A Little Late for an Update!

Well, it has been almost 18 months since I last gave an update here. I spent the majority of that time finishing up grad school, which I did this summer. Woohoo! So, sadly to say, the book had to take a back seat.

But now I’m back, and I’ve been writing more than ever. I think I’ve added more new content in the last few months than I’ve added in the last several years. I’m having to rewrite the entire beginning because, well, little Marie couldn’t quite conceptualize a good story in the beginning. But as I’ve been working and brainstorming, I’ve changed things that I think will make the story much more what I originally wanted it to be. I’m anticipating a title change, so when I settle on that, you’ll be the first to know!

The series will discuss what it means to be a family and how to live with mental illness. And you may think, “But wait, Marie, I thought you were writing high fantasy?!” I am! Who says fantasy can’t speak to real-life struggles? I think that’s what makes the best fiction. Because fantasy people are still just people.

I hope you stick around for the ride. I’m having a blast realizing this dream of mine, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

My goal is to have a complete first draft by summertime so I can do my first round of edits and send it off to beta readers before the end of 2021. I would love to have a spring 2022 release if possible, if not sooner. But we’ll see how that goes. As for now, I just need to keep trucking along to get this first draft finished. Can’t do anything until that happens!

Thanks for all the love and support!


Character names reveal

As promised, I’ll be sharing the names of all the major players in The Elven Dilemma below. But first, some backstory. Over the years, most of these names have changed at least once, and some of them have changed twice as I’ve gotten older and more mature (and less influenced by anime if we’re being honest). But there are three names that have remained consistent over time, which just blows my mind. How did 11-year-old Marie think of these names that she still loves 18 years later? I won’t question it. Which names do you think have persisted from the beginning?

So here we go. These names will be listed in order of importance, with the exception of the two main characters who are equal in importance. Next to the names, I will give a short explanation of who these characters are and their general roles in the story. Let’s get into it!

Valkan: male protagonist

Veronia: female protagonist

            Valkan and Veronia are twins from Kan’nea Village who have been marked by the Protector. They must find strength within themselves and in each other to restore the balance of power between the peoples.

Veronia © Robert Hallowell

Cyan: male antagonist

Caiwynne: female antagonist

            Cyan and Caiwynne are twins from Haven Village. Their father, an elf, chose to side with the humans and created an army of half-breeds to spread his influence throughout the human territories.

Samara: cousin of Valkan and Veronia. Samara was sent away as a child for her own protection, but now it’s her turn to protect those she loves.

Athren: the mysterious stranger who shows up out of nowhere and helps Veronia realize her power.

Cephan: Cyan’s oldest brother.

Halvor: the human who sheltered Samara in her time of need.

Raen’ne: dumpling maker in Haven Village. She raises her son and niece alone in a cottage outside the village and gives Valkan refuge. Her son is Rowan, and her niece (whom she treats as a daughter) is Maelle.

Well, there it is. Those are the main characters in The Elven Dilemma. I can’t wait to share even more of this with you as I finish the book. Stay tuned for more updates.

Writer Update

Hello fantasy peeps!

I know it has been ages since my last blog post, but my summer classes are kicking my butt! I just wanted to give a quick update in this post because I’m working on a post where I will reveal all the names of the major players in The Elven Dilemma (I know, I know. I can hardly contain my excitement!!!!) I’ll be posting that one shortly.

As I mentioned in a previous post, The Elven Dilemma has evolved into a five-part series, so I ran a poll on Twitter and Facebook (shameless plug to my social media handles) asking my fans if they would rather see my dwarf book or my human book next. And the votes have been tallied…

Drumroll please…

Dwarf book wins by a landslide! (That might be a pun. You’ll just have to wait and see)

I will admit I was hoping dwarves would win. I am so excited to research more about dwarves and begin telling the story of Maara, the dwarf who just doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of her people. But you’ll have to stay tuned for more info on her. I still have to finish up The Elven Dilemma first. I’m almost at 68k words. Eeeee, so excited!

