Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Black Friday Book Sale + Pendragon's Heir Review

Hey'a, all! It's officially Thanksgiving break, and I'm happily (almost) home. This post, however, is not about Thanksgiving but rather what comes after: Indie Christian Books' Black Friday Book Sale! This annual event allows readers to grab great Christian fiction including discounted paperbacks, books with free shipping$0.99 ebooks, package deals, and, of course, every bookworms' favorite thing, freebies! In addition, to the sale, Indie Christian Authors is hosting a week-long Facebook party in which you can get to know the participating authors and have a chance to win some fun prizes! I, personally, have acquired many awesome books from this sale, and today I'm reviewing one I got in the sale's very first year: Pendragon's Heir by Suzannah Rowntree.


 Let's face it: I'm almost always down for a good retelling of a legend or myth. That's especially true when the retelling focuses on King Arthur and his stories, which is just the case with Pendragon's Heir. Better still, the novel doesn't just limit itself to the most famous stories; it gets into some of the more obscure ones as well. It also takes the main focus off King Arthur himself and looks instead at Perceval, one of Knights of the Round Table, and Blanche, who . . . well, you'll find out who she is once you read the book.

Speaking of Perceval, he's a wonderful character: noble, bold, chivalrous, always doing and never content to stand by and do nothing. He has his faults, of course, and makes his share of foolish choices, but in general, he's my favorite character in the story. Blanche is less easy to like, but she and Perceval together are very sweet and highly shippable.

The book also contains very strong Christian themes. I feel like that should be a given, but the themes and messages in this book felt particularly bold and unapologetic, although they also weren't preachy. And given that message- the reminder that there can be no compromise, that battles aren't worth winning if you have to abandon that which you hold true to do so- it's a very appropriate book for our times.

My absolute favorite thing about this book, however, is the unique voice and feel. Pendragon's Heir has the flavor of a book from ages past, though not of a specific age. At points the prose and style taste of the Arthurian era; in other places, of the 1900s; still other parts, some time that can't quite be named and might be no time and all time at once. This feel does have a downside- the pacing can drag a bit at times, making the book feel as long as it is- but overall, it's a wonderful experience.

Overall, Pendragon's Heir is a unique retelling of the King Arthur legends, conveyed in a beautiful, timeless voice. Though not without its flaws, I would certainly recommend it to anyone who loves or loved the Arthurian legends and Christian historical fantasy.


Do you think Pendragon's Heir sounds like your kind of book? Are you excited for the Black Friday sale? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

A note on the Ebooks Only page. Many of the books are listed as "Sold Out." This is because we aren’t selling those directly through our site. Please click onto the product pages to find descriptions and links to discounted or free ebooks.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Leah E. Good and Kendra E. Ardnek for their work organizing this sale, 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.

Friday, November 10, 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Day 10!


Wordcount: 13,645
Words Written Today: 1,849
Hours of Writing Today: 1.02
Writing Music Obsession: My Anime/Asian Playlist
“And what good does it do for him to notice a goose girl?” Baili clutched her staff, almost— almost— wishing to whack the other girl over the head. “In my current state, I am nothing to him, just as you keep pointing out all of us animal keepers are to the nobility!”

“Maybe so. But you are the fairest nothing in the land, and that will count for something. At the very least, his highness may begin to wonder why a goose girl is lovelier than his loveliest of brides.”
I am very, very surprised by how well NaNoWriMo is going. I worried that I'd have trouble fitting in a solid hour of writing per day, but I've actually had several days when I've gone significantly over an hour. My wordcounts are building up equally well; I have 17.5K words edited and so I'm over halfway done. Not as close to being fully done as I might have been had I stuck closer to the required wordcount for the contest, but oh well . . . At the moment, I'm not stressing too much about trying to cut down wordcount or rework the plot to make it shorter. I'm just trying to get down a more polished version of what I originally wrote (although there is one scene that I'm 99% sure I won't type out, at least not in the main document, because I knew I was going to cut it before I even wrote it). Then, once that's done, I'll go though and cut and rearrange and make every word justify its existence.

In terms of the story itself, everything's going magnificently. I finally brought in the prince (and remembered that I really need to try to get him in earlier when I do my second round of edits), and then two of my characters had a massive row. It was very fun for me to write, since it essentially signals that Baili has reached her snapping point, when she's done with just enduring and ready to fight for what's hers. Plus, it was very cathartic for the characters involved, especially since one of them has been carrying around a lot of bitterness for a very long time and this is where she really starts to heal from that.

We'll see if I can keep this pace up for the rest of the month. I have to start work on final projects pretty soon, which will take up a lot of time. On the other hand, one of my classes is essentially canceled for the next week, which gives me a fair bit of extra time to work on that class's final paper, and I have Thanksgiving break the week after that (yay!). Whatever happens, I'm looking forward to it.

If you're doing NaNoWriMo, how's it going for you? If not, how's school treating you? Also, how do you feel about writing character conflict? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for stopping by!
 -Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, November 3, 2017

October 2017 Doings!

