Friday, September 20, 2019

Fall 2019 Reads!

Hellllooooooooo, everyone! Tomorrow is the first day of fall, and you know what that means: new book releases! (Also, today is the first day of my hall's D&D campaign, so WHOO! I was originally going to do a D&D-themed post because of that, but then I remembered what tomorrow is and so I'm delaying that plan for a while.) There aren't quite as many books on this list as there have been on previous lists, but they're all pretty promising, so it balances out, y'know?


Fall 2019 Reads!

 
1. The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett (September 10). Historical fantasy! Granted, it's billed as "meets The Last Magician," which is not what I'd call enticing . . . but the rest of the synopsis sounds great! Relic-chasing archeologists, adventurers, and a dose of creepiness . . . what more could you want?

 
2. When She Reigns by Jodi Meadows (September 10). I read the rest of this trilogy, so obviously, I need to finish it out, right? I mean, I do really like the main character's development, even if some of the side characters kinda annoy me. Also, I have been informed that this one has more dragons than ever, which is like — yes, please!

 
3. The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas (September 10). MULAN RETELLING! The first time I watched Mulan all the way through was actually around this time last year (though I'd watched most of it several years before that), but it's amazing, and this retelling sounds even better. Possibly closer to the original story, though I could be wrong. Also, there's sneakery involved. I am always down for sneakery. And I am still very happy about the trend towards Asian fantasy that we're seeing lately.

 
4. The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah (October 29). It's sci-fi UNDER THE SEA! Featuring submarine races! Intrigue! Quests to save family members! And there's some mention of a "secretive, hotheaded companion" at the end that sounds quite promising . . . Granted, it's receiving mixed pre-reviews, so I don't want to get too excited, but I am hoping this turns out well.

 
5. Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon (October 29). I'm getting a Middle Eastern fantasy feel from this one, and I am HERE FOR IT, even if the premise is a tiny bit disturbing. But it's about sisters trying to save sisters, and that's absolutely the way to my heart. Also, we've got intrigue, and we already know how I feel about intrigue.

 
6. Blood Heir by Amelie Wen Zhao (November 19). This one sounds suuuuuper dark, but also super cool. It sounds rather Russian in setting, which is a culture I don't really read as often as I'd like. Plus, she's tracking down her father's murderer, which usually promises a mystery (at least to some degree), and we've got a conman . . . who, ok, sounds more like the Kaz Brekker variety of conman than other varieties of conman, but still. It did have a bit of controversy around it, but that sounds like it was from people being jerks on Twitter, not from an actual problem with the book.

 
7. Starsight by Brandon Sanderson (November 26). I'm still deciding how excited I am about this one. On one hand, Skyward wasn't really my favorite Sanderson novel. It was good, but it didn't have that spark. On the other hand, "not my favorite Sanderson novel" is kind of like saying that strawberry isn't my favorite ice cream flavor: it's still pretty storming delicious. So, yeah, I'll probably be picking this one up . . . and hoping really, really hard that Brandon Sanderson keeps the romance low-key or non-existent.

What books are you looking forward to this fall? Have you read any of the ones on this list already, since some of them are out already? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, September 13, 2019

Things I'd Say to Freshman-Me

Hello hello hello, friends! It's the first list post of the school year — took me long enough, I know. If you found my blog through the blog tour back in August and are therefore new here, welcome! If you're a regular, good to see you again.

Anyway. In honor of the fact that this is, as I said, the first non-Doings! post of the school year and the fact that it is both my last year and my sister's first year, I have decided to share five things that I wish I could've said to freshman-me. A little cliche? Yeah. But I'm going for it anyway.

Things I'd Say to Freshman-Me

  1. You never know which friends will stick. I remember having lunch with a particular girl and coming away from it thinking "I like this person! I hope we get to hang out again; we could be really good friends!" I'm pretty sure I've talked to her less than a dozen times since then. I also remember not expecting to get along super well with some of the people who are now my closest friends. My point: I am terrible at figuring out who will and won't be a lasting friend and I should stop trying to make quick judgements about people.
  2. Learn to focus your effort. Freshman year, I put a lot of effort into certain classes that really didn't require that much time and energy. Some of that extra energy did pay off, but some (for example: health class) I could've gotten the same results with much less stress and effort. I'm still working on this one (perfectionism is a hard habit to break), but I wish I would've started working sooner.
  3. You're not as weird as you think you are. I had a very high opinion of my own weirdness coming out of high school — I wasn't quite sure if I was a nerd or a geek or a fangirl or all three*, but I knew that I was something outside of the mainstream. Aaaaaand then I came to college and discovered that my brand of "weird" is actually pretty socially acceptable; I just didn't have enough data points to recognize it. (That said, the steadily-growing popularity of fantasy and sci-fi media doesn't hurt.) And even when I'm at my craziest, I'm significantly tamer than some other people I know (who can be downright esoteric at times).
  4. Group projects aren't always horrible. Honestly, I probably dreaded having to do group projects more than I did the actual academic challenge of college. I knew how to work hard and work well on my own. Group work, on the other hand? Horrors. Except . . . if you get the right group of people, it's not bad. I've had a few awful experiences (most of them freshman year), but even those weren't nearly as horrible as I feared.
  5. Don't be afraid to step up — it's less stressful than you think. Freshman year, I did not think of myself as a leader. And I still don't want to be the one in charge of everything, but I am a lot more comfortable with taking the lead. As it turns out, a major part of "leading" a group is just keeping everyone organized, figuring out who does what, making sure people stay on task, and occasionally picking up the slack — and having permission to do all that actually decreases my stress level to a degree. Yeah, my brain doesn't make sense, and I wish I'd figured that out sooner.
So, yeah. That's what I've got. What would you like to tell your younger self (at whichever point in time you pick)? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

*All three. Definitely all three, just in different domains.

Friday, September 6, 2019

August 2019 Doings!

I'm back from my hiatus at last! It probably wasn't the greatest marketing choice to disappear for so long right after my release . . . but I did need the break. August was another weird mix of really chill and "I'm DYING," and yeah. It was interesting.

Writing!


  • Mechanical Heart is officially out, and the release went really well overall! Y'all seem to like it, which makes me happy. (That said: if you've read it, please leave a review, especially on Amazon. Currently there's just four reviews over there . . . though they're all good reviews, so that's great.)
  • (Also, Kyle Robert storming Shultz read my book and liked it and I still can't quite believe that's a thing that happened. I screamed a little when I found out, not gonna lie.)
  • August was not a great writing month, let me just say.
  • I don't actually know how much I wrote, but I do know that it wasn't enough.
  • I did have an excuse, though. It's called "Work, packing, school, and more work." Also, certain scenes ended up dragging ooooonnnnn and oooonnnn and it got to the point where I was like "I don't want to write this; I will do literally anything that's not writing this." I will have to find a way to make them more interesting in edits. (Or I may find out that they aren't actually that long and they just feel long because I didn't want to write them . . . not sure.)
  • Oh, and I did some creative non-fiction pieces for my cnf class, and I think some of them turned out pretty well. I may post them on the blog eventually, but we'll see.
  • On the upside, some of my characters got nominated in the Silmaril Awards! Breen and Baili are both up for Most Epic Heroine, and Luis and Grace are contenders for Most Faithful Friend. I don't really expect them to win, but I'm really happy that people like them enough to nominate them! (And there are still a few more days to second nominations, so . . .)

