Why Humans vs. Elves?

Ever wondered why the elves are being attacked by humans? In a fantasy world, surely there was another, more fearsome race who could pose a threat to the physically superior elves, right? Humans are the low man on the totem pole in most fantasy stories; they rank beneath elves, dwarves, dragons, and whichever other races happen to populate the author's particular world. They have no special culture; they have no grandiose halls or amazing architecture; they have swords and bows while others have supernatural weapons/skill/animals; really, the humans in most fantasy book are struggling to find their place amongst these stronger (and typically more interesting) people.

            So I thought to my self: Self, what would happen if the humans were the bad guys in this book? What if they were the big, bad villains? They basically get stepped on by all these other fantastical, ethereal creatures in most stories. Maybe it's time the humans got a chance to take the spotlight. Typically elves and humans are forced into an often reluctant alliance in order to defeat the dark, scary villain (think The Lord of the Rings, or The Inheritance Cycle), and when it's all said and done, the elves can't wait to return to their ethereal, dusty libraries and get back to stoically contemplating their place in the universe. Thus, with my new idea of humans vs. ________ in hand, I elected to pit them against the elves. I wanted to see what they would do when (surprise!) the humans suddenly attacked and wanted them all dead! Would the elves be prepared after living lives of tranquil peace for centuries? Or would they panic and (figuratively) run around like chickens with their heads cut off? With basically no army to speak of, since they hadn't faced any legitimate threats in centuries, and only ancient family heirlooms for weapons, the elves would be facing a completely unprecedented situation with no way out. Since humans are usually regarded as potential allies for the elves in fantasy stories, this would throw a unique curve-ball at the reader. 

            And I really liked this idea the more I thought about it. Humans vs. elves—there had to be a reason the humans were back after centuries of supposed extinction, right? So I started creating an epic back-story (of which you will learn pieces in Book Two and the full explanation in Book Three) and really delving into the centuries of deep hatred that was festering within the remaining human countries. The elves nearly drove them to extinction during the War of the Red Moon, and now they were back and ready for revenge.

            Here's what fellow author Marta Stahlfeld had to say about this particular facet of Sons and Daughters:

            “A lot of people have told me that there's nothing new under the sun, and Mortimer Adler said in How to Read a Book that there are some plots that have been done to death. Young Falcon was not, repeat NOT, one of them. A general idea in Elizabeth Anne McKinney's book is this concept of back from the brink. Humankind was thought to be extinct, a fairy tale, no longer worthy of concern, and all at once they're back wrecking an epic revenge. Back from the brink has not been done enough, which is too bad because it is an epic way of telling a story.”

            This theme will feature heavily throughout the entire series. If it's something about Young Falconthat you loved, stick around; there will be plenty more where that came from! :)

A Character Portrait: Elysia

Hello all! I haven't been posting as much as I should be since FR is almost upon us! I'm going to start writing reflective blog posts involving characters, places, and FAQs about plot points. Soooo I thought I'd start off with the main leading lady herself, Elysia :) 

At seventeen, Elysia is the eldest of Aubryn’s and Damir’s three daughters. Growing up, she was inquisitive and sometimes rebellious but has matured into a kind-hearted, loving sister and friend. Her gentle spirit is tested, however, when she begins a journey to Yaracina’s capital city to retrieve business papers for her father and unwittingly finds herself wandering too close to a small troop of soldiers. Captured and thrown in prison, Elysia’s life is turned upside down in the blink of an eye, and she is caught up in events more perilous and intricate than she ever dreamed possible.

That’s the basic story of my first book, Young Falcon. It’s about a young(ish) girl who has never been outside the safe borders of her quaint little town and suddenly gets thrown into a world that is much bigger and more aggressive than what her parents told her it would be like. I think, at its heart, this is a theme to which many teenagers can relate. They’re growing up, and they’re learning about the world—about both amazing and wonderful things, and the things their parents wished they would never know about. Growth is inevitable, whether it’s growth in a positive direction or in a very negative one. Elysia has a solid foundation; she comes from a devoted, close family, a small community, and she has many dear friends. But none of those things prepared her for soldiers, prison, slavery, human assassins, and long, arduous treks through mountains. She has been thrown in one entirely new situation after another, and it doesn’t seem like they’ll be stopping any time soon. (Author’s hint: they won’t.) At seventeen, with the background she has, how prepared would Elysia really be for the confusing and sometimes violent things she encounters?

