Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday Book Sale

Like most other bookworms, great books make their way onto my "things I'm thankful for" list every year. It's hard to choose favorites, but I went ahead and picked five books I read in 2015 and am thankful for.
  1. Omega Dragon by Bryan Davis, because Bryan Davis's books are amazing, basically. And because even though I'm sad that this series of series is over . . . I'm thankful that I got to read it, and that I have books that can strengthen my faith so very much.
  2. The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson, because I was scared of how it might end- and justifiably- but it was amazing all the same. Amazing and beautiful and marvelous and wonderful and terrifying in places, but still shining with light even in the darkest places.  
  3. The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall, because this book is deep and beautiful and heartbreaking. I read it and then I listened to the audiobook and I might've cried a little during the audiobook and I never cry over books. I read The Warden and the Wolf King and I was sad and yelling "Nooooo! No, no, no . . . whyyyyy?" . . . but I didn't cry. But for Batty, I cried.
  4. Reflections on the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones, because it's so rare for me to come across a nonfiction book that I love so much.
  5. The Ryn and The Remedy by Serena Chase, because I've been wanting to read it for years and hadn't- but now I finally have, so huzzah!
I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to another great year of reading! Speaking of more reading, here's one more thing to be grateful for. Books on sale! In honor of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, a group of independent Christian authors banded together to offer over seventy discounted books on Nov 27-30. There's literally something for everyone. Every single book listed on Indie Christian Books is on sale in one or more ways. Find discounted paperbacks, dozens of books offered with free shipping, $0.99 ebooks, package deals and more. Even if you have a budget of $0, new reading material awaits you. Don't know what to pick? The fearless Indie Christian Books team created a quiz that will generate a book list perfect for you! Check it out! Book Quiz  
What awesome reads of 2015 are you grateful for? What books are you looking forward to reading in 2016?
A note on the Ebooks Only page. All books are listed as "Sold Out." This only refers to paperback copies of these titles. Please click onto the product pages to find descriptions and links to discounted or free ebooks.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Leah E. Good for her work organizing this sale, Gloria Repp for completing the time consuming job of uploading book info to the sale website, and Hannah Mills for her fantastic design work on the website graphics. Hannah can be contacted at hmills(at)omorecollege(dot)edu for more information about her design services.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, everyone!
Unless you're in somewhere other than the U.S. In which case, have a happy Thursday, and be thankful that you're not dealing with Black Friday tomorrow.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

NaNoWriMo Day 22

Wordcount: 54,569
Words Written Today: 878
Words I Still Need to Write Today: 0
Writing Music Obsession: 10 Hours Nordic Music
Most Words Written In One Day: 5,292 on 11/15
Fewest Words Written In One Day: 488 on 11/19
Average Words Per Day: 2480 words

I've said it the last two years, and I'll say it again: HUZZAH!

It's weird, but I don't really feel the same "Yes! I won!" excitement this year as I usually do. Maybe it's because I'm still hoping to keep going at a strong pace for the rest of November in hopes of finishing not just the 50K but the whole storyline by the end of the month. I have decided, though, that I probably won't try to finish Monster in the Castle this month . . . probably. It depends how long Binding Destiny takes me. (I still want to finish both stories by New Year's Eve, though, if I can. We'll see how it works out.)

Also, a funny-ish thing (or series of things?) happened this week. Those who read NaNoToons are aware that a handwriting WriMo was recently introduced- with an accompanying joke about arm cramps. I was happy to see handwriters finally represented in the comic, but also a bit bemused, since I can never remember getting any kind of cramps from writing- only from typing or using the computer mouse. On Friday, my youth leaders also made a comment about "Don't you get cramps from handwriting?" and I said that no, I don't. Cue Saturday . . . and my fingers start cramping halfway through the afternoon. (Oh, the irony!) On the upside, it never reached a full-on hand cramp.

