And… I’ve moved!

Pretty much what the title says. I have officially moved blogs! I’ve been at this site for a little under a year now, and it’s been fantastic, but, for reasons I have explained over on the new site, I’ve moved! You will be my favorite people in the world if you come with me.

Here you go: Orthodoxy, Hobbits, and Tea

I look forward to seeing you all there!

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I live!

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I’m not dead! Just, kinda… hiding from my blog…

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Procrastination is a nasty thing. But it’s not just procrastination. Recently, I’ve found myself dreading sitting down to write a blog post. I draw a blank when trying to write about anything. I’ve been having  a lot of doubts and fears about my writing, the quality and worth of it. I’ve also found that my blog isn’t what I want it to be. I’m not sure what I’m doing, except that I know I’m not doing what I want to be doing. I don’t know what direction I’m going in – it’s a complete rambling (which I guess is appropriate considering my blog title…).

It’s time for a change. I want there to be purpose to my ramblings, I want to be a blessing to someone, not just talking about stuff I really don’t know anything about. Not to mention I really want to move to blogger.

So I’m moving. Yep, Ramblings is moving to Blogger and getting a complete rehaul. A different name, look, and a slightly different direction. I’ll spend the month of May getting everything set up, and I’ll move there the 31st.

See you on the other side of the month!

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Christ is Risen! // Pascha 2017

 

Christ is risen! Truly, He is risen!

Pascha! Pascha is finally here! Pascha, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, is the word that the Orthodox use for Easter. It means Passover, from Hebrew I believe, transliterated into Greek and then transliterated from Greek into English. I don’t remember how exactly the date is determined, but it’s differently than Western Easter and it’s not often that the two overlap. This year was a rare occurrence in that I can tell my friends Christ is risen without getting weird looks.

This is the icon for Pascha

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You can see Christ, the new Adam, raising the old Adam and Eve from the grave and trampling on the gates of Hades. All the people in the back are various prophets and saints from history, including King David and St. John the Baptist.

The hymns from Pascha are my absolute favorite hymns of all time. The church we attended uses mainly the Russian tones for them, and I’ve tried to fine the same ones we use on youtube so you can hear it.

At the beginning of the service the priest sings “Come receive the light from the Light, that is never overtaken by night. Come glorify Christ, who is risen from the dead.”

We light our candles, singing “Thy Resurrection, O Christ our savior, the angels in heaven sing. Enable us on earth to glorify you in purity of heart,” and we process around the church singing, the bells ringing.

When we reach the doors again, the priest reads  Mark 16: 1 -8, where the Myrhbearing Women are told “He is not here, He is risen!”

Then the priest knocks with the cross on the doors of the church, saying “Lift up your gates, O you princes; and be lifted up, you everlasting gates, and the King of Glory shall enter in.”

From inside the church a man bellows back “Who is this King of Glory?”

They go back and forth, reciting the dialogue from Psalm 24, then finally the doors are opened, and we stream in, singing Christ is Risen at the top of our lungs.

Then we sing the Paschal Cannon, which is long and beautiful and amazing, and one of my favorite smaller hymns from it is the the Kontakion (in Tone 8 at my church)

You descended into the tomb, O Imortal Lord.
Yet you destoryed the power of Hades!
As conqueror You rose, O Christ God,
sying “Hail!” to the myrrhbearing women.
You gave Your peace to Your apostles
and granted resurrection to the fallen.

I tried to find what it sounds like so you can hear it, but there is literally nothing on youtube.

After this, and a homily by St. John Chrystosom that is read every year, we celebrate the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrystosom. Only, instead of some of the original prayers, we have Paschal prayers and hymns and it’s beautiful.

There is a hymn to the Theotokos (what we call Mary) that is sung several times during the service, and every service for the rest of Pascha, called the Angel Cried. My brothers generally sing it on repeat well into September.

Finally, here’s Let God Arise, my absolute favorite hymn of all time. The first line is actually written on the back of my cross in Russian. The “Christ is risen from the dead” at the end of this is the one we sing the most at my church.

I know it’s a lot videos. But I really encourage you to listen to all of them. They’re absolutely beautiful.

So.  Pascha stories. I don’t actually have a lot of those – I’ve only been to three Paschas in my life, but this year’s was pretty funny.

