Randomly Interviewing My Brother

My brother Paul and I had some time on our hands as our family drove across town to a birthday party. We had notebooks. We also had goofy brains and the idea of doing unique interviews of each other. This post is the result of the questions I asked him. 😉 

But first, an introduction of sorts.

paul“Paul Willis is a young Christian author in Arizona. He is learning (and always will be) the crafts of writing and independent publishing. His style alternates between comedic and poetic. He hopes others will benefit from his experiences and mistakes.”

He’s also the author of Diamond a short, brilliant mystery. “Novel X” is the working title of his NaNoWriMo novel. He blogs at Project Blank Page.

Now the questions…

What was the weirdest thing you had to research for “Novel X”?

I had to Google the difference between a “hankering” and a “hunch”. ‘Nuff said.

Have you ever killed a main character?

Bwahaha! Yeeesss…

It actually doesn’t make me happy, but my characters keep putting themselves in dangerous situations that they shouldn’t be able to live through. In my defense, so far their deaths have been mercifully quick.

Who would you cosplay?

I could do BBC Sherlock, the most recent Spock, or Peter from Divergent; but I’d prefer to be Captain America if I could pull it off.

I have pictures to prove it. 😉 Have you learned anything about how to handle a large cast of characters?

Yes. I learned very quickly that if you introduce a crowd early on, you should kill off side characters at the pace you develop the main ones. This way your few MC’s will be the only ones standing at the climax and will bear all attention and emotional load. Your reader can maintain the required focus on the well developed important people.

Real answer: My best tip I learned is to try to keep all but a few (less than 5) characters of interest out of the scene. If the POV character needs to talk to 100 cast members, have her move from conversation to conversation, room to room. Both authors and readers know how confusing it can be with a dozen characters contributing to the same dialogue.

What was the most challenging part of creating a case for Diamond?

Probably back engineering how the detective solves it–how he finds clues, without giving the answer away too early. I got the criminal’s part almost right off the bat, but he was naturally smarter than the detective. I wonder what that says about my brain.

What’s the most beautiful paperback you’ve ever seen?

That’s hard. Really hard. I like The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau, but Airman by Eoin Colfer or Counted Worthy by Leah Good is the coolest.

Thanks for doing that with me, Paul! 😉

You can find his interview of me HERE. Enjoy! 😉

Ivy Rose on Writing Romance

Today I am excited to welcome Ivy Rose with a guest post on writing romance!


For some people, merely hearing the word “romance” has eyes rolling. For others, it sets hearts pounding. For others—namely the writers—it brings memories of much face-palming and head-desking.

Let’s face it: plenty of things go on between couples that other people shouldn’t see, whether it be a private conversation, a passionate kiss, etc. Therefore, they shouldn’t go in books. Readers are smart, and a little imagination can go a long way. There is no need to be explicit about subjects that should be reserved for husbands and wives.

For years, writing romance has caused me countless headaches and ruined stories. The very idea of writing a book with romance had me gagging. Hence, I decided that the best route to take was to write romance-free books.

*cue sarcastic laughter*

Yes, well, to my thirteen-year-old brain, that sounded like the ideal solution. It was a great idea in theory, but my characters revolted. I found myself needing a way to handle their romance rather than ignore it.


But that led me back to my biggest fear—gag-worthy romances. I never read many of those in the first place, but just about everyone in this world, including myself will admit that they have read an encounter between a couple that made them uncomfortable. Even if the couple is married, the way they show affection to one another—affection that is not “wrong”—can feel very wrong to be reading it.

On the flip side, there are those books where the couples rarely show affection to one another to the point where their lack of affection pulls you out of the story because you are too busy trying to figure out if they “go together” or not.

As a reader, either one of these scenarios can be maddening. As a writer, it can be hard (or IMPOSSIBLE!!!) to know how much romance is appropriate to show.

So how can you know?

Each writer must examine himself or herself individually to find their ideal balance. For me personally, it has taken years of careful thought, prayerful decisions, and a lot of self-examination. Whether I be writing a romantic scene or reading a romantic scene, I ask myself this question:

Would that couple be doing/saying/behaving that way if someone was standing in the room watching them?

Think about it: do you feel uncomfortable when a couple in a book hugs? Or when a husband and wife kiss each other in greeting? Neither of those things bother me in books. Neither of them bother me in the real world.


Let’s look at some examples of well-done romance in books. This first one comes from A Penny Parcel by Avery E. Hitch. The main characters, Luke and his wife, Grace, are lying in bed. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Wrong. Look how Avery Hitch handles this bedroom conversation:

“Luke rolled over….

