Friday, October 31, 2014

Writing Music

Hello, everyone! I don't know about you, but for me, music is very important when I'm writing. In fact, I struggle to write without some kind of music in the background, and what the music is can make or break my writing session. Since NaNoWriMo is starting tomorrow (EEP!), I thought I'd share some of my favorite writing music.

The Lord of the Rings soundtrack
This is usually my go-to playlist when I'm settling in for a long writing session, particularly if I'm away from the computer. The Lord of the Rings soundtrack pretty much defines epic music, and it can work with almost any story and scene. It's also really good for long stretches, since it's almost guaranteed to outlast any writing session.

Narnia soundtracks.
Before I discovered The Lord of the Rings soundtracks and Celtic music, the Narnia soundtracks, specifically those for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, were my main writing music. Now I mostly listen to them when I need something different, but I still really like them. My favorite track is Evacuating London, but I also really like The Blitz and A Narnian Lullaby.

Celtic Music
There are several different Celtic artists whose music is great for writing, and which I listen to depends mostly on my mood and whether or not I have access to YouTube. Here are three of my favorites.

This is probably my favorite Celtic music in the world: the Riverdance soundtrack. It's less versatile than some other music- I certainly wouldn't listen to it while writing a battle scene, for example- but it's still good for most instances. My favorite track is Shivna, though I'm often too caught up in the words to actually write during that particular song!

Adrian von Ziegler
I mentioned Adrian von Ziegler and his 2 Hours of Celtic Music last year during NaNoWriMo. At the time, it was my go-to music for word wars and just writing at the computer. I've branched out into other artists since then (one of whom I'll mention in a moment), but I'm sure I'll still listen to his music quite a bit next month. In addition to his Celtic music, I also like his 2 Hours of Fantasy Music.

I just discovered Brunuhville this past summer, but his music quickly jumped onto my favorites list. Like Adrian von Ziegler, he composes Celtic and fantasy music. In some ways, I actually like Brunuhville's music better than Adrian von Ziegler's, though I'm not sure exactly why. Maybe it's the feel of the music, as Brunuhville's songs tend to be lighter than those written by Adrian von Ziegler.

Lindsey Stirling
Lindsey Stirling's music is awesome. Her earlier songs are bright and beautiful; her latest album is more dramatic but still amazing. Her music videos are also pretty cool, particularly her latest ones- admittedly, they can distract from my writing, but they're inspirational in their own way. I also love her video game covers and her Mission Impossible cover for when I need something a bit more sneaky or quest-y sounding.

What's your favorite writing music? Please tell me in the comments; I'm always looking for something new to listen to!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

If Not For NaNoWriMo, Where Would We Be?

Short a lot of stories, that's where, and in a much less crazy (and awesome) world.

If you can't guess from the banner above, I'm doing NaNoWriMo. For me, there's never really been a question of whether or not I'll participate; I enjoy it too much to skip a year. (Besides, I depend on NaNo events for at least half my yearly writing.) I really don't have a plot yet, but . . . more on that later.

Quick explanation for any newcomers who are wondering "What the pumpernickel is NaNoWriMo?": NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. There's also a Young Writers' Program, which is for kids and teens under eighteen and allows you to set a goal less than 50K. It's awesome (and crazy, but mostly awesome). If you're a writer, I recommend trying it at least once. It's great for learning to discipline yourself and meet daily writing goals.

Anyway, as I said earlier, I don't really have a plot for this year's novel. Not that I usually have more than a very rough outline in my head, but I usually have settled on one story I'm going to write. This year . . . nope. I'm hoping to change that in the next few days by writing down summaries and possibly rough outlines for some of my ideas so I can figure out which one would be the best choice.

I do know that I'm taking a break from my Berstru Tales series, which I worked on during the last three years' NaNoWriMos (I'm still working on Book 4 . . . I'm nearly done, though!) and from my fairy tale remake series (I've been working on Book 2 on and off for about a  year and a half). I love both series, but I really want to take a month off and work on one of the other novels I have floating in my head. I mean, if I don't finish Berstru Tales 4 in the next few days, I might do some work on it during NaNoWriMo (since I only have four or five scenes left), but that's all.

What'll happen to Dreams and Dragons during NaNoWriMo? Well, Top Ten Tuesdays and Random Fridays may or may not go on hiatus; it depends how school and writing go and how much I like the topics for those posts. Even if I don't do my usual posts, though, I'll be posting semi-daily NaNoWriMo progress updates, like I did last year. I also have ideas for other weekly posts, along the lines of word wars and/or writing challenges, that I may try, though I'm not sure. We'll see.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo? If so, do you have a plot yet? Also, if I host some kind of word war or writing challenge on my blog, would you be interested in joining in? Please tell me in the comments!

