Friday, September 28, 2018

Fall 2018 Reads!

Hello, everyone! It's officially fall, and at least where I am, it definitely feels like the seasons have changed. And you know what that means: it's time for a new season of releases! 2018 has been a pretty great year for books overall, but I think that fall is going to be especially awesome. There are so many great books coming out; I'm going to have trouble deciding which ones to feature! (Not that I'm going to let that stop me . . .)

Fall 2018 Reads!

1. Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan (September 4). The last few sci-fi books I've read have been disappointments to some degree or another, but y'know what? That's no reason not to give Ignite the Stars a chance. It's Asian-inspired, which is pretty cool, and features a 17-year-old criminal mastermind as the protagonist, so . . . should be interesting!

2. As She Ascends by Jodi Meadows (September 11). I really enjoyed the first Fallen Isles book, even if it suffered from a lack of promised dragons. I think that As She Ascends will rectify that, though, so yay! And I'm excited to find out what happens to Mira and her friends. This isn't a top-priority book, but I'm still looking forward to it.

3. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green (September 25). This one is actually the next book on my TBR (I'm reviewing it for Cedars), so y'all will get my thoughts on it pretty soon. I'm not quite sure what to expect from it? I mean, the concept sounds pretty cool, but I have exactly zero idea how it's going to play out. But it seems like it might sort of blend sci-fi and contemporary, so that's cool? I think? I don't know, but I'm looking forward to finding out!

4. West by Edith Pattou (October 23). This is the sequel to East, which I read two Februaries ago. I'll probably need to reread East before I pick this up because I remember very little about it other than the fact that I enjoyed it. Reviews suggest that this one focuses on Rose and Charles after they've started a family, which should be interesting — a lot of fantasy series drop off after their protagonists are married. I'm looking forward to a bit of a different perspective. All the same . . . if Charles has been turned into the huge snake on the cover by some evil magical being, I'm going to scream.

5. The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth (October 23). So, this sounds very Narnia-ish, but with a greater focus on the after-Narnia than the in-Narnia adventure. I love the idea — over the last several years, I've become increasingly fascinated with the question of what happens after the adventure ends. Reviews are mixed, but I plan to give it a chance anyway.

6. Red as Snow by Kendra E. Ardnek (October 24). I alpha-read this one over the summer, and I can tell you that Kendra carries off her downright fascinating concept quite well. She thoroughly mixes up the plot, while keeping it recognizable for what it is. Plus, we've got a bit of a cute sibling relationship in here, so yay!

7. The Princess and the Invisible Apple Tree by Meredith Leigh Burton (October 25). Accidental murder! Reluctant sisters! Mystery! Fairy tales! What more could a girl want in a book? (Don't answer that.) Anyway. I can't wait to read this one, especially since people who have read it have said plenty of lovely things about it.

8. Blood in the Snow by Sarah Pennington (October 26). Oh, look! It's my book! Which comes out in less than a month! What the actual pumpernickel. I'm so excited, but I also have so much left to do . . .

9. For Such a Time as This by Heather L.L. FitzGerald (October 27). So we've got a retelling of Snow White . . . combined with a retelling of Esther . . . set in a Persian-inspired science fantasy world? I never saw that coming . . . but I also didn't realize until recently how much I needed it in my life, and I can't wait to see how Heather pulls it off.

10. Overpowered by Kathryn McConaughy (October 29). Here's another Snow White retelling combined with a tale from the Bible . . . but this one is actually set in Bible times, with a few hints of fantasy. I got to beta read it, and it's pretty awesome. 

11. But One Life by Wyn Estelle Owens (October 30). Yeah, if you haven't noticed by now, I'm basically posting all the Magic Mirrors books. But I'm excited for them all to some degree, so it's fine. (Also: cross-promotion.) Anyway. But One Life is another historical, though this one is straight fiction and set during the Revolutionary War. So, not my usual cup of tea, but I'm still looking forward to it. (Plus: spies! And intrigue! I'm always down for good spying antics.)

12. The Seven Drawers by Kendra E. Ardnek (October 31). And here's the last of the Magic Mirrors! I alpha-read this one, and I'm currently beta-reading it, and it's awesome. I mean, it's a Kendra book, so you know it's going to be creative — even the worst of Kendra's books are still really unusual and unique. But Seven Drawers is a particularly enjoyable concept and I can't wait until I get to read the whole book at once.

