World Builder

June 3, 2017

World Builder

I love creating alternate fantasy worlds.  I like to make them believable but fascinating.  Here’s a little step into how I build them:

In Web of Deception, the world of the Four Kingdoms is vibrant with culture and history.  I research elements I want, design histories that incorporate geography, climatic or geographic racial differences, climactic events, and culture clashes including the resulting epidemics, interracial blending, or wars that would have been.  To me, when I read Swavarian, I see the history of the people that made them who they are.

Sometimes I love the world so much that I create alternate stories within it.  For instance: the sharply contrasting cultures within the post-apocalyptic Earth world in the Realm of Earth series began with Grenadan stories focusing on the clashes between the militaristic tribe of Grenada with its central hub cities and primitive outskirt cities and the neighboring pacifist tribe of Camela in Source of Strength, Bold Worlds, and The Truth.  This precariously perched world with one central militaristic tribe whose Guards enforce law and order in most of the ten tribes shows up again in the Brantley Station Saga with the wealthier, more technological Qualizidians dealing with the political requirement of allowing Guards in their underwater mining colony.

All Greek?  No.  All part of the Realm of Earth!

That’s the way I explore other cultures in our real world.  I like to step into the shoes of different classes of people during whatever time and wiggle my toes around in them.  I like to picture their daily lives, struggles, imagine what their dreams would have been, and understand their culture without today’s lenses clouding my judgment.  It works for various cultures today too.  How does one understand another culture easily?

Imagine you are a mother in it.  What are your worries?  You love your children (love is universal); your hope is for them to have the best.  That I’ve found to be the easiest shoe for me to step into.  But you have to be able to drop your preconceived notions about what “best” is.  Here, in America, we have almost unlimited hopes and dreams.  An early Greek family living in a smaller polis would be hoping the rains didn’t wash away their crops and dreaming for a winter free of sickness.  They spent most of their day gathering food for the same day; as with most agrarian systems, they lived life connected to the seasons and their crops and animals.  Even if we are fortunate enough to have a garden today, we can find readily available food almost anywhere for a price; we live connected to our jobs which provide us money that translates into food, shelter, and clean water.  “Best” for them was survival.  Their “Best” is what we take for granted.

When I build my worlds, I’m pulling bits from a myriad of cultures I’ve studied and attempt to morph them together in a believable way.  Then I walk around in the shoes of the people I’ve created and pull their hopes, dreams, and feelings from what I would feel should their history be mine.  Hopefully, this process creates some realistic characters and believable worlds for your enjoyment!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time,

~Nancy Tart

Sooty Makeup

June 2, 2017

Sooty Makeup

     I’m not really a makeup person.  (Okay, I almost never wear makeup.)  Someone says “makeup” and I think sweaty post-workout drizzle where my face looked like a tie-dyed T-shirt (which was my teenage inexperience with makeup).  Rebeccah, however, is very artistic and does makeup well.  It’s an art to her.  Makeup is just another type of paint and human faces are her canvas.

Loving, excited aunts have made sure the girls have a colorful assortment of fun, safe makeup to play with as they enter the teenage threshold.  They’ve taught the girls many makeup techniques and how to match colors.  (Sometimes the craziest of color contrasts emerge, but that’s all in the learning game – and clowns need makeup artists too.)

One afternoon I was busily canning marinara sauce (a family staple) when I heard Kimberly announce from the front door, “Mom, come see, we’ve done our makeup in your style!” (Christina was just beginning to explore makeup)

My style?  I was busy, but curiosity won and there’s little I could do before the steam finished exhausting.  I peek and they are coming from outside, where they had discovered some soot from the outdoor kitchen.  All three of them are covered in smeared soot.

“My style?” I laugh.

“Yes!”  Christina says, “just like in the army!”

Camouflage!  That would be my makeup style.  Just let me blend in with my surroundings and disappear – that about described my normal interactions with most other humans.  I didn’t realize my children knew me so well!

“Yes,” Rebeccah adds, “we can look up now, and no one can see us.”

Turns out they were playing spy games, based on the recent string of military movies we’d watched over that weekend.  Of course, in black-and-white, all the face camouflage looks just like soot.

