5 Little-Known Facts about Me (That Have Nothing to Do with Books or Writing)

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, then you probably know some of my favorite things: Peter Rabbit and Beatrix Potter, The Wizard of Oz, fairy gardens, Babylon 5, and world folk music, among other things. Well, just for fun, I thought I’d share five little tidbits about me that have nothing to do with writing, fantasy, or geekery in general. So if you want to get to know me better, read on!

I love rabbits

Kal-El, performing the trick known as Dead Bunny Flop. No, he was't dead here - just very relaxed. He was good at being relaxed.

Kal-El, performing the trick known as Dead Bunny Flop. No, he was’t dead here – just very relaxed. He was good at being relaxed.

I have a pet cat at the moment (and I’ve almost always had at least one cat as a personal or family pet for my entire life). But I also love pet rabbits, and I owned rabbits for a good twenty years. I’m taking a break from bunnies for a few years, because they’re really a lot of work (much more work than cats and dogs put together). But rabbits are entertaining and intelligent animals and life is never dull with bunnies in the house. (Remind me to tell you sometime about my bunny who could open doors, or my other bunny who was a climber.)

Even though I’m shy and try to avoid confrontation, I signed up for safety patrol in 5th grade and loved it

To this day, I have no idea why I did this, nor why I was apparently a successful safety patrol officer for the entire school year. Granted, I was assigned a side hallway and all I ever had to do was make sure that no one snuck out the back door to the playground. But still, I cheerfully told people not to run in the hallways, and I was never confronted by the more aggressive students. Maybe it was me acting out my desire to be acknowledged and respected? I was painfully shy, so I guess the badge and belt gave me confidence. Continue reading

Music to Write By – Winter Meditation

Not a long post this week. I just wanted to share this reminder that in the hustle of the holiday season, take a moment to sit down, reflect and relax, and be thankful. Whether you’ve finished all your decorating or not, whether you’ve reached your daily word count writing goal or not – just take a moment to be calm. Continue reading

Story Prompts to Get Unstuck

I am not usually one who needs story prompts. I don’t mean for this to sound arrogant or bragging – it’s just that I’m usually so inundated by ideas that what I need is more time to write, not more ideas. But even us constantly-flooded-with-ideas folks get stuck now and then, or we want to take a break from current projects and try something new.

I’ve written a couple of posts in the past about generating ideas and breaking through writer’s block. I find that writing something else besides my current project can keep my mind in a writerly mode without it getting bogged down in whatever I’m stuck on.

I also started a Pinterest board with cool pictures and ideas for story prompts.

Another great source of inspiration for me is music. Sometimes ideas come to me while I’m listening to something, other times I purposefully play certain songs or tracks while I’m brainstorming. If you want to know what kinds of music get me going, here are some of my favorites.

I hope that some of these links can help you if you need prompts or brainstorming fodder. What are some of your favorite ways to get your creative juices flowing again?

Finding Peace, Hope, and Joy with Dylan Laine

For those who don’t know, in addition to writing this fabulous blog, I’m a regular writer for an online publication called Christian Media Magazine. I recently interviewed an up-and-coming music artist – you can read the original article and interview here. But since I do occasional music reviews here on my blog, I thought I’d share this post with you. Enjoy!

*               *               *

I had the honor of interviewing Dylan Laine, a new voice in the Christian music scene. She’s not a newcomer to music, but she recently made a decision to change the direction and message of her music. Songs of anger and depression are now songs of peace, hope, and joy, and she wants to share this message with the world. I’ll let her do the rest of the talking:

Q: So you just launched your first EP. What is it called?

Yes! My debut EP is self-titled, “Dylan Laine.”

Q: When did you first get started with music?

Well, I remember being five years old and standing on my parent’s dining room table, belting out Enya’s “Sail Away” at the top of my lungs over and over until my voice was gone. My grandparents bought me a piano when I was seven, and shortly after I was taking classical piano lessons, I participated in choir during every year of my schooling from elementary through high school, and used books to help teach myself guitar and ukulele. A combination of my piano education, choir involvement, and love for performance led me to dabble in being a singer-songwriter. Once I realized I could mix my hobby of writing poetry, with piano, guitar, singing, and performing, I never looked back!

Q: This new EP is not the first music that you’ve written or recorded. What sort of songs have you done before, and how is this EP different?

I have been writing and recording music for the last 13 years. In fact, ever since I was 13, I would record every song the moment I finished writing them so that they would never be forgotten. As of August 2014, I had an inventory of over 200 original songs written and recorded in a file on my laptop, titled, “All My Songs.” The majority of the 200 songs in that folder were inspired by the heartache, confusion, and frustration which consumed my life throughout my early teen years to my early twenties. In August 2014, I made a decision to erase all but five of my songs. The five songs left standing were centered around peace, hope, and joy.

Q: Did your decision to change the direction of your music come to you gradually, or was there a defining moment that made you change your mind?

After graduating Berklee College of Music in 2010, I spent four years trying to decide which direction to take my music. After marrying in June 2013, my husband and I made a commitment together to guard our hearts from movies, TV, music, and all other sources of media that promoted a negative message. In Luke 6:45, we learned that “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of,” and so we chose to fill our hearts with content centered around peace, hope, and joy. Once I implemented this decision into my day-to-day life, I knew that going forward in my music career, I had to apply the same principle.

Q: If you could sum up the message of this EP in just one sentence, what would it be?

You really are so loved.

Q: Would you say that your goal and vision is to use your music as a ministry?

