Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February Doings: Surprisingly Not-Blah!

So remember how I said last month that February is the most boring month of the year? Well, that may still be true . . . but this last month has actually been pretty interesting, at least for me! It's also been an odd mix of busy and really chill, so that helps. Anyway, let's get on with what made it so interesting.

Writing!

  • So whatever made February interesting, it definitely wasn't writing, because I only wrote 554 words this month, and all of them were for one of the GTW writing prompts. It was still fun, and I really didn't expect to get any actual writing done this month anyway, but yeah. Also, while I'm actually rather pleased with what I came up with for the prompt (which was to have one of your characters meet his or her future self), I'm probably not posting it here. 
  • I did a bit better on editing, getting in about 1,661 words. Admittedly, most of that was re-editing new scenes that I wrote last month, but oh well. Better than nothing. Also, the number is lovely and symmetrical, which makes me happy.
  • I did figure out the problem I mentioned last month, I think, thanks to a lecture on the music of the Romantic period. (Fun fact: Franz Liszt was a total drama king who associated himself with the Faust legend- as in, he played up the idea that he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for insane musical skill- and on top of that, he was an egotistic playboy to rival Tony Stark. I will leave you to wonder how, if at all, this possibly relates to a medieval-esque fantasy story.) The solution to the problem will involve a fairly extensive rewrite of that subplot . . . but it should make for more conflict in that subplot, while taking out the character altogether would mean less, aside from random encounters, and would require just as much work, if not more.
  • Also, editing on Fight Song is currently not in progress, but I hope to make it in progress soon, and I'll start posting the story as soon as I have a few chapters done- that way I have a bit of a buffer, but not so much that I can't adapt to any feedback I get.

Reading!

  • So I totally thought that I read a lot this past month . . . but actually I read next to nothing and just took a long time to do it. 
  • I finally satisfied my Discworld kick, but not before I'd finished The Truth (a good story, but one that put me very much in the mood for Moist von Lipwig), a reread of Making Money (to satisfy the desire for Moist von Lipwig), and Hogfather (which I'd intended to read around Christmas, but which I couldn't get from Overdrive until this month). By that time, much as I love Discworld, I was ready for something new.
  • "Something new," as it turned out, was The Fires of Heaven, the fifth Wheel of Time novel. Yes, this is the same series as that one book that took me a month to finish. I don't think The Fires of Heaven will take quite that long . . . but it's hard to say, because I've currently paused reading it. Why? Well . . .
  • I got a blind date! With a book. Not a person. A love life is a thing that happens to other people right now, thank you, unless you count getting crushes on fictional characters. And in any case, I'm generally opposed to blind dates with people on principle, but with books? Sounds like fun! So, after perusing the tables full of "masked" books, I picked up one that advertised itself as "fantasy" and "Greek mythology" and found myself reading . . . Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Which is not something I ever planned on reading, but that's rather the point of a blind date with a book. Overall, it wasn't bad, but it's not one I would recommend either. 
  • That said, I got to pick up another blind date book (at this point I'm probably either addicted or just aggressively procrastinating on The Fires of Heaven), and this one is more promising: East by Edith Pattou, a retelling of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon." At the time of writing this post, I'm not quite done with it, but I'm really enjoying it. (By the time you read this, however, I'll probably be done with it, so feel free to ask what I thought.) Unfortunately, it's making me want to work on editing Monster in the Castle, but other things are higher priority and I don't even have the notebooks . . . ugh. Writer problems.
  • Oh, and towards the beginning of the month, I read Blood Ties, which was pretty fun. It wasn't quite what I'd expected (for one thing, I thought it would be funnier), but I enjoyed it on the whole. It's urban fantasy, which I'm always hungry for more of- and it includes a berserker who happens to knit as a hobby, so that's awesome.

  Watching!

  • Same old same old: still watching Merlin. Still on Season Two. Still facepalming over certain characters' bad life choices.
  • Seriously, though, I really want to write an AU fanfic in which Merlin tells Morgana that he has magic too and then she doesn't end up turning villain and they team up to take on the actual villains who inevitably threaten Camelot every other week (or so it seems, which would be great except for the fact that neither of them is much good at telling each other anything about what they're going to be doing- but somehow, they don't kill each other and the villain gets found, so it works. And everyone things that Merlin is developing a thing for Morgana and vice-versa, even though he's really not (well, maybe before a certain point, but not after), but they let people think that because it's a good cover for what's actually going on. And yeah. Everything would be awesome. Except Uther would still exist, but oh well.
  • Back to the actual show, not my fantasy of the fantasy- I would be almost done with the season by now, actually, but my roommate went home for one weekend, and we were both pretty busy the weekend before. So that made two weekends where we didn't watch anything, which is sad. We are hoping to get one more episode in before spring break, though, particularly since the next episode introduces one of my roommate's favorite characters.