Hitting Goals and Changing Things Up

I hit a milestone in my novel this week. Between the material that I have handwritten and have begun typing and the new material I started typing in October I have surpassed the 52k word mark! That doesn’t seem like a lot, but I’m planning for this novel to be roughly 100k words, and that means I have passed the halfway mark. I still have over half the handwritten material to transcribe, and I also need to rewrite the entire beginning (sigh), but I will get there. On Tuesday this week, I wrote the scene that will be the catalyst to the rising action, leading into the climax of the book, and that scene gave me a renewed motivation to write. I hit such a big wall with this novel a few weeks ago, so I put it away to let it rest until Tuesday this week. And even on Tuesday, after letting it rest for over two weeks, I still stared at my screen for hours before any words came to me. Thankfully, they eventually came, and I was able to push through the block and progress to a good point in the novel.

To combat this block, I took motivation from MerMay to get back into drawing. I used to draw constantly when I was younger, but I all but stopped once I reached college. I did take an art class my last semester of my undergrad, which helped me rekindle my drawing passion for a while, but then grad school happened and mostly stifled that creativity again (sigh again).

Well, fast forward to May 1, and I cracked open the sketchbook that I keep in my office for moments of boredom or stress. I’ve done something artsy every day in May, which feels so nice. I spent several days working on the same drawing of one of my main characters, Veronia, trying to build up colors with my less-than-stellar colored pencils. I also started drawing another character, Samara, but my blue colored pencil broke, and it took me forever to get a sharpener, so she’s still unfinished. I’ve also been playing with markers to see if I can make them work (see below, and don’t judge. Literally first time ever using markers and the set had no browns, so I had to make brown with yellow and purple, so I think it turned out pretty good considering…), and I bought a calligraphy set to play with as well. Overall, I’m pretty excited about being artsy again.

© 2018 Robert Hallowell

I have discovered that when I’m stuck in my novel, doing something else artsy really helps stimulate my creative juices and makes me want to work on my novel. I’m really grateful that I have the ability to practice my drawing to distract me from my writer’s block. My problem now is that I want to draw more than I want to write! So now it’s a matter of balancing the creativity that I engage in to stay well-rounded with it all. The good thing is, drawing my characters has made me realize how terribly I described them in my novel. It’s hard to draw detailed characters that have little to no description besides hair and eye color (nervous laughter). So starting to draw my characters is making me a better writer.

Sorry that this blog is all over the place. I’ve had an overall creative yet only somewhat productive few weeks, but I hit the milestone of being halfway through this third draft (but second full draft) of my novel, and I’m very happy about that. I’ve found a renewed joy to be creative, and I’m looking forward to finishing this draft by fall (fingers crossed).

TFW Your Standalone Novel Evolves into a 5-Part Series

Hello, fantasy friends!

It has been a while since I wrote anything here, but all is not lost! I have finally made progress on The Elven Dilemma, and I have exciting news! What once was a standalone book has turned into a five-book series! My post about being a Middle-Earth Dwarf made me realize that I had more material than I could cover in a single book, so I have decided to break it into sections.

My struggle is that I’m not sure how to number/categorize the books. The way they are designed, none of the first three need to be read in any particular order, so numbering them 1, 2, 3 doesn’t really work. Any thoughts? I’ve considered A, B, and C, but it just doesn’t give the effect that I want. I could create my own kind of numbering or symbol system, but books four and five do need to be read in order. I’m truly at a loss and would welcome any insight. Thankfully I am still working on book 1, so I have time to figure out the numbering for the rest. I’ve decided on a series name, and I have working titles for books 2, 3, and 5, but they are a secret for now (cue sinister giggle).

In other news, I have continued transcribing the hand-written copy of The Elven Dilemma. Apparently I never mentioned that I began handwriting The Elven Dilemma circa 2007. When Borders was still around, my best friend and I loved browsing the bargain books section. There we would find sketchbooks and journals, and one day I found the infamous sketch journal. This journal had lined pages on the right side and blank pages for sketching on the left side. They are (were) massive and hardbound and everything I never knew I needed. Stupid me only bought one, and I have yet to find another of its kind from any other retailer, physical or online.

