Saturday, June 16, 2018

Quest for Leviathan by Amanda Tero

Ah, biblical fiction. ^.^ Though I've been trying to exercise self-restraint when it comes to free books and the deadlines they entail of late ... sometimes I can't help myself. I think what hooked me on Quest for Leviathan by is the brevity of the story and the unique subject!

Leviathan took the life of Anath’s father. Anath has spent three years preparing for the voyage that will end the threat of Leviathan. Yet as the Valor launches into the depths of the Mediterranean, an inward quest also begins, taking Anath to depths he is not willing to face.

The story is around 4,000 words, but watch my review be just as long :P

I loved the length. Don't get me wrong, I still love a fantastic novel. But I'm more willing to gamble on something shorter (and less expensive) these days. Amanda's story proves that shorter does not mean less.

The characters were few, but well done and seemed to fit the era. The writing had strong imagery and a single focal theme that helped the short story pack a punch. I loved the illustrations--they added a lot to the story. Of course the background of the Leviathan (mentioned in Job) also made the story neat.

Overall, it I didn't find it endearing or mindblwoing, but it was a unique premise with a well-executed spiritual/character development arc that packed a punch. As a writer, I know that's quite the feat. 8/10 shrooms.

There's a giveaway of course!

Amanda is giving away TWO print copies of "Quest for Leviathan" to one winner--one for you, and one for your friend.

Amanda Tero began her love for words at a young age—reading anything she could get her hands on and penning short stories as young as age eight. Since graduation, she has honed her writing skills by dedicated practice and study of the writing craft. She began her journey of publication with a few short stories that she had written for her sisters and continued to add to her collection with other short stories, novellas, and novels. It is her utmost desire to write that which not only pleases her Lord and Savior, but also draws the reader into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

 If you're looking for a short read or a taste of biblical fiction, this is for you! Have you read any other of Amanda's books? (This was my first.)

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Summer Reading + Writing Bucket List

I have a whole list of blog posts to write on my phone at the moment. I looked at the list several times this week and none of the posts spoke to me. So due to procrastinating and seeing Audrey Caylin's blog post in my inbox this morning, I'm going to do something different on the fly here. Prepare to see my summer TBR, writing plans, and how I'm doing on my year's goals!

As I've mentioned before, my newsletter is the main place where I keep you guys updated with life and all the little things going into my reading, writing, editing, etc. Mainly because it's hard to fit all of that in here and feel like I'm doing a good job including you all.

But every now and then I can't help but post on some of what's up. I'm sure you don't mind. ;)

Summer TBR

Since I'm quite the list-maker, I was working on a Summer TBR the other day. Of course, it's ridiculously long. I've decided as a working high school graduate that getting more time to read in the summer is a myth. I'm going to have to make more time. Thankfully my reading accountability partner Lisa has been good at keeping up with me.

Here's what I've got on my list so far (in no particular order):

  • War of Loyalties by Schuyler McConkey // I own it and it's beautiful and she needs more reviews but it's so long I haven't delved in yet. I can't wait!!!
  • Where the Woods Grow Wild by Nate Philbrick // Nate's hilarious and his book is awesome. Life happened and I never finished it. I'm thinking it's a good read-aloud-to-the-brothers option.
  • Out of Time Series by Nadine Brandes // Yes, I've already read this, but it is time to soak it all up again and to expose the siblings!
  • Something by Flannery O' Connor // I talked about this with my pastor's wife because we're both trying to read more classics right now.
  • Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore // In progress and loving it.
  • Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge // On loan from Kelsey Bryant.)=
  • Tarzan by Edward Rice Burroughs // Because I've owned a pretty volume of it from Barnes & Noble for a year now and it will give me an excuse to watch the new movie again.
  • The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke // Jeff has an excellent sense of humor and I've heard such good things about this book!
  • book club // This will be two more books that haven't been chosen quite yet.
12 isn't excessive, right? I cherrypicked these hoping to not bog myself down but fly through some really great reads! What are you trying to read over the summer?