Reading!

  • August wasn't a half-bad reading month, though it wasn't as great as the start of the summer.
  • The Game was probably my favorite read of the month, as should not be surprising since it's by Diana Wynne Jones. It was really short and wrapped up a bit quickly, but it was a very clever take on mythology and just a good story all 'round. Oath of the Outcast was another great book; though I found the lack of female characters a bit disconcerting, I liked the characters and plot and focus on family and friendship. And Descendent of the Crane was great right up until it tore my heart into tiny pieces and then told me that it was actually the first in a series, so that's a thing. I do recommend it — it's a great fantasy-mystery with a bonus helping of "suddenly ascended ruler trying to figure out how to do the rulership thing" and a topping of family drama and relationships. The ending just hurts. A lot.
  • I also enjoyed Savannah Jezowski's short stories, "The Witching Hour" and "The Hounds of Darkness." They're both solid short stories, and I appreciate how effectively Savannah can write from a cat's perspective. I'm not sure how I feel about the ending of Hounds, but that's a me thing.
  • One tier down: three books that were good, but not as great as I hoped. Not Write Now was an interesting book of writing advice from Kyle Robert Shultz, and I feel like it's worth a read if you want to readily identify the ways you can accidentally (or purposefully) set yourself up to fail as a writer. Storms, it's probably worth getting just for the prologue/introduction. That said, it wasn't as effective for me personally as it might be for other people. Match Cats was a cute anthology of romance shorts from the perspective of both cats and owners . . . which is fine, but fluffier than I wanted. And The Atlas of Cursed Places was slightly less helpful for location inspiration than I thought it would be, but it was still a pretty interesting read that nicely balanced history, philosophical musing, science, and imagination.
  • Last, we have my first DNF in a while: Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword. I picked this up on a whim, thinking "Oh, hey, this looks like fun!" Spoiler alert: it was not fun. I gave up about three or four chapters in. I couldn't stand Peasprout — she's too arrogant, and too dismissive of her younger brother, and just too frustrating all around.
  • I did acquire some lovely books, mostly via giveaway! From Emma of Awkwordly Emma, I won Empress of All Seasons, Sorcery of Thorns, and Truly Devious, all of which I'm super-excited to read but haven't quite gotten to yet (mostly because library books took precedence). From C.M. Banschbach, I won Oath of the Outcast . . . twice. Thanks to a mix-up somewhere along the line, I accidentally received two copies. (Not that I'm complaining! Now I have a copy to give to someone . . . as soon as I figure out who.)
  • Oh, and I read roughly sixteen volumes of Schlock Mercenary, thanks to the recommendation of Matthew Sampson. I'm not sure whether or not to thank him. On one hand, the storyline is great. You have to get past some off-color humor, particularly in the first few books, but the craft, characterization, and worldbuilding are spot-on. I just found out that the author does the Writing Excuses podcast along with Brandon storming Sanderson, and I am exactly zero percent surprised.

Watching!

  • In keeping with last month's theme, my family and I finished our John-Wayne-watching with True Grit, which was actually really good and I would've watched ages ago if someone had properly explained how great it was, focusing on the things that I'd actually get excited about. (Which is to say: strong-minded female protagonist who knows what she wants and won't let anyone stop her from going after it, and a wonderful example of the "grizzled, cynical loner accidentally adopts small naive newbie-adventurer." Also, lots of snark and no stupid pointless romance.) Maddie did act like a bit of a brat at times, but it wasn't too bad. And while the ending was a bit odd, the movie on the whole was solid.
  • We also watched The Sting, which was a heist movie set in 1920s Chicago-ish area. And it was fine, just very slow. I think I would have loved it if it were a book; as a movie, my natural impatience and my inability to tell similar faces apart made it a bit difficult. Still, great character development!
  • On the TV-watching front: my roommate and I agreed that we needed to continue our Fairy Tail hiatus and that we weren't ready to start up SAO again . . . so we started watching The Librarians, which is pretty much about people who work for a magical library, trying to keep magic from being used for evil. It occasionally trips over cliches, but it's overall pretty fun. But we took a break from that too about four episodes in. Why? Because . . .
  • We're watching Avatar: The Last Airbender! I've had this on my to-watch list longer than basically any other show, and I can say with confidence that it is worth the wait. We're about halfway through season one and I'm really enjoying the story and characters and the really good balance between humor and adventure and drama. And while certain characters are a bit annoying right now, there's no one who's unbearably frustrating, and it's sort of a more realistic annoying-ness rather than the stupid-annoying-ness of several characters in other shows I could name. Plus, I think that the show's doing a really good job of setting up stuff that's going to occur in the future, particularly with regard to character development.

Life!

  • Ok, so obviously the main event this month was that I returned to Cedarville University for the start of my senior year. And that's been going fairly well so far. I'm pretty sure that this year is either going to be stupidly stressful or really chill. I have three different classes that seem like they'll be heavily creative: two graphic design and the creative nonfiction class I mentioned earlier. I'm excited for all of those, but they're also the ones that'll be hardest to keep up with because I want to get stuff right. In addition, I have Honors Colloqium (which has only met once because it's on Mondays and we get Labor Day off), Statistics for Business (which seems like it'll be pretty fun, if only because the professor is doing a great job of keeping class time intersting — though I also genuinely like statistics, particularly probability), and Professional Portfolio Development (which is basically "this is how you get a job, now go do it"). All in all, it's a solid lineup.
  • My roommate and I did not make it to the Rennaissance Festival on Labor Day weekend like we usually do, but I did walk down into to town several times to hang out in the coffee shops and drink yummy things (and probably spend more money than I should, but OH WELL. I'm supporting small businesses). And I went to the pancake breakfast on Monday, which was delicious.
  • (For those who aren't aware: Labor Day was basically invented by a person from Cedarville, so it's a Big Deal here. There's a parade and a three-day festival and everything. Plus the college students get the day off, which is great.)
  • Plus, I'm the secretary for TDK again, so I'm keeping busy with that. We have our first QuizBowl day today, and our Kickoff Party is in a couple days, and I'm really excited for both things.
  • And I played both Portal and Portal 2! Both were great, and I'm really sad that they're over. (Also, I'm sad that I can't go back and replay specific levels to try to get some of the achievements I missed . . . oh well. Maybe I'll replay the whole thing in a year or two.) Very good storytelling, especially in Portal 2, but also great puzzle challenges.
  • Before Cedarville, not a ton happened . . . though I did finish my sword!
  • I painted it, attached the hilt and blade, and put the wrap on the hilt literally two nights before we left for Cedarville. Things I have learned: (1) next time, print in the other direction, (2) spray paint, then craft paint, never just one, and (3) epoxy is interesting, but not as intimidating as it might seem.
  • I also finally got my bread to the desired fluffiness, though never to the desired shape. My mom's still keeping it going, so maybe she'll have better luck eventually.
  • Other than that . . . um . . . I have sometimes-glasses now. I noticed that the chapel slides were getting steadily harder to see, so we got my eyes checked and I'm basically on the border of needing glasses and not needing them. So I ended up getting them, but I mostly wear them during class and when I'm driving — I get headaches if I wear them too long, especially if I'm looking at screens. But, yeah. That's a thing. I put them on and I was like "Oh, huh, I didn't realize stuff was supposed to be sharp that far out!"