© 2018 Robert Hallowell

After losing at least one version of this novel to a computer virus, I vowed to hand write it for fear of losing it again and not being able to retrieve it. I filled the last page of that sketch journal back in September and decided to start typing the novel from then on since I couldn’t find a matching book to continue handwriting in. Since beginning to type my novel, I have typed 29k words, which, I know, does not seem like much considering I started typing it 7 months ago. But with life the way it is, I’m happy for and proud of those 29k words.

A few months ago, I found myself in a rut (I wrote about it! You should check out that blog as well!) and I couldn’t come up with any words to write, so my husband suggested that I start transcribing the handwritten material so I can join the two files at some point. Well, I did just that, and this weekend I hit almost 15k words that I’ve transcribed (and revised as I went along). The crazy thing is that I did a rough estimate of the number of words in that book before the first of the year, and based on word counts from several random pages and the number of pages in the book, I assumed that I would have between 35 and 40k words in there. Surprise! I’m not even 1/4 of the way through this book, and I have already reached 15k, so if my math is correct, there should be around 60k handwritten words in my sketch journal (not to mention the fact that the entire first half needs to be rewritten because 2007 Marie was still quite naïve and smooshed too much into too few pages).

In all, it’s looking like this novel is going to be close to or over 100k words, which is a lot for a YA novel. However, I plan on hiring an editor, who will likely trim that word count for me! I am teeming with excitement about everything surrounding The Elven Dilemma, and I can’t wait to continue sharing this journey with you all!

Why I Am Actually a Dwarf

If you’ve read anything I’ve written on here, it should be fairly obvious that I love Tolkien’s works and Middle-earth in general. And I have loved elves for as long as I can remember. They are elegant, graceful, tall, and beautiful, and I have wanted to be one my entire. I even bought metal elf ears at a fair! But the older I get, the more I realize that I could not be any farther from being an elf. In fact, I believe I am actually a dwarf. Thanks to an amazing gaming session over the weekend and throughout this week, playing Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 with a dear friend on my old school PS2, I have discovered that I have more in common with dwarves than elves, and here’s why.

I’m short yet strong.

So according to the Tolkien Gateway, dwarves are between 4.5 and 5 feet tall. Now, I am 5’1, so by this standard I would be taller than average, which would be a first for me. I was taller than average throughout my childhood, but when I reached puberty at a fairly early age, I basically stopped growing—up that is. However, I strongly believe that my height adds to my lower-body strength. I may not have the strongest upper body, but my lower body is quite strong, which I attribute to my low center of gravity. I’m pretty hard to push over if I’m rooted.

I’m stocky.

I’ve been chunky since the later years of my adolescence and throughout my adult life, and my weight in addition to my height make me appropriately stocky and dwarf-like. Gimli had it right when he explained to Legolas that dwarves are natural sprinters and very dangerous over short distances. See, I participated in track when I was in high school, and I was a thrower (and not very good if we are being honest). My coach liked to have extra relay teams to get extra points for our team, even if the second relay team came in last place. I was usually on that second relay team of misfits (misfats really). But on the 100, I was able to at least stay close to the other runners because it was a sprint, and I can sprint! But, alas, these short legs tire out quickly from carrying around my robust figure.

I have a beard.

Thanks to my dark, hairy genes, I have a visible mustache and sprouting beard that I unsuccessfully manage with tweezers and questionable hair removal products. I’ve been teased for my dark mustache my entire life, but as I approach 30 it bothers me less and less. My husband loves me regardless, even though my mustache and beard rival his own, just life a dwarf woman.

I’m reclusive, stubborn, and jealous.

Much like dwarves, I would stay alone in the dark forever if I could, hidden away from the world with the things I treasure most. I’m a natural introvert and feel recharged by solitude. Of course, there are times when I want socialization but usually only with people like me. I am stubborn to a fault and would rather learn something the hard way than do something a certain way because someone else told me I had to do it that way. I’m also very jealous. If anyone so much as looks at my husband with a lingering eye, or if he smiles a bit too brightly at another woman, I feel the monster beginning to rise in my chest. I’m loyal to a fault and expect my people to be as well. Although I hate to admit it, I’m not just jealous in my relationships. Jealousy is possibly my biggest vice.