Young Falcon is basically my attempt to answer that question. Some people have complained that Elysia is wishy-washy, or that she needs to grow a backbone, or what have you—but perhaps surprisingly, that’s exactly what I wanted. Currently, YA books are running wild with strong, fearless, kick-butt female protagonists who are somehow (unrealistically?) capable of being simultaneously gorgeous, smart, and able to wield whichever deadly weapon the author selects—all without breaking a sweat. Oh, and she gets the guy.

I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing I hate more than literary clichés.

Elysia is pretty much the opposite of this, that, and the other heroine. She’s not very good with her weapon. She just wants to go home. She’s not mouthy. She barely survives her first battle and is pretty freaked out by it. She is legitimately terrified of what’s going to happen to her. She feels unworthy of the task she’s been given. She actually trusts people.

Why did I make her this way, you ask? It’s realistic, I answer. Think about it. If you were seventeen, got kidnapped, were given help escaping by a guy you barely know, were forced to fight in a realskirmish with trained soldiers, and were hunted by an assassin … wouldn’t that make you question everything you thought you knew about yourself and the whole world? But maybe that’s just me. In other YA books, the hero/ine is thrown into some devastating war or finds out s/he has magical powers, and BOOM, s/he develops all the talents possibly needed, finds a mentor who can guide our young protagonist through the hard stuff, finds a love interest, and saves the day. Oh, and did I mention s/he can wield his/her weapon with amazing agility and skill? 

Elysia has none of that, not even a mentor or skill with her weapon. She is (literally) thrown to the wolves and left to fend for herself. Coming from a tiny town where the greatest danger was getting blisters from bow practice, Elysia is understandably dazed by all of this. She has no idea how to respond to all of this; she’s just trying to stay alive … and maybe deliver that egg to Efroy while she’s at it. Maybe.

Okay, so Elysia is wishy-washy, needs to grow a backbone, (insert other slightly derogatory comment here), etc. Is she always going to be like that, you ask? Let me ask you: is that realistic? When people are thrown into new, intimidating circumstances, what do they immediately start doing? Try to figure out how to cope and/or get back to safety (their previous, more comfortable situation). Elysia is doing both. Since she can’t get back to safety (Aseamir and her family), she must learn to cope. She must learn what it takes to survive these threatening people and situations she encounters—otherwise, she’s toast. Elysia is already starting to learn; she survived an actual battle with real soldiers. Pretty good for a small-town girl, right? In Book Two, she learns even more about how to navigate this big new world to which she’s been so abruptly exposed. Elysia has no choice but to discover how exactly she’s going to survive the next day, and so slowly, over time, with lots of mistakes along the way … she will change. Everyone does it—like I said earlier, growth is inevitable. Unlike other heroines who gain their new abilities/knowledge overnight, Elysia will learn at the rate of a normal person. She is still, after all, just a teenager who is forced to face things and people that very few others her same age have ever experienced.

She is doing her best to retain the part of her self that is sweet, gentle, kind, and trusting … but in a world like that, it may be more difficult than she thinks.

Follow Elysia’s journey into the second installment of Sons and Daughters to see the seeds of change (for better or for worse?) taking root in her young heart.

Fallen Rose Review from Author Marta Stahlfeld

I got a review of FR by author Marta Stahlfeld! (Check out her blog here.) Thanks so much for your awesome review, Marta!! 

"Fallen Rose is a thrilling, emotional story that continues the epic journey of remarkable characters and their struggle to make the right choices under intense pressure. The new characters introduced in this book add a wider view of the struggle between the humans and the elves. Lliam’s personal struggle is so well-crafted that the reader cannot be sure which side he will choose until he chooses. In short, Fallen Rose is a masterpiece—a worthy sequel to Young Falcon." 

Fallen Rose will be out next month; keep an eye out!
Look for Marta's new book Graystone coming out soon, too! 

The Final Cover for Book Two!

