlight dappled on the slope.

I step on a gnarled twig and wish I didn't have to wear shoes. Shoes are for people who conform to society - to a city life.
I may be in St. Paul, but I'm lost in a patch of melancholy wildwood.
Well, not exactly lost - since I have yet to stray more than a few feet from the hard-packed mud path.

The breeze stirs the water into tiny ripples, dozens upon dozens of neat little lines swarming toward me on the bank. But a net of reeds stops them, surrounding my hidden spot of shade with inch-deep, still pools where a blue damselfly hovers. He comes close to see my shoe, his wings invisible until he comes to rest on a green frond. His bulbous eyes regard me even as I regard him.
What was that? Are there fish in this little lake? The ripples grow, then diminish again.

Now a fallen tree, split lengthwise down the trunk, forgotten by the others who still stand tall, piled over with dead branches and fungi.

A board by the lakeside, covered with moss on one half. What is it from? A quarter-sized shard of bright blue plastic rests on top. The husk of a fallen wasp nest shares the clearing, as well as a diet coke bottle, missing its label.

Now I can see a giant crane across the lake, a marvel of metal and cable looming over the full crown of a mature tree in someone's backyard.
I return to the path.

Orange collars around doomed trees and the stump of one already taken. A pink flag half-buried in the sandy soil says "wetland delineation" I think.

Mud puddles in the tire tracks.

Hey! There's another path branching off. Should I take it? It goes up the hill and disappears. But my feet are tired, and the flat path I'm on goes around a bend. I can't alter course now. Onward!

A red-painted stake labeled OAK
Some questionable red-orange berries.
Stinging nettles!

I hear an animal in the ferns. Probably a chipmunk. But no! I see now that it is a gray squirrel. I should have known. The campus here is overrun with the cheeky little blighters.

With all this humidity, it smells like Como Conservatory. I can almost imagine I'm in Florida. I hear the tropical sounds of a chittering woodpecker and the sweet warble of a curious oriole. They must think I'm odd, trying to write while I walk. I stumble over a bump and stand still, hearing more birdsong mingled with the beeping sound of a vehicle backing up somewhere. A robin scolds me, for standing too close to her nest, I suppose. Very well, Mrs. Robin. I shall continue my hike.

At last I come to the place where a stream empties into the the lake, after tumbling over some rocks.

Packing peanuts and Styrofoam coffee lids? Tut-tut.

I sit down by the mini waterfall and inspect the rocks. These look man-made. Yes, I believe they are. Someone has poured concrete over the little rocks on either side of the rapids, perhaps to control erosion. The water smells brown. Crusty foam eddies up into the crevices by my feet. If I was feeling more adventurous, I'd hop across on the damp rocks to the other side. What interesting sights and smells lie over there?

But I have a bag full of sketchbooks and my Wacom tablet, so maybe that wouldn't be a wise endeavor for today.

People wade in the shallows upstream. Talking, but I cannot understand them from here. I pick out the word "slimy" and that's it.

And now I reach the end of the path. As I step out into the empty parking lot, the hot sun instantly causes my neck to prickle with sweat. Ah. The enchanted walk is over. The melancholy has evaporated. Life is back to normal.

Time for a snack.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

London vs. New York City

This spring I've had the opportunity to visit two huge cities in two very different parts of the world. During spring break I went with my college's art department to London, and then after the semester ended, the Symphonic Band went on tour to New York City.

I had not been on a plane since I was five years old, and suddenly I had the opportunity to fly TWICE in one season!

My trip to London was by far one of the coolest things I've ever done. I've always dreamed of visiting the city. Not only is it the home of some of my favorite fictional characters, it's also where several of my own stories take place. I also took over a thousand pictures while I was there. Once I have the chance to go through them all, I'll post a few of the best on my photography blog.

I got to see so many things in London and the surrounding areas, but it felt like I never got to spend enough time doing any one thing, because we had so much more to do! Among the many wondrous things I saw: Windsor Castle, the Tower of London, the British Museum, a fantastic geek store called Forbidden Planet, Tower Bridge, and Kensington Gardens. We did a LOT of walking. In fact, one of my favorite things we did was a "Dickens walking tour of London," even though it rained part of the time. Since I'm working on a novel that is set in Victorian London, I loved learning about what life was like during that time period, and seeing nooks and crannies that still carry wisps of history.

I took a day trip out to Oxford by train with a couple other girls, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing C.S. Lewis's house "The Kilns", eating lunch at the magical "Eagle and Child" pub where Tolkien and Lewis's Inklings met, stepping into teeny shops, and wandering streets, getting lost and found again in the maze of cobble-stone alleyways... It's an enchanting place.

