Wednesday, April 30, 2014


For the life of a novel, the battle was fought
Between our good Writer and foul Writer’s Block.
It started when Writer’s Block swooped in one day,
Captured the novel, and carried it away.

Anyone remember that poem? I'm hoping you do. (If you don't, you can read it here.) I wrote it this past summer for the TPS Summer Creative Writing class. Then, a month or so ago, I entered it in my library's short story contest. I really didn't expect it to get anything. I mean, I really like it, and other people have said they do too. However, I've tried entering this contest several times with no success, mostly because my style doesn't seem to line up with what they're looking for.

Then I got a phone call from the library. They said I was in the top ten. (My reaction, more or less: Oh. My. Pumpernickel. Really?) So, I went to the awards ceremony, thinking I'd gotten an honorable mention.


Second place.

And not only that, but the winners got their stories printed in a book. A real book. Which you can actually buy at a particular branch of my library. They gave each winner a copy and I was possibly more excited about that part of the prize than anything else. I mean, I've had one or two pieces published in Clubhouse Member's Mags, but somehow, having my poem in a book seems more exciting than having it in a magazine (even if the magazine was probably read by far more people).

The same day as the awards ceremony, we had closing ceremonies at Awana. It's the end of my first year as an official leader. In some ways, it was a bit sad. Awana is a lot of fun, and I enjoyed seeing the T'n'T girls every week. At the same time, though, I'm ready for a break.

Then, yesterday, I met my Camp NaNoWriMo goal! Huzzah! My novel is not done, but I do plan to keep working on it. If all goes well, I'd like to finish by the end of May. Of course, I also have short stories and fanfiction that I want to write, and I'd like to work some more on Monster in the Castle. (I miss Hayden! And Pansy. But mostly Hayden.) But, hey, if I can write a thousand words of one novel in a day, I can work on a few projects at once. Right?

Finally, school's almost done! I gave my spring presentation in German class yesterday. I wasn't expecting to have to do it until next week at least, so I was caught a bit off guard, but I think I did all right. I am glad that it's done. And in Literature I just finished reading Romeo and Juliet, which I enjoyed. I did like Cyrano de Bergerac, the play I read last year, better, though. As for history . . . Well, the last chapter and what I've read of this chapter make me really want to go back in time and rewrite pre-WWII history. (Anyone have a time machine I can borrow?) But I only have two or three chapters left, and it should get interesting soon, so I'm not complaining.

How's your life been lately? Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

P.S. Titles are hard.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Top Ten Tuesdays: Book Characters I'd Want to Have on a Quest
Hello, everyone! I'm finally doing a Top Ten Tuesdays post again! This week's theme is Book Characters Who (blank). Since I get to fill in the blank, I decided to take inspiration from a Fantasy Reflections post in which I and other readers were challenged to create our own Fellowship of the Ring with nine fantasy characters from any fantasy books besides The Lord of the Rings. I had a lot of fun creating my questing group then, so I thought I'd do it again now! As a side note, this isn't a group for any particular quest, unlike the original Fantasy Reflections question.
  1. Leader/Guide: Aragorn (The Lord of the Rings). Aragorn proves himself to be an excellent leader throughout LOTR. He's experienced, brave, humble, and cares for those under him. I can think of very few characters better suited to leading a quest of any kind.
  2. Main Fighter/Backup Leader: Alastair Coldhollow (The Dark Sea Annals). As a former Wolfguard/assassin, Alastair is a highly skilled fighter. He's also an excellent tactician and pathfinder, meaning he could easily serve as a backup leader or guide if necessary. (Though we're going to hope it's not necessary.)
  3. Archer: Will Treaty (Ranger's Apprentice). He's a very good archer (maybe not the best archer in the fantasy world, but still very good), and his other Ranger skills, like tracking and invisible/silent movement would be very useful too. 
  4. Fighter/Scout/Spy/Entertainer: Bard Eanrin (The Tales of Goldstone Wood). Being a Faerie, bard, and a Knight of Farthestshore, Eanrin would no doubt be very helpful to have around for multiple reasons. And one cannot deny that Eanrin is pretty awesome. 
  5. Healer: Dame Imraldera (The Tales of Goldstone Wood). Someone needs to keep Eanrin in check, after all. Moreover, Imraldera is wise, brave, gentle, and a skilled healer. 
  6. Wizard: Kale Allerion (The DragonKeeper Chronicles). Kale's skills as a wizard, as well as her minor dragons, would be infinitely helpful on just about any quest. 
  7. Fighter: Bardon (The DragonKeeper Chronicles). If Kale's coming, Bardon's an obvious choice. They are married. And he is a knight, so . . .
  8. Fighter: Cruedwyn Creed (Legends of Karac Tor). Like several others on this list, Cruedwyn is an extremely skilled fighter. He's also quite funny . . . and yes, I admit it; I want to see what happens when you put him and Eanrin on the same team.
  9. Burglar/Spy: Bilbo Baggins (The Hobbit). Because this company has a noticeable lack of hobbits on it. More seriously, Bilbo is loyal, naturally good at avoiding notice (as are most hobbits), and has a wealth of other (sometimes surprising) talents, and having a ring that makes you invisible (even if it is an evil ring) is quite useful as well. Plus, I like Bilbo.
  10. Fighter: Farix. (The Door Within.) Because he's a fascinating character, and he's so good he doesn't even need a weapon. And he's cool. Farix really doesn't get enough attention.
 And of course I'd want to come along as . . . I don't know. I'd find something to do. But I am coming. You'd have to send me home tied in a sack to stop me. (Unless Imraldera asked me to take care of the Haven and her library while she was gone. That I might be willing to skip the quest for.)

