Friday, November 8, 2019

Magical Powers I Wish I Had (For Totally Mundane Purposes)

Everyone wants magical powers, am I right? Or superpowers, if you prefer that term — they're honestly about the same thing, just with slightly different connotations and sources. Anyway. We frequently pick the powers we'd want based on sheer Rule of Cool — I mean, how absolutely storming awesome would it be to be able to fly or shoot fire from your hands or use most standard forms of gravity manipulation? But at the same time, most of those would be pretty impractical or even dangerous if you're not a superhero or fantasy adventure hero. And then there are powers that might not be flashy but would actually be incredibly helpful for the average person (and some that are flashy or cool but would still be really useful even in the every day). Today, I thought I'd highlight a few of those powers that I'd particularly like to have, not because I want to have adventures but because they'd make my life easier or better. And, just to make things a little more interesting, I'm going to limit myself to only specific powers from books, movies, and so on, so I can't just wish for generic time manipulation (because we all know that's the best superpower).

Magical Powers I Wish I Had
(For Totally Mundane Purposes)

  1. Ashna's color manipulation (Lady Dragon, Tela Du). Some of you may be asking "Sarah, what the heck? Why is this topping your list?" And to that I ask: why is it not topping yours? Maybe it doesn't solve the "big problems" that some of the other items on this list will deal with, but if I had this power, I would use it literally every single day. Or at least a couple times a week. It has basically a million applications. Can't find a matching or coordinating outfit for the day? Bored of the color of your phone or laptop case or backpack? Change it, then change it back later! Thinking of dying your hair but not sure if you want to commit? No problem, and no expense! Colors just won't come out right on the poster you're working on? No need to spend your whole print quota trying to fix it! Just nip in and adjust them on the print you've got. Boom. (Obviously this won't work if you have a large number of items, but if it's just a few things, you're fine.) And just think of the possibilities for cosplay! All you have to do is find or make pieces that are the right shape or fit, then change the color to suit. We've already mentioned the possibility for hair color, and if you're cosplaying, say, Gamora or some other character with a non-human skintone? No need for body paint or makeup! You have the power! Storms, you could even make money off of it. So, yeah; this is about as non-flashy as you can get, but it takes the cake for most practical magical power.
  2. Sliding/Subsuming, aka Bendalloy Twinborn Compounder (Mistborn: The Alloy Era). Y'all knew this one was going to be on the list. For the uninitiated, Sliding in the Mistborn world is the ability to create a "bubble" in which time is expanded (giving yourself more time relative to the outside world). Subsuming is the power to basically store energy for later without having to do the whole convert-it-to-fat-and-burn-it thing. Either on their own is pretty great, but if you can use them both, it would be the the second-best-power ever, possibly the best power ever, for someone like me. Without getting into the nitty-gritty details, if you have both the Allomantic and Feruchemical versions of a metal power, you can get ten times as much power on the Feruchemical side. So, basic M.O. with this power:
    1. Eat whatever the heck I want and, instead of it all turning to fat and making my life more difficult, I store everything except what I really need in my metalminds (the pieces of metal used to store Feruchemical power). Boom, I've already eliminated one source of stress.
    2. Whenever I have a lot to get done, tap into the Allomantic side of the power to create a time bubble until I'm done, have accomplished a decent amount, or need to move outside the bubble.
    3. Once I'm done, tap the Feruchemical side of the power to restore all the energy I just used up.
    4. Repeat.
    5. Use some of my extra time to go to the gym more often.
    6. Profit (emotionally and physically, because I'm less stressed and more fit).
  3. Gold Feruchemy/Bloodmaking (Mistborn, both eras). Ok, yes, there are much more practical and efficient healing powers out there, most of which don't require you to make yourself sick so you can store up health to use later. But most of those more efficient healing powers require just as much energy as being sick does — and the Feruchemical version of healing comes with a built-in bonus, even if you're not a Compounder (which would, of course, be the ideal). What's that? Simple: an instant out of any undesirable social situation. No one wants to hang around a sick person, so you can provide yourself a future benefit and give yourself a perfectly legitimate reason to stay home instead of going out at the same time. And, yeah, being sick isn't fun, but if you're not an action hero, you wouldn't have to spend nearly as much time storing up health for later because you wouldn't use it as quickly. (The downside of this, of course, is that it somewhat increases rather than decreases the time you spend being sick, even if your usual approach is "If I'm sick anyway, just make myself more sick and get all the misery over with at once", but I currently can't think of a singular healing ability that does ward off sickness, so, yeah. If anyone knows of one, let me know.)
  4. Basically any force field ability (various media). I'm going to cheat a little with this one because there isn't one specific version of the power that I'd want, and there's a very simple reason I would want it: instant umbrella. This would be particularly helpful if you're a college student at any campus that has a lot of wind. For one thing, you wouldn't have to worry about your umbrella flipping inside-out or getting pulled out of your hands. For another, you could potentially adjust the shape or angle of the force field to be the most effective against wherever the rain is coming from. (Water manipulation could also work for this purpose, but force fields have the bonus advantages of giving you a personal space bubble, which is practical in a lot of situations, and letting you make yourself a hoverboard, which sounds great to me.)
  5. The Arc of Time (Fairy Tail). Ok, so this is a slight spoiler for one of the Tenrou Island villains, but basically this lets you turn back the clock on the state of non-sentient objects so you can restore them to a previous condition or fast-forward them to a future condition. And while the wiki page says this ability is primarily used in combat, let's be real: it would have so many everyday applications that there's no way the people who have this magic wouldn't use it all the time. Just think about it. Stain or tear in your favorite shirt? Arc of time it back to its previous condition! Need bananas but everything in the store is green? Doesn't matter; get them anyway and fast-forward the amount of fruit you need to the perfect ripeness. Dropped your final project in a puddle and now it's ruined? Never fear; you can fix that in an instant with this power! You could even use it to make a ton of money restoring artwork and architecture if you so chose.
So, yeah. What about you? What magical ability or superpower would you love to have for mundane reasons? Any ideas for other uses of any of the ones I've mentioned? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, November 1, 2019

