Thursday, September 14, 2017

What Summer Reading List?

I need to stop making summer reading lists. Every year, I have such good intentions... and every year, I end up reading entirely different books than the ones that I picked out.
This year, for example, I wanted to read a mix of Shakespeare, nonfiction, and the rest of the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones.
What did I read instead? ALL Young Adult/Middle Grade books (with one or two nonfiction books for research). On one hand, I feel ashamed. On the other hand, I feel accomplished because I read a lot of books.

From May through August, I read twenty books, and here they are:


The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones – 5 stars. The second of the Chrestomanci books. This one followed Christopher as a child, and I enjoyed it immensely. 

The Magicians of Caprona by Diana Wynne Jones – 5 stars. The third of the Chrestomanci books. This one was one of my favorites because it had cats and a nice protagonist and Punch and Judy.


Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson – 5 stars. This is a book that I've loved for many a year. Highly recommended if you like journeys, rivers, and seas. Also if you like stories about orphans relocating to far away relatives, interesting characters, and boys named Finn who are hiding from the law. This book is great for kids 8+.

Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones – 4 stars. The fourth of the Chrestomanci books. This one was my least favorite, but it was still nice. I enjoyed the ending a lot, but the setup was a little slow.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater – 4 stars. Oh, The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. I have many mixed feelings about this series. I have plans to re-read it over Christmas break so that I can write a full review on the books. 
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater – 4 stars.
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater – 4 stars. 
The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater – 4 stars. 

Rosie the Riveter by Penny Colman – 3 stars. This is a nonfiction book about women in World War II. I read it for research for my future book She's Leaving Home. 


The Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve – 3 stars. A steampunkish book set in a future where cities move. It was okay, but I didn't enjoy it enough to finish the series. Peter Jackson is turning it into a movie, which I am excited about! 

Slacks and Calluses by Constance Bowman and C.M. Reid – 4 stars. This is another nonfiction book about World War II. This one is about the authors' experiences working in a bomber factory. I enjoyed it a lot! Highly recommended. 

Conrad’s Fate by Diana Wynne Jones – 5 stars. The fifth of the Chrestomanci books. Along with The Magicians of Caprona, this one was my favorite. It had a crazy, moving house, fun characters, and shenanigans.

The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones – 3 stars. The final of the Chrestomanci books. I didn't like this one as much as the others. I thought it was too long and meander-y; however, I would recommend the entire series for people who are looking for an easy, whimsical read. 


The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – 4 stars. This is a book about a circus and a romance. I loved the circus, but I didn't enjoy the romance. Recommended for people who like magical realism, monochrome colors, and slow-moving stories. 

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson – 3 stars. I enjoyed the realism in this book, but mostly felt meh about it. Recommended for those who like history with a splash of magic and stories where a girl pretends to be a boy. 

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman – 3 stars. A Sleeping Beauty retelling with a twist. I've discovered this summer that I love Neil Gaiman's ideas, but not necessarily how he executes them. I suppose it's a difference in style. 

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – 3 stars. A sad book about dealing with grief. I enjoyed it, but, at the same time, I felt like the book's message was just beyond my grasp. Maybe I need to read it again to fully understand everything. 

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – 3 stars. This book is about a boy whose parent's are murdered, so he is adopted by some ghosts. I enjoyed the setting of this book and I enjoyed exploring the graveyard with the main character, but, again, Mr. Gaiman's writing style doesn't match my reading style. All of his books get points for having great illustrations in them, though.

I Am Lavina Cumming by Susan Lowell (audiobook) – 5 stars. This one is a childhood favorite. My mom and I listened to it on the car trip back to the Midwest for school. Recommended for people who like accurate historical fiction, good storytelling, and orphans going to live with distant relatives. This is another book that is great for kids age 8+.

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall (audiobook) – 5 stars. This is my favorite Penderwicks book. Again, my mom and I listened to this on the way to school. Recommended for people who like the ocean, family stories, and friendship stories (though please please read the first two books in the series first! They are worth it).

What did YOU read this summer? Have you read any of the books on my list? 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Long and Winding Editing Road—Editing and Publishing, Oh My!

Two weeks ago, I announced that I'm going to publish my Unnamed Novel (maybe I should just call it that?) next summer.

How did that come about? you may wonder. 
I'm wondering that, too, if I'm honest, because at the beginning of the summer, I had no intention of publishing this book (at least, not for a long, long time).
I've known since the beginning of the year that I wanted to finish this book by the end of 2017. As I've said before, I have been working on this book for nearly three years, and I am ready to move on to other stories.
Perhaps knowing this is what made me decide to publish. I mean, once you finish a story, you have only two options: publish it or leave it in your documents folder for all of eternity (I mean, I guess you could also print it out and have it buried with you so that in one-hundred years, when the aliens dig you up, they can have something nice to read, but what's the probability of aliens knowing English anyway??).
I don't want my book to stay in my documents folder for all of eternity, so publishing is my only other option (if we throw out the aliens).