How's your NaNo going? How far are you from the finish line? Had any hand cramps, whether you type or handwrite?
Thanks for reading!
 -Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Monday, November 16, 2015

NaNoWriMo Day 16

Wordcount: 42,185
Words Written Today: 1,199
Words I Still Need to Write Today: 0; I'm taking today as a light day.
Writing Music Obsession: Back to the Said the Sky Dubstep Mix

Yesterday was a very long writing day. I wrote a little over 5K, which makes it one of my most productive writing days ever. For that reason (and for other personal reasons) I'm taking today about half-off; I'm doing what I need to do for the Dice Quest crawl, and nothing more. Though I do have a Teenage Superhero Society post to write . . . I might not do that tonight, though, because my awesome parents bought me The King's Scrolls so now I need to reread Resistance to remind myself of characters and plot and such. And it would be really, really nice to read something.

Anyway! In celebration of being-past-40K and also of various other stuff, I'm posting snippets from Binding Destiny.
"Taika! The time has come!"
This is my first line. I'm fairly happy with it. It's not the best first line I've ever written, but it's not the worst either.
The door opened. Two guards dressed in green and brown emerged first, glanced around, and then stepped aside. Next emerged a young man a few years older than Mikkel, dark-skinned and dark-haired, dressed in a blue tunic and dark brown cloak. At his side was a lady about his same age. Tanned and red-haired, she was obviously not an Aralan native- though she wore the formal outfit of a lady Aralan soldier: green tunic, knee-length skirt over leggings, a short dark green cloak, and brown leather chestpiece, shoulder guards, and bracers. She carried herself with the grace of a Seeker or some other order used to walking unseen in shadows; used to swift, precise movements and unerring accuracy- yet she also seemed to shrink into herself as if nervous of something. The young man, on the other hand, walked with easy, quiet confidence- not pride, but certainty. Behind them followed two more guards, one looking serious as the first two, the other definitely smirking.
Mikkel's first impression of Katelyn, Aedon, and Jarek . . . who is definitely in this novel. But he's behaving and actually being more helpful than Aedon is, so I'm not complaining.
Katelyn did so, stroking the griffin almost as if she were stroking a cat. She grinned at Aedon. "Oh stars. I'm petting a griffin. Petting. A griffin. My life is made."
Aedon made a mock-disappointed face. "So . . . I suppose anything I ever do will pale in comparison with petting a griffin."
Katelyn laughed. "No. My life can be made more than once."
"Can it?" Aedon approached the griffin from the other side. "Or are you just saying that to make me feel better?"
"It can. I can think of three things you could do that would top this."
The griffin chose that moment to hiss and shake itself. Katelyn jerked back. "Oh- um. Sorry? I didn't mean offense?"
There are griffins in my novel! Finally! I've been wanting to write a novel with griffins for ages. So far, Taika has the most to do with griffins (she's had three griffin rides so far) but I had to put in this one mostly so Katelyn could express my griffin-excitement for me.
"We'll need to keep an eye on what she's doing, then," Sir Leod said. "Seeker Estijar? Can you assign a rotation of your Seekers to revisit Rushire and watch Eira? None are to outright attack her, whatever she does. If she sees and attacks them, they run like the hounds of midnight are after them- What?" He gave the Aralan girl a confused glance.
The girl seemed to find something highly amusing, and she struggled to force a straight face. "Nothing. Nothing at all. Carry on. You were saying."
In which we are reminded that Katelyn was a fangirl before she was a character, and in which Sir Leod unknowingly makes a reference to a certain book series which both Kate and I love.
"Lady Cavanaugh?" Pieces clicked together in Taika's mind from her father's descriptions of events in other worlds. "Wait. You're Katelyn Shadowwalker? The lost-girl-turned-[Shadowwalker]-turned-Hero?"
"My name is Katelyn Stevens," she said, with considerable force. "But . . . yes. That is me. I thought I didn't have a reputation here yet."
I have become more glad than ever that I decided to include Katelyn, Aedon, and Jarek in Binding Destiny. They're basically the only people who don't view everything Taika says and does with utmost suspicion simply because she's a Coradin. And Katelyn and Taika are rapidly becoming friends, and it's a lot of fun to write- they have quite a bit in common.
"I miss you, Da," Taika whispered. "You'd know what to do. How to handle all this. I miss your excitement, your passion . . . I miss how you'd listen when I was upset and then try to help- or just try to distract me and cheer me up, if the problem wasn't one you could solve. I miss knowing you were here for me. I miss waking up to your voice calling me to the day, and I miss you pulling me away from my books or my tinkering to tell me about your plans because you just had to share them with someone."
She rubbed the dark pommel stone of the sword with her sleeve. "I miss you, Da. I wish you were here; we could hide by ourselves here and be safe and happy like we were. Except . . . we couldn't. Because you'd still feel like you had to fix what had gone too far. So maybe we'd have allied with Rushire anyway- but we would have each other when they think it's fine to say and do whatever they want because we're usually enemies. Maybe that would be better."
I needed words and didn't know what to do . . . so Taika spent a scene being sad and missing her father. I think it turned out rather well.
The trip back passed slower than the trip there- perhaps the griffin was reluctant to return. Taika wouldn't blame him if he was. If she could fly on her own, soar freely through the endless blue sky, she didn't think she'd ever come to earth. She'd just fly and fly and fly, crossing mountains and ocean and whatever lay on the sea's other side, stopping only when exhaustion forced her to fold her wings and snatch a few hours' sleep.
More griffins. Taika and I both needed a break from arguments and angst.