October 2019 Doings!

Hello, everyone! So, October. It's been a crazy month, let me tell you. I mean, that is the whole point of this Doings! post, but yeah.

(Also, I just got back from a Halloween party about an hour before I finished this post, and I'm still so hyped. Tired, but hyped. It was amazing. But more on that later!)

Writing!

  • So, there's good news and there's bad news.
  • And the bad news is that Blood in the Earth/Soil is most likely going to be delayed because I've barely had time and energy to work on it at all this month.
  • I'm keeping up with creative nonfic all right . . .
  • And I'm keeping up with D&D all right . . .
  • But once I get through the week-to-week deadlines and my schoolwork and my various social commitments, there's not much energy left over for Eun-Ji, Azuma, Baili, Gan, Chouko, Xiang, and company. And I wish there was, and I hate that this is the spot I'm in, but I'm not sure what to do about it.
  • (And I just added one more thing to my workload . . . but more on that later.)
  • The good news, at least for me, is that my D&D campaign is still going well. Everyone seems to be having fun, and I think I've found a good balance between the plot of the week and the overarching storyline. And I've been able to introduce several NPCs who I really like (including one who's showing up tonight), so that's fun.
  • (I also learned the importance of testing NPC names for possibly unfavorable mispronunciations — case in point, one of the NPCs last session was named Morin, and some of the players insisted on mispronouncing his name as "Moron." Oops.)
  • The other good news is that next semester should be much less stressful, and hopefully, I'll be able to dedicate a lot more time to writing, which could mean extra stuff releasing to make up for the delay? But we'll see how that works out . . .

Reading!

  • This was another light reading month, unsurprisingly.
  • I did finish Northanger Abbey at last . . . and was not really impressed. The more I interact with Austen's books, the more I think that I'm not really an Austen fan; I'm a Pride and Prejudice fan. That said, there are a couple Austen books I haven't tried yet, so maybe I just don't jive with what I've read so far.
  • I also reread Masque because I needed something to read and couldn't get at Prince of Stars, Son of Fate, plus you can't really go wrong with a Beauty and the Beast murder mystery. I have exactly 0 regrets, and it was honestly an excellent destresser.
  • The last complete book I read this month was Ghostlight, another sort of magical mystery. It was interesting, but not my favorite thing I've ever read. I may read the sequel, but it's hard to say for sure.
  • Finally, I'm currently reading the Thing Explainer, another Randall Munroe book. I feel a little weird whenever I'm reading it because it sometimes kind of feels like a kids' book, even though it's not a kids' book, and I can't help feeling guilty that I'm not reading something more sophisticated. On the other hand, I am enjoying it and I'm learning things, so I'm not about to stop reading it.

