chocolate chips + kdramas // a glimpse into my life currently, feat. Q & A session with Myself

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Hello, lovelies! Look who didn’t actually fall off the face of the earth!

really, I did, but the moon is lonely and there’s no pizza so I’m back

I’ve been absent from Curious Wren long enough that the idea of blogging is ridiculously intimidating, but here I am [rewards self with hot cider]. Because it’s been ages since I’ve blogged regularly and I wanted to re-introduce myself somehow to all of my lovely followers and friends (a.k.a YOU)…

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… I came up with the brilliant idea of a fun Q & A session with Yours Truly. But I didn’t know what questions to use so I asked for help on Twitter and you all were delightfully responsive. [virtual hugs + chocolate for everyone]

Never fear, I’m here to quench your burning curiosity about what books I’m currently reading, which Doctor Who companion I’d want to be best friends with, when I last ate chocolate chips, and what my Top Five Kdrama list looks like. Read on, my dear cacao beans.

Q & A session w/Annie Hawthorne

I feel like I’m interrogating myself, yIKES

Your favorite summer order at a coffee shop? Your fave winter order?

Oh, help.

It depends on where I’m ordering. In the winter I gravitate toward chai teas and coffee with chocolate + mint. There’s a coffee shoppe not far from my workplace with an intimate, bookish ambiance–I frequent it often, ordering a 12 oz. latte because I’m a light-weight when it comes to caffeine, and cozying up at a table to read and write and people-watch. In the summer I adore smoothies, particularly ones with strawberries and citrus. Panera has a caffe mocha that’s illegally delicious when you get it frozen.

When was the last time you had chocolate chips?

Okay, best question ever.

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Yesterday afternoon I snacked on some of the leftover chocolate chip brownies I’d made for my sunday school munchkins, and my sister is planning on making cookies soon which means there’s choc. chip cookie dough in my future. Balm in Gilead, darlings.

What is your ideal summer aesthetic?

1) I’m in the car post-beach trip. The sun sets in a blaze of pinkish-orange glory on the distant horizon, the windows are down and I can smell hay fields + sun-warmed skin. Wind whips my hair in my face, so I hold it back with one hand and stick the other out the window. My siblings are there with me, and we sing along at the top of our lungs to everything from Disney songs to Gaelic music of which pronunciation we slaughter unabashedly. Probably the First Younger Sister is still finishing her ice-cream cone and by now it’s dripping down her wrist and all of us are cracking up with laughter because that’s what siblings do. We are happy, in love with life and God and each other.

2) it’s dusk, and we’re gathered around the bonfire, some people in lawn chairs, others on a dead tree trunk that’s been a fireside bench as long as I can remember. Maybe we finally got around to burning the Christmas tree or maybe it’s just a special friday night. The flames lick at hot dogs and marshmallows. As twilight deepens into night, the cats roam about in the shadows beyond the leaping fire like silent, friendly ghosts. We draw close while Dad reads a short story–the only sound his warm, strong voice and the crackle-pop of the fire. Someone breaks out the sparklers and someone else starts chasing fireflies while Mum cuddles the smallest nephew. My older brother and I have an impromptu race out into the fields behind our house, and finally end up far out under the vast expanse of the starry sky, laughing and stumbling–happy to do nothing but look at the milky way and remember how to breathe and imagine, for a few fleeting seconds, that we’re children again. Later we all sit in the dim glow of the flickering embers and talk, sometimes telling stories, sometimes reminiscing, sometimes just sitting in companionable silence. We are thankful and we are content.

At what age did you come to have a personal relationship with Jesus, and do you have special memories of that time or event?

My personal epiphany that I was a sinner happened when I was quite young (I was a rebellious, unholy terror & I knew it), repentance I also comprehended quickly since I was consistently regretful of my naughty self and always wanting to change and be better and different; realizing that my choice of heaven or hell was literally in my own hands took me longer to understand.

I ended up being six years old when I prayed & asked Jesus to be my personal Savior and friend. It was on a wednesday night and I must have been sick because Mum and I stayed home from church–I recall it was dark and Mummy was singing me to sleep when I started asking her questions about hell and heaven + how exactly I could avoid the one and go to the other, because I knew without a shade of doubt that I was going to hell and I wasn’t partial to the idea. I don’t have a lot of memories beyond my prayer, but I do remember how relieving it was to know that God forgave me no matter what I did and how comforting it was knowing that I was never alone and always safe–no matter how scary the dark was, or how intimidating other children were.

Now that I’m older and much more experienced in life–with my heart deeply hurt multiple times and my soul trampled on–I’m slowly beginning to understand the thankfulness + awe that’s shown in three of the most wonderful verses written in the Bible.

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 8: 38-39

“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” ~ 2 Corinthians 9: 15

What are you currently reading? Currently watching? Currently listening to?