The only bad thing about my trip to London is that now I'm desperate to go back and LIVE there. Seriously.

New York is an entirely different experience, but it's no less impressive. To a girl from a suburban Minnesota farm, the dazzling array of lights, glass, steel, and people evoked an overwhelming feeling of other-worldliness. London was vibrant, but New York put me into sensory overload.

Since I went with my college's band, we got to do home-stays with some very interesting people. The tour to New York was combined with a few days in Pennsylvania, so we rented a bus and drove around a lot. Between New York and Pennsylvania, here are some of the things I did during the course of the trip:
-ate Philly cheese steak (my verdict-- meh)
-rode in a Mini Cooper (yay!)
-watched "Sherlock Holmes" in a host family's fancy home theater
-experienced a Long Island sunset on the beach
-learned what "Wawa" is
-stood beneath a dead whale shark
-went to McDonald's in Times Square
-stuttered awkwardly when someone begged for money (twice, I'm sad to say)
-saw a Jackson Pollock painting
-tasted "Water Ice"
-bought a calzone baked in a brick oven
-stood in the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed
-got in trouble for crawling over the railing at a Broadway show

In conclusion: New York was cool, but... I left my heart in London.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Tribute to Daisy

The daisy-hued labrador
who once danced,
face turned toward the sun

now withered
on searing metal tracks
pale petals drift across the taconite
caught in eddies of melting snow.

* * *

It's been over a year now since my family's beloved young labrador retriever, Daisy, was hit by a train. It was a traumatic experience, but I finally feel like I can write about it. I took this photo of her only a couple of hours before the tragic event.

She was the smartest dog I've ever known, and loved to be with everybody, young or old or anywhere in between. Sometimes it seemed like she thought she was a human. She would sit on your lap if you let her, even though she was several times larger than a cat, and she would play fetch for hours if she could get you to cooperate. She never whined or barked for attention, and yet when the vacuum or the broom was nearby, she'd growl something fierce until it went away. She loved to chase squirrels away from my mom's birdfeeder, and she would sit at the deck door waiting for the rodents to appear.

When I was home alone, she would follow me around like a second shadow, keeping me company and making me feel safe. I loved to go on long walks with her in the woods, watching her antics and laughing at her boundless energy. She was able to cheer me up with her goofy frolics and happy face. I've never known such a truly happy dog.

I'll miss her, but now I'm able to remember the good times I had with her. I thank God for his gift during those years, and hope that perhaps one day, when I arrive at heaven's gates, a daisy-colored dog will be there to greet me with her happy smile, frolicking in celestial meadows.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Big, Fun, Scary Adventures

Every time a new year rolls around, I make a list of Big, Fun, Scary Adventures I want to have in the upcoming weeks and months. This was started by the good folks at NaNoWriMo, and since I like it better than making ordinary resolutions, I've made it a tradition.

Last year's adventures did not all happen the way I'd hoped, but I had many great experiences anyway. The biggest, "funnest", and scariest adventure of last year? College. Yup, I started college. (I'll have another blog post about that later.)

This year, I've got quite a list of adventures. Some of them are bigger than others. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Build a treehouse
When my brother and I got home from break this year, we decided it was time to finally build that treehouse we've always wanted. Now that we're older, we can actually do it right. We're starting out with a goal of constructing a simple and sturdy platform aloft.

2. Cut my hair
I haven't cut my hair since.... middle school, I think. I was going to cut it last year, but I never got around to it. Time for a new look. (And possibly some extra cash if I can manage to sell it!)

3. Edit The Shadow of Rebellion
I wrote this sci-fi novel way back in 2008, and I've tried several times to edit it. This time, I'm actually going to push through all 100,000 words and get it polished up.

4. Go to London
Yes! If all goes as planned, I'll be in London over spring break! I've always wanted to visit there, and since I have a novel set in London, I'm excited to see it in person.

5. Finish setting up my Etsy shop
One of last year's adventures that I never completed, my Etsy shop needs some finishing touches. I'm hoping to sell handmade bags to start with, made from "upcycled" materials such as t-shirts and blue jeans.

6. Plan and script a webcomic
This is something I've wanted to do for years now, and never really got up the courage to try. I love to read webcomics, and I've got a bunch of stories that would look amazing in a visual format like a graphic novel. My goal is to write the script, design the characters, work out a style for the comic, and build up a buffer of pages before I start releasing it online, hopefully next January.

These are my Big, Fun, Scary Adventures for 2012! What are you hoping to do this year?