Friday, October 11, 2019

I Finished Season 1 of Avatar! (Ft. My Thoughts)

Hey'a, everyone! So, yesterday, my roommate and I finished season 1 of Avatar: The Last Airbender, so I thought it would be fun to do a post with my thoughts on the show so far. Obviously, I've already said some of this in my Doings! posts, but those are usually briefer, so, yeah. And I know that a lot of people reading this will probably have already seen the show and thought a lot of these things, but I do have a somewhat different perspective since I'm coming in knowing a ton of spoilers. So hopefully that's interesting.

Thoughts on Avatar Season 1

  1. As someone who knows spoilers, the characterization in this show is great. I can definitely see the seeds of who the characters are going to become in who they are now, and it's really fun to be able to spot the defining moments in a way that I couldn't if I didn't already know so much about the show. And I think the show also does a really good job of creating characters whose positive and negative traits are stemming from the same core trait or value, just expressed in positive and negative ways, which I really appreciate. Also, the relative lack of maturity in a lot of the main characters is surprisingly non-frustrating — though that may also come from the fact that I know who the characters will become. (For the record, I normally find characters with these guys' level of impulsiveness mildly frustrating.)
  2. On a related note, I'm having a really hard time picking favorite characters because I don't know if I'm basing my choices on who they are now or who I know they're going to become. Like, obviously I really enjoy Zuko and Iroh (especially Iroh; I like him a little more with every episode, I think) — but would I like Zuko as much as I do if I didn't know who he becomes? I don't know. And I think Suki is amazing, but is that based solely on the one episode she's in, or is it based on that plus what I know of her from the fandom? Again, I don't know. (I do know that I like Sokka more than he deserves right now — I enjoy his sarcasm and the fact that he's kind of acting as the One Sane Man, but I think his character flaws might outweigh those characteristics if I didn't know how he matures.)
  3. That said, I can say with absolute certainty that the Kyoshi warriors are awesome and I would almost certainly watch a whole spin-off series about them. (I say almost because in this day and age, while they might get the show very right, they might also get it very wrong in various directions.) But yeah. They're cool, they're skilled, and they very nicely avoid the two camps a lot of female warrior-types fall into. They're not trying to avoid their feminity; they take pride in it. But their feminity isn't conflated with sexiness — and the fact that it's technically a kid's show helps here a lot, but there are probably a lot of shows that would still get it wrong.
  4. I'm also really enjoying the world in which the show is set. It's clear that the show-writers thought about the world they were creating and were very intentional with how they created it and, as far as I can tell, with how they presented the different cultures in light of the real-world cultures they're based on. And I like that the world isn't solely ancient or medieval. You have many medieval elements, but you've also got the Fire Nation ships and the steampunk-ish technology in "The Northern Air Temple" that show that the world is developing and changing and growing.
  5. I will admit that some of the Eastern spiritual stuff is kinda weird. In the context of the show and the culture, it makes sense, of course. And in most episodes, it doesn't feel that much different from the stuff you'd find in some other fantasy media. The finale did seem to have a little more of that than the other episodes, but yeah. It's not a problem; it's just different from what I'm used to. (Also, note on the final: so, I thought I knew what happened with the moon spirit? And I did know the basics of what happened? But it played out in a very different way than I expected. So, yeah. That's a thing.)
What are your thoughts on any of this? Also, if you frequently watch movies or shows for which you know spoilers, how do you feel that changes how you view characters? Also, do you like this "5 thoughts on [show]" type of post enough that you'd like to see more of them? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, October 4, 2019

September 2019 Doings!

Hey'a, everyone! So, I was super worried that this post was going to come out a day late because this has been a busy week and will be a busy weekend . . . but I actually managed to finish up the post earlier on Thursday than I normally do! Success! It helped that September, despite being super busy, had less bloggable busy stuff than August did — but there's still plenty to report.


  • Ok, so for one thing, graphic design classes are super time-and-energy-consuming, so I haven't had half as much writing time as I would've liked.
  • And when I do have writing time, I typically have to spend it on creative nonfiction rather than novels. I'm sure my cnf professor is thrilled about that, but I'm not.
  • And on top of that, I managed to work myself into a wall on cnf for over a week, so I wasn't writing my novel because I wasn't allowing myself to work on it if I hadn't done some nonfiction writing in the last 48 hours, but I also wasn't doing any nonfiction writing because I either hated the idea so much that I kept putting it off or I would work for ages and end up just starting the same piece over five times because it wouldn't come out close enough to right to be editable.
  • There was at least one point where I really just wanted to tear the pages out of my notebook and throw them into the sun. Not going to lie.
  • On the upside, I think that between what I have drafted and what I have edited, I have the required number of pages for the first actual turn-in-an-assignment date.
  • Now I just have to catch up on my novel . . .
  • On the upside, the D&D campaign I'm running is going well! We've had two sessions so far, and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. We have learned that my brain sometimes shuts down in the middle of character dialogue (accidentally creating the impression that the character is struggling for words in a suspicious way) and that my group has terrible luck with spiders (spider-related combat always ends up taking longer than it seems like it should), but otherwise, it's great. My plan of using a laminated grid battle map and gumdrops for enemies seems to have worked out well — I'm more easily able to keep track of distances, and the players get excited when they're able to eat the enemy gumdrops.


