Thursday, May 28, 2015

Things I Can't Do (But Wish I Could)

A note: yesterday's hiatus announcement was supposed to go up tomorrow, on Friday the 29th. I don't know what happened that it posted early; I thought I'd scheduled it for then. Anyway, I'm still here today but won't be tomorrow. Sorry for the confusion. We now return you to your regularly scheduled post.

I know how to do a lot of things. Maybe not as many as I think I know, and maybe a lot of them aren't very practical, but I do know how to do them. (More or less.) However, there's a lot more things I don't know how to do but wish I did, and that's something I've been thinking about a fair bit recently. I thought I'd share some of the top things I wish I could do with the rest of you.

Things I Can't Do (But Wish I Could)

  1. Sword- or staff-fighting. I could possibly pretend I want to know this solely for purposes of story research. That, however, would be a lie worthy of Wizard Howl himself. My desire to learn how to wield a sword or staff (or various other weapons of fantasy-book fame) stems primarily from the fact that almost all my favorite fantasy characters wield one of the two- or a bow, which I both own and know how to use. However, I don't know where I'd go to learn either of these, and while I might be able to figure it out from books and videos (those made by people who know what they're doing), I'm honestly too lazy to teach myself.
  2. Play a musical instrument. This is something that I'm sure I could teach myself if I put the effort into
    it (there are a lot more resources available for learning to play musical instruments than there are for learning the sword or staff), but again, I've never put the effort in, mostly because I've never really had a burning desire to do so. Also, there's the fact that I'd have to either buy an instrument myself or ask my parents to buy it for me, and somehow, books always seem to have much higher purchasing priority. I don't even know what instrument I'd play- at one point, I wanted to learn guitar, but having tried it once or twice and discovered that pressing down the strings hurts and it's difficult to figure out where to put your fingers (even when you have a friend showing you what to do), I've kind of become a bit disenchanted with actually playing it. The same issue would probably apply to most other string instruments as well. So that leaves wind instruments (namely pennywhistles, which are used in Celtic music and look to be both easy and inexpensive) and percussion instruments (which in general look easy but can't really do much on their own I don't think).
  3. Speak and/or write in Elvish. I've actually made attempts at teaching myself Elvish at various times. Unfortunately, I've never stuck with either long enough to learn more than writing my name and speaking a smattering  of phrases. As this is one of the least useful things on the list, though, and I can speak fairly decent German, I'm not too torn up about it. Maybe I'll give it another shot sometime during the summer and see if I get any further.
  4. Speak with an accent. Ok, it's a little silly, but I do wish I could speak in some accent other than my native one. An accent from somewhere in the Great Britain/Ireland area would be my preference, particularly from Scotland or England. (And yes, I know, there's a lot of different kinds of English accent, and I'm not particular on which one except not Cockney.) However, a German accent would also be cool (and useful for improving my German pronunciation, most likely).
    This is nightshade. Aka poisonous.
  5. Identify poisonous plants vs. edible ones. Yes, I do have actually useful skills on this list, surprise, surprise! This is probably something I should actually learn to do, both for my novels and for real life. Not that I expect to be stranded in the wilderness anytime soon, but you never know. At the moment, my knowledge extends to: (A) pine needles can be used for tea and the inner bark can be eaten, (B) nightshade, water hemlock, and a lot of mushrooms are all poisonous, (C) don't eat anything the animals won't. So, yeah- if I ever need to find food in the woods, I'm in trouble.
  6. Make a small-animal trap. This one is kind of related to the last item on the list, in that it would be useful if I'm ever stranded in the middle of nowhere. I'd rather be able to find plants to eat since catching animals means I also have to kill them, clean them, and cook them, and yeah. I could probably manage that last one- yes, including making a fire; I've seen my grandpa and others do it enough times that I at least know the method, though I'd need matches or a lighter or something- but the other two? A bit more difficult. Of course, if I'm desperate and hungry, that might outweigh my squeamishness.
  7. Navigate without a map and not get lost. This one actually isn't limited to the wilderness; I'm talking about the streets as much as I am the middle of nowhere. And yes, they use different skills; I'd like to be able to find my way around both. I'm ok if I have a map, but without one . . . Well, basically, I have no sense of direction, so I can feel lost even when the rest of my family apparently knows exactly where we are. Also, while I can find my way around fairly well within a mile or two of my house, there are some places that I'm a little iffy on the route to or back from, even though I've been there literally hundreds or even thousands of times. So, yeah. The latter of these could probably be solved by my paying a little more attention to where I'm going even when I'm not the one driving. The former? A little more difficult to solve.
What things do you wish you could do? Do you have any suggestions regarding my list? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
 -Sarah (Leilani Sunblade) 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Hiatus Announcement