13. Skyward by Brandon Sanderson (November 6)! NEW SANDERSON NEW SANDERSON NEW SANDERSON!!!!!!! Sci-fi! Sentient spaceships! Aliens! NEW SANDERSON! Yeah. I'm going to push to review this for Cedars; Cedarville needs to know more about the awesomeness that is Sanderson. (Hopefully this doesn't turn out to be another Alcatraz, though . . . it would be super awkward if my probably one-and-only Sanderson review for the newspaper is a bad one.)

14. The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman (November 29)! As if this season wasn't awesome enough — NEW INVISIBLE LIBRARY! And apparently Irene and Kai are investigating a murder mystery at a dragon-Fae-Library peace conference, which means maximum awesomeness. I want it yesterday, but as it is, it'll have to wait and be my post-finals celebration.

Well, there you have it! Twice as many seasonal reads as I normally have, and a whole lot of awesome! I'm going to have a busy fall, let me tell you. And now, you tell me: what books are you most excited for this fall? My TBR may be big, but it always has room to grow.
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)  

Friday, September 21, 2018

Why I'm Now Self-Publishing

So, I'm wondering: was anyone surprised when I said I was publishing Blood in the Snow a couple weeks ago? Now that you know, would you be surprised if I told you that self-publishing Blood in the Snow wasn't originally in my plans for the novella? What if I told you that I didn't plan to self-publish at all? Would you find that shocking?

Younger me wouldn't.

Two years ago, I was convinced that I wasn't going to self-publish, despite how many of my friends and favorite authors were going that route. I even wrote a blog post about it, listing five reasons why I planned to pursue traditional publishing instead of self-publishing. And yet here I am, preparing for a book release in a little over a month. (Obligatory shameless promotion: if you want to help promote Blood in the Snow or any of the Magic Mirrors books, make sure you sign up for the blog tour, reviewer crew, or both!)

So, what changed between then and now? Several things. And, in usual Sarah fashion, I have a list to explain them.

Why I'm Now Self-Publishing

  1. I'm literally majoring in it. Ok, I'm not majoring in self-publishing. But my major and minor do cover almost everything, skill-wise, that I was concerned about. Book formatting? Same principles as any other document. Cover design? Graphic design minor. Marketing? Taking a class on it now, and I actually love it. Editing? It was my least favorite PWID class, but it is part of PWID. Also, paying someone else to edit my work is slightly more feasible now than it was two years ago (both because I have slightly more money and because I know of more editors).
  2. Money still isn't my primary goal. When I first started hearing about self-publishing, the main draw seemed to be the fact that a self-publishing author makes more money per book than a traditionally-published author does. I'm of the opinion that the earnings are probably pretty close either way, given book sales and the extra money that self-publishing authors sink into their books. But as I said before, my main goal in publishing is to share my stories with other people and to do so in a way that's more professional than just posting them on my blog. To that end, self-publishing, as long as I do it well, is just as good as traditional publishing, even if my stories don't reach quite as many people.
  3. Self-publishing now doesn't mean always self-publishing. I think this is something I forgot in my original assessment: although most authors move from traditional to self-publishing, there's no reason why I can't move the other way if I choose. (And Google backs me up on that.) I can start by self-publishing, but as I continue to write and edit, I can also shop some of my novels around to traditional and small-press publishers. In fact, some of what I've read and considered suggests that self-publishing might help a little if I do it well since it'll allow me to build my audience and get my name out there.
  4. Definite control of the multiverse, if I need it. I think I mentioned a while back that I'm connecting all my major novels into a single multiverse. (And I'm very glad I did, as it's solved several story and worldbuilding problems.) I don't know for sure yet how interconnected everything will be or if I'm telling one immense story or just a set of stories that happen to overlap occasionally. But if it turns out that everything is one big story and I need to control how and when I publish things, I want to have that option.
  5. I had an opportunity and no reason not to take it. So, yeah. In the end, basically, my decision came down to this: I had a story that people said was publishing-quality. I had a gorgeous cover for that story that I didn't want to waste. I had the opportunity to self-publish it and get a little boost from other authors when I did through the Magic Mirrors blog tour. I had, and have, a lot of friends who seemed eager for me to publish a book. And I had a lot of reasons why my original concerns about self-publishing weren't as serious as I originally thought. And all that added up to the decision: let's do this thing.
So, if anyone was curious . . . there's your answer. If you have any other questions about my decision, Blood in the Snow, or how the publishing process is going so far, let me know! I'd be happy to answer them in comments! Also, a question for you: do you ever plan on publishing, either traditionally or through self-publishing? And have your thoughts on that question changed at all with time? Please tell me in comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)  

Friday, September 14, 2018

Want to Read Blood in the Snow Early?