So as a part of the service, as I mentioned earlier, we process around the church. Then we assemble in front of the doors, read the gospel, sing Christ is risen, and then the knocking and “Who is this King of Glory?” happens. Only, this year, as soon as we stepped outside the church the wind blew all the candles out. Then half way around the church it started to rain. By the time that the Gospel was brought out, it was pouring. Father Tim read slightly quicker than normal. We sang Christ is Risen, then Father Chris knocked on the doors. But instead of saying “Lift up your gates O you princes,” he immediately opened the doors and said something along the lines of “Everybody in!” We all streamed in faster than I’ve ever seen before. *grins* My brother was soaked through his nice shirt. I happened to be standing right next to a couple with an umbrella, so I wasn’t too badly off.

What’s really funny is when you look at it from my dad’s side of things. He was the person who was supposed to play the devil, the one who demands “Who is this King of Glory?” He was apparently just drawing breath to bellow out the question when Father Chris pushed the doors open on him.

I’m afraid this post was a little garbled. But hopefully, if you’re not Orthodox, it gave you at least a little taste of what Pascha’s like. If you want to read the Paschal homily of St. John Chrysostom (I highly recommended you do), here’s a link.

Christ is risen!
Χριστός ανέστη!

What’s your favorite Easter hymn? Do you know “Christ is risen” in any other languages?

Taking Your Novel Slowly

SPRINGTIME (1)

Being already over a week into Camp NaNo, this seems like a rather silly subject to talk about. But I’ve been thinking about it a whole lot more, lately. As always, when any sort of NaNo rolls around, thousands of authors around the world set a goal and then furiously scribble (or type, most probably type) away at their beautiful, messy baby. Going slowly isn’t even a thought. 30 days, 50k words… even with more caffeine than can possibly be healthy there is no way that going slowly is going to make that work.

But then… what are you left with? This past NaNo, I made my goal. I started with a blank sheet of paper and wrote over 50k that month. But then I stopped. I’ve written maybe 5,000 words since last November. And not a single one of those 60,000-something words are going to make it into the finished draft, or even the second. This isn’t just my author insecurity talking –  “oh, my book’s so awful, I hate every word of it…” It’s not that. Because I was careening through my first draft I completely lost my sense of direction, even with an outline. I didn’t take the time to work on my characters – I still don’t know who Clara is, just that she exists (this being a problem because she’s the main, point of view character…), my story world’s all flat and illogical, none of it makes sense. The plot’s garbled. This is all stuff that you could take care of on the first edit, of course, but it’s so totally beyond salvaging that I need to re-write the whole book.

Now compare this to my first novel. My first original novel I was on a horrible, horrible time crunch.  I had to get at least four different, specific scenes to be at least presentable enough to show to others – in under a week. Yeah. I wrote a lot that week, and I actually finished the last excerpt literally two hours before we drove out to the place they were due. But even with that I wrote much, much more slowly. I sat down, visualized the scene in my mind, and typed out what I saw and heard and that first draft – while it’s by far not my best work, is presentable. I’m not embarrassed to show it to any one, where as the first draft of Forgot will never see the light of day.  For For Hailey, that first novel, it’s clean (in the opposite of messy way), it’s clear, and I don’t get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I look at it, despite it’s many plot holes. With I Forgot I feel dread whenever I even contemplate it.

When you take the time to write slowly, or slower than you normally do, your characters sound more like people, more like the people you want them to be. Your themes are developed – it’s super hard to work a theme in if you’re tearing through the draft. You plots tend to have less wholes and are more coherent – especially if you’re pantsing.

 

Now, while I’m saying all this, I’m not arguing for being a perfectionist. Please don’t! You’ll only hurt yourself, and if you refuse to put down anything on paper that’s less than perfect, you will never write a novel. Sometimes words just aren’t coming. Your words will not be perfect when you first set them down. That’s what editing and rewriting is for. But surely there’s a happy medium between obsessive perfectionist and almost nonsense speed writing. Maybe it’s time to slow down, to think a little more when we write.