Grace slid her hand across the sheets and reached for his. “I still love you,” she said in a painful whisper.

He gripped her hand, but said nothing. Even with her hand held tightly in his, Luke felt like everything was slipping through his fingers.”

Did that make you nervous? Uncomfortable? It didn’t bother me. Yet look at what we have—an intimate conversation in an off-limits location (for bystanders), yet nothing about that scene was uncomfortable. Would Luke and Grace have behaved differently had someone been in the room with them?


Now let’s look at a different kind of scene—one that involves kissing. (Stop rolling your eyes it does have to happen sometimes.). This is taken from a story of mine that shall remain title-less.

“She turned her head slightly to press her lips against his. Eight years of marriage still hadn’t taken away the flutter in her heart.”

Could I have described the kiss in more detail? Sure. Do I want to? Not really. Could I have described it in more detail while still keeping it appropriate (according to my personal guideline)? Probably.


What about integrating physical contact? Same rules apply. This example is taken from my first novel, The Old River Road.

“ “ Don’t worry about that,” he chided, grasping her about the waist and pulling her toward him….

Clara felt soft kisses placed on her head….

William ran his finger down her nose with a tender smile.”

How about that? I cut most of the dialogue to save time, but there you have an example of some playful banter and physical touch without making the reader feel awkward.


Here’s one massive pointer I would give anyone who wants to write romance:

Focus on the relationship, not the passion.

What does that mean? To me, it means that I strive for ways to show my readers how much my characters love each other. That can be done in so many different ways…acts of service, kind words (not necessarily flirtatious, but if you like that kind of thing, it can work), and internal thoughts admiring character qualities. And those are just a few examples. Love can be shown in so many ways. You are a writer—utilize the more subtle ways of showing love between couples, and leave what happens behind closed doors where it belongs. It is entirely possible to write a sweet romance without giving too much information.

In my own writing, I have made the decision to not write any romantic relationship that goes beyond what I would be comfortable seeing/hearing were I in the room with my characters. I have been told that the romance I write is “immature” and should be “more graphic.”

I must admit that I actually laughed when I heard that.

But you know what? I’d rather write “immature” and “un-graphic” romance that I believe is appropriate than worry about overstepping my bounds and making some readers, not to mention myself, uncomfortable.

DISCLAIMER: I do not claim to be right, nor do I claim to be an expert on the subject. I know that not everyone is going to agree with me–and that’s OKAY! I’m merely going to point out some of my personal convictions when it comes to writing romance. No offense intended.

Have you thought about what guidelines you want to follow when writing romance? If so, what are your guidelines?



Ivy Rose is an 18 year old history lover and literary enthusiast. Aside from writing, she enjoys being outdoors, eating chocolate, traveling, reading, and doing TaeKwonDo. She is the author of The Old River Road and Left to Die. She resides with her family of 9 on the banks of the Long Lake in eastern Washington. Connect with her on her blog, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Instagram.



Book Review: The City of Ember

307791“Many hundreds of years ago, the city of Ember was created by the Builders to contain everything needed for human survival. It worked…but now the storerooms are almost out of food, crops are blighted, corruption is spreading through the city and worst of all—the lights are failing. Soon Ember could be engulfed by darkness…

But when two children, Lina and Doon, discover fragments of an ancient parchment, they begin to wonder if there could be a way out of Ember. Can they decipher the words from long ago and find a new future for everyone? Will the people of Ember listen to them?”  (from Goodreads)

This year I rediscovered The City of Ember. Watching the movie with my siblings reminded me how much I loved the books, and I decided to start this series by Jeanne DuPrau again. This time since I already knew the story I was free to slow down and enjoy every aspect of it. I could feel the impending doom of Ember with the rust and the mold and the damp and the blackouts. I could feel what it was like to hold your breath and count until the lights came back on with the absolute terror of not knowing where you were and what was going to happen next. I didn’t just enjoy Lina and Doon’s attempts to solve the riddle of the torn instructions, instead I was rooting for them to find the way out. Even though this was a fantasy book, the people and place names were never so odd that it detracted from the story but instead it gave the background development of people far removed from regular life but still holding onto aspects of it. Lina and Doon were written as real, live people with loves and hates, worries and hopes, and faults even too. A small metaphor that I had completely missed came out this time and left me smiling. Doon watching a worm build its cocoon and break free, Lina planting a seed and watching it sprout–metaphors of hope. (And a good explanation of the next book’s cover.) The author’s frank writing style still left room for poetry and I found myself experiencing the disorientation of SPOILER ALERT! using a boat and candles for the first time and the wonder of SPOILER ALERT! seeing a brand new day be born! I honestly cried at that one. 😉