Hey'a, everyone! Do you want to read Blood in the Snow before the official publication date? Do you like reviewing books and participating in blog tours? Are you an awesome person?

If the answer to any of those questions was "yes," I have exciting news for you: the Magic Mirrors group release is looking for reviewers and bloggers for our blog tour! So not only do you have the opportunity to read and review Blood in the Snow, The Seven Drawers, or any of the other MM titles before the official release date, but you can also interview one of the authors, feature a character on your blog, or (for everyone but me), share a guest post from an author. All you have to do is hop over to the official tour post on GiraffeCrafts and sign up!

And if you're a reviewer and you want to read books but don't have time for the blog tour? That's cool too. We have a form exclusively for book reviewers; once again, you just have to drop by the tour post and sign up.

I can't wait to share this book with you all, whether you choose to review it, blog about it, both, or neither. Thanks for all your support.
Have an awesome day!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, September 7, 2018

August 2018 Doings!

Hello, everyone! August has been over for a week now, so I think it's high time that I post my Doings! On a side note, do you like this format for my monthly update posts? Do you think there's a good balance of topics in here? Sometimes I feel like I'm sort of just talking into the void with these posts, and that's fine, but if there's a way I can improve, I'd like to do that.


  • So, yes! If you missed it, I'm publishing Blood in the Snow as part of the Magic Mirrors group release! It comes out October 26, and I'm quite excited. Also nervous, because this is a big step, but mostly I'm excited.
  • The first half of the month, I kept busy finishing up Mechanical Heart. I had to change the ending pretty substantially in order to be satisfied with it, but I think I got it figured out. That's not to say that the rest of the story won't need another hefty rewrite in some areas, but it is what it is . . . at least it's on the computer now, which means it's easier to cut out certain bits and put in new scenes.
  • The other half of the month, I worked on two contemporary short stories for an Actual Writing Job. One is drafted and just needs to be edited. The other one . . . I've been working on it, but I'm struggling. I think I got the pacing wrong or something? It's going to need another serious rewrite.
  • Other than that, I spent a good bit of time working on formatting for Blood in the Snow, only to discover that InDesign doesn't work half as well for formatting eBooks as I expected. Honestly, I think I would've been just as well off to do it in Word, and I honestly might do that going forward . . . At least I have an idea what I'm doing for the paperback. That's something.


  • I love it, ok? Abso-storming-lutely love it. I saw next to none of the plot twists coming. The characters were awesome as ever. The relationships were great. (I especially love Nik and Ella — we need more fabulous siblings — and how Isaac tries to parent everyone — spec fic needs more parentals like Isaac, ok?) The ending — THE ENDING. The ending was amazing. Waaaaay less depressing than I expected. And AIDAN . . . AIDAN is something. I still don't know how I feel about him, but he's a thing, and I think the author handled him well.
  • In other news, The Worth of a King is still amazing, and I love it, but if you were paying attention to the blog tour, you knew that already. I mean, I certainly screamed about it a lot. (Not enough. I cannot scream about Worth enough. Y'all should buy it and read it because it's amazing and Delaney is the actual best.)
  • Isle of Blood and Stone was another good book, though not as good as Obsidio and Worth. It was less high-seas adventure and more mystery than I expected, but y'know what? I'm definitely not complaining. I'm always down for a good fantasy-mystery, and this one totally qualified. The main character was ok; the side characters were fascinating; and the villain was . . . not who I expected. Let's say that. I have a couple small quibbles with the book (like one particular aspect of the ending), but I'm not complaining.
  • I read two anthologies this month. The first is Tales of Ever After; the second, The Madman of Elkriahl and Other Stories. Ever After is the latest Fellowship of Fantasy anthology and contained the usual mix of excellent, average, and meh. Madman is by my friend Emmarayn Redding and contains stories that feel very much like original Grimm fairy tales (including some darker elements). I'd recommend both books.
  • And, as you may notice, I've picked up the Harry Potter series again. I'm no longer reading it at the same time as the roomie (because that failed last year), so I should be able to make it through the rest of the series this semester, even with review books and everything else I need to do. Anyway, Goblet of Fire was definitely the best yet, and I enjoyed the storyline . . . even if certain things do make me sad.
  • And now for a few good-but-not-amazing books: The Spirit Well is the third Bright Empires book and involves my usual quibbles with the series . . . but did feature more Wilhemina than other books, which I was very happy about. Eliza and Her Monsters was good and featured delightful online friendships, but I found myself unable to understand why Eliza made the choices she did as often as not. And Spice Bringer was interesting, but I also had concerns about certain elements of the story and worldbuilding.

