A Bit of Essence – #2


Students entered into their Journey to Kokoroe Minecraft session through the hub. This amazing Asian inspired palace was where they found the links to take them to the weekly build site. The challenge for this week was to build the town of Erdo. Here is a summary of the story so far along with some terminology:

Terminology from Galenia:

Essence – this mystical substance is in all things; without it you die.

The Three Original Races:
  • Juro – this race has the ability to manipulate the Essence, they are long lived and have an average height of 3’
  • Jivan – these people are intelligent and work in all trades, are philosophers and have an average height of 5’5”
  • Jagare – these are the hunters and protectors with an average height of 6’ and have a muscular physique
The New Races: created by Mateo
  • Kameil – some were born Kameil others may have been Jivan or Jagare originally but were experimented on leaving them without any Essence and making them a sickly race
  • Yaru – born Jivan or Jagare Mateo’s treatment increased their Essence making them taller, stronger and with Ninja-like abilities
The Story:

Hanna was starting to get worried. She was enjoying her time in the small village of Kayu, but the longer she stayed the more aware she was that she was trapped on Galenia. She finally accepted the advice of the village leaders to seek out Master Juro; they insisted that if anyone had answers it would be him and he would be her best chance at finding a way back home. She tried to convince herself to just go along with it but when she realized it would be a two-week journey to Kokoroe, her travel companions had to convince her to carry on. Kazi, with his unshakable good mood and bright-side view of things, made it impossible for her to quit. He was so excited to be heading to Kokoroe to begin his training and she became more than a little curious as to what that might entail. What he revealed about Galenia fascinated her, but some things left her feeling conflicted. The treatment of the Kameil was unsettling – she felt she had a lot in common with them as she too was without Essence. Their banishment filled her with dread; she hoped she would not be condemned to the same fate. Hanna grasped the Essence gem she wore around her neck grateful to the people of Kayu for giving her the chance to survive.

Students at Gamed Academy were given this passage:

Six days after they left BaDaal they arrived at Erdo. Hanna loved the entrance to this town. The narrowed road was covered by a solid canopy of green as the trees merged together. The town itself had an interesting layout. It was made of three ring roads one inside another. Each road was packed with buildings leaving no space between them so the only way to the center of town was down the main road that cut straight through each ring. Like a bull’s-eye, a three-tiered fountain dominated the main square. Hanna wished she had more time to tour around each ring road, but they arrived late and left early, seeing only the small inn where they slept and the view from her window.

Stories Alive!


What I love about movies is seeing worlds come alive. For the stories we read it is up to us to visualize what the author has created. I’m so excited to say that my readers can experience both! In my upcoming blog series A Bit of Essence, I will share excerpts or summaries of my trilogy accompanied with photos of Minecraft builds created by students of GamEd Academy.

Students were given build challenges of certain scenes from the books – I love what they have created! (The above photo is a Minecraft version of Jack and the Giant on the Beanstalk.)

What is GamEd Academy you may have asked? It’s where learning & gaming collide! Students learn about a subject such as 7 Wonders of the Ancient World or the Boston Tea Party and are then given build challenges that go with their learning. In the creative writing series they learned some writing techniques as well as doing a novel study. The year is broken down into 6 week sessions and each session focuses on a different novel: Journey to Kokoroe, Flight to the Citadel and Into the Valley. In addition to these fantasy adventure stories they also learned about Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland to name a few.

If you want more information about this amazing online school check out their website. For now, here’s a glimpse at some of the awesome builds students did in my first creative writing series Stories Alive. Some were builds depicting scenes from fairy-tales and others were from their favorite stories.

Here we have a pixel version of Alice in Wonderland, another Alice crying her eyes out, the Gingerbread Man, the Golden harp from Jack and the Beanstalk, Humpty Dumpty on his wall, A Minion from Despicable Me (check out the laptop in the background from another story), and the Quidditch Pitch from Harry Potter complete with the characters on their broomsticks. What great creativity these kids have!

Top 5 Grammar Challenges


Grammar was never my strong area of expertise. The more I write, edit and re-write and edit some more, the better I am at polishing this skill. There are a few things that I’ve encountered that often trip me up or seem to be a bane to writers everywhere. This week’s Top 5 takes a look at the ones that I found most noteworthy.