What would your ideal questing group be? Feel free to tell me in the comments, or make your own Top Ten Tuesdays post!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)    

Monday, April 21, 2014

Smoke Photography

It's been a long time since I've posted any photography here. This isn't because I've totally given up on it; I just haven't been doing quite as much. I've had more inspiration for writing, and certain ideas I've had required warmth and green foliage and such. However, last month, I discovered smoke photography- specifically, taking pictures of the smoke from incense sticks and then editing those pictures in various creative ways, like changing the color of the smoke, adding other elements to the pictures, etc.

You can probably guess one of my first ideas. After all, what's one of the first thing a fantasy lover thinks of when she thinks of smoke or fire?

That's right. Dragons.

I originally planned to have the smoke coming out of the dragon's mouth like fire, but the toy dragon we bought didn't have its mouth open. I ended up liking what I did instead much better, though.

From the Pages of Legend
The hardest part was getting the smoke to look like it was coming out of his nostrils. I wouldn't have been able to do it if my dad hadn't helped a lot.

While playing around with other smoke pictures, I happened across this one:

Admittedly, it doesn't look like much on its own, but I'd been listening to Howl's Moving Castle again, and the shape and color reminded me of something. So I did a little more playing around, added some other smoke images, and came out with this:

It's Calcifer! (Also, if anyone watched the movie and is thinking "What? Sarah, Calcifer is yellow and orange and looks like a normal flame!", I'm going by the book, in which he's mostly blue with green flames at the top like hair and orange flames for eyes.) This was actually a lot easier to do than it looks; the only really hard part was figuring out how to select smoke for the eyes. The rest was just layer masks and hue-saturation adjustments.

I haven't done much else with the smoke pictures, but I'm hoping to get around to it soon. I have a few other picture ideas I want to try sometime. I hope you enjoyed these two! Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)     

Friday, April 18, 2014

Random Fridays: Recipes
Hey'a, all! Yeah, I haven't been doing anything very regularly like I hoped to. Which is too bad, since I really wanted to do Random Fridays last week and Top Ten Tuesdays this week. (On a side note, would you be interested in reading posts with Random Friday/Top Ten Tuesday themes I miss, even if they're not posted on the days they should be? If that makes sense? Thanks!)

This week's Random Friday theme is recipes I want to try. I'll admit, cooking isn't my favorite activity. However, due to parental decrees, I have been doing more cooking over the last few months, so there are some recipes I'd like to try (eventually- some of them are beyond my skill level at the moment). Most of the recipes are foods my mom has made and I like.

1. Just about anything from the Redwall cookbook. I discovered this last Friday, and I haven't looked through it extensively, but what I've seen sounds good. I think it would be fun to try making some of my favorite Redwall foods. The only problem is that a lot of the most interesting ones seem to call for ingredients we don't usually have on hand.

2. Fried rice. If you ask me, this is one of the best ways to eat rice. It's good as a side, of course, but if you add meat, it's a tasty main dish as well. I like it best with pork.

Ladylocks, without powdered sugar
3. Ladylocks. Have you ever had ladylocks? They're pastry tubes with vanilla or chocolate filling inside and powdered sugar sprinkled on top. My mom doesn't make them often; we only get them at Christmas, and only if my grandpa visits. I'd like to learn to make them myself someday (though not until I'm more experienced).

4. Orange chicken. This is another of my favorite foods that I don't know how to make (yet). My mom has made two varieties: one in the crockpot and one in the skillet. I prefer the skillet variety,  though the crockpot version is probably easier.