Watching & Listening

  • So, I finally finished the Grand Magic Games arc. Finally. Pro tip: don't stop an anime arc five episodes before it ends and then pick it up again two months later. You'll get there and realize that you remember unfortunately little about what happened last. And then the first two episodes you watch will be super depressing and you'll be internally screaming and your texts to your roommate will look something like this:
  • So, yeah. That happened. And no, I don't normally send my roommate long text strings like that, but this was a special circumstance. The rest of the arc was good, though! And now we're watching the Eclipse Spirits arc, and . . . well, at least I don't think it's another save-the-world story? It's more personal, which is nice. But I'm very upset about things all the same.
  • I also finally watched Thor: Ragnarok! It wasn't quite as amazing as the internet claimed, but it was still pretty awesome. I love a good sibling story, and Thor is probably one of the most sensible characterss in the MCU at the moment. So that was pleasant. Valkyrie's pretty fabulous too. And the final battle? 100% just as good as everyone on the internet said it was. I literally had to go look it up on YouTube about a week ago just so I could watch it again.
  • And my family watched Mary Poppins the weekend before I went back to Cedarville, and oh storms I had forgotten how much I enjoy that movie. Pretty sure it used to be my favorite Disney movie, or at least in my top five, and it's definitely back up there again. But it seems to have gone out of fashion with a lot of the internet since I never see anyone talking about it except for "Mary Poppins was secretly a _____" crossover headcanons with other fandoms. And that's sad, because, yes, it's a fun movie, but it also has a message that I think we need more than ever now, and I'm not talking about the bit about cheerfulness. Because, yes, Mary Poppins has a lot to say about that, but the truer message is the need for families to support each other, to come together. Mary Poppins didn't come to the Banks family just to sing a song or two about cheerfulness and ridiculous words and spoonfuls of sugar. She came to make the family start acting like a family; to cease being wrapped up in their own worlds and to recognize the need to help and support one another — all of them! And that's a message always worth hearing.
  • (And, as pointed out by the closest thing this movie has to an antagonist, "While stand the Banks of England, England stands. When fall the Banks of England, England falls!" True, he was talking about the institution, but it's by the Bankses, the ordinary families, that England and any other county stand or fall.)


  • The main event of the month was the return to college, of course. I've been back since the 17th and so far everything's going smoothly. I'm enjoying most of my classes, even the ones I was stressed about. 2D Design doesn't involve nearly as much actual drawing as I expected — thank God for that! The first few projects are all fairly abstract, which I can definitely handle. I mean, the objective is to make things that don't look like real things. That's not a problem. The problem is when I have to draw realistic things.
  • I will admit that Instructional Design (the class I was most excited for before the start of the semester) isn't quite as awesome as I hoped. Right now, it's a lot of theory and process and not a lot of actual writing and design, so . . . yeah. That's a bit annoying. I'm trying to reserve judgment, though, because it's a two-part class, and I think that the stuff I'm excited for is mostly in the second half.
  • The rest of my classes are good, though!
  • I'm also the secretary for the Honors Org, which is interesting. So far, the most challenging thing has been figuring out lists on MailChimp (because I royally messed up several times and had to make whole new lists twice). But I have it worked out now! And the rest of what I do isn't terribly difficult; it's mostly emails and meeting notes and updating member lists, all of which are quite manageable.
  • And that's a good thing because Cedarville has gone from no creative orgs to all the creative orgs. And because none of them require dues or extremely consistent attendance, I've basically joined all of them. There's The Studio (art and design; their sketch nights are delightful), The Inklings (creative writing; no points for guessing where they got the name), Photography Club (I couldn't make it to the first meeting, but I'm excited!), and C3 (Creative, Collaborative, Community; basically an org for all creatives, no matter their medium). With those, Honors, my hall, and whatever exercise stuff I decide to do, my evenings are going to be pretty full . . . but I'm not complaining. Honors is the only org that I can't skip if necessary, and I think the other orgs are going to be super helpful for staying motivated with various creative things.
  • Oh, and there have been excursions! Our first full weekend back, my roommate, her parents, a few friends from the hall, and I all went to King's Island, where I discovered that wooden roller coasters are the actual best. (I went on three — three! And I would've gladly ridden any of them again.) I also went on my first looping/upside-down rollercoaster, the Firehawk, and have decided to never repeat the experience. I mean, in hindsight, I'm glad I did it the once, and I hope to draw on the experience as story research — the roller coaster's thing is that you're basically on your stomach, facing the ground, the whole time, so you feel like you're flying Superman-style — but it was also terrifying and I screamed the entire time. So, yeah.
  • My roommate, a different hall friend group, and I also went to the Rennaissance Faire again this year! Several of us actually dressed up, which was exciting. Unfortunately, it was a lot hotter and sunnier than last year, which meant we all kind of died of heatstroke and dehydration. (But we lived! So it's fine!) We ended up spending much more time watching shows and much less time wandering through shops than we did last year, which I was a little disappointed about? But it was still fun. And the joust was fabulous. (There was a female knight. She wasn't the knight for our side of the field, which meant I wasn't supposed to cheer for her, but I did anyway. And she won in the end, and I'm not disappointed.)
  • I'm sure that something happened before I went back to Cedarville? But honestly, I don't remember much about it. I know I got a hammock, which is exciting. And I did more work for my internship, which was interesting. And my family and I did stuff.
  • Also, I made myself a new skirt. It has pockets. I'm very happy about it, even though I haven't worn it yet. (It's too heavy for the current weather.)

