Friday, October 13, 2017

The Plantser's Guide to Worldbuilding

Hey’a, everyone! A while ago, someone asked me to post about my worldbuilding process. I originally wanted to do a full-on how-to post, which is why it took me so long, but eventually I came to the conclusion that I can get the information across just as easily and a lot more concisely in a list post- which is what we’re doing today!

A bit of a disclaimer before we get started: I am neither an expert on the topic nor am I a hardcore planner. If you want advice from someone who fits that description, Jill Williamson has a fabulous series over on Go Teen Writers and a legit published book with tips on basically every aspect of creating a unique fantasy world, both of which I’ve read and highly recommend. However, I do have a method that works really well for me as a pantser/plantser. And if you are a fellow non-planner or you just want a technique that’ll let you do some planning without getting overwhelmed or bogged down in all the details, then hopefully my tips will help.

The Plantser’s Guide to Worldbuilding

  1. When you’re getting ready to write your novel, focus on what’s necessary. This is the key to my method. If you don’t remember anything about it, remember this: if something probably won’t significantly affect your story, don’t worry about it. Focus on what you know will affect your plot and you don’t get bogged down in planning every little detail, you don’t become overwhelmed, and you don’t have to search through pages and pages of notes trying to find the information you need. Granted, you won’t know very much about other areas of the story, but that’s fine. For example, when I created Udarean for The Way of the Pen, I focused most of my worldbuilding on the Authors and the Order of the Pen- in other words, the world’s religion. On the other hand, when I planned the world of Blood in the Snow, I focused a lot on the Bloodgifts, the ruling families of the two main empires, and the political interactions among different countries. I still know relatively little about the governments of Udarean or the religions of the Blood in the Snow world, but that’s ok, because those things don’t significantly affect my main characters or my plot. When I need to know them, or if I get a brilliant idea sometime, I’ll sort them out; until then, I don’t need to stress about not knowing.
  2. Know your storyline before you start worldbuilding. I’m not saying you have to have every scene planned out in excruciating detail, but you need to know something. I, personally, make a bulleted list of Significant Events and general plot movements that I think might happen. This plan helps me figure out what aspects of worldbuilding I need to focus on, which, as I already said, is vital to my method.
  3. Come up with a world concept. Or, in other worlds, know how to answer the question “Where is your world similar to?” For example, the world concept for Blood in the Snow is “fantasy almost-Asia.” Most epic fantasy novels have “Medieval Europe, but with X” as their world concept; for steampunk it’s usually “Victorian England, but with X.” You can also have a world concept that’s a mix of several places and times: Udarean blends Greece and Japan, and Aralan has elements of medieval, Victorian, and modern England and Germany. The world concept is useful as a jumping-off point for brainstorming culture, food, architecture, and so on, for research, for picturing your world, and, of course, for naming characters. That said, you do have to be careful to make sure that your world doesn’t become completely identical to the country or countries you’re using for your concept, because at that point you’re basically writing historical fantasy and might as well just go all the way and make it truly historical.
  4. Know your important places. So I said earlier to just plan what’s necessary, which means that worldbuilding can look different for every book . . . But that doesn’t mean there aren’t patterns. There are certain things that I plan for almost every story I write (or else wish I had planned!), and they mostly have to do with place. A short list of locations you might want to think about:
    • Country names. At the very least, know the name of the country your character came from, but it can be helpful to know what the surrounding countries as well. Knowing a few distinctive features about the culture or geography about each country is good too. For example, there are eight countries or regions in Berstru, and although I’ve only really developed about half of them, I know a little something about each one. (Pemew, for instance, is characterized by swamps; Arahad used to be a major center of culture but isn’t anymore; and so on.)
    • Capitals/Major Cities. This one’s only really necessary in your character’s home country and any country they’re likely to travel to. Again, know the name and one or two especially distinctive things about the city. No need for more.
    • Major Land/Water Formations if your character is likely to encounter or reference them. You don’t need to know every river in the country. You don’t need to know every mountain on the continent. That said, if there’s a major mountain range or river or something somewhere, try to have an idea what it’s called and where it is. This is doubly true if the place is somehow magical or especially culturally significant.
    • Maps are actually super handy, if you feel like making them. They don’t have to be terribly detailed (most of mine are super sketchy, just rough outlines really), but they can help you sort out where countries are in relation to each other, where the cities are, mountain ranges and rivers, and so on. If you’re going to be working with a particular world long-term (e.g., over the course of multiple books), it can be helpful to make one.
  5. Build and adjust as you go. Sometimes, you discover that some element of your worldbuilding needs to be changed to improve the story’s plot, and unless that element is a major plot point in previous books, that’s fine. Change it, make the adjustments needed, and keep going. Sometimes you need to actually write about the world in order to really know what it’s like, and that’s fine too. Sometimes you come up with an insight about your world or a country or culture or region or something in your world after you’ve finished your story, or when you’re midway through the series, and that’s fine too. Jot down the idea, make the necessary changes, and keep going. In a lot of ways, your world is another character in your story. You can put details down on paper, but there’s always something you don’t know, always something you can discover, always a new way for it to develop. If you keep that in mind, world-creation goes a lot better.
What do you think? What methods do you use for worldbuilding? What advice would you give on the topic? Do you think that the world is a character? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
 -Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

September 2017 Doings!

September is a weird month. It starts out super calm, almost like it's still summer, and then halfway through- boom. Everything is crazy and you have no free time anymore and you're running from one place to another and working right up until you have to go to bed in order to balance everything. And then you get to the end of the month and things have sort of calmed down- but not really; in many ways you've just gotten used to the craziness and learned to live with it. So, yeah. There's the short summary of the month. For the long summary, read on!

