Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all of my followers! I decided to take the day off from blogging to enjoy it with my family. I hope your holiday was as nice as mine. 🙂

~ Kayla

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Quote of the Week

Merry Christmas Eve! This quote is from Nora DeLoach, author of Mama Traps A Killer. Editing is something that’s always been a struggle for me, and nothing is more frustrating than having to rewrite the same scene ten times. However, it’s a part of writing, and after I finish editing a scene, my writing sound so much better, it’s worth all the frustration!

“Writing is rewriting. Even after you’ve gotten an agent and an editor, you’ll have to rewrite. If you fall in love with the vision you want of your work and not your words, the rewriting will become easier.” – Nora DeLoach.

Monthly Link Share – How to Narrate

Welcome to December’s monthly link share! Today I’m sharing some links I’ve found helpful this past month!

For me, narration is one of the hardest things to write. I tend to repeat myself a ton and also worry about keeping the reader’s interest. This article has some great advice for polishing your narration so it’s interesting and the best it can be!

http://writetodone.com/clean-up-your-narration-four-tips-for-fiction-writers/

Another thing I worry about is creating likeable characters. This article has some great tips to make sure your protagonist is relatable and not someone the readers hate!

http://emblazoners.com/create-a-relatable-protagonist/

In this article, mystery writer P.D. James gives ten tips for writing novels. Her advice is really good and touches on some points different than the advice that is usually given.

http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-24867584

I’m not a huge Christmas music fan, but when one of my favorite artists, Chris August, released a brand new Christmas EP, I had to get it. The whole EP is a great mix of classic Christmas hymns and original songs. My favorite original Christmas song from the album is this incredibly funny and crazy song called, “Tell Me What You Want For Christmas.”

Thanks for clicking and reading!

~Kayla

Character Names – Pax and Natala

It’s the most wonderful time of year, according to the famous song. And since it’s the most wonderful time of the year, I thought I’d share some wonderful character names that are perfect for Christmas stories. Feel free to use these names, but no promise I won’t use them myself one day! 🙂

Pax can be a boy or a girl’s name. It’s Christmas related since Pax is the Latin name that means “peace” or “peaceful.” Pax is also the name of the Roman goddess of peace. Also, the word “Pax” might be familiar to those who know the famous Latin phrase, Pax Romana, which means “Roman peace.”

Natala is a girl’s name pronounced “na-ta-la.” It’s also Latin and means “birthday” or “birth of Christ.” It’s an unusual name that isn’t often heard so your character will definitely stand out.

Would you use these names for a character? What do you think of these Christmas names? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

~ Kayla

Songwrite: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”

I don’t know about you, but I have trouble writing without music. Music helps me focus, blocks out distractions, and sets the mood for the scene I’m writing. While songs have inspired fanfictions and even scenes in my novels, I’ve never flat out wrote a story from just what comes to mind while listening to a song. Well, today I decided to try that very thing. I’m calling it a “songwrite.” I was inspired to try out a freewrite-type post from reading one of my follower’s blogs, Like Star Filled Skies. She posted a few of her freewrites, and I really loved the idea and wanted to try it out myself! You can read one of her freewrites here:

http://likestarfilledskies.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/love-letters/ .

For the song part of my “songwrite,” I chose “O Come, O Come Emanuel” sung by Enya. I’ve heard the song by various artists countless times on the radio, but Francesca Battistelli’s version (my favorite!) made me fall in love with it. While looking for Francesca’s version on Youtube, I found Enya’s version and decided to give it a try and was impressed. It has a fantasy-like vibe about it, explaining the direction I went with the story. Here’s the song:

And here’s the “write” part! I set my goal at 300 words, whether or not I felt the story was done. I came in at 326, so I was only 26 words over!