Life!

  • This month, for me, basically centered around three big events: The Music Man, my speech, and the Ark Encounter. I already posted about The Music Man, so I won't go into that more- but it was pretty great.
  • My speech also went well, thankfully. As I think I mentioned last month, it was on character archetypes, specifically character archetypes in popular media, which meant I got to talk about LOTR and Marvel and Star Wars and a few animated films in the process of explaining the different archetypes. And I didn't freak out or forget what I was supposed to say, so that was good.
  • Oh, and after I did my speech, I ended up going to the Career Fair, which was . . . overwhelming. I'm glad I wasn't actually looking for a job, because I think I would've died. I did manage to talk to a whole two companies, though, so that's something. And then I went back to my room and called my mom and ate a sea-salt caramel truffle. And had a brownie sundae for dessert after dinner. (Chocolate: the ultimate reward/nerve-calmer!)
  • Anyway. Third major event: the Ark Encounter! I've wanted to visit both the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum basically since I found out they existed. I still haven't managed the museum, but one of the orgs I'm in put together a trip to the Ark . . . which only three people total ended up wanting to go on, because they scheduled it right after the planning session for our major essay of the semester. But I put off schoolwork for the day to go, and I really enjoyed it! They did a great job showing what life on the ark might've been like, what animals were on the ark (differentiating between species and kinds), evidence for creation and the flood and such . . . Basically, the whole thing was awesome. Expensive, yes, but awesome. If you're in the area, I highly recommend stopping by.
  • Other events: I got to see my aunt and her family the weekend before the Ark Encounter, which was a lot of fun. She also took me out to lunch, which made it better- don't get me wrong; my college has pretty good food for a cafeteria, but Sunday lunch, they don't even try. It's terrible. But that Sunday I got to eat good food (specifically, a falafel pita) with family (rather than eating alone), so yeah. That was great.
  • Also, one of the guys from the other section of the honors class put together a trivia bowl thing that meets every Friday. Essentially, people show up, they somehow split into teams, and they answer trivia questions. It's super fun; I've been three times so far, and . . . well, I don't do super great, but I have answered some questions. Fewer than I've gotten credit for, since bonus questions don't count towards your personal score. But I've really enjoyed it and I'm going to keep doing it the rest of the semester.

March Plans!

  • Spring break! Spring break! Spring break! I get to see my family again! And be at home! And not go to class! And hopefully work on editing a bunch of stuff! And it's going to be awesome! And it's almost here!
  • If you can't tell, I might be a tiny bit excited about break. You probably couldn't tell. 
  • Other than that . . .  business as usual, pretty much. Classes, papers, speeches, tests . . .  I think I have to do an advocacy presentation sometime in March for speech, but that might be happening early April. And I have a big paper for Cultural Anthropology that I need to start research for. I'm probably going to do that over break(!!!), if all goes well.  
  • And my roommate and I need to pick up the pace on Merlin . . . I want to be done with season two and a good bit into season three by the end of the month so that we'll have half a shot of finishing it before the end of the school year.
  • As I said earlier, I'm going to work on editing stuff, hopefully. I want to get another several chapters of Destinies and Decisions done, plus I want to start on Fight Song and get through a few chapters of that. We'll see which one takes priority over break(!!!).
  • And I'm probably going to have to figure out next fall's classes . . . I already have a pretty good idea of what I'm doing, so it's just a matter of figuring out how to make everything line up. Shouldn't be too hard.
  • Oh, and Gillian Bronte Adams is running a birthday blog tour for Songkeeper, which'll last all this month and into April and it's going to be pretty cool and I'll definitely be following that. (There's a giveaway involved. And a mug. And I'm hoping for sneak peeks of the last book. We'll see what happens.) 
 How's your February been? Boring? Or surprisingly exciting like mine? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade) 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Beautiful People February 2017: Couples

Hosted by Paper Fury
Hello! Look what's back! Yes, I know, I haven't done a Beautiful People post in ages- in my defense, I was kind of busy the last few months, plus I didn't really have a project I could do one on. But I loved doing the couples questions last year, and I'm excited to do it again now. I'll be doing it interview-style, as usual, and I'll be focusing on Jared and Bianca. Also, I'm interviewing them as they are at the last edited portion of their story, rather than at the furthest point I've written- if I focused on that time, their answers would be very different indeed.