I don't know how many people actually read this blog still, because I never post on it (oops), but in case you ARE reading this, you get to see the final cover for Book Two! Yay! I love it even more than YF's cover! :D 
Here it is: 

Pretty nice, huh? I'm so excited to show it to everyone later :D FR should be here within the next month -- definitely in time for Christmas! God is good, y'all!!! :) 

107 Pages of Book Three!

It's true; I do indeed have 107 pages on the rewritten Book Three, most of which I've actually this summer. I discovered a new technique that's really helped me go faster, so I've been cranking out probably 10 or 11 pages a day. In the last week, I've written three whole chapters :D Which is good, because I'm about to head to Liberty and have less time to write. (Which is depressing ... I'm getting into some really important and intense scenes right now!) 
     Soon I shall also be starting to post more story/character-related things, such as character studies and plot discussions and fun trivia :) I have a few posts already written, and I'm trying to get stocked up on material before I leave so I won't have to scramble during school to get them written >.
     Hope everyone's having a marvelous week; six days until I leave for college! O.o 

It's A Big Day!

I've been terribly lax about posting during the process of editing Book Two. Apologies. But I've been to Honduras and back, and Mom finished the initial edits! Whoohoo! So today we're going to contact Sheryn Hara and get the ball rolling on publishing Book Two. I'm so ready to get this thing printed! I've gotten some awesome reviews already, and I look forward to letting you all have the chance to read Elysia's next adventure :) I'll try to be more diligent about keeping you updated. 
     Have a great week, all! :)

16(ish) Days Left

I have approximately 16 days of high school left, and ~25 until I graduate, which I frankly find amazing. Where did the year go? I'm not complaining—at all. But it's just weird to think that next year, I won't be in Texas anymore, where I've lived all my life. I'll be in Virginia, which is super exciting and actually not scary. I'm so eager to go at this point. I've made a friend already via Facebook, and I've contacted my roommate, so I don't feel very nervous about making friends. It'll just be nice to have a change, you know? New places, new faces :) Last night was a little sad, though—we had our last celebration of the fine arts at school yesterday, and they honored all the seniors, so we had to go on stage. Weird to think I won't be there next year ... I've been at my school for 11 years. Which also means I'm totally ready for a change of scenery. I'll still come home for Christmas and Spring Break and all, though, so it's not like I won't be returning anytime soon. It'll be hard to sell books in VA, however, since most people who've read it are in central Texas. 
      Speaking of which, I had an awesome book signing yesterday! I sold out of all 20 books I took; God is great, y'all :) It was one of the more fun all-day events I've been too, as well. 
      Anyway—graduation is nigh, and I'm excited! :D I look forward to seeing what God has in store for the next big chapter of my little life; I'm expecting something amazing :) 
      Have a great week, everyone!

Italy, Italy, Italy!

As promised, a giant Italy post! Complete with pictures of my escapades, of course ;) 

Day 1 and 2: We arrived at ABIA and hung out until it was time to board, whereupon we flew to
Me and M.M. on the flight to Chicago

Chicago. There was snow EVERYWHERE in Chicago

like, real snow :D It was great. Then we boarded our British Airways plane and had a 7-hour overnight flight to the London Heathrow airport. My first time in another country! That was awesome; so exciting. One of my friends brought pepper spray, however, not knowing it was illegal in the U.K., and so she got caught in security, and they called the police, whereupon her little pink pepper spray can was "seized and destroyed." I have a feeling none of us will be forgetting that story anytime soon ;)

Locks on Juliet's gate

Day 2 cont.:  After getting off the looooooong flight in Milan, we met our tour guide, Francesca, got on a bus, and traveled to Verona. Actually, most of us were exhausted and just slept on the way, so I'm not sure how long our ride was, or which cities we passed through on the way >.amazing tortellini. 

Tortellini from the Ristorante Enocibus

That was definitely the best meal we had on our entire trip :) Then we got back on the bus and headed for Venice, where we reached our hotel. One of my roommates, however, was in the other girls' room and graciously decided to stay there so she wouldn't come back and wake us up. However, we didn't know this. So M.M. got up at about 2:30 in the morning to make sure she was still alive ... which consisted of knocking on everyone's doors to see if she was inside. She found her, but not until after waking up everyone else ;) Fun times.

Look at this horse. He made it in two minutes. Amazing!