  1. The Semicolon;

    • Between speaking with writers, reading many online discussions and my own experience, it is quiet clear that this seemingly harmless punctuation mark causes a lot of problems. Personally I love the semicolon; I like adding additional thoughts onto previous ones. The use of it can be controversial and some people find it too complex and avoid using it all together. For a great explanation on How to use a Semicolon, check out The Oatmeal.
  2. However

    • I like this word. I didn’t realize how much I liked it until I started doing a word frequency search on a rough draft of one of my manuscripts. It was used in every chapter at least once. My editor pointed out how this word can really stop the flow of a sentence or idea and I should cut back on the use of it — and this was after I already had. After huffing and puffing about the criticism, I realized she was right. Now I’m much more cautious with how I use this word. But the problems with it it don’t end there. My grammar issue with this world relates back to the dreaded semicolon. I remember distinctively being taught in school that commas surround the word ‘however’, but this is not always the case. My editor made several corrections in my work; however I was still baffled. I scrolled through other well-known novels and saw discrepancies on the punctuation around this useful word.  After researching and trying to determine who was right, I think I’ve finally figured it out. Check out this blog on Daily Writing Tips to put you in the know.
  3. Noddedcats.gif

    • It wasn’t until I started writing a novel that I realized how many times people nod when they talk or think. This reflexive head bobbing only appears as an odd obsession when you start writing out dialogue in a story. If you’re like me and picture a scene as you are writing it, you will see a bunch of nodding, but if you note it down every time your writing becomes repetitive and seems rather pedantic. I thought maybe it was just me and perhaps it spoke of an inept ability to write…then I started pouring over highly acclaimed writing. Guess what? People nodded in their books too! And now my attention has been drawn to it, I think people nod too much (in books and IRL lol). Unfortunately, there’s no quick work around to replace this word. There are other things to write instead of ‘nodded’, but I have yet to find a blog to point you to for advice…I may have to write it myself (gasp!).
  4. Accept vs Except

    • I accept that there is a very clear indication when these words are used, except I can still get them completely mixed up. After the red pen has pointed out my predictable confusion of which word to use, you’d think I would learn…alas they can still trip me up. What’s strange is that when they have been used correctly, how to use them makes perfect sense to me—of course that’s how to use that word! However, when I’m in the thick of it, the reasoning is blurred. Thank goodness I have a patient editor to help me with these things!
  5. Ellipsis vs Em Dash

    • The more I write the clearer it is to me that some things are more about personal preference than a matter of right or wrong…or at least that’s what I keep telling myself. Especially when you are writing dialogue or someone’s thoughts these useful tools can add a much needed pause or addition —interrupting when someone is speaking is another use for the em dash. The Punctuation Guide is a good resource for how to use an em dash. So why, you may ask, is this a challenge? Sometimes I like trailing thoughts when a character speaks. It’s not that they are interrupted, it’s as if they have more to say, but are holding back or expect another character to finish the thought for them.
      • “Where you going to eat that last chocolate or…”
    • The challenge comes in with putting a period after the quotation marks: “Where you going to eat that last chocolate or…”. I just don’t like the way this looks. Another option is to add a forth dot: “Where you going to eat that last chocolate or….” But this example is actually a question so perhaps there should be a ? at the end of that sentence. If this gets your head spinning you may want to refer to the The Punctuation Guide for a full explanation on how the ellipsis can be used.
Please share your own grammar challenges in the comments or add your thoughts to my Top 5!

Top 5, Make that 7 Plots

Have you ever read a book and thought that the story seemed sort of familiar? Ever written something that you can’t help but draw connections to other works of art? In his book The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, Christopher Booker points out that most stories fall into one of seven categories.

  1. Overcoming the monster
    • The hero sets out to defeat dark forces or creatures that threaten their home.
  2. Rags to Riches
    • A character that’s poor acquires wealth, love and power only to lose it all, grows as person, and then gets it all back.
  3. The Quest
    • The main character goes on a journey with some companions, faces many obstacles and temptations before achieving their goal.
  4. Voyage and Return
    • The main character goes to a strange land and after overcoming many challenges and threats returns home.
  5. Comedy
    • Humorous characters triumph over disasters resulting in a successful conclusion.
  6. Tragedy
    • The main character is a villain whose failure (or death) is preferable.
  7. Rebirth
    • The main character is a villain who redeems themselves by the end of the story.

Check out this video for example of these 7 plots:

In the comments, feel free to share some other stories that fit into these Plots.