September Plans!

  • I'm still hoping to make it to the Rennaissance Festival, hopefully this weekend. We'll see how that goes.
  • Other than that: lots of schoolwork and org activities! I'm in two high-committment orgs (TDK and the Inklings) and then I'm in several other orgs where my committment is either "I'll come if I have time" or else "I'll be there at every meeting, but you only meet once a month, so we're chill." I am probably in too many things, but it's easier to test stuff out now and drop it later than to try to break into a new social group halfway through the school year.
  • And, of course, there's D&D! The campaign I'm currently in is a bit . . . intersting . . . with regard to scheduling; half our members are off-campus, and we're meeting online still, and it's a bit of a mess. But it's still fun when we're able to meet. And then the campaign that I'm running should kick off pretty soon, maybe either next week or the week after if we can get stuff sorted out there.
  • On the writing front, I really want to finish my WIP draft this month so I can take a little time off before I start the first round of edits (either in October or November, depending on how I'm feeling). And I have several creative nonfiction ideas that I want to get down at some point (and need to get down so i can turn them in, but yeah).
  • As far as reading goes: I have very easy library access, and I have a shelf full of mostly not-yet-reads, all of which I'm excited about. As long as I have time (and as soon as I finish Northanger Abbey), reading this month will be great.
How was your August? What are your plans for September? Have you been doing any fun crafty things? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, August 9, 2019

Golden Braids Blog Tour DAY 5: The Dragon's Flower!


Hello, everyone! It's the final day of the Golden Braids blog tour, and we're finishing out the week with an Asian-inspired fantasy: The Dragon's Flower by Wyn Estelle Owens. I absolutely love this book; it's got an epic scope yet a personal feel, fabulous families, adorable romances, a Fox that isn't a fox, and a writing style remniscent of some of my favorite authors. You can read more of my excitement over on Light and Shadows, but while you're here, I have an interview with Wyn Estelle Owens, so maybe stick around for that first.

About . . .

The Dragon’s Flower!

In the wilds of the mountainous country of Akiyama, there stands a pagoda. When Shichiro, an exiled, honorless samurai stumbles across it one rainy morning, he expects to find it empty and abandoned. He was not expecting to find a lonely princess with near-mythical blue eyes dwelling in the top floors.

Hanako has dwelt alone for all her life, with only her two silent handmaidens and the countless dragon effigies on her walls to keep her company; her only knowledge of the outside world gained from the books and scrolls she reads. When the wandering ronin stumbles onto her haven, she gains her first friend, never knowing how deeply this chance meeting would affect her.

The threads of fate have tied these two together, and all the while turmoil boils in the midst of the Seven Countries of Azuma-no-Kuni. Rumors of alliances and armies sprout up, and whispers of the long-lost Imperial Line returning at last. Old prophecies ripen at last, and old myths prepare to show themselves once again in the hour of need. Amongst it all stand two new allies—an isolated princess and a near-friendless ronin, as the wheels of fate and destiny circle them and draw ever closer. Will peace at last return to the fractured realms, or will remnants of the once great Empire splinter beyond all redemption?

Find it On: Amazon || Goodreads

Wyn Estelle Owens!

Wyn Estelle Owens is the penname of a young woman who’s still figuring out what this whole ‘adult’ thing is all about. She lives in a big, old house in Maryland by a Hundred Acre Wood (dubbed Neldoreth) with her parents, three occasionally obnoxious brothers, her dog Jackie, and her rabbit Joker. She is fond of reading, writing, drawing, speaking in dead or imaginary languages, playing videogames, quoting classic or obscure literature, being randomly dramatic, and generally making things out of yarn. Her dream is to write stories that inspire people to chase after the wonderful world of storytelling. Her favorite all-time authors are Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Christa Kinde, and above all, J.R.R. Tolkien, who first inspired her to pursuing novel writing when she read the Hobbit at the age of seven.

Find her on Facebook.

Interview with Wyn Estelle Owens

Welcome to the blog, Wyn! First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, like your hobbies, how you got into writing, your favorite books (besides your own), or just anything else you’d like to share?
Hello, thanks for having me! Hmm… my hobbies. I have a lot of hobbies—things like drawing, reading, storytelling to my cousins, and any sort of crafting are my favorites. My favorite books are The Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl and absolutely anything by J.R.R. Tolkien. I’ve always wanted to tell stories, but what truly inspired me was when my mother read the Hobbit to us when I was six, and then reading it for myself the next year. My early efforts were, uh… interesting, but I completed my first novel (over 200 pages, written by hand), before I turned thirteen. Someday I plan to revise that story and publish it, but who knows when that will be?

That should be interesting. So, The Dragon's Flower is an Asian retelling of Rapunzel. What gave you the inspiration for this story and especially for the setting?
The inspiration happened back in the summer of 2016, during the gap year between Five Magic Spindles and Five Poisoned Apples. I had guessed the most likely retelling for the last contest would be Snow White, but I decided to come up with a Rapunzel retelling as a back-up, just in case. I think I had been musing about different settings and tower substitutes and the like, so I had been thinking about pagodas and a possible Far Eastern retelling. Then, I ran across a picture on pinterest. It depicted a Japanese samurai on a horse, staring up at something with a look of faint wonder on his face, and I thought “I wonder if he’s looking up at a princess, like the prince in Rapunzel?” And since I already had pagodas in my mind, the picture cemented my musings, and the beginnings of The Dragon’s Flower was born—a wandering samurai and a princess dwelling at the top of a mysterious pagoda. Sadly, the horse in the picture did not make it into the actual story.

Ah well. Having read The Dragon's Flower already, I can tell that you put a lot of research into the world. How did you go about doing your research, and how did it fit in with your writing process?
Almost all of the research was done on the internet, a lot of it during the writing process. This type of research, of course, led to much hairpulling, railing at uninformative websites, and desperate searches for cross-references in order to make sure any tidbit of information was accurate. Still, it was a lot less stressful than the research for my last book, and since the world of Azuma-no-Kuni is only Japan-inspired and not Japan itself, I did have some room for improvisation.

I definitely agree that writing an "inspired-by" world is nice in that regard! What's your favorite piece of writing advice you've ever received (whether "favorite" means most interesting, most useful, most unusual, or some other definition)?
It’s been so long that I can’t remember the exact phrasing or even who said it, but this is how I remember it.

“You can’t rely on the muses, or blame them when you haven’t written anything. Muse and inspiration is fickle, if you only write when they’re in your favor you’ll never get anything done. You have to sit down and write, even if your inspiration is dry. It may be trash, or at best unrefined, but that’s what first drafts are for. The rest can be polished later, but you can’t edit words that don’t exist.”

That is advice that I pretty much live by. Great quote. Fun question: if you could pull one of your characters into our world for a day, who would you pick, and what would you two do together?

Ooohhh, one of my characters? Isao, definitely. He’s my favorite (sorry, Shichiro!), and I’d love to spend a day with him! What would we do? Well, we’d probably take a drive up north to my hometown and spend the time hanging out in all my favorite spots, laughing and joking, and eating ice cream while plotting pranks on my brothers for when we get back to my house. Then we’d probably watch something fun and actiony—A-Team, maybe?—and eat ramen until he has to return.