Many readers have noticed the odd references in this book about religion. Side characters are heard wondering if there is a great Being watching over them and saying maybe or maybe not. Doon also wonders where life comes from and knows it’s a power greater than the Builders. The Believers are a group of people that aren’t in the book very much but do have the most “beliefs” of anyone. They claim to have seen the Builders coming again to “show them the way” in a dream. Now of course, SPOILER ALERT! in the story Lina and Doon save the day and the Builders are nowhere to be seen which is a great case for humanism, isn’t it? Except…the Builders SPOILER ALERT! did save them. Who wrote the instructions? Left the boats? The candles? And later in the series a few more surprises? I think it’s positing an interaction between their own efforts and what has been provided for them. It’s really not a huge theme of the book, but I would recommend some parental guidance for younger readers who are not strong in what they believe.

Best quote(s): “The trouble with anger is, it gets hold of you. And then you aren’t the master of yourself anymore. Anger is. And when anger is the boss, you get unintended consequences.”

“Wouldn’t it be strange, she thought, to have a blue sky? But she liked the way it looked. It would be beautiful – a blue sky.”

I very much enjoyed this book and can’t wait to start re-reading the second one! Definitely a great series. 😉

Draft One–Done!

I finished the first draft of “Kiera” last week. Saturday to be exact, so I had more time to write. It was also raining, so I was feeling extra creative. Armed with these advantages and one more ingredient–encouragement from my family and a friend who let me recite the whole plot to her–I finished. 😉


It’s hard to pinpoint when I first began working on this story, but I think it was earlier last year. I took a several month break then picked it back up when NaNoWriMo was upon us, and I had a creative itch even though I wasn’t officially participating. I’ve shared excerpts and updates, made a ridiculously detailed (and mostly spoiler free) Pinterest board, and did my fair share of plot-groaning-writer’s-block-general-complaining. (That’s actually very key to the process.) All the hard lessons God has taught me (and been teaching me!) made it into the story somehow. Even a head cold was useful when I had to describe my character being sick. 😉

Even though I have a story with a plot, scenes, characters, chapter breaks, and all those good things (except a title!); there is still much to be done. I can already see the imperfections in my chi–book. I’m already thinking through a proper title and rephrasing one of the last scenes in my mind. And I’m of course remembering everything I’ve forgotten to include in the story. 😉

I’ve decided to hold onto the happy glow of finishing the draft and wait to criticize it until it’s actually time to edit. 😉 I’ll be taking a few months break to let the manuscript rest and work on another project for publication, Lord willing. (More on that later!) 😉

In the meantime, thanks for all your enthusiasm and encouragement! I can’t wait to see where this story takes me next. 😉


I was thinking about the book of Ruth today. It’s one of my favorites in the Bible. Maybe because it has a female main character and gives a nice break from the violence and hopelessness of Judges. More probably because it is partly a love story…

Boaz never apologizes first. Ruth doesn’t have a cute car (more like a donkey). In fact none of the typical cliches portrayed in romantic stories are there.

Instead we see Ruth having faith in God and love for her family (what’s left of it). We see her doing ordinary and humiliating tasks of faithfulness. Boaz respects her for her faith and care for her mother-in-law. He protects her and provides for her in tangible, physical ways. And then he does the fantastic kinsmen redeemer thing.

The book of Ruth is not only a sweet account and a prequel to King David, but more than that it’s also a direct mirror of God’s grace and love. Boaz is a picture of our Redeemer who paid the price for us. The master Storyteller manages to show us Himself even in a small historical event.


Book Review: Emmeline

34185986“What if Jane Austen’s Emma lived in America in the year 1930?

The talk of stock market crashes and depression isn’t going to keep Emmeline Wellington down. Born to wealth and privilege, Emmeline wants nothing more than to help her new friend, Catarina, find a husband. Emmeline sets her sights on one of the town’s most eligible bachelors, but nothing seems to go right. Even her friend and neighbor Fredrick Knight seems to question her at every turn.