Right now I’m reading far too many books: six to be exact. I have a bad habit of reading multiple books at once which means it takes me longer to finish anything, but I usually finish 2-3 simultaneously so hopefully it all balances out? Currently I’m re-reading Jane of Lantern Hill and falling deeper in love with the evocative, stinging beauty + truth + homey-ness of Montgomery’s writing. I recently picked up The Killer Angels at the Gettysburg Nation Military Park bookstore and I’m loving it to pieces. The story of Gettysburg is one I know by heart but actually reading Killer Angels brings the heroism and heartache of the Civil War alive in a way that’s already making me cry–I’m only in chapter three for goodness sakes. Besides those two I have bookmarks in Northbridge Rectory (Angela Thirkell), Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), Fawkes (Nadine Brandes), Les Miserables (Victor Hugo) and I’m going to start The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis) because obv. I need to be reading a seventh book. what is wrong with me, help

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I’m always currently listening to The Piano Guys, select songs by Celtic Woman, Peter Hollens, and Two Steps from Hell (despite the shocking name, about sixty percent of their music is gorgeous sweeping instrumentals that make you want to create beauty + fight battles + snuggle babies + cry). Right now I’m also compiling a playlist of Korean drama OSTs, etc.

As for what I’m watching, there is a new slew of autumnal kdramas airing and I’ve picked up a couple, dropped some, and have plans to check out a few more as time allows. The Ghost Detective is thoroughly creeping me out in the best of ways and I can’t decide if I regret my life choices or not re: watching it (although, tbh, any drama ft. a scruffy, swoony Daniel Choi can’t be a bad choice). It’s perfect for curling up with a bowl of ramen but I refuse to watch it at nighttime to avoid giving myself nightmares. I just started Terius Behind Me last weekend and I think I’m in love. It’s espionage comedy at its finest with a semi-retired legendary spy babysitting chaotic twins for their extremely relatable widowed mother (Jung In-sun is flawless in every single one of her works I’ve watched) and there’s heaps of shenanigans + hilarious, heartwarming scenes everywhere.

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why do I get invested in things so fast, it’s embarrassing

Top book you’ve read this year?

Hmm… War of Loyalties. It has a special place in my heart and I can’t even talk about it without wanting to cry. I think because the characters are v. alive to me and I’m so fond of them it’s sometimes painful, and also because it’s written by one of my dearest friends and it is a genuinely beautiful, good book with one of the best, most lovable main characters I’ve ever encountered.

I want to hug it–oh, and adopt Starlin & be best friends with Ben & bicker with Jaeryn (because as much as I swoon over him, in real life we would be the type of friends who’d knock heads about everything but would probably die for each other).

Please tell us which is your #1 favorite Korean drama?

Land o’ Goshen, how do I narrow it down to one favorite??? I’m going to cheat and pick Top Favorite(s) per genre:

Mystery/Crime/Investigative: Bad Guys (not to be confused with Bad Guys: City of Evil). It’s gritty, fascinating, and the bromance is everything I hoped for. Runner Up, I Remember You or else Life on Mars both of which are shows to write home about. It’s probably telling of my tastes as a person that all three kdramas make me cry + have epic male friendships.

Action: Two Weeks. Sweetest Dad-Daughter dynamic in the history of tv shows + antiheroes + Lee Jun-ki. Excuse me whilst I fangirl over my favorite Korean actor for a minute.

Fantasy (ish): While You Were Sleeping. More thoughts on that here, although I need to devote a more thorough post to this excellent drama sometime. Runner Up, Goblin.

Science fiction: Circle: Two Worlds Connected. I watched it whilst it was airing and, let me tell you, my stress levels were at an all time high (those cliffhangers wHY) and I cried like a baby in the last two episodes. Probably one of the best stories about brothers that I’ve watched in my life. Runner Up, I am not a Robot (which is actually more rom-com than science, but, oh, well.)

Comedy: Woohoo Waikiki or Go Go Waikiki. Disclaimer: this show has a lot of crude humor and some scenes/side plots that it could’ve done without–nothing that can’t be skipped though. That aside, it’s possibly the most heart-warming, relatable comedy I’ve watched, showcasing wonderful, resilient friendships and actual dialogue gems about life that made me cry (I never expected to cry in this, but what can I say; apparently, I’m an emotional viewer). Don’t watch this while you’re eating, because the chances of choking from laughter are high.

School/coming-of-age: School 2013 which has basically the most precious, feels-inducing bromance/friendships that exist, besides Samwise and Frodo in LOTR. Runner Up, Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju.

Slice of Life: Your House Helper. I never knew a TV show could be so restful and healing. This is a beautifully crafted drama about life and learning to stand up for yourself + how to give yourself grace as a person (whether you’re struggling with mental health or job-hunting or loss or unrequited love). It’s just sweet, and because of it I have a few growth marks on my soul that weren’t there before.

This list will probably look v different in a couple years, ask me again in 2020. Also, if you’re interested in any of these dramas, feel free to ask me about them! Come to the dark side, we have cookies & crying sessions & intellectual discussions & way too many feelings.

What’s the story you’ve written/are writing that you are most pleased and proud about?

The story I’m most proud of is one I’m currently writing about a mute girl and a magical cat. Something about it feels right and I can’t wait for it to make friends with the bookworm world someday.

What got you into kdramas and what are your top five shows?

I blame Mirriam Neal for this. All my pain and tortured feels are 100% her fault. [blows kisses in her direction] At the moment my top five shows are, in no particular order:

  • Life on Mars.
  • I Remember You/Hello Monster.
  • While You Were Sleeping.
  • School 2013.
  • Bad Guys.