Thanks for reading, and happy noveling!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Message Spider

Recently I was given the assignment to write a folktale for school. I had a lot of fun with it, and since the result turned out well, I thought I'd share it on here. As a note, this story does not signal a change in my attitude towards spiders. I still think they're creepy and am thoroughly disturbed by how many I've seen in my house lately. Anyway, enjoy the story!

The Message Spider

            Long, long ago, in the time when people and animals had not yet forgotten how to speak to each other, there lived in the very smallest of villages a brother and sister. The brother and sister kept sheep, whose wool the sister spun and knitted into the softest, warmest sweaters you could imagine. Every month, the brother would take these sweaters and some of the extra produce from their garden and go to the great city for market day. Each time before he left, he’d say to his sister, “Well, I’ll see you in a week!” and each time he would return exactly as he said.

            One month, however, a week passed and he did not return. The sister began to worry. “Perhaps,” she said to her sheep as she herded them out to pasture, “he is lost! Or perhaps he’s hurt, or he’s been robbed, or all three! I should go look for him.” 

            The sheep, being sheep and mostly unconcerned with the affairs of any human, ignored her. The sister thought about leaving her home and searching for her brother. The more she considered it, however, the more she realized that she couldn’t possibly go alone. Not only did she not know the way to the city, but the dangers that might’ve taken her brother would be far greater for her. 

            She decided that she had better go to her neighbors and see if any of them would help her. First she went to her next-door neighbor, a woodcutter, thinking “He is strong and brave! Surely he’ll help me!”

            But when the woodcutter heard her request, he shook his head sadly. “Sorry lass. I’d love to help, but I’ve a wife, a new baby, and three other children to take care of. I can’t leave them.” 

            The sister said “Thank you anyway, sir,” and went to her other next-door neighbor, a farmer. “He is generous and patient; he’ll help me, I’m sure!” she said to herself.

            So she found the farmer in his field and told him of her need, but he, like the woodcutter, slowly shook his head. “’Tis planting time, lass. I’ve no time for a journey. I’ll be glad enough to keep an eye on your sheep while you’re gone, but I can’t be going with you.” He sent her off with a pat on her shoulder and an apologetic, “Sorry about your brother. Hope you find him.”

            The girl, though disappointed, thanked him. She then went to the shopkeeper, thinking “He is shrewd and experienced; perhaps he’ll help me!”

            The shopkeeper, however, did not even apologize when he shook his head. “I’ve a business to run, girl,” he said, barely looking up from his account books. “A business to run and a living to make. I can’t go off on a wild chase after your brother, or anyone else’s for that matter. Besides, it’s your business, not mine.”

            Heavyhearted, the girl left without a word. One by one, she visited each of her other neighbors in the town, but not one of them could help. All were too busy, or had a sick relative, or were ill themselves, or simply wouldn’t come. 

            The girl, however, refused to give up. “If my human neighbors will not help me,” she said to herself, “perhaps my animal ones will.” So, she set out to ask the beasts and birds to help her.

            First she asked the dog, thinking, “He is keen and loyal! No doubt he will be glad to help!” 

            The dog listened to her, but when she’d told her tale, he barked sharply and shook his head so his long ears flapped about. “No good! No good!” he growled. “I’m bound to guard my master’s house! I can’t leave! Not for anything! No good! No good!” 

            Disappointed, the girl next tried the horse, saying to herself, “Surely he will help! He is swift and powerful!”

            The horse, however, shook his mane and turned away when he’d heard her plight. “I’d love to help,” he said, in a way that meant quite the opposite, “but I can’t. I’m a noble beast. I’ve the affairs of my own herd to take care of; I can’t get involved in outsider’s problems. Goodbye, maiden, and good-luck.” And with that, he galloped off before she could say another word.

            The girl was quickly losing hope, but she continued her search for help anyway. This time, she went to the cat, thinking “He is patient and cunning; perhaps he will help.” 

            The cat, however, ignored her altogether, pretending to be asleep on the hearth. Try as the girl might, he would give her no response, and she went away more dismal than before.

            After that, the girl went to each of her other animal neighbors and asked them for help. Like the humans, every one refused her. Now the girl could think of no one to ask for help at all. Tired, disappointed, and quite out of hope, she curled up in a corner of her house and cried.