How's your NaNo going? Any favorite bits that you've written recently? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Monday, November 9, 2015

NaNoWriMo Day 9

Wordcount: 26432
Words Written Today: 1305
Words I Still Need to Write Today: 362 (or one side-quest's worth, whichever)
Writing Music Obsession: Brunuhville's "Dreams"

I'm past 25K!

Yes, I'm still doing the wordcount crawl. Today and yesterday were easy days- thankfully, because Saturday? Long and torturous. But, hey, I got over 4,000 words that day, so it's ok. And I also had an enforced semi-break on Saturday while my family watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the Gene Wilder version, not the Johnny Depp one) and I pretended to write but mostly just watched the movie too. I've had the Oompa-Loompa songs stuck in my head on and off the last two days as a result, but it was fun. We used to watch that movie all the time, but then we stopped- mostly because we got tired of it, I think.

The one issue I've found with the wordcount crawl is that it keeps me semi-tethered to my laptop. I can check the goals ahead of time and work on them elsewhere, yes- and I have done that. But most of my writing sessions have been spent with my laptop beside me so I can check wordcount goals and use YouTube for music and roll dice online and do all that sort of thing. And that's not bad . . . but it's also very conductive to procrastination on the internet, particularly when I'm tired. I should probably start just writing down or printing out the challenges and using a dice-rolling-app on my phone, but . . . eh. I don't know.

I'm also hoping (well fantasizing) that I might be able to do a crazy amount of writing this NaNo, instead of stopping at 50K like I usually would. I confess; that's partially because I'm enjoying my current wordcount crawl and I want to make it through to the end, no matter how hard that may be. But it's also because I like getting things done- and it would be awesome to draft Binding Destiny in one long streak. And then to finish Monster in the Castle by the end of the month as well (because Binding Destiny won't be that long, I don't think, and I'll need something else to write). And then I'd have all December to relax- well, as much as one can relax around Christmastime. I don't know if this'll actually happen, but it would be nice if it did.

