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?

Of gingerbread and sibling-angst and space sirens and poison gardens // Beautiful Books #1

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Do you know what tomorrow is?

The first day of (Na)tional (No)vel (Wri)ting (Mo)nth.

*collective shrieking of writers all over the world*

This is my first year properly participating–unlike last year when I sort of forgot all about the fact that I meant to write the whole month long + life happened.

Am I nervous? Hah. I’m on the nervous level of a gingersnap on a cookie platter in front of a little boy right now.

Am I excited? YOU HAVE NO IDEA. I’ve counting down the days and I have this grand plan of getting up at 5:00 a.am on work days so I can write, and I’ve warned my family in advance that I may become a hermit, and–*flailing* so excited i become incoherent when i talk about it. Half of my excitement could be attributed to the fact that I am in love with my story, which reminds me of the whole point of this post: who wants to know what Annie is writing for NaNo?

FYI: I’m planning on writing most of my book in longhand–which is how I usually first-draft–so that means I’m aiming for a lower word goal that 50,000. Basically I am going rogue and turning NaNo into Camp NaNo.

(also FYI: some of you may recognize this as the book I worked on briefly for last NaNo. I’m hoping to finish it this time around. Absolutely. Definitely and for sure.)

Cue the Beautiful Books questionnaire hosted by Cait and Sky wherein I divulge never-before-revealed secrets of….

Witchling

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What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

Witchling is the book that was never supposed to exist. It’s actually the sequel to I am Juliette, the first book in my series of science fiction fairytale re-tellings. When I first started toying with the idea of a sci-fi Beauty and the Beast re-telling I sternly ordered myself to keep it a standalone novel because I have a very bad habit of spinning every story into a series. That would not be the case with I am Juliette, I declared.

*laughs at poor, ignorant, innocent Past Self*

(If we’re getting technically it was actually a character’s fault. He mentioned someone briefly in IAJ and, of course, my curiosity got the better of me and I had to find out all about said charrie. So, it is my fault? Never mind. Carry on.)

I think Witchling has been in the works for roughly a year and a half? And when I say “in the works” that means I have 10,000 words of the first draft written. Everything else is still in that lovely, ethereal realm of Not-Quite-Sure-What-Is-Happening-But-It’ll-Be-Glorious.

Describe what your novel is about!

a) it’s a Hansel and Gretel re-telling which makes me all the happy because I adore that particular fairytale almost as much as Beauty and the Beast. Largely because of the gingerbread house, I expect, but also because the children are such darling, intrepid humans and the story is quintessentially fairytale.

So think Hansel and Gretel.

But in space.

Futuristic space.

Creepy, futuristic space.

Hansel and Gretel in space + poisoned gingerbread and hypnosis and possible immortals and espionage and chilling assassins and double, possibly triple, secret agents and brainwashing and classical music and deadly gardens and foot chases and masks both visible and invisible.

What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like.

spicy scent of gingerbread. cold air and goosebumps. sharp needles. a soft, irresistible voice. vicious wolf. monochrome. lost siblings. shattered glass. morbid motley of dead people’s belongings. labyrinth. tiny white pebbles. stars glittering. innocent child-laughter. masks and mind games. light at the end of the tunnel. victorian greenhouse. break the cage. 

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Introduce us to each of your characters!

The Witchling. lost girl taken under a monster’s wing. she’s like a siren but one who lives in space + keeps a greenhouse and burns souffles on the side. broken sense of morals. collects mementos of victims. brilliant exploiter of people’s weaknesses. trickster sense of humor. feeds off adrenaline-filled situations. her true self is hidden behind a finely-crafted blend of masks–so deeply hidden she would not recognize it if she saw it. her insecurity is real. (also, despite her name she isn’t actually a witch. Just too mesmerizing and enchanting for her own good.)

The Wolf Master. monster with the face of an angel. Moriarty-complex. he doesn’t lurk in the shadows: he owns them. obsessed with people’s minds and souls. literally has no boundaries when it comes to “playing God.” taught the Witchling everything she knows. passionate swordsman. he only fears one thing, but he fears it so much he’s been running away his entire life.