I just wanted to let you know that Dreams and Dragons will be going on hiatus for the next two weeks. I should be back sometime in the week after June 12.
Have a lovely two weeks, and I'll see you soon!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade) 

Edit: This was supposed to go live on Friday the 29th. I'm still here today, the 28th. Blogger's scheduling function apparently doesn't want to cooperate. *facepalm*

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Character Encounters May 2015

Hello, everyone! It took me a little longer than I planned to get this ready, but today I have another Character Encounter! This month's location is at the playground, so I knew immediately who I'd be meeting- after all, I have only a few characters who'd be likely to hang around a playground. Conveniently, they happen to be some of my favorites- though don't tell any of my characters I said that. So, without further ado . . .

If all of May’s beauties could be compressed into one single, glorious day, it would be this one. Birds chased one another across the cloudless blue sky, squirrels scampered through the green-clad tree limbs, and a few butterflies fluttered across the grass in search of flowers. A light breeze stirred the air, just enough to prevent the day from growing too warm.

For the brown-and-white dog at the end of the leash in my hand, however, none of these beauties held enough attraction to keep her from racing from one side of the path to the other with her nose to the ground as fast as I would let her go. I hurried after, wondering if this would be the day my shoulder finally dislocated. Lucy, my youth group leaders’ dog, was always energetic, but she seemed especially so today.

As we rounded the bend near the playground, oddly familiar voices caught my ear. I peered through the wall of trees between me and the speakers, trying to figure out who the voices belonged to. I felt certain I’d never actually heard them before, yet I knew them nearly as well as I knew my parents’ voices. Lucy, thankfully, slowed to investigate the bushes alongside the path, allowing me to take a good look at the speakers. Three little girls, obviously sisters, clambered about on the playground equipment, watched over by two older teens, nearly identical but for the fact that one had grey eyes and hair cropped to chin length, while the other’s eyes were violet and her hair was held back in a braid that fell just past her shoulders. I blinked, recognition dawning. But no, that can’t be . . .

The youngest of the girls, a four-year-old with wavy golden hair tied in two pigtails, spotted me and dropped off the monkey bars. She approached me shyly, her eyes fixed on Lucy. “May I pet the doggy?”

“Go ahead.” I took a firmer grip on Lucy’s leash. “Lucy, stay.”

Lucy obeyed, or maybe she was just too absorbed in smelling the bushes to disobey. The little girl tentatively patted Lucy’s head and then, apparently discovering Lucy wasn’t going to jump on her, started rubbing around Lucy’s ears.

The other two girls- obvious twins- dashed over after their younger sister. They glanced at me, their question obvious in their eyes. I nodded. “Go ahead.”

“Thank you,” one of them said, politely. The other went straight to petting Lucy. The one who’d spoken added, “What’s your doggy’s name?”

“Her name’s Lucy.” I kept one eye on the dog in question, who’d given up on smelling the bushes but seemed to be submitting to the petting happily enough. “She’s not mine, though. I’m walking her for a friend.”

“Oh.” The girl joined her sisters in petting Lucy. “I’m Cara, and that’s my sister Keely, and my other sister Hope.”

“Nice to meet you.” I noticed one of the two older girls- the one with shorter hair, who seemed to be about my own age- walking over to me. I offered her a smile. “Hello.”

