Friday, November 30, 2018

Mechanical Heart Snippets

Hey'a, everyone! Thanksgiving break was awesome, but coming back kind of hit me like a punch to the face (especially since I had several projects that I intended to work on but didn't . . . oops). And the blog tour that I was going to participate in is currently experiencing technical difficulties. So, I'm going with something easy for this week's post: Mechanical Heart snippets. Enjoy!

 Mechanical Heart Snippets

1. First up, we have Josiah and Luis on the sensibility of staying up late (and being in clock towers at odd hours):
“It doesn’t make sense, Luis. No one goes into the clock towers. No one. They are – and I quote – ‘Self-sustaining and self-maintaining.’ They don’t even need a keeper to check the mechanisms once a year. They’re expressly forbidden to the public. And yet – and yet – there she sat, real as the tower itself, at an hour when most sensible people should’ve been in bed.”
“Not counting yourself as sensible, I see.” Luis grinned at his own joke as he tightened a screw on the complicated assemblage of gears, wire, and crystal before him.
2. Next, two different reactions to a clock tower's chime when you're right under the bells:
Even with protection, the bong, bong, bong of the bells nearly deafened him [Josiah], and the vibrations from the sound made the tower shake beneath his feet. Breen, oddly, seemed to enjoy the moment, smiling and gazing past him at the machinery. She had, Josiah thought, a nice smile — a little crooked, but her delight shone through all the same.
3. For a change of pace, the thoughts of Grace (Josiah's sister) on the problem of brothers:
Josiah made a face at Grace. “What’s wrong with brothers?”
“They’re annoying. They talk too much, and they drag you into their schemes.” But Grace’s smile clearly belied her words. “Don’t you agree, Breen?”
4. This is actually two sets of quotes, but: in which my characters are basically college students:
On they worked, long past the time when Josiah normally left, hours after Breen ordinary collapsed into her cot. Eventually, Breen’s eyelids began to feel heavy, and she could tell Luis was starting to droop as well. She paused her work, waiting for him to suggest that they stop for the night. But instead, he just rummaged in his bag, produced a jar of ground coffee, and tossed it to Josiah, gesturing towards the single-burner stove as Josiah caught the jar.
. . .
Why had she stayed awake so late last night? Why had she not thought to keep track of the time? Why had she not insisted on finishing the project another night? I’m such a fool . . . She should’ve known better, even if Josiah and Luis didn’t. She should’ve said something; stopped earlier. Now, even if she rushed, she would be lucky to work back up to the top floor before Madame arrived. And when Madame saw her poor work . . .
5. Finally, we have Luis on the way Josiah generally operates:
Luis picked up a screwdriver and pointed it at Josiah. “I know you. You’ll let her stay in that tower for exactly as long as it takes you to figure out who’s keeping her there, why they’re doing it, and if there’s any real reason she or anyone else needs to stay there. And as soon as you know that, you’ll get her out and find her a good job or a university scholarship, and then you’ll have two gadgeteers to help you on your next project. I, meanwhile, will probably be working on my invention to get me into the guild for the next three years.”
I hope you enjoyed those snippets! Let me know what you think and leave a snippet from your own work in the comments! I'd love to hear about what you're working on!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)  

Thursday, November 22, 2018

A Symphony of Thanks: A Fight Song Holiday Special

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers! I want to start doing some holiday specials featuring characters from different works of mine, and we're starting today. I hope you enjoy!

 A Symphony of Thanks

People say city streets are chaotic, and they're right. But the busiest street has nothing on my family's kitchen on Thanksgiving morning.

By all rights, no one should have room to move in here. Every inch is packed with people; the oven and the counters and the table are all full of food, already prepared or being prepared or ready to be prepared. But somehow, everyone manages, weaving through like dancers on a crowded stage. No one's rehearsed this, but everyone somehow is where they need to be when they need to be there.
Me, I mostly stay where I am: up to the elbows in flower, mixing or kneading or cutting a steady stream of bread products: buttermilk biscuits, sweet potato biscuits, drop biscuits, and about a million dinner rolls. You'd think we were feeding the whole town with the list Mom gave me, but I'm not complaining. I'd rather knead than mash potatoes and risk catching the blame if they aren't exactly buttery enough. And from here, I can enjoy the music of the morning.