They took off to “finish their mission” and I returned to my hissing canner.  At that point, I was trying very hard to do more than blend in.  That doesn’t come easy for me.  I can write all day and interact with imaginary people in my made-up worlds, but interaction where I make myself open to others is not easy.  I love teaching, playing with, and guiding children.  My own age group?  It’s not easy for me.

I’m learning how to wipe off the sooty face camouflage and try my hand at real makeup.  I’m learning how to be open to others and allowing myself to invest in them – to be real, invest time, to speak instead of being silent.

I’m enjoying this “be the canvas” stage I’ve entered.  Plus, it’s an extra time to listen (and talk) to my daughters because I always want to be open and real for them.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~ Nancy Tart

 

Building Katy Bear

May 30, 2017

Building Katy Bear

“Tell me a story about creation!” Pipes Christina.

“Animals!” bubbles Rebeccah.

So began a little story about a bear named Katy who wants to see God create something.  This story was told for about three years before I wrote it down because Rebeccah wanted to read it to her younger sisters.  We added Ralph Bear and the raven changed to a wise old owl. Ralph was added because the girls wanted Katy to have a brother.  Rebeccah said we had to change the raven to something that lived longer so it would be more believable.  (Animals talking and praying is believable, but an old raven isn’t)

They had lots of discussion about different birds but the owl won.  He could be very old.  Birds were made before mammals so he could remember God creating.  The Bible calls owls wise. Kimberly was the toddler when we wrote it down on paper (okay, typed it on the computer and printed it out) so Christina wanted another bear.  Rebeccah said bears have singles and twins, so a third bear wouldn’t really work.  Christina reasoned it was a fairy tale and anything could really happen.  We looked up lives of bears.  Because they usually do just have twins, Christina pointed out that this story takes place before the flood – maybe pre-flood bears had triplets and quadruplets!  Rebeccah wanted to know why bears would have more babies before the flood.   Christina’s reply was that they were obeying God’s command.

“Which one?”

“Being fruitful and multiplying and filling the Earth.”  Christina said, “that would easily explain why animals in olden days had more babies.”

“Mice live today and they have tons of babies.”

“That’s because they have lots of things that eat them.  Who eats bears?”

Well, that prompted some more investigation into the lives of bears.  We learned a great deal about bears in the few days while we wrote “Katy Bear’s Request.”  Christina and Rebeccah even bought a National Geographic DVD special on bears from the resale store because now they love bears.  (Kimberly LOVED watching this movie, along with the VHS tape about African lions – zoologist in the making)

I learned a lot about bears.  What I really like about researching for a book is that I can drag the girls into it too!  We all take a few days and launch into learning about whatever subject.  For Daydreamer, most of our knowledge was already there (farming, food without processed flour, community) but for Pirate Child, we dove into learning about “the deep” ocean; building challenges, what kinds of creatures Ethan would see, basic physics of underwater travel.

For Katy Bear’s Request, we learned about bears.  I always wonder what subject we’ll become “little experts” (as Rebeccah calls it) on next time!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later,

~Nancy Tart

Winners

May 28, 2017

Winners

It’s been an awesome day.  I covered morning reservations and we went to church.  I always feel refreshed and ready to conquer the world after church.  Today the discussion was about winners.  We talked about how all believers are winners in the end because we get to go to heaven.  (You know, we all start out winners too… only the fastest one made it!)

Everyone loves to win.  It’s embedded in our genetics.

The whole “winners” thing is just an attitude adjustment.  It means looking at life like we know the end.  (We do!)  Seriously, people in the early church thought it a blessing to be persecuted for Christ’s sake (it’s there over and over in the Bible – “counted it an honor” means the same as us saying “blessed”).  How can someone say “it is an honor to be persecuted for Christ’s sake,” after the verse before says they were beaten, and be like “but that’s awesome!”   They tell us why!  Because they know they will win.  They know they will go to heaven.  They know the end.

You see, if we equate our life as “everything will be smooth and easy” we are really missing it.  We aren’t really touching people if we aren’t messing up some applecarts.  Our life here is meant to touch others – to “win” others to Christ.  Does God bless His people?  Amazingly!  Are those blessings always financial?  Nope.  We miss things like the sunrise, oxygen to breathe, babies to snuggle, friends to laugh with, clean water to drink, and food.   Being a winner means focusing on all of the many gifts God gives us every day and rejoicing in any situation – finding the good in anything.  There is good in any situation.  Sometimes it’s a challenge to find it.