Will she help Catarina find the man of her dreams? Why is her father acting so strangely? Will the downturn affect her life, despite her best efforts?” (from Goodreads)

I can’t call myself an Austenite since my only experience of her stories has been a retelling of Persuasion and two movie/miniseries adaptations of Emma. Even so, I was excited to give this version by Sarah Holman a try since I knew she would do a smashing job. 😉

It was aaaaammmmaaaazzzzing!!!! With just enough of the original (“Men of sense do not want silly wives”) to keep it the same dear story but plenty of new thrown in, I found it quite enjoyable. The 1930’s setting was very interesting considering we couldn’t have the dancing scene (“Will you dance with me, dear Emma?”), but I felt like it was portrayed well and the added element of the looming Great Depression added more conflict than even Emmeline herself could create. Emmeline was very lovable and very silly. Sometimes I wanted to just grab her and make her stop, and other times it was amusing how well-meaning she was. And Fredrick!!!! What a darling grump! 😀 Especially darling because SPOILER ALERT! he’s always reading and neverwears a hat and loves Emmeline in spite of herself. And the mud scene! Ha, ha! Matchmaking is never my favorite and gossip is awful, but it was amusing when John and Fredrick gave Emmeline a small dose of her own medicine. 😀 It was especially neat to understand the motives of two side characters a lot better than I ever have. Geraldine–sorry, Miss Carter was a riddle to start with. I knew Emmeline was wrong in her opinion, but I still thought Miss Carter odd. Knight’s explanation of her later made so much more sense, and I downright loved her for the talk she gave Catarina! I never could understand why Evelyn Field SPOILER ALERT! married Morgan Church, but this gave a little more information about her optimistic view of him. About three quarters through the book when all is lost and a Shakespeare play Emmeline apologizes and then… MAJOR SPOILER ALERT! gives all the rest to God! I was so surprised and happy with this decision! Her humility and right decision to stop meddling was really good. Like, better than good. END OF SPOILER That’s what really made the book for me! 😉 Not recommended for younger readers because of the matchmaking element as well as some slightly scandalous comments made by one Morgan Church, my least favorite character.

Best quote: “If you are ever angry at him, threaten to do something to one of his books, as calling him Fred does nothing,” she said in a lighthearted tone.


Altogether, it’s a keeper! 😉 I will be reading it again someday!

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Life in Pencil

I have this cute calendar that helps me keep my brain on straight. I tried the digital thing, and no sirree! I need paper. I use it to track everything I need to do (blog posts, dentist appointments, and other lovely, important things) as well as what I have accomplished because I need to be reminded that I CAN keep commitments.

Every single last thing on my calendar is written in pencil. This month quite a few entries have been written and erased, written and erased again. Personally set deadlines have been fluid. A review project was cancelled. My blog post ideas have been all stirred around.

It’s not the prettiest calendar page you’ll ever see. It tells a smudged story of changed goals, different priorities, and a desire to plan but still be flexible.

It also tells the story of many unexpected blessings added! Like the time we had our nephews over for three days. Or when I picked up Sarah Holman’s upcoming release Emmeline for review at the last minute and discovered a jewel. (More on that later!)

When plans change it’s often for an amazing reason I never would have suspected. So I keep that eraser handy! 😉


(Sorry, I don’t think this month’s color likes to be photogenic. I will have words with it.)

(Slightly) Romantic Books Part 2

Who else <3’s a little romance in their fiction? Who else is frustrated by downright silly and/or defiling portrayals of romance?

Last Friday I gave a list of ten (slightly) romantic books I felt comfortable recommending and promised more to come. You can find all of these books (and any new ones I discover!) on my Goodreads shelf “Sweet Romance”. Read them at your own (and your parents!) discretion. 😉

25236143Gift from the Storm by Rebekah Morris is first an amazing God-honoring mystery full of sweet family life (and CHRISTMAS!) and secondly a great example of organic, friendship-based romance. Read my enthusiastic review here. 





2636026Waiting for Her Isaac by Stephen and Susie Castleberry is one of the few portrayals of courtship I’ve read. Instead of focusing on rules and regulations, it brings things back to trusting the Lord, looking for principles in His word, and growing up in general since there is a lot of book before the courtship part. 😉 Read my review here.





722737Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss is the story of real girl. Not to say that it is biographical or even based on someone specific–but Katy has the same struggles, misunderstandings, and temptations that are common to us. The story does drag towards the end, but if you can live with that it’s worth the lessons and sweet romance. 😉




543358A Little House of Their Own by Celia Wilkins is one of those “extra Little House books”. (I’m usually not a fan especially if they throw in feminism or attitude that is just plain not true to the time period of the Ingalls.) This one however is SO SWEET especially since it’s friendship-based and sets a nice tone for the Laura books. 😉




389828Roses for Mama by Janette Oke is the story of a young woman who is suddenly responsible for all of her younger siblings when her parents die. You can imagine that throws a hitch in the romance department unless the guy is super sweet and genuine… 😉





1499952Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster was enjoyed by me mostly because of the hilarious author confessions of Judy, but the romance in it ended up pretty sweet as well. 😉 I wouldn’t recommend it for all ages because the worldview is a slightly mixed bag.