Even without my special gift, I don't think I could miss the way all the noise and movement of the kitchen blends into a song. The thump of kneading dough and the constant pat-pat of feet and the snick-chop of knives through vegetables and the chatter of voices form the rhythm and melody of a particular kind of music. And the songs that only I hear, one and two and three-note hums and melodies, each attached to something or someone in the kitchen, fill out the song's harmony.

The sound of the knife stops, and Uhjin calls out, "Vegetables are all cut and in the pan! What now?"
Mom doesn't even look up from the stuffing she's mixing up. "There's oil and spices already mixed up in a bowl by Callie. Coat the vegetables and then put them in the oven. Thank you!"

Uhjin obeys. It's thanks to her that I made it down here. Between classes and my secret life as the superhero Songbird, I've had to cut back on work hours and wasn't sure if I'd have the cash for a bus ticket home. But Uhjin hadn't wanted to make the drive back to her home in California, and my family didn't mind having an extra person for the holiday, so she'd traded a seat in her car for a Thanksgiving somewhere other than our apartment. It's a good thing she's not the sort to keep track of favors, or I'd owe her for a lot by now.

The rest of the family — two sets of grandparents, five aunts (not including the three staying with us and already in the kitchen), an equal number of uncles, and too many cousins — arrive just as I slip my second-to-last pan of rolls into the oven. They trail an assortment of other people who I think might be attached to my cousins and the youngest aunt in some fashion, or who might just be people from church who heard about our feast and talked Mom into inviting them over. Either is possible. Mom greets them, directs the adults to wherever the food they've brought needs to be, and sends the kids to set the various tables crammed into the dining room, living room, and sunroom.

The movement that is dinner preparation climaxes with Dad's entrance into the kitchen, bearing in oven-mitted hands a turkey wrapped in foil. He's been in and out, checking on the birds in his new smoker, since yesterday afternoon. The lack of sleep shows around his eyes, but he's smiling anyway as he proclaims, "The turkeys are done! Just let me get the other one."

Mom wipes her hands on a dishtowel. "Just in time. Callie, Uhjin, start taking all this out to the buffet. Jen —" this is to one of my aunts — "Help them."

But Uhjin and I aren't waiting for help. We each grab a pan and a basket of biscuits or rolls and hurry out to the dining room. The buffet stand, normally a repository for neatly arranged miscellanea, has been cleared for the occasion, and a fold-out plastic table is set up next to it. Both are already well-stocked with food brought by the family, but I've been practicing this ever since I was twelve and Mom handed the responsibility over to me. With Uhjin, Jen, and a few helpful cousins to carry the food out to me, I find each thing its place, layering similar dishes so when one runs out, the one behind it can easily take its place, putting the kid favorites near the front, and ensuring that Gramma's pecan pie is the least accessible dessert on the table so I can be sure of getting a big slice.

With everything set and ready, there's a confused interlude as people find seats and younger cousins argue about who gets to sit at the adult tables and who's stuck at the kids' table. I roll my eyes at them. Uhjin and I, my younger sister, and the cousins closest to me in age have already staked out the lower end of the adult table for our own, guaranteeing prime conversation and space for games later.

This second movement of the symphony of Thanksgiving officially begins with Grampa's prayer of thanks. We all dutifully stand, heads bowed and hands clasped on the backs of chairs, and then wait longer as the younger cousins get the first pick of food. And then we're released to move through the line and heap our plates with smoked turkey, mashed potatoes, Gramma's trademark cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, and more. Every dish on the buffet has its own melody that blends the notes of its ingredients, and to me, a loaded plate sounds like a whole orchestra — admittedly, one playing six or seven different tunes at once.

Between bites, my cousins and I trade news of college and jobs and clubs and friendships. Liz and I tease each other, like we always do, over our respective romantic relationships — the variety of boys at her college all competing for her attention and the fact that I have yet to have a successful date. She and Uhjin hit it off immediately, unsurprisingly.