Bankruptcy – we can start fresh.  Moving – new people to touch.  No dishwasher – be thankful for running water.  Hard day at work – be thankful for a job.  Remember the story of the little girl who was always finding something to be glad about?  Always looking for the good in people?  She is ridiculed and rejected often, until finally her positive attitude changes a whole town!  That’s how people are touched, by our lives standing fast and having the joy that comes from within despite what’s raging around us.

But we do have an advantage.  We do know the end.  We are winners because the battle is already won.  If we believe that, how can we not be a winner?

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time,

~Nancy Tart

Where the Crib is Clean

May 27, 2017

Where the Crib is Clean

It is 1900 hours.  I’m at war.  I come in armed with every weapon in the arsenal.  I am determined to win this battle.  THIS HOUSE WILL BE CLEAN!

“Mommy!” squeals the toddler, streaking through soaking wet and followed closely by another child, chasing him, in shoes that have obviously been outside.  Battle temporarily paused as main unit boils like a canning pot in frustration.

The most simple and yet most complex of all equations: H2O + DIRT = MUD … and wet couches, footprints… this is the assault that never ends, it goes on and on my friends!  And yes.  It Will NEVER END!  (Especially if you have a child and/or a pet – and in this equation, 2 doesn’t equal double the mess, it equals mess to the tenth power!)

While the sounds of war (okay, laughter and squeals of rapturous joy – but those sounds feel like flaming arrows right now) engulf my brain into retreat and I attempt to bury myself in a book and disappear, I’m able to find my big-vision goggles.

When I’m at a loss for what to read, I grab the Bible and open to Proverbs, look at the calendar (or attempt to remember the date for ten minutes before I give up and check my wall or my phone), and read that date’s chapter.  Well, it was the 14th of I-forgot-the-month.  (Oh yes, January – one birthday just done, another around the corner and year-end business reports due on the 15th! Oh my, that’s tomorrow!)

Proverbs 14:4 reads : “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean, but much increase is by the strength of the ox.”

What I saw was: “Where no children are in the house, it is clean, but much blessing, love, joy, and strength are gained by the vibrant, amazing, intelligent young people being trained within!”

Big vision goggles on.

“Cleaning the house” is a battle that will never end.  But, just like a productive farm has a dirty “crib” (okay, think motor oil spills and mud tracked in the barn by a tractor today) and a productive kitchen has dirty dishes (yes, my dishes are stacked in a to-the roof model of the leaning tower of Pisa), a productive house is in a constant state of never-really-perfectly-clean.  (Mine is in constant state of tornado-just-went-through.) A productive house, according to the same chapter I was reading means a place where wise parents are building up the next generation(s) and encouraging each other.

A game of Scream-the-Flash-Card-Answers has started.  Lucas is on the drums.  Jillian is watching Christina play the piano.  I glance at the after-dinner kitchen chaos.  Someone has unloaded the dish drain and Rebeccah is working on dismantling the leaning tower of Pisa without creating a demolition zone.  My war on cleaning is secondary to the battle we are winning – the strategic, long-term battle of instilling character and truth in our children.

If I seriously believe that I should “Do everything as if unto God” and know that children follow my example more than my words, training would be to model a joyful attitude in mundane “serving” tasks like cleaning.

So, loud dance music comes on, (God know me so well, “Born for This” – which is perfect, I love this song.) I try to delegate cleaning operations and bedtime preparations.

Oh yes, I’m a perfectionist and “clean” would pass hospital sterility, but if my “crib” is clean, it means my children aren’t there.  I want to enjoy this “untidy crib” with all the vibrant life within it for as long as I can.

Translation: less stress about the house. Stop and play or teach as needed.  Tidy up the last big mess at one set time with teamwork – it’s easier and more fun.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time,

~Nancy Tart

A Princess for Jaquline

May 26, 2017

A Princess Story For Jaquline

   Jaquline loves to read.  As a toddler she loved snuggling with me and reading “a princess story” (what she called any story with a girl in it).  Her favorites were “A Little Princess,” “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm,” “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” “Angel and the Ring,” and so many others (I think everything was her favorite, although we read “A Little Princess” more than most).  She loved reading the Long Tail stories, the Five Alive stories, and loved my retold Bible stories like “The Living God.”