So, how are you going to publish your book? might be your next question.
I'm going to self-publish it. I've worked so long and hard on this story that I don't want to change plot points or character arcs to fit with what's trending right now/what a publisher thinks will sell. Also, I want this book to be finished. I want it out of my hands and into the hands of the public As Soon As Possible. If I were to find an agent, query my book, and get it published the traditional way, it would be years and years before I got it published. I'd rather finish it and publish it myself.

Which website are you going to use? may be your next, logical, question. 
You may not know this about me, but I self-published a book four years ago called After the Twelfth Night (a Tintin-esque adventure based on two Shakespeare plays. It's not at all historically or Shakespeare-ically accurate in any way and very much a first novel. This next novel is much better). I used and had a pleasant experience; however, I think I will publish my next book through Amazon's service, Createspace. I have heard good things about Createspace from people I trust, and it's easy to connect it to Kindle eBooks. I've never made an eBook before, so the easier, the better!

What's your next step? can be your final question
Finish the book, of course!
...Oh, you wanted a more specific answer? All right.
I'm back at school now, but I'm planning on reading the last round of comments on my novel and applying them to draft four before Christmas. Then, over Christmas break, I'd like to go over it again. Hopefully, it will be as near to "finished" as I can make it, though I'll probably go over it another time or two before next summer. Sometime between now and Christmas, I need to cut out some words. The novel is about 147,000 words right now, and, according to my research, that's too long. I'd agree.
In addition to the continued editing process, I'd like to come up with a title. That's kind of important.
My dad did the cover for After the Twelfth Night, and it was beautiful, so I asked him to do the cover for this book as well. He agreed! We've already been discussing what it will look like.

On the blog, you can look forward to The Long and Winding Editing Road updates, a title reveal, a cover reveal, and more over the next twelve months!

Tell me your what you've been working on—writing or otherwise—in the comments!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Kendra E. Ardnek's Cover Overhaul!

Fellow blogger, author Kendra E. Ardnek, is re-releasing all of her novels with new covers! I've read several of Kendra's books, and they are great, so check them out! 

Kendra E. Ardnek loves fairytales and twisting them in new and exciting ways. She's been or acting them on her dozen plus cousins and siblings for years. "Finish your story, Kendra," is frequently heard at family gatherings. Her sole life goal has always been to grow up and be an author of fantasy and children's tales that glorify God and His Word.

The Bookania Quests:

Aren't these covers gorgeous??? I can't decide which one I like the best! I love that they look like water color paintings and I love the color scheme. 

Sew, It’s a Quest:
Tagline: Two twins in a fairy tale world must find their Fairy Godmother before their eighteenth birthday, lest they forever be stuck with the other’s gift.

Do You Take This Quest?:
Tagline: A prince’s quest for allies against his misery uncle and a madcap race to get home for a wedding
Revision notes: This book has one added chapter, a few (potentially) added scenes, and a severe edit. Again, focus is going to Robin’s character development. I hadn’t the maturity to completely handle her emotional situation when I wrote this book, and now I intend to fix that.

My Kingdom for a Quest:
Tagline: Prince Arthur’s quest to take back his kingdom, and Casperl’s quest to find out how, exactly, he’s a prince.
Revision notes: This book was mostly clean … but it’s getting a part two. AKA, book 3.5, The Quest for a Quince, AKA, Casperl’s story. There will be a edit to part one, though.

The Ankulen:

Tagline: Jen knows she had an imagination once – how far will she go to get it back?
Revision notes: Mostly just a thorough edit. I don’t foresee any great changes.

The Rizkaland Legends:

Water Princess, Fire Prince:
Tagline: When two teens are pulled into another world, fire and water must work together to defeat a dragon.
Revision notes: Again, mostly a thorough edit, but there will be a few continuity fixes, and I’ll be adding a bonus scene to the extra stuff at the end.

Lady Dragon, Tela Du:
Tagline: Only the Tela Du stands in Amber’s way for ruling Rizkaland forever. Petra would much rather find her long-lost sisters than fight a Lady Dragon.
Revision notes: Edits mostly.

Kendra is giving away a full, signed collection of her books, so check out that information here:

List of participating blogs:

Comments on my blog and on everyone else's blog count as points toward the giveaway, so comment and let Kendra know how amazing her new book covers are! 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Successful Summer

Summer is over, and I am back at school. I had a lot of goals for myself this summer, and I completed a lot of them! Today, I thought I'd share them with you.