Writing Plans

These change all the time. And even though I'm back to making good headway on Martin Crossroads, I have two other story ideas that will. not. leave me alone. No matter how nicely I ask!! So I'm obstinately refusing to give them any writing time like a good, focused writer. :P

Here's what I'm hoping for:
  • a freebie for my end-of-June newsletter peeps. You hear that? You're gonna want to be subscribed to receive this! I'd been struggling on what to include, but I had a breakthrough the other day and it's now awaiting the feedback of my critique partner, Ivy. It's an understatement to say I'm excited. :D
  • something fun for Andora's Folly turning one in July. If you have any ideas or things you'd like to see, let me know! I've got two ideas I'm hoping to make happen at the moment. :) I'll also be doing Camp NaNo again this month (woohoo!).
  • the Self-Editing Checklist in August. Remember when I shared my Self-Publishing Checklist? I really want to do one as an editor to give writers some tips and such that I share when I edit for people. Whoever your editor is will thank you for knowing some things in advance! This will probably be shared in a blog post so everyone has access and be kind of a promotional thing for my editing services I suppose.
  • a complete first draft of Martin Crossroads by the end of September. I'm currently at 40k and aiming for 100k, so this should be feasible if I don't drop the ball! (August is my true goal but I'm guessing the summer will explode on me.)
There. That's nice to have down on paper for my own sake. What are your summery writing plans?

2018 Goal Progress

*hides* I'm so bad at checking my goals that I was a little worried for this bit. Here's how I'm doing.
  • memorize 10 items // I memorized a lot of music for choir??? No? Okay ...
  • publish something // Maybe I can do a Christmassy short story or something as I'm holding off Behind the Act for traditional publication (hopefully ... one day) and Martin Crossroads still has a way to go.
  • read 40 books // I've read 17 and am currently reading 3 more which means I'm still on track! *phew*
  • review everything // Um, I think I've reviewed all 17 books on Goodreads and even a few on Amazon ... I'll need to double-check that ;)
  • 5 book buy limit // BAHAHAHAAA Yeah right, who was I kidding? I've probably already bought 12 or so -_- However, I have stuck to my goal of all those books being on sale when I bought them so I shall not be ashamed.
  • travel // Oh oh oh! It's official I will not be attending any writing conferences this year because $$ ... but I just booked a flight to NYC for 5 days in September. *screams* I'm going with my aunt, cousin, and sister. While I'm sure the 10-year-old will control the itinerary since it's over her birthday, I'm holding out for a visit to Harper-Collins (because hello tax write-off), Hugh Jackman's coffee shop (say what?!), and of course Broadway (which is a guarantee).
  • writing experiments // Thanks to flash fiction and the checklist I plan on publishing, I think I'm getting there with this one.
  • finish writing lectures // Oh yeah ... xP I did finish one series but I have two more to go!
Did you make any goals for the year?
That got long, but you are officially in the loop and responsible for holding me accountible! ;) What are your summer plans?

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Biblical Self-Promotion

I feel like this something I've never seen addressed, but at first blush, it is a bit of a conundrum. The Bible clearly tells us over and over again not to parade ourselves or to do good things just for the sake of publicity and praise. It struck me for the first time the other day that self-promotion kind of does those things. So how can we as Christian writers justify it?

While not exactly a no-brainer, I feel like most of us have already come to terms with this, whether we gave it intentional thought or not. But don't we all have those Facebook friends who come across a little full of themselves and their work? Like every chance they get, their books somehow become the topic of conversation? It gets annoying! So not only do we want to make sure we're not angering God in putting ourselves out there, we don't want to be "those people" who are downright pests.

Yes, self-promotion is necessary. And to be real, it starts much earlier than you'd think. Sure, hire someone to do it for you on social media. That works for busy famous people, but even then. It's not the same. People want to hear from you. Or at least I would because, more than it being your job, it's your privilege. You of all people should know how much people need your books, right?

Now that that's out of the way, here are some reasons I don't think we need to feel ashamed to share our book sale, cover reveal, or even just the link.

