Saturday, May 28, 2016

May Doings!

May is (almost) at an end, and summer has (unofficially) begun! Which is why this post is going up a few days early . . . but more on that later.


  • I finished Mechanical Heart fairly early in the month, as I expected to do. Overall, I’m fairly pleased with how the ending worked out. It’ll take a bit of editing, yes, but not as much as some stories I could name.
  • A friend and I also did our own NaPoWriMo event during May. I’ve never before tried NaPoWriMo, which is a challenge to write a poem every day for a month. I quite enjoyed it, and it was a bit easier than I expected. Usually, I only write poetry when the mood takes me, so I thought thinking of something to write about every day might be a considerable challenge. But since I was actively seeking ideas, they came more readily, and overall I’m pleased with what I wrote.
  • And a good thing too, because I basically did no other creative writing this month. (Well, unless you count roleplays.) Once I finished Mechanical Heart, I didn’t have another story to work on, and I didn’t have any strong enough ideas to start one. Granted, I probably should’ve been working on editing and rewrites . . . but I didn’t. And, to be honest, I don’t entirely regret that decision. I pushed myself pretty hard January through April; I can afford a month off.


  • Again, I had a really good reading month- perhaps not quite as good as April, but still excellent. All thirteen books I read are pictured above.
  • The highlights of the month should be pretty easy to guess. I finally read Mistborn: Secret History, and well, wow. It’s hard to say anything at all without giving away spoilers, but basically, there were several questions answered, more questions raised, and I got to see one of my favorite characters again.
  • The other highlights were The Raven King (final book in the Raven Cycle, which gives just enough closure to say “Ok, yeah, the series is over” but leaves enough loose threads that you’re certain the adventures aren’t done by any means), Lady’s Pursuit (not my favorite in the Knight and Rogue series, but a fitting end, and I kind of want to write a Knight and Rogue fanfic now), and The Dragon Reborn (my monthly visitation to the Wheel of Time series and a significant improvement over the other two- perhaps because there’s less of Rand being an idiot and trying to escape his fate and more of Mat being awesome).
  • In addition, I finally reread The Phantom Menace as my little Star Wars Day celebration. I remember liking it more the first time around, but it was still enjoyable. And I finally read Stasis, an anthology by J. Tobias Buller (known on the Underground as Jake of the Sadaar), which was very enjoyable. It was also set largely in Africa, which was an interesting change from the usual.
  • The main disappointment of the month was, surprisingly, The Princess Bride. It wasn’t bad, exactly, but for once I think the movie was better. You get all the best bits of humor, and if you miss a few plot pieces, I don’t think the story suffers for it. Inigo’s backstory was fun, but overall, I wasn’t impressed. (Of course, the three introductions to the story didn’t help matters, nor did the “excerpt” from Buttercup’s Baby.)


  • Things I learned this month: how to take a halfway decent video; where to find free, legal stock photos and music; how to use Windows Movie Maker; how to not throw the computer containing Windows Movie Maker out a literal window when the program keeps vanishing bits and pieces of my audio and shutting down when I try to trim sections of video; and how to improvise a rolling camera stand out of a tripod and a rollerblade.
  •  (For those curious: the stand works pretty well, though you have to be careful to keep the rollerblade moving in a straight line. And I was doing all this for a scholarship project. I probably won’t win, but it was good experience. And if I end up needing to do a lot of video work later in life, I’m definitely going to invest in a good post-production software. Windows Movie Maker may be simple to use, but it’s a real headache at times.)
  • About halfway through the month, I got to meet Lalaithiel in person! She and her family were passing near my town, so we were able to meet up for breakfast at a little diner near my house. She’s just as awesome in real life as she is online, and I really enjoyed our meeting.
  • My family went down to White Sulphur Springs for a retreat with our old Bible Study group. I got to see a lot of my friends and we played Mafia and Murder Murder (which is like Mafia, except not, and I swear we’re all very nice people). Because there was a wedding going on at the new hotel the weekend we were there, we stayed at the old hotel, which was a lot of fun. We had the whole place pretty much to ourselves, and I got to do some exploring in the bits I’d never seen before.
  • Being in the old hotel did mean that we had to do our own cooking most meals, though . . . which was a task that got handed off to the teens because we didn’t have anything better to do. As most of the other teens in the study are better in the kitchen than I am, this worked out pretty well- they cooked or grilled or baked what needed to be cooked or grilled or baked; I cracked eggs and made lemonade and fetched things and helped set things out on tables; and everyone was happy.
  •  I officially finished with school on the 20th. For all practical purposes, I was done a week or so before then, but whatever. I’m done. Yay!
  • I’m trying to do more walking now that we finally have nice weather on a regular basis. I didn’t exercise quite as much over the winter as I perhaps should have, so . . . yeah. I miss the walking paths in Virginia, but at least here I can walk to the library if I want to.