“Hello.” She smiled tightly back. “Thank you. I hope they aren’t bothering you.”

“Not at all. Lucy’s enjoying the attention.” I took another good look at the newcomer. Her medieval-looking tunic and pants contrasted strongly with the modern playground set, as did the swords sheathed on her back, their hilts just visible above her shoulders. “I’m Sarah, by the way. And you are?”

“Dea Alyron.” Dea held out a hand. “These three are my sisters.”

“I know.” I shook Dea’s hand, barely restraining myself from shouting or doing some kind of happy dance. Dea Alryon! And that must be Gwen over there!

“I guess you would. You’re the Author, after all.” Dea eyed me a bit suspiciously. “Should I be worried about letting the little ones near you?”

I shook my head emphatically. “No! They’re safe! You all are!” Dea gave me a disbelieving look, and I added, “Relatively speaking. Anyway, I wouldn’t actually hurt them. I may be an Author, but that doesn’t mean I’m some monster.” I change the subject. “How’d you know who I am anyway?” I’m used to my Udarean characters recognizing me, when I let them, but encountering characters outside my novels is new to me.

Dea shrugged. “Outside our Stories, we characters know a lot more than we normally would.” She bit her lip, her gaze wandering back to the three younger girls. “Normally, though, I don’t care much about that. I’m more interested in just spending as much time as I can with my family, especially considering what you did to us at the end of Destinies and Decisions.

Her tone could’ve been a weapon, it was so pointed. I winced. “Right. Sorry. It will get better, I promise.”

“Is it?” Gwen walked over to join us. “After all, we’re-”

I held up a hand, interrupting just in time. “Spoilers!”

“Right.” Gwen sighed in annoyance. “We are where we are, and at the moment, I don’t see a way out.”

Dea scowled. “Maybe if we’d left our snake of a brother and his girlfriend where we found them . . .”

“Maybe.” Gwen shook her head. “But it’s too late to change that now. Unless . . .” She glanced almost hopefully at me.

She must really be desperate. Recalling the situation she and the others are currently in, I wasn’t surprised. “Sorry. I’m not making that major of a change. Not now that I have a draft I like, at least. Like I said, though, it’ll get better. I pro-” Abruptly, the leash jerked from my hand. I turned and lunged after it. “Lucy!”

Lucy, apparently tired of petting, took off up the hill, straight for the road. I ran after her. “Lucy! Come! Lucy! Bad dog! Come!” Dragon’s teeth! Why didn’t I bring the remote for the electric collar? 

Dea passed me by, racing after Lucy as well. I heard the younger girls behind me. Lucy, however, seemed likely to outrun us all.

Then a wall of ice appeared in front of her. Lucy smacked into it and stops short, looking dazed and almost confused. Dea scooped her up, holding her tightly to prevent escape.

I slowed to a walk, breathing hard. “Thank you.” I turned back to see Gwen strolling up the hill at an easy pace. “And thank you as well.” I knew she must’ve made the ice wall; after all, she was the only ice Rider in the group. “If she’d gotten away . . .” I shook my head, not wanting to think about it. My leaders would forgive me; Lucy’s run away from them at least a dozen times. However, I still would’ve had to find her somehow. “I’d better get her home before she escapes again.”

Dea handed me the leash and waited for me to loop it securely around my wrist before setting Lucy down. “Probably a good idea.”

Lucy tugged, wanting to run free again. I clutched the leash with both hands. “Well, it was nice seeing you. Have a good day.”

“We will,” Gwen replied.

“Particularly since we’re here and not in the Story,” Dea added. She paused a moment. “But, if it’s really going to get better . . . could you hurry and write that part?”