Isao would be super fun to hang out with! Finally, any hints on what we can expect from you next? Will you be writing any more stories set in the world of The Dragon's Flower?
Well, I do have a collection of short stories I plan to release sometime this Autumn—maybe as soon as late September. We’ll have to see on that, however. As to more stories in Azuna-no-Kuni? Ahaha, well…. DF was supposed to be a standalone. Then, all these characters showed up with either extremely interesting backstories or exciting future potential, and then I started fleshing out the history and all these intriguing near-mythological, legendary heroes started showing up, each with stories of their own, and… yeah. There’s gonna be more stories in the world of The Dragon’s Flower. When, (or how many), I’m not sure… but they are coming.

You have no idea how happy that makes me. Thanks for both answering my questions and for giving me something to look forward to!

And many thanks to all of you for stopping by! So, tell me, are you excited to read The Dragon's Flower? What are you most looking forward to? Please tell me in the comments, and don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour posts and enter the giveaway!
Have a lovely day!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Blog Tour Stops: August 9

Knitted By God's Plan - Five Reasons to Read
Light and Shadows - Five Reasons to Read

Reviews

Unicorn Quester
The Language of Writing

Interviews

Safe Return Doubtful - Shichiro
Dreams and Dragons - Wyn

Guest Posts

Reality Reflected - Rapunzel and Ancient Japan

Or find the full list of stops here.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Golden Braids Blog Tour DAY 4: Interview With Meredith Leigh Burton


Hey'a, everyone! It's the second-to-last day of the Golden Braids blog tour, and today's book is Rebekah's Refuge, the latest book by Meredith Leigh Burton. This is a delightful western fantasy with an emphasis on family that I really enjoyed. You can read more about my thoughts on the book over at Light and Shadows; here, I have an interview with Meredith! But first — you know the drill — a little about the book and author.

About . . .

Rebekah’s Refuge!

Never allow a stranger to buy you anything. Never reveal what you truly are. Above all, never, ever allow your hair to be cut.

In a plague-ravaged world, people will stop at nothing to find a cure. Rebekah is a young norn who on the run for her life. Charles, a man desperate to heal his ailing wife, wants the life-giving magic contained in Rebekah's hair.

When Rebekah’s path crosses with Martha’s, a mother who has lost her daughter to the same man, secrets will be revealed. Buried fears will be resurrected, and the conflict between norns and humans may cause devastating havoc. Will Rebekah and Martha find a way to help both human and nornkind, or will Rebekah’s pursuer capture her? Will the plague be eradicated, or is a more sinister plan at work?

Things are not how they appear in this story of finding a place to belong. Rebekah’s Refuge is a tale of sacrifice, love and courage. You will meet many individuals, human and norn alike, who bear scars, scars that cannot be seen. A tenuous thread binds their destinies together, but threads, like hair, can easily be cut. Only those who listen can find the courage to fight. Rebekah’s Refuge is a tale of desperation and hope, a story of turmoil and healing.

Find it On: Amazon || Goodreads

Meredith Leigh Burton!

Meredith Leigh Burton is a voracious devourer of fairy tales. She is a motivational speaker, teacher and writer. She attended the Tennessee School for the Blind and Middle Tennessee State University, where she received a degree in English and theater. Meredith hopes to convey through her writing that people with differences can contribute much to the world. “Snow White” has always been her favorite fairy tale. Meredith has written another fairy tale based on “Snow White” entitled Hart Spring, which can be found in her anthology, Blind Beauty and Other Tales of Redemption. She resides in Lynchburg, Tennessee.

Find her online at:  Goodreads || Amazon

Interview With Meredith Leigh Burton

Welcome to the blog, Meredith! First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, like your hobbies, how you got into writing, your favorite books (besides your own), or just anything else you’d like to share?
It is such an honor to visit your blog, Sarah! I am a voracious bookworm, love helping with church activities, love spending time with my young nieces, enjoy attending plays and concerts and love to sing. I have a huge sweettooth and enjoy baking, (but not as much as eating), anything with chocolate or caramel.  My favorite books include The Tales of Goldstone Wood series, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, Entwined, by Heather Dixon, and any book that retells fairy tales or explores different cultures with an emphasis on folklore.  For instance, one of my favorite authors, Erin Entrada Kelly, is releasing a debut fantasy novel this fall entitled Lolani of the Distant Sea, which contains many references to Filipino folklore.  I am very excited to read that one.

Oooh, a fellow Entwined fan! And Lolani of the Distant Sea sounds great too. So, what, in your opinion, is the best part of the writing process? The hardest part?
The most enjoyable part of the writing process for me is the way characters will surprise you.  I am more of a plotter now than a pantser, (which is not the way my writing began), but characters still
have a way of surprising you. I might begin by thinking one character is a villain, but then I realize they may not be. I also adore writing dialogue. If I can hear a character's conversation, the story
will flow smoothly.  I also love the revision process. My least favorite part of writing is the way in which I second-guess myself regarding world-building.  I admire authors who can develop such intricate worlds in such logical fashion.  I have to constantly review my plots to make sure that the points about the world make sense.

World-building can be tough, I agree. As readers may or may not know, you happen to be blind. Does that affect your writing process at all, as opposed to the writing process of a sighted author? If so, how?
That is an excellent question. No, my writing process is probably no different except in the equipment I use. I use a device called a Braille Sense to outline; a handheld machine with a Braille display I
can read and a Braille keyboard on which I can type ideas about characters or outlines plot points.  I type multiple drafts of a manuscript on a standard laptop computer that uses a speech program called JAWS. The screenreader reads what I have written, and I can then go back and listen for any mistakes and correct them. I do hire an editor to help me with visual aspects of a story.  It's amazing how simple details about vision can be so tricky. For instance, in a certain story, I had a chase scene in which soldiers were pursuing two sisters. I didn't realize how far-ranging a person's eyesight is, so
I had to adjust the scene fairly significantly in order to make it realistic.

That would be tricky. What sources did you draw on for inspiration as you wrote Rebekah's Refuge, other than, of course, the original Rapunzel fairy tale?
I drew on 2 Corinthians 5:17, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation," since the story explores the theme of renewal.  I drew on news reports about the disease of racism that is infecting our country.  Even though much progress has been made, there is much that still needs to be done.  I also drew on my own family's experience with illness.  We have been having a difficult year with my
grandmother's sickness, and I understand the pain and distress involved in caring for someone who is very ill.  This fact helped me to develop the villain's backstory.  Well, he may or not be a villain.
Readers will have to judge that for themselves. I also researched different types of faerie lore.  Norns were inspired by dryads and naiads, spirits of the trees and water.  While I wanted my norn characters to have human aspects, (they are meant to reflect humanity even if they are otherworldly), I wanted to portray a reclusive race who are often misunderstood even if they have much to offer.