            As she wept, she heard a voice, smoother than silk and so small that it was nearly lost before it reached her ears. “Why are you crying, maiden?”

            The girl did not recognize the voice, but she was too distraught to look up. Between sobs, she explained what had happened, how her brother had disappeared and no one would help her search for him.

            After she finished, the voice said sympathetically, “That’s too bad. I’ll help you if you like, and I’ll ask my friends to help as well.”

            “What?” The girl looked up, astounded that she’d missed anyone in her search for help. What she saw made her give a little shriek. Dangling from a near-invisible thread was a spider, fat and black with two sun-bright yellow splotches on its abdomen. “You’re a spider!”

            The spider climbed up a short ways on its web, safely out of smacking distance. It knew what humans were like. “Yes, I am. I’m a message spider, to be exact. I write messages in my webs so all the spiders and insects can read them and hear the latest news. I can write about your brother in my next web- see?” And the spider began busily spinning a small web in the fireplace-corner. The girl watched and saw that there were indeed words in the spider’s web, though they were in a language she didn’t know.

            The spider finished spinning and sat contentedly in the middle of his work. “It says ‘Lost- a maiden’s brother. Please help.’ When I make the real message web, I can add in what he looks like, and all who read it will know to look for him. We insects and spiders are everywhere, you know, and if we haven’t seen him, he’s disappeared off the face of the earth. Once he’s been found, one of us can simply guide him home, or if he’s hurt, send a message to you. 

            “You’d do that?” the girl asked, amazed that a creature who’d undoubtedly lost many relatives to her broom and shoes would help her. “Really? Oh, thank you!”

            “Of course,” the spider replied courteously. “It’s only right.” Then, having listened to the girl describe her brother, he scurried out the window to begin his work.

            The spider was every bit as good as his word. Each day, he wove a new web telling of the girl’s lost brother and instructing insects and other spiders to keep as many eyes out as they could and to spread the word. A week after he’d begun, the brother, who’d been lost during a thunderstorm, was found. Three days later, he returned home safe and sound, having been guided back to the road by several friendly bees. And they all lived happily ever after.
The end.

Photo Credits:
"Medieval Village 9" by Dragoroth
"Messages" by Anna Goodling (the original inspiration for message spiders)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Places Books Have Made Me Want To Visit
Hello, everyone! Book-related places to visit seems to be a fairly popular subject. I've already done two posts on the subject: one about fictional worlds I'd like to visit, and a collab with Emma of Awkwordly Emma on real-life book locations. However, I'm very happy to do another, especially since my list keeps expanding with almost every new book or series I discover! To keep from repeating myself too much, I'll be focusing on specific places that I'd like to visit, rather than general locations or worlds.

  1. The Shire (The Lord of the Rings). I'm going to try to minimize the number of LOTR-related places I put on this list, simply because if I don't, it'll turn into my itinerary for a year-long tour of Middle Earth. However, I do very much want to visit the Shire, especially Bag End. No doubt the hobbits would wonder about the strange human girl wandering about their hills and roads, but I'd be too busy trying to see everything (and meet my favorite hobbit characters) to pay much attention to their stares. Of course, since I've no chance of seeing the real Shire, I'll happily settle for the New Zealand version. (The same can be pretty much said of any locale from the LOTR books/movies.)
  2. The Haven Library (Tales of Goldstone Wood). Some of you may recall that I've mentioned that I want to work here, not just visit. However, I'll settle for the latter if Dame Imraldera isn't looking for another assistant. With all the stories contained there, and all the interesting people who seem to pass through, it's probably my favorite location in either the Far or Near World!
  3. Cair Paravel (The Chronicles of Narnia). Picking just one Narnian location to visit is difficult, since I've loved that world so long. In the end, I decided that Cair Paravel has probably made the biggest impression on me, and so that's where I'd go. 
  4. The Shattered Plains (The Stormlight Archive). No, the Shattered Plains- particularly the warcamps, which is where I'd want to spend most of my time- are not a particularly pleasant place. However, there are certain not-so-pleasant places that I'd want to see anyway, simply because they sound interesting. The Shattered Plains are one of these, particularly since they play such a large part in the books. (Of course, the world of The Stormlight Archive in general is one I'd want to visit because it's so different from anywhere I've read about before.)
  5. Rivendell (The Lord of the Rings). Yes, I know I said I wasn't going to put too many LOTR locations on this list, but I love Rivendell too much to leave it off. It seems like such a peaceful,
    beautiful place. It would be grand, true- it's the home of elves, after all- but not the imposing kind of grand like Minas Tirith (where I'd most likely feel perpetually mouse-like, if you get my meaning). 
  6. Elendel (The Alloy of Law). Much as I love the Mistborn trilogy, I don't think I'd want to visit during or before the time it occurs. That world sounds absolutely miserable. Afterwards, however, is a different matter. I'd love to see for myself what the Mistborn would becomes after the trilogy ends, and Elendel seems like the best place to do that.
  7. Fenworth's Castle (The DragonKeeper Chronicles). It's a castle . . . in a tree . . . which mostly consists of a massive library. Aside from its location (in the midst of a swamp), I cannot see anything about this that isn't rather awesome. 
  8. The 12-Year Market (Tales of Goldstone Wood). The 12-Year Market could be considered more an event than a location, but I'm counting it anyway. Visiting a Faerie market would be quite exciting (and much safer than venturing into the Wood)! Who knows what I might find among the stalls- or who I might meet among the Faerie folk tending them? 
  9. Great-Uncle William's House (House of Many Ways). This house might seem unassuming at first, but just how big is it inside? With one door leading to any number of rooms, it's hard to say. I'd love to explore and see what I could stumble upon. I'd probably get lost fairly quickly unless I borrowed Charmain's map, but I think the adventure would be worth it.