  • As Christian writers, what we're promoting is ultimately for the glory of God. Of course we have to be careful to keep the right mindset and not make it all about us and numbers, but if you approach it as a kingdom enterprise, there is nothing wrong with sharing!
  • In that same vein, we're told to go and make disciples of all nations. There are two action words there! While writing might not be directly making disciples, your books being written from a Christian perspective (whether they have God as a character or not) will impact people and show them God. Whether they know it or not! So take action and share that message!
  • Writing is my ministry so I'm going to spread the word. See what I did there? I am so not an evangelical person it's not even funny. Spreading the Word kind of scares me. So if I can share my book's link on Facebook and get one new person to read it and bring them closer to God then by doing so, I feel like I've accomplished what I was trying to explain in my second point. Of course it might not be the end-all of ministry, but it's a wonderful start. If you promote.
  • It's not about you, it's about the story. This is the little one, but possibly the hardest. Of course it's about you because you're the author, right?! But no. It's about the story and that story points to God. If you can keep that mindset, I think sharing will feel more natural and be less of a potential ego thing.
  • Because our stories are from God and for God, we should be proud of our stories. That's right. As if this post couldn't get any more counter-biblical sounding, I just recommended pride. But geez, God was well-pleased with Jesus. So too can we be proud of our little book babies and hopeful for the message they carry, whatever that may be. They're not doing anyone any good sitting on the shelf. So go get those readers and be proud of that too.
I feel like I kind of went in circles there, but do you get my point? This isn't about us becoming rich and famous, though I don't think we'd complain. If we can just remember that much, I think we're already on the road of working actively for God instead of doing things just to look good and be part of the cool author crowd.

What this means, I think, is that we should give thought to our self-promotion. Sure, sometimes it's awkward. (At least for me. Tell me I'm not alone in this please!) But if you don't act like it's awkward, chances are people won't think it is. It's super important to remember that while we're promoting ourselves, we're promoting for other people. God as aforementioned if you're a Chrisitan writer, but also your potential readers. You want them to know things! Honestly, if you're thoughtful about how you promote, then it's their problem if they don't want to be told things.

Obviously, I didn't get into very many ways to actually self-promote. I think the key is really just to get yourself onto some social media platforms (maybe start with one) and be personable. Let that part of your person that's tied up in a passion for sharing stories shine through just like all the other wackier bits. 

I guess in my mind it all comes down to why you're self-promoting more than how. Of course there are strategies to figure out, as manipulative as that may sound. But don't be afraid to ask for help and favors! Make friends first and then you might be surprised at how many are willing to do things for the sake of you and your story.
I hope that made sense because I kind of felt like I rambled. (How many times did I say "of course"?) Is self-promotion a natural thing for you? What mindset do you have as you're sharing things about your books? The numbers, fame, need, or the benefit to the kingdom?

Just as a caveat, nowhere in there did I say this was easy. I struggle with this ... a lot, the more I think about it. You're not alone and I rather doubt I am either. ;)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

How I Write a Book Review

We should all read books and review the books we read. Those are the givens for this post (dispute in the comments if you're so inclined). Review the books we read may be more open-ended than it sounds as there is no one way to do it.

Yes, that's right. There is no one formula for a book review. Sorry, but that means you're going to have to get creative and just go for it. Which means there is no pressure. Don't let leaving a review scare you! A few sentences is fine. Long, in-depth, and spoiler-filled is also fine. Whatever you have the time and energy for.

However, there are a few things that, while they aren't necessary per se, will make your review much more helpful to other people. That's the real reason you leave a review: to help other people decide whether or not to read the book. Be a helpful reviewer. ;)

So, here are the few things I do in my reviews:

Begin with a star rating. If you're leaving a review on a site like Goodreads or Amazon, this a separate step. For something like a blog review, it's still nice to give a star review. On a scale of 5 or 10 is your choice. (But, really, does anyone not do a scale of 10 when given a choice?) This is helpful because it sums up your review with a cold hard fact, as difficult as it may be to do.

Likes and dislikes are next. This can be very basic. Or there can be bullet point lists, long explanations and raving details. Whatever suits you. Often it depends on the book for me. I don't always have strong feelings one way or the other. 

As a reader, dislikes, in particular, are helpful because everyone dislikes different things. There could be a bunch of 2-star reviews, but if it's because there was magic in the book, I'm not turned off by that and might still read it, as opposed to a 5-star review because it was an LGBTQetc book. You know what I'm saying: to each his own. It's kind of like a parents' guide. The good, the bad, and the ugly. :)

As an author, this is my favorite part to read in reviews people leave me. Yes, even the dislikes. I've gotten some pretty low ratings but the reviews that have accompanied them actually succeeded in reassuring me that I was not a terrible writer (even if that wasn't the reviewer's goal). So always leave a review explaining a rating.

I always end with a content warning/age recommendation. Again, this is for the benefit of others. I only added this to my reviews when I realized that it's something I always want to see. (Behold the mindset of a successful person.) Think of it as a movie rating except so much more helpful. 12+ for violence or 18+ for relationship scenes.