What are your favorite books of all time?

The Hobbit. Always The Hobbit first of all. I genuinely do not remember a time when I didn’t know about Bilbo and Gandalf and Gollum–I was four years old when we named a bunny after Bilbo and I was already well-acquainted with his character by that point so I assume I was a smol baby when Mother started her tradition of reading The Hobbit aloud to us each year. Other all-time favorite books are:

  • A Christmas Carol
  • The Wind in the Willows
  • Jane of Lantern Hill
  • Halo: Ghosts of Onyx
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • War of Loyalties
  • The Blue Castle
  • Lord of the Rings
  • The Code of the Woosters
  • Flora & Ulysses
  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • Peter Pan
  • North and South
  • basically all the Pooh Bear books
  • The Secret Garden
  • The Silver Chair
  • Little Women
  • I, Juan de Pareja
  • Paddington
  • Jane Eyre
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
  • The Hiding Place

I suppose I should stop now.

If you could have one Doctor Who companion for a best friend, which one would it be?

As much as I love all the companions, I would probably pick Martha or Rory. I have too many negative similarities to Donna, Amy, and Clara so I don’t know if we would necessarily get along as best friends. Martha would be amazing though (she’s seriously underrated and it’s the saddest thing) and Rory is such a nice, lovable, down-to-earth fellow–I feel we’d be good friends.

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Do you listen to music while you write?

Nearly always, yes. Silence is too distracting because it’s like being in a hollow cavern with noises echoing everywhere. I like to write with people around me, but if I don’t keep my earbuds in they start talking to me and there goes my focus. I prefer instrumental music because lyrics distract me, but if they’re in a different language (say, Gaelic or Korean) then all’s fine and dandy. Some of my favorite instrumentals to accompany my writing are Doctor Who soundtracks, basically anything by John Williams or Howard Shore, and select songs by Two Steps from Hell (we just call it TSFH) e. g. Homecoming, For the Win, Compass, Never Give up on Your Dreams & Protectors of the Earth.

Cats? Dragons? Baby Griffins? Foxes?

All of them. I’m especially partial to merch with raccoons + red pandas + foxes. And I’m going to own no less than three cats someday. I have names picked out and everything; there’ll be the Queen of Sheba, Piccadilly, and Samwise. Other options include Kwazii, Mowgli, Incorrigible Creature, Pippin, Gentleman Tom, Professor Potts, etc. I think about my future felines’ names more than I think about my future children’s. this is normal.

What about you, friendlies? What are you currently reading? And what is your Book of the Year so far? Let’s chat!

mayhem and whimsy // the Curious Wren’s summer TBR tower

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Despite the fact that it’s already mid-July how can this be possible say it isn’t so I’ve finally written down a list of books I’m eager to read over the summer. Some are special favorites, some are brand-new (as in Just Published) and others are books I’ve been intending to finish for weeks now and this is my final nudge of “Annie, stop prevaricating (such a good, stimulating word) and READ THE bOoKs ALREADY.”

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This is one of my traditional summer reads–it has all the essence of childhood nostalgia, dripping glasses of ice-cold lemonade on sultry afternoons, cicadas singing, the low hum of a battered, oscillating fan, sepia-colored tones, and learning how to understand pain & people & hope.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes. I actually pre-ordered it which tells you everything you need to know about my level of excitement for this magical twist on the story of Guy Fawkes. Plus Nadine Brandes has the sweetest heart for her fans + she’s highly relatable so I’m over the moon about being able to support her. It’s a nice thing when one has favorite authors that are actually, y’know, alive and in the same century that felt dark oops.

The Unmapped Sea by Maryrose Wood. It’s the last book I have to re-read before I can pick up the finale of the series (silent flailing). The Incorrigible Children and their brave, kind governess “Lumawoo” are such precious gingersnaps, ohmyheart.

The Long-Lost Home by Maryrose Wood. (see above) I’ve loved this series since the first book caught my eye at the library nine years ago. I’ve counted down the days as each book was released, and I’m high-key emotional at the thought of the series ending. Excuse me whilst I go have a smol moment of weeping.

Joshua L. Chamberlain: The Life in Letters of a Great Leader of the American Civil War by  Thomas A. Desjardin. Chamberlain is one of my favorite historical heroes, to put it mildly. Since I might have the chance this year to visit some of the key locations in the life of this incredible man, I figured a bit more knowledge about him wouldn’t be a bad idea. Really though, the writer-side of me is squealing at the thought of reading someone’s private letters (a thing I’ve never done) and having the opportunity to discover fascinating insights about their character; how they thought, and felt, what their dreams and fears were. It’s like a treasure hunt, but better.

Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery. I’m re-reading the Anne series and I am Stuck. I devoured the first four books & loved them more than ever, but for some reason Anne’s House of Dreams aggravates me every time I pick it up. Even my perennial favorites, Captain Jim and Miss Cornelia, are not enough to entice me to finish the book. It’s terrible.

Mossflower by Brian Jacques. Per my Youngest Sister’s recommendation I’m reading the Redwall books for the first time BUT I’m reading them in chronological order. So far I’ve read Lord Brocktree and Martin the Warrior (this one scarred me forever but I love it). Now I’m in the middle of Mossflower and currently my favorite character is Gonff the King of Mouse Thieves… which probably means he’ll die by the end of the book. Brian Jacques is a cruel, cruel author, lovelies.

