Saturday, April 30, 2016

April Doings

Oh, look. April's over. How did that happen? I suppose that means it's time for another monthly Doings post, doesn't it? Well, let's get started.


  • I once again completed Camp NaNoWriMo. Mechanical Heart, my novella, turned out a bit different (and a bit more difficult) than I expected it to be. More of the focus fell onto my prince than I had planned for- mostly because he's where most of the action happened. I have come to the conclusion that if I ever write my fantasy-mystery-with-politics novel, I'll have to do a lot more worldbuilding than I did for this project.
  • Anyone want a snippet? Here's the first two paragraphs of the novella:
    "Her heart beat on, as it always did.
    Breen lay, eyes shut, on the smooth wooden floor, waiting as her bones knit back together and the crystal in her chest burned with an almost unbearable heat and the clockwork of her heart pumped unperturbedly on. She'd fallen. Again. That seemed to be happening more and more often lately . . . or perhaps it was just her imagination."
  •  And another bit of description I rather like:
    "Here, high above the city, she watched life go by. Even now, the streets bustled with carriages: most horse-drawn, black, and boxy, others horseless and puffing steam. On the sides of the streets, men in black and brown suits and ladies in bright dresses strolled along before shops and homes. Smoke flowed in ribbons and streamers above them, caught by the breeze and pulled from chimneys of homes and factories alike. Over the slums and factory districts, if Breen cared to look, it hung heavy as a bank of thunderclouds- but she didn't often look that way, save when she was trying to convince herself her life wasn't so bad. 'You could be down there,' she'd tell herself, 'slaving in a factory of clothing mill dawn to dusk, forcing your family to feed another mouth, choked by smoke and never seeing the sky. At least hear you have the view and your work isn't hard and you're not draining anyone's pockets.'"
  • And something from Prince Josiah:
    "Josiah scowled. 'One might think that even if I'm not allowed to be involved in my own government, I could at least take a look in my own clock tower!'"
  • I don't think I really got any editing done this month, unless I've forgotten about it, but overall I'm pretty content- after three writing-and-editing-heavy months, I feel like I've earned a bit of a rest. (And, yes, a 20K month qualifies as a "rest"- or, it does after last month's massive amount of editing. It was practically a full NaNo event, March was.)


  • April was a really, really good reading month, let me tell you. I read and reread a total of 16 books, 15 of which are pictured above.
  • The highlights of the month: Calamity (but then again, it's Sanderson and it's not Alcatraz; how could it not be amazing?), a reread of Guards! Guards!, a slow reading of The Great Hunt (which was better in some ways than The Eye of the World but worse in others), and a devouring of the first three books in The Raven Cycle (which would've all been five-star books, but lost a star for strong language and references to certain things). 
  • Besides rereading Guards! Guards!, I went through three other Discworld books in the space of one weekend: Lords and Ladies (good, though not amazing), Soul Music (amusing, but a lot of the references went over my head), and Interesting Times (about average for Discworld, but since it's a Rincewind novel, that's a step up from what I expected). 
  • There were a few disappointments in the month, of course. Rebel Sands is a book that I was really looking forward to- it has a unique setting and a pair of sharpshooting protagonists, what's not to like? And it was a fairly good book, but even the setting couldn't save the book from certain twists that I found unfortunately cliche. The Goblin's Puzzle also wasn't quite as good as I hoped- it was a fun read, but I've found much better and much funnier.


  •  Y'know how I said back in February that I was going to try not to talk about the weather in every Doings post? Well, I didn't talk about it last month, so now I can complain again: apparently the weather missed the memo that this is spring, because we started the month off with about five inches of snow- enough to keep us home from church that Sunday. And the rest of the month wasn't especially warm either, with the exception of a few days. I was not thrilled.
  • On a happier note, my family went down to D.C. for the USA Science and Engineering Festival, which I blogged about last week. While we were down there, we also got to see several of our Bible study friends, attend our old church, and I got to spend Sunday evening with my former youth group leaders. All in all, it was an excellent trip.
  • On a similar topic: my dad's work had a "Take Your Student to Work" day, which was actually pretty interesting- both because I got a better idea of what exactly he and other people actually do there and because science is still awesome. (For the record: he works at a lab/research center, but not as a scientist.) There was a demonstration of how a laser worked, which was pretty cool, and of quadcopter technology, and a variety of other stuff.
  • I'm pretty much done with all the work for my dual enrollment course! I only have to edit a few (very short) essays and take a last quiz and then I'm done, yay! Plus I only have one poem and a test left in literature. Before long, I'll be done with school altogether. 
  • Certain life-stuff which was stressing me out quite a bit has been figured out. I can't really give a lot of details at the moment. But I've made a new friend and I have one less thing to worry about, so. That's good.