I can confirm that you did a great job with that. Speaking of the norns, Rebekah's Refuge features a very unique magic system involving music and magical hair. How did you come up with this magic system?
The magical system was inspired by the original tale of Rapunzel, a fairy tale that I love but that often frustrates me. When Rapunzel is in the tower, she often sings, and her singing is so lovely that it causes the birds to cease their music to listen to her. The singing also draws the prince toward the tower. While I have always enjoyed Rapunzel's story, I felt that she was cruelly used, both by the witch and the prince. He was drawn to her music, yes, but he only visits her at night and makes her weave the rope that he will then use to free her. He is a prince. Why can he not report what he has found, capture the witch and find a way to release her sooner? If you read the original tale, (not the sanitized version), you will be disturbed by his actions and their end result.

I wanted the hair and Rapunzel's voice to stand for inner strength, a strength which she can rely upon with or without a man's help. This world's Creator is the one who empowers, thus he gives the norns
something they can use both to help humanity and themselves.

That's beautiful. Now, time for a fun question! If you could spend an afternoon with any of the characters in Rebekah's Refuge, who would you pick and what would you do?
I would love to hang out with Rebekah, the norn who is my main protagonist's namesake.  She's creative, kind and lonely, and she loves interacting with others.  Unfortunately, she is often misunderstood, but she is protective of those she loves and is very strong.  Rebekah is the "witch" stand-in in my tale because I have never considered the witch in Rapunzel to be a villainness.

I did notice that. That's an interesting perspective. Finally, any hints on what book you'll be working on next? Do you think there will be more books set in the world of Rebekah's Refuge someday?
Absolutely! I am working on a novella entitled Regret and Revelry, a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling. The story is about a fae kingdom of the Unseelie Court and a dysfunctional family within that court. When some lower-cast mortal sisters become entangled in a deceptive brother's schemes, the sisters must find a way to escape. However, the true villain is not the one you might think.  The story is inspired by The Twelve Dancing Princesses tale as well as 2 Samuel Chapter 13.

Yes, I hope to write more books in Rebekah's world.  In fact, The Princess and the Invisible Apple Tree, a Snow White retelling I released last year, is set in that world in an earlier time period. That story does not deal with norns, however, and addresses more nonmagical events.  Even if I write books in the same worlds, I prefer for all my works to act primarily as stand-alones.  I deeply abhor
cliffhanger endings or books that rely too much on previous ones in a series.

Regret and Revelry sounds amazing! And I didn't those two books were in the same world. That's super cool. Thanks for answering my questions!

And thank you, readers, for stopping by the blog and supporting the tour. Don't forget to check out the rest of the tour posts!
Have a lovely day!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Blog Tour Stops: August 8

Knitted By God's Plan - Five Reasons to Read
Light and Shadows - Five Reasons to Read

Reviews

The Language of Writing

Interviews

Dreams and Dragons - Meredith

Character Spotlights

Reality Reflected - Rebekah
The Labyrinth - Martha
Dragonpen Press - Frederick
Or find the full list of stops here.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Golden Braids Blog Tour DAY 3: MECHANICAL HEART RELEASE! (Ft. Writing Deaf Characters (When You're Not Deaf))


Hey'a, everyone! As you can see from the title, Mechanical Heart is officially out! Writing, editing, and publishing this book has been quite a journey, and it involved a lot of challenges I didn't have to deal with when writing Blood in the Snow. But it's done; it's out in the world and ready for you all to explore; and all those challenges are now just life lessons and stories to tell. And for today, I'm sharing about one of those challenges . . . but first, blurb time.

About . . .

Mechanical Heart!

Can you save someone who doesn’t know if she’s alive?

Breen lives locked away, separated from the world by the walls of her clock tower and the machine of gems, gears, and magic that replaces her heart. That is, until an unexpected visitor appears in her tower, offering a dangerous gift: freedom. His promises awaken hope for a life unbound by the tower walls — but she knows that if he learns about her heart, it’s only a matter of time before he turns on her.

Josiah is powerless. Though he’s the crown prince of the mighty Chanian empire, he feels stifled by his inability to protect his people from the schemes of corrupt nobles. When he discovers a girl trapped in a locked clock tower, he thinks he’s finally found a problem he can solve . . . but more than just walls keep her captive.

From the royal palace to the streets of Rivenford to the tops of clock towers, secrets hide around every corner in this steampunk retelling of Rapunzel. Breen and Josiah hold the keys to each other's struggles — if they can break down the barriers that divide them.

Find it On: Amazon || Goodreads


On Writing Deaf Characters (When You're Not Deaf)

If you’re an author of speculative fiction, you learn pretty quickly how to write characters who are different from you. After all, most writers aren’t sword-wielding, spell-slinging adventurers or sharp-shooting, quick-witted starship captains. Very few of us grew up without knowing who our parents are; most of us haven’t had to deal with the mental or physical aftermath of fighting for our lives; and none of us have ominous prophecies hanging over our heads. (At least, I assume not. If I’m wrong on that one, please let me know.)

Mechanical Heart is no exception to that principle. After all, its cast includes a politician prince whose desire to change the world is only surpassed by his tendency to make dramatic speeches, a pair of pretty brilliant (and also rather technically minded) inventors, and a princess who might be one of the most outgoing and extroverted characters I’ve ever written. Oh, and did I mention that two of those characters — one of the inventors and the princess — are deaf?

So, how does a hearing author write a deaf character? The usual advice for writing characters different from you — “Write people, not characters” — only goes so far. For the rest, well, that requires a lot of research and a bit of ingenuity.

Most of that research went into figuring out how Breen and the other major deaf character, Princess Grace, would communicate and interact with other people. In the earliest version of the book, conversations between Breen and Josiah (the prince I mentioned earlier) involved a lot of written notes and too-accurate lip reading. However, the more I learned about life for a deaf person, the more I realized that what I had was both unrealistic and infeasible.

Thankfully, by the time I got around to writing the second, third, and fourth drafts, I had help. By that time, I was in college and had found a friend with a fair knowledge of sign language and the Deaf community. She and some of her friends were able to answer quite many of my questions, and they directed me to solid resources for learning more. (For those curious: most of the people I asked said that Lifeprint is the best choice for learning ASL, and I relied on it quite a bit in certain scenes.)

Of course, how characters talk to each other is only part of how they interact. I also had to try to understand how people in the Deaf community tend to view hearing people and what behaviors and attitudes would be realistic or unrealistic on both sides of the conversation. One resource I found particularly helpful on this point was a deaf YouTuber, Jessica Kellgren-Fozard, who has some videos that provide a really good look at a deaf person’s perspective. Of course, the attitudes of someone from our modern era might not match those of someone from the Victorian era . . . but I’m not writing historical fiction here! That meant I could make societal treatment of the deaf in the world of Mechanical Heart a lot more like what it is today than what it was historically.

(Also, minor sidetrack: Victorian attempts at hearing aids are fascinating. Most of them were something along the lines of an ear trumpet or a reverse megaphone — but the Victorian people found so many ways to hide them. In hairpieces, in hats, in fans, in chairs . . . it’s honestly impressive. This article from the Washington University School of Medicine covers the topic pretty well; go read it. It’s cool.)

Even once I’d done the research, writing from a deaf POV and about deaf characters had its own challenges. Obviously, I had to make sure I wasn’t including sound details when I was writing from the perspective of a deaf character. However, I also had to consider other details that normally wouldn’t be a concern, like whether or not characters would actually be able to see what the other was signing and what type of sign language different characters use. (For example, Breen uses her world’s equivalent of ASL, which has a grammatical structure different from that of English. On the other hand, Josiah, who often has to speak and sign at the same time, tends to use his word’s version of PSE, which uses ASL signs with English word order.)