I’m good with my hands (Get your minds out of the gutter).

From an early age, I would take things apart just so I could put them back together. I truly think I missed my calling as a mechanic of some sort. I have fond memories from my adolescence of building contraptions in my room until the wee hours of the morning. To this day I love crafting and making things with my hands. My most recent exploits have included making steampunk accessories, which I would say have turned out pretty well for my first attempts. Check them out below!

© 2019, Robert Hallowell

There are more points I could make to confirm that, despite my obsession with elves from an early age, I am actually a dwarf. But this seems like a fairly good list for now. And now that I consider all the wonderful elements that bless elves, namely their elegance, grace, height, and beauty, I am quite resentful of them. I am awkward, clumsy, stocky, and plain, but I’d say those things make me a pretty good dwarf. What are your thoughts? Do you think I qualify as a dwarf? What Middle-earth race would you classify yourself as?


“You are not forgotten” © 2008 Lindsay Inscore

The depression is strong today and the anxiety rife. Words like toxicity and abandonment and failure and quitter permeate my very being, and I wonder why they affect me so. I’ve struggled with depression since middle school, and this demon has taken control of the things I love. Sometimes I’m strong enough to take them back. Sometimes I’m not. Often I sit back and watch as my demon consumes my very life, everything I have striven to make beautiful. And I’m powerless.

But am I really powerless? Or am I a coward? I make things come alive that would otherwise have no breath. I mold nothing into something with only the power of my mind, so how can I claim to be powerless over something like depression that wouldn’t exist if I didn’t give it life? Unless it has become separate from me after years of breathing into it so that it has become a monster born of my own heart. I want no one’s pity. My chest hurts. It hurts to breathe. To think. To feel. But I won’t be defeated by this monster of my own creation. Not today. These words are proof that I’m not giving up on what I love. Depression may make it hard to create words, but I’m going to fight to get them out.

What does this have to do with writing? Well for a writer, everything. The words I want to write get stuck in the net called depression that separates my heart and my mind. You see, I started writing as a child, and my depression hit soon after. It seems like every time I make decent headway on my novel, depression rears its hideous face to tell me I’m not good enough, so I shrink back and put my novel away. Even the simple task of keeping my hands on this keyboard is difficult. My arms feel heavy and want to swing back to their normal stations at my sides. Tears are threatening to spill over my bottom eyelids, but I’m at work, so I have to force them back into my eyes and pretend that I just sneezed so I don’t have to lie to people in the hallway about my mental health and how it sucks right now.

I am not defined by my writing or by my depression, but those two things are at war within me. It’s a war between my mind and my heart, and I honestly don’t know which one is winning. As I think back to when I started writing The Elven Dilemma, called An Elf’s Dilemma back then, I think about how happy I was to write and escape the emptiness I felt inside. An emptiness I couldn’t and still can’t explain. I had a loving family then and still do now, but the emptiness pervades every fiber of my being, wrapping me in its cold clutches, and keeps me from feeling that warmth from my family. I turned to writing back then because it was something I could control. And as I grew up, writing became my salvation, my therapy, a necessity to keep me functioning as a normal teenager is expected to function. When I hit college, writing and reading became chores that I dreaded. I could never write for fun anymore, so I stopped, my muse gone. And the depression took full advantage of me during those years, these years, exploiting my weakness and discontent, allowing me to let things, people, situations into my life that harm me. And here I am today, in grad school with a budding career, fighting against this depression for the energy and strength to continue writing The Elven Dilemma, stubbornness and utter defiance my newfound muses. I will finish and publish this novel to prove to myself and my demon that I can. I will publish this novel in spite of my depression and the toxicity it has brought into my life because I am strong, and I will not let it win. Not yet anyway. Tomorrow is a new day.