“I’ll do my best.” Lucy’s tugging forced me to either start walking or be pulled over. I called over my shoulder to the siblings, “Bye for now! See you in the next novel!”
For the record, Lucy is very much a real dog who I walked on Fridays during the school year. And yes, she has run away from both me and my youth group leaders before quite a few times. Thankfully, she's always been found and caught (though never as quickly as in this encounter, I don't think!). Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my Character Encounter! Feel free to write your own and join the link-up!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade) 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Books Worth Listening To

Hello, everyone! As you might've noticed (and are possibly counting down to), summer- vacation season- is getting steadily closer. One might say it's started early for me, since I've spent a large portion of this week in
the van, going places. Bookwise, car trips usually mean two main things: trying to fit as many books as I can in my back pack (and hoping I've guessed accurately what I'll want to read while I'm away) and looking for a good audiobook to listen to while we're on the road. Audiobooks have always been my family's favorite way of in-car entertainment; they make the time go much faster, and have the added benefit of not making anyone carsick. Sadly, our most recent trips haven't involved much in the way of audiobooks for two main reasons: (A) we forgot to look for any audiobooks at the library, and (B) I'm driving and don't need to be distracted, so we didn't listen to the audiobooks we already had. Anyway, even if I'm not listening to an audiobook right now, I thought I'd share with you some of my favorites that I've listened to before.
  1. Howl's Moving Castle (as narrated by Jenny Sterlin). This, as you might've noticed, is one of my favorite books- but that doesn't automatically guarantee it a spot on my favorite audiobooks list. If I don't like the narrator's voice, even the most amazing story can be a terrible audiobook. (Case in point: The Lord of the Rings. I love the books, but I can't find a good audiobook version.) However, the narrator of Howl's Moving Castle? Absolutely perfect. Almost all the character voices sound just like I imagined them or better- especially Howl, who has a simply amazing accent. The only real exception is young Sophie, but as that's not a voice I hear for most of the book, it's only a small flaw. And the narrator's normal voice is just right for the almost-fairytale feel of the book.
  2. House of Many Ways (as narrated by Jenny Sterlin). Since this is the third Howl book, and it's narrated by the same person as the first, its awesomeness is hardly surprising. All the things I love about Howl's Moving Castle are true of House of Many Ways as well- with the one exception that I never get to hear Howl's accent. Admittedly, he's in disguise for most of the book, but it's still rather disappointing.
  3. The Chronicles of Narnia Radio Dramas (Focus on the Family). Ok, these are audio dramas rather than actual audiobooks, but they still count. Anyway, before I discovered Howl, these were my favorite audiobooks. The voice actors, the sound effects, the production in general- it's all very, very well done. They are adapted/abridged slightly from the original books, but that's always well done also. One other little thing I love about them: it's kind of random, but the melody they play at the start of each audiobook is lovely. It makes this picture in my head of literally being drawn through a portal into a book and really sets the mood for my enjoyment of the story itself.
  4. Ben Hur (Focus on the Family). This is one of the few audiobooks I actually like better than the original. The Focus on the Family version of Ben-Hur cuts the classic down to a more easily enjoyable length, while still preserving the theme and message that make the book great. Unfortunately, my sister doesn't enjoy it quite as much as I do, so no matter how much I push to listen to it on car trips, we usually don't.
  5. The Books of Bayern (as narrated by Cynthia Smith). These are the only audiobooks other than Ben Hur that I like better than the original. This is because I tend to read fast- and while that's usually not a bad thing, it does mean that I didn't appreciate the Books of Bayern, especially The Goose Girl, as much as I might otherwise have. Listening to the audiobooks forces me to take them more slowly, which means I pay more attention to what I missed originally.
  6. By Darkness Hid and By Darkness Won, read and written by Jill Williamson. These aren't the best audiobooks I've ever listened to, but they're narrated by the author, which is really cool. I feel like I get a better idea of what the voices are supposed to sound like. They're also free on her site, so I definitely recommend checking them out there!
  7. Jim Weiss CDs. Ok, they're not exactly audiobooks; usually they're more along the lines of short story collections. However, these were some of my favorites when I was younger; Jim Weiss is a phenomenal storyteller. I still have a lot of his CDs, and I kind of feel like I should listen to them again sometime, maybe while I'm knitting. 