Erik Halsey. skilled soldier with more secrets than anyone guesses. has an alarming knack of speaking bluntly. probably breaks down every locked door he encounters. will defend the people he cares about to his last drop of blood. kind of really hates politics and double-speak: is unfortunately involved in both. loves all cookies and just wants his own island in the middle of nowhere. eventually. there are children to do something about first.

Hans(el). fiercely protective older brother. heartrendingly precocious. ponders everything from all angles. has an aversion for dark rooms. will go sleepless and hungry rather than trust anyone. has picked up a decent amount of English alongside his native German. if you ask him for a hug he might bite instead.

Greta(el).  little ray of sunshine. anchor for her brother. hoards all things shiny. does the begging puppy eyes ridiculously well. barely talks and only in German. love language is touch.

How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)

  • Excited hyperventilating has happened.
  • Also moments of “WHAT IN CREATION AM I THINKING. HAVE I GONE MAD. HALPPPP.” Everyone assures me that I was mad to begin with so all’s well.
  • This list here has various elements + vital scenes that I want to incorporate into the novel.

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  • I rarely ever research for first drafts. I just let my imagination run about unfettered, and then fix the logic holes when I edited.
  • I bought myself pretty, new gel pens since I’ll be doing most of NaNo longhand + am collecting aesthetic imagery on Pinterest because I am a visual person + hashed out details with Other Humans + am doing a whole ton of praying because I don’t do this often enough about my writing and it’s kind of really important.
  • Why, yes, I have a chocolate stash specif. for NaNo. This is Annie we’re talking about. When do I not have chocolate and/or rave about it from the rooftops?

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What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

Honestly, the fact that it’s a Hansel and Gretel re-telling is enough to make me spazz happily—which I do a lot when I think about this book (I adore that fairytale if that isn’t perfectly clear to you by now).

I am head-over-heels in love with the cast of characters, and I can’t wait to spend more (and more, and more) time with them. Be still my beating heart.

Also, the sibling-angst is strong in this one. And I’m incorporating a non-romantic friendship between a man and a woman—which is something that matters a lot to me. Bring it on, gingersnaps.

*really just loves everything about this book* *could go on for hours* *must be considerate, my precious*

List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

  1. Long corridors and monochrome colors and sharp corners. There is no happy medium of light in the Wolf Master’s city—it’s either blindingly bright or faint enough that dark, looming shadows are everywhere.
  1. Trees. Black trees with silver leaves and tangled branches and long scars across their trunks. Faint whispers. Snapping twigs followed by long silences.
  1. A kitchen with lots of high stools and brightly colored stoneware dishes. The smell of good things baking. A candy jar half-filled, and floury work surfaces, and warmth from the stove. Mugs of steaming hot chocolate. There may be gingerbread. Possibly.

What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

Fulfilling each and every one of her orders to the utmost degree of perfection. What stands in her way? Hansel and Gretel and, ultimately, herself.

(Keep in mind that these are the Witchling’s goals at the beginning of the book. Lots of shenanigans and morally grey situations go down after that.)

How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

By the end of the novel the Witchling’s world has been turned upside-down. She’s started to think for herself, to make her own decisions, she’s realizing what she thought was truthful, was right, might not be at all—and it discomforts her a lot more than she likes.

How has she changed beyond that?

spoilerstoo

(you knew it was coming at some point)

What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

I put a lot more of my heart into this book than I initially realized and, whilst I am Juliette feels like a healing book to me, Witchling has more of an element of digging deep, of bringing dark things to the surface, of brokenness and what that means in a person’s life, of staring untruths in the face and saying “I refuse to believe you. I refuse to let you shape who I am.”

I have an idea of how I want readers to feel but I don’t think I can put it into words yet. BUT. I do want them to be really, really eager to find out exactly what happens to the Witchling and the rest of the charries in the next book.

If you’re participating in NaNo what are you writing about? And if you aren’t a writer, whose stories are you stalking next month? TELL ME ALL.