1. How and why did you meet?
Bianca: Jared was the latest in my brother's line of friends, mentors, and miscellaneous acquaintances whom he invited to dinner in hopes that one of them could talk me into officially joining the Circle like the rest of my family. Like the others, he failed. Unlike the others, he proved somewhat interesting, since he didn't treat me as a recruitment project.

2. What were your first impressions of each other?
Jared: Eh, I thought she was pretty, but an ice princess like no other girl I've met.

Bianca: I- correctly- judged Jared to be a rogue, a scoundrel, and a flirt. Thankfully, he proved to have some redeeming qualities.

3. How would you prove your love for each other?
Jared: . . . *eyes narrow* Define 'prove your love.'

Storm it, Jared. We're not asking for commitment. Just how you show that you care more about Bianca than some random girl off the street.
Jared: Fair enough. I'd say letting her come with me would qualify. I mean, she's pretty and good company, but generally, I travel alone, with no one to question if I know where I'm going.

Bianca: The fact that you also promised to see me safely through Arrain doesn't also indicate any . . . concern?

Jared: The fact that I promised, yes. The content of the promise, no. You're the one who keeps insisting I'm a better person than I admit, princess. And no half-decent fellow would lead city folk into Arrain without making sure they at least got somewhere safe.

Bianca: Interesting. For my part- I would say that my giving Jared the benefit of the doubt as to his character is proof enough of my commitment- and yes, I will say commitment, Jared, don't give me that look. As is the fact that I trust him enough to be led into Arrain.  

4. What would be an ideal date?
Bianca: A nice dinner at one of Port Metre's better restaurants would be pleasant, followed by either a walk along the shore or a concert at Port Metre's opera house. We would end the evening, of course, with a game of chess.

Jared: Some social event, not too formal, with plenty of good drinks and the lady willing to give a few kisses and not ask for more. That said, the last few nights- riding across Arrain with the stars coming out- haven't been unpleasant.

5. Is there something you emphatically disagree on?
Jared: The nature of this relationship, for one thing.

Bianca: Also, the relative merits of the Circle.

Jared: By which she means that she's against it on principle, while I don't care- it's easy money, but I don't like people telling me how to live my life.

Bianca: Essentially, yes. Acceptable levels of risk would be another difference, though Jared's choices seem to have paid off so far.

Jared: Look, princess, part of gambling well is recognizing risks worth taking. I know what I'm doing.

6. List 5 “food quirks” you know about each other. (Ex: how the other one takes their coffee, if they’re allergic to something, etc….and feel free to mention other non-food quirks!)
Jared: Food quirks? Who came up with these questions? Anyway, how would I know that?

Bianca: You have eaten with me on multiple occasions.

Jared: And on half those occasions so far, we've been eating trail food or else what I happened to catch because it ran across our path and I was quick enough to throw a knife. So I know you don't like watching me skin a rabbit, but aside from that, I have no clue. And I don't think you do either.

Bianca: Oh? You dislike shrimp- we had them twice when you came to dinner, and you failed to even try them on either occasion. You drink your coffee black, and refer to tea as "leaf-water for people who are too weak to handle coffee." You prefer wine to beer or ale and whiskey to wine. You undersalt rabbit when you cook it- or it seemed to me that you did so the other night. And you apparently have a great appreciation for any pastry including nuts.

Jared: What the-

Bianca: I notice things.

Jared: Obviously . . . Also, don't think I missed your insult, princess. That rabbit was perfectly seasoned and you know it.

7. What’s one thing you know about each other that no one else does?
Bianca: I cannot speak to who else knows or doesn't know this, but Jared has very strong feelings about Arrain and its merits- which surprised me at first, but having seen what he is like in Arrain as opposed to elsewhere, I am unsurprised. One would not expect a region known for its lawlessness to bring out the best in a man, but there you have it.

Jared: I think you're reading too much into everything, princess.

Bianca: Perhaps. Or perhaps that is merely what you wish me to think.

Jared: Think what you want, princess. Doesn't matter to me. Anyway, guess I should answer the question too . . . I know that Bianca's not always as in-control as she'd like people to think. That count?

8. What’s one thing that you keep a secret from each other?
Jared: I feel like this question misses the point of secrets.

That would be the case, except for the fact that I'm going to ensure whoever isn't talking doesn't hear the secret. *snaps fingers* There. Who wants to go first?
Bianca: I suppose I will. Jared said that he knows I am not always as in-control as I wish people to think. He is not wrong . . . but I do not think he knows how genuinely terrified I am, particularly since we entered Arrain. He promised to keep me safe, true- but though I say I trust him, I have heard too many stories to not fear. But I find it better to fear for my physical safety in Arrain than to fear being forced into the Circle as I have ever since Mother died.