I want to clarify a bit – all this is from my own experiences. I honestly have no idea how anybody else writes their drafts. I tend to word vomit, but for all I know I’m just saying stuff that’s all common knowledge. But if this helped you in the slightest, or made you think, I’m very glad.

Do you write slowly? Quickly? In between?

Beautiful Books // Camp NaNo

It is upon us! NaNoWriMo season again. If you’re not aware, NaNoWriMo is an event that takes place in November. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writer’s Month, and during it thousands of writers around the world set out to write a 50K (or more!) novel in a month. There are also two summer programs called Camp NaNoWriMo that take place in April and July.  They’re a little more relaxed, in that you can set your own word count (or editing) goal, and you’re not limited to just working on a novel. There’s screenplays, epic poems, memoirs… everything. You’re also sorted into virtual cabins of up to twenty members, where it’s basically a chat box, and  you can word war, brainstorm, and commiserate with your cabin mates. There’s also the option of private cabins, where you can be with your friends. I’m in one run by Savannah with some absolutely lovely blogging ladies. And that’s Camp NaNo.

I’ll be working on the “Smoothie story” that I’ve talked about a bit before, but I’m using it as an incentive to slog away at it. I’ve come to the realization that I will not be done plotting in time, and that if I rush the process I’ll achieve burn out. I’d rather write a better book slowly than rush and have something that I’ll have to re-write from scratch.

Allie and Anika dug up an old Beautiful Books and it asks some good questions. I’ve talked about this book quite a bit recently, it feels like, but with the ever-changing and evolving plot I thought I’d talk about it again. I promise, this’ll be the last time until Aprils over.

How did you come up with the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

I came up with it about a year ago, when it was just a spark of a sentence in my head. The sentence sat there for another few months before I started building the story around it. It is totally different now, and the sentence will no longer fit in the slightest. So the sentence has been around about a year, and I started getting the story in a fuller form around September. It’s come pretty close the the end vision for the first draft this week.

Why are you excited to write this novel?

The plot and the themes. I’ve been telling myself for quite a while that I can’t write a deep book, not the way that Lewis or Tolkien or Potok did, so why even bother, why even try. But… there is nothing keeping me from writing a deep book. There’s absolutely nothing saying that I can’t go slower, take my time. This is my book. And once I came to that realization, I also came to the realization that I have a story worth telling. I want to tell this story. Even if no one except my critique group (and my two best friends because they’d kill me if I didn’t give it to them) reads this story, I want to write it and I want to write it well. And now I’m so much more excited about it. I can do this. I can communicate these themes, this plot. And so can you. Well, not my plot, obviously, but yours. Even if you think you’re an awful writer, you can still try with all of your might. And you’re never going to do it if you just don’t try.

What is your novel about, and what is the title?

Nina Thompson is kidnapped and held for ransom by her estranged uncle. In order to to bring her home, her godbrother Christopher must conquer his own desire for revenge and team up with his worst enemy.

Title? What is this mysterious title you are referring to?

Sum up your characters in one paragraph each (feel free to add pictures!).

Christopher 1
Christopher {MC}
Fun. Scared. Laughter. Naive. Plans. Desire. Go with the flow. Playing guitar in the back of a pickup.
“Demons run when a good man goes to war.”

Nina
Nina {MC}
Determined. Strong. Serious. Justice. Music. Despair. Sadness. Practical. Uncertainty. Know it all. Will everything work out? Works too hard.
“Never give up on your dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it”

Allie
Allie {mentor}
Smart.  Blunt. Independent. Testy. Safe. Thief. Running. Streams of talk. Bubbling brook. A puppy.
“When it rains, look for rainbows, when it’s dark, look for stars.”

 

Matt
Matt {villain}
Thunder. Skewed justice. Determined. Intelligent. Selfish. Dangerous. Smoke in a dark room. Playing cards. The distant rumble of a thunderstorm on a summer’s night.
“It wasn’t I who made me.”

 

Which character(s) do you think will be your favorite to write?

All of them? Probably Christopher the most, though. His personal journey has turned into a major component of the story and I’m looking forward to writing it.

What is your protagonist’s goal, and what stands in the way?

Getting home, preferably intact. Christopher wants to rescue Nina and get her home, and Nina wants to escape and get home. Matt is initially standing in their way, and then…

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Where is your novel set?