The heavy, wooden door creaks open, and I enter in. I walk slowly down the aisle, careful not to step on the hem of my dress. There is an eerie silence that fills the air. If I shut my eyes tight, I can almost hear the monks moving about, their soft chants filling the ancient halls of this once sacred place. Only there are no monks tonight. Only me. At least, I hope I’m the only one here. Hands trembling, I slip the hood of my black cloak off my head. My footsteps echo throughout the hall and off the grey stones that run from the floor up, up, up the walls. The stained glass windows glow with an odd warmth as the pale moonlight fills the chamber, and yet the howling of the wind outside makes me remember there is no peace in this place.

I stop in the middle of the aisle, too scared to go on, but knowing that I have to. It isn’t the first time I wish I hadn’t been chosen for this. The sound of bells fills the chamber, and my heart begins to pound. My fingers wrap around the hilt of my weapon, and I wait for silence to settle over the place again. I have to go through with this. I was chosen. I take a deep breath, and start walking again. As the Leader, it’s my duty to perform the Ceremony.  Only … I’m not really the Leader. That fact haunts me, and I realize what a horrible mistake I made that day. If I had only known. For a moment, I pause again and lean against the stone wall seeking support from its solid strength. My dark hair falls forward in waves about me, and I push it back over my shoulder and straighten up again, resolved to go on. I have to make my mistake right, and the only way is going through with this.

~ Kayla

Peppermint Winter – Part 5

Even though Christmas is over, there’s still one more part in my Owl City fanfiction, Peppermint Winter, to enjoy. Last week, Arden gave Ben his present, and now it’s time to see what Ben received from his family!

I started my walk home, the scarf Arden had made me keeping my neck toasty warm. What a shame it was so strange looking. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. I certainly couldn’t wear it in public. I stamped the snow off my boots and opened the door. “Hey.”

“Nice scarf,” my brother snickered sarcastically. Trevor couldn’t even be pleasant on Christmas.

My grandmother greeted me with a hug. “Benjamin! Where were you? You weren’t here to say hi to me. I was so disappointed. And where’s your coat, young man? It’s cold out there!”

“My coat!” I snapped my fingers and dug out my phone. I hit Arden’s name.

Hey, Arden?

My grandmother watched me. “Kids and their cell phones these days,” she sighed and sat back down next to a texting Trevor.

Hiya! When I said I wanted to talk later, I didn’t mean this soon! Lololololololololol

Arden tended to overuse the “LOLs.”

I left my coat.

Oh, yeah you did! That’s right, I took it. Lololol Do you want me to walk it over?

Could you?

No problem! See ya in a few lolololol

I locked my phone again and sat down on the floor, since my grandmother and brother were on the couch. I heard the doorbell ring, and I jumped back up.

“Here’s your coat, Ben!” Arden handed it to me.

“Thank you,” I said, relieved to have it back.

“Who’s at the door, Benjamin?” asked my grandmother.

“It’s just his little friend,” muttered Trevor. “She’s as cool as  -45, uhhh, whatever.”

“-459.67, actually,” Arden piped up. She walked through the door, saw my grandmother, and waved. “Hi! I’m Arden Hart!”

“Hello, young lady,” my grandmother greeted her. “Why don’t you come in and get warmed up?”

“Thanks!” grinned Arden as she walked into the living room. “I’m not cold though. All the joy in my heart is ablaze, and it’s keeping me warm.”

My grandmother looked at her suspiciously, wondering if Arden was being smart with her. “Well, that’s a nice thought.”

“Yes, I love all this holiday cheer!” affirmed Arden in her usual enthusiastic way. “Heaven knows where it goes but it returns every year, and I am so happy it does!” she declared.

“Want me to take your coat?” I broke into their conversation. I was feeling uneasy with Arden there, not knowing what she might say next.

Arden unzipped it and handed it to me. “There you go!”

“Thanks,” I said.

“You must be Ben’s grandmother,” she turned back to my grandmother with a smile.

“Yes, I am,” my grandmother said, still looking at her with suspicion.

“My grandmother is in Iceland, since that’s where my mom’s from.” Arden started to launch into a story.

Just then, my mom and dad walked in. “Hello. You’re Arden, right?” asked my mom.