Oh, look! It's November, the best month of the year! (Well, one of the best months, anyway. April and September are pretty nice too.) October, though? October can be great, but sometimes— this past October, for instance— it can be a pretty mixed bag. Don't get the wrong idea; it wasn't a bad month . . . but it was a pretty tiring one.


  • The thing about college . . . if I don't have either a deadline or a challenge to meet, I don't write. I want to write. I carry my notebook around in hopes that I will write. But things that don't have deadlines, or that have very distant deadlines, tend to get pushed to the side in favor of everything that's due this week. And I apparently have a knack for taking on projects that end up more complicated or time-consuming than they're supposed to be, which doesn't help matters at all.
  • That said, I managed to edit the first two and a half chapters of Blood in the Snow during the first half of October. 4K words down; probably-25K words to go . . . (Well, actually a little less at the time I write this, but that's November news.)


  • My reading for October has been mostly dominated by C.S. Lewis's books— which is a good thing! I started the month by rereading The Silver Chair so I could give a presentation for it in one of my classes. Then I also reread Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra for the same reason. I haven't read the Space Trilogy in years— not since I was in my fairly early teens and mildly obsessed with Dekker's Circle Trilogy. As you might expect, I didn't really get it the first time, although I did enjoy it. I liked it even more this time around, and I actually look forward to reading That Hideous Strength as soon as I have time. I actually think I prefer Out of the Silent Planet to Perelandra, although most people seem to like Perelandra better. I can understand why; Perelandra is an amazing book; it's theologically rich, with a fascinating concept, deep themes, and a surprisingly high-stakes conflict. I know and appreciate all that, and I do genuinely love the book; it's become one of my favorites. However, I also like stories and exploring new worlds and new peoples, and Out of the Silent Planet gives me a little more of that and a little less theological argument, and so I suppose it's just easier for me to enjoy. And I feel quite uncultured and unspiritual for saying so, but it's the truth all the same.
  • I also took my first step into Lewis's nonfiction this month with Mere Christianity and quite enjoyed that as well. Lewis covers a surprisingly broad range of topics, he explains them well, and he presents his message in a friendly, familiar style that makes even complex concepts understandable and enjoyable to read about. At times while reading the book, I felt as if I were sitting with Lewis and a few friends beside the fire on an autumn evening, each of us with a cup of tea and Lewis with his pipe, listening to Lewis talk. Other times, mostly when Lewis made a particularly dry and sarcastic comment, or when he covered an especially difficult concept, I felt like I was sitting in a really good lecture by my favorite philosophy-and-Bible professor. Both are good things. The content of the book, of course, was top-notch. I could probably write a whole post, or a whole series of posts, just going over different insights that stood out to me.
  • My only non-Lewis book this month was Before She Ignites, which I read and reviewed for my college newspaper. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the book! A lot of really hyped mainline fantasy and sci-fi ends up disappointing me because of content or overwhelming romance or annoying characters. But Before She Ignites had surprisingly little romance and plenty of intrigue, diversity, mystery, drama, and worldbuilding, along with great characters and excellent handling of real issues. There weren't as many dragons as I expected, but I'm ok with that. And, ok, yes, the main character could be a touch naive and helpless at times, but she made sense and grew past those things, so it was all good, and I would definitely recommend the book.


  • Still watching Fairy Tale. My opinions on the show haven't really changed much, although I enjoy it more and more as I watch it, become increasingly attached to the characters, and get used to how the episodes generally play out. And apparently we're about a fifth of the way through, according to my roommate, so we might finish by the end of the school year. We'll see.
  • However, I have rather mixed feelings about the last two arcs. The first one was Erza's backstory, which is good- Erza is one of my favorite characters, she has an interesting past, and it was an exciting storyline- but at the same time, it was kind of depressing in parts and featured altogether too much of the "No! I must do this alone! I must sacrifice myself to save you!" variety of dramatics. Then the second arc involved one of my least favorite characters getting a his well-deserved punishment, plus lots of cool magic, a super fun teamup on the part of Loke and Lucy (who I ship very hard, by the way), and a focus on one of my favorite minor characters whose name I don't know how to spell. On the other hand, it also involved betrayal and characters turning other characters against each other, so . . . yeah. That happened.
  • As for the arc we're currently in, I'm not sure how I feel about it, but I met Wendy (one of my roommate's favorite characters) and quite like her. All things considered, she's one of the more accurate depictions of a 12-year-old that I've encountered in fiction.
  • So, yeah. I haven't really watched anything besides Fairy Tale, but I haven't had much time to. We'll see whether or not that changes next month.