As we move from dinner to dessert and I steal Gramma's pie to share out among my set, Grampa taps his fork on his glass to call for our attention. "I think we all know what happens now, but I'll remind y'all in case anyone's forgotten. It's time for us all to take a break from enjoying this delicious meal and remember what we're all thankful for. Meri —" he smiles at Gramma, who's seated beside him — "would you like to start?"

Gramma raises her glass. "Thanks be to God for my family and another year to enjoy them!"

Those closest to her cheer, and the next person speaks, and the next and the next. All of them mention normal things: family, faith, friendships, a new job, a new home. Then it comes to Mom. "I'm thankful that we could all be here together for the holiday, and I'm thankful that Callie is still safe and didn't get mixed up in all the hullabaloo up at her college this summer."

I squirm in my seat. I might not have told Mom and Dad much about my work to track down Welsh, but they'd run articles about the trial all the way down here. With the way Mom fussed over just that, it was probably better that she didn't know that I'd been the one to bring Welsh to justice — or that I was still out on the streets in the guise of Songbird.

Thankfully, no one else mentioned anything about me or the trial as the thanks-giving moved down the table. Eventually, it made its way around to me. I grinned at Uhjin, already knowing what I was going to say. "I'm thankful for my wonderful, patient roommate who got me down here and for all the new friends I've made since last spring." In particular, for Jonathan and Starlight, without whom I literally would have died, but no one needed to know that.

The meal drew to a close and the song of the holiday transitioned to a quieter sonata. The cousins and Uhjin and I abandoned the table, stuffed full of good food, to enjoy Uno and Codenames and whatever other card games we could find all the cards for. Relatives napped on couches or cleared the table and packed up leftovers or chatted over the now-clean table while the younger cousins ran wild, burning off all the energy they'd gained from the meal. This was my favorite part of any holiday, the quiet melody of peaceful togetherness.

But every symphony ends. Aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins trickled gradually out, headed home to sleep and prepare for the start of the Christmas season tomorrow. Liz was one of the last to leave, squeezing in one last game of Dirty Uno with Uhjin and I before her parents finally threatened to make her walk home. So, she hugged us both and then departed, muttering about how she should've driven herself.

And then it was just Uhjin and my parents and siblings and I, and the three aunts who were staying with us. Uhjin and I retreated to my room; her to read and me to practice. The sky had darkened; the chaos of the morning calmed to quietness; the symphony reduced to a few quiet melodies. But while it lasted, the symphony of the holiday had itself been something to be thankful for.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Types of Tears (A Poem)

Everything's fine, don't worry. This is just something I've had reason to think about this past week, and I decided to share the results with you.

The Types of Tears 

There are tears of sorrow,
tears that overflow the soul
with longing for what is lost
or what never was.
Bad enough, your own tears,
but worse, a friend's,
whose sadness you cannot wipe away.

There are tears of pain,
of agony your body cannot bear,
or worse,
of a deeper ache within your soul,
of a heart torn asunder,
of hopes shattered and unmendable,
 of breaks that cannot be set right.

There are tears of anger,
of frustration, of helplessness,
when you could take on anything —
but not this.
When the mountain before you is too tall to climb,
when your foe is too big to fight,
when you do not understand
(even though you always understand),
the tears come to burn your heart and mind and face
and leave you numb
so you can push on anyway.

There are tears unwept,
tears held back for another's sake
(because you cannot add more pain to theirs),
tears that should be there
but aren't
and you wonder why.
Are you broken?
Or just different?

There are tears of joy,
of relief, of gladness,
tears unexplained save for
an overflow of the soul.
Your heart is full of gladness,
your spirit, full of hope,
your mouth, full of laughter,
and you are so filled,
it cannot help but spill over.

Friday, November 2, 2018

October 2018 Doings!

So, anyone else think October felt like an abnormally short month? Yeah, me too, especially the last couple weeks. It's just been one thing after another all month. That means I've spent a lot of time feeling stressed . . . but on the upside, it means this should be a fairly interesting Doings! post.