Writing!

  • Oh, yay, I finally finished Blood in the Snow! I only dragged it out two whole months after it was supposed to be done!
  • Seriously, though, I need to have less chatty characters and a better feel for what scenes are necessary and which ones aren't, because those are 50% of the reason I didn't finish back in July like I was supposed to.
  • Well, that and the fact that I kept having three million other things to do. Like school. And social stuff. And exercise. And all the stuff that's going to go in the Life! section.
  • In other news, I wrote my first creative nonfiction piece ever and I'm super happy with it. I hope to post it on here at some point. I almost posted it on Friday in place of Friday 5s, but ended up not even having time for that. Oh well. It shall appear eventually.

Books!

  • As you can see, I did not do a lot of reading this month. But I enjoyed what I did, so I guess there's that?
  • The month started with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which I think I liked about as much or maybe a little better than the first one. I'm oddly attached to Ginny for some reason that I can't really explain? So yeah. I mean, the whole Weasley family is great, but I especially like her. On the other hand, Lockhart is an utterly useless git, and his Dueling Club idea (it was his idea, wasn't it? I can't remember; it was weeks ago) was so incredibly stupid-
  • Anyway. I'd probably be further along in the series, but I'm waiting for my roommate to finish rereading the thing so we can move on at the same time. Otherwise, I'll probably finish book 7 while she's still working on book 4 or something.
  • 2.5 of this month's books were rereads. Unexpected Magic I picked up because Deborah O'Carroll reminded me of one of the stories which I loved ("Little Dot," if you were curious; it's an excellent story and I highly recommend it.) And Do You Take This Quest was just re-released this month, so I wanted to see what changes Kendra made.
  • The .5 reread is The Screwtape Letters- not because I've only read half of it before, but because I only comprehended half of it the first time I read it. I enjoyed and appreciated it much more this time around. Lewis is brilliant, ok? It's still not the sort of book I think I'd read every year or something like that, but still, it's excellent.
  • And, of course, I read and reviewed Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World for the blog tour last week. (Was that really just last week? Stars . . . it feels so long ago!) I suggest you just go and read my review if you want to know what I thought of it, but for the TL;DR version: Wanted is very unique from Davis's other works, while still containing many of his trademark elements. It's aimed at middle grade readers, but I think anyone of any age could enjoy it quite well.
  • Finally, not pictured but getting a mention anyway is Pride and Prejudice. I didn't exactly reread it straight through, but I practically did, I've skimmed through it so many times in the last week. I was trying to find quotes from it for a class project, and I made the thing about 5x harder than it needs to be- but there was a contest and a prize involved along with the grade. So, while I could've had the grade after about an hour's scrolling through Goodread quotes and slapping them on a Word Document, I decided to go all out and do something cool, which turned I think turned out pretty well:
Bad cell phone picture. Best I can do right now because I turned it in yesterday.

Watching!

  • Still watching Fairy Tail! Surprise, surprise. We haven't even made it out of the first season yet, even though we've actually watched a fair bit.
  • I still think it's kind of a popcorn show, though less so than I did at the beginning. The fact that the arc I'm currently in is shaping up to be on the darker side makes a difference towards that. I still love the magic and the worldbuilding, and I'm getting to the point where I actually like most of the characters to some degree.
  • Also, the last two arcs were actually super fun. I mean, Phantom Lord was 75% fighting and Lucy being weepy and dramatic, which aren't exactly my favorite things in the world- but the fighting showcases the magic, which is one of my favorite parts. Also, there's a super cute sibling relationship that I found out about and it makes me quite happy. And then the Loke mini-arc . . . let's say I saw very little of it coming but I absolutely loved it and Loke is in my top five favorites now.
  • (That said, his name is pronounced the same way as Loki from Marvel and it's very confusing. Actually, names in general in Fairy Tail are confusing, because you have mostly either fantasy names or Asian-sounding names, but occasionally you have random English names? Or weird names that really don't seem to be names at all? So yeah. I don't know what's going on with that.)
  • Also, I got to watch the extended edition of Fellowship last Friday! I haven't watched any of the LotR movies in a couple years, despite my best intentions, so I really enjoyed this, and it made a nice de-stresser at the end of a very crazy week. Apparently, a few of the other girls on my hall (one in particular) are a fellow Tolkien fans, and one of them acquired the movie from the library and decided to do a half-hall movie night. Most of the people who decided to watch had seen the movie before at some point, but it was the first time for two of my friends. I quite enjoyed seeing and hearing her reaction to the movie and the way she tried to sort out what was going on.
  • That said, we sort of didn't finish the movie until 1 in the morning . . . and then I stayed up another half-hour to finish getting ready for bed and talking about storycraft with one of the girls who hadn't seen LotR before . . . so that maybe wasn't the smartest idea in the world. But for every once in a while- worth it.

Life!