Day 3: Venice! My favorite city. Early this morning, we took a ferry out to Guidecca Island to watch a glass-blowing demonstration at the Murano glass factory. Let me tell you, this guy was amazing. God really blessed him with glass-blowing talent. Hence that he made a beautiful vase and a glass horse in under two minutes. Afterwards, we were allowed to shop in the store, where, unfortunately, everything was very expensive. One glass bead was €10. I was very disappointed, as I really wanted to buy something, but I wasn't willing to spend all my money on the first day of shopping. But! I found the Imperfections Table, where the imperfect items were being sold at half-price. I found this beautiful blue little glass cup which apparently had an imperfection (I couldn't find anything wrong with it) and got it for €20, even though it was originally €22 at half-price, because the very sweet saleslady saw that I didn't have chance and told me I could have it for €20 :) That made my day. After we all finished shopping, we met our tour guide for the afternoon. She led us around Venice and told us all about its history. Afterwards, we had free time, during which M.M. and I wandered around, looking at various shops and just enjoying the day. When our free time was over, we returned to St. Mark's Square and I went with the group who was going to ride gondolas. I mean, how can you go to Venice and not ride a gondola?

Gondolas in Venice!!

So we rode gondolas, and that was amazing

the precision with which the gondoliers have to steer down those narrow waterways is just breathtaking; it definitely takes a lot of talent and strength to be a gondolier. I was thoroughly impressed.
     Once we came back, we went to the Doge's (Prince's) Palace for a self-guided tour. That was neat as well, though we left pretty quickly and went to hunt down some gelato. Ah, gelato ...

The Duomo

Day 4: We traveled to Florence today, again by bus. We ate lunch and then took a guided tour of the city, where we saw the Duomo, which was probably the most impressive architectural feat I saw in Italy. We toured it and some other church and then went to see a (short) leather-making demonstration in a factory. The prices at the factory were waaaaay high, so I don't think many of us bought anything. Afterwards we had some free time. I don't really remember what we did ... probably just looked around at the markets. Probably ate some gelato, too. Then we ate dinner, hung out for a while in our hotel rooms (actually M.M. and I went sliding down the stair bannisters :D ), and then had some deep conversations before going to sleep. 
       We had a free day the next day, and M.M. and I went shopping with P.W. and her mom. They mostly looked at fashion shops and bought some cute purses, shoes, and clothes. P.W., M.M., and I kinda struck out

Giant sandwiches!

on our own after a while, though, and that was super fun. It was wonderful to just have some freedom, you know? We could go wherever we wanted, and I really loved being able to do that ... and pay for my own stuff and manage my money :D Weird thing to be happy about, I know, but hey

I'd never really done that before. On our way back, however, we ran into this Jamaican guy who offered us "free" bracelets and we were perfectly happy to take them ... until he asked for Euros. None of us had any change, and he got so upset that it was almost funny. He yanked the bracelets back and went off muttering, and we all just kinda stared at each other and then proceeded to head back, very perplexed and slightly amused. Interesting experience, indeed.

Assisi from atop a mountain

Day 5: We headed to Assisi today, which involved our bus going up into the mountains, as Assisi is situated a little ways up in a mountain range. It was beautiful here ... although the Catholicism of the city was extremely overwhelming and honestly, a little creepy. There were crucifixes and statues and rosaries and crosses everywhere; most of the stores were entirely full of these things ... enough is enough, guys ;) But we traveled to a castle that frankly looked like it belonged in Ireland, and it was very cool to get to explore it; I enjoyed that a lot :) Afterwards, we took a guided tour of St. Francis' Basilica, and that was interesting. I'm just not into old churches, though. I had much more fun just roaming around and shopping and visiting the fake Irish castle :) Then we packed up and headed for Rome! We checked into the hotel, and then some of the group went on a night tour. P.W., M.M., and I did not, however; we stayed in our room and talked for a while and then went to sleep.

The Colosseum

Day 6: We went to the Colosseum today. For some reason, it wasn't what I was expecting ... and I wasn't all that impressed by it. Strange? Yes. I don't know why it didn't impress me. Oh well. Then we visited the Roman Forum, which was interesting but not mind-blowing. Then we went to the Vatican. Also didn't know what to expect here. The chapels and churches were pretty, yes, but there were just so many statues and paintings of popes and saints! C'mon, people, are we worshiping the saints and popes, or God? It was unsettling, especially since there was an entire, huge room of twenty-foot statues ... of the Greek pantheon. Um, what? Since when do the Greek gods belong in the Vatican? I think they had their religions confused. Anyway

the tour included St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, and when we finished our extremely looooong tour (12:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M.), we ate, had a little down-time, and then visited the Trevi Fountain. It was indeed impressive, although it was also full of Greek gods and goddesses. Then we went back to the hotel and slept.