June Plans!

  • Some of you may have noticed that every year, I take an internet hiatus around the beginning of June. Surprise, that’s happening again this year and starts on Monday. Thus why the post is going up early.
  • Those of you who’ve noticed the yearly hiatus may also have a guess about what I’ll be doing during that hiatus. If you do, good for you. If not . . . well, I’ll tell you when I get back.
  • Also after the hiatus, I’m starting an internship at the same place my dad works. I honestly didn’t expect to get said internship when I applied back in February, but there was a communications position open and I got it. I’m excited, but mostly I’m scared . . . Prayers would be appreciated.
  •  On the writing front, I don’t plan on doing a ton, but I am joining in Go Teen Writers’ 100-4-100 Challenge. I’m not 100% certain what I’ll be doing for it, but I’ve been informed that rewriting and short stories both qualify. So I may use it to get back into reworking Destinies and Decisions, since the next bit I need to work on is actual rewriting as opposed to just editing. Or I may end up writing short stories and fanfiction until July.
  • With all that, I probably wouldn’t do a ton of reading . . . but there are some books I’m looking forward to, as I mentioned in a recent post. Besides that, I want to read Fahrenheit 451, a recommendation from my former youth leader, as well as the next Wheel of Time book and some of the pile of Star Wars Expanded Universe books a friend supplied to me. So, yes, I’ll have plenty to keep me busy.

How’s your month been? What plans do you have for June? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)  

Friday, May 27, 2016

Random Fridays: Summer 2016 Reads
Hello, everyone! I'm joining up with Random Fridays for the first time in a while to tell you all about my summer 2016 reads. There isn't a ton coming out this summer that I'm really excited about . . . but there are a few things, as you'll soon see.

Summer 2016 Reads

1. The Ghostfaces by John Flanagan (June 14).  
Ok, so this one sounds like it'll be pretty hit-or-miss for me. I mean, the four reviews it has on Goodreads all say it's really good, but the premise . . . I don't know. It sounds like the Heron band will find themselves in the fantasy equivalent of North America, which could be pretty cool. I think a lot of how much I like this book will depend on how the author handles the Mawagansett tribe, but I could be wrong. (It's also possible that part of my uncertainty about the book is the fact that I really don't like the U.S. cover for the book- thus why I have some other country's cover here on the blog.) 

2. The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (June 14).  
Libraries are, of course, awesome. And an invisible library sounds even better, except that it might be a little hard to read the books in it. Jokey-ness aside, the blurb for this book promises an inter-world library (which is apparently powerful enough to have its own spies; why can't real libraries be that awesome?), alternate realities, potentially a mystery-suspense vibe, and a whole lot of awesome. So, I'm definitely excited!

3. White Sand by Brandon Sanderson (June 21).
So I usually don't read graphic novels . . . but it's Brandon Sanderson and Cosmere and, seriously, I need it now please. I'm especially excited since this'll give us some background on Khriss, at least, and possibly Hoid as well if I'm remembering correctly. So that should be awesome. 