Crowning Heaven by Emily Hayse. a) portal fantasy with one of my favorite heroines, b) I had the privilege of beta-reading this when it was still in the refining stage–there’s something special about holding a book in your hands and knowing you helped it become the best version of itself.

Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. Anybody acquainted with me knows how much I adore Alice in Wonderland and, therefore, is likely as perplexed as I am that I haven’t read the sequel yet. Bring on the mayhem & whimsy.

Am I being overly optimistic with this list?

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Am I hyped to take it on anyways?

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What’s on YOUR summer TBR list? Let’s chat!

 

 

Blog Tour: Crowning Heaven // feat. the evolution of a character in the words of her author

When my lovely + talented friend Emily Hayse asked for volunteers to help out in a blog tour for her debut YA portal fantasy novel, I jumped at the chance. Ever since I had the privilege to beta-read Crowning Heaven a year or so ago, the heroine Heaven (let’s just appreciate the unique beauty of that name for a moment) has been one of my favorite characters; shining out like a steady, sweet light amongst all the other book-people that have laid claim to my affections over the years.

Today we get to find out how Heaven came into existence and enjoy a glimpse of her journey into the world of Grown Up + Published Books.

Introducing Heaven (as written by Emily Hayse)

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I distinctly remember: I met Heaven on a cold, gray afternoon in December. I stepped into a small, empty establishment called Madelyn’s for a hair cut with my younger sister. She went first, and I sat down to wait.  “You can look at the magazines,” encouraged the stylist. “See if any styles in there strike your fancy.”  I knew what I wanted, but I picked them up anyway.  After a few minutes I realized that Carrie Mulligan, sporting a lovely blonde pixie was in almost every one of them.  I had seen her in a couple things before. A friend had mentally casted her as a character in her book. I thought it was cute and set down the magazines to get my hair cut.  But the vision of a smiling girl with dimples and a blonde pixie followed me around for the rest of the day.

fun fact: Heaven has no middle name, and her mother was originally a morally gray character who deliberately abandoned Heaven on Earth.

I was restless. I had just finished NaNoWriMo, I was working on a historical fiction tome set on a British Ship in the seventeenth century. But there was something, something big, lurking in the back of my mind.

That night it clicked into place in my mind. I never remember the clicks really–the moment where it turns from random floating pieces to a solid project that I can build on is usually a black hole of vagueness. But that night, the small blonde girl in the pixie with the dimples got a story.  And I wrote, swiftly, in a beautiful blue notebook that had been gifted me for Christmas, before I forgot the words as they flew into my head: I write in feverish haste. The world is slipping away. I am greeted by the light of a million unknown stars…farewell, Earth! Farewell! 

I wrote notes frantically on note-cards before church the next morning, after church I started a Pinterest board. When a book takes me, it really takes me. I kept the project secret for a while as I usually do, and slowly Heaven and her world took form.

fun facts: Heaven had a temporary foster brother named Chan, who was adopted from China. She loves books, especially fiction, and she does not like fake cheese.

Heaven is a cellist. She is an ex-foster child. She is a lover of vanilla lattes. From a very young age she’s had to fend for herself, even in the context of foster care, and so she’s quite independent by the time we meet her and she has come to terms with grief and regret. Her music is her refuge and a good deal of her income. I do not consider myself a cellist, but it is agreed on by many musicians I’ve met that if they could start over again, they would become cellists.  Maybe in that way I made her the coolest thing I knew how to make. But it was not a conscious decision. She literally walked into the book with her cello over her shoulder and ordered a vanilla latte and I’ve been trying to keep up ever since.  If you want something fun, most of the songs Heaven plays on her cello are on my Official Crowning Heaven Spotify playlist, so you can look them up as you read the book.

fun fact: Heaven came to love vanilla lattes because her foster father, Mr. DeKlyen would buy her one on the way home from cello lessons if she practiced every day that week.

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It was February when the very first person besides myself met Heaven. I was going to a friend’s concert with my older sister, just the two of us, and she, being a clever sort of girl, could tell that I had been keeping a new project under wraps and had not been sharing it. She always figures it out. We were in a clunky van on a cold day, listening to Homecoming, because though I had heard it and fallen in love in the context of Crowning Heaven, everyone else liked it because it was pretty.  We were listening to it on repeat when she asked. I had the notebook with me, I carried it everywhere. So I read the beginning, and she met Heaven. And she fell in love.  “Emily, this is the book you should publish first, I’m serious.”

It was that simple. The real journey began.

Heaven’s birthday is on June 24th. After writing along (rather slowly at times) for a while, I decided in May that I was going to finish the book on her birthday, which I did. It was a beautiful, long day where I wrote 7K by hand and finished at one in the morning, crying over my manuscript.  To me, Heaven personifies quiet and gentle courage. Not the sort that draws attention to itself, but that tries in its small way to do the right thing when given a choice, and I really wanted to show that and its ramifications on a large scale.  She and many of the other characters are examples to me of what I would hope to do if I was in their situation. And I hope it is a similar inspiration to many others.

