Short Story, Boxes, Camp NaNo, & Inanimate Objects

Hi everyone!

Two things.

First:

I have a short story on a blog!

Hazel B. West (author of the amazing Blood Ties and An Earthly King) runs a cool website called Tales From a Modern Bard, and has writing challenges there from time to time.

The latest was “Inanimate Objects” and I couldn’t resist taking this excuse to write a story I’d been planning to write for ages.

So I wrote it for the challenge and Oh. Was. It. FUN. (Spoiler: Yes it was.)

And now you can read it!

My story is called A Tale of Two Boxes, about the adventures of… yes… two boxes. If you’ve ever wondered what the life of a cardboard box is like, and what they’re thinking, and how they get from one place to another, then this is the story for you. (If you’ve never wondered… well, few of us have, and now you’re wondering — I hope — so there you are.)

It also features some books arguing about how each of their genres is better than the others’. Yes. This did happen. 😄

I’d be ever so honored if you’d pop over to Tales from a Modern Bard and read my story, and maybe tell me what you think of it! Thank you! ^_^

It was actually incredibly fun to write a story from the perspective of a cardboard box. You would think a story about a box would be boring, but… it was actually fascinating! (To me, at least. XD) I had so much fun and totally fell in love with my cardboard box characters. ❤

(Be sure to read the other challenge stories from the other authors at Tales from a Modern Bard about other inanimate objects, if you have some extra time, because they’re all quite interesting — some tragic, some funny, but all unique. :D)

The second thing has to do with the first thing.

Second:

I’m doing Camp NaNo!

Yes indeed. A couple of writer buddies dragged me into this. 😄

Although I participate in November NaNoWriMo/National Novel Writing Month each year, I haven’t done a Camp NaNo session in positively ages. I kind of stopped doing word challenges for awhile there due to burn out.

But it’s been some time, and I wanted to try it out again. Plus you can set any sort of goal for Camp. So, hoping to get some small things like short stories done, I decided to go for it!

I… um… technically hit my goal and won Camp already? *coughcough* I set it for 5K, given how little I’ve been writing of late. But I’d like to keep writing as much as my busy schedule allows. 🙂

So far for Camp I’ve written 5,813 words this month (that was A Tale of Two Boxes, so far) and I’m having a blast! It’s a wonderful feeling to write again, folks. I’ve missed it.

So there you have my writing updates of late — I wrote a short story for you to read, and I’m doing Camp NaNo.

I know — gasp! — I’m actually talking about writing on my writing blog. The strangeness!

Speak to me, my Roadlings!

Are you doing Camp? (How’s it going?) Did you read my box story and what did you think?? And what’s going on in your writing or reading worlds? 🙂

Tare Turns 5 Years Old

(Kedran’s Wood collage I made. Some images belong to me, others were found on Pinterest, here.)

Some of you are probably squinting at the title of this post, going: “…Wait, what??”

(Especially since, as those three or so people reading this who have beta-read some of the books would know, Tare’s actual age is so confusing in the story itself that he doesn’t need any more confusingness added on.)

(For anyone who is further confused due to not knowing: Tare is the name of my favorite character I’ve ever written [sorry, all you other characters] and he inhabits the contemporary fantasy series I’m writing.)

Let me set you straight.

No, it’s not actually Tare’s birthday (which is in January).

No, this post is not actually about an adorable Tare when he was a small boy (apologies).

But a week ago, on April 5, 2017, it was in fact the 5-year anniversary of the day I first started writing the book in which I first met Tare, the first book in the Kedran’s Wood series, The Owl of Kedran’s Wood!

Yes indeed, it’s KW1’s book birthday!

Here, have a cupcake to celebrate:

Today’s post is a conglomeration of random things about the series, including the first book, and basically just A CELEBRATION OF ALL THINGS KEDRAN’S-WOOD-ISH!

How it Began

It began with the forging of the great rings…

…Whoops, wrong story. How about this?

In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit.