“Yep, that’s me!” she said, twisting around to see them. “I was dropping off Ben’s coat. He left it at my house this morning. It’s nice to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Sweet.”

“Nice to meet you, too, Arden,” my mom said pleasantly. “You can stay here while we open presents, if you’d like.”

“Sure!” said Arden sitting down on the arm of the sofa.

“Benjamin, start with this one.” My mother handed me an unwrapped brown box. “This is from your Aunt Kate.”

Opening the box, I found another wrapped package inside. I very carefully and gently ran my finger along the bottom of the package until I popped the tape loose. I slowly folded back the paper to reveal ten pairs of socks.

“Wasn’t that nice of Aunt Kate to get you socks. You know, Ben, you do need some new socks. Make sure you send her a thank you note.”

“Yes, Mom,” I replied, not as excited about the socks as she was.

“All right, then, here’s our gift.” My mom handed me a square-shaped package. Once again, I carefully tucked my fingers under the wrapping, popped the tape free, and started to slowly fold the wrapping paper back.

“You’re doing it all wrong, Ben!” Arden cried from her perch above me. “How can you stand to go so slow?” She slid down to the floor, leaned over, and ripped a section of paper free from the box. “You just have to rip it!”

At once I saw part of the word “Trek” on the box. I’d started collecting the DVDs of all the Star Trek series since I received my first set last year for Christmas. Usually I liked to carefully unwrap my gifts, but between seeing what it was and Arden’ urging me to rip it open, I quickly finished tearing off the wrapping. It was the entire series of Enterprise in a beautiful boxed set .“Thank you,” I told my parents gratefully.

“Here’s another one for you, Benjamin,” said my mom, handing me a soft-feeling present. I tore it open, now excited over what might be inside. “Socks?” I asked blankly, looking up at my mom as I held five pairs up.

“I saw you needed some more, Ben,” she explained. “so I thought I would wrap them up.”

“Thanks,” I said, sitting the socks to the side. I tried to feel grateful for the socks.

“Now you have to open my present, Benjamin,” my grandmother insisted from the couch. She handed me a box, one that could hold the complete set of Deep Space Nine. That would be a great gift. With that possibility in mind, I ripped off the wrapping and tore through the box. Inside were ten pairs of brand new socks. I just stared at them, trying to recover. Socks certainly weren’t as awesome as Deep Space Nine especially considering I had already gotten fifteen pairs of them. “Well, thank you,” I said to my grandmother, trying to be polite.

Arden startled everyone with an outburst. “Socks? I love socks! You can do so many things with socks. You are so lucky! You can wear them, of course, make sock puppets, use them as Christmas stockings, make a sock garden – which I did once, and it was really cool …” Arden chattered on about the usefulness of socks and the fate of her sock garden which she forgot to water.

“Here are some more socks for you, bro.” Trevor tossed his gift to me. “Mom told everyone you needed them. Guess you won’t anymore,” Trevor snorted with laughter. I unwrapped his gift and added five more pairs of socks to the pile.

“There’s another present for you, Benjamin! It’s from Grandma in Arizona.” Much like the package I opened before, it was a long box almost the exact same size as the previous one. Both grandmothers couldn’t have given me socks, could they? I couldn’t go slowly. I had to see if it was something different. I ripped off the wrapping and tore through the box to find ten more pairs of socks. Maybe I was still sleeping, and I was in some horrible nightmare. I pinched my arm hard to see if I was truly awake. Yes, it hurt and yes, I was awake.

“More socks!” cried Arden. “Can you imagine what we could make with all those socks? We could make a stuffed snowman, and I’ve always wanted to make those rice packs you heat up, ” continued an excited Arden. “You are so lucky!”

Forty pairs of socks. What in the world was I going to do with forty new pairs of socks? I was momentarily distracted as Arden’s phone dinged and vibrated.

She checked it and said, “Oops! I have to be getting home. My cousins are coming over. Thank you for letting me stay, Mrs. Sweet.”

I stood up, shaking off the bits of wrapping clinging to me and offered Arden her coat.