  • So, the good news: you know XKCD? The stick figure science webcomic? I finally got around to reading one of his books: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions! And it's magnificent and awesome and really fun! And I need his new book to come in at the library! (With my luck, it'll come in over Thanksgiving break . . .) There's lots of sarcasm and humor and explosions all wrapped around actual science and I can't believe I didn't read it sooner.
  • H.L. Burke's new-ish book, Daughter of Sun, Bride of Ice, is pretty great too. I will admit that the romance kind of overshadowed the plot at times, but it wasn't too bad, and I'd read enough snippets on Facebook that I was already invested in the romance. Also, I really enjoy the world — it's tidelocked, so you've got a sunward side that's all desert and a spaceward side that's all cold and snowy and stuff, and it's just really cool and well-done.
  • On the downside, I'm trying to read Northanger Abbey and I'm stuck about a third of the way through and it's a problem. In theory, I want to read it, but in practice, there's no plot and I'm not invested enough in the characters for the lack of plot to be unproblematic. I kind of want to DNF it, but I also feel guilty about wanting that (I mean, it's Jane Austen), and as long as I'm in the middle of it, I feel vaguely guilty about starting any other books . . . gah.


  • My roommate and I watched all but the last two episodes of the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender! And it's awesome!
  • We would've watched the last two as well, but then we both got sick and I got busy and we had to return the DVDs to the library. It was tragic.
  • But I'm really enjoying the show! Zuko is probably my favorite character, which should come as a surprise to no one. All the major characters have really good characterization, though, and I don't dislike any of them. (Well, except for two. But I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to dislike both of them.)
  • Outside of Avatar, I haven't really watched anything . . . well, not unless you count YouTube videos. (That said, I did discover someone's D&D story series, and it's kind of awesome — it started with accidentally causing an almost-apocalypse with karaoke and wild magic, and it just got better from there. Also, Zee Bashew's animated spellbook is pretty fun.)


  • This is always the hardest section; I don't have as clear a record of life stuff as I do of anything else, and I think half my memories get overwritten before they're fully formed.
  • Anyway. That said: what happened this month?
  • The biggest thing that happened was probably the Ren Faire. I ended up going by myself this year — my roommate was sick, my sister didn't want to spend the money, and my other friends were busy. It was still fun, though! I got to wander around at my own pace, I watched the joust (and the knight for my side won, whoo!), I ate fish and chips, I bought cool necklaces as souvenirs. It was a good time.
  • The same weekend as the Ren Faire was the TDK Kickoff Party, which went pretty well! We had a much better food situation than last year, and we reorganized the schedule in a way that I think worked better. (Namely, it allowed people to eat close to the start of the party instead of all the way at the end.)
  • The weekend after the Ren Faire, my friends and I went to the local sunflower fields to take portraits. Although pictures in the sunflower field is kind of a stereotypical Cedarville activity, only one of the people in our group had gone before. I was excited for a chance to take pictures of my friends at their request, and I think the pictures turned out pretty well. I still need to edit them, but yeah.
  • And then social activities kind of crashed to a halt the week after that because my roommate got sick again and I got hit in the face with allergies and it was not a good time.
  • Classes are going fairly well, though I spend more time feeling overwhelmed than I'd like. My two graphic design classes are uncomfortably synced so big assignments are due on the same days, and that's kind of frustrating (especially since it cuts into the time I'd like to spend on other classes, namely nonfiction). That said, I made a cube! So that's cool.
  • I already mentioned the D&D campaign I'm running, but I would also like to mention the fact that in the D&D campaign I'm playing in, we just fought a whole army of drow and met up with the Big Bad of the campaign. Who then proceeded to congratulate us on how well we killed those drow and to thank us for dealing with them so he didn't have to. Cue indignant sputtering from my neutral-good-paladin-self and considerable confusion from our rogue, whom we apparently didn't fill in on the situation as well as we thought we did. Oops.
  • I also accidentally drank coffee in the form of a specialty drink that people told me was frozen hot chocolate. It was, as it turned out, a frappucino. I am neither pleased nor impressed.

October Plans!

  • I'm hoping really hard that the graphic design workload will slow down a little so I can do more writing of both fiction and nonfiction. I'm still holding out hope that my 12DP retelling will be done in time to publish with the Arista Challenge again, but it looks like it's going to be tight. And I'm torn between "hurry and write as much as possible so you can edit in November for NaNo," "don't overdo it or you'll burn yourself out and not be able to do NaNo," and "do you really have time for NaNo anyway?" I should probably listen to that last one, honestly.
  • I have the next couple D&D sessions planned, though only one is fully written. They're going to introduce some of my favorite NPCs that I've created so far, and I think they'll be really fun for everyone. Hopefully I'm right.
  • I'm also really looking forward to fall break! I'm going to my roommate's house, as usual, and this year my sister and her roommate are coming too. It's going to be a little crazy, but hopefully still fun. The current plan is homework, animated movies (Disney and/or Studio Ghibli), board games, and possibly some crafting; we'll see what actually happens.
  • And, of course, the end of October means Halloween! I'm super disappointed that my dorm probably won't have any Halloween events, but my major will still have its party. My cloak is coming along reasonably quickly, so I'm hopeful that it will be done in time for the party. (If not . . . eep. I'll figure something out.)
How was your September? What plans do you have for October? Have you read Northanger Abbey, and if so, does it ever develop a plot? What books have you gotten stuck on and then felt guilty about? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, September 27, 2019

Would You Rather . . .? Tolkien Edition!