Wait, wrong one again. How about this one:

In an abandoned apartment down a dark alley there lived a Tare?

Closer.

Ahem.

Anyways, it actually began in early 2012 when I “randomly” started writing what I thought would be a fun standalone novella or short novel called The Owl of Kedran’s Wood. I wanted to try a little modern fantasy story and just… started writing. I knew a few things about the story, but for the most part, I was as in the dark as my main characters, the Chess Club. It was a first for me in many ways. I hadn’t done a lot of “pantsing” stories before, and it was also my first modern story.

I never thought I would write a modern story. Contemporary books were never my thing, and I think it’s because I don’t enjoy the kinds of things that modern books can rarely seem to resist including, like school and its petty backstabbing and bullying and drama (ugh), annoying teen characters who don’t get along and have family life problems, and love-triangles… etc., and just general ick. Many modern books just seemed petty to me and I always enjoyed fantasy worlds instead.

So the idea that I would write a fantasy book in *gasp* modern times? Unheard of!

But it happened.

I started writing a modern fantasy book, and ended up writing it (unintentionally) in direct opposition to all the problems I’d had with other modern fiction. I made it a book that I wouldn’t mind reading myself. On the way, I completely fell in love with this cast of characters — the Chess Club became more than friends, they became MY friends, and Tare became my favorite character I’ve written (so far). It also turned out to be 100K words. So much for “short.” 😄

From being a one-time random story I thought I would finish and move on from, it wrapped itself around my heart and turned into a series which, five years later, I’m still working on writing, and foresee being happily involved in scribbling for many more years to come. ^_^

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about this particular book in the series (since it’s been awhile since I finished it) so, in celebration of its birthday, let me direct you to a handy new summary I wrote for it recently.

The Owl of Kedran’s Wood (Kedran’s Wood, Book 1)
by Deborah O’Carroll

Welcome to the town by Kedran’s Wood

  • Where teenaged best friends (but not, y’know, the angsty kind) don’t need to backstab each other (though they might the recent outbreak of monsters).
  • Where it’s not about life in highschool (because who wants to spend more time there than necessary?) but about life outside it.
  • And where the local chess club (see best friends) does more than just play chess . . .

Meet shy Lavender, rambunctious Baz, fiery Ivy, confident Adrian, and wry Mr. Larch. Oh, and Small Occasion (who is tiny, white, and fluffy, and barks like a tree).

This book is about how they play (badly) at being over-reacting amateur detectives more often than at chess; fight monsters (with some—okay, lots of—help from the resident leather-clad stranger); and still find time for friendships old and new, and small occasions like summer lemonade and puns (yes, that last one is always Baz’s fault).

But mostly it’s about the mysterious young man called Tare (see resident leather-clad stranger), how the Chess Club meets him (though whether that’s a terrific or terrible thing is part of the question—Baz would say both, if only for the puns), and how just at the edge of an ordinary small modern town, lies Kedran’s Wood . . .

And that’s where the pieces are beginning to move for a game that’s far from a friendly match of chess.

Books in the Kedran’s Wood Series

and a little bit about them

Novels

  • 1 The Owl of Kedran’s Wood — the summer when Tare and the Chess Club meet, featuring cake-baking disasters and the (almost) end of the world (#awkward). Status: draft written.
  • 2 The Secret of Kedran’s Wood — wintry novel, current work in progress, featuring mysterious villains and (possibly) an evil faerie. Status: 1/3 done? Hopefully more?
  • 3 The Shadow of Kedran’s Wood — featuring summer vacation, more about Tare, and of course secret agents. Status: snippets.

Novellas (to write)

  • 1.5 Son of Kedran’s Wood — in which Tare does stuff between 1 &2, + prequel about his past (yay!)
  • 2.5 Mixup at Kedran’s Wood — in which Tare and Adrian accidentally switch minds/bodies (because that won’t be confusing at all…)
  • 3.5 Celebrations at Kedran’s Wood — in which there is a birthday party and a wedding (no, I’m not telling you whose)

Bonus Novel (to write)

  • The Quest of Kedran’s Wood — in which Marie undertakes something NaNo-ish and writes an epic fantasy book starring the chess club and Tare in medieval roles. And reads it aloud to them. (What could possibly go wrong?)