Watching!

  • My roommate and I finished Season 1 of Avatar: The Last Airbender, as I mentioned a couple weeks ago. You can check out my season thoughts post if you missed it and are interested in reading my overall reactions as someone who knows a ton of spoilers and basically loved the show before she started watching it.
  • We intended to watch a bunch of stuff (mostly Disney movies) over Fall Break, but that . . . didn't happen. I'm ok with that, except for the fact that we were going to watch Aladdin (the original, which I've never actually seen) and I was going to knit a bunch and I was kind of disappointed by the lack of both those things. But we played a ton of board games instead, so . . . worth it.
  • And my roommate and I are endeavoring to pick Sword Art Online back up. We kind of skimmed past the Gun Gale Online arc because my roommate doesn't like most of it that much and I was . . . not super enthusiastic about the idea of watching it. As I mentioned to a friend of mine, Sword Art Online is kind of like the DC Dark Knight trilogy, in that it's deep and intellectual and thoughtful and people tell me it's really good and I should definitely watch it, and I want to take their advice . . . but it's also heavy and dark and doesn't have a ton of joy or humor to balance that out, and so even though I theoretically want to watch it, in practice, I avoid every opportunity I get to do so.
  • But, as I said, we're past the GGO arc; we picked the episodes that my roommate liked best and watched those; I got a recap of the rest of the arc from her, and now we can move on to the remaining mini-arcs! Which I'm excited about!

Life!

I painted a pumpkin for a contest hosted by my campus bookstore. (It didn't win.)
  • So, there are four main highlights of this past October: Parents' Weekend, fall break, academic decision crisis, and Halloween.
  • We will start with the chronological first of those items: Parents' Weekend. This is also the easiest one to tell: the first weekend in October was Homecoming/Parents' Weekend, and my parents came up because it's my last year and my sister's first year and both of those are significant. Also, my sister was part of one of the Cardboard Canoe Race teams, so they wanted to support her in that, even though she wasn't actually in the boat. (Her boat did not win, but they did make it across without sinking, so all is well.) Getting to see them was super fun, and we got to go out to eat at Cheddar's, which is always a win.
  • That weekend, I also went to Cedarville's production of A Comedy of Errors, which I enjoyed (though not as much as some of the other plays I've seen). The actors all did a very good job, and of course, Shakespeare is always great. Some of the mistaken identity humor did get old after a while, but overall it was good.
  • After that, it was a fairly quiet-but-busy two weeks until . . .
  • The academic decision crisis . . . which wasn't really much of a crisis, more of an opportunity that I had to decide whether or not to take. See, between the classes I've taken and the classes I plan to take, I'm only one class away from a web design minor, and it was bugging me . . . but I didn't think I could do anything about it because the class I needed was only offered in the fall semester, aka now, and I'm not sticking around an extra semester just to take one class. But my advisor encouraged me to email the professor in charge of the design department and ask if I could switch out the class for something else, so I did, expecting the answer to be no.
    • The answer was not no.
    • The answer was "I've talked to the professor who runs the class, and he remembers you from Web Design 1 and because he remembers you doing well in that class and really enjoying that class, he's willing to let you take this class as an independent study. But you have to start this semester, not next semester when you currently have a lighter workload."
    • So. That sparked a lot of debate and reassessing my plans and calling my parents and trying to figure out if the independent study is doable -- which I've decided it is, but only if I cut down on some non-class activities.
    • Thus why Blood in the Earth/Soil is being delayed.
  • In the middle of all that was fall break, which was, honestly, delightful. Once again, I went to my roommate's house . . . but this year, we had my sister and her roommate along for the ride. That turned out to be really fun, as it meant we played a ton of board games.
    • A few of the board game highlights: multiple games of "Sentinels of the Multiverse" (in which I confirmed that my ideal playstyle is not support), two rounds of "Escape the Temple" (fun, but easily the most stressful game I've ever played, and not the best thing for when you're trying not to have a cold), and two games of "Mysterium" (including one in which I played as the ghost and learned that I like that much more than playing as a normal player -- it's a great game, but I get frustrated when I'm trying to work through the clues I'm given and everyone else is talking around me and telling me what I should think).
    • My sister and I also went to the Columbus Zoo with our aunt, which was really fun. We got to ride a camel (I can definitely tell why they're called ships of the desert) and we saw absolutely adorable arctic foxes!!! They were so white and pretty and fluffy and were basically my favorite part. The cheetahs were pretty cool as well, though.
  • Then we got back, I had a super stressful week in which I had to do aaaaalllllllll the graphic design, and then reached this week. Which, of course, is Halloween!
    • To make it clear, I am excited about Halloween solely because it's an opportunity to dress up, not for any other reason. I have no interest in the spooky side of the holiday.
    • But, yeah. I basically managed to have Halloween events every night of Halloween week except Monday, which meant I got to wear all the costumes!
Me in my dragon keeper Halloween costume. 
    • Tuesday: PWID Halloween party. I dressed up as a dragon keeper from the DragonKeeper Chronicles. As usual, no one knew what I was. As usual, I did not win. But I got to walk around with a sword on my hip and a dragon on my shoulder, and I got to eat cinnamon pretzels and caramels, and I got to meet my professor's baby, so I call the evening a success.
    • Wednesday: Inklings creative writing org, with costumes welcome. I thought about trying to be a Jedi this evening, but stuff didn't work out, so I went back to the classic assassin look. (Specifically, I was a Shadowwalker assassin from one of my to-be-eventually-published books, but I didn't advertise the specifics.)
    • Thursday, daytime: So I didn't exactly dress up, but I went with a sort of low-key Jedi-ish look and carried my lightsaber around in my backpack pocket, so I count that. Speaking of which, I have a lightsaber now. Like my sword, it's 3D printed. I still need to paint details on the hilt, but that's only going to be a little bit of work, and it wasn't significant enough that I felt the need to get it done before Halloween.
    • Thursday evening: Orion Halloween Hogwarts party! My roommate and I went to this together, and it was SO MUCH FUN. I did a whole post about the event over on Facebook and Instagram (pick the one you like better), so I'm not going to recap all the details here. That said, it was so much fun, I ate a ton of good food (including Orion's version of fever fudge, which is DELICIOUS and AMAZING), and I got to dress up AGAIN. This time, I was a Hogwarts alum who works with dragons. It was probably my most comfortable costume of the week (with the exception of my low-key Jedi one), but also had the most small fun details. And I got a Hogwarts letter! Which was awesome!
    • Friday evening: AKA tonight, AKA a time that has not occurred as of the writing and publishing of this post. But I've invited people in my D&D group to dress up, and I'm planning on wearing my capelet at least and having my dragon on my shoulder, so it will be a good time.
  • Outside of those three things, most of October has been occupied by schoolwork, mostly graphic design. I'm currently in a group project in one of those classes, and it is not my favorite thing, but it's the only group project of the semester, so I'll deal with it.