  • So the highlight of this month is conveniently located at its beginning: I went to my first-ever Renaissance Festival! I didn't go in costume, because it was a bit rainy and more than a bit muddy and the only costume I had on hand was my mistcloak, which I didn't want to accidentally mess up. But even without dressing up, I had a lot of fun! Most of the day we spent walking through the festival and looking in little shops (and then backing out of them once I saw the prices . . .) and admiring the costumes of all the people who did dress up. It was a pretty interesting mix: some people who went all-out authentic, some people who took a more medieval-fantasy tack, some who were solidly fantasy, and some who apparently decided that steampunk totally qualifies for a Ren Fest. Not that I'm criticizing, because most of the steampunk people had clearly put a lot of effort into their costumes and they looked awesome. We didn't watch many of the shows, but we did see the joust. I tried to take pictures, but they all turned out blurry. I still enjoyed it, though. Also, I had falafel for lunch and I acquired a map of Odysseus's travels in The Odyssey as a souvenir, so that's awesome. I plan to mat and frame the map and hang it up . . . somewhere. Not sure where. (The problem with my plan to acquire a new bookshelf at home is that it cuts into my picture-hanging wall space quite a bit . . . Oh well. Books trump pictures every time.)
  • That was, as I said, the big event of the month. Otherwise, I spent most of my time either in class or working on assignments for class. The thing about my major is that there's not many tests, but there are a lot of projects, so it's more fun but it also takes more time. That said, I'm super happy with a lot of what I've made, and I know I've learned a lot even in just a little over a month, so I'm not complaining. (I have an actual business card now! Or would if I actually got the one I made printed out. And in another class, we did practice job interviews and I actually did pretty well? So yay for that!)
  • Also, I've found myself enjoying my English class a lot more than I was originally. Actual lectures still aren't terribly interesting, and diagramming is rather tedious after the tenth sentence on one worksheet- but the material is reliable. I know where I stand with grammar, even if others might not. And while the professor and I still don't see eye to eye on diagramming, I like her. She's passionate about what she does, and she genuinely wants to make sure her students learn, and she kind of reminds me of one of my professors from last fall.
  • In other news, I still haven't really done anything for the newspaper, but I did find out that I can maybe start doing book reviews for them, and yesterday I talked to my editor about a list of potential books to review. The first part of the semester, I was too nervous to take any jobs and there weren't any articles that really interested me, and then the second half hit and I had major projects due for every single professor within a two week span, plus the Wanted blog tour, plus exercise to keep myself sane, and . . . yeah. Most of those big projects and such are done now, though, so I hope that I can pick up some assignment- either a confirmation on a book review or something else- at the next meeting. (I'd like a photography job, whether or not I end up doing a book review . . . I mean, it's probably more time consuming than writing? And it's less relevant to what I want to do with my life? But I miss photography, I really do, and if I don't get a specific assignment with it, I might try to set aside a Saturday morning or weekday evening sometime to walk around and just take pictures on campus. Maybe if I do it in the evening, I can convince a friend or two to come so I can practice portrait photography too . . .)
  • I also started doing a martial arts class, which I'm really enjoying. I'm not sure that I'm very good at it? I mean, I'm far from perfect, and there's two particular moves that we do at every class and I still wonder if I mix up every time? But I'm getting the concepts down, and I can actually keep up during most of the actual class even though I'm roughly 5x less athletic than almost everyone else who comes regularly. So that makes me happy. (Also, the instructor recently let me and a few other girls move up a level, since we've mastered what he taught us at the start to his satisfaction, so yay for that! Of course, I had to miss the class right after he let us move up, because the project I mentioned in the reading section took 3x longer than I expected, but it's fine.)

October Plans!

  • So, obviously, it's already October, but I can still have plans for the rest of the month, right?
  • We're not going to talk about the obvious thing much- I have classes. I have homework. I'm going to do those things and they're going to take up most of my time. That's just life. At some point I'll probably have to plan my classes for next semester, but that's not terribly difficult. It's mostly a matter of figuring out which classes that I need are only offered in that particular half of the school year and seeing what I can fit in around those.
  • I think my church's Bible study will hopefully start back up soon, though, so that's exciting! We're beginning a bit late, since the professor who leads it was super busy earlier in the semester. I don't know what book we're going to go through, but last year we did Micah, and I'd definitely like to try for another minor prophet or two.
  • As far as writing goes, I started rewriting Blood in the Snow last night and got about 1.5K in. I doubt I'll be able to keep up that pace daily, but I hope I can set up some kind of regular schedule. While rewriting and editing Blood in the Snow is my current plan for NaNo this year, I'd really like to be mostly done with the first rewrite before then.
  • Also, the trees around campus are finally starting to show fall colors, and I really want to get out with my camera sometime before all the leaves fall. Maybe this Saturday . . . though Saturday is also homecoming, and I don't really want to deal with all the crowds when I'm trying to get a good picture. We'll see what happens.
  • Of course, the big event of October is Fall Break! My roommate and I are making plans for a craft weekend at her house again so we can work on Halloween costumes. I can hardly wait, especially since I may or may not have been planning my costume since last year . . . That's normal, right? Anyway, I'm not going to say too much, since I don't know what'll work and what won't, but I'm thinking steampunk.
  • And, of course, once we get back, there will be Halloween events- one for my major and one for my dorm that I'm certain of, and maybe (hopefully!) others, and I'll get to show off my costume- maybe more than one costume; I have my mistcloak with me, just in case I need it- and it's going to be awesome and yeah. I'm maybe too excited. Oh well. Literally the only reason I get so worked up is that it's an excuse to dress up.
How was your September? Do you have any plans for October? Do you get excited for Halloween costumes? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)
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Friday, September 22, 2017

Blog Tour! Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World! (Featuring Author Interview, Giveaway, and Superhero Awards!)

Hello, everyone! Guess who gets to participate in a blog tour for the newest release of one of her favorite authors? Yep, this girl! I'm super excited to help spread the word about Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World- and not just because Bryan Davis is awesome, but also because Wanted is pretty great in its own right. First up on this post, I have a pretty fun interview with Mr. Davis, followed by my own thoughts on superheroes. However, since I've already posted about the qualities that make a hero and I'm not sure I can pick my top five favorite superheroes, I instead decided to hold the Superhero Awards, featuring categories suggested by my friends around the internet. But before we get to any of that, a little about the book and author:

About the Book

Eddie Hertz is smart, real smart. He has to be. What other twelve-year-old patrols the streets of Nirvana alone, hoping to foil the schemes of the evil Mephisto? Since Eddie is small for his age, he trusts in his Batman-style gadgets belt and acrobatic skills as well as lots of experience, like knowing how to swing across dark alleys without being seen.