Regrettably, several black holes have obscured part of this picture. 

I got out of school in mid-May. Almost immediately, I started searching for a job. I didn't want to work for my previous boss because I needed more hours than he could give me. I also wanted something with more human interaction as picking up trash in industrial parking lots is a solitary job. Well, I traded out a job with no human interaction to a job with constant human interaction. A hardware store hired me as a cashier. 

I enjoyed my summer job a lot! At least, for the most part. This particular hardware store has been in my city for ninety years, which means that it feels like you have just stumbled upon a gathering of your great-uncles who grew up on the farm and, therefore, know everything about nuts, bolts, watering systems, tools, paint, plumbing, and electrical, and don't mind talking about it. 
This kind of "Mom and Pop" atmosphere draws an... interesting crowd to the store. I helped contractors who were only interested in getting the tools for their current job. I helped little old ladies who only wanted to buy plants. I helped Asians intent on making sure each and every price was right. I helped Hispanics who were always ready to smile and talk with me. I helped people who clearly had never been in a hardware store and were only there to buy one thing and then leave as quickly as possible. I helped long term customers who sang the praises of the store. And then I helped people like Dean. Dean—and other old men like him—were always ready to flirt with me and the other young, beautiful cashiers. 

I worked approximately 340 hours this summer (72 of those hours in the last week of work, hence the lack of a blog post a few weeks ago), and I learned a lot about people. I have a deeper well to draw upon when I'm creating characters, that's for sure! 

From my Instagram

From the time school ended to now, I read twenty books. Nearly all of them were middle grade/YA books with a few nonfiction thrown in. I read the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones and The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. I also read a bunch of standalones. Stay tuned for more on them in my summer reading list wrap-up post! 

Caution: Writer At Work

One of my summer goals was to finish the fourth draft of my fantasy-fairytale novel by June 1, which I did. You can read more about that in this post. I'm excited to begin draft five, especially since in my last blog post I announced that I am going to publish this book next summer! But, more on that in my next post.
In addition to completing the fourth draft of my book, I wrote approximately 20,000 new words. This includes five short stories and a blog post nearly every week. I participated in The Silmarillion Awards again this year, which was SO much fun!

Into the fog. 

I had a birthday. I'm twenty-one now! Which means that I am legal to do almost anything except run for national government.
I also did a bunch of Fun Things like climbing a mountain (albeit a small mountain, but a mountain nonetheless), canoeing with my dad and uncles and cousin, waking up at 4:00AM to catch a ferry so that I could spend thirty hours with my friends in one of my favorite places on earth, and exploring a stream with one of my best friends.

It's been a good summer! I'm excited to be back at school, though. I've missed learning, and I've missed my friends. I can't wait to see what adventures the next academic year holds.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

My Next Book

All summer I've been hinting at a secret writing project that I've been working on, and it's time to reveal all! 
But, first, some backstory to build anticipation. 

At the beginning of the year, my roommates and I were in bed, talking in the glow from our string of Christmas lights. I can't remember exactly what our conversation was, but it involved being old, single ladies traversing the world. Thus, I conceived a Story Child.

I wrote down my Story Child so I wouldn't forget it, and I fell asleep. I figured that maybe someday I'd write this story, but then I kept coming up with more and more ideas for it. I thought of names for the main characters. I bought a book for research.
Then, I came up with a title. 
Now, that is quite a big deal for me. You've probably noticed that I have trouble naming things (*cough cough* that fantasy-fairytale novel with no name, even after three years *cough cough*), so that I actually had a title for this idea is Big News.
I'll spare you more backstory. Here is the title (and, yes, it is taken from a Beatles song):

She's Leaving Home is about three friends. They haven't always lived near each other, but they have remained devoted to one another over many years. And they share the same dream: they want to travel around the United States. Now, though they are old and frail, the three friends decide to make their dream a reality. Japes ensue.

Basically, this story is about three grandmas who take a road trip.

I've done some research for this idea (though I need to do a LOT more), and I've done a lot of thinking about it. I'm not quite ready to start writing it yet, but I do want it to be the next story I write (though with a new semester of college beginning, who knows when that will happen).

So, She's Leaving Home is my latest story idea, but what will my next book be?

Huh? you may be asking yourself. But I thought She's Leaving Home is Abbey's next book?
Well, yes, it is the next book I want to write, but it is not my next book to publish.

*dramatic pause for you to catch on to my meaning* Need a little more help? Let me leave you with this...

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Series I've Never Finished

Hello, my name is Abbey, and I have a problem. I read the first book in a series, and then I never finish the series. Even worse, I read the synopses of the rest of the series online because I'm curious to find out what happens, but I'm not curious to read the books myself!