Once she curled up and asked, “Mommy, what’s your favorite fairy tale princess story?”

It’s Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Eleven Wild Swans.”  But I’d never found a book copy.  So I told her about the story.  She asked, “what’s it about?”  It is about true love; a sister’s unfaltering, sacrificial love for her brothers.  She then asked, “could you make a real princess fairy tale for me?”

In the early morning the next day, before she got up, I had The Princess and the Swans.  Adapted from the general idea of “The Eleven Wild Swans,” it has the same basic theme of sacrificial love.   This became her favorite story.  It was the first story she read to Jillian, and years later, to Lucas.

The Princess and the Swans has been one of my best-selling ebooks.

I love stories about true, hard-working, unselfish love.  I believe that what we allow into our minds through our eyes and ears shapes our character.  My girls call them the “gates” of the heart.  I try to make sure that what I write helps encourage the good parts of character that we want to grow in ourselves and our children: determination, obedience, sacrifice, understanding, empathy.

Jaquline still likes to curl up and have someone else read her a story: especially when it’s “her” princess story.  (And that is the best part of reading – sharing the love of it!)

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time,

~Nancy Tart

The Chicken Castle

May 25, 2017

The Chicken Castle

   It was one of those days when I felt productive.  I’d managed to get the house cleaned, was hanging my third load of laundry, had finished catching up financial reports after our move, and everyone was still breathing.

Then there was a squeal that makes any mother immediately drop anything.  It was followed by “stay in that castle!”  (Okay, no one is hurt, probably.)  With my adrenaline pumping like a bass drum in my ears, I try to breathe and respond without screaming “WHAT HAPPENED?”

Jaquline and Jillian had built a castle with the outside blocks and had corralled the 23 one-week-old chicks into it.  Platinum, Chicka, and Sherlock (yes, they named the chicks!) decided the grass outside of the castle was better than the feed inside.  While the girls squealed and attempted to catch the chicks (Mix prong-horn antelope speed with mongoose evasion & you have a young chicken) 19 of the remaining biddie flock fled the castle.

“Mom!” Jillian wailed, (I was back hanging clothes) “Only Kerjack obeyed.”

“How can we keep hawks away from you if you don’t listen?” Jaquline said to the chicks as they gathered in one spot under a billowing sheet.  (Hawks only have a chance because they have super stealth.)

I spied a teaching moment! Perfect!  So I left the clothes and helped them gather the chicks to the safe spot where hawks usually don’t spot them and the girls could attempt to watch them again.  I told the girls: that is what we (parents) feel like when we give warnings (like the latest for Lucas, “don’t try to grab the goose at the park!”) but children choose not to listen.  We know what the danger is; like they know the danger for the chicks.

Jillian looked at her shorts.  “Like when you say wear pants but I have shorts and mosquitoes can bite me easier.”  Jaquline pulled up her pants and checked her legs for bites, then announced, “but I have long pants so I listened and I have no mosquito bites!”

Bingo!  This day now feels super productive!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later,

~Nancy Tart

Funny Sisters

May 23, 2017

Funny Sisters

“That never happens in real life.”  Have you ever thought that watching a movie?  The girls always say that when we watch certain movies.

Then we had a day that wouldn’t have been believed without recording. (Still, people would have said “it’s been altered.”)

But it wasn’t!  This particular day and a half of painting the house, so many funny things happened trying to slow us down. The girls kept saying “no one would believe this.” One of them says, “Mom, you have to write this story down so we can remember it.”  Another chirps, “but not with our real names!”  And the baby yips “yeah! A story about us!”

The Five Alive: Stories of the Funny Sisters series was born with “Chase in the Echoing House.”

The description claims the stories are “exaggerated situations based on real life.”  (Honestly, some are toned down and some are exaggerated!) A shopping trip became “The Big Shopping Adventure.”  “Christmas Decorating Challenge” was an adventure among light bulbs.  Currently, three more stories round out the group: “Becky’s Crazy Day,” “Tina’s Too-Embarrassing Day,” and “The Great Poker Tournament.”

The girls love these stories.  For the series, they will always just be five sisters (no baby brother yet!) and live in a house that isn’t there anymore with pets who’ve passed on.  They read them to each other. They have illustrated the covers themselves.  These are tiny “exaggerated” memory boxes to open and laugh at.  We published them so you can share their escapades.  Enjoy!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

Trucks!