Top 5 Youth Book Series

I read many books from a variety of genres. In my Top 5 list I’ve included books that are not only entertaining and enjoyable, but have an educational slant to it.

My own book series draws from our history as far as the architecture, development of language and engineering; however, these things are not directly linked to any person, place or event and therefore, it’s not on my list – but don’t get me wrong, Essence of Galenia is still an epic read 😉

  1. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordanmagnus
    • This book was hard to put down. Magnus is a well written character full of wit and sarcasm that he uses to hide his vulnerabilities. The series takes the characters on a thrilling quest adventure all in reference to Norse mythology.
    • It is similar to the Percy Jackson series, which includes Greek mythology and is also great. That series is aimed at readers 8 to 12 and Magnus Chase is a more mature read.
    • I think this is a fun and interesting way to learn about the belief systems of the different people of history. These mythologies are still prevalent in our current society making this a great way to learn valuable stories that are not usually taught in the school systems.
  2. 39 Clues by Rick Riordan, Gordon Korman, Peter Lerangis, Jude Watson, Patrick Carman, Linda Sue Park, Margaret Peterson39clues
    • In this adventure novel series, the two main characters find themselves on a heroic clue hunt across the world. Their adventures take them to many historical sites and they learn about many important figures from over the ages.
    • The reading level is for 8 – 12 years, but is an enjoyable read for anyone with lots of worthwhile facts revealed throughout. Each book was written by a different author.
  3. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomeryanne_of_green_gables1
    • Following Anne through the beautiful landscape of Avonlea takes the readers away to a slower pace of life of the early 1900’s.
    • Anne is a bright, imaginative and talkative 11 year old whose love of language has her speaking in a eloquent and advanced sort of way that reflects her extreme passions.
    • Experiencing this moment in time and the beauty of P.E.I through Anne’s eyes will have you longing to visit Canada’s coast and reveal  the charm and elegance words can have.
  4. Horrible Histories by Terry Deary, Peter Hepplewhite and HHRomansNeil Tonge
    • Now onto the weird and wacky, these short books are packed with facts and stories about some of the strangest events, people and places in history.
    • With the addition of comics and jokes, these history books will have your kids groaning and laughing as they learn about our outrageous past. Deary is a writer who wishes to ‘entertain first and inform second’.
  5. Hatchet by Gary Paulsenhatchet
    • In this wilderness survival novel, 13-year old Brian is stranded in the middle of a forest. He must learn how to survive in the vast wilderness with only his hatchet.
    • It is a compelling read and has you asking whether or not you would be as resourceful as young Brian. If you’ve never been in Scouts or taken any survival training this is a must read! It is book 1 in a 5 books series.

That’s the end of my Top 5 educational books, but I’d like to do a shout out to the ruins_of_gorlanRangers Apprentice Series by John Flanagan. This action adventure series follows 12 year old Will who becomes a Ranger (essentially the secret police of the king). Flanagan bases many of the peoples on our own historical cultures. The values, friendships, hard work and relatable characters make this a compelling read, and therefore, there is much to be gained other than facts and figures.

Top 5 Video Games

My Top 5 games are engaging and fun with a bit of education thrown in. No harm in learning a little while gaming!

  1. Minecraftminecraft
    • This online game has something for everyone. The ‘digital lego’ allows players to build anything they want in creative mode using blocks of different material. In survival mode, they can fight against bad guys.
    • In addition, there are mini games where players can work together, do challenges or be the last man standing.
    • GamEd Academy takes this to a whole new level by adding an education spin.
  2. Nancy Drewnancydrew
    • These mystery games are filled with problem solving and challenges wrapped in story with historical references and fact-based tidbits throughout.
    • The games are engaging, fun. The cloak-and-dagger style keeps you guessing right up to the end.
  3. Portalportal
    • This first person puzzle solving game challenges you to think outside the box while trying to get outside the box.
    • The computers wit and discouraging comments add a level of entertainment to this unique game.
  4. MystMystCover
    • This graphic adventure puzzle map game has a compelling story telling aspect. The puzzles are challenging, the graphics amazing and even the music takes you away to the created worlds found in Myst, Riven and Uru (a free online game).
  5. Poptropicapoptropica
    • In this virtual world, players can travel to different islands, play games and compete. Each island has a different theme.
    • The game includes problem solving challenges and mysteries often with a narrative based in factual history. Poptropica offers a safe, online environment.