Eddie has a dream, to become like Damocles, Nirvana’s great superhero. To make that dream come true, Eddie invented a device that is supposed to give him superpowers, but using it on himself is dangerous, maybe even fatal. He doesn’t have the nerve to try it.

When Mephisto unleashes an earthquake machine on the city, Eddie gets a surprising teammate — his quirky eight-year-old sister, Samantha, who comes up with an unexpected way to help Eddie in the frantic battle to prevent the biggest earthquake of all.
Since Damocles has lost his ability to help in physical form, Eddie and Samantha are the only hope for Nirvana and the world.

Find the book on: Amazon || Author Store || Goodreads

About the Author

Bryan Davis is the author of several bestselling series, including Dragons in Our Midst and the Reapers Trilogy, speculative fiction for youth and adults. Bryan and his wife, Susie, work together as an author/editor team to create his imaginative tales.

Connect with Bryan Davis on: Website || Store || Blog || Facebook || Twitter || Goodreads || Instagram 

Author Interview
Hello, Mr. Davis! Welcome to the blog! To start off, can you tell us a little about yourself? Who you are, hobbies, favorite books (other than your own), anything else you'd like to share?

I am the author of several speculative fiction series, the best known of which is Dragons in our Midst. I have been a fulltime author for fifteen years.

I enjoy hiking, especially in national parks, My three favorite novels are To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Joan of Arc by Mark Twain, and Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis.

I am a big fan of broccoli. I am probably in the top one percent for total annual broccoli consumption.

I definitely did not know that last fact. Moving on, Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World is pretty unique from your other books in a lot of ways. What inspired you to write a middle grade superhero novel (and this particular superhero novel in particular)?

My main reason for writing for this age group was simple. I heard from many teachers and parents who said their readers were too young for my books. I needed to fill that age gap with something that younger readers would love. I hope that many will be inspired by this story and then move on to my other novels as they get older.

I'm sure they will! What is your favorite part of the writing process? Your least favorite?

I enjoy writing the first draft and editing it to create the second draft. During these phases, everything seems new and exciting.

The most difficult is the last stage of editing. I usually go through a novel manuscript about eight times, often ten times. Those last couple of edits can quite tedious, but I know they are necessary.

They definitely are, and that's something I think a lot of writers need to be reminded of. Since you just gave us that good advice: what’s your favorite piece of writing advice you’ve ever received, whether that’s the most useful, the most unusual, or something else?

I learned about motivation/reaction units from a book called Techniques of the Selling Author by Dwight Swain. This advice revolutionized my writing for the better.

It would take too long to explain this concept in an interview format, so I will direct you to a couple of posts on my blog:
Motivation Reaction Units Part One
Motivation Reaction Units Part Two

Interesting. One thing that I almost always find in your novels is some pretty cool technology, and Wanted is no exception. How do you come up with all that tech for this and other stories?

I have always been interested in technology. I was an engineering major in college and a computer professional for twenty years before I became an author. The blend of knowledge of tech with the creativity necessary for writing speculative stories creates a need for fun and imaginative technology. So, the bottom line answer is that I do a lot of imagining.

I can tell! On a related note: along with that technology come some genius characters. Eddie's one of them, obviously, but there’s plenty more, notably Ashley and Daryl (though I can think of more as well). What do you think would happen if all these characters somehow met and ended up working on the same project?

That would be a fantastically fun encounter. First, they would have to decide who was in charge. I think Ashley would be the best leader. Second, they would have to decide on a project to do. One might want to invent a time machine. Another might decide an anti-gravity belt would be more useful. And a third might think a teleportation device would be the best of all.

Then, after arguing (in a friendly manner, of course) for a few hours, they might end up making a pizza and calling it a day.

Why am I not surprised? Shifting gears now, what are some of the books, movies, or other stories that influenced Wanted?

The recent superhero movies, both Marvel and DC, influenced me in a negative way. A lot of “heroes” in modern culture are lacking in morality and selflessness, Captain America being a notable exception. I hoped to write a story that focuses on sacrificial heroism and inner virtue.

As a casual Marvel fan, I've definitely noticed that. Speaking of other stories: outside of your own books, who's your favorite superhero?

I like Captain America. I always enjoy a hero who is virtuous and sacrificial while still being caring and kind. I also like Batman because he has no real superpowers and has to rely on normal human strength, intelligence, and experience.

Captain America is absolutely the best. Finally: can we expect to see more adventures of Eddie, Sam, and the rest? And if so, can you give us a hint of what to expect?

If you have read the end of the story, you know that this book can easily be made into a series. I hope to do that if this book sells well. That would tell me that readers enjoyed the characters and probably want to hear from them again.

I hope so too! I'd love to read more about these characters! Thanks so much for the interview, Mr. Davis!

And with that, it's time for the second half of this blog post: the superhero awards! Essentially, this is a series of 7 categories chosen by myself and my friends. (Originally, there were going to be 9, but then writer's block happened and I couldn't figure out who to put in some of the categories.) In each category, I'll choose a superhero who best exemplifies those qualities, for good or ill. Ready? Let's get started.

As a note, the following awards may contain minor spoilers for the Marvel movies up through Civil War and C.B. Cook's Twinepathy. Characters from the Reckoners trilogy have been excluded, for the most part, even though they could totally win some of these categories, because I can't say anything about them without major spoilers. So, yeah. Read on with caution, if you care about that sort of thing. 