November Plans!

  • So, you may be asking "Sarah, if you're delaying your WIP and taking this independent study, will you still have time for NaNoWriMo?" And the answer is . . . not really. But I'm doing it anyway with a rebel goal of one creative nonfic piece and one D&D episode written and edited per week. Aka, I'm doing the stuff I need to do anyway, but at a slightly faster rate. And then if I have time around those things, I'll work on my WIP as well.
  • On a side note, if you have been able to find the NaNoWriMo banners and profile things, please point me in their direction, 'cause I'm kind of lost on the new site.
  • The other part of the main November plan is "do all the graphic and web design."
  • Seriously, though, basically every weekend in November is going to be occupied primarily with my independent study. It's going to be great (I say only slightly sarcastically; I am really excited for this class).
  • In my spare time (such as it is), I hope that my roommate and I will be able to keep watching either Avatar or Sword Art Online; I'd like to finish a season of something by the end of the semester. We'll see how that works out.
  • I am planning to go home for Thanksgiving break, which I look forward to. I miss being home. This will also be my and my sister's first drive of that length when we're not following our parents, so that's going to be exciting and mildly nerve-wracking. I'm hoping that we can leave super early Wednesday morning so I don't have to drive most of the way in the dark. We'll see how that works out.
  • Also, there's a chance that the TDK Christmas party will end up being before Thanksgiving, and I am not happy about that. I have strong feelings about when Christmas is meant to be (AKA, only after Thanksgiving) and I hold to those feelings with a significant enough conviction that I will have an actual crisis of conscience if the party is before then. I'm an officer, so I have to go, but . . . yeah.
How was your October? What plans do you have for November? Are you doing NaNoWriMo? When do you think the proper time for Christmas celebrations and decorations is? And did you dress up for Halloween this year? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, October 25, 2019

Fairy Tale Mashups I Want to Make Reality (Ft. BitS 1st Book Birthday!)