Day 7: Part of the group woke up early and went to visit some early Christian catacombs. M.M., and I did not, but we were stuck at the hotel until the others came back ... which was 2:00 in the afternoon, and by then our day was kinda wasted anyway. But we discovered an amazing little sandwich shop around the corner that was very cheap and very good :D When the others got back, we went shopping again (I think ... I don't really remember what we did). Oh! We went to a gelato store with 150 flavors! :D That was AMAZING. Gelato is just a superior form of food in general. I wish I could have sampled more flavors, but there were just way too many to choose from.


      I think I've numbered the days incorrectly, but this was our last day. Oh well.

Day 8: We packed up very early in the morning (3:45) and rode to the airport, whereupon we boarded and flew back to Heathrow. Then we headed for Austin ... on a 10 hour flight. I used to like flying. No more. But we arrived safely and soundly back at ABIA at 6, and then I went home and relayed my adventures to my parents :) 

All in all, a wonderful week. I really wish the Scotland/Ireland trip had won, since I want (and intend to) live in Scotland someday soon, but Italy was amazing, too. I'm not sad at all that this was where we ended up going. It was my second choice behind Scotland/Ireland, anyway :) I made a new friend, learned a LOT about Italian culture, saw some beautiful sights, and realized how big the darn world actually is. And I got some practice handling and managing my own money :) This trip was a real blessing, and I'm so thankful my parents let me go. I will definitely be traveling abroad again as soon as I can. And

here's the stuff I bought: 

 Some awesome Italian combat boots, a leather purse (my first purse ever, actually), a keychain from every city I visited (except Milandidn't have time :/ ), and the little glass I bought from the Murano glass factory in Venice. Such a memorable and amazing trip!! If you ever have the chance to visit Italy, do it; it'll be well worth your time and money :) Arrivederci, y'all!

52ish Days to Go!

I'm not exactly sure how many days are left until graduation. I think it's 52. But I could be wrong. Either way I'M SO EXCITED. The longer I'm at my school, the more ready I am to go. Not that it's my school that's the problem or anything; I've just been there for 10 years, and I'm ready to see what's going to happen next :) And things have started to happen! I got some scholarship money, got a roommate, and am basically just about ready to move to Virginia :) After having traveled to Italy a few weeks ago, I think traveling across the country won't be nearly as daunting ... although I'll be staying in VA a little longer than I stayed in Italy ;) But! I'll get to drive through the mountains of Tennessee again, which I'm really looking forward too; they're not as beautiful as the ones in Assisi, but they're quite pretty all the same :) And this time, I'll actually be driving, since this summer I'm going to get my license ... fingers crossed. I've been saying that for a while now, haha. But it'll happen. I promise. 
      Anyway, I'm home sick today. Missing my very last Jog-a-Fun. Darn. actually be my last, but Jog-a-Fun, AP tests, Jr./Sr. ... my memories of those things will be stuck in 2013. 2013 was a good year :) 2014 has just seemed ... slow. Almost languid. Besides the Italy trip, nothing's really happened. Kinda disappointing, really. Oh well. Things will happen in a few months when I head to VA :) I'll be sure to keep my few readers posted ;) Oh! And speaking of readers (that made me think about Book Two), my mom's editing is coming along slowly but surely. I hope to have it to my editor fairly soon ... a few months, maybe. Oh, the process of publishing is slow, guys >.
       Now I'm gonna go work on my extremely late giant Italy post. Hope you're all having a wonderful day/week! :)

A Glowing Review of Young Falcon

I received this review from a reader via email, and it totally made my day. Thanks to everyone who has reviewed my book; it's much appreciated! :)

"I purchased it for my Kindle and was just blown away.  It was so well-written, and I could hardly believe such a young girl (or, in fact, anyone!) could capture thoughts and emotions the way [she] did.  Of course, just the fact that [her] mind could create such a detailed and complicated story is amazing to me -- and then get it all down on paper (the hours that must taken!).  The range of emotions and plot twists [she] used, along with so many subtle thoughts and ideas expressed by the various characters, seem far beyond [her] years. I was just so impressed.  It's obvious [she] truly has a future as an author!" - M. Green