Number of KW words written so far

According to one calculation:

190,780 words

  • (105K book 1 current finished draft)
  • (65K book 2 current + 10K snippets out of order later in book 2)
  • (10K snippets total from book 3, 1.5, 2.5, and bonus)

That averages out to approximately 104 words of Kedran’s Wood writing per day for 5 years. 😄 (Not counting previous versions or plotting, of course.)

#WIPjoy

In celebration of my Kedran’s Wood series turning 5 years old, and in an effort to get myself immersed again in the writing of KW2, I’m doing #WIPjoy on Twitter all this month, featuring The Secret of Kedran’s Wood!

For those who don’t know #WIPjoy is to celebrate and answer questions about your work-in-progress (WIP), with a different question for every day of the month.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, check it out! …For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter, where have you been?? (Just kidding. 😉 I will excuse you if you don’t have Twitter. 😄 Ahem.)

It’s been a blast so far!

Tare is an INTJ (surprise)

Yes, I took the MBTI test as Tare (or rather, as Tare IS, not how he would answer, because I’m 99% sure he wouldn’t want a random test knowing things about him so he’d likely be less than truthful in that case) and he came out as INTJ, which is the category most villains and awesome dark people like Mr. Darcy and Batman and Sherlock tend to fit into. Yes, I was monstrously pleased at this. 😄 It’s creepy how well he fits it, too…

(He’s not shy but he’s definitely not a people person. I love that he’s 80% introverted. XD)

Tare is the only character I’ve taken the test for, since he’s the only one I know well enough.

Some posts about the series

This seemed like a fun time to highlight some favorite posts in the past about the Kedran’s Wood series or (usually) Tare.

And there you have it!

This concludes my reminiscing about this unlikely but beloved series of mine. (Now to just finish writing it and get it published, amIright?? Ahem. That may be far down the road, but it’s an eventual goal. ;))

What most intrigues you about this series, or what was your favorite part of this post? Thank you so much for putting up with me flailing about this stuff (and reading this post), and celebrating with me the 5-year birthday of this series! ^_^

Review: FOUND by Sally Lloyd-Jones, Illustrated by Jago

I’m doing something a little different today… reviewing a picture book!

Found: Psalm 23

by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Illustrated by Jago

Published by Zondervan: February, 2017

Find the book here: Publisher | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

My Review

FOUND is a charming board book, 20 pages in length, and is an adorable and touching depiction of the 23rd Psalm.

I’m firmly of the opinion that we can never outgrow children’s books, and this one is lovely!

It’s a precious picture book about the Shepherd looking after His sheep. The text is simple but lyrical, basically a simplified version of Psalm 23. I would have preferred it to have the exact words of the psalm, but, that being said, there is also a sort of charm to the way it’s written so that it’s easier for smaller children to understand.

(illustrations © 2017 by Jago)

The illustrations (of the Shepherd, sheep and lamb, and lush meadow and stream scenes) are deceptively simple, but further inspection shows the depth of detail—I could look at it over and over again (and I have!).

(illustrations © 2017 by Jago)

The lamb is my absolute favorite. It has SUCH personality and is just the most adorable thing! I love when it smiles. ❤ This book is worth it just for that little lamb. It’s so cuuute!

If you have a child, nephew, niece, or other little friend (or even for yourself!), I highly recommend checking it out. Just in time for Easter, too! I really enjoyed it. ^_^

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

So, do you ever read picture books? Isn’t this one cuuute? ^_^ Do you have any favorites from childhood (or recenter)? And don’t you want a lamb like that? 😀 (I know, I know, that’s beside the point, but still!) Thanks for reading! 🙂

The Diana Wynne Jones Experience

Last week I posted the first in this two-post series on How to Read a Diana Wynne Jones Book and What Your Fantastic Journey Along the Way May Look Like, in honor of March Magics (celebrating Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett).