How's your November going?
Thanks for reading!
 -Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

NaNoWriMo Day 5

Wordcount: 14040
Words Written Today: 1836
Words I Still Need to Write Today: Technically 0. In actuality, five more word wars' worth.
Writing Music Obsession: Said the Sky Dubstep Mix

So. I was a bit concerned about how my first week of NaNoWriMo would go this year, since it started on a Sunday and those are my absolute worst writing days. Turns out I probably didn't need to worry, as you can see. I'd say that's mostly due to two things:
  1. Daylight Savings Time ended on Sunday. And, unsurprisingly, I forgot to reset my clocks . . . and also left my alarm set for 6:30 so I'd have time to write. The result was that I woke up at 5:30, didn't realize it until I was up and alert- and then decided that since I was up, I might as well just stay up and get some writing done. After all, I got up that early to start off my first NaNo- why shouldn't I do it again?
  2. Dice Quest Wordcount Crawl. I discovered this on Monday, which I'd taken off from most of my schoolwork so I'd have more time to write. It's made by the creator of my favorite crawl from last year, the Dice Bag Crawl. Every day, the crawl-maker posts a new set of challenges, following the storyline of an adventure or quest.
So far, this NaNo has been a lot more exhausting than previous NaNos have been, mostly because of that Dice Quest crawl. The first day, I had to do two days' worth of quests in one . . . and then I had to do the sidequests as well, and played catch-up again yesterday because I finished reading Shadows of Self on Tuesday. (Which, I will note, was as amazing as expected, though it had a bit less of a mystery element.) Also, although I've probably set a new personal record for fastest-original-10K, I've also set a new personal record for fastest-catching-of-a-cold-during NaNo. (I knew it would happen eventually. It always does. Just usually not this soon.)

On the upside, 14K. Also, my novel as a whole is going better than I expected. It's called Binding Destiny, at the moment at least, and was based on an idea given to me by the lovely Deborah O'Carroll. Synopsis, for those interested:
Mikkel is the Hero of Rushire- or will be, once he finishes his training. Chosen by Destiny herself, he serves under the city's last remaining Hero, Sir Leod, and awaits the day when he can prove himself.
Taika is the ward of Martius Coradin, latest in a long line of sworn foes of Rushire. For generations they have fought the city in various ways- but in recent years their power has waned with the changing times.
Yet Martius has made a new plan- a plan which, he says, will reawaken the old ways and make people fear the Coradin name once more. But when his plan spirals out of control, it's up to Mikkel and Taika to work together to save their world.
It's not turning out entirely like I planned- for one thing, Martius is rather less evil than I'd intended him to be. But another villain may or may not be appearing soon who'll change that . . . Also, it's set in a related world to that of last year's NaNo novel, Between Two Worlds. And, because what's the point in writing a novel set in a connected world if you don't let favorite characters from previous novels show up, Katelyn and Aedon are secondary characters in this story. (I think Jarek snuck in with them too, despite my specifically telling him to stay in Aralan . . . and now he's trying to act like he doesn't know what I'm talking about. As if that's going to work.) So far, they haven't done much except provide opportunities for worldbuilding and exposition and squealing over griffins (that last one is mostly Katelyn- but can you blame her?), but they are eventually going to play a role in moving the plot forward. And in the meantime, it's a lot easier to write when I'm not working entirely with new characters.

How's NaNoWriMo going for you? What's your novel about? If you're not doing NaNoWriMo, how's life?
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

P.S. Does anyone know where this year's NaNo graphics are? Are there new NaNo graphics this year? I can't find them- help, please and thank you very much!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Blogger Book Awards 2015 Finalists!

Art by the lovely Hannah Williams
Hello, everyone! The nominations are in, and after much deliberation, the finalists for the 2015 Blogger Book Awards have been chosen! Before I announce the top choices, however, I'd like to thank everyone who nominated a book or books- these awards couldn't happen without you.

And now, without further ado, the 2015 nominees for Best Book are:
The King's Scrolls by Jaye L. Knight
Pendragon's Heir by Suzannah Rowntree
Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

Don't forget to check out the nominees in the other categories as well:
Best Cover, hosted by Schuyler
Best Title, hosted by Hannah
Best Short Fiction, hosted by Ghost Ryter
Best Character, hosted by Annie
Best Author, hosted by Allison
The final awards will be posted in December, starting with Best Cover on the 19th and ending with Best Author on Christmas Eve.
Thanks for reading! And to all my fellow WriMos: may your pens (or fingers) be swift and may your wells of inspiration overflow.
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)