May Plans!

  • I plan to finish up Mechanical Heart, which shouldn't take too terribly long- I'm at the climax now, and I can't imagine there's more than 2K words left in the story. Maybe 3K, tops. Hopefully I'll have it done within a week.
  • I'm also going to be doing NaPoWriMo- a month late, I know, but I and a friend are planning to do our own personal event in May, since we both did Camp NaNo this past month. I'm looking forward to it, since I haven't written much poetry in a while, and hopefully it'll help me be more deliberate in looking for inspiration in everyday life, among other things.
  • And I want to get some editing done, but not a ton- I'm aiming for a chapter a week, maybe a little more.
  • I also have a few different craft projects I want to do- a skirt I'm modifying, three shirts I want to put designs on, and possibly some beading/necklace-making. And I'd like to get at least halfway done on the poncho I'm knitting. We'll see if any of that happens. In theory I should have more time because I'll be finishing most of my schoolwork and I won't be writing as much, but . . . hard to say.
  • Of course, I plan to get a good bit of reading done, whatever happens. I'm not 100% sure what- I still have King's Folly to read (which I need to get to really soon), a bunch of books on Kindle, and some library books, but no really big plans.
  • Finally, it's not terribly exciting, but I do need to clean my room this month, and make sure it stays clean all summer. It's not terribly dusty/dirty, but the clutter is slowly building up on my desk (and has been for several months) and it's gotten to the point that I'm actually bothered by it. So, yeah. I need to deal with that.
Did you do NaPoWriMo or Camp NaNoWriMo? What else did you do this past month? Do you have any plans for May? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)  

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Of Science and Storytelling

This past Saturday, I was fortunate enough to be back down in D.C. for the USA Science and Engineering Festival. When my parents first brought it up, I was reluctant to go. I thought it sounded, well, boring, and if I was going to be back in NoVa, I felt that I'd much rather spend the time with my friends. But one thing led to another, and Saturday morning I found myself walking through the doors of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to see what there was to see.

And, if you couldn't guess from the first sentence of this post, I had a lot of fun.

It's easy for me- and others too, I think- to say "I'm a fantasy writer. I use words and imagination. I tell stories. I'm bad at math and science, I don't like them, and I personally don't need to learn about them. After all, why would I ever need to know this stuff? I make up my own worlds and they run by my rules."

And maybe that's true. I highly doubt I'll ever need to know how to integrate powers of sin and cos, or identify the organs in an earthworm, or calculate the energy needed to push a block up an ideal plane, in order to write my novels.

But, on a larger scale, I'd argue that writers need to know about science far more than a lot of us would like to admit. 

At the Science and Engineering Festival, I learned how a polarizing filter worked and how that same polarizing filter, layers of plastic and tape, and a light source can create art. I discovered memory alloys and ferrofluids. I saw more robots of various shapes, sizes, and types than I knew existed and watched a demonstration of Lockheed Martin’s Fortis “exoskeleton” that supplements the strength, endurance, and productivity of shipyard workers. I walked through exhibits that promised this generation would see a Mars colony.

I enjoyed just about every minute of it- and not just because I got an awful lot of story-pieces.

Science can be boring. I don’t love it- which is why I’m not basing my career on it. But just because I don’t love it the way I love words doesn’t mean I don’t like it. When done right, learning about how this world works is as fascinating as any book. And why shouldn’t it be? For all the imagination and creativity a writer might put in to making her own book world, it’s only a fraction of what God put in to creating our world for us to discover and enjoy.