If you have a fear of unfinished series, look away now.

1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.
After reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time when I was fourteen, my mom suggested that I read Anne of Green Gables. I didn't want to read Anne of Green Gables, and I wasn't attuned to the language of classics yet, so I never read beyond Book 1.

2. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
This is another book that I read when I was fourteen that I didn't enjoy much. I read it because I love the movie that stars Martin Freeman, but the book fell short of my expectations (I still rated it four-stars on Goodreads, though? I'm confused. Maybe it's time for a re-read).

3. Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve. Also, The Mortal Engines. 
I didn't continue with Fever Crumb because Philip Reeve killed my favorite character! After that, I lost interest in the story.
The two reasons I read The Mortal Engines is because 1) Jack Lewis Baillot raved about it on her blog a few years ago and 2) Peter Jackson is making it into a movie. I read the first book a few weeks ago and liked it, but I didn't like it enough to continue reading the series (especially after I read the synposes of the other books online).

4. Crater by Homer Hickam.
This is a great space book where people have settled on the moon. Even though I loved the first book, I've never gotten around to reading the rest of the series. I don't think I ever will.

5. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.
Again, a great sci-fi book. I've heard lots of great things about Ender's Shadow, but I never got around to putting it on hold at the library. I think by this time, I'd have to re-read Ender's Game before reading the next book.

6. Heist Society by Ally Carter.
This is a book that a friend recommended to me. It's about teens that go around stealing paintings for a reason that I've forgotten. It was okay, but I didn't feel compelled to finish the trilogy.

7. City of Ember by Jeanne Deprau.
I've read this book twice and enjoyed it both times, but have never been interested in continuing the story.

8. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.
I loved this middle grade book when I first read it. If I had been younger when I read it, I definitely would have continued with the series. Because I was sixteen, I didn't read any of the other books. It's on the "Books to read to potential future children" list.

9. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy.
The Scarlet Pimpernel is a fabulous book and a fabulous movie. I have several of its sequels on my phone, but I don't like reading electronically. I'd love to read more Pimpernel books someday...

10. Eragon by Christopher Paolini.
One of my good friends read the Eragon series and loved it. I gave it a try and enjoyed the first book, but *shame face* I read the synopses of the other books online. They are so long, and Eragon was similar enough to The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars that I didn't want to put time and effort into the series if I could watch the same plot in movie form.

11. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer.
I've read this book twice, and, nope, I still don't have a desire to continue with the rest of the books.

12. The Inventor's Secret by Andrea Cremer.
I picked this one up in the YA section at the library. It had an interesting premise, but too much romance. If the second book had been out at the time, I might have continued. Now, too much time has passed, and I can't remember the plot, so I don't think I'll ever finish this series.

13. From Earth to Moon by Jules Verne.
This book ended in a KILLER cliffhanger (and poor Jules Verne's audience had to wait FIFTEEN years for the sequel!), but the writing is so sciencey that I don't know if I could handle reading the sequel.

14. The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.
This is the only book I've ever rated one star on Goodreads. Yeah, I won't be reading the rest of this trilogy. Ever. The characters were caricatures, the plot was cliche, and the writing was passive (just like this sentence).

15. Horatio Hornblower by C.S. Forester.
I have a love-hate relationship with nautical fiction. I love it because of the sea, I hate it because I have a hard time reading it, which is why I never continued on with Horatio Hornblower.

16. Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman.
Because this book has weird formatting and takes place in space, I thought that I'd love it. Unfortunately, I thought all of the characters were the same, and the swearing annoyed me because it was blacked out. Either commit to having swearing in your book, or don't include it at all. All that blacking it out does is draw more attention to it.

17. Heap House by Edward Carey.
This is one of the most unique books that I have ever read. I highly recommend it if you want something unlike anything you've ever read before. I'd like to continue this series, but I need to read the first book again before I can do that.

Here are three honorable mentions:

18. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
I read this book right as it gained popularity and then read the synopses of the other two books. In 2015, I re-read The Hunger Games and went on to read Catching Fire as well. I doubt I'll ever read Mockingjay, so this series will stay incomplete.

19. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.
I love Inkheart. I think it's a fabulous book. I tried reading the sequel, but didn't like how dark it became. Also, Cornelia Funke killed my favorite character, so I kind of lost interest in the series after that.

20. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.
I loved the first book in this series! The second book dragged in the middle but became exciting at the end. I tried reading the third book, but I gave up. Maybe someday I'll finish Mistborn. I'd really like to because I really like Brandon Sanderson. He also killed my favorite character, though, and that's when I felt like the magic left the series (I'm sensing a trend here).