  • So, just in case you missed it, I published a book! Blood in the Snow officially released on Kindle on October 26 with the rest of the Magic Mirrors tour. If you didn't get a chance to read the tour posts earlier, I definitely recommend doing that now. There's a complete list of posts over here.
  • Most of my writing-ish time this month went to formatting Blood in the Snow and writing blog tour posts. I finished the eBook formatting around the beginning of the month, but paperback formatting took considerably longer . . . thus why the paperback release is delayed. But I got proof copies on Wednesday, so y'all shouldn't have to wait too much longer!
  • When I wasn't working on Blood in the Snow, I was editing Mechanical Heart. I've decided to expand several elements and change a few others, which means that it's not going as fast as I hoped. But I'm super happy about the changes I've made! (Josiah has a major-character sister now! It's very exciting!) If you want to beta-read it, you can sign up for that here.


  • Unsurprisingly, about a third of my reading this month was taken up by Magic Mirrors titles. I read and reviewed both of Kendra E. Ardnek's new releases: Red as Snow and The Seven Drawers. Both were good, but The Seven Drawers was far better. Honestly, it's probably one of my favorite Snow White retellings I've ever read.
  • The only new book I completely read this month: Hank Green's novel An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. It was good, though not quite what I was expecting. Though it's technically sci-fi, it's mostly a contemporary narrative about how fame and the internet affect a person's life (for good and bad). As you'd expect from one of the vlogbrothers, it's a very thoughtful book . . . which isn't to say that it isn't frequently sarcastic, humorous, or exciting, because it is all those things. It also has a certain amount of content that means I can't really recommend it to young readers, but aside from that, I'd say it's worth a read.
  • The rest of my books for the month were all rereads — including the Magic Mirrors books, since I alpha-read both of them a while back. But the two "true" rereads were Scholar's Plot and Weave a Circle Round. Both were read as stress-relief, both did splendidly as stress-relief, and both were just as good the second time around as they were the first. It helps that they're both mysteries of a kind, so this time around, I was able to pick up the clues that I missed on the first read.


  • Given that this month included Fall Break, it's kind of surprising how little Alana and I actually watched. However, I finally saw the first Indiana Jones movie, so that kind of makes up for it. I enjoyed it, though I'm not wild about it. (I also ended up getting teased by my roommate's dad for not being terribly interested in the awkward romance scenes, so that . . . probably didn't help.) I do approve of Indy as a character (he seems to maintain an excellent balance of Professional and Awesome Adventure, and he's quite sensible about things overall), and the movie was fun.
  • I also ended up watching (mostly by accident) a fair bit of CSI. And when I say "mostly by accident," I mean that it was on and I happened to be in the same room, and . . . ok, yeah, I got invested. It was interesting, and I'd watch more of it if I was given the opportunity, even though the episodes we watched were on the weirder side. That said, I'm not going to go seek out opportunities to watch it. I enjoy the mystery and the science, but I have a long enough watchlist already.
  • We did manage to watch a little more of Sword Art Online, though not as much as I would've liked. And we ended on a semi-cliffhanger, which I want to resolve at some point . . . but my roommate and I have both been super busy. It's very frustrating. On the upside, I'm enjoying the show more now that I've gotten into the swing of it (and now that the main character is becoming slightly less of an angstball).
  • And I watched quite a bit more Miraculous Ladybug. I've made it to episode 14 of season two, which introduces Luka (Lukas?), and . . . ok, look, I do not approve. I mean, as a character, he's fine, but just the two main characters already have a full-on love square going. Do we really need to make it a love . . . what shape would that even be? I don't know.
  • Also, the fact that Rena Rogue is, so far, not a full-time superhero is a tragedy and I need someone to assure me that it will be remedied sometime in the near future, please.
  • Yeah. I like this show, in case you can't tell.
  • I also watched a stupid amount of Studio C as stress relief around the end of the month . . . not the best decision of my life, but also not the worst. At least it's pretty solid humor.