  • Basically, October has mostly consisted of running around, trying to do all the things, because right around Fall Break is generally when professors decide to throw everything at you. In the course of four weeks, I've presented on two C.S. Lewis books, written two book responses and one report, edited a group essay, taken my first English exam, created, perfected, and presented my professional portfolio, and created various and sundry design projects for Visual Rhetoric. On the upside, that's roughly half, possibly two thirds, of my big projects for the year out of the way. On the downside, I don't feel any less busy now.
  • Oh, and on top of all that, I also wrote my first book review for my college newspaper and took my first photo assignment! I covered the Women's Ultimate Frisbee team practice, which I figured would be pretty fun. While I have no interest in sports, I have friends on the team, and I've had success with action photography in the past. Then my dad pointed out that the lens I had on campus wasn't exactly ideal . . . but I got the shots I needed and had a good time doing it, so it's fine.
  • Fun or not, though, I was more than ready for Fall Break when it came around. I went home with my roommaate again, and we spent the first two days of break crafting our costumes, which I posted about on Tuesday, and eating yummy homemade food (like sausage potato chowder and legit homemade donuts). Then, on Saturday, we went to her grandparents' house to celebrate her grandmother's birthday, which was fun and involved fireworks and more delicious food (namely apple and pecan pie- I've been craving pecan pie for literally a year now and I finally got some and it made me happy). And if I seem a little food-obsessed . . . well, my college's cafeteria is in the country's top ten for a reason, but it still gets old after a while, especially when they keep serving my least favorite things and never seem to have my favorites. Plus, as I mentioned, pie. And donuts. Both homemade. Those deserve as many mentions as I can give them, arguably.
  • On the other side of the spectrum: I'm still doing Martial Arts and very much enjoying it. It's actually a really great stress reliever, which I didn't expect. I mean, it's hard and tiring and sometimes I wonder if I'm doing anything right and if I'm ever going to actually improve, and I never can get my stance quite right for my forms. But at the same time, martial arts force me to slow down a little, to think a little more about what I'm doing, and it makes me feel like I've accomplished something (which is invaluable when I spend so much time working on long projects). So, yeah. No matter how busy I get in the next few months, I'm not quitting this.
  • Speaking of stress relievers: my church's Bible Study has finally started up again! We're going through 1, 2, and 3 John, and I think it'll be interesting. We have an actual book this year, as opposed to just talking through a chapter or two a week, so we'll see how that works out. I'm excited to be back, though. Even though we lost a few people from last year, it's a great group and we also have good (if sometimes weird) discussions.

November Plans!

  • It's NaNoWriMo! I'm going Rebel this year and not starting a new novel. Instead, I'm rewriting Blood in the Snow so I can submit it to Rooglewood Press in December. Not only do I think this will be a more achievable goal for this year, it's more practical. I need to get this done soon; I don't need to start another novel, especially since I have so many already that need edited. For maximum effectiveness, minimal stress, and easy conversion to NaNo-winner-dom, I'm actually tracking and recording my time spent rewriting, rather than my words. (Well, I'm still tracking my words, but I'm not recording them on the NaNo site.) My official goal is to spend 25 hours rewriting this month. My hope is that a time-based goal will help me keep writing even when I would normally allow myself to stop on days when the words flow well, but will also keep me from getting too stressed when I'm stuck and can't accomplish as much as I want. Also, I don't actually know how long Blood in the Snow is, so I don't want to set a word-based goal and then have it not be enough.
  • Of course, besides big writing projects, I also have final projects in most of my classes. Most of those aren't due until December, of course, but I need to start them sooner rather than later. The exception is my final project for my portfolio class, which is basically a series of mock interviews, and which is happening this week and next week. I've finished my phone interviews— huzzah!— and those actually went fairly well. Now all I have to do is survive the face-to-face ones . . .
  • Because of NaNoWriMo and the start of final projects, regular blog posts may or may not go on hiatus during this month. That said, I also may or may not post occasional NaNoWriMo updates, potentially featuring snippets, so . . . yeah. I'm not sure you're really missing out.
  • I'm also starting work on Christmas presents already. I'm a firm believer in keeping holidays separate, even if certain people who I know occasionally try to start Christmas music in September. However, Christmas presents I'll start thinking about as early as I please. There's no reason to restrict giving to one season, and when you handmake gifts, you can't always wait until after Thanksgiving to begin. That's just a recipe for stress, even if you can make a hat in about a week.
  • Of course, Thanksgiving is only three weeks away, which means the certain people don't have long to wait before I'll gladly join in on the Christmas music . . . and which means I get to go home! I don't want to say I can hardly wait, because that implies a conscious eagerness, and often I'm too busy to think about how much I want to be home— which is a good thing, don't get me wrong. If I spent all my time thinking about how I'm not home, I'd be miserable. Besides, I like being at Cedarville and spending time with friends and going to class and all that. But at the same time . . . I miss home, and I miss my family, and I want to be back.
  • Other than that, I don't have any real plans for November . . . but I don't exactly need other plans either; I have plenty to keep me busy.
How was your October? Do you have any plans for November? Are you doing NaNoWriMo, and if so, what's your project? When do you think you can start the Christmas season? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
 -Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)