Even with all that to consider, though, writing from Breen’s POV wasn’t any harder than writing from any other character’s POV. In fact, her scenes were often easier to write than Josiah’s many debates and other verbal sparring matches. The biggest challenge was just making sure I got her part right. I want to tell a good story, but I also want to tell it in a way that’s respectful to the communities my characters represent. I’m aware that I may have gotten some things wrong; after all, I’m only human. But I did my best, and I hope that will be enough.

So, are you excited to read Mechanical Heart? What are you most looking forward to? Have you ever written a character who's deaf (or faces other physical challenges that you don't)? What character that you've written about would you say is the most different from you? Please tell me in the comments, and don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour posts and enter the giveaway!
Have a lovely day!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Blog Tour Stops: August 7

Knitted By God's Plan - Five Reasons to Read
Light and Shadows - Five Reasons to Read
Dreams and Dragons - Writing Deaf Characters

Reviews

Reality Reflected + Mini Interview!
The Page Dreamer
The Language of Writing
The Labyrinth + Mini Interview!
The World of a Writer

Interviews

To be a Shennachie - Sarah

Guest Posts

Dragonpen Press - Why Nomances

Or find the full list of stops here.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Golden Braids Blog Tour DAY 2: Interview with Molly Storm


Hello, everyone, and welcome to the second day of the Golden Braids blog tour! Today's release: Molly Storm, a short story featuring a sea witch, pirates, and a surprising emphasis on family. (You'll notice that last thing is a theme this week . . . which makes me happy, obviously!) For today's interview, we have the main character of this book, Molly Storm herself! And I'll share what she has to say with you just as soon as I tell you a little about her book and author.

About . . .

Molly Storm!

A witch, a pirate, a lighthouse, and... seaweed? Molly Storm is a short story inspired by the tale of Rapunzel.

“You and I, lass, we’re both sides of the same coin. We’re both the heart of the ocean, but you’re more the kindness and goodness. I’m the storms that crush ships. Don’t cross me, Molly. I’ll crush all the sweetness out of you.”

Find it On: Amazon || Goodreads













Annie Twitchell!

Annie Louise Twitchell is a homeschool graduate who is obsessed with dragons and fairy tales. She enjoys reading, writing, poetry, and many forms of art. When she's not writing, she can often be found reading out loud to her cat, rabbit, and houseplants, or wandering barefoot in the area around her Western Maine home.

Find Annie on: Blogspot || Facebook || Instagram || Twitter || Author site








Interview With Molly Storm


Hello, Molly Storm! Welcome to the blog! To start off, can you tell us a little about yourself? Who you are, what you do, maybe a random fact or two?

I'm somewhat of an outcast. I don't know who my parents are, and I was raised by an old widow who lost her husband at sea. Naturally, I took after her. People around here don't much like witches. They're foolish, most of them, but Ulva teaches me to think more kindly of them.

I don't know; I might agree with you . . . Now, if you don't mind my curiosity, how did you end up becoming a witch living in a lighthouse? After all, that's not an occupation or location many people take up.

The old woman who raised me was called a witch by the local folk because of her knowledge of potions and charms, and also because she took on the duties of lighthouse keeper when no one else would. They used to say that her husband's ghost haunted the island and that's why she lived out there. Now, me, I know better. The only ghosts on the island are the ghosts of memories and regrets and long-lost loves.

I don't know, sometimes those are the hardest ghosts to escape. So, what's been the hardest part about raising Ulva? The best part?

I never met a child as sweet and as mild as Ulva. In many ways, that's the hardest as well as the best. She's so mild that it can be hard to tell when she needs comfort and care.

That does sound both wonderful and challenging. If you had a day off to go anywhere and do anything, anywhere and in any world, where would you go and what would you do?

I always wondered what it would be like to travel to Scotland. Rumors whisper that my parents hailed from there.

Scotland would be wonderful, and I'm not surprised you might be Scottish. Last question! If you could go back to the start of your story and change your decisions, would you?

I don't know. If I hadn't made the choices I made, I wouldn't have lived the life I've lived, and I don't know what I'd do without my Ulva. Do I regret how things happened? Stars, yes. But I can't say as though I could change them. I've made my choices and there are consequences, good and bad, and I've accepted both.

And thank you all for reading and supporting the tour! I hope you're all excited to read Molly Storm now! What are you most looking forward to about it? Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour posts and enter the giveaway!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Blog Tour Stops: August 6

Knitted By God's Plan - Five Reasons to Read
Light and Shadows - Five Reasons to Read

Reviews:

Reality Reflected
The Page Dreamer
The Language of Writing

Interviews

Unicorn Quester - Annie
Dreams and Dragons - Molly
Or find the full list of stops here.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Golden Braids Blog Tour DAY 1: Hair We Go Again!

 

Hello, everyone! It's day one of the Golden Braids blog tour, in which we celebrate five new retellings of Rapunzel — including my own, but that's not for a few days yet. Today's release: Kendra E. Ardnek's Hair We Go Again, book five in the Bookania Quests. I really, really love this book, and I'm sharing my thoughts on it (as well as the other books in the release) over at Light and Shadows. Here at Dreams and Dragons, on the other hand, we're interviewing two of the characters from the book . . . but first, a little about the book and author.

About . . .

Hair We Go Again!


Still reeling from recent trauma, Robin and Eric struggle to find stability in the midst of increasing tension both at home and with others. When friends ask their help to rediscover their castle, lost during their hundred-year sleep Robin and Eric agree to help. But this castle holds secrets of its own – including what may be the fate of Eric’s long-lost brother – launching them on another quest. Meanwhile, Maryanne's busy on a much more important mission of her own: find a jackalope. Yet no one’s ideas seem to coincide with hers, and family disagreements muddy everything. Can healing ever be found when people refuse to communicate?

Find it On: Amazon || Goodreads











Kendra E. Ardnek!

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.

Find her online at: Website || Blog || Goodreads || Facebook || Twitter || YouTube || Newsletter || Instagram || Amazon 







Interview with Eric and Lukas of Winthrop

Hello, your highnesses! Welcome to the blog! To start off, can you tell us a little about yourself? Who you are, what you do, maybe a random fact or two?
Eric: I'm Prince Eric of Winthrop, and this is my older brother Lukas, who just reappeared after being missing for six years. My wife is the best swordsman in the world.
Lukas: Really, that's the best you can do? Brag on Robin? Well, in that case, my wife has the longest hair in the world. Or ... she used to.
Eric: Let her skip a couple haircuts. She can get there again.

Hey, Robin is worth bragging on! Speaking of, what would you each say is your brother's best trait? Worst trait?
Lukas: Eric is very charismatic and a natural leader, but he doesn't like admitting when he's wrong.
Eric: Lukas is ... intelligent. But he's too passive and likes to avoid problems.

Interesting. As readers discover in Hair We Go Again, you two have had a bit of a rivalry going on for some time. Has that conflict always been present, or was there some moment or event that set it into motion?
Lukas: It wasn't always present. I used to adore my younger brother. But then he grew up and became insufferable.
Eric: Let's just face it, you're petty over how many things I'm better than you at.
Lukas: That is not the word I would use.