Thank you, Bianca. Jared, your turn. 
Jared: *jumps* The lady of logic done already? And she can't hear me? All right then. Things I keep secret from her . . . plenty of stuff. The fact that I didn't leave the Circle altogether- that I'm still working with them to a degree. The fact that I don't have half the "hidden depths" she seems to think I do- though that's less something I'm keeping secret and more something I let herself keep thinking. But the biggest secret . . . eh. Probably the fact that, somewhere along the way, I ended up caring what she thinks.

9. Fascinating. *snaps fingers again* Back to normal- How would your lives be different without each other?
Jared: I wouldn't be in the middle of a mess with the Circle, for one thing. And I'd be off enjoying myself with cards, dice, and a drink in whatever town caught my fancy instead of traveling through Arrain while I escort the lady of logic to Elgea.

Bianca: The fact that I am with you doesn't seem to have stopped you from enjoying cards, dice, or drink, Jared. As for myself- if I had not met Jared, I would still be at home in Port Metre, carrying out the life of a proper, well-educated lady- with continued study of tactics in my free time- rather than gallivanting across the worst possible region of Berstru with a gambler-adventurer.

Jared: And can you tell me you regret it, princess?

Bianca: I regret whatever I did to make you give me that nickname. Other than that . . . no, I don't regret the choice I made. Not in the least.

10. Where do you each see this relationship going?
Jared: To Hoaka. After that, we'll see. The lady of logic can keep following me around if she wants, or she can find someone to take her further north, where the Circle has less influence.

Bianca: I cannot say for sure . . . but I hope that what I have found in Jared here in Arrain will not recede again when we leave the country. If that hope proves true, well, I will hope further that I will indeed be able to continue to travel with him . . . and perhaps do more than that.

Thank you both for your cooperation. I'll let you get back to your journey now- and I'll see you as soon as I get to another of your chapters. Until then, enjoy the peace and quiet while it lasts.
Bianca: I'm not so certain I like the sound of that . . .

Jared: Eh. It'll be fine. There's nothing in Arrain I can't handle, princess. Wait and see.

Sure, Jared. We'll wait and see. In the meantime: thanks to everyone reading this for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed this interview!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)   

Friday, February 17, 2017

Fantasy Beings I Want to See

Now, don't get me wrong: I love dragons as much as the next girl. I mean, I've got a collection of stuffed and figurine dragons, half the books on my shelves involve dragons in some way, and I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to them. And elves and elf-like Fey and dwarves are all pretty awesome too. But why is that so often all we see? There's so many other beings in myths and fairy tales who deserve a spot in the stories of this era- and today, I'm going to spotlight some of my favorites.

Fantasy Beings I Want to See More Of

griffin1
  1. Griffins. Granted, as the lesser-known fantasy creatures go, griffins (or, if you prefer, gryphons) don't have it too bad. They're not entirely unknown, and there are some pretty awesome books that feature them. However, they're still pretty under-represented in fantasy. A Goodreads list of the best griffin books has 66 books, while the "Best Books With or About Dragons" list contains 540 books. Yeah. Big difference. So, why don't we see more griffin-riders? More noble griffins allying themselves with the heroes in order to defeat the villain, not out of any love for the hero but out of their own pride and hatred of that villain? More baby griffins acting sort of like baby birds and sort of like kittens and generally being adorable? Am I the only one who thinks this would be awesome?
    selkie_songofthesea
  2. Selkies. So they're basically seal shapeshifters? Except different? And I'll take that over mermaids any day, thank you, and not just because seals are adorable. (And yes, I know about The Little Selkie and it's on my to-be-read list, but I want more.) A lot of the mythology about selkies seems to be tragic, which makes sense- selkies would work really well in a torn-between-their-own-people-and-the-humans plotline- but I think you could work out a happy ending as well. (Oh, and the picture above is from The Song of the Sea, which is an Irish animated film about selkies that I want to watch so much. Go watch this music video from it and you'll understand why.)
    kelpie1
  3. Kelpies. They're carnivorous water horses, y'all. Carnivorous water horses. Why is this not a thing? Imagine it: the heroes are short on time, rushing to get to the villain's castle in time, and then- Oh, hurrah! One of them spots a small herd of horses by the lake! And what's this? The horses seem to be friendly! They must have been tame at one time! The most impulsive one swings astride and- Oh, dragon's teeth BAD IDEA! On the other hand, imagine the character who can actually ride one of them? It'd be a sure sign of just how awesome (or terrifying) he is.
    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  4. Banshees. I know of one book- Jackaby- that used banshees really well, in my opinion, but why don't more books? They've got a lot of potential. Imagine an army (either attacking or defending) sending out banshees to wander among their enemies, singing their terrifying songs, as a form of psychological warfare? Imagine a young banshee trying to escape the negative stereotypes of her race, working as a healer and always able to know if a patient can be saved or not. Imagine a banshee villain who plays up the reputation for all it's worth. Why is none of this a thing?
    ittanmomen1
  5. And now, for something completely different: the ittan-momen. Ok, so first, let me say that Japan has some really weird and creepy legends. (I know this because, in trying to remember the name of this thing, I ended up reading about some of the freakier ones.) Second of all: the ittan momen. According to various sources, it's a possessed roll of cotton that flies around and occasionally strangles or suffocates people. Why? I don't know. Who came up with this? I don't know that either. Why do I know about it? Writing research. I didn't end up using it at the time because it didn't fit the situation, but I really want one of these to show up somewhere just so people (including the characters) can be all "What the pumpernickel why does this even exist?" with me.
What are some fantasy beings that you'd like to see more often? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)    