The Book:

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Heaven Cassidy has only ever wanted one thing: a family. But when she opens a letter from her long-lost mother, she finds herself running for her life. Swept into a world of proud queens and ancient feuds, Heaven must decide whether her dream is worth taking on the responsibility of two kingdoms, one of which wants to crown her and the other to kill her.

Available on Amazon – Add it on Goodreads

Meet the Author:

As long as she can remember, Emily Hayse has been avidly in love with story, a love that has only grown with time. A fascination with human nature and an ongoing quest for courage, hope, and beauty drive her writing passion.

When she isn’t writing, she can be found working with dogs or horses, studying historical tall ships, or trying a new recipe in the kitchen. Her hobbies include learning Maori and Gaelic, playing the bodhran, and trying to restore a classic car.

And don’t forget to check out an exciting giveaway soon to be announced on her website, www.emilyhayse.com!

Let’s talk about OTPs // in appreciation of slow burn + healthy relationships

Today we’re going to talk about slow-burn love stories which happens to be one of my favorite types of relationship development under the sun. It’s right up there with enemies-to-lovers and friends-to-lovers. I will freely admit that I am basically giving myself a chance to rave (hopefully with some semblance of intelligence) over two couples that caught my attention and inspired my writer self last year.

The OTPs (One True Pairings) I am talking about today are from two Kdramas (Korean TV shows) that I watched in 2017. I’ve been percolating over this article for a good few weeks now–hopefully I can express my thoughts coherently and do it justice.

tiny, wee spoilers to follow

I Remember You/Hello Monster Couple: Lee Hyun and Cha Ji-an

This police procedural drama is all about psychopathy and estranged brothers and “are monsters born or created?” and it’s fascinating; but the core of the story and what makes the drama’s resolution even possible is the main couple.

Cha Ji-an carries the weight of being a criminal’s daughter, but she is also a detective with a strong sense of justice who consistently puts others before herself. She is a protector–sometimes to the detriment of her own safety and emotional health.

Lee Hyun watched his father die and lost his little brother in one night. As a result of that childhood trauma he is closed-off and fighting to prove to himself that he isn’t the monster that his father believed he was.

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The romance starts out gradually. It is literally slow-burn with a dash of enemies-to-lovers as Lee Hyun and Cha Ji-an butt heads at every turn. Something I really appreciated about the start of their relationship is that, even though they are continually at odds, they’re not dismissive of each other as people and the clashing of their characters comes more from the fact that Ji-an is a detective and Hyun is a criminal profiler, hence they see things from completely different perspectives.

Of course, once they are forced to depend on each other their relationship gradually morphs into reluctant friendship. Then they start to be concerned when the other person is hurting or in danger and that’s when my favorite aspect of this particular relationship kicks in. The mutual respect and strong concern for the other person’s well-being slowly deepens into love and it’s precious. The feels are real with this one, y’all.

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Their romance is reminiscent of the famous Austen quote: “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. You hear nothing but truth from me.”

I honestly don’t remember them even saying the words “I love you” other than Hyun’s adorable and swoony way of telling Ji-an that she ranks highest in his heart. Not that it isn’t important for a couple to express their love in words, but the thought with Lee Hyun and Cha Ji-an is that at a certain point there is no doubt in their mind how the other person feels about them. Hyun knew without even having to ask that Ji-an loved him because she showed him as clear as daylight in the way she looked out for him and believed in him. As for Ji-an, once Hyun confessed to her in the adorable way previously mentioned, she understood how much he cared about her.

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Lee Hyun and Cha Ji-an are important as an OTP to me because even though they have their own personal struggles, even when they are drowning in their own hurt: they stand by each other no matter what. Ji-an’s steadfast belief that Hyun is not a monster like he fears (but just a very damaged person who needs help) has a huge influence on him and essentially jump-starts his road to healing. At the same time Hyun’s constant, quiet care of Ji-an and how he is there for her when she is overwhelmed by grief or fighting a moral dilemma (such as taking the law into her own hands) is one of the best aspects of his character.

They are each other’s anchors, not in an unhealthy I-will-go-to-pieces-if-you-are-not-here sort of way, but as a safe place for the other person. It’s heartwarming and precious and I just really, really love these two.

Disclaimer: I Remember You/Hello Monster is a crime show that deals with psychopathy, somewhat graphic crime scenes, serial killers, etc. Minimal swearing. No indecent scenes. Possible danger of sobbing into your ice cream. Swooniness guaranteed.

While You Were Sleeping Couple: Jung Jae-chan and Nam Hong-joo

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Saving the best for the last. [happy sigh]

Modern love-stories that are sweet + healthy + stable without all the misunderstandings and emotional upheavals/drama actually do exist. I knew they did, but they are few and far between and my list is Very Small. So when I watched While You Were Sleeping last September-November the love story took me completely by surprise.