Last week’s was the how, and I now invite you to examine the what.

Part the Second:

What Your Fantastic Journey Along the Way May Look Like

Please note that word: “may.”

May is a word which can mean either (a) one of the 12 months of the year, i.e. as it appears in “May Day” which is May 1st and happens to be the birthday of Michael Fisher from Howl’s Moving Castle, for instance, or (b) “might possibly, perhaps, at certain times or for certain people, or, you know, just generally maybe; so don’t quote me on this because it might be different, dontcha know”. I’m referring, in case there was any doubt, to the latter.

In other words, everyone’s Diana Wynne Jones Experience will vary, naturally, as will the individual journeys of each reader consuming each of her books, which is how it should be.

That being said, here are some basic guidelines of some things you may (there’s that word again…) be likely to find or feel in the course of reading a DWJ book.

a map of Fantasyland from DWJ’s “Tough Guide to Fantasyland” seemed appropriate to put here

A book like you’ve never read before

No matter what you think of the story, or which one it is that you read (despite them all being different than each other) this one’s pretty much a guarantee.

All the humor

These books are funny, I tell you. DWJ has a unique brand of humor in her books which I’m unable to describe, but I absolutely love it, whatever it is.

Mind-bending plot twists

Plot twists, surprises, and reveals, that are entirely mind-boggling and CHANGE EVERYTHING. This often results in the need to immediately re-read the book when you finish. (This is  good sign. It means you’re reading it right.)

Things/animals/items which are not what they seem (and might even be people)

This is a big one. Almost nothing in these books are what they appear to be. Cats and dogs? Eh, they might not be what they seem… A piece of furniture? It could be something else. A character you just met? They could turn out to be totally the opposite of what you thought they were. And that’s one of the most fun things about these books! Possibilities are absolutely endless and keep you on your toes.

Genre? What genre?

Most of these books are hard to pinpoint exactly where they fall in the genre pigeonholes. “Fantasy” is generally the broadest one they fit, but after that… well, you’re on your own. There will be dashes of sci-fi, contemporary, historical/time-travel… and they’re all done in a new way and defy categorization. She has, in effect, created her own genre, which is “Diana Wynne Jones”. (I think we writers could learn from this.)

Multi-worlds, magic, and fantasy like no other

These are self-explanatory. The multi-worlds aren’t always present, but multiple words do feature in more than a few of the books, and are always fascinating. Magic and various fantasy elements usually play key roles in the story and are very original and SO interesting.

Chaos

Nobody does chaos quite like Diana Wynne Jones. She’s excellent at it. Magical chaos, family chaos, just general chaotic explosions of THINGS happening all at once and confusingly and hilariously.

Fascinating character-growth and insight into human nature

Often, these books will feature a young hero or heroine who is being used by some unpleasant acquaintance or relative, for some purpose they don’t understand, and they don’t realize because they’re used to it; they find it out in the course of the story and become their own person, and end up doing the right thing in the end. But the way all of these characters are . . . these books SHOW me things about people, and it’s fascinating and so informative.

The best way to learn things about this confusing thing we call life, is accidentally through awesome fiction. ❤

Families (see Chaos)

You don’t see entire families of characters involved in books much these days, which is a shame. DWJ books often involve not only a hero or heroine but often their entire family… and sometime extended family too. This is not only fun but can be amusing as well, and the dynamics are fabulous.

It may make you want to eat sandwiches

I’ve no idea why, but when the characters eat sandwiches or crumpets or something, it makes me WANT TO EAT SOMETHING LIKE THAT RIGHT AWAY. I have been known to spontaneously make cucumber sandwiches or stop reading just to bake shortbread cookies in the middle of the book. (Note: I don’t cook. Ever. [Well. Hardly ever.] So this is extreme.)