And that’s part of why writers- even fantasy writers; especially fantasy writers- should learn about science, even if it doesn’t seem useful at the time. We study the work of great writer-worldbuilders like Tolkien and Sanderson to discover their secrets. Why shouldn’t we also study the work of the greatest Author and World-Creator, and study it even more carefully than we do the lesser ones? By discovering how this world works, we can better build our fantasy realms; by knowing the rules here, we know how to break them- or not break them- elsewhere.

I’m not saying you need a science degree in order to write. I’m not saying that if you dislike science, you’ll be a bad writer. But I am saying that science is worth learning and worth enjoying. I, for one, plan to do both.

What do you think? Do you like science? Dislike it? Do you think a good writer needs to learn about science as well as how to use words? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade) 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Songkeeper Review

Songkeeper releases today! Huzzah! This is definitely one of my favorite reads of 2016 so far- and, no, I'm not just saying that because I got a reviewer copy. Anyway, onto the actual review- but first, a little about the book.
War ravages Leira and the Song has fallen silent.

Freed from the hold of a slave ship, Birdie, the young Songkeeper, and Ky, a street-wise thief, emerge to a world at war. Hordes of dark soldiers march across Leira, shadowed by whispers of plague and massacres, prompting Ky to return to his besieged home city in hopes of leading his fellow runners to safety.

Desperate to end the fighting, Birdie embarks on a dangerous mission into the heart of the Takhran's fortress. Legend speaks of a mythical spring buried within and the Songkeeper who will one day unleash it to achieve victory. Everyone believes Birdie is the one, but the elusive nature of the Song and rumors of other gifted individuals lead her to doubt her role. Unleashing the spring could defeat the Takhran once and for all, but can she truly be the Songkeeper when the Song no longer answers her call?

Find Songkeeper on: Amazon || Goodreads

My Review

Someone once said that there can be no beauty without pain, or something to that effect. And, in the case of Songkeeper, it holds true. There is much beauty in this book, but there is much pain as well.

The Good:
-Amos continues to be pretty much my favorite character in the entire book. He's broken, imperfect, struggling- but still brave and determined and unwilling to give up hope. His unwavering protection (sometimes over-protection) of Birdie is sweet, and his interactions with others add a bit of humor to many a dark situation. And we learn more about his history in this book, which is both fascinating and a bit saddening.
-Grundhold would be another of my pretty-much-favorite-characters. I mean, he's a griffin, which means immediate awesomeness. And, like Amos, he's determined to protect Birdie- but he also wants to see her fulfill her destiny. (Surprise, surprise, he and Amos clash a fair bit. It's really fun to read.)
-Other characters continue to be great as well. Ky most definitely needs a hug or five. Poor boy. But his interactions with Migdon and the members of the Underground are great. Migdon, for his part, is hilarious and devious and just a lot of fun. Cade is still thinking with his emotions instead of his brain half the time, and it drives me a little crazy but mostly it just makes me sad because I like him and he keeps getting in trouble. Sym and Inali are pretty cool too, even if I'm still sorting out my exact feelings on one of them. And Birdie is still uncertain about her future about her future and struggling with how everyone seems to be pushing her one way or another and no one's really giving her answers- but even in the midst of disaster, she doesn't give in. She's strong without being your typical Strong Heroine.
-Riding lions. The desert culture in general is pretty cool- but the lions are the best part. (And it's mentioned that they're not entirely comfortable to ride, which makes sense and just increases the awesomeness of the people who are totally at ease around them.)
-It hits right in the feels. Right. in. the. feels. (SPOILERS- highlight to read: Migdon . . . nooooooo! Why him? That was not ok! And Amos . . . I'm trying to convince myself that since we didn't actually see a dead body, he's still alive, because that's how this works, right? And he's too important to die. Right? (I swear, if Gillian pulls a Cruedwyn with Amos, I will be too upset for words.) And Cade and Aliyah . . . *sniffle* And I should've seen Inali's thing coming. I really should've.- END SPOILERS)