1. Best Character Development: Thor
 You thought I was going to say Tony Stark, didn't you? And, yeah, Tony does have great development, enough to make him the runner-up in this category- but here's the thing. They've both developed a lot, but Thor has matured more. When we first meet him, he's arrogant, reckless, impulsive, eager to be king, and eager for glory. He's a good guy, but immature in many, many ways. Yet by the end of The Dark World, we see significant change. He's humbler, wiser, more interested in protecting others than simply receiving glory or enacting some kind of revenge or justice. And rather than being eager to rule, he's willing to lay aside his claim to the throne if becoming a great king means going against what he believes is right.

2. Superhero with the Best Superpower: Doctor Strange.
Not just because he has time powers- ok, yes, mostly because he has time powers. But seriously, time manipulation is (or was) an incredibly underused ability in fiction, and I love that he's got it and uses it to such great effect. And, y'know, the rest of his powers are pretty awesome too.

As a runner-up, we have Data from Twinepathy. While her power- the ability to basically "download" information from anyone or anything she touches- isn't as spectacular as Doctor Strange's, it's much more useful and practical, and pretty unusual too!

3. Superhero with the Least Collateral Damage: Ant-Man
Ok, yes, he does sort of implode a building at one point but that's one building and a pretty big difference from other superheroes I can think of whose battles result in much more damage. I mean, it's not entirely their fault; most of them do their best to make sure the people in the area stay whole and unharmed even if the buildings sometimes don't. But Ant-Man still has the best track record . . . which could have something to do with the fact that he spends a lot of time really tiny, but you take what you can get.

Runner-up goes to the IDIA crew as a whole, because I'm pretty sure that's the only superhero series  can think of in which nothing blows up. Good job, guys. Keep it up.

4. Most Realistic/Relatable Superhero: Hawkeye.
So I almost gave this one to Spiderman, since his reactions to life in general in Civil War seemed pretty relatable (and realistic, even if his powers aren't) to me. I mean, if I got the chance to meet Captain America, Iron Man, and company, even if I was fighting half of them, I'd probably be pretty excited and make a little bit of a fool of myself because of it. However, Hawkeye wins this category for a few reasons.

For one thing, he doesn't have powers. No one can claim that he's only special because of science or magic. What Hawkeye has are skills he's worked hard to perfect and choices that he makes in the face of danger.

Hawkeye doesn't always know what's going on. He sometimes struggles to keep up with the others. He gets frustrated by all the craziness that goes on. He has a family and a normal life. But despite that, he goes out and does what he needs to in order to save the world and keep his friends grounded. So, in short, he's the most human of the MCU and therefore wins the award for most realistic and relatable superhero.

5. Most Tech-Genius Superhero:  Tie Between Tony Stark and Eddie Hertz
 So, my first impulse here is to say Tony Stark, for pretty obvious reasons. I mean, there's the Iron Man suits, of course, and it's implied that a considerable amount of other tech in the MCU is connected to Stark Industries. And if you look at the MCU Wiki, you'll see that Tony has a pretty impressive track record for technical genius even before the whole Iron Man business. So he's definitely a winner here . . .

But he does have to share the prize with Eddie, the hero of this whole blog tour. 'Cause, let's be honest: a kid who's smart enough to build a computer, a working virtual reality system, a hologram projector, and a storming superhero generator all by the age of 12 has to have tech-smarts at least as high as Tony's, if not higher. There's no doubt: Eddie's going places.

6. Superhero Most in Need of a Hug: The Winter Soldier
Bucky Barnes doesn't just need a hug. He needs to be wrapped in a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate and someone to protect and defend him and let him know that he's loved and things can be ok again. And maybe that's an overly simplistic take, but at least it's a start.
As a runner-up, we have Anvil from Twinepathy. It's been a while since I read the book so I don't know how much y'all have found out, but I know a bit about his backstory from beta reading Lightporter, plus I have more info from a roleplay that C.B. ran a couple years back, so . . . yeah. While his story isn't Winter Soldier-level, it's not a happy tale, and he definitely needs a hug and a(nother) friend.

7. Super-est Superhero: Captain America 
I don't think this choice will come as a surprise to anyone. Steve Rodgers might not be the Perfect Paragon of Purity that some people make him out to be, but he's still one of the best superheroes the MCU (or a lot of other superhero universes) have to offer. Yes, he's only human- enhanced human, but still human. Yes, he struggles, yes, he makes mistakes, and yes, he has a darker side. But he's one of the MCU heroes with the clearest values, who spends the least time in shades of grey, who's the least likely to accept wrong just because everyone else is ok with it. And so, while Captain America might not be perfect, I'd still say he's the most super of superheroes.

I'm not picking a runner-up for this category, because honestly, there's too many good options. Some of them have already received awards here; some of them haven't even been mentioned. But despite the amount of darkness that creeps into superhero universes these days, there's a lot of great heroes still out there.

Thanks, everyone, for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed the blog tour and that you'll pick up a copy of Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World for yourself! As a note, Bryan Davis is is running two giveaways. One is a fairly standard Rafflecopter giveaway in which you can win a copy of any of his books, along with a t-shirt and bookmark. The other is the grand prize giveaway, which requires a little bit more effort, but will get you everything from the first giveaway plus a $50 Amazon gift card. So definitely check those out, and if you want to win the grand prize, don't forget to visit the rest of the tour stops (list below).