4. Age of Myth by Michael Sullivan (June 28).  
So I honestly have no idea what to expect from this one- I've never read anything by this author, though I have heard a little bit about his other books. But the premise of the book sounds pretty cool, and it's marketed as being for fans of Brandon Sanderson, so I'm willing to give it a try if I get the chance.
5. Five Magic Spindles (Sometime in summer? Probably July? I can't find a release date at all.). 
 The previous two Five Something-Somethings collections have both been amazing, and I'm sure Five Magic Spindles will be no exception. I'm not completely certain which of the stories I'm most excited for; the previous two books both surprised me with which I liked most and least. But Out of the Tomb sounds the most unique, and The Ghose of Briardale sounds quite intriguing as well.

6. Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter (August 23).  
Ahhhhhh! I'm sosososo excited for this one! Sadly, I'm going to be away from my library when it comes out (nooooooooo!), but I'm going to make sure to get my hands on it somehow. Storms, I'll buy it unread if I have to. That's how excited I am about more Jackaby and Abigail and mysteries- and also hearing more about Jenny's past, which should be awesome. And can we all agree that the cover is absolutely gorgeous? I mean, all the books in the series have wonderful covers, but this is the best yet.

 What books are you looking forward to this summer? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)  

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Beautiful People May 2016

Hey'a, everyone! Beautiful People is back after an April hiatus! Like back in March, there's no particular theme to these questions. I'll be answering with Josiah, from Mechanical Heart. And, because I'm experimenting with the format of these a bit, you'll get the answers in his voice- not mine.

1. How often do they smile? Would they smile at a stranger?
Josiah: I would say that I smile most of the time, unless I’m sitting in on a Senate meeting or other political event. As far as smiling at strangers goes, well, I’m a prince and a politician. I believe you can draw your own conclusions.

2. What is the cruelest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?
Josiah: I suppose it was not meant cruelly, but when I was about fifteen, a gentleman- a senator and a member of the nobility- informed me in a respectfully roundabout way that my dreams of changing my country for the better were folly and that in this modern era, the royal family’s position is mostly ceremonial. In the moment, I almost wished I had been born two centuries previously so I could challenge the man to a duel without recrimination. As it is a more civilized era, I instead informed the man in a much more direct- though, I believe, still respectful- way that I intended to prove him wrong. And then I set about doing just that.

3. What is the kindest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?
Josiah: The kindest thing? I can’t recall for sure. I expect it was something one of my parents said, trying to cheer me up . . . but one comment I recall best was from a friend of mine, Luis. It was not long after the incident I just mentioned, and I was feeling a bit despondent, wondering if the gentleman had been right after all. I told Luis, as he’s a fine listener as long as you don’t mind his working on some invention while he listens, and, well . . . He told me to stop being ridiculous, which might not sound kind, but was what I needed to hear. Then he said that if anyone could make a difference despite the law, I could and would- and as it was him who said it, I believed him. 

4. What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?
Josiah: There are quite a few memories I could mention, but one in particular . . . My father teaching me to play chess and backgammon when I was . . . seven or eight, perhaps? It is a small thing, yes, but every Wednesday evening after that, no matter how busy he was, my father would set aside royal duties, excuse himself from any guests, and he and I would play games until my mother finally came in to say my bedtime had long since passed and I ought to go to sleep now. As I said, it is a small thing in a sense, but significant in others- I know many children were largely ignored by their parents save when necessary. And yet my father would set aside a kingdom’s worth of affairs to spend time with me. 

5. What book (a real actual published book!) do you think your character would benefit from reading?
Me: Josiah really can’t answer this question, so  . . . I’m not sure if it’d help him or drive him crazy, but I wish he could read the Queen’s Thief series, particularly the third and fourth books. 

6. Have they ever been seriously injured? How severely? How did they react?
Josiah: I’m informed that I came within an inch of death rather recently, and given what I remember shortly before the incident, I’m inclined to believe it. However, as I was unconscious for the actual event and by the time I woke up, I was mostly healed and had other things to think about, it didn’t affect me a great deal. Later on, once I had a moment to myself, I tried to wrap my mind about the fact that I nearly died and found I couldn’t manage it.

7. Do they like and get along with their neighbors?
Josiah: I don’t have neighbors in the standard sense, but regarding the people who I interact with most often outside my family: I either like or respect a fair number of them, and do my best to tolerate even those I dislike- as my position requires me to do. 

8. On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being easy and 10 being difficult) how easy are they to get along with?
Me: Another question I’m answering for Josiah, as I can probably rate this better than he can. Josiah is about a 3 or 4 (when you look at the scale the right way, rather than 1 being impossible to get along with and 10 being everyone-loves-him). He genuinely likes and cares about most people, whoever they happen to be and takes an interest in their lives. But he’s very passionate about politics and the changes he wants to make in the country, often to the point of distraction, which can be a bit trying for those close to him. 

9. If they could travel anywhere in the world, where would they go?
Josiah: I can and have visited most of the countries of the known world at some point in my life. By now, I’d much rather stay home.

10. Who was the last person they held hands with?
Josiah: I fail to see how this is something you need to know.
Me: Just answer the question.
Josiah: Well, I suppose it won’t hurt . . . the last person whose hand I held was Miss Breen, but I did so very briefly.

What do you think of Josiah now? Have any other questions you'd like to ask him? If so, just leave them in the comments.
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)  

Friday, May 6, 2016

Why I'm Not Self-Publishing

Over the last few years, getting published has become easier than ever through the growing popularity and ease of self-publication. Many authors have chosen to pursue this path in some fashion, including some of my favorites, like Wayne Thomas Batson, Christopher Hopper, and Anne Elisabeth Stengl. However, despite its popularity, I still hope to go the traditional publishing route once I have something worth putting out there. . . and here's why.

Why I'm Not Self-Publishing

  1. Even my best works need polishing. Can I edit my books on my own and through the help of family, friends, and proofies/beta-readers? Of course I can. Others have (and I've been a proofie/beta-reader for more than one of them). But even a lot of self-published authors agree that a professional editor is a must- and having read self-published books that definitely didn't have a professional edit, I tend to agree. And, yes, a self-published author can hire a professional editor to look over her book, but they're expensive. On the other hand, traditional publishing puts my novel in the hands of a team of editors who, unlike friends, family, and beta readers, don't have any reason to go easy on me but do have a good reason to help me make my book the best it can be- and who I don't have to pay out of pocket.
  2. On a similar note, people judge books by their covers. Should they? No, of course they shouldn't. But they do anyway. I do it to some degree, you probably do it too. And, like editing, cover design is something that I could probably do myself (I do have a certain amount of skill with Photoshop) or could hire someone else (for example, Laura Hollingsworth, creator of one of the best and most beautiful webcomics I've ever read) to do for me. But the problem with the former is that what I can come up with is primarily dependent on what I can cobble together from my own photography and stock images, and the problem with the latter is that, again, it costs money out of pocket. But, also like editing, if I publish traditionally there's a professional cover designer there to handle it for me. True, I don't get to decide myself what the cover looks like . . . but I think I can live with that.
  3. However, the most beautiful possible prose and the most gorgeous cover imaginable won't do me any good if no one knows my book exists. Which brings me to my third point: traditional publishing means my book will reach more people. I am not good at marketing and advertising and promoting products and all that sort of thing (which may prove to be a problem later in my career, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it). And while I hope that a lot of you who read my blog will buy my book, not all of you will. (And I will totally understand when you don't, because I have friends who've published books and I haven't bought their books because there's three billion and one books that I want to buy and limited funds to buy them with. So, yeah, I get it.) But if I connect with a publishing house, they have a great deal of interest in making sure that as many people as possible hear about my book, which means more people will buy it (and, I hope, enjoy it).
  4. This next reason may come as a surprise, given some of what I've said so far, but: I don't plan on making a lot of money through novels, no matter how I publish them. Don't take that to mean I don't want to make any money on my novels, because if that were the case I'd probably just post the lot of them to my blog, then bind them up nicely and self-publish each one once it had been been posted in full. But I think that one of the two biggest draws of self-publishing is that the authors get to pocket more of the proceeds than they would in traditional publishing, which is pretty important if you're trying to make a living off of being an author. However, I don't plan on my creative writing providing my main income, so the advantages of traditional publishing- namely, the support in editing, design, and promotion- are, in my opinion, worth the trade-off in profits.
  5. My final reason for choosing traditional publishing is similar to my first, but not completely: traditional publishing forces me to constantly push to be better. If I have to impress no one but myself and perhaps my beta-readers and editors in order to publish, I will always be tempted to say "Eh, this is good enough" and not ask "Is there a way I can make this better?" However, if simply starting the process is reliant on my impressing someone else- someone who sees a lot of stories go across his desk and whose job it is to pick the very best of them- I will always be asking "Can I change something to make this better?" And if I'm going to put my stories out there as the best they can be, that motivation is something I very desperately need.
Now, I'm not saying that there aren't advantages to self-publishing. There definitely are, and I can understand why another author might choose to go that route. And I'm also not saying that my opinions might not change eventually, that I might not decide that self-publishing is the better option for me personally after all. What I am saying is that for me, personally, in the place that I'm in, traditional publishing has enough advantages, enough areas where they fill in for my weaknesses, that it's worth the disadvantages.

What are your thoughts on traditional versus self-publishing? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)  

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My Fault: A Star Wars Fanfic

In which I celebrate Star Wars Day by- what else?- writing a bit of fanfic. A note for those unfamiliar with the characters and circumstances, otherwise known as everyone who doesn't take part in the CaC2 roleplay on Whitehall Castle forum, otherwise known as most of my blog readership: this roleplay is set before any of the movies, during the Old Republic era (around the year 3653 BBY, to be exact). These particular events occur shortly after a group of Jedi have made a raid on the Sith Academy on Korriban in an attempt to recover a stolen holocron. The results, however, have been less than successful . . .

Three ships left Korriban, two members lighter than when they’d come. In the medbay of the Felrel, Ver Tai slumped by the bacta tank where her sister rested, still and silent and serene. If Ver only looked at Dae’s face, what she could see of it beneath the mask, she could almost convince herself that Dae was simply sleeping. But her eye invariably wandered lower, to the bloodstains at Dae’s midsection, and so she couldn’t forget how close death still lurked. As if Polla hadn’t been enough . . .

Thoughts of the day spun in a mental misery-go-round, despite Ver’s efforts to not dwell on what had happened. They’d failed. She’d failed. The holocron was still lost, Aza was captured, Dae had almost died, Polla had died because Ver hadn’t been able to defend herself, hadn’t moved fast enough, hadn’t fought well enough . . .

Once or twice the cycle slowed enough for a few halfhearted, un-Jedi-like thoughts of what she’d do if she happened to meet the Sith who attacked Dae, who left her bloody and dying . . . the Sith who used whirling blades rather than sabers. Strange, that was, and frightening. Lightsabers and blasters blackened and burned; they didn’t leave their victims to slowly bleed out . . . She should’ve been there when Dae was attacked; they should’ve been gone before the Sith even realized Dae was there; why hadn’t they moved faster . . .?

Ver was still sitting there when the ship docked in the Temple the next morning. But when she tried to follow the infirmary workers come to move Dae, they pushed her aside and told her to go get some rest, that there was nothing she could do, that she looked like she was about to collapse and they didn’t have space for a fool Jedi who worried herself to exhaustion. That might actually have been true, with all the attacks that had been happening lately, and so Ver straggled off as ordered.

But she didn’t actually make it to her room, or to the dining hall, or to anywhere in particular she might’ve meant to go. Instead, her former master found her crumpled against the wall in a little-used corridor, head in her arms, elbows resting on her knees. He’d heard about the mission by now, of course. A Jedi had died; everyone knew about it. And so he didn’t have to ask what happened, what was wrong, how could he help. Instead, with an exasperated shake of his head, he pulled Ver to her feet and half-supported, half-dragged her to her room, ignoring her muttered insistence that she was fine, that she’d be fine, and no, she didn’t want to talk about what happened.

Dae wasn’t awake the next day, when Ver checked after six hours of exhausted sleep, an official Council debriefing, and a hundred inquiries from well-meaning friends and acquaintances about was she all right and how was Dae doing, and an equal number of assurances that they’d both be fine. Ver hadn’t protested the latter, even though they were wrong. They didn’t know Dae would recover; even the doctors didn’t know if Dae would recover; and whatever happened, Ver wasn’t sure she herself would ever be fine again. Not with Aza captured, Polla dead, Dae dying, all because she’d failed, failed, failed . . .

The next day passed, and the nurses transferred Dae from the bacta tank to a bed. The wounds on Dae’s midsection were reduced to pink scars by now, but still Dae didn’t awaken . . . The infirmary attendants assured Ver that this was fine, this was normal, that after such a close brush with death some patients didn’t wake up for some time because their minds and bodies were still healing, and bacta could only do so much. Ver worried anyway, and now she practically took up residence in the chair by Dae’s bed. The nurses and other workers grew used to seeing her there: slumped in restless sleep, or meditating, or reading or working on her datapad, or holding Dae’s hand and talking to her in hopes of a response.

Once or twice, Dae drifted close enough to consciousness to talk too- in her sleep, muttering about masked Sith and flying blades and lightning, and calling Ver’s name. But not once did she fully awaken, even as the days turned into weeks and still Ver kept her vigil, only departing when basic necessities and responsibilities forced her to. Others came by often, bearing comforting words and mugs of tea and occasionally the suggestion that Dae would rather Ver go on with living her life rather than just sitting here and fretting. Ver accepted the first two gratefully and glared at the last. Her life could wait until Dae woke up, and surely it wouldn’t be too much longer, it couldn’t be . . .

When the others weren’t there, and when Ver had run out of things to say to Dae for the moment, her thoughts inevitably turned back towards the mission. She replayed every moment, every choice in minute detail, wondering: if she’d done this, if she’d said that, if she’d moved faster here or responded better there, would they not have failed? Would they have recovered the holocron? Would Aza not have been captured, Dae not be lying here? Would Polla still be alive? Would I not have failed? She never found answers, only a growing certainty that if she’d simply been better somehow; everything would’ve been all right.

And then, late one night, a long-awaited voice interrupted the spin of her thoughts as she drifted towards dozing: “’S not your fault.”

Ver started. “What?” She turned-

And there was Dae, eyes open, half-turned on her side to face Ver. “’S not your fault. Whatever you’re thinking is your fault, ‘s not. Never is, ‘cept when you make it that way.”

Not her fault, she made it her fault . . . Ver couldn’t think through the ramifications of Dae’s words right now; there were more important things to focus on. “You’re awake.”

“’Course I am.” But Dae’s eyes drifted towards closing again, and her tone was still heavy with sleep. “I got tired of feeling you mope beside me, so I had t’ wake up and set you straight. How long’d I nap?”

“Two weeks.” Ver took her sister’s hand where it rested on the rails of the bed. “And if you ever come this close to dying again, I’ll . . . I’ll kill you myself.” She’d meant the threat to be teasing; it came out wobbly and suggestive of tears.

“Don’t plan on it. It wasn’t fun . . .” Dae shook her head, trying to stay awake. “Next time, you can take on the ridiculously overpowered Sith and I’ll sneak around and enjoy myself, ‘k?”

“I vote we both sneak around and leave the overpowered Sith to fight each other instead.” Ver’s smile faded. “The mission failed, Dae.”

“I know.” Dae squeezed Ver’s hand weakly. “But ‘s still not your fault.”

Ver nodded silently. The questions, the self-accusations still swirled. But in that moment, she could almost believe Dae- and even if Dae was wrong, maybe it would be fine. She had another chance. And this time, this time she wouldn’t fail.

Happy Star Wars Day, and May the Fourth be with you. Hope you enjoyed the fanfic!-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)