Remember to always warn about spoilers. I know I don't have to tell you guys this, but really. We all have that one friends who spoils things for us. You know, the one that it's really a wonder you're still friends with? Most people don't want books spoiled before they read them! In content warnings especially, though, it's sometimes best to disclose some things. Again, as a reader I find the more detail the better for making my own judgment calls. Just give a warning!

And another thing that I'm sure you all know: be nice. Give your dislikes, but don't bash people. Someone put a lot of love into the book you just finished even if it was awful. I find it helpful to remember my opinion is just my opinion.

That about sums it up! For more on why reviews are important to authors, you can read Why Authors Love Reviews More Than Chocolate.
So tell me. How often do you review a book? Do you leave your review on Goodreads, Amazon ...? What do you like to see in book reviews?

If you're on Goodreads, I want to be your friend! You can find me here. It was one of my goals for this year to review every book I read, so there's plenty to follow along with in that department!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Writers Are Like Plants

To be completely honest, I don't even remember how this blog post idea came to me ... If you think about it, writers often have little plants--succulents, strawflower cacti--in their writing space. They're cute and aesthetic and give us something to keep alive and rooted to the real world. (See what I did there?)
Then I got to thinking that writers are really like plants themselves. All we need is sunshine, water, and air to grow. (Let's just acknowledge from the beginning that no synthetic plants ever got a book published.)


Sunshine is encouragement of course. Just like all plants need varying levels of exposure to the sun's rays every day, so do writers need encouragement. Maybe you're a houseplant and can survive with helpful Pinterest memes filtering through the window every once in a while. Or maybe you're an all-out tree like me and do best when getting one-on-one encouragement from writer friends you have a relationship with. Either way, don't underestimate the power of encouragement! And by encouragement, I don't just mean 5-star reviews (although I love those too). Encouragement can be someone listening to a problem, brainstorming with you, or giving you ideas on what to do next. Or sometimes it's a kick in the pants (flowerpot?) so we get back to growing. I'm short, but it's not from lack of encouragement. We may have to intentionally get ourselves out into the sunshine to soak it up.


Water is inspiration. Like all good plants, we need water. (Again, no synthetics here. We all know they just collect dust like unread books.) If you've noticed, water doesn't come all the time. It spreads out and it's unpredictable. There are a few patterns to be noted here:

  • Flood // inspiration that does more harm than good with distraction and lack of follow through
  • Thunderstorms // deluges of inspiration that give epic boosts to our writing skills
  • Rain showers // equally unpredictable and more short-lived inspiration
  • Garden hose // sought ought inspiration to give us a little extra boost
  • Hand-watered // oops, you need inspiration? how about you write without some ...
In all honesty, we don't have to be inspired to write, just like plants don't have to be watered nonstop. But a little sure does help when put to use.


Air is progress. The actual act of writing or anything and everything that goes into the preparations to write. (Yes, even Pinterest.) I mean, let's face it. I've never seen a plant without air and I've never seen a writer without words. Put all that sunshine and water to good use or you're not going to grow worth anything!


Nutrients are sustenance plain and simple. There's not always a reason to get too creative here. Just think about what nourishment you need as a writer because it varies from plant to plant. Reading the Bible, eating healthy snacks, exercising, relevant entertainment ... whatever helps keep you in good health so that you can spend time on your writing. Without nutrients, no plant can remain healthy and strong. So remember that as a writer, what you put in (whether its food or entertainment) can contribute greatly to the creativity that flows out. Don't be afraid to stretch, try new things, and find what works for you specifically. That's part of the growth process.


Bonus! Pruning is critique. Most plants who are serious about growing get to a point where it's healthiest is part of what they've grown gets pruned. This seems counterproductive, but it improves the health of the plant and allows it to continue to grow. So too will most writers reach a point where they've done their best. They need pruning. That requires sharing your work and being open to feedback. Not all critique is criticism and not all criticism is bad. When done well by the pruner, it's a very healthy thing!

From this point, it's a cycle and a continuous balance. The results are the introverted plants (primroses, cacti, succulents), extroverted plants (ivy, sunflowers, honeysuckle), and the mentor plants, sages who train us all (trees of all varieties).
I hope you enjoyed that! What sphere of plant life do you most relate to? Do you own a plant? You can find Ophelia the strawflower cactus over on my Instagram. ;)

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Camp NaNo Recap (with video)

I survived the epic, renowned Camp NaNo gauntlet (I mean writing challenge). I haven't always met my goal, but this year I did. Here's how.