How you feel…

At the beginning:

Well. What a fascinating/unique opening. WHAT am I reading?

In the first third or so:

This book is so… strange… and seemingly random… But I’m hooked anyway! So much strange… This is funny. 😀 What is going on? I’ve never read a book like this; my brain cannot compute, but I’m too busy laughing or wondering where this is headed to notice.

Halfway through:

You may realize at this point that as strange as the beginning started out, you suddenly realize you’re UTTERLY CAPTURED by this book and that everything feels perfectly normal to you and makes perfect sense. And also that you’re entirely attached to the characters and story and don’t want it to end.

During the climactic ending parts:

  • EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING. WHAT.
  • HOW ON EARTH (OR QUITE LIKELY OFF OF IT) IS DIANA WYNNE JONES GOING TO WRAP ALL THESE MESSES UP IN THE LAST TINY FEW PAGES??
  • DON’T END, BOOK, I WANT TO READ YOU FOREVER.
  • PLEASE END BECAUSE I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENNNNS!
  • WUT. PLOT TWIST. O_O

How you feel when it’s over:

  • ALSKJDFLKDJ!!! ❤ Wait… what about…?? WHAT HAPPENED THERE? *mind readjusts* *works out twists* Oh. O_O EEE!! ^_^ But wait… Let me go back…
  • A feeling of joy or elation and a general feeling of extreme well-being toward the book, mixed possibly with confusion on some little point or a feeling that it ended a little two quickly, which instead of causing outright discontent, has a tendency to make you think about the book for hours (and sometimes days) after finishing.
  • I LOVED IT. I need to read it again. NOW. THIS INSTANT.

On that note…

Regarding Re-Reading

Please note that DWJ books are always even better on the second round. You will never catch everything the first time because there are so many layers and twists. The second time will be even richer, since now you know all the plot twists and what everything actually MEANS. It will, of course, lack the wonder of first-time-discovery* but will be full of delightful details and a better understanding/appreciation of it.

*Not always; I’ve sometimes re-read only to discover that I forgot almost entirely about some aspect, and got to re-experience it a second time almost like the first!

So what are you waiting for?

If you’ve never read a book by Diana Wynne Jones, you’d best get started at once so that you can get to that re-reading… (Since one can presumably only re-read a book after one has read it the first time… unless there’s time travel or some sort of magical confusion involved, of course. With DWJ, either option is quite likely.)

With this handy guide to How to Read a Diana Wynne Jones Book at hand, I wish you joy in discovering or re-discovering her works.

(If you need some ideas of where to start, I suggest Howl’s Moving Castle, or glancing at this list of many DWJ books that I’ve read, with some thoughts on each. I’ve also started a DWJ Project page on my book blog which I plan to add to at some point.)

You know what I think we should do now?

I know exactly what we should do.

In the words of a certain charming wizard (in more ways than one) from Howl’s Moving Castle:

“I think we ought to live happily ever after”

So let’s do that, you and I, with our Diana Wynne Jones books. 🙂

As said wizard added, “It should be hair-raising.”

Won’t it just.

I can’t wait. ^_^ I hope you can’t either.

(Thank you for reading. <3)

How to Read a Diana Wynne Jones Book

In honor of March Magics*, I present you with the first in a set of two posts on The Diana Wynne Jones Experience, otherwise entitled: How to Read a Diana Wynne Jones Book and What Your Fantastic Journey Along the Way May Look Like.

*Previously known as Diana Wynne Jones March, March Magics is held each… March (who knew?) by Kristen @ We Be Reading, celebrating the works of Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett.


Part The First:

How To Read a Diana Wynne Jones Book


Step 1:

Find a book by Diana Wynne Jones.

This is, naturally, the only required step. And if you haven’t, you should do so at once.