Thanks again for reading! Please tell me in the comments: are you excited for Wanted? And who would you have picked for the superhero awards?
Have a great day!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Tour Schedule

Wednesday, September 20th
Tour Kickoff @ The Author’s Chair
Book Spotlight @ Backing Books
Book review and YOU WRITE: About Bryan Davis @ Zerina Blossom’s Books
Book Spotlight and Review @ The Spooky Bookshelf
Book Spotlight and Author Interview @ Scattered Scribblings
Book Review and Character Interview @ Light and Shadows

Thursday, September 21st
Book Spotlight and YOU WRITE: About Bryan Davis @ Red Lettering
Spotlight and Author Interview @ The Reader Addict
Spotlight and YOU WRITE: About Bryan Davis @ target verified
Book Review and Character Interview @ Hidden Doorways
Book Review @ Ashley Bogner
Book Review @ The Page Dreamer


Friday, September 22nd
Book Spotlight and Character Interview @ Story of Fire
Book Review @ Inkwell
Book Spotlight and Character Interview @ Liv K. Fisher
Book Review @ writinganyone
Spotlight and YOU WRITE: About Superheroes @ Dreams and Dragons – you are here
Author Interview and YOU WRITE: About Bryan Davis @ March to a Different Drum
Book Spotlight @ Author Jaye L. Knight

Saturday, September 23rd
Author Interview @ Jessi L. Roberts, author
Book Spotlight and Character Interview @ Book Lovers Life
Book Review and Character Interview @ Verbosity Reviews
Book Spotlight, Author Interview and YOU WRITE: Superheroes @ Creature of Graphite
Character Interview @ Wanderer’s Pen
Book Spotlight and Author Interview @ Adventure Awaits

Friday, September 15, 2017

Fall 2017 Reads (So Much Awesome!)

Hey'a, everyone! Normally, I would do this post a week from now, especially since next Friday actually falls on the first day of fall. However, next week I have other plans, so instead we get to explore next season's new books a week early. It's a sacrifice, I know, but one we all must make. Or, I must make, anyway. You're perfectly free to ignore this post until next Friday, but I do hope you won't, because I am super excited for some of these reads. Also, there's a lot of books to look forward to for what seems like the first time in absolute ages and it's quite wonderful.

Fall 2017 Reads

1. Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows (September 12)
Yes, yes, yes, this and the next one are technically already out. I'm only three days late, though, so we'll let it slide. Anyway- this is the only book on this list that I'm completely unfamiliar with beyond what's on Goodreads. It sounds like it has a lot of potential for awesome (and dragons, which are basically the same thing), but also a lot of potential to be just plain bad. We'll see which turns out to be the truth.

2. The Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud (September 12)
I didn't know I could be this excited for a Lockwood and Co. book, but after the ending of that last one- I need this as soon as possible, please. It sounds like it's going to be an incredible conclusion. Plus, I have theories about what's going on and I want to know if I'm right or not and yeah. It's going to be great. Or I hope it will be, anyway.

3. Lightporter by C.B. Cook (September ??) 
So, Goodreads just says that this one is coming out in September, so I wondered if it was already released? But it's not on Amazon, so I guess not. I've already read Lightporter (yay, beta-ing), so now I'm mostly just excited for everyone else to read it. If only we had an official release date . . .

4. Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World by Bryan Davis (October 1?) 
Again, I don't know what exactly is going on with the release date here, because Goodreads says October 1, but the blog tour is next week? I guess maybe the blog tour is just super early? I don't know. But I've already read this one too- just finished it, in fact!- and it's decidedly awesome. Again, I can't wait until others read it too so I can talk about it with them.

5. White Sands Volume 2 by Brandon Sanderson (November 14)
Arguably the book I'm least excited for out of all of these- which is kind of ironic, since it's by one of my top three favorite authors. I didn't care for the first White Sands book, and I don't have high hopes for this one either. However, I feel obligated to read it, because it's Cosmere and it has Khriss in it and potentially clues about who-knows what. At least since it's a graphic novel, it won't take super long to read. And who knows, this one might be better than the first.

6. Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (November 14)
AHHHHHH IT'S ALMOST HERE! Only two more months! Two more months! If I really wanted to, I could have started reading this a couple weeks ago, since Tor.com is giving us a preview, posting a chapter or two every so often, but I feel like that'll just drive me crazier. I want to get this book and be able to dive into it and not come out for hours. (So, I either have to read it over Thanksgiving break or clear a Saturday of schoolwork and other activities . . . doable either way.) But I want more of Kaladin and Shallan and Syl and Pattern and Dalinar's history and Szeth's development and Wit being Wit and people maybe answering some questions and probably raising more questions than they answer and just everything

7. Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maarten (November 28) 
I'm not quite sure what to expect from this, but based on some of the author's tweets/Facebook messages/comments-under-comics, I think it's time travel, which sounds pretty awesome, and urban fantasy, which I'm always looking for more of. This is technically Kari Maarten's debut, but I already know a little about her style from her webcomics- which, for the record, are quite awesome and mind-twisty and kind of weird. If Weave a Circle Round is anything like those comics, it's going to be absolutely awesome. 

What Fall 2017 reads are you looking forward to? Did I miss any on this list? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for stopping by!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, September 8, 2017

Holidays of Bookishness and Geekery

Hey'a, everyone! In case you missed it, yesterday was National Book-Buying Day, and as a result of my and my sister's celebrations, I am now the proud owner of Exiles, Reaper Reborn, The Dark Lord of Derkholm, and Lord of Chaos. If you missed the holiday- well, today's International Literacy Day, so I'd say you've still a pretty good excuse to celebrate by adding another book to your shelves. (Or by curling up with a book before bed; that's an option too, and probably a more likely one at this hour.) Actually, September's a pretty good month for bookish, geeky, and fandom-related holidays. Besides the two I already mentioned, you have the first of September (recognized by Harry Potter fans as the first day of Hogwarts), Unification Day on the 20th for the Firefly fans, and, of course, Tolkien Day or Bilbo and Frodo's birthday on the 22nd! September's not the only month with awesome-but-obscure holidays related to fandoms, books, or geekery, though; I have a whole calendar of these. And today, I thought I'd share some of my favorites.