Camp NaNo you're in a "cabin" group chat with friends and set a goal. (If you're really awesome, you have a cabin name (Mitchtam) and a separate chat room for wars.) My goal was 30,000 words on my Martin Crossroads draft. I reached it!

How did I do it?! I list a couple things in this video!

As I said in the video, that wouldn't have happened without my cabinmates: Alea, Ashley, Athelas, Faith, Hannah, Kara, Katie, Nadine, Rosalie, Savannah, Sword Girl. They were amazing!! (And yes, famous o.o) I really hope I didn't forget anyone. #writerslife

The thing is, as thrilled as I was to hit my goal in a hectic month, that's not what it's all about. At least not for me. It's really about making progress and finding what works to hit my goals. I'm always relieved to find I can hit goals and can write decent words. I'm not a consistent or very disciplined writer, so working on those two things amongst friends makes for a pretty fun (if insane) experiment!
Did you do Camp NaNo? How did it go? How do you reach your goals (in any area of life)?

Just as a reality side note here, I did this entire blog post on my phone. That's basically what my post-NaNo writing life has looked like ;P

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Beautiful Cover Formula + Giveaway

In light of Livy Jarmusch's release of her gorgeous book The Rebellion, I want to discuss my favorite things to see in covers!

Anyone who knows me well will tell you I'm picky. People will also say not to judge a book by it's cover, but people do. It can't be helped! There are some basics such as having a cover that fits the book, has readable fonts, and is pretty to look at. Beautiful covers are often a matter of opinion, but here are some elements that are guaranteed to please:

  • unique art medium (watercolor in particular!!!). Let's face it ... stock photos can get old, and it's much easier to mess up photoshop than paint
  • simplicity. In my mind, the simpler the cover, the ore it packs a punch. However, this doesn't mean it can't have ...
  • subtle details. Oh yes. My favorite. Don't you have those covers where you read the book and they mean even more?! Those are the best. Especially if they can look simple and then blow your mind up close.
  • conveys the genre. This really shouldn't be as much of a bonus as it is. Isn't it nice when you know what you're getting just by looking at the cover? I personally like that. This does not mean it has to be cliche.
Why yes, I'd love to give you examples. Thanks for asking. (All of these are 5-star reads just so you know and the first one is currently on sale!)



I've got to admit that Livy's new cover also fits into the stunning cover category! :)

The images above link to their Amazon pages. And you can enter the giveaway for an autographed copy of the first book, The Coronation, right HERE!
What equals the beautiful cover formula for you? Are you excited for Livy's new book?

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Porch Swing Girl by Taylor Bennett

I don't do author interviews very often, so I'm excited to present one to you today! I've had a lot of fun getting to know Taylor online and I thoroughly enjoyed her book Porch Swing Girl which releases May 1. Come to find out, we actually brushed shoulders at the OCW conference I attended in the summer! With a name like Taylor Bennett, how could she not become an author?

What if friendship cost you everything?

Stranded in Hawaii after the death of her mother, sixteen-year-old Olive Galloway is desperate to escape. She has to get back to Boston before her dad loses all common sense and sells the family house. But plane tickets cost money—something Olive gravely lacks.
With the help of Brander, the fussy youth group worship leader, and Jazz, a mysterious girl with a passion for all things Hawaiian, Olive lands a summer job at the Shave Ice Shack and launches a scheme to buy a plane ticket home before the end of the summer.

But when Jazz reveals a painful secret, Olive’s plans are challenged. Jazz needs money. A lot of it. Olive and Brander are determined to help their friend but, when their fundraising efforts are thwarted, Olive is caught in the middle. To help Jazz means giving up her ticket home. And time is running out.
Just for the record, I did not invent these questions, but I'm thrilled to be sharing Taylor's answers. Without further ado, I'll jump into the Q+A!

Taylor, tell us about your debut book.

A contemporary YA novel about faith and friendship, Porch Swing Girl captures the mystery and beauty of the island of Maui and delivers a poignant and powerful message about faith, friendship, and sacrifice.

Where do you get the idea?