America, probably last year. I’m still deciding on a location, but it’s most likely in a city, or across several cities.

How do your protagonists change by the end of the novel?

Oh boy. I’m tempted to use the River gif again. Christopher moves from hate to forgiveness, which is probably the biggest thing after the main quest. Nina is shown what the world is like beyond the newspaper articles she reads. She is shown what she really wants to be fighting for and against and comes out more determined than ever, but also more cautious.

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

Forgiveness and Hate. Generosity and Greed. Justice and Injustice. I want my readers to feel the depths to which hatred can plunge you and the unconditionalness of forgiveness. I want them to know that they are never alone, even in their darkest hour. I want them to be inspired, if that makes sense.

And there you have it.

Are you doing Camp NaNo? What’s your novel about? Have you ever had the plot that wouldn’t. stop. evolving?

The Chosen // Review

THIS BOOK

I’m not entirely sure how to talk about this book. It’s almost a book you shouldn’t talk about. Or maybe it’s been too close to me finishing it and and I’m still in the “I have no words” stage. I’m still going to try. Maybe I’ll make sense of my own thoughts.

So what is this book I’m raving about? The Chosen, by Chaim Potok .

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Cover from Goodreads

Synopsis from Goodreads:

It is the now-classic story of two fathers and two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share in the way that is best suited to each. And as the boys grow into young men, they discover in the other a lost spiritual brother, and a link to an unexplored world that neither had ever considered before. In effect, they exchange places, and find the peace that neither will ever retreat from again….

 

Not the greatest synopsis, so I’ll do my best to explain in my own words.

The Chosen is a story about a Jewish boy, Reuven Malter, and his friend, Danny Saunders. It takes place during and after WWII in the Jewish community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City. Both boys come from very different backgrounds – Reuven is a modern Orthodox Jew, meaning that he can be involved in the secular world while sill remaining Jewish; and Danny is a Hasidic Jew, meaning that he supposed to be separate from the secular world and have nothing whatsoever to do with it. The two meet by accident at a baseball game gone wrong and at first become rivals, but then form a strong friendship. The story’s told from Rueven’s point of view, but more often than not it seems to be really Danny’s story.

I’ve already said it, but this book is amazing. It’s very subtly done, absolutely nothing knocks you over the head (except the baseball). It actually took me a chapter or so to get into it. I was mainly reading it because two people I respect very much said it was a masterpiece. But then, once I was past those initial chapters, I couldn’t stop. I’m not sure what it was. I mean, the prose was beautiful, but plot was totally different from most of what I read (it was more character driven, I’m a plot driven person). But the characters leapt off the page, but not in the vibrant way you’d expect. It was like they were breathing, gently, smoothly pulsing on the page. You wanted desperately what they wanted, even when they weren’t sure what they wanted. I actually found myself yelling (silently, there were other people in the room) at Danny at one point.

The themes were breathtaking. I don’t know exactly what they were – I’m very, very dense when it comes to that sort of thing, you really need to hit me over the head with it – but they were there, even if I can’t put an exact name to them. The questions and struggles that the characters asked and faced and answered were as real and breathing as the characters themselves.

For the last few pages of the book, which I shall not spoil, my eyes were wet. I didn’t even realize until about halfway through that I was crying. I still don’t know why I was crying. It’s not the things I normally cry about in books. Except that it was, in a way, now that I think about it. But that still doesn’t explain why I was crying.

When I had finished it, I wanted to be silent, to sit still and be quiet. Maybe to think, or maybe not. For the rest of the night after it, I really didn’t say much, which is very unusual for me. I didn’t feel the need to say anything.

The whole book was beautiful. If you ever get the chance, please read it. Your library probably has it, and if it doesn’t you can probably get it through inter-library loan. I think it was fairly popular a few years back. This is one I will definitely be buying my own copy as soon as I have the money.


In a separate note, before I go, there is an author I follow who’s trying to get people to sign up for his readers group. His blog is really good and really enjoyable to read (there’s so many really cool historical facts and posts) and he’s working on self-publishing his first novel, the Lamentation of Siren. I’m really looking forward to it. Anyway, he’s opened up a contest for people referring their friends to his reader’s group. I can tell you reliably that there is zero spam and no annoying emails. If you do sign up, email him and say I referred you? I get free stuff if a lot of you do. *grins* Thanks!
Here’s the link. You’re supposed to use the sign-up form in the actual post, not the one at the very bottom of the page: Nicholas Kotar Blog


Have you read the Chosen? Do you think you will read it? If you have read it, what did you think?