The Beginnings of The Elven Dilemma

As I mentioned in my last blog, I began writing this novel over 18 years ago, which is something that completely blows my mind. I was 11 when I wrote the first draft of this novel. 11. Who does that? Me apparently, and even though 11-year-old me was oh so naïve, 29-year-old me still appreciates those humble beginnings and has been struggling to get this novel to publishing quality ever since. This is my 3rd rewrite thanks to technology issues and overall growing pains throughout the years. So I wanted to share a little of my history and where this novel came from.

Growing up, I walked to school every day, and my absolute favorite part of the day was going to the library after school. My elementary school took up the majority of a city block, and the library was across the street. My parents both worked, so neither one of them minded that I would spend an hour or two in the library every day. I usually made it home before them anyway.

Now, when I was in 4th grade, my teacher had the class sit in a circle and read aloud together every day. Her book series of choice was the Magic Tree House series. I fell in love with the series, and I found myself checking them out from the library so I could read more and more. At some point between 4th and 6th grade, I saw an Anne McCaffrey book in the same area as the Magic Tree House books, and I thought, hmm, it has a dragon on the front. How bad could it be? And that was the beginning of Marie Lenore the author. Those Pern novels fueled my desire to write my own stories, and I did just that.

To be honest, I’m not sure where the idea came from to make my characters elves in this novel, but my best guess would be video games. I loved playing games like Baldur’s Gate and Champions of Norrath and Dark Cloud (anyone else play that one? I don’t think any of the characters were elves, but Toan looked like one). My favorite race to play in games was always the elven race. I loved how graceful and beautiful they were, and as a clumsy girl whose awkward stage lasted way too long, I yearned for a life like the ones I imagined them having. I also watched a lot of anime, specifically Sailor Moon (still my favorite). The alien characters, Alan and Ann, in Sailor Moon R sure looked a lot like elves, and I recall drawing them constantly and designing my original protagonists based on them. And then of course The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was released right after I turned 12, so no doubt I drew continued inspiration from Tolkien.

From the time that I initially started this novel to now, the title has changed twice, all but three of the characters’ names have changed at least once, and the plot has changed twice. Most of this is simply because I grew up as I wrote it, and while I don’t have the very first version of it anymore, I do have the cringe worthy version from 2004 that somehow turned the characters into vampires (I blame Anne Rice).

In all, I’m grateful for where I started. I know that my experiences throughout life have led me to this point, but if I hadn’t started this novel as a naïve 11-year-old girl, I don’t think I would have the same appreciation for writing as I do today.

The Journey to The Elven Dilemma

“A story of good versus evil could not be more complicated. When eighteen-year-old elf twins are forced from their home to don the mantle of the Protector and follow a quest to save their land from the Chosen One, the duo must begin making choices that will change their lives forever. Did I mention one of them is mortal? Long story. On their way, Valkan and Veronia make friends and find love, but are they willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to save their land? Will an unlikely ally be enough to tip the scale in their favor? Is this battle even worth fighting? The Elven Dilemma follows Valkan and Veronia as they fight for good in a land full of ambiguity, and when the battle is at hand, a shift in perspective could mean the difference between victory and defeat.”

Stout Grove, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park © Robert Hallowell

I began writing this story 18 years ago. Through the years as I have grown, this story has grown with me and has survived many a hiatus, allowing me to graduate from high school and college, pursue a career, start grad school, and find love (mostly in that order). And as I’ve fallen back into the writing groove, I’ve realized that this story has saved me many times over. Whenever I’m feeling lost and can’t seem to find my way in the dark, I remember the journey that I have been on these last 18 years. I remember that life is all about that journey, and sometimes we have to trudge through the darkness to appreciate the light.

It is precisely that journey that I wanted to highlight in The Elven Dilemma. Sure, we all want to reach the end, the final destination, the X on the map, but embracing the journey is sometimes just as important as completing it. So what if we lose ourselves along the way? So what if we become a different person by the time we reach the end? So what if our stories don’t turn out the way we planned? We can get through all of this if we live in the moment, embrace change, and open our hearts to the journey.