  • So, we're going to skim over the first half of the month because nothing terribly exciting happened. (To be more specific: I spent half the week sitting in the 2D classroom, painting swatches and cutting out 5/8" squares from those swatches. And by "half the week" I do mean half the week.) It wasn't unenjoyable, especially the painting part, but it was still exhausting.
  • And then we finally got to Fall Break and I had a chance to relax. I may or may not have relaxed more than I should've, but I also had way more trouble than I expected with what I got done, so . . . I think it's ok? I got enough done, at any rate. And I played, like, five games of Pandemic in a row, which was awesome.
  • And then things got exciting because BOOK RELEASE AHHHHHHH.
  • Anyway. Yeah. The book release happened to be the same week as a very large project in Marketing, which was one of the things that I should've worked on more over break than I actually did. I got it done on time, but it was a much closer thing than I like. The assignment wasn't bad — we were creating social media playbooks for the Communications department, which is sort of like some of what I did at my internship over the summer. It was just a lot of work.
  • But I got it done! And I got through the book release! And it was all very exciting! And then I high-key crashed afterward because I was so tired . . . but not for long, because HALLOWEEN! I absolutely love Halloween, y'all, mostly because it gives me an excuse to create and dress up in cool costumes. For one Halloween event, I pulled out my Mistcloak that I made freshman year. For the other, I was going to go as a ghostwriter (not an actual ghostwriter, but a writing-themed ghost, because it was a PWID party and everyone loves writing-pun-based costumes, right?). But that costume kind of failed at the last minute, mostly because I couldn't really move in it all that well. So, at the prompting of a friend, I threw together a backup . . . and then got complimented on it anyway, arguably more so than I have the past two years. Life is weird, y'all.
  • Anyway, yeah. Wednesday was a good day: I was coming off the emotional high of one successful Halloween event and headed towards another; I didn't have a ton that I needed to do; the weather was warm, if not nice; I'd just discovered an opportunity to do something I've wanted to do for years . . . and, as the cherry on top, that's when my proof copy of Blood in the Snow arrived!
  • So, yeah. This was a busy, stressful month. But it was a good month all the same.

November Plans!

  • It's NaNoWriMo. I am insane, and I also need extra writing motivation. GUESS WHAT I'M DOING THIS MONTH.
  • Yeah. That's happening. My plan is to work on Actual Writing Job short stories and Mechanical Heart edits. Like last year, I'm aiming for 25 hours of writing and editing on those two projects instead of 50,000 words. That'll be more effective, less stressful, and will allow me to count the time I spend researching sign language as work time. (If the last seven chapters are any indication, I'm going to spend a lot of time researching sign language. Thankfully, two of my friends know ASL, and they're being super helpful.)
  • I also found a D&D group, after literal years of casual searching, and I'm SO excited. I thought I'd found one earlier in the semester, but it met at the same time as another org event . . . and then I found this one, which meets at a time I'm actually available, so I'm joining up! I've spent the last couple days figuring out potential characters . . . and, in the process, realized that, if you translate my novel characters to D&D classes, most of them are Rangers and Rogues. Or, in at least one case, a Ranger who multiclassed to Rogue. So that's fun.
  • Classes, of course, will proceed as usual, hopefully. We're getting into final project territory in several of them, which is low-key stressful but also kind of exciting. Thankfully, I have a pretty solid idea of what that project will look like in all my classes but one. I'll also spend a lot of time drawing dice and pencils for 2D projects, but I can live with that.
  • Work will also continue. The last two months have been a bit of a lull — and thank goodness, because I definitely didn't need another thing on my plate this last month. I'm looking forward to most of what I have lined up, though! A lot of it is more design-y, which is a nice change of pace from all the writing I'm doing.
  • Also, Ayo (the dance org) has their showcase in November. I intend to go, even if I have to come up with a reason to not be somewhere else. For one thing, it's awesome; for another, I have several friends who are in it. (No, seriously, I've been looking forward to this all semester. I'm not even kidding.)
That's it for my month. What about yours? How was your October? Any fun plans for November? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)