What I think we've learned here is that I lose interest in series when my favorite character dies, and that if I'm not invested in a series, I will take the lazy way out and read the synopsis online.

Have YOU read any of the series on my list? If you have, which ones should I continue?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Strangest Browser Searches Tag

Madeline J. Rose created a tag and tagged me! This is going to be a fun one, folks.

The rules:
-Access to your browser history and look through it.
-Pick at least 5 of your strangest searches you’ve had to look up as a writer.
-List them below with a short explanation as to why exactly you had to look them up.
-Tag 2-5 other bloggers.

1. "stab wound scar"
Google Images greeted me with some grisly pictures after searching this. I think I was researching scars because one of the characters in my fantasy novel has one and I wanted to make sure I was describing it correctly. Around this time, I also looked up "how do scars work" and "keloid scar" (which is a type of scar that grows on top of the injury. They are firm, rubbery, and raised).

2. "furious violin piece." And when this yielded unsatisfactory answers... "violin music angry"
Unsurprisingly, this was for a short story I wrote about a musician. He gets angry at his mom, grabs his violin, and goes outside to play away his frustration. I ended up choosing "Summer" from The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi because I was already familiar with it.
Also searched for this short story: "saint-saens pronunciations," "shag carpet 80s," "how do middle school orchestras work," and "black silk dress."

3. "beauty pageants in ancient greece" 
Apparently, they were called "kallisteia." I may or may not have been researching this for a retelling of Snow White which I may or may not be writing in the next few months.

4. "how to tar a road/what is the machine that tars a road called"
I never found out the answer to this and had to use a different metaphor for my story. If anyone knows what these machines are called, please let me know!

5. "simple explanation of gravity"
I usually write/edit my church's VBS skits, and this year the theme was science. I figured that the kids would need a simple explanation of scientific principles because, y'know, they're kids (NOT because I know very little about science and needed a simple explanation myself *COUGH COUGH* Ahem).

6. "ugly color"
<Context not found> (but I know it was for a story)

7. "book about women working for boeing/women working in factories in WWII/rosies wwii"
This is research for my next book. Don't worry, all will be revealed soon! Anyway, I found only one book about women working for Boeing, but I found a lot of books about women working in factories during World War II. I read a few of them for general information. When I start writing, I will go to the Internet for more specific research.

I tag:
Jack Lewis Baillot
Kendra E. Ardnek
Zachary Totah
DJ Edwardson
and anyone else who wants to do the tag!

What's the strangest thing YOU'VE searched on Google for research?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Timey-Wimey Timelines

In all of my years travelling through time and space (via stories and not the TARDIS, unfortunately), I have noticed a trend.

Rather than write and publish books following the timeline within their books, authors tend to write and publish their stories out of order. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis is the quintessential example of this. Does one start reading with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (in order of publication), or does one start with The Magician's Newphew (in chronological order)?
This question has sparked many brush fires between passionate Narnia fans. (Please no brush fires in the comment section. I've lost my fire extinguisher, and I would not be pleased if my blog burned to the ground.)

The Chronicles of Narnia is not the only example of this publishing order/chronological order debacle. I'm reading The Worlds of Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones right now, and she jumps all over Christopher's timeline from book to book.
Second Son, the sequel to Jenelle Scmidt's King's Warrior, is really a prequel focusing on one of the characters in the first book.
The fifth incarnation of the Warriors series by Erin Hunter is a prequel series.
Even I am planning on writing and publishing books out of order. If I ever finish my fairytale-fantasy novel, I'd like to write a collection of prequel short stories about a few of the characters (and after that, I have a four-book series planned about the history of my world. I may be slightly too ambitious).

So, why do authors write books out of order? I have several theories, the first of which is that writers do...

Authors are creators, and creators don't have to follow the rules. Of course, it is good to know the rules before breaking them. For example, I know that coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so—aka FANBOYS) are not supposed to start sentences, yet I have started this very sentence with one!
Likewise, it is good to know the rules of good storytelling, and, generally, good storytelling has a beginning, a middle, and an ending—in that order. But (see, I'm starting another sentence with a coordinating conjunction. I do that a lot, and a little piece of my soul cringes every time, but I do it anyway) that doesn't mean that every story has to have the beginning at the beginning. A series can start in the middle, and the sequel can go back to the beginning before the third book wraps up with the ending. It just depends on what story the author wants to tell first, which brings us to my second theory.

Often, authors don't think in a linear timeline. I know I don't. Sometimes, the story I want to tell right now is out of order with other ideas set in the same world. This could happen because we writers have one idea before coming up with the ideas for prequels, or it could be because we don't want to spoil a character's backstory.

Speaking of backstories, sometimes there isn't room enough within the main story line to explain a certain character or a particular part of the worldbuilding, so the author has to write an extended meander through history to share that part of his or her creation with the audience.