She yanked it on, and I walked her to the door. “Oh, Ben, I almost forgot.” She handed me something. “I told my grandmother in Iceland all about you, and she wanted to get you something for Christmas, too. Merry Christmas!” She skipped down the stairs and turned back towards me for a second, “Oh, and Ben?”

I nodded, “Yeah?”

“You should come over tomorrow. We can do something with all those socks!” She called as she ran across the snow back to her house.

“Sure,” I agreed with a sigh. At least I could get rid of some of those socks if I gave some to Arden to do whatever she wanted with them.

“Bye!” she called one last time before I heard the door to her house shut.

I looked down at the present in my hand. It was covered with red and white sparkly paper that looked like peppermint. I tore the paper, and crumbled it up and stuck it in my pocket. There, in my hand, lay five more pairs of socks, beautifully knitted by hand, I guessed. “Forty-five new pairs of socks. I ended up with forty-five new pairs of socks.” I muttered. I shook my head and sighed and walked back into my house.

Thanks for reading Peppermint Winter! Next week we’ll be taking a trip back in time to Victorian-era England so stick around! 🙂

~Kayla

Character Names – Yul and Noella

Even though Christmas is over, I thought I’d still share some Christmas related character names. As always, feel free to use these names in your writing, although there’s no guarantee I won’t use them myself! 🙂

Yul is a boy’s name. According to http://nameberry.com/babyname/Yul, Yul is a Mongolian name that means “beyond the horizon.” If you prefer the English spelling, “Yule,” then the meaning changes to “winter solstice.” Probably the most famous bearer of this unusual name was Yul Brynner, the actor who played the pharaoh in The Ten Commandments movie with Charlton Heston.

Noella is a girl’s name. It is French, and it’s a variant of Noelle. It literally means “Christmas” according to http://www.thinkbabynames.com/meaning/0/Noella. This is a very unusual name, so you probably won’t find that many other authors named their characters Noella. 🙂

Both of these names would be good in any genre, especially a Christmas story! What do you think of these two names? Would you use them for a character?

~ Kayla

Quote of the Week – Merry Christmas!

Today’s quote comes from Luke 2:4-20 and tells the account of the Savior’s birth. Enjoy. 🙂

“Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,  in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;  for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.”

~ Kayla

Peppermint Winter – Part 4

Merry Christmas! Welcome to Part 4 of Peppermint Winter, my Owl City fanfiction. Arden and Ben’s Christmas Day is starting, and Ben is trying to find a last minute present for Arden (maybe you can relate! 🙂 ). Read on to find out what he gets her!

7:00am. Owl City sang out, “You would not believe your eyes if ten million fireflies lit up the world as I fell asleep.” I groaned and slowly opened my eyes, trying to figure out what was going on. I turned over and saw my phone light up and heard it vibrating. Finally realizing it was a call, I snatched at it, slid the green icon across the screen, and managed to hit the speaker button. I put the phone on the sheets beside me and muttered, “Hello?”

“MEROIRSGYB CHRISINMGOAS!” the voice at the other end screamed.

I winced at the sudden, sharp sound. Hmm. Must be an alien life form trying to make first contact. My still sleeping brain hadn’t beamed down to earth after the Star Trek episodes I’d watched last night. “What?” I attempted to communicate back.

“MERRY CHRISTMAS!” the alien yelled again. I realized it wasn’t an alien. It was actually Arden. Of course, it was very possible that she was an alien surgically altered to look human. “It’s you, Arden.”

“Did you open your presents yet, Ben?” questioned an excited Arden at the top of her lungs.

“Not exactly. I was sleeping,” I muttered, shaking my headphone cord free from my arm. Guess I fell asleep during that third episode. 

“Sleeping?!?!? On the most magical day of the YEAR? How could you?” came the screech.

I winced again as my ear rang. “Didn’t go to bed until almost 3am,” I sighed. “Couldn’t fall asleep.”

“Oh. I’ve been up since 3am. You should have called me!” she giggled.