Ooof. If you two could do anything and go anywhere for a day, with the caveat that you had to spend that day together, where would you go and what would you do?
Lukas: Well, that would end in disaster.
Eric: Lukas never leaves the library if he can help it, so it'd also be pointless.

Ah well. It was worth a try . . .What would you say was the best part of your adventures in Hair We Go Again? The worst part?
Lukas: I would say that the best part is that I've finally returned home after so many years spent wandering. The worst part is that I apparently returned at the time when Eric was at his most brick-headedness.
Eric: I ... can't actually argue with that one.

Yeah, not surprised. Last question! If you could go back to the start of the story and give yourselves one piece of advice, what would you say?

Lukas:
I would tell myself to go more north and not take the detour I did.
Eric: I would ... try to listen to Robin more. Prioritize her over my father. After all, she is my wife and if my father can't understand that level of commitment, well ... that's his problem. He's the one who wanted me married.

Ha! Good advice, both of you. Thanks for answering my questions! 

And many thanks to all of you for stopping by! So, tell me, are you excited to read Hair We Go Again? What are you most looking forward to? Please tell me in the comments, and don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour posts and enter the giveaway!
Have a lovely day!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Blog Tour Stops: August 5

Knitted By God's Plan - Five Reasons To Read
Light and Shadows - Five Reasons To Read

Reviews

Christina and Camera + Mini interview!
The Language of Writing
The Labyrinth + Mini interview!
The World of a Writer

Interviews

Reality Reflected - Robin
The Rambling Rose - Rapunzel
Dreams and Dragons - Eric+Lukas


Or find the full list of stops here.

Friday, August 2, 2019

August 2019 Doings!

Welp. That's another month gone. For once, I was aware of the time passing . . . if only because I was painfully aware of how much longer I had to work on my Camp NaNoWriMo novel at times. Speaking of which, let's jump into the Doings!

Writing!

  • Obviously, the main event of the month was Camp NaNoWriMo. My 12 Dancing Princesses/Hades and Persephone retelling is turning out significantly longer than I anticipated, which is . . . I don't know how I feel about it, honestly. I do know that I forgot how talkative some of these characters are.
  • I'm not going to lie; a lot of this month was a struggle. I had a week where I barely had time to write, and another few weeks after that where I didn't want to write or do much of anything creatively productive. I'm pretty sure I know why — because most of the books at the top of my TBR were Asian fantasy, which I didn't want to read while I was still starting my new book for fear that they'd influence the setting or story more than intended. But that meant I basically didn't read anything, which meant that once my well of inspiration started getting low, it never got refilled. Lesson learned, I guess.
  • I did manage to finish the month, though, after a weekend trip that involved a lot of writing time in the car and after binge-re-reading Today Nothing Happened, a journal webcomic that's about as far in genre from my WIP as possible. My final count for the month was 20,140 words. So that's great.
  • And, in case anyone was curious: no, the book doesn't have an official title yet — particularly since my comment in my last Doings post about how the term Earth might not exist in this world sparked a discussion about why not and a revelation that I got mixed up on my etymology. (That is to say, the Earth is named after the dirt, not the other way around.) So now I'm trying to decide between two names:
    • Blood in the Earth. (Fits really well thematically with the book's setting and certain plot elements, but I'm not sure if people would see the term "Earth" and think our planet first, rather than dirt or soil — which would be a problem; while the world of the book resembles Earth strongly, it is not actually Earth.)
    • Blood in the Soil. (This avoids the confusion about Earth and fits most of the same themes that Blood in the Earth does, though it has somewhat different connotations. My main concerns with this one: for one thing, I'm not sure it would lock me into "Blood in the [insert s-word] for future titles, and for another, it kind of sounds like a Southern gothic novel to me? Though I could be wrong; I don't read Southern gothic.)
    • There were almost three names here, since I was still kinda considering Blood in the Night, but then I realized that it sounds like a vampire novel. So . . . that's out.
  • I also worked a bit on my D&D campaign during some of the points where I didn't want to work on my novel. (You would think that would be just as draining, but it kind of depends which episode I'm working on.) I currently have a bunch of ideas for different episodes and challenges, and they're all kind of right around level 3 or level 4, so . . . good thing characters tend to stay there for a while. I am seriously excited for this campaign, though, even if it's a long way from done.

Reading!

  • So . . . you know how basically tried to devour the library the last few months?
  • That did not happen this month.
  • Basically the only books I read were the other Five Golden Braids books — all of which are pretty great, by the way. But each of them gets a list-post next week in the blog tour, so I'll skip talking about them now.

Watching!