664675Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott wins the prize for most adorable classic ever. While there are “silly” moments and such, I really love how it turns out to prove that love is built on respect. And if you happen to have read its lighthearted prequel Eight Cousins, you’ll find it ten times cuter. 😉





81330471Ready or Not by Chautona Havig is the first book in the Aggie’s Inheritance series. I feel like I am always talking about this series, but I’m not stopping. 😛 It’s actually Christian and contemporary which is rare for me to find! It’s pretty clean, but there are still a few things that make it more PG than some of the others here. Here’s my review. 😉 I have to get my hands on that fourth book!!!




830435The Garden Wall by Jeanie Bishop is a picture book entirely on 1 Corinthians 13. It’s tearjerking and darling with great pictures and–yeah, I love it. 😉




That concludes my recommendations! Chime in with your favorites!

Book Review: Hartly Manor

33806891“There were six of them…

And these six children have an important lesson to learn when it comes to Mr. Hartly and his manor. Is he the scary man that Rees says he is? Or will the children discover something else as they get to know him?” (from Goodreads)

Such a sweet, Gospel-centered story by Amanda Tero! The way “the six” related to each other was very cute, and I love how Maud is so motherly to them all. 😉 The dialogue was quite fun especially when they were looking at the manor. Recommended for all ages.

Best quote: SPOILER ALERT! It didn’t seem quite right to be only five instead of six, but there wasn’t another seven-year old to take Stella’s place.

Altogether, this book was very sweet and would make a great read-aloud. 😉

I received a free copy of this short story in exchange for my honest review.

Allison Tebo Interview

Join me in welcoming author Allison Tebo to Once Upon an Ordinary! *sets off celebratory fireworks*

Allison, tell us a bit about yourself.

cropped-authorI’m a Christian homeschool graduate in my mid-twenties.  I work part time in a family owned freight brokerage as an agent for a major transportation company, but my real ambition is to be a full time writer.  I am also a children’s illustrator and cartoonist, a singer, with plans to move towards voice acting.  

I blog at Allison’s Well and I’m also on Youtube, Goodreads, Facebook, and Pinterest.

What first made you decide you wanted to be an author?

My big sister! I wanted to be just like her, and – I’m embarrassed now to admit it – I wanted all the accolades and attention that her stories were getting. Since then, I’ve learned that I don’t have to compare my stories to other people’s writing, and I don’t have to do something just because someone I admire is doing it. I don’t write for accolades anymore (though it’s always fun to have people get excited about my writing, of course), I write because I must. I write because it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. Writing has become as much a part of me as breathing. The words are there, and they must come out.  

Congratulations on publishing! May we have an introduction to The Reluctant Godfather?

33387751Burndee is a young and cantankerous fairy godfather, who would rather bake cakes than help humans. A disgrace to the fairy order, Burndee has only two wards entrusted to his care…a cinder girl and a charming prince.

A royal ball presents Burndee with the brilliant solution of how to make his wards happy with the least amount of effort. He’ll arrange a meeting and hope the two fall in love.

A humorous and magical re-telling of Cinderella from a unique perspective.


What is your favorite aspect of the ordinary life God has blessed you with?

My faith – I would be nothing without Him. My family; my life would be empty without my amazing parents and siblings. After that, probably beauty – the beauty of a flower, of a cloud, or even a lovely sound. The beauty of wonderful friendships. The beauty of words and good stories. Beauty is definitely something I can’t live without, and I want to learn even more about what God considers beautiful, not what the world calls beautiful.  

Any plans for further projects?  

Oh wow – I didn’t realize this interview was going to take the rest of the day….  Just kidding! Yes, I always have plans for future projects! My plan for 2017 is as follows:  

Publish a science fiction short story called ‘The Key to the Chains’.   

Write a fairy tale retelling of the Princess and the Pea – a novella.  

Write and publish one other novella, the details are yet unknown!  

And if I have any time left over, I would like to complete my second draft on my ‘baby’ – a space opera novel – and write my first draft on a Roman Steampunk novel that I have started outlining.  

Thank you so much for coming!

Thank you so much for having me, Kate!