“Should have,” I half-heartedly agreed.

“Are you going to open presents now?” she demanded.

“Actually, I’ll wait for my parents to get up first. They probably wouldn’t appreciate being woken up at 7:00am.”

“I want to give you my present!” I could almost hear her ear to ear grin over the phone.

“Your present?”

“Uh-huh. I made you something.”

“That’s … nice.” I now remembered our conversation last night at the park. Arden had a Christmas present for me. I didn’t have anything for her.

“Can I give it to you now?” she begged.

“Yeah … I guess. Do you want to come over … or should I come over to your house?”

“Come over to my house. My family’s already up, and we’ve opened presents. Besides, you can try some of our piparkökur. Mom’s making some for after lunch. I’m sure she won’t mind if we eat a few.”

“Uhhh … sure. I’ll be over in a couple minutes.” What did she say they were eating? Pippinsomething? I tossed on a shirt and jeans and grabbed my snow boots. What to get Arden, what to get Arden? I thought, trying to think up possibilities. Then I remembered the extra boxes of chocolate-filled mugs from our candy store in my dad’s office. Perfect! I dashed inside, grabbed a reindeer one out of a box, and paused by the kitchen counter to scribble down a note for my parents, promising I’d be back soon. I jogged next door to Arden’s.

Arden flung open the door, grinning. “Merry Christmas, Ben!”

“Merry Christmas,” I repeated her greeting. I handed her the reindeer mug.

Arden beamed. “OOOh, candy from your store, Ben! I love your chocolates. They are definitely the best around! Thanks so much!”

“Is that your friend, Arden?” asked a women from the kitchen.

“Yeah, mom. This is Benjamin Sweet.”

I nodded, “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Hart.”

“We’ve heard a lot about you.” Her voice was slightly accented, which was kinda of cool. I always liked accents.

“Arden, remember …” her mom motioned to my coat.

“Oh. Right. May I take your coat?”

I smiled slightly, and unzipped it.

She tossed it on the chair, and handed me a plate of something. “You have to try one. There’re amazing. They’re called piparkökur – Icelandic pepper cookies.”

They looked sort of like gingersnaps. I took a little nibble. Then a bite. They tasted a lot like gingersnaps. “These are really good,” I told Arden.

“And you have to try our eggnog!” Arden insisted, snatching at the glass bottle and a mug halfway across the counter. Her mom pushed it closer, and I breathed a sigh of relief at the averted disaster. “We don’t put any alcohol in it, but we do use a secret ingredient.” Arden lowered her voice at the word secret. “I love it. I think it’s like sipping on moonlight!” she announced, pouring some into a mug for me.

I took a drink and said, “It’s good.”

“Like moonlight, right?” giggled Arden.

I looked at the mug in my hand, and then to Arden. Moonlight? I really wasn’t sure what moonlight tasted like, but maybe Arden was right. Perhaps the light of the moon tasted like eggnog.

Arden grabbed my hand and dragged me over to her family’s Christmas tree. I didn’t even get to finish my moonlight eggnog or my pippin cookie.

She reached under the tree and handed me something. “Merry Christmas!”

I started pulling the bow that was tied on top.  The gift was wrapped Arden style, in an interesting patchwork of candy cane striped paper and tape. I slowly unwrapped it and pulled out a scarf. This was no ordinary scarf. It was half neon yellow and neon green striped on one end, black and white checks on the other with a strange blue-green color in the middle. And the shape. The scarf sort of “waved” down then up then down again, in an uneven pattern. I glanced from the thing in my hands to Arden’s expectant face and back down to the thing.

“Do ya like it? I made it myself!”

I opened my mouth to say something then looked at her again. Maybe the scarf wasn’t so bad. She obviously put a lot of time and work into it. “It’s wonderful, Arden. It really is.” I forced a smile.

“I was trying to create a winter scene. As you can see that really didn’t work out. But I thought it still looked cool enough to give to you!”