My debut novel, Porch Swing Girl, was inspired by two things—my love of Hawaii and a mysteriously vague title that popped into my head one dreary February morning. Those three words—Porch Swing Girl—wouldn’t leave me alone, and I couldn’t help but start brainstorming a story to go along with them.
I’ve been absolutely in love with Hawaii ever since I visited for the first time. Homesick for blazing sunsets and crashing waves, I decided that there was only one thing to do—write about the magical islands. Later, I ended up taking a few “research trips.”

Did anything strange or funny happen while writing it?

Well…it depends on what you consider strange or funny. Is it funny that I entered it in a writing contest? When it was only half finished?
Then maybe you’d find it funny that I queried several publishers (when the book was still unfinished) and actually got interest. In fact, I met my dream publisher (who now IS my publisher) after submitting the first few chapters of a half-completed manuscript. When they expressed interest, I scrambled around a bit, trying to finish it before the publisher lost interest.
Thankfully, I managed to get it done—and the publisher was still interested! I ended up with a three-book contract, actually…and all through a query for an unfinished novel!

Did you always want to be a writer?

Though I never really thought it was possible or even realistic, I always dreamed of being an author, even before I could read or write myself. I was born with a love of books, and, as a toddler, I would sit at my mom’s old electric typewriter and peck out pages of gibberish. As soon as I knew my alphabet, I would scribble out strange little stories, staple them together, and call them a book.
As I grew and matured, I began to get more serious about my craft. I studied the market, started reading a few writing blogs, and discovered that my dream COULD become a reality after all.

Where do you write: a coffee shop, attic nook, or a cave? Describe it, please.

I write at an old Singer sewing machine table-turned-desk in my bedroom. It sits right in front of a huge window and a dollhouse-shaped bookshelf hangs on the wall to my right. There, I keep some of my favorite books about writing.
On my desk, I keep several old-fashioned, writerly articles—an old dip pen and an ornate Victorian letter opener—as well as a pot full of succulents and a few encouraging quotes. It’s a fantastic place to write!

Of all your characters, which was your favorite and why?

My favorite character is my protagonist, Olive Galloway. She’s got a unique way of viewing the world and a slightly cynical personality. People that know me who have read Porch Swing Girl are surprised at Olive’s snarkiness, because I’m…not snarky. But for whatever reason, Olive and I get along well, and I dread the day that I stop writing books in her “voice.”

Share a few of the techniques you learned that changed the way you write.

Two techniques have really stood out to me.
First—write! I used to spend ages plotting out stories, making complex character profiles and writing pages of backstory during freewriting exercises. But I got so burnt out that I never actually finished a book! When I wrote Porch Swing Girl, I used more of a pantsing approach, and it really worked well for me. I might have pantsed a little too much when it came to the plot, but I highly doubt I’ll ever fill out one of those 50-question character discovery charts again!
Also, I learned to be consistent. Because I had a publisher interested when I was writing the second half of my book, I knew I had to write quickly and efficiently. Up until that point, I had been writing for fun, so learning to treat writing as a job was a bit of a challenge. Now, I’ve learned that it is immensely helpful to set word count goals and schedule time specifically for writing.

Since typing “the end,” what has surprised you about the publishing process?

How much editing there is!!

Then again…my book was about as rough as one could imagine. It was my first true attempt at a novel, and I’d built the entire story around my main character—NOT a strong plot. I went through copious rounds of developmental edits before my plot was solid enough to keep a reader engaged.
Then there were content edits…

Emergency-attitude-adjustment edits… (I guess Olive had gotten a bit TOO snarky!)
More proofreads…
It was all worth it in the end, though. I couldn’t be happier with my book now!

Now for the fun: Tell us 3 things your readers might not know about you.

I play violin, viola, cello, string bass, and piano AND I’m an assistant conductor with my local youth orchestra. Playing and listening to music inspires me so much! I especially love conducting and teaching private lessons…watching students grasp new techniques is so rewarding.

I’m not “writerly.” I don’t have coffee running through my veins, chocolate is NOT my kryptonite. I’m not obsessed with Dr. Who, Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, the Hobbit, or any other “fandom.” In fact, I’m not even sure what a fandom IS. All I know is I’m fueled by English muffins and decaf tea (when water is unavailable) and I can’t make it through 99.9% of the world’s most beloved fantasy books.

My mom is my best friend. Never mind the age gap—she and I shop together, cook together, laugh together, talk together…I’m an old soul! Even when I was younger, I was more comfortable around adults than “kids” and I’m still the same today.

If you were a musical instrument, what would you be and why?