So, are out-of-order stories not as good as in-order stories?
No way! Although it can be confusing and annoying (because you want to get back to the characters and plot that you fell in love with during the first story) to read books out of chronological order, the author has a reason for publishing books in the order that he or she did.

Those are some of my thoughts. Let me know yours in the comments!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Fantasy Books I've Been Inspired to Read

The Silmarillion Awards 2017 have come to an end, and my to-be-read pile has grown exponentially. I must admit, I haven't read as many fantasy books as I thought I had, so, in celebration of the genre (and in celebration of Lord of the Ring's publication on this day 63 years ago), here are some fantasy books that this year's Silmarillion Awards have inspired me to read (the links lead to each book's respective Goodreads page):

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. Both last year and this year, characters from The Wingfeather Saga rose to the top of the nominations, and now to the top of my TBR (all right, maybe not the tippy top, but pretty close).

The Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan. I have heard good things about this series for many years. I want to know why the names Will and Halt incur such rabid joy. I even went as far as to get this book out of the library. Unfortunately, I also took out ten or so other books and never got to The Ranger's Apprentice before it had to be returned.

Paper Crowns by Mirriam Neal. Again, I have heard so many good things about this book! I follow Mirriam Neal's blog and am always impressed with her posts. I can only assume that her stories are just as good. Plus, this book has a cat in it, and I'm a big fan of fictional cats.

The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. A few years ago, I read Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson and really enjoyed it. I know several people who have read The Stormlight Archive and highly recommend it. From what I know of it, it sounds like a great book! If only it weren't such a daunting size...

Ilyon Chronicles by Jaye L. Knight. This series has garnered a lot of interest and praise across the blogging community. Everyone I know that has read these Chronicles has enjoyed them. Initially, I wasn't too interested in the summary, but the more I hear about these books, the more I want to check them out! Plus, the covers are gorgeous.

Halayda by Sarah Delena White. Jenelle's review first sparked my interest in this book. Then, when several of the characters showed up in the Silmarillion Awards, I decided to definitely add this one to my TBR!

Sentinel by Jamie Foley. While Jet, one of the characters from this book, did not have a lot of votes in the Silmarillion Awards, all of the votes that he did receive were so enthusiastically given that it interested me in the book to which he belongs. Sentinel doesn't look like a book that I would normally pick up, but any book with a character as well-loved as Jet must be good, right?

Percy Jackson by Rick Riodan. Some day I will read these books. That is all I have to say.

The Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elizabeth Stengl. I read the first book in this series last year, and I wasn't too impressed. This is such a well-loved series within the blogging community that I want to give it another try, though. I've been told that the series gets better and better as it goes along, so maybe I will have to pick up a later book.

The Beast of Talesend by Kyle Robert Shultz (our very own Silmarillion Award presenter!). Someone nominated a character from this book for the Silm Awards which first caught my attention. Then, someone on Twitter described The Beast of Talesend as Doctor Who meets P.G. Wodehouse (um, YES, PLEASE). Until about five seconds ago, I knew nothing more than this, and then I looked up the synopsis. It's a detective story, people! Was this book made for me?? Maybe. Either way, it is now on my TBR.

Have you read any of the books on my list? Did you like them?
Did the Silmarillion Awards inspire you to read any fantasy books? Let me know which ones in the comments below!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Beautiful People: July 2017 // Writing Process

How do you decide which project to work on?
Generally, the project chooses me. I'll be sitting on the couch, or listening to a sermon, or helping someone at work, and then I'll glimpse an Idea out of the corner of my eye. The Idea and I will make awkward eye contact, and then I know that I'm marked for life. Or, at least until the Idea is finished with me. It takes me captive until I research, plot, write, and edit it. Only then does it let me out of the dungeon where it's been keeping me in feet shackles (once, an Idea tried to put me in wrist shackles, too, but that didn't work out so well because I couldn't write with my hands tied together). 

How long does it usually take you to finish a project?
Ha. ha. ha. What does "finish a project" mean? At the rate I'm going, I'll have a book out every five years or so. 
My first novel took roughly two years to finish from start to end. The novel I'm working on now has been in the works for three-and-a-half years. Short stories generally take me a week or so to finish (same with school essays). I've yet to finish a novella, so they take me even longer than novels.
Maybe it takes me so long to finish projects because my Ideas shackle me to the floor of a deep, dark dungeon, and that does NOT put me in a writing mood (see next question).

Do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?
Nope, no routines, but water (hikes near streams... being by the ocean... when it's raining... in the shower...), puts me in a writing mood. Classical music also tends to put me in a writing mood because, as a kid, I would make up stories in my head to go along with the music.