May 22, 2017

Trucks!

     Lucas is almost two.  He loves trucks.  He loves food.  While all of the girls had “Dada” as their first word, Lucas heard the air popper and screamed “Pop-pop!” running into the kitchen with his popcorn bowl in hand.

Currently, his newest craze is yelling on the condition of the trucks that pass his window.  At home, it’s just the UPS or Fedex trucks (BIG TRUCK!) and Grandma and Papi’s trucks (PAPI TRUCK!) which enter the yard.

We had a friend riding shotgun.  She says hi, but Lucas pretends he’s shy.  A garbage truck goes by.  A squealing yell erupts from the second row, “BIG TRUCK!”  This is followed by two “PAPI TRUCK!” yells, an ear-shattering “RED TRUCK!” shout and a Publix big rig.  Huge gasp, “BIG, BIG TRUCK!  MAMA BIIIIIG TRUCK!”  Shotgun is laughing hysterically.

This boy can spot a policecar with lights off a mile away.  Those are “Woo Cars!” or “Please Cars” since he can’t clearly say “POLICE.” (This made an officer smile and give him a toy car at the Family Fun Fest – “WOW, PLEASE CAR!”)

Any toy with wheels is “my truck” or “my train” or “my car.”  His daily exercise includes fifteen miles of running behind a wheeled toy sputtering “rrrrrr” or “brrrrRrrrrr.” (If it looks like it should have wheels but doesn’t, he will pretend it has wheels and push it all over the house instead; examples are empty boxes, pillows, toy boxes, baking pans, and chairs.)

Today he discovered two of his wooden trucks in the last of the moving boxes and was cradling them yelling “yeah! My trucks!”  Scattered around him and overflowing his car shaped toy bin are probably two dozen assorted vehicles, but these were missing for almost two months and now demanded all of his attention.

What was lost was now found.  God does that when we come back to Him.  He loves each of us tremendously – He sees us coming from our “far-away” place and runs to us.  Like we are the only person in the world.

Isn’t it neat what images God puts for us to connect to His love?  A little boy with his trucks reminded me of God’s amazing love.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~ Nancy Tart

 

Please Write More!

May 21, 2017

Please Write More About Ethan! (Brantley Station Saga)

      One of the issues with writing and being a perfectionist is this: I never view anything as complete!  I have hundreds of half-finished manuscripts in various sizes littering my “stories” folder.  Because I proof myself better in print than on a computer, I also literally litter the house with story proofs.  Sometimes the girls pick them up and read them.

“MOM!” I hear Rebeccah shriek.  I’m working on business finances and I know the little ones are asleep.  (PLEASE don’t wake the baby!) But I just answer “what?” and keep working.

There she stands, that eager, excited look with her pixie-look haircut (long in the back, feathered up front, but in a ponytail it looks like she’s got short hair) and big, pleading brown eyes imploring my soul.  She’s clutching my proof clipboard and begs, “Mom, you have to write more about Ethan!”

I sigh.  I’m busy.  I’m working on business.  Writing is just a hobby.  All the excuses I can think up die as she begins chatting away about the story and wants to know the “Pirate Baby Story” in detail.

I love to see her lit up over a book like that!  I LOVE books.  I LOVE reading.  I considered Nancy Drew and Tyce Sanders to be intimate friends!  Christina had that love of books.  She was always lost in books. (Like the house could burn down around her and she’d never know it.)  It is an integral part of self-learning to discover a love of reading.  I wanted to keep this flame burning for Rebeccah.

So, I agreed to work on Brantley Station Saga. (aka Ethan) But my child knows me well.  She wasn’t interested in me working on it later.  She came back after every phone call that interrupted my financial work.  She wanted to watch me write about Ethan.

Because of Rebeccah’s desire to know the backstory in more depth, Ethan’s story starts with Pirate Child and Little Thief instead of at The Protector where I had started it.  Jamie (per Rebeccah, I just had to write more about him too) played a bigger role than I had originally planned and we introduced Mary – a character Rebeccah and Christina created!

I’m so grateful for my children being my biggest encouragers!  Many things I’ve written are just there because they wanted them on paper instead of told from my head.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~ Nancy Tart