I would be a violin—delicate, old-fashioned, and versatile—I dream of writing in several different genres, just as violins can be used in both classical and contemporary music. I have an old soul and I wear my heart on my sleeve, just as the violin can be used to convey every emotion under the sun.
Homeschooled since kindergarten, Taylor Bennett is the seventeen-year-old author of Porch Swing Girl, which will be released by Mountain Brook Ink on May 1st. When she’s not reading or writing, Taylor can be found playing her violin or taking walks in the beautiful Oregon countryside. She loves to connect with readers via her author website, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (her favorite!), Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Again, you can visit her main website here. She also has a YouTube channel.

Porch Swing Girl releases May 1st! You can pre-order it HERE. It's a fun, fresh, lovely story that you won't want to miss! You can find my 4.5-star review here.

And it's Abi again! Was that not a gorgeous interview?! I already like her ;) Do you want to be swept away to Hawaii? Pre-order Taylor's book!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Christian Checkbox Scenes

I watched the movie The Magic of Ordinary Days on YouTube the other day. It's been one of my favorites forever and is the reason I love slice-of-life stories. Rewatching it, I was pleased to see similarities in theme with Martin Hospitality, but some "obligatory scenes" stood out, too. It struck me for the first time like the director (writer) was just checking boxes. I guess it's been a while since I've watched something older and specifically Christian. ;P I mean, it was a Hallmark.

Here is a list of scenes that strike me as little checkboxes. Why? Because you can find them in almost any older Christian movie (and, yes, even some Christian books). Especially slice-of-life stories. There's absolutely nothing wrong with using them--you can find quite a few in Martin Hospitality. It's just a new discovery to me that they're so overused, almost like they're sitting on a list somewhere of must-use-scenes. ;) Beware of slight sarcasm and exaggeration below.

singing in church

Wow. I think this first stood out to me in the TV series  Little House on the Prairie. They had one hymn they'd sing several times a season while it showed all the horses and wagons outside. For what reason? I guess to show that they went to church and set up some theme or character interaction.

bonus: write out the lyrics

Obviously, this is a book feature. Yes, I've done this, and yes, I will skim this in every book. If it's a well-known hymn, there's no way I'm reading all twelve verses. :P It's almost like brownie points, though. Don't just talk about or show people singing. Provide the words. It makes your chapter longer!

double bonus: sermon snippet

Pollyanna is the movie comes to mind. The longwinded hellfire and brimstone sermons to show the pastor's character arc ... yeah, I'd skip those as a kid. Fast forward on my VHS player. xD These are good opportunities for more natural spiritual bits, so I did do this once or twice in my book.

holiday celebrations

This is one that I love. Think about it, though. Almost every family-centric story has this. Whether it's a kiddo's birthday party or a big family gathering for Christmas ... it's a really basic requirement. I mean, surely you can't have a sweet, fluffy story if there's not hot chocolate, cake, or presents at some point?

family meal

Sometimes this is included in the holiday scene and that's definitely extra points! It's often separate, though, just to draw out the family scenes. In all honesty, though, this is a good tool because it gets all your characters around the same table. If you need everyone to know something or want someone to embarrass themselves in front of everyone, this is the spot to do it. ;)

panoramic scenery shot

This doesn't have to be specifically Christian, I suppose, but it's a guarantee in little slice-of-life stories. Which means you're getting sunrises and wildflowers and cricket noises even though it's ten am. (You know, like the picture I used above.) These can be distracting in books if they take too long or take away from the story, but they're sneaky in movies! Goes to show the importance of setting.

reflection scenes

These get tricky. Modern writing is really picky about these, and I suppose modern movies, too. But older movies? Laden with these. You know, the ones where the movie starts and the character just stares out a window or whispers things to themselves for the first scene. It's not all bad because it sets the tone and gives backstory.

bonus: actual heads and voices appear

Yeah, by this point it's forced. xP Let's add the little cameo-shaped heads of a different scene above the character just so you really get the idea of how things went down. In books, this is where the character starts "thinking" about something and it takes three pages of an entirely different story before they're snapped back to the present. Definitely a pet peeve of mine. This goes to show how important it is to weave in backstory. All at once is always a little cumbersome. ;)
Thoughts on this? xD I promise I'm not actually mad at people who do any of things (because I do) so I hope I didn't step on any toes. There are plus sides to some of these. It's just funny to me how common and overused they are! Do you have any checkbox scenes to add?