The Bad:
-So, from the cover, I expected that the book would take place primarily in the desert with the Saari . . . but nope. Less than half the book and we head back up north. Granted, two of the Saari are joining us, but it's not the same. Maybe the next book will be better in that respect.
-Certain scenes near the end are a bit dark. And grim. And verging-on-nightmarish if you think about them too much. There isn't a ton of description, so it's still ok, but it could be a touch disturbing for younger readers, in my personal opinion.
-(SPOILER- highlight to read: So Inali's betrayal . . . I should've seen it coming because it was basically the same arc as we had with George in the last book. Y'know. Birdie likes him, Amos distrusts him, he seems like a nice guy and then he turns them in to the Takhran . . . - END SPOILER)

Overall, Songkeeper is an excellent sequel to Orphan's Song. If you're looking for a short, fun read that's still exciting and meaningful, definitely check out both this and the previous book in the series. As for me, I'll be eagerly awaiting Book 3.
Thanks for reading! Now, go check out Songkeeper!

-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade) 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

"Totally Should've" Tag

Hey'a, everyone! If you're doing Camp NaNo or NaPoWriMo, how are your projects going? Mine is coming along pretty well, with a few hiccups, mostly of the "Darn it, I really should've researched this before I started writing" variety. (For example: How does one actually communicate with a deaf person who doesn't know sign language and never learned to read lips? Does the royal family actually do anything government-wise in a constitutional monarchy? What's the prime minister's actual job anyway?) It's been interesting, but an advantage of the lower wordcount goal is that I can take the time to do research without worrying about getting behind.

However, this post is not about Camp NaNoWriMo. My friend Ryebrynn tagged me with the Totally Should've Tag, which she adapted from BookTube. (On a side note: I think I'm caught up on tags, but if you've tagged me for something and I haven't responded, I'm sorry. Remind me in the comments, bitte?) This looks like a pretty fun tag, so let's get started.
1. Totally should've gotten a sequel
 The Sky Riders was supposed to have a sequel . . . no word on that yet, though, and it came out a few years ago. It needs a sequel, though, so very, very much.

2. Totally should've had a spin off series

A lot of fans of the Songkeeper Chronicles want a spin-off/prequel series about Hawkness, Artair, Auna, and others from before the Chronicles officially begin. I think this sounds like an amazing idea.

3. An author who totally should write more books

Heather Dixon. She's written two and they're both fabulous and funny-but-dark and just plain awesome (and steampunky!).

4. A character who totally should've ended up with someone else

I honestly can't think of anyone to put here . . . well, except that one couple. But I'm not ranting about that, because honestly? By the time she got back to him, she didn't deserve him. 

5. Totally should've ended differently
Green by Ted Dekker. I've discussed this before, but basically the ending of this book made the rest of the series seem to not matter anymore.

6. Totally should've had a movie franchise

Mistborn- but it might maybe get one, or so I've heard!

7. Totally should've had a TV show

The Flying Dutchman series by Brian Jacques. I don't watch TV, but I'd get the show on DVD once a season was over and watch it that way during the summer. Or something.

8. Totally should've had only one point of view

Can't think of one, so I'm going to steal Ryebrynn's answer and say The Queen of Shadows because, yeah, I could've done without Manon's POV.

9. Totally should have a cover change

Moonblood, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. I mean, the current cover isn't terrible, but it's not my favorite either.

10. Totally should've kept the original covers
The Ranger's Apprentice series. I'm not saying the old covers were amazing . . . but I liked them way more than the new ones. At least the older covers gave you an idea what the book was about. (The new covers don't show up on Goodreads, though, for some reason . . . not sure why.) Also, though they don't actually have a cover change yet, the Dark Sea Annals are going to have a cover change, and I am Not Pleased.

11. Totally should've stopped at book one

I honestly can't think of any for this one . . . I guess the Hollow Kingdom trilogy could've stopped at book one? But I'm certainly not upset that it didn't . . .

And now I'm supposed to tag people . . . I don't know who to tag, so I'll leave this open. If you want to do it, go ahead! (If you want to do it but don't feel comfortable just taking it, tell me and I'll edit to tag you specifically.) And do be sure to put a link in the comments when you do.
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)