 

 

Story Update // Character Profiles

Hello everyone! I just realized that I haven’t talked about my book in forever, and there’s been a ton of progress. Characters have been added and taken away, the plot’s undergone at least two major changes. (Credit to the amazing Savannah for brainstorming help) Most notably, there’s another main character! So here you go, the character profiles of the two MCs and the villain!

Character Profiles

Here’s a quick story refresher.

Nina’s world is turned upside down when her father is killed in a hit-and-run, but things only get worse when she is kidnapped by her father’s estranged brother Matt. 
Once Christopher learns that his little godsister is being held for ransom, he takes off after her – with her mother in the backseat. 
Can Nina escape, and can Christopher and her mother find her before it’s too late?

That’s a little out of date, but it’ll do for now.

It’s a road trip type contemporary adventure, originally meant as a light, fun story, but turning darker as I try and plot it.

Pinterest board: “Smoothie Story” (Warning: all my Pinterest story boards are about to undergo a complete re haul, so it’s going to be a bit of a construction site for a little bit)

Nina

Nina Thompson
Name: Nina Thompson
Age: 16
Personality type: ISTJ

Nina lives with her parents (until the events of the story kick off, that is). She dreams of being a lawyer, like her father. She tends to be a very practical, get the job done sort person, preferring to not beat around the bush. She’s very good at not procrastinating (I envy her). Her heart bleeds when she sees the suffering and injustice her – that’s one of her reasons for becoming a lawyer. She wants to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. Ironically, she’s not so good at that when it comes to herself. She often caves to peer pressure when with people who pretend to be her friends, then beats herself up over it afterwards, beyond the point of what could be considered reasonable. She’s a perfectionist, wants everything to be just so and in order, and she takes failure very hard. She listens to music all the time, and even more when she wants to get away.

Pinterest board: Character – Nina

Christopher 1
He needs to be a bit older, but this is the closest photo I’ve found.

Christopher
Name: Christopher (I’m afraid a last name is still rather lacking)
Age: 19
Personality type: ENFP

Christopher’s very laid back and just an overall happy person. He plays the guitar, and it’s his dream to one day make a living as a musician. Before the story starts, he’s gearing up to go to college on a major scholarship. He’s very close with his godsister, Nina, and is one of the few people who can draw her out of her “I’m serious and going to get on to business and we don’t need to laugh” shell. He has a very optimistic look on life, but is absolutely terrifying when pushed too far. He feels horribly guilty if someone gets hurt through his actions or inaction, and will do almost anything to prevent that from happening.

Pinterest board: Character – Christopher

MattMatthew Thompson
Name: Matthew “Matt” Thompson
Age: he’s an adult? I never picked one.
Personality type: still figuring that one out.

Matt Thompson is the villain of the story. He’s also the one I currently have the most backstory on. He’s the younger brother, his older brother Jonathan being Nina’s father. There was some severe favoritism when he was a child, his brother getting all the attention and him just pushed to the back. When he went off to college, he quickly tried to differentiate between himself and his brother (who was getting very good grades and well on the track to becoming a lawyer), getting involved in the party scene and gambling away any money he had. His parents cut all ties from him and died shortly thereafter. He dropped out of college, but continued on in the same vein, gambling, drinking, and getting together a sophisticated ‘gang’ of sorts. Soon he got so far in debt that he went to his older, much more successful and recently married brother and asked him for money. Jonathan gave it to him, on the one one condition that he stay far away from his wife and newborn daughter. This continued on for many years before Jonathan finally said enough is enough. Matt arranged a car accident, and the rest is spoilers.

Pinterest board: Character – Matt

And there you have it. My three main players in the “smoothie story” as it currently stands.

What did you think? Do the characters seem realistic to you? (If they don’t, could you tell me what doesn’t?) Also, if you have the personality type of one of my characters, please come tell me random things about your type!!