So, for those who are unaware, this is Tolkien Week, and Edge of the Precipice is hosting their annual Tolkien Blog Party! As usual, the party includes a fun blog tag, and this year's is a "Would You Rather?" game. I thought it sounded like fun, so I'm joining in here at Dreams and Dragons. Over at Light and Shadows, I'm posting about my favorite Tolkien poetry, so make sure you check that out too!

Would You Rather . . . ? Tolkien Edition!

1.  ...join Thorin's Company or the Fellowship?
Well, on one hand, I do love the adventure of The Hobbit, and I'm probably a bit less likely to die in Thorin's Company than in the Fellowship. Plus, my presence would bring the total to fifteen, which is an even better number than fourteen. On the other hand, I can very much get behind the Fellowship's mission, and I think I'd get along with the group a lot better, so we're going with the Fellowship (even if I would mess up the numbering).

2.  ...ride Shadowfax or an eagle?

Ok, here's the thing. Shadowfax is great, but he's just a horse. A super-fast horse, but still a horse. I'm pretty sure that if I tried, I could find somewhere in this world to ride horses. (Also, I've ridden horses before and was not terribly impressed.) Riding an eagle, on the other hand? Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, definitely not something I could do just anywhere, so I'm going with that one.

3. through Moria or Mirkwood?

Mirkwood. Absolutely Mirkwood. Yes, I hate spiders, but you know what else is in Mirkwood? Elves. I like elves. So all I have to do is survive long enough to find the elves (or be found by them) and I'm good. Moria, on the other hand? Full of skeletons and darkness and orcs. Not somewhere I want to go questing if I can avoid it.

4.  ...learn to make elvish rope or mithril chainmail?

Both. Absolutely both. Rope-making sounds like a generally interesting and useful skill and possibly something that I can do while listening to things to keep my hands busy. Chainmail is less practical, but who doesn't secretly want mithril chainmail? And I've always been kind of curious about the process. Basically, I like doing things with my hands, and I want to try all the things, and you can't make me choose.

5.  ...try to outwit Smaug or Saruman?

Smaug. Definitely Smaug. My chances aren't great either way, but I can absolutely lay on the flattery with Smaug (and probably do so honestly), while I don't think that strategy would work for Saruman, even if I could pull it off. (Also, I'd rather punch Saruman in the face for being a traitor and a fool than talk to him, SO.)

6.  ...spend an hour with Grima Wormtongue or Denethor?

Let's weigh the options here. On one hand, we've got a slimy, snakish creep of a man who's literally in league with evil. On the other, we have a man who has serious issues but at least tried to stand against the shadow (and actually succeeded for a while). I think I will take the latter, thanks.

7.  ...attend Faramir's wedding or Samwise's wedding?

Why not both? But if I have to pick, Sam and Rosie's wedding. I love Faramir and Eowyn dearly; they're some of my favorite characters. But I have a suspicion that their wedding would be very formal and stuff, while Sam and Rosie's would be much more comfortable and less imposing.

8.  ...have to care for the One Ring or the Arkenstone for a day?

Arkenstone, thanks. I can handle a glowy gemstone. Evil artefact of significant power that has a tendency to mess with the minds (and hearts) of its keepers? Maybe, but I'd rather not risk it.

9.  ...have tea with Bilbo or Frodo? 

Both. But if I have to pick, Bilbo, ideally a couple years after his adventure. I generally feel like Bilbo and I would get along well, and I know he'd have good stories. (Even if I already know his whole adventure, I suspect that there are smaller stories that didn't make it into the main narrative.)

10.  ...fight alongside Boromir or Eomer?
So, both Boromir and Eomer are great. Amazing characters, even if one of them had a tragic end. In terms of personality alone, I'd probably pick Eomer . . .  but in terms of practicality? I can't ride a horse well, so I'm not a great choice for a Rider of Rohan. Fighting on foot, however, I can probably manage, especially if you stretch the definition of alongside to include archer or another variety of ranged fighter. Not that I'd be great at that either . . . but y'know. You do what you can.

How would you answer these questions? Please tell me in the comments or feel free to pick up the tag yourself! I can't wait to see your thoughts!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

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.


  • 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 . . .)


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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


Unicorn Quester
The Language of Writing


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


The Language of Writing


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


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


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


Reality Reflected
The Page Dreamer
The Language of Writing


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?

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


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


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

Or find the full list of stops here.