My life is my ministry, whether it’s through my music, my conversations, or my simple daily choices. I would say my goal is to keep pressing forward, to never quit, and to always find the value in effecting even one person’s life for the better. My vision is that my audience will continually expand among Christian and non-Christian listeners, and that they will find encouragement through my lyrics so that they can feel passionate and safe to go out in the world and free-fall into whatever wonderful calling God has placed on their lives.

Q: Where would you like to be in five years – musically, as well as ministry-wise?

In five years, I would love to be making a living solely through playing live shows and selling custom songs as well as custom poetry. I am on my way, but there is much room for growth! My husband and I also have a dream to either start or be a part of a professional worship band. I would also like for my audience to extend out beyond (loyal and dedicated) family and friends, and to reach people from all over the world as I spend time touring and posting videos, using beneficial promotional tools such as YouTube and Facebook.

Q: What are some comments you’ve received from your fans?

The most frequent comment I hear from fans is that my music is very distinctive and refreshing. I love hearing this because one of my intentions when I put music out there, is to give listeners something unique to listen to.

Q: What’s your favorite part of the song-writing process – words or music? Which usually comes first?

There has been a pretty even balance of times that either the music has come first or the lyrics have come first. As far as my songwriting process goes, my favorite moment is when I realize that my idea is one worth using, either musically or lyrically, and then I know that I get to spend the next hour or two developing that idea.

Q: Do you enjoy performing live, or are you more of a studio artist? Any tours or shows coming up?

I absolutely love performing live! It’s a privilege to be able to showcase my art and to connect with people face-to-face. I don’t currently have any tours or shows coming up, but I am in the process of changing that!

Q: What’s your favorite song on your new EP?

My favorite song on my debut EP is, “Joy.” The lyrics embody one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn, which is to choose joy, despite my situation and circumstances, regardless of how unnatural it feels.

Q: Do you have a favorite song by someone else – either Christian or secular?

My favorite song is always changing, but as of now I love to blast Bethel Music’s, “You Make Me Brave.” The bridge build-up always gives me chills and leaves me feeling so encouraged and inspired.

Q: Do you have a favorite Bible verse, or a verse that particularly inspires you when you’re writing your songs?

Yes! My favorite bible verse is Philippians 4:8, which reads, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” This verse has been the motive by which I strive to live and write.

Q: Any other final thoughts you’d like to share?

For many years, I used music as a way to escape and therefore, became very consumed in self-pity as I indulged in lyrics inspired by heartache. While it felt good temporarily to cry along with the music, or even justify my anger or depression with the music, it didn’t affect me positively in the long run. In the last few years, as I’ve begun to listen to worship music, I’ve been able to let those encouraging lyrics nourish me and lift my spirits, rather than drag me down or make me cry like I had done in previous years with secular music. I want to challenge others to try letting go of secular music for a week, and to find music that is inspiring and uplifting, just to see if there are any noticeable positive changes, as I have experienced in my own life.

I believe that Dylan’s message is a powerful one, and a much-needed one in today’s world of darkness and heartache. If you’d like to find out more about Dylan and hear her music, you can find her online:

Dylan’s website: www.dylanlaine.com
Dylan on Facebook: www.facebook.com/dylanlainemusic
Dylan on Twitter: @dylanlainemusic

2014 – A Blog in Review

Now that we’re almost half way into January, I finally got around to reviewing my blog stats for last year. I had over 5,000 visitors from literally all over the world. So, thank you to all my readers! Whether you subscribe to my blog (and if you don’t, just sign up in the little box on the right side bar) or you just stumbled across a post by accident, I appreciate you! Sometimes I wonder if I’m writing to the great emptiness of cyberspace, but my stats show me otherwise.

In fact, one of my posts got shared on a Tumblr post featuring links to various blogs and websites for creating fantasy creatures. I’m not actually sure where my post was originally shared, because from there, it’s been shared and re-shared and linked to again and again. I’m so pleased that one of my posts has such wide appeal!

And so for you, dear readers of my blog, I thought I’d share my top three most popular posts from 2014 (according to the WordPress stat monkeys).

Creating Fantasy Creatures and Alien Species

This was my most-read post, one of the ones that’s gotten re-blogged all around Tumblr and other interwebs. Here I analyze what I believe to be some of the core elements in creating believable non-human races for fantasy and sci-fi stories.

Creating Fantasy Creatures and Alien Species – Real Animals as Magical Races

This is a companion post that was almost as popular as the original one, in which I discuss the concept of using real animals as sentient beings in fantasy.

Music Review: Dobbelis, Máddji

This post came in at the number three most popular post of 2014 – and it had the spot of the number one most-read post in 2013. Apparently there are a lot of people out there who like Sami music – or at least who like the Norwegian Sami singer Máddji.

So there’s my year in review. Again, thank you to everyone who’s read my blog – whether it’s been one post or many! If you’re a regular reader, do you have a favorite post from 2014?

Christmas Music to Write By – A Scandinavian Playlist

Because it’s almost Christmas, and because it’s been a while since I’ve posted some Nordic music on my blog, I thought I’d put together a short little Scandinavian Christmas playlist. Enjoy!

 

Sissel Kyrkjebø – “O Helga Natt” – Norway

 

Frostrósir – “Fegurð Heimsins” – Iceland

 

Tarja Turunen – “Maa On Niin Kaunis” – Finland

 

Secret Garden – “Fionnuala’s Cookie Jar” – Norway (and Ireland)

 

God Jul, Hyvää Joulua, and Merry Christmas!