“Thanks, Arden,” I smiled at her. I started feeling  guilty for the gift I had given to her. She had really tried to make me something special, and I’d taken a whole five seconds to choose a mug. I took the scarf and wrapped in around my neck. “Look, it fits perfectly. It’s already keeping me warm”

Arden looked pleased. We stood in silence for a moment before I felt my phone vibrate. I dug it out.

Hi bro where u @

It was my brother. I winced. I couldn’t stand text speak. Why people couldn’t take an extra moment to use correct punctuation and spelling was beyond me. I texted back.

I’m over at Arden’s. I left a note.

The phone vibrated again.

K found it mom wants u home now

I locked my phone. “I have to go, Arden. My mom wants me home.”

She sighed, “All right, Ben. Maybe we can talk later!”

I nodded, as she walked me out. “Bye, Ben!”

Thanks for reading! The final part (the one with all the socks) will be up next week! 😀

In case you wanted to have a true Arden and Ben Christmas, here’s the recipe for Arden’s piparkökur cookies. Note: I’ve never made these, so I can’t tell you how good they are. So proceed at your own risk! 😉

http://icecook.blogspot.com/2006/11/spicy-gingersnaps-piparkkur.html

~ Kayla

Classic Authors – O. Henry

Pop quiz! Which famous short story author embezzled bank funds and was imprisoned? Which author’s pen name could have come from the family cat? If you answered O. Henry to both of these questions, you’d be correct. If you didn’t know who O. Henry was (or even if you did!), read on to find out more about this interesting author!

O. Henry was born William Sidney (he later changed it to ‘Sydney’) Porter on September 11, 1862 in North Carolina. When he was fifteen, he became a clerk in his uncle’s drugstore. It was the local gathering place of the town, and his observations and interactions there later became some of the material for his writing.

A few years later, due to a bad cough, he moved to Texas. There he eloped with a rich girl named Athol, and they had one daughter named Margaret. Henry worked for a bank in Austin, but was forced to quit after being accused of embezzling bank funds. During that same time, he had started a humorous weekly called The Rolling Stone, but that was never successful and failed within a year.

He then worked for the Houston Post before being arrested on the charge of embezzlement. He was taken to jail, but the day before his trial, Henry disappeared, travelling to New Orleans and then Honduras. However, while he was avoiding the law, he heard that his wife was dying. Henry returned to the U.S., where he gave himself up to the courts. After his wife’s death, Henry was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison, but his jail term was shortened to three years for his good behavior.

To support his daughter while in prison, Henry started writing. Some say he used a pen name so that his readers wouldn’t know he was in prison! There are many possibilities as to where the name O. Henry came from. The name may have originated from his calling for the family cat, “Oh, Henry!” Others say it came from using some of the letters from Ohio Penitentiary, the jail where he was being held, or from one of the prison guards there. Porter himself said that the name came from flipping through the newspaper with his friend and choosing the name from there. Wherever it came from, it became an extremely popular name, one whose stories everyone loved.

After being released from jail, Henry married again, but the marriage was not happy, and his wife left him.

O. Henry died in 1910, leaving behind many wonderful short stories that we still enjoy today. Henry is known for his dry humor and stories that end with a surprise. There’s an award today bearing his name given to authors of short stories that are especially well written. Today, many people are pushing for O. Henry to be pardoned for his crime. He still hasn’t been pardoned yet, but perhaps one day! There was even a US postage stamp issued commemorating his 150th birthday on September 11, 2012.

O. Henry was famous for many of his stories, but two favorites are “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Ransom of Red Chief.”

“The Gift of the Magi” is a Christmas story about a couple who do not have a lot of money but want to get each other a Christmas gift. You can read the story here:

http://www.auburn.edu/~vestmon/Gift_of_the_Magi.html.

“The Ransom of Red Chief” is the story of two men who kidnap a little boy in the hopes of getting reward money for him. Things don’t exactly go according to plan though, and the end result is a very entertaining story! You can read it here:

http://www.online-literature.com/yeats/1041/

~ Kayla