(disclaimer: While You Are Sleeping is a drama that deals with crime. Minimal swearing. No immoral scenes. Much sweetness. May kill you from the hilarity. Or from the crying. Features Best Secondary Character in the history of Kdrama)

I’m used to OTPs killing my feels with all the pain and tears (coughFitzSimmonscough) or giving me heart-attacks with the dramatic, sweeping gestures. When I started watching WYWS I kept on expecting a drawn-out denial of feelings + emotional turmoil culminating in a declaration of love that (probably) takes place in a burning building or during a stunning sunset. Therefore, I was surprised as the story progressed and Jae-chan and Hong-joo fall in love with all the softness and sweetness of a light summer rain. At first I am ashamed to admit I was actually a bit disappointed. “Give me the Doctor and River Song! Give me Margaret and Mr. Thornton! Give me Han Solo and Leia!” (I demanded).

oh, silly annie.

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I remember the scene when it hit me how perfectly the love-story was crafted. Hong-joo has a special gift, or curse depending on how you look at it. She can see the future (usually a catastrophic future) in her dreams and she and Jae-chan–who is a rookie prosecutor–work together to prevent her dreams from happening or to change them if they can. Naturally, I thought this was much too contrived and convenient. They were clearly meant to be together as a couple, hence where was the suspense? where were the sparks? “I need the chemistry” (I grumbled, completely forgetting that not all chemistry between couples has to be electrifying).

Then THAT scene happened. I won’t say what scene it is because spoilers are the scourge of happy people everywhere, but I was floored. It’s such a quick moment that if you’re not paying attention you might not even realize the significance, but I sat there stunned as my epiphany hit me and everything about Jae-chan and Hong-joo’s relationship clicked into place. From that moment on I was toast.

I think one of the marks of a good OTP is the ability that it has to move you to tears, and after that scene I cried multiple times. But here’s the thing, I wasn’t crying because the love story was sad or gut-wrenching–I was crying because it was beautiful. There is a special quality of trust and belief and actual, real understanding between this couple that I have seen in very few romances. River Song had no idea just how much the Doctor loved her until years after they had been married. Even Amy and Rory–as much as I adore them–struggled with knowing just what the nature and strength of the other’s feelings were.

Jae-chan and Hong-joo know each other so well and understand each other with such clarity that there is no place for dramatic angst in their relationship. Instead the conflict comes from elsewhere, e.g. opposition to their relationship, Hong-joo’s dream about her future death, etc. And through it all they are there for each other as beacons of hope and faithfulness.

The romance in While You Were Sleeping doesn’t have the dramatic flair of many love stories, but it’s that much sweeter for its steadiness and strength. Jae-chan and Hong-joo taught me an important lesson about OTPs, i.e. love doesn’t always have to be portrayed as fire-works and grand gestures and feels-inducing angst and passionate kiss scenes as the world goes up in flames. Sometimes it is simply a couple knowing each other inside-and-out, steadfastly standing by their sweetheart + believing in them and trusting them no matter what.

And I think that is beautiful.

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What about you? What are some of your favorite slow-burn romances? Also, by all means, give me a list of your fave healthy relationships. I WANT ALL THE RECS MY PRECIOUS GINGERSNAPS

dare to move forward // feat. annie’s word for twenty-eighteen

 

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Twenty-eighteen marks the third year in a row that I’ve chosen a word to sum up everything I hope for in the coming months. 2016’s word was brave and my word for 2017 was others. With both words, I knew almost as soon as January rolled around exactly what I wanted.

But not this year.

I had a specific idea of what I wanted to see happen in 2018 but there didn’t seem to be any words that fit with my thought to perfection. I toyed around with venture and focus and bloom and none of them felt right, although focus came close. I prayed about it and searched in the dictionary and made lists.

The word I kept coming back to still feels a bit odd, like a puzzle piece that won’t quite fit where it’s supposed to go, but in the end it expresses my over-arching goal + desire for 2018 better than anything else I mulled over.

for·wardadverb

  • toward the front; in the direction that one is facing or traveling.
  • onward so as to make progress; toward a successful conclusion.

Last year felt like a time where I went in circles. I was processing the aftermath of two deaths in my life, and several things slowed to a snail’s pace as a result–specifically writing and Curious Wren. It was a hard+ fulfilling year in terms of my spiritual growth as a Christian, and I know I’m a different, better person for it. But looking back over 2017 in regards to my writing life and my dreams, I didn’t make much progress.

So, this year I’m taking my dreams back in my hands.

I’m going to write. I have a magic realism book I can’t wait to explore–I’ve already written the first couple chapters and I’m head-over-heels in love with the charries and the story. It’ll be a bit like Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures in the feeling of bittersweet nostalgia and whimsy, I hope.

I’m going to focus on reading more, because we all know that to be a good writer we need to be immersing ourselves in wonderful literature. #tornbetweenRereadsandmyTBRtower

I’m going to create a regular schedule for blogging. I have all sorts of articles up my sleeves that I can’t wait to share with you darlings.

I’m praying about attending a writers’ conference. I have plans already to travel and go on several road-trips. I’m going to be more intentional with my time (already working on that. which YAY) and study and learn, and challenge myself as a sunday school teacher and child of God.

I have so many plans for this year, it’s making me giddy in the best of ways.

God-willing, in twenty-eighteen I will move…

FORWARD

 

 

Blog Tour: interview with War Of Loyalties’ Jaeryn Graham // feat. secret agent. doctor. precious gingersnap I will fight for.

This is a very special day. I am introducing you, Wrenlings, to a couple of my favorite people. One is real. The other is less so.