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Discovery in River City

It's often said among writers, readers, and story critics that there's only seven (or possibly three, or six, or some other number) basic plots in existence and all books, films, and other types of story available to us are just modifications of these seven (or six, or three, or perhaps thirty-six) plots. I'm not sure about the seven (or whatever other number), but I'm quite ready to believe that there's no such thing as a completely and totally original story. After all, I can readily list off at least three highly significant influences on any of my own novels, and given enough time, I could probably trace almost every element of those stories back to some other story or life experience or random picture I saw somewhere. I highly doubt that even professional authors are much different.

All that said, ideas sometimes come from strange places- places so far removed from a particular story that I never would've expected them to influence any area of my life anymore.

And that brings me to The Music Man.

 The first time I saw this musical, I was ten, maybe eleven. I watched the first half of the film version while my parents were having Bible Study, then saw the full movie a few months later because my family got it out from the library. We also got out the soundtrack- well, I got out the soundtrack, and though I only managed to watch The Music Man another time and a half, maybe a few halves, I listened to the soundtrack obsessively until the library forced me to give it back. They then proceeded to lose the cd, and so time went on and I more or less forgot about the show (even though I could still sing "Trouble in River City" and "Shipoopi" and, somewhat to my embarrassment, "The Sadder But Wiser Girl For Me" more or less word for word, if you gave me a reason to- though, generally, no one did).

Then I came to college, and lo and behold: the winter musical this year is my old favorite! So, last weekend, despite a developing sore throat, I ushered at the 2:00 performance. It was an easy job- all I had to do was stand at my assigned spot and say "Can I help you find your seat?" and occasionally "Your seat is right there," and then help clean up brochures and confetti after the show- and in return, I got to watch for free. Which, you have to admit, is a pretty good deal.

And, can I just say- we have an awesome theater department? Once I got past the fact that the actual theater version of The Music Man is slightly different in both order of events and exact lyrics of songs than the movie version I'm used to, I really enjoyed the show. Casting, costumes, scenery, and- of course- the music were all spot-on (which is saying something, because I get touchy when I think someone's messed up one of my favorite things.)

As the show moved on to the second act, though, I realized something. Something seemed familiar about the characters, about the ideas in the songs, more than just a childhood obsession. It almost seemed- but no, that was impossible, wasn't it?

But there it was all the same. See, there's a particular character-development/romance archetype that I absolutely love. It's played out by Flynn and Rapunzel in Tangled, by Han Solo and Leia in Star Wars, by Thorne and Cress in The Lunar Chronicles, by Moist van Lipwig and his ladylove in Discworld, to a degree by Howl Pendragon and Sophie Hatter. It's the lovable rogue- a character who's guaranteed to be a favorite even without the second half of the archetype- who falls in love and ends up becoming a hero. I enjoy the archetype (and the lovable rogue/rogue with a heart of gold part specifically) that I try to work it into my stories wherever it'll fit.  In fact, one of my favorite character couples in all my stories fits the archetype perfectly- or will, when I'm done.

And The Music Man- that's where I first discovered it. Not Star Wars or Tangled like I thought originally. In The Music Man. In Harold Hill and Marian Paroo. A musical I watched when I was ten still influences stories I started long after I thought I'd forgotten the show altogether.

Aren't ideas funny things?

Where are some of the most unexpected things that've influenced your stories? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)