Holidays of Bookishness and Geekery

1. February 26: Tell a Fairy Tale Day. More bookish than geekish, but this is still a fun holiday. Reread your favorite fairy tale (or fairy tale retelling), watch a movie based on a fairy tale, or, if you're a writer, maybe this would be a good day to start your own fairy tale retelling! I haven't celebrated this one myself, since I just recently discovered it, but I plan to next year!


2. March 25: Gondorian New Year. This holiday is also known as Tolkien Reading Day. It recognizes the date on which the One Ring was destroyed, Sauron was overthrown, and the Fourth Age began. Like September 22, it's an excellent day to read Tolkien's books, watch The Lord of the Rings, eat like a hobbit, quote Gandalf's "Good morning" speech (or any other line from the books or movies that happens to be relevant), and generally be dramatic. Or, if you wanted to focus more on the fact that it is the first day of the Gondorian year, you could borrow from other traditional new year celebrations- though you might have to do that the day before; I'm not sure.
 

3. May 25: Geek Pride Day. This holiday combines two celebrations from other books. Fans of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy celebrate Towel Day, because that's a thing. Actually, yeah, I get it; that was one of the funnier bits of the book. And for the fantasy-lovers, we have the Glorious Revolution of Ankh-Morpork in Discworld. I . . . actually haven't gotten to that book yet. Maybe by May I'll be caught up enough with the other sub-series that I can celebrate by reading Night Watch at last.
 

4. November 29: C.S. Lewis's Birthday. The summer is surprisingly lacking in geek, fandom, and bookworm holidays, y'all. I don't know why. In any case, Lewis's birthday is certainly worth celebrating, especially since Tolkien's already got two holidays all to himself. This would be an excellent day to reread your favorite book in The Chronicles of Narnia or the Space Trilogy- or, if you feel like nonfiction, to read one of Lewis's nonfiction books. Which I end up reading will probably depend on what I need to accomplish for my class on Lewis's works . . . which, unfortunately, meets the day before his birthday, not on it. Oh well.
 

5. December 8: Act Like a Time Traveler Day. I've known about this day for a while, but I've never had a chance to celebrate, mostly because it's no fun if you can't actually go anywhere to pretend. I might try to do something this year, though- perhaps not for the whole day, but for part of it. It'll be the week before my final exams, so I'll either be terribly stressed (and glad of a distraction) or one of the least stressed and busy people on campus (and therefore a bit bored and more inclined to go out and act somewhat ridiculous).

Do you celebrate any fandom-related holidays? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, September 1, 2017

Kendra E. Ardnek Cover Overhaul!



Hey'a, everyone! So, remember how I mentioned on Tuesday that Kendra E. Ardnek is overhauling her six major novels to add new covers and improved content? And remember how I said I was participating in the cover reveal? Well- today's the day! Along with the new covers, I'm sharing Kendra's notes on what we can expect from the new version, my own thoughts on the new cover, and a mini-review of each book. That's a lot of ground to cover, so let's get started, shall we?

We'll start with the Bookania Quests, all of which have covers designed by the author. First up, we have Kendra's debut novel, Sew, It's a Quest:
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.

Kendra's Revision Notes:
I sent this book to my kindle, tore it to shreds, then retyped the whole thing, making every word fight to stay in the book. I completely rewrote one chapter, and added/expanded several scenes, focusing on character development and pacing, in particular Robin’s character. 

Cover Thoughts:Woah. People in the Hangout chat were saying that they weren't expecting Sew to be pink, so I was kind of prepared, but- woah. Yeah. That's pink. I like it, though, more than I expected to. Maybe it's pink, but it's also very dramatic. Also, I like how the sword is intertwined with the words and the little needle and thread. My only complaint is that Kendra's name doesn't really stand out.

Mini-Review: So, this used to be my second-to-least favorite of Kendra's full-length books, mostly because, as Kendra herself has said, she released it into the wild before it was really ready. However, the re-released version is much better. There are still some rough spots and awkward sections of dialogue, and Doranna's speech still drives me a little nuts (even though I understand the reason behind it). However, it's still a fabulous fairy/folk tale retelling that combines Robin Hood, Sleeping Beauty, and an obscure little fairy tale called the Mountain Princess into a lighthearted, clever, and unique story. There are some pretty cool plot twists- some which I saw coming even the first time around, some which I didn't- and also some rather amusing twists on common expressions. In short, while Sew still isn't a perfect book, I do recommend it. (Also, it's permafree on Smashwords, so you have absolutely no reason not to at least get it.)

Find it on: Goodreads || Smashwords || Createspace

We continue through the Bookania Quests with Do You Take this Quest?
A prince’s quest for allies against his misery uncle and a madcap race to get home for a wedding

Kendra's 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. 

Cover Thoughts:It's so pretty! And purple! Also, there's the cake from the original cover in the picture, and it makes me immensely happy. I honestly think that this is my favorite of the new covers. I just love so much about it- the style, and the color, and the texture, and everything. 

Mini-Review:
So, Take is currently my least favorite of Kendra's novels- though that may change once Kendra re-releases it. As it stands, there is a fair bit I enjoy about this book: a unique retelling of the King Arthur legend, plenty of other fairy tale references, a whole host of colorful characters, and more of the same style of humor found in Sew. However, it shares a few issues with the original version of book 1- namely, rough writing and a Robin with whom I don't really get along. In addition, the flood of new characters can be confusing, and there seemed to be very little tension at all in the main storyline. The rewrite should fix most of those issues, though, so if you're interested but concerned, maybe just wait a little while (and go bug Kendra and read her other books in the meantime).