  10. Howl's Castle (Howl's Moving Castle). This is mostly because I want to know what it looks like. Is it just a castle that inexplicably moves around? Does it float? Is it like the movie, where there are leg thingys that seem to move it? Does it look like a traditional castle, or something else? (I usually imagine it as looking fairly traditional and floating a foot or so off the ground, but I do wonder.)
Well, there's my list. I meant to include some real places as well as fictional ones, but as you can see, that didn't happen. Of course, considering the kind of books I usually read, my lack of real locations shouldn't be surprising. What about you? What book-related locations, whether real or fictional, would you like to visit? Please tell me in the comments!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Random Fridays: Childhood Favorites
A few months ago, I did a Random Fridays post about some of my favorite books, movies, and videos from when I was a kid. I had no idea at the time that Emma would make that the specific theme of this week's Random Friday. But since I had a lot of fun writing that post, I'm pretty excited to write another one with the same theme of favorite childhood books, movies, and TV shows. And possibly other things, depending on what I think of.

The Books:

(Yes, I had way more favorites than what I mentioned last time.)

Grimms' Fairy Tales
No, my love of fairy tales is definitely not a recent thing- just my love of fairy tale remakes. I don't remember exactly how old I was when my grammy bought me a book of Grimms' Complete Fairy Tales, but I do remember reading that book quite a bit- probably more than any other book of fairy tales I'd had before then. My tastes then were rather different from now, though. I barely gave "Rapunzel" a glance (I'd heard it plenty of times already), "King Thrushbeard" I outright disliked, and while I liked "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" well enough, it certainly wasn't my favorite. I preferred less well-known stories, like "The Six Servants", in which a king's son, aided by six companions with rather bizarre powers, won the hand of a sorceress-queen's beautiful daughter. (And now that I think of it, I rather want to try my hand at retelling that tale!)

The Chronicles of Narnia
Narnia, fairy tales, and The Hobbit- you pretty much have half of my childhood reading list right there. The Chronicles of Narnia were probably the first "real" fantasy books I read, and I'd listened to them- either read to me by my parents or as the Focus on the Family dramatizations- even before that. I used to love Voyage of the Dawn Treader most, though I can't recall for sure why. Ironically, some of the books I liked least then, The Horse and His Boy and The Last Battle, are probably my favorites now.