Options include: finding it

  • at a library
  • at a bookshop
  • at a library sale
  • online
  • borrowing one from a friend

You should exercise discernment if you do the last one, for, depending on the friend, they may (a) be thrilled to lend you the book, since “EVERYONE IN THE WORLD MUST READ THIS BOOK OH MY WORD READ IIIIT!” or (b) it may be their Precious, a hard-won copy wrested from a dragon’s lair, and “NO ONE CAN TOUCH THIS BOOK IT IS THE PRECIOUS DON’T YOU DARE” or (c) a mix of both (which is obviously the most dangerous of all).

In the case of b or c, if you do manage to borrow it, you should be extremely grateful** cautious and return it to them promptly upon reading it, utterly undamaged, or your welfare may be threatened. Dragons hath no fury like a bookworm with damaged lent book that they value above all else, especially by this particular author…

Please also note that most fans of this author are FIERCELY LOYAL. I’ll just… you know… leave that note there in case you don’t “get” the books, to suggest caution in your dealings with said fans, especially if they lent you it. It’s basically the equivalent of lending someone your heart, so do be considerate.

If at this point I have left you with a vague and uneasy impression that DWJ fans are like rather cantankerous dragons who might spout fire at you if you look at them (or their books) the wrong way, then let me direct you toward the book “Dark Lord of Derkholm” which contains a strong-willed and rather grouchy but firm dragon known as Scales, and you will see that we have nothing on him, and therefore you are clearly quite safe.

**I won’t force the “grateful” on you, since I’ve read DWJ’s Eight Days of Luke and therefore know better. (The hero of that book was constantly being told by his nasty relatives that he should be grateful for them “looking after” him. Um… yeah, no.)

Step 2: (optional)

Look at the cover.

At this point, you will probably go: “Erm… that’s an… odd… cover… >.>” and be highly tempted to return the book and/or not get it and/or hide it among your stacks of books so no one can see that you have such a dubious-looking book.

Above all else, DO NOT YIELD TO THIS TEMPTATION.

I REPEAT: DO. NOT.

Do not be fooled. Cover artists notoriously have no clue how to illustrate real works of Fantasy Genius, especially when said books are by Diana Wynne Jones.

Press bravely on to what lies between the pages and your fortitude will be rewarded.

Note: This step is not always there. That is, you may look at the cover and be surprised to find it is an okay and/or beautiful one. This, however, is not as common as I would like, and you must count yourself a fortunate soul if it is the case for you.

DWJ tower

Step 3:

Read the book!***

Preferably in a single day.

(You complete this step, naturally, by opening to page one and reading the first sentence, followed by the next, etc., etc.)

Be warned, reader traveler! Once you embark upon this journey, you may not emerge until the final page falls . . . so see to it that you absolutely do NOT start reading it late/after dinner, especially if it’s one of the lengthier specimens, or you may be liable to be up in the wee hours of the night, not caring a smidgen if you have to get up in a few hours, because you simply must finish, at once!

Also, DO NOT STOP READING IN THE MIDDLE IF IT DOESN’T CATCH YOU RIGHT AWAY. These books can at times be a slow-burn type of adventure, which gets going a little slowly through the middle, and you think a lot of it isn’t related, until suddenly in the last third or so, everything starts coming together at once and HAPPENING. So. Press on! Give it a chance even if you feel like it’s not your thing. By the end, it will likely capture you.

***So, I lied; this is the other required step after Step 1.

This third step, the reading, is the most important, and consequently will be the longest step on this journey.

Which brings us to the second part of this two-post series, namely Part the Second: What Your Fantastic Journey Along the Way May Look Like. (Or, as I’m going to call it, The Diana Wynne Jones Experience, because title length, you know. *nods*)

I’ll be posting that next Monday, so stay tuned!

Feel free to wait on the edge of your seat if you like.

I was going to have it all one post, but I couldn’t help myself running away with this delightfully fun topic — surprise! — so I chopped it in half to spare you readers. 😉

(It’s going to be great fun, believe me. >:D)

Part 2: The Diana Wynne Jones Experience