What time of day do you write best?
I've been trying to figure this out, and I don't have an answer. I don't think I have a specific time of day that I write best. I do most of my writing in either the afternoon or evening, but I don't think that means I write better then. Generally, I write the best when I am well-rested in both body and mind. 

Are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?
Perhaps children's authors from the early 1900s? Like E. Nesbit. Or maybe middle grade writers like Sharon Creech or Jeanne Birdsall. I would describe my writing style as simple, clever, and classic. Whether or not anyone agrees with that assessment is another matter. 

Why did you start writing, and why do you keep writing?
I guess I started writing because I had stories to tell. Before I could write myself, my parents would transcribe stories that I told to them. They encouraged storytelling and creativity. I still have stories to tell, but now I'm more interested in how stories are told. Language and what it evokes fascinates me. I love learning the power of choosing words and punctuations that will make a reader feel a certain way. 

What's the hardest thing you've written?
In terms of content, I wrote a short story a few weeks ago that changed from a sweet friendship story into a psychopathic murder story really quickly. It creeped me out, and it was hard to finish because of that. I haven't looked at the story since then (even to edit) because I'm scared of it.
I also wrote an essay about my grandfather's death, and that was difficult to write, too. 
In terms of difficulty level, I wrote a ten-page research essay (with ten sources) about gender roles in fairy tales (and received an A) last semester. I worked SUPER hard on that paper, and I'm very proud of it. 

Is there a project you want to tackle someday, but you don't feel ready yet?
Yes, yes, yes! There are several projects, actually. One of them is a series of short stories about a space cafe. I've wanted to do a series (similar to a TV series, with seasons and everything) for ever. When I was younger, I planned out a series based on my American Girl Dolls. When I started watching Star Trek, I planned out a series based on Deep Space Nine. Around summer of 2013 or 2014, I had the first idea for this space cafe story. Occasionally, I'll work on the characters or the plots or the worldbuilding, but it's just not time for me to write these stories yet. 
If you've been following me long enough (AKA, if you've been around since I blogged on Dolls, Books, and Things That Matter), you may remember two characters named Daniel and Varina who were spies. These two characters have been with me since 2012. I've written numerous short stories and three-and-a-half novels about them. They are my favorites. They are the closest to my heart. But, they have no plot (the ones I came up with in 2012 are never going to see the sun). I need to re-haul pretty much everything about their stories, but now is not the time to do that.
I also have several stories set in the same world as my fantasy-fairytale novel (y'know, the one I've been working on FOR-EVER), but I don't feel ready to write them yet either.
Someday all of these stories will leave my brain box. BUT TODAY IS NOT THAT DAY.  

What writing goals did you make for 2017, and how are they going?
My one writing goal for 2017 was to finish my novel by December 31st. I've been working on this story for far too long. I'm ready to move on to other projects. 
Recently, I added several more writing goals for 2017. They are as follows:
1. Figure out what to do with the Novel once I finish it. (I've completed this one... but spoilers, darling. I can't share my plans quite yet.)
2. Write six short stories over the summer. (I've written four so far.)
3. Research women in World War II for my next novel, and write the parts in the book that deal with this topic before I go back to school (again, I'd share more... but spoilers! This particular Idea does not want you to know about it until next month. It's threatening me with starvation, so I'd better listen to it).

Describe you writing process in three words of with a gif!

(Because I spend more time thinking about each word in my sentence as I go along than actually writing anything down.)

Tell me a little bit about YOUR writing process! What puts you in a writing mood? Do you have a particular time of day in which you write best? How long does it take you to start a project (from Once Upon a Time to The End)?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Silmarillion Awards 2017: Award Presentation

Thousands of people stand in the middle of the road. Gates repel them back from a red carpet where men, women, dragons, wizards, cats, hobbits, marsh-wiggles, bird-like creatures, lions, tigers, bears (oh my!), and more walk lackadaisically toward a stadium. They walk lackadaisically because, at the beginning of the red carpet, both man and beast must stop for press pictures in front of a white canvas that says SILMARILLION AWARDS 2017 in big, green letters. Further along the red carpet, they must stop for interviews with television stations, Youtube channels, and famous bloggers. 
One blogger, gorgeous in a black gown which hides the heels she wore specifically to turn herself from a 5'2" hobgoblin into a 5'4" princess, stops a man so tall that her heels are pointless. 
"Hello, Aragorn!" says the blogger, with a smile that says she has worked in customer service.
"Hello," replies the tall man.
"Are you enjoying the red carpet tonight? Now, be honest."
"As a king, I have had to attend many events," says Aragorn. "I enjoy meeting with old friends and making new ones, but, I must admit, I prefer walking in the woods with my wife to walking down the red carpet."
"And where is Queen Arwen tonight?
"Eldarion—our son—has a cold, so she stayed home with him tonight."
"I'm sorry to hear that. I'm sure all of us here on the red carpet wish your son the speediest recovery! Now, Aragorn, there is a rumor running rampant that you will be presenting the Silmaril for Most Epic Hero for the second year in a row. Can you confirm this rumor?"
Aragorn smiles mischievously. "You will just have to wait and see."