Caddie Woodlawn
Like most kids, I read the Little House books. (Possibly unlike most kids, I read all five series- Martha (my favorite), Charlotte, Caroline, Laura, and Rose (my least favorite).) I also read Caddie Woodlawn, a somewhat similar (though mostly fictional) book, and in some ways liked it better. It seemed a bit more relatable, since it was more a growing up story than a frontier life story. It was also funnier, but then again, fiction generally is funnier than reality.
The Movies:
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
We watched this movie a lot, both because I and the rest of my family enjoyed it and because it provided a compromise. It was shorter than Mary Poppins or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (both of which I suggested fairly often), my sister and I enjoyed it, and it wasn't animated (which Daddy could only take so much of). I really enjoyed the movie, and want to watch it again sometime, but unfortunately the part I remember most is the Oompa Loompa's song . . . which tends to get stuck in my head at annoying time and won't. come. out. 
Mary Poppins
I think I mostly liked this movie for the music- for a while, all my favorite Disney songs were from Mary Poppins. Of course, the rest of the movie is pretty fun too, especially when you realize how many nods to the book are actually in there (which I didn't realize then, naturally, but do now). As I mentioned before, we didn't watch it a lot because it's a long movie and my sister and I had to, you know, go to bed at a reasonable time. Now I think I should watch it again sometime . . . 
 Other Things
Jungle Jam and Friends: The Radio Show
Someone please tell me that I'm not the only one who loved Jungle Jam? I never listened to it on the radio, but we had nearly all the episodes (as far as I know) on cassette, and we also had CD versions of two of the cassette albums. For a while, car trips meant listening to Jungle Jam, and later (when The Chronicles of Narnia and other audiobooks became the norm), I listened to them by myself. And like VeggieTales, I still enjoy some Jungle Jam now and then.

Beethoven's Wig
For a while, I'm pretty sure this was the only music I really listened to. For those of you who don't know, the Beethoven's Wig CDs were meant to introduce kids to classical music: they contained pieces of classical compositions paired with funny lyrics, followed by those same pieces without words. Of course, being a kid who hadn't yet learned to appreciate the value of instrumental music, I only really listened to half the songs on each CD- but I definitely enjoyed them.  

Friday, October 3, 2014

Hero Time

Time-related superpowers are seriously underrated.

There's no denying it. Ask just about anyone what superpower they'd most like to have; not many will say something time-related. Few superheroes have powers that have to do with time, and those that do generally aren't very well-known. It's not hard to guess why. Time-related powers don't appear as exciting as things like flight, lightning, or telekinesis, nor are they as easily applied in a fight scene like super strength, invisibility, or the aforementioned powers. However, if given my pick of superpowers, I would definitely take something time-related over any of those things.

Why? Quite simply: no matter what variety, time-related superpowers are the best possible blend of coolness and practicality. A few examples:
  • Time Travel. This is probably what most people think of when someone says "time-related powers". The awesomeness factor is pretty obvious: who wouldn't want to travel back and forth through time? It's not quite as practical as other powers, since trying to change things in the past is likely to cause paradoxes and trying to avert disasters you learn about by going to the future is likely to make those calamities occur (for the same reason that trying to avoid a prophesied death is likely to bring it about). However, being able to visit any period of history you want would definitely make up for any non-practicalities.
  • Slowing down or speeding up time. These two aren't quite as exciting as time travel, but they're still cool and useful. Speeding up time for yourself (or slowing it down for others) gives you a little extra time to think in stressful situations, to give yourself a few extra minutes to get ready when you're running late, or, if you happen to be a legit crime-fighting superhero, to  get out of  your enemy's way or catch him off-guard. Slowing down time for yourself (speeding it up for others) is slightly less applicable, but it would be helpful in situations where you're waiting for something. For example, if you were anticipating a test, an audition, or anything else you were nervous about, slowing down time for yourself would actually make what you're anticipating get there faster. For a superhero application, need to detain the baddie until backup arrives? Slow down time for both yourself and him! (Also, giving credit where credit is due: I got several of my ideas for applying these powers from The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson. Like most of Sanderson's work, it's pretty awesome, and you should definitely read it.)
  • Stopping time or stepping outside of time. This is actually the time-related ability I'd most like to have. Despite having quite a bit of free time, I never seem to get everything done that I want to do. By stopping time, or better yet, stepping out of it, I could get extra time on busy days for things like writing, reading, and possibly schoolwork. Obviously, the internet and similar things wouldn't work until I'd gone back to real time, but if I'm trying to get stuff done, that's probably for the best. And, of course, the applications for a superhero are endless: freezing time to escape if you're caught, stepping outside time to go over clues and strategies without the pressure of a ticking clock, pausing time to assess the situation if you're attacked, and more. 
You can probably tell by now why I like time-related powers so much, and how they can be useful not only for the fantastical life of a superhero but for the everyday life of a normal person. I'd like to see more characters in both books and movies with these kinds of powers- not just in time-travel or superhero stories, but in fantasy in general.

What about you? What superpower would you most like to have, and if you had it, how would you use it? Are there any superpowers (or special powers in general) that you think are underrated? Please tell me in the comments!

Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)