Find it on: Goodreads  

Finally, to finish up the Bookania Quests, we have My Kingdom for a Quest!
Prince Arthur’s quest to take back his kingdom, and Casperl’s quest to find out how, exactly, he’s a prince.
  
Kendra's 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. 

Cover Thoughts:
Like I said, Take is my favorite of the new covers- but Kingdom is definitely my second favorite. It's a little darker than the other Bookania covers, with that castle looming in the background, but that's a good thing. We've got the sword front-and-center, stuck in a pillar like in the original- which I like, though the pillar looks off. And once again, I really like the texture, this time in the grass. Random little things are what make or break a cover, y'know?

Mini-Review: 
This was my favorite of the Bookania Quests, though I think it's been replaced by the new version of Sew. It focuses on one of my favorite Bookania characters, Arthur, and is primarily a King Arthur retelling, though other stories are woven in as well. As usual, I love the twists Kendra puts on the classic stories, especially the Lady of the Lake bit. I also like that the characters who get the most screentime are mostly the ones who I like better, though the sheer number of characters is still a little hard to keep track of.

Find it on: Goodreads

Next up, Kendra's single standalone, The Ankulen. The new cover for this was designed by the lovely and talented Alea Harper, another fantasy and speculative fiction author, though she's currently unpublished.
Jen knows she had an imagination once – how far will she go to get it back?

Kendra's Revision Notes:
Mostly just a thorough edit. I don’t foresee any great changes.

Cover Thoughts:
Honest opinion: I'm not a fan. The new cover really doesn't seem to convey what the book is about, and it has an odd grungy vibe that doesn't go with what I remember of the book. Also, while I like that Alea included the titular Ankulen at the bottom, something seems off about its presence, almost like it doesn't blend or mesh properly with the rest of the cover. For a different book, it could be good. But for this book- well, like I said up front: not a fan.

Mini-Review:
I have never read a story like this one, but I absolutely love it. The idea of a writer losing her imagination is, quite frankly, terrifying to me, and so the idea of a quest to get one's imagination back is naturally captivating. I expected Jen to be a bit more enthusiastic about the matter from the start, but I liked her character development through the story. I also enjoyed the storyworld; Kendra captures the nature of a child's imaginary world well, such that it feels natural, but I can still take it seriously. A few things about this book bothered me- namely the very blatant allegory at the end- but it's still an excellent book.

Find it on: Goodreads

And we end with Kendra's second series, the Rizkaland Legends. This contains both the cover I'm least sad to see go (Water Princess, Fire Prince) and the cover I'm most sad to lose (Lady Dragon, Tela Du). These covers, like that of The Ankulen, were designed by Alea Harper, though they have a distinctly different style.

When two teens are pulled into another world, fire and water must work together to defeat a dragon.

Kendra's 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.

Cover Thoughts:
As far as quality goes, the new cover is much better than the old one. The color scheme is gorgeous, the design behind the title is pretty, and the fonts work really well together. But once again, I almost feel like this doesn't quite fit the book? Yes, there's a mountain. Yes, about half the book is spent trying to get to and through a mountain. Yes, the color scheme works with the water and fire thing. But honestly, the vibe I'm getting off it is "Inspirational quote picture on a hipster Tumblr," not "Awesome and unique portal fantasy." I don't know. Maybe that's just me.

Mini-Review:
So, I wasn't thrilled with this book for most of the first part- the world was unique, the storyline was fun, but Clara kind of drove me crazy. Then we met Andrew (who is, by the way, wonderful), and then after that, Clara met Andrew, and suddenly the book was much better because we had someone to moderate Clara's intensity. While the book isn't perfect, there is a lot to love: Laura, Andrew, Clarand, the worldbuilding, Amber, the plot, the themes . . .there's a reason that the Rizkaland Legends are my favorite of Kendra's books, and that reason starts here.

Find it on: Goodreads

And we end with Kendra's second-to-most-recent release and my absolute favorite of any of her books, Lady Dragon, Tela Du. As I said already, I'm most sad to see this cover go. I loved the original: the colors, the silhouettes, everything. That said, the new version is pretty nice.
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.
 
Kendra's Revision Notes:
Edits mostly. 
 
Cover Thoughts:
Like I said- pretty nice! I don't know if I like it more than the original, but I think I like it just as much. It keeps the silhouettes and actually has essentially the same color scheme, but with more red and purple and less gold. And this cover suits the book better than Water Princess, Fire Prince's did, even though it's a similar style. I think the silhouettes help a lot with that, since they keep the focus on the characters and story. 
 
Mini-Review:I love basically everything about this book. The characters. The ships. The emphasis on family. The fact that there are no unrealistic weapons prodigies. The plot. The plot twists. The world. The magic. Everything. Ok, maybe not quite everything- I didn't quite connect with a few of the characters, and that made the first part a bit difficult to get through. Also, there's Karyn. I can understand her motivation, but I don't like her. But both of those things are mostly personal opinion, and my overall personal opinion is that Lady Dragon, Tela Du is awesome.
Find it on: Goodreads

About 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 || Amazon 

For those who are interested, Kendra is running a giveaway of a full signed collection of all her books. Sounds pretty awesome, no? Full details are on her blog, but I will say that comments on the cover reveal blog posts give you a better chance of winning. I'll post a full list of participating blogs below.

Thanks, everyone, for stopping by, and Kendra for letting me participate in the cover reveal! For you, readers- have you read anything by Kendra? Also, which of these covers is your favorite? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks again for reading, and don't forget to check out the rest of the cover reveal posts!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade) 

Other Cover Reveal Stops: