Thursday, June 30, 2016

June Doings

Hello, everyone! June has been quite the interesting month: half tradition, half new experiences. As such, it's also been a very busy month . . . Honestly, I have a feeling that I'll never have a non-busy month again unless I get really lucky sometime next summer. Oh well- at least I don't have time to really get bored.


Startup Stock Photos
  • Most of my writing time this month has been dedicated to one thing: rewriting several chapters of Destinies and Decisions- ones I'd already edited. Back in March, a friend made several suggestions on how to increase the tension in the story, which I really liked . . . but implementing them meant making fairly significant changes to certain events. Thus, I haven't covered any new ground this month, but I am much happier with the story overall.
  • I'm doing this rewriting in connection with Go Teen Writers' 100-4-100 challenge. For those unaware, this is a challenge to write 100 words a day for 100 days, allowing one grace day per week. The challenge has, as always, been super helpful in making sure that I do indeed write every day- if I weren't participating in it, I probably wouldn't have gotten half as much done as I actually did. Even with the challenge, the last two weeks my average has probably only been about 200-300 words a day, which is really slow for rewriting/editing. However, at the beginning of the month I averaged closer to 500-700 words per day (some days I even made up to a thousand words), so I'm not stressing much about it.
  • I've also been doing a bit of very informal planning for Camp NaNoWrimo next month . . . And by "very informal" I mean that said planning largely consists of talking over my ideas with a friend (not the same one who gave me the rewriting suggestions) and some notes on powers, plot, and characters quickly scribbled down when I wasn't busy with work or editing. Yeah. I might be winging it a lot more than usual this July . . .



  • Reading, like writing, varied greatly throughout the month. All in all, I read 10.1 books, all of which were new-to-me reads. 7 of those books were read during the first twelve days of the month; 3.01 were read during the other eighteen.
  • The highlights of the month were undoubtedly A Branch of Silver, a Branch of Gold and Shiloh, both of which I raved about in my recent Best of 2016 post. They're both absolutely gorgeous and a touch dark (more so in Shiloh than A Branch of Silver, a Branch of Gold) and mysterious and a little sad and wonderful. Go read them.
  • I also enjoyed King's Folly (though not as much as I hoped, due to certain content), The Night Circus (which was slow, but absolutely enchanting and wonderfully dream-like), and Fahrenheit 451 (which my youth leader told me I needed to read this summer, and so I did.) In addition, I finally started on my adventure into the Star Wars EU . . . and was not terribly impressed, but I've only managed two books so far, and I'm under the impression that the next sub-series on my reading list should be pretty good. And Crosscurrent was, in any case, not a bad read.  (I was more disappointed with Deceived, but oh well.)
  • The other disappointment of the month- though not a serious one- was Keeper of the Lost Cities. Don't get me wrong; I did enjoy it quite a bit. But considering how many people seem to greatly recommend it, I wasn't terribly impressed. One problem is that the book tasted suspiciously similar to Harry Potter in certain respects . . . and I haven't even read that series. Another two problem- one shared, interestingly enough, by Brandon Sanderson's Alcatraz series- is world. Now, I love the idea of other worlds, and I also like the idea of a secret world within our own. However, what I don't like is how the inhabitants of the secret worlds in both these books tend to look down on people in the "ordinary" world, acting as if they're perfect and do everything better and all that, while normal humans are useless and untrustworthy and so on. And in some cases, yes, the people in the secret world do in some cases have their stuff together more than the ordinary humans do. But that doesn't mean they have to keep rubbing it in my face. Those issues aside, however, Keeper of the Lost Cities was a fun read, and I might try the next book if I have time.
  • Not pictured is the book I'm currently reading: The Shadow Rising, book 4 in the Wheel of Time series. I'm maybe a tenth of the way through and currently feel like I'll be lucky to finish the whole thing by mid-July. As for my thoughts on the story . . . Well, it's too early to really tell.


Last year's picture because I didn't have time to edit any of this year's. Sadness.
  • The first week and a half of June, my family enjoyed our annual vacation in the Pennsylvania mountains. As usual, we did a lot of hiking, a good bit of shooting, some marshmallow-roasting, and generally had a good time. I didn't take as many pictures as I sometimes do . . . but as previously mentioned, I did a lot of writing and reading, so that's good. I'm also rather pleased with how well I shot, considering I haven't really picked up a gun since last summer. (You'd think that, since we live in a more rural area now than we did in Virginia, I'd be able to shoot more, but no . . .)
  • When I got back, however, I had only a day before I started the internship I mentioned in last month's Doings post. I'm working in the communications department, doing a variety of writing and graphic design-type projects. I was rather happy that my tasks have been less "Sarah, get me coffee" and "Sarah, do this busywork-but-educational-for-you task" (which my dad warned me that they might be) and more "Sarah, rewrite this article so it sounds better and is up to date" and "Sarah, make a poster (including trimming and mounting it) about this person to go in the lobby!" I've also been learning InDesign as part of this internship (well, not as a formal part, more as a "A lot of projects I'm supposed to work on are in InDesign so if I don't learn I'm not going to have much to do" part), which has been interesting. It seems to have a lot of similarities to both Photoshop and Word- programs I'm quite familiar with- so I've been able to pick it up pretty well.
  • Having run out of knitting projects to work on, I decided to re-learn crocheting. Like knitting, I learned once when I was relatively young (eight or nine-ish, I think), but then lost interest until now. So far, I'm not sure which I like better, since I've only completed a few projects. (Crocheting does seem to be a lot faster than knitting, though . . . I'm not sure why, since it's actually more motions per stitch.)
  • I'm sure I did something else this month, but what it is I can't recall. Probably it was something to procrastinate on something else, sadly . . .

July Plans!

  • How the pumpernickel is it July already?
  • Obviously I'm doing Camp NaNoWriMo. I'm writing a superhero/mystery-ish novellette, about 10K words, set in the world of the Teenage Superhero Society, which should be fun. There will be character cameos. And my main character may end up spending a fair amount of the novel wondering if she's crazy. Or she might not- it's hard to say. But her goal is to find justice for a three-year-old murder, which only she knows was a murder, and it should be fun to write. And once I get it edited, I plan to post it here on the blog.
  • Obviously my internship will be continuing for most of the month. Between that and Camp NaNoWriMo, it should be . . . interesting.
  • Plus our church is having a summer carnival/festival/mini-VBS-type-thing midway through the month . . . which I volunteered to help at. (Or possibly someone volunteered me. I'm not sure which. And it doesn't really matter at this point.) Of course, when I signed on for this, I didn't realize that I'd be put in charge of a game booth by myself . . . without any real backup . . .  Yeah. If I get through the day with no calamities and my sanity mostly intact, I'll be happy.
  • All the busyness should slow down at the end of the month, though . . . when I'll be taking another hiatus. Yes, my second one this summer. No, it won't be another sort-of-hiatus where I actually do get on the internet at least once every couple days. I will not have internet access, period. Yes, it will be because I'm traveling. Yes, I will miss you all very much.
  • And I would like to actually get some reading done sometime this month; we'll see how much of that happens. The last week or so I should have a fair shot at getting through a few books; other than that . . . well, like I said earlier, I might be lucky just to get through The Shadow Rising.
How's your June been? Have any plans for July? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade) 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Beautiful People: Childhood Edition
So I'm cutting it a bit close with this post, yes. But it's still June, and anyway, like Gandalf, this post isn't late- it arrived exactly when I meant it to. (Mostly.) LOTR references aside, this month's questions focus on the character's childhood, which should be fun. I'll be answering with Emma Alyron, and, like last month, we'll be doing this proper interview style.

(Emma: A-are you s-sure about th-this? M-maybe you sh-should ask G-Gwen or s-someone e-else instead.
Me: Yes, I'm sure. I told you earlier: all you have to do is answer the questions.

Emma: I d-don't know . . .

Me: You'll be fine. Velone, back me up. 

Emma: *after some nudging from Velone, a purple, kitten-sized dragon sitting on Emma's shoulder* W-well . . . a-all r-right. I g-guess I can t-try to answer . . .)  

1. What is your first childhood memory?
Emma: Um . . . I r-remember Mama s-singing to me. She w-was a-always singing, or h-humming, or s-something. And I'd t-try to s-sing with her s-sometimes . . . but m-mostly I just l-listened.

2. What was your best and worst childhood experiences?
Emma: . . . C-Can I p-please answer a d-different question?

3. Fine. We'll come back to that one. What was your childhood home like?
Emma: D-do you m-mean Alyron Village? O-or my h-house?

Whichever you prefer to tell us about. 
Emma: I d-don't r-really want to t-talk about the V-Village . . . but I l-liked our c-cottage . . . it looked m-mostly like the other cottages, b-but Mama had l-lots of flowers p-planted outside instead of j-just f-food plants. A-and she k-kept white c-curtains on the w-windows, a-and a l-loom and sh-shelves full of yarn and f-fabric in the f-front room. I think we h-had the p-prettiest cottage in the V-Village. 

4. What’s something that scared you as a child?
Emma: *whispering* L-l-lots of th-th-things sc-scared me . . . m-most of th-th-them s-still d-do.
*Velone gives Emma an intent look and seems to be silently saying something which makes Emma perk up a little* 

5. Who did you look up to most?
Emma: Mama and Gwen.

6. Favorite and least favorite childhood foods?  
Emma: My f-favorite food was- s-still is- fresh berries and cream. L-least f-favorite . . . I d-don't know. I r-remember that I w-wouldn't eat rabbit for a w-while, but I d-didn't n-not like it . . . I j-just felt sorry f-for the b-bunnies.

7. If you had your childhood again, would you change anything?
Emma: Y-yes . . .


Emma: Wh-what?

Are you going to elaborate? 

Emma: I-I . . . I g-guess I'd j-just try to b-be b-braver . . . or s-something l-like th-that . . .
8. What kind of child were you? Curious? Wild? Quiet? Devious?
Emma: I w-was quiet. O-obedient. Sc-scared of e-everything, l-like I s-said . . .  I l-liked st-staying inside a-and w-working with Mama a-and s-singing. N-Nightshade c-called me d-dull as a d-dishrag. I th-think she m-might've been r-right, b-but . . . I l-liked w-what I did .  .

9. What was your relationship to your parents and siblings like?
Emma: *halfhearted smile* W-which o-ones? I h-had l-lots . . . I loved Mama. Loved her m-more than anyone. I d-didn't s-see much of F-Father . . . I d-don't think he r-really n-noticed me, I was so q-quiet. And I w-was in awe of G-Gwen and Jake and Dea . . . and s-scared of N-Nightshade and J-Jared . . . Th-there w-were a f-few siblings I l-liked, but n-not many . . . only the ones who were q-quiet l-like m-me.

10. What did you want to be when they grew up, and what did you actually become?
Emma: I d-don't know w-what I wanted to be . . . but I kn-know w-who I w-wanted to b-be: Mama. Or m-maybe G-Gwen. I'm n-not either of th-them . . . I'm s-still just me . . . b-but I'm n-not r-really grown up yet ei-either.

Great. Now, remember, we still have one question left: best and worst childhood experiences.

Emma: Oh-h-h . . . D-do I h-have to a-answer?

I'd like it if you did. You can at least do the best experience, right?

Emma: W-well . . . I l-liked l-lessons with Mama, when she taught me t-to s-sew and kn-knit and c-crochet and a-all th-those k-kinds of things . . . And w-when I made my first sk-skirt a-all by m-myself.

See, that wasn't so hard. What about the second half of the question? Do you think you can answer that?