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[Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash]

Every now and then in life you encounter someone who you know instantly will be a kindred spirit and soul-friend. Schuyler McConkey is one of those delightful people. She also happens to be a writer who just published her debut novel War of Loyalties exactly one week ago.

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(in which the 11th doctor has the perfect reactions always)

Jaeryn Graham happens to be a Highly Important Character in said novel and also a precious gingersnap that I fell head-over-heels for the moment I met him. For me, Jaeryn is right up there with all the other infuriating, lovable, swoon-worthy men of literature, e.g. John Thornton, Dustfinger, Mr. Rochester, Holmes, etc. Today I have the privilege of featuring this enigmatic doctor + secret agent here on Curious Wren and I am OVER THE MOON ABOUT IT WITH DELIGHT. deep breaths, Annie. deep breaths.

First, here’s a bit about War of Loyalties.

April, 1917. A ring of German spies threatens the coastal town of Folkestone, England. Newly-recruited agent Ben Dorroll must uncover which British citizens are traitors to their country. When his first attempt at espionage falls prey to a trap laid by German sympathizers, the security of the British Secret Service is threatened. Feeling lost in a strange country and aching for a steady place to call home, he wants to resign and go back to his American medical work. But when he learns that his family identity holds the key to capturing the spy ring, Ben has no choice but to unite with the mysterious Jaeryn Graham so that the truth can be discovered.

In the aftermath of the Irish Rebellion, Jaeryn Graham’s British colleagues look warily on his Irish background. Always up for a challenge, he thinks his new mission in the Secret Service should be an opportunity to prove his prowess. But after encountering death and alienating two agents, he finds the road to victory isn’t as easy as he thought. Unless he can win the loyalties of his newest assistant, Ben Dorroll, his secret ambitions and his perfect success record will be destroyed.

About the Author: Schuyler McConkey is a writing teacher, book reviewer, and ministry leader living half of her life in happy fellowship with her family and spending the other half in angst-filled fictional worlds. She is passionate about classic, Dickensian stories and characters who encounter deep struggles touched by grace. Irish music, British movies, and chai lattes provide the fuel for her dreams.

 Let the interrogation interview begin!

Annie: Welcome to Curious Wren, Jaeryn; I’m so pleased to have this chat with you today. *pours cup of tea and scoots chocolate cake closer* Tell us about yourself, if you please.

Jaeryn: Thank you, Miss Hawthorne. I have references available, if you would like me to add you to my patient roster. I’ve been living in Folkestone for the last few months starting my first practice. Before that, I was finishing school and completing various residencies.

Annie: Thank you for your thoughtful concern for my health. I’m quite touched, but at the present, I don’t need any medical care. Speaking of which, what led you to pursue medicine as a career?

Jaeryn: I am glad to hear you are in good health, Miss Hawthorne. Please don’t hesitate to call if you ever find yourself ill. I decided to be a doctor when I was around fifteen. I like to use my skills to keep illness from harming families and to oversee the wellbeing of a town. I have the capability to make quick and precise decisions, and I enjoy the sense of power that this work brings.

Annie: Your reasons are admirably noble, if I may say so, but I’m fascinated by your statement that you enjoy the sense of power that being a doctor gives you. What do you think that means regarding your personality, and does such a feeling ever concern you in any way?

Jaeryn: Some men are born to be leaders, and I have sensed from a very young age that I was one of them. I can’t say that it does concern me, Miss Hawthorne. Without sounding conceited, I feel confident in my ability to control my controlling tendencies. They haven’t run away with me yet, and as long as I exercise some common sense, I don’t think they will.

Annie: I’m glad to hear that you exercise such fine self-control. If you consider yourself as having been born to be a leader then how does that translate into the life of a doctor? You could have pursued politics or perhaps the clergy or even espionage.

Jaeryn: The clergy was not something I ever considered pursuing. Politics can be powerful, but one is at the mercy of elections and the cooperation of other men. In this field, I can work alone and set my own course for the things I consider important in life. While it doesn’t happen in every case, a doctor can control the course of illness and sometimes death, and enjoys a position of influence in society for causes that are important to him.

Annie: Without intending to flatter you, I will say my respect of you has deepened due to this conversation. But, I’m curious, since you’re a doctor and frequently come in contact with illness and death and all the difficult emotions related to that, is it a struggle to distance yourself from your patients or do you find yourself becoming too empathetic? Do you tend to keep your emotions bottled up or do you have a companion you can vent your thoughts to?

Jaeryn: I can control many things, but there are occasions when illness and death get the best of me—or treating them is draining seeing the impact that it has on the patient that it is hard to watch them suffer. I feel grief. On many occasions I feel grief mixed with anger in the face of pain I cannot cure. I am strong, and not debilitated by what I see, but I am also not untouched by it.

When I am thinking about occasions like that, a friend of mine seems to have a sixth sense on what evenings he needs to stop by. He has an uncanny ability to listen in the midst of all his chatter.

Annie: You seem to have all the right abilities to make an excellent doctor, and I’m pleased to hear that you have friends who can give you a listening ear when you need it. That’s so important. On that note, and not all intending to be impertinent, have you ever been married or wanted to be?