The audience applauds uproariously for each award presented: the Silmaril for the Wisest Counselor! for the Least Competent Henchmen! for the character with the Silver-est Tongue! 
Now, the time has come to award the Silmaril for Most Epic Hero. A tall man walks onto the stage. He carries himself regally, which only makes him look taller. He wears a sword at his side and a crown on his head. The audience cheers when they see him.
"Hello," he says. "My name is Aragorn. I am honored to be here at the Silmarillion Awards for the second year in a row to award the Silmaril for Most Epic Hero. 
"There are many types of heroes. Some, like my good friend Frodo Baggins, choose to do the heroic thing—even though the task is usually a difficult one, such as going on a long and dangerous journey to destroy a powerful object. Others, like dearly departed Boromir, are born into heroic roles as princes, princesses, or people of power. 
"Many worthy heroes who fit both of these descriptions were nominated for this Silmaril. Five prevailed as the most heroic.
"In fifth place, we have Janner Igiby from The Wingfeather Saga."
The audience applauds for Janner. In the front row, he smiles graciously.
"In fourth place," continues Aragorn, "is Artham Wingfeather from The Wingfeather Saga."
Artham turns to Janner and shrugs, a smile on his face.
"Carswell Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles has come in third," says Aragorn.
Carswell looks down, disappointed. Then, he decides to make the best of the situation. He turns to the small woman next to him and kisses her. The audience interrupts their own clapping to say, "awwww!"
"In second place is Westley from The Princess Bride," announces Aragorn.
Westley stands up, bows, and sits down again.
"And the winner of this year's Silmaril for Most Epic Hero..." Aragorn pauses for dramatic effect. "Peter Pevensie!" 
The audience cheers, whistles, whoops, and screams. A young man stands up from the front row and races onstage. 
"Congratulations," says Aragorn. Smiling, he hands the young man his Silmaril.

"Thank you!" says Peter. "I did not expect to win such a great award! I would like to thank my parents for teaching me the difference between right and wrong, and I would like to thank Aslan for teaching me how to put the principle of right into action. Also, hullo to Susan, Edmund, and Lucy!" Peter waves to his siblings in the audience. A little girl in the second row stands up and waves back enthusiastically. Peter shakes Aragorn's hand and they leave the stage together. 
The presenter for the Strangest Character Silmaril enters...

"Wow! I can't believe he won!" the blogger with the heels says to a man standing next to her. "I thought for sure Westley would have won! He got second last year, too, y'know."
"Yes, I remember," replies the man as he fingers his beard. He is one of the few men in the stadium wearing a hat. And a very funny hat, too. It has a red feather stuck in it, and it's completely green. Actually, the man is dressed completely green, and he carries a bow and arrow. They are not for show.
"Anyway, I'm glad that Peter won. He deserved to win. And Robin Hood deserved to win last year. Both Peter and Robin Hood are very heroic, don't you think?"
The green-clad man smirks. "Oh, yes, very heroic," he agrees.
If this were a movie, the green-clad man would look directly into the camera and wink, but it is not a movie, and the oblivious blogger begins to walk away. She nearly trips on the hem of her dress as she goes, and the man in all green grins after her. He turns his attention back to the Award ceremony. 

Thank you for joining us for this year's Silmarillion Awards! And join the Silmarillion Awards crew on July 29th when everyone is invited to post on their own blog about fantasy and J.R.R. Tolkien! 

Saturday, July 15, 2017


Today, I am 21.


I was going to write a post about what I've learned over the past twenty-one years and intersperse pictures of me throughout, but when I looked at old pictures of my family and I, I started to see a pattern, so I thought I'd talk about that instead.

Ever since I was a baby, I have been inundated with books.

Every week, my mom and I would go to the library and take out fifty picture books (the library's limit) and measure the length of the receipt against my height.

Funny enough, this is the bookshelf that I brought with me to college!
Every night for more years than I can remember, my dad would read to me before bed.

As a result, I would read to my toys.

And I would read by myself.

And I would read with friends.

When my friends and I have a free afternoon, it is usually spent in a bookstore.

My family has given me a legacy of books that I hope to pass on to any children I may have in the future.

Even more importantly, my family has given me a legacy of faith in God that I know will accompany me through life.

I am very thankful that God placed me into the family that he did!