Emma: I g-guess . . . *looks down and whispers* The w-worst experience of m-my ch-childhood . . . I g-guess when m-my ch-childhood sort of e-ended . . . w-when Mama d-d- *chokes out the word, trying not to cry* Died.
*Velone nuzzles Emma's cheek comfortingly, humming to her, and glares at me for upsetting his Emma*

Aaaand that's where the questions end. I think I shall back slowly away from the angry dragon now . . . Thanks, Emma, for answering, and thanks to everyone else for reading. I hope you enjoyed that!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade) 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Summer Anytime Reads

Hey'a, everyone! I'm officially back from my hiatus! And just in time for summer too . . . well, sort of. Y'know, since unofficially, summer's been here over two weeks, but officially it starts in a few days. Either way, it's the perfect time to talk about summer reads- but not in the sense of books releasing during summer. Instead, today's post is all about the books I'd recommend for reading during the summer for one reason or another.

Summer Anytime Reads

1. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall. If there's one book that I'd say contains the essence of a wonderful summer, it's The Penderwicks. It's lighthearted and fun, yet touching, and the Penderwick sisters are each wonderful, both in their own rights and in terms of their relationship with each other and their father. The style, too, is lovely, giving this story the feel of a classic despite being set in our modern day and age. On the whole, the story is sweet without being fluffy, playful without becoming meaningless, and entirely perfect as a companion on a warm summer afternoon.  
If you liked The Penderwicks, try:
Entwined (for the sweet sisterly relationships) or The Summer of Cotton Candy (for a lighthearted contemporary story set in summertime).

2. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. Howl is, of course, a good book to read at any time of the year. But it does feel like a very summertime book to me: lighthearted, amusing, classic. Pick it up on a sunshine-y morning and enjoy meeting Sophie, Howl, Calcifer, and the rest (whether for the first or hundred and first time), or save it for a rainy day and let Howl's antics and Sophie's misadventures in dealing with him make you forget all about the gloomy weather.  
If you like Howl's Moving Castle, try: Jackaby (for the, how shall we say, eccentric? male lead and amusingly bickering main pair), The Chrestomanci Chronicles (for more Diana Wynne Jones and the closest character to Howl I've found so far), or The Hollow Kingdom (for the feel of the book).

3. The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. Sometimes, though, you don't want something lighthearted. Summer's the most free time any of us have, usually, and we might as well make the most of it by tackling something big. And The Stormlight Archive contains two of the biggest and best books I've ever read in my life- and if you're reading it for the first time, you'd better make it during the summer. Try it during the school year and you'll need a great deal of self-discipline to keep it from taking over your life. Summertime, though? No worries- you won't need to put it down, which is good, because you won't want to.
If you like The Stormlight Archive, try: The Blood of Kings trilogy (for epic adventures and a pretty awesome world), The Wheel of Time series* (for massive books and lore-rich worldbuilding), or the Queen's Thief series (for incredibly twisty plots).

4. Going Postal by Terry Pratchett. Basically, anything Discworld is probably a good choice for the summer- they're hilarious, if not quite lighthearted, but still fairly substantial. (Not as substantial as The Stormlight Archive, no, but what is?) But if I'm going to pick just one book to recommend from the series for the summer, Going Postal is the obvious choice. It's a bit less outright weird than some of them, while maintaining all the Discworld charm, and Moist van Lipwig is definitely a summertime sort of character.   
If you like Going Postal, try: 
The League of Princes series (for unlikely heroes and fantasy send-ups) or The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (for fun fantasy send-up; read it straight through or flip around at will).

5. The Books of Bayern by Shannon Hale. These books are neither lighthearted nor especially substantial, but they still feel like a quiet summer afternoon, especially The Goose Girl and River Secrets (first and third, respectively, in the series). The romance is sweet, the stories are both classic and original, and the writing style is the sort you want to take the time to savor.
If you like The Books of Bayern, try: Wildwood Dancing or Five Glass Slippers (for fairy-tale retellings), The Merchant's Daughter (for a romance without too much fluff), or Orphan's Song (for fairly short books worth reading slowly).

What are some of your favorite summer reads? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade) 

*Note: I have only read the first three Wheel of Time books. Those three books, I can recommend as being good, especially the third one- mostly because Rand ceases to be an idiot and Mat gets to be awesome. I can't vouch for the rest, but I have a friend with excellent taste in reading material who says they're good.