 Do you like listening to audiobooks? If so, what are some of your favorites? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade) 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Random Fridays: Top OTPS
Hey'a, everyone! Quick update for anyone curious: I did win Camp NaNoWriMo- just in time, as my desire to read all the new books I've been getting from the library was starting to overwhelm my motivation to write- and have spent most of the time since reading, working on school and driver's ed (almost done! with both!), and attempting to get back into the flow of editing Between Two Worlds. Anyway, today is another Random Friday, this time with the theme of top ten (or however many) OTPs. For those of you who don't speak fandom, "OTP" means "One True Pairing", and it refers to a fictional who you or another fan support above all other couples involving one of the involved characters. (Conflicting OTPs can often lead to heated arguments, but that's a discussion for another day . . . hopefully, anyway!) Conveniently, my OTPs generally end up being canon, so this list is going to be more like my favorite fictional couples.
  1. Aethelbald and Una (Tales of Goldstone Wood). Probably my favorite literary couple in the world, the Prince of Farthestshore and the Princess of Parumvir are absolutely wonderful together. Aethelbalds's constant, persistent, sacrificial love and Una's gradual realization of just how deep that love is lead to some of the most beautiful scenes I've ever read. (I'm tearing up just thinking about them!)
  2. Faramir and Eowyn (The Lord of the Rings). Aragorn and Arwen may get all the attention in the movie, and Beren and Luthien may be Tolkien's great love story, but Faramir and Eowyn hold first place in my heart among the couples of Middle Earth. I love the way they give each other what they've each been longing for. Faramir gives Eowyn the honor and respect she's searched for, while at the same time showing her that there's more for her life than what she's imagined. And Eowyn, in turn, gives Faramir the love and acceptance he's been lacking from his family.
  3. Bard Eanrin and Dame Imraldera (Tales of Goldstone Wood). What Goldstone Wood fan doesn't love Eanrin and Imraldera? I love the way they interact, teasing each other and pretending not to have feelings for one another . . . even though we all know they do! Of course, that just makes the occasional tender scene even sweeter, and it means I can look forward to the day they eventually admit that they love each other (and have it actually be a success, not an ill-timed disaster).
  4. Howl Pendragon and Sophie Hatter (Howl's Moving Castle). Howl and Sophie are absolutely hilarious together. I love the way they play off each other, arguing and yet not really mad at each other. The way their relationship develops from dislike and indifference to true love is wonderful. I also love how each brings out the best in the other, making both better people. And, of course, they have one of my favorite romantic lines ever: "I think we ought to live happily ever after."
  5. Achan and Vrell (Blood of Kings trilogy). I like how Achan and Vrell start off as friends before moving into romance territory, and their teasing each other makes me smile. Admittedly, I did get rather annoyed with them while waiting for them to get their respective acts together- but as I've mentioned before, that just makes it all the more sweet when they finally stop being stubborn and officially get together.
  6. Elend and Vin (Mistborn trilogy). I could list a lot of things I love about these two: their willingness to sacrifice for one another, always putting the other first, their determination, the way they each drive the other to grow and become better, the way they balance each other out so well. They're each perfect for each other, fitting together like two parts of a puzzle, and working together, trusting one another even when everything seems crazy.
  7. Walter and Ashley (Dragons in Our Midst and sequel series). There are other couples in these series who get much more attention than Walter and Ashley, but the jokester and the genius are and always will be my favorite. Like a lot of the couples on this list, they seemed an unlikely pair at first- but by the midpoint of Oracles of Fire (maybe sooner), there really is no doubt. Their love, courage, and faithfulness are inspiring- and their interactions are both funny and sweet.
  8. Jacin and Winter (The Lunar Chronicles). Ok, so we've seen less of this couple than any other LC pair- but I know Jacin, and I read the sample chapters of Winter, and ohhhhh they're so sweet and protective and adorable and loyal and just perfect together. 
And I am going to stop the list there, even though it's not top ten, mostly because I've listed the all the couples I get the most excited about. Who are your top OTPs? Please tell me in the comments, or feel free to make a Random Fridays post of your own!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)