5. Peanut butter bars. My mom has made these several times, and as far as I know, almost everyone who's tried them loves them. I know I certainly do! They're a little like peanut butter cups in bar cookie form, but I think they might be yummier.
Peanut butter bars.

6. Baked Oatmeal. If you haven't tried this, you need to. It's vastly different from normal oatmeal that you make in a pot. My favorite version, peanut butter and jelly baked oatmeal, tastes a bit like a peanut butter cookie, especially if you pour some milk on it when you eat it.

7. Lembas. I don't think they'd be at all the same as Middle Earth lembas. However, it's the closest I can come, so I'd like to try it anyway.  

What recipes would you like to try making? Please tell me in the comments, or make your own Random Fridays post!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)     

Want to join in the Random Fridays fun? Feel free to make a post of your own on the week's topic! Please just be sure to use the Random Fridays banner, link back to Awkwordly Emma, and post the link to your post on the Awkwordly Emma blog so other participants can check out your post. For a list of future Random Friday topics, click here.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Camp NaNoWriMo Week One (and two days)

Wordcount: 10,574 words
Most words in one day: 1,884 (April 4th)
Fewest words in one day: 378 (April 6th)

Hullo, all! As you can probably see from the stats above, Camp NaNoWriMo got off to a pretty good start for me. I had no trouble getting in my daily goals and more for the first five or so days. In fact, I was thinking that Camp NaNoWriMo this month would be the exact opposite of last April's Camp: no problem whatsover. Then on Sunday I was busy most of the day . . . and I got sick. Bleh.

Admittedly, I do often get sick during NaNo events, but usually it happens a little later in the month. I'm just glad that I seem to be getting over it quickly. Also, last night I had an Idea of how to make my plot more exciting and I'm very happy about it. It does potentially delay a few subplots, but that won't hurt the novel, and the more I think about my idea, the more I like it. My characters, on the other hand, are guaranteed to dislike it (except for Nightshade and some of her allies, who will be quite happy about it). But such is life. 

Also, for the record, I meant to post this update on Monday, but . . . I was sick and had other stuff that needed doing. So, it didn't happen.

How's Camp NaNoWriMo (or April in general) going for you? Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)       

Friday, April 4, 2014

Random Fridays: Bookstores
Hello, everyone! I'm back to doing Random Fridays on my own blog, as you can see! Today is also the 4th day of Camp NaNoWriMo. It's going great, though I still need to get my wordcount in for today. I'm planning on a long afternoon of writing. Anyway, onto today's Random Friday topic: Bookstores!

I don't frequent bookstores as much as some people do. That's mostly because many of the nearby bookstores have closed, and of those remaining, not many can be counted on to have the books I want in store. Most of my book shopping now is done online. (Or at book sales. I love book sales.) However, while I love the feeling of finally getting that package I've been impatiently awaiting, there's something special about actually going to the store and searching for the title I want.

All the same, I rarely pass up an opportunity to stop in a bookstore, whether or not I can actually by anything. It's fun to look through the shelves, see which of my favorites are in stock, and try to find new books to look into later. Occasionally I'll have the pleasant surprise of discovering a new book has been released in a series I enjoy.

Most of my bookstore experience is with big-name stores: Borders, Books-A-Million, and Barnes and Noble. Barnes and Noble in particular is where I buy most of my new books, since I get a gift card for that store every year for my birthday. When I was younger, I did the summer reading programs at Barnes and Noble and Borders, and got several good books from those programs. (My favorite was The Ruins of Gorlan, which I got from the Borders reading program the year before I grew out of it.) And I love the big bookstores for the same reason I love big libraries: there's nothing quite like being completely surrounded by thousands of books.

I do like small bookstores too though, even if I haven't had much experience with them. From what I know of them, they feel cozier, less overwhelming. At one point, one of my dream careers was owning my own independent bookstore- specifically, one specializing in either young adult and middle grade fiction or fantasy in general. (This may or may not have been influenced by The Berinfell Prophecies- I'll let you draw your own conclusions there. But I did want to name the bookshop "Ye Olde Book Shoppe".) By now, I've given up on the idea, but independent bookstores are still awesome. I rather wish I had the opportunity to go to them more.

What about you? What's your favorite bookstore? Do you have any special memories involving bookstores? Please tell me in the comments, or write your own Random Fridays post about them!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)       

Want to join in the Random Fridays fun? Feel free to make a post of your own on the week's topic! Please just be sure to use the Random Fridays banner, link back to Awkwordly Emma, and post the link to your post on the Awkwordly Emma blog so other participants can check out your post. For a list of future Random Friday topics, click here.