Jaeryn: I do not wish to be married. A wife would want to read over my shoulder and go out to social engagements, and both of those things would be distressing. I prefer to stay home as much as possible unless it’s connected to my work, and I do not allow anyone to read my papers.

Annie: What if the woman was blind and preferred a good cup of tea and knitting by the fireside to social gatherings?

Jaeryn: In that case she may have difficulty knitting, Miss Hawthorne. Neither could she make tea. While I would try to take good care of her, this sounds more like a patient than a wife. Perhaps I should cut this interview short, if we are going to delve into deeply personal questions.

Annie: My apologies. Have another cup of tea. I just have two more questions for you, and I’ll do my best not to pry. What is one of your fondest childhood memories? Vice versa, what was something that you struggled with as a child?

Jaeryn: My fondest memory is lying out on the grass, in the fresh air, on a Sunday afternoon. I had company I loved, in a place that I loved, and I knew that as soon as I went home there would be supper on the stove.

I struggled with loss.

Annie: One last question: when you picture your future, how do you see yourself in it and are you pleased with what you expect the reminder of your life to be?

Jaeryn: I picture the future as struggle and secrets, calculation and power, victory and life. And if what I see comes to pass, then I will die pleased, however long or short that life may be.

Annie: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. I had a wonderful time, and let me just take this opportunity to FLAIL BECAUSE YOU ARE QUITE POSSIBLY ONE OF MY FAVORITE CHARRIES EVER I CANNOT BELIEVE I AM TALKING TO YOU RIGHT NOW YOU’RE AMAZING AND INFURIATING AND I THINK I NEED A FANGIRL MOMENT AND MAY POSSIBLY START HYPERVENTILATING HaLp

*Jaeryn sympathetically lays a hand on your arm*

My dear Miss Hawthorne, you have been a very inquisitive but kind companion, and I am happy to have done you a good service. Allow me to suggest a cup of tea and perhaps a quiet nap this evening. It does a great deal to calm the nerves when one wishes to regain tranquility.

*writes you a prescription which you may keep as an autograph if you wish*

(don’t forget to enter the book giveaway!)

 

oh, look, she exists // #CuriousWrenhappenings + incidentally I am still on this planet

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Currently: today is a quiet, mellow day. Later I’m going christmas shopping with the Older Sister and I have a chiro appointment, but right now there’s a cup of hot mint tea at my elbow and out the window I can see the bare limbs of the birch trees and the heavy, dark-green boughs of the pines swaying in the blustery November wind.

Thinking: about all the books I want to re-visit. Little Women. Brambly Hedge. The Mistmantle Chronicles. David Copperfield. Narnia. Lord of the Rings. Tales of Goldstone Wood. Johnny Tremain. Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates. Wind in the Willows. Pooh Bear. Tintin comics. Can someone please tell me the way to Gallifrey so I can st–borrow a TARDIS? Time shall not be the boss of me! [she says as she keeps one eye on the clock so she’s not late for her appointment]

Words Percolating: this verse from Ephesians chapter 5; “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.”

Listening: Enya. Sometimes you just need soft, breathy vocals to enhance your happy place.

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Reading: Three books. Anne of the Island because I started re-reading the entire series a couple months ago. I’m almost done with the third book and am falling more deeply in love with the magic and simplicity of Montgomery’s writing. She understood people at a level few authors have. Jane Eyre, which is a traditional autumn read of mine. I’m taking it slow because I forgot how despicable her relations were and it riles me every time I read. The only things keeping me from flinging the book across the room is my reputation and the fact that I don’t want to ding the corners of my precious copy. Les Miserables. [insert silent bow at all the various humans in my life who’ve been badgering me to read it]

Mood: Poirot when he sits down with the Perfect Cup of Hot Chocolate.

Loving: Thomas Newman’s soundtrack for Little Women // Modcloth’s thigh-high fox socks // Autumn-autumn-everything-autumnal // flannel plaid shirts that are just the right shade of rich blue // gingersnaps // inside jokes with my coworkers and our boss // the crackle of dead leaves crunching under my boots // stories that give me a nostalgic glimpse of my childhood // studies on What It Means To Be Holy // people who do not hesitant to hug you back // spontaneous outings with friends // writing at coffee shoppes // being a Sunday School teacher // Panera’s chai tea // Spiderman: Homecoming. I am so here for awkward + adorkable young superheros who don’t want to kill people and have homework and strict moral compasses and will fight you even though they are terrified and just want their Hero/Father figure to come save them // customer service people who go out of their way to make your day amazing.

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Anticipating: christmassssssssssssss — there are not enough letters in the alphabet to express how much I adore everything about the christmas season // Blogging again. I’m so excited to have cleaned the cobwebs off the door and stepped back over the threshold of Curious Wren. I missed all of you! // Nadine Brandes’ newest novel, FAWKES. Check out that gorgeous book cover // WAR OF LOYALTIES COMES OUT ON THE 30TH IM NOT HYPERVENTILATING YOU’RE HYPERVENTILATING. #WW1SpyNovelsFTW

Thankful: for every single day I have to spend with all my precious humans. More about this topic + the Reason for my Hiatus in the next blog post, Lord-willing. [she said ominously]

What are your Current Happenings, friendlies?