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Bibliophile Sweater Tag

It has been ages since I've posted a tag on my blog. Lately I've been answering them in my newsletter, which is where this one was supposed to go ... but I'm writing this at 11:09pm on Friday night and no blog topics are speaking to me. PLUS, this is no ordinary tag. This tag is not only 10000x cuter and more loveable than most, it was created by my friend Mary. I first saw the tag when my other friend Katie Grace did it and was all aesthetic and everything.

Yes, I know it's nowhere near sweater weather right now (*cries*), but I can dream. There's a thunderstorm going on outside so it at least gets me in a cuddly sweater mood even if it's more humid than a sauna. ;)

Fuzzy sweater

(a book that is the epitome of comfort)

Some Kind of Happiness by Clare Legrand

I know this may seem like an odd choice if you've read it because it's anything but fluffy. I don't think I've related to a book so much in my life, though! And it's kind of all about finding comfort and figuring things out. :)

Striped sweater

(book which you devoured every line of)

The Out of Time Series by Nadine Brandes

These books have everything I could ask for and so much more, including keeping me up late and having the most powerful spiritual themes  in the history of spiritual themes. The whole series received 10/10 shrooms from me.

Ugly Christmas sweater

(book with a weird cover)

Entwined by Heather Dixon

I feel like I just made enemies. *hides* Don't get me wrong, this is another 10/10 shrooms book, but the cover does not match anything I had in my head while reading it. Plus, there's just a little too much happening for my taste. But the book is really good. ;)

Cashmere sweater

(most expensive book you've bought)

Write Great Fiction Series by various (Writer's Digest)

I know the series was on sale, but I still think it was a lot of money. Like ... a lot. Or maybe it came with a magazine subscription or something?? There was a special, OK? xD I'm still working my way through these and hope to get the editing and revision one I'm missing from the series at some point.


(favorite classic book)

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy

I mean, I just never tire of it. It's got history, action, espionage, heroism, mystery, and it's so utterly witty and romantic. I've gotten two of my siblings and my mom to read it after hearing I enjoyed it so much which is probably a record. ;)


(book that you bought on impulse)

Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull

I grabbed this one off Thriftbooks for cheap because it had a cute cover and sounded neat. And was cheap. I haven't read it yet! *hides* I hope it's a fun one. If it's not my cup of tea, you may be seeing it in a giveaway here at some point xD

Turtleneck sweater

(book from your childhood)

Bread and Jam for Francis by Russel Hogan

What kind of horrible decision-making question is this?! xD The Alphapets, Runaway Ralph, Mr. Popper's Penguins, Newton ... they're all ingrained in my childhood.

Homemade knitted sweater

(book that is Indie-published)

The Sorceress and the Squid by Emily Mundell

I felt like picking one of my own is cheating and I cannot say enough good things about this book. All of you must read it!!! It's so whimsical and clever and fun, I can't even handle it. Another 10/10 shrooms for sure.

V-neck sweater

(book that did not meet your expectations)

The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

I promise I did try to come up with something more original here ... but alas. This is one of the most disappointing  book series I've ever read. And yes, I did wade through the entire trilogy hoping it would get better. It didn't. Maybe 4/10 shrooms? I loved the premise, but that was about it.

Argyle sweater

(book with a unique format)

Me: *sees pretty purple hardback in Barnes & Noble*
*opens book and finds pretty formatting*
*reads inside cover flap and is beyond intrigued*
*shelves other books and spends entire gift card*
(Yes, this could also count as an impulse buy!) I get to read this starting next week and I'm SO EXCITED!!! It sounds like Victorian England meets futuristic, sciencey England and dude I'm all for it. Really hoping this is at least an 8 shroom read. It's got some dividers, quotes, "web pages" and other neat things I'm looking forward to diving into.

Polka dot sweater

(a book with well-rounded characters)

The Sentinel Trilogy by Jamie Foley

Her characters are gold and make her epic universe even more awesome. She nails a bunch of character arcs and even mulitple POV really well. Right up there with Hunger Games and Harry Potter in my book!
All of those books were either very highly recommended or very highly not recommended :P SUCH A FUN TAG! I'm lame, so I'm not going to tag anyone, but I'd love to hear your answers on your blog or in the comments. :D What are your thoughts on books, sweaters, and this adorable tag?? ^.^