September Plans!

  • Obviously, most of my time will be taken up by classes, because college. I'm still trying to really find the rhythm of classes and homework and social time and everything else. In particular, I'm trying to figure out which orgs and activities (other than TDK) I'm going to do regularly and which ones I'm doing irregularly and which ones I'm not doing at all. It's a challenge; everything sounds fun but I don't have time to do it all.
  • Besides that, I'm still working part-time at my internship, though that's slowed down quite a bit. I also plan to start reviewing books for the college newspaper again soon, which should be fun! I'm really excited for the lineup of books I have planned; I just hope that my editor likes my suggestions.
  • And, of course, most of my time will be taken up by working on formatting and Blood in the Snow and putting together all the extra, non-story bits that go into a book. I do hope to work a bit on Mechanical Heart as well, and, of course, I have my short stories for my writing job to edit. Those will be interesting . . . one of them definitely needs a serious rewrite before I can send it in.
  • So, yeah. That pretty much sums up my plans. September should be a quiet month, but hopefully it'll be a good one.
How was your August? Have any fun plans for September? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

A Destiny Decided

Hullo, everyone! Who all was at the Magic Mirrors Facebook party last night? If you were there, you already know what this is about (but you're welcome to read this post anyway). If you weren't there, well, you might already have guessed what's up. I mean, I haven't exactly been subtle.

Either way, I'm just going to say it so I don't keep overthinking things: I'm self-publishing Blood in the Snow!

Her destiny is decided — but betrayal breaks even the best-laid plans.
Baili, the princess of the Kingdom of Seven Rivers, has always known what her future holds. Declared the fairest of all by the fabled Dragonglass, she is destined to fulfill an ancient prophecy and unite her homeland with its long-time enemy, the Kingdom of Three Peaks. And in doing so, she may save her country from death and ruin.
In order to fulfill her destiny, Baili must travel to the Kingdom of Three Peaks and marry its prince, Liu Xiang. But all Baili's plans and expectations are turned upside-down when her servants and soldiers, acting on her stepmother's orders, turn against her on the road. Baili narrowly escapes with her life, but she's left alone and adrift among strangers.
Fortunately, Baili finds refuge in the home of seven animal keepers: servants and slaves to the emperor of Three Peaks. Yet time is running out. Her servants' rebellion was only a small part of a much larger plot. Within weeks, her stepmother plans to unite the two kingdoms, not by contract, but by conquest. Baili must reclaim her rightful place and unite not just two kingdoms but many peoples in order to stop the plan. And if she fails, two kingdoms will be plunged into ruin.
Sure to delight lovers of fantasy and fairy tales, this rich and magical Asian-inspired adventure combines Snow White and The Goose Girl in a way you've never seen before.
Releases October 26, 2018

Blood in the Snow will release as part of the Magic Mirrors collection. For clarification, Magic Mirrors isn't an anthology or a contest. Rather, it's a group release organized by my friend Kendra E. Ardnek. All the included novels and novellas are retellings of Snow White; most were written for the Five Poisoned Apples contest. All the authors involved will help promote each others books and will support each other through the publishing process.

So, yeah! I really didn't expect this a year ago, but it's happening! If anyone's interested, I probably will be offering ARCs and asking for blog tour sign-ups sometime relatively soon. (I need to check in with Kendra about how that's going to work.) I'm also going to be looking for beta-readers for Mechanical Heart in the near future, so if you're interested in any of that, let me know!

And now, I'm off to argue with formatting. Or go to class. One of those things.
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)