  • The most exciting thing I watched all month: How To Train Your Dragon 3! In the theater! One of our local theaters was showing it again on special, so my sister, my mom, and my sister's friend and her family all went to see it. I liked it on the whole, aside from some intended-as-comedic elements that I thought didn't need to be there, but I also have mixed emotions about the ending.
  • I mean, on one hand, it was a great ending — thematically fitting and all that. It definitely paid off all the character and plot conflict that we'd had over the rest of the movie.
  • But on the other hand, I am sad about certain things because those things involved goodbyes and it was not OK.
  • Also, this may have been the prettiest of the HTTYD movies, but don't quote me on that.
  • The second-most exciting thing I watched all month: I finally saw Spider-Man: Homecoming. Like most Marvel movies involving Tony Stark, it was a good movie, but could have been better if certain people actually bothered to communicate. Seriously, that could have eliminated a significant number of the more frustrating plot problems. And it's not like the pieces weren't already in place! And I'm going to rant about how I would have written the movie differently if I were in control — it's been out long enough that everyone probably has either seen it or knows all the spoilers. If you don't fit in one of those categories and you care about staying that way, just skip past the whole indented section.
    • So, a lot of the conflict comes from the fact that after Germany, Tony is kind of ignoring Peter — or, not necessarily ignoring, but at least not responding. And he gives no explanation for why that we're aware of. Bad call. We'll give Tony a pass initially, 'cause Steve kind of did a number of him in Civil War. But once he starts pulling himself back together and saw that Peter was still all excited to be a superhero and an Avenger, what should or could he have done?
    • Simple. Contacted Peter, maybe even invited him to Avengers/Stark Tower and basically said "Look, kid, you did great in Germany, you're excited, all that is awesome. But you're not quite ready to officially join the Avengers yet. So, the next several months are training time. Keep practicing with the new suit, keep proving what you can do at street level, and when you're ready, you can go on another mission with me."
    • Even better: Tony also uses this as an opportunity to set up a regular "check-in" time when Peter can talk to either him or (more likely) Happy and let them know how stuff is going, ask questions, that sort of thing. Y'know. An actual mentorship. That would've been great, but not absolutely essential.
    • Possibly Tony also uses this opportunity to start whatever training program Karen referenced in the film for helping Peter learn how to use the suit's advanced features (though that would eliminate some of the tension and comedic elements later on).
    • (Possible counterargument to this part of the plan: Tony is a busy man. He has bigger things to worry about than a kid superhero. Counter-counterargument: the film makes it pretty clear that Tony was aware of what Peter was doing anyway, and also, taking responsibility for your choices is a thing.)
    • So. Now Peter's not as frustrated by the fact that he's not doing "real" superhero stuff because at least he knows he hasn't been forgotten about. He's still hero-ing every spare minute, probably, and so the film's plot goes more or less as it would anyway up through the first encounter with Vulture up through the bit where Peter finds out where the weapons deal is happening and tells Happy about it.
    • At that point, instead of Tony still pretending he's ignoring Peter and secretly calling in the feds, he tells Peter "Great work, kid; I've called in the feds and we'll take it from here." Peter probably protests that he wants to still be involved. Possibly he shows up anyway and still messes stuff up somehow, but in that case, it's his own storming fault and Tony is honestly justified in taking the suit away.
    • Or, possibly, it doesn't even get as far as the weapons deal. Possibly Peter instead tells Tony about tracking the Vulture and his crew to Maryland, Tony says "Great; thanks; we'll take it from here," and Peter interferes then and gets the suit taken away then — though, obviously, that would have made the Washington Monument scene go very differently.
    • After this, the film continues basically like it did anyway, and the climax goes down pretty much just like it did in the movie, 'cause that was honestly really great.
    • And after the climax, Tony still invites Peter to be an Avenger, and Peter probably still says "Thanks, but I think I need more training." Or possibly it's more low-key; maybe Tony shows up with Peter's new suit in hand and is like "Hey, you did great. You're still technically in training, 'cause you're a minor and probably shouldn't be doing full-time heroing, but you get to go on missions with me sometimes now. Speaking of which, suit up." That would lose the impact of Peter's choice, but I think it would still work thematically.
    • Aaaaand there you go. Spider-Man: Homecoming as rewritten by me.
  • Ok, for those of you who didn't want to read spoilers: those are over now. MOVING ON.
  • In other movie-watching news: I'm trying to figure out how I feel about western movies.
  • See, my dad really likes western movies (specifically John Wayne western movies), and I like the idea of westerns (to the degree that I had a whole subplot in one novel that was basically "how close can I get to a western in a medieval-ish fantasy setting?"). But the only western movie I'd watched until recently was the original The Magnificent Seven, which is a good movie with great character development . . . culminating in the death of a lot of the characters I really liked.
  • Needless to say, this did not make me feel terribly inclined to watch more westerns.
  • However, my dad recently bought a collection of old John Wayne movies and wanted to watch some of them. And I was feeling bad about having judged an entire genre off of one work, so I said I would watch a couple of John Wayne movies before I went back to Cedarville. And that is how I ended up watching Blue Steel and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and why I'm now trying to figure out how I feel about the genre as a whole.
  • (Blue Steel, for the record, was intensely unimpressive, but it was also obviously a low-quality movie with equally low-quality writing. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, on the other hand, was very well-written, very well-acted, and very well-staged. The scriptwriters and directors did an excellent job of showing you that even minor characters had lives and dreams outside of the plot, the conflict was pretty well set up . . . but certain things didn't happen like I expected them to, and I'm not sure if I like how they happened instead. Also, Tom Doniphon is problematic, but he reminds me of certain of my characters, so now I don't know how I feel about him or them. It's a problem.)
  • Oh, and I watched more Star Trek. I continue to prefer The Next Generation to the Original Series, but I don't think that surprises anyone.

Life!

  • I MADE PECAN PIE! Obviously this is the most important thing that happened all month.
  • (It's not. But it was delicious and I'm very happy about how well it turned out.)
  • Anyway. Even aside from Camp NaNoWriMo, July was pretty busy, especially the first half of the month. That's not a bad thing, but it doesn't help my ability to write.
  • Independence Day was fun, but low-key: we went over to a friend's house, enjoyed some really great barbeque, and watched the DC and New York fireworks from the comfort of the friend's living room. (It had been threatening rain all day, plus no one was really that excited about going somewhere to sit in a buggy field to watch things explode, so we decided it was better not to risk anything.)
  • Next on the lineup: Cow Appreciation Day! Yes, we did go to Chick-Fil-A for all three meals. But, look, if they're going to give me a free chicken biscuit or BBQ chicken sandwich or whatever and all I have to do is show up wearing a cow shirt, I will absolutely take that deal. (I mean, technically I got a breakfast burrito instead of a chicken biscuit, but my point remains.) This was also the day we went to see HTTYD3, so it was a good day all 'round, if not a terribly productive one.
  • And shortly after that, my grandpa came to visit (as he usually does this time of year), so that was fun. That said, we didn't do a ton while he was here, since he's having hip problems. We did go to 7/11 on 7/11 day for free slurpees, though. And then, oddly enough, we then visited him a week or so after he left so that he and my dad could make my sister a desk hutch for Cedarville. (Why did we not just make it here? Basically, Grandpa is better set up for woodworking projects than we are, and we had to be in Pennsylvania anyway to drop my sister off for the camp she was volunteering at, so . . . why not?)
  • So, yeah, that's pretty much all the event-y stuff. In non-event-y stuff: my sword is progressing fairly well. All the pieces are printed and sanded, so now I just have to epoxy them all together and paint the whole thing. I'm also toying with the idea of making some kind of sheath for it, but I don't have the skills to make a model for 3D printing . . . anyone have any suggestions?
  • And, yeah, as you probably guessed from the start of this section, I've been baking! So far, I've made several loaves of sourdough bread (I still can't get it shaped right, though I'm making progress on the density problem), pretzels (twice! they were delicious), pancakes (also delicious), and pizza. I'm unreasonably proud of the pizza.
  • (Also, I play Hearthstone on and off, but July was more an "on" month than an "off" one because they were running a special event and I absolutely loved their special twist on the game for the first two weeks of the month. I really wish there was a way I could play those characters outside the event, 'cause they made those particular classes two to five times more interesting than they had been. Well, three of the five did. The other two, not so much. Needless to say, this did not help with Camp NaNoWriMo, especially since the most interesting week of the special event coincided with the week in which I felt least inspired.)

August Plans!

  • Mechanical Heart releases August 7! That's less than a week away! I am quite excited but also a bit stressed — more about the tour than the actual release. It should be good, though.
  • On that note: you get a blog post every day next week on both my blogs. Different blog posts, even. On Light and Shadows, I'll be posting five reasons why you should read each of the Golden Braids books. Meanwhile, Dreams and Dragons will be hosting an assortment of interviews.
  • And after that, I will probably take a week or two off of blogging, both because I'll be tired from the blog tour and because I'll be headed back to Cedarville the week after my book releases!
  • This semester should be pretty solid on the whole. I don't have any classes that I'm dreading, though I am nervous about some of my graphic design classes — I've heard that the professor is tough. But, hey, I get to learn how to make fonts, so that's exciting. Plus, I get to take a creative nonfiction class, which was one of the creative writing courses I was most disappointed out missing back when I decided not to do a creative writing minor.
  • Besides that, August will mostly be occupied with trying to finish up projects: the draft of Blood in the [Something], the first month or two of my D&D campaign, my sword, my knitted cloak (or, part of it, anyway), a few other dorm items, and so on.
  • Also, I need to get back to the whole reading-all-the-books thing. And I have shows I want to watch.
  • So, yeah.
How was your July? What are your plans for August? Which title do you think sounds better, Blood in the Earth or Blood in the Soil? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)