Hey'a, everyone! So, exciting thing: tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of Blood in the Snow's release! As of tomorrow morning, I will have been a published author for exactly one year. Sadly, I don't have the time to do a giveaway in celebration, but I do have Blood in the Snow set to free on Amazon today through Sunday, so if you haven't read it yet or you have a friend who needs to read it, now's a good time to pick it up!

Edit: I goofed when setting up the free book promotion and accidentally made Mechanical Heart, my steampunk Rapunzel retelling, free instead. Blood in the Snow will instead be free from October 27 to October 29.


Since tomorrow is Blood in the Snow's book birthday, I wanted to relate my post to either the book or publishing somehow. That said, doing a "Things I've Learned Since Publishing" seemed a little cliche — plus, I'd rather save that post for when I've gained another book or two's worth of experience. And, while I have been working on figuring out what the next year or two looks like, publishing-wise, I don't have solid enough plans to announce five more books that I'm going to publish. The one thing that I can say about the future is that it's going to include quite a few more fairy tale mash-ups like Blood in the Snow, though not all of them will be in the same world. And, at the suggestion of the wonderful Jenelle Schmidt, I'm spotlighting five such stories that I want to write at some point.


Fairy Tale Mashups I Want to Make Reality

  1. Sleeping Beauty/Rapunzel featuring a benevolent witch and the tower as a refuge rather than a prison . . . though, of course, it still feels like a prison at times. In this case, Rapunzel's parents send her to the tower under the protection of the good fairy who modified the Sleeping Beauty curse in hopes that they can protect her from the full effects of the curse . . . but of course it doesn't work out quite as well as one would hope.
  2. The Odyssey/Beauty and the Beast, which I'm counting even though one of those is an epic myth and not a fairy tale. This would be more of having one as a sequel to the other — the Odysseus character becomes Beauty's father, and in the process of all his adventures, encounters the beast and gets into that whole situation. Then he returns home and reunites with his family — only to be sad because he just got back to his daughter and now either he or she is going to die. But she's all like "Dad, I'm your daughter. I got this. Have a little faith," and the whole Beauty and the Beast story plays out from there.
  3. The Seven Swans/The Little Mermaid, which was actually suggested to me by my roommate while I was working on this post, but which I like enough to include in here. In this case, the little mermaid character would want to go to land not for love of a human prince or for curiosity about the human world but because she wants to save her brothers and knows the only way to do so is on land. She may or may not know that the witch she goes to was the one who cursed her brothers, but her enchantment does get her wrapped up with their curse somehow, so if she doesn't save them, she's doomed along with them.
  4. Beauty and the Beast/East of the Sun, West of the Moon — though they're almost too easy to combine; they're so similar. But you could add in elements of another fairy tale at the end, if you wanted to mix it up a little. Technically, I already wrote this one, but it needs a hefty rewrite — basically, I need to rework it from the ground up to fix the plot holes and pacing problems, not to mention the irregularities in style (caused by the fact that the first draft was written over a period of two years). At its core, though, it's a story that I really like and look forward to going back to.
  5. Rapunzel/The Tinderbox/maybe Aladdin? Rapunzel and The Tinderbox already share some common elements — a maiden in a tower, a witch, a rescuer of dubious repute — and so do The Tinderbox and Aladdin — namely that they both involve a magical being summoned from some kind of light source and a man who uses that being's help to win a princess. Combined all together, I think it could be quite an interesting story.
There are other fairy tales I could mention as well, but some of those (for example, Gan's story) are an odd sort of fit that can't be easily explained, and others aren't developed quite enough to post. But what about you? What fairy tales do you think would fit well together? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, October 18, 2019

AUs I Wish Were Real: Movie & TV Edition

Hey'a, everyone! So, like many people, I really enjoy the concept of AUs. I think that a well-executed or well-conceived AU demonstrates how well people know particular characters (which is why I like to come up with AUs of my own stories as a character development exercise), and sometimes you can use AUs from a particular fandom as a jumping-off point for a completely new story. Plus, sometimes it's just fun to imagine how a story would be different if a particular thing changed. Today, I thought I'd talk about some of my favorite AU concepts, both ones I've come up with on my own and ones I've seen elsewhere.

AUs I Wish Were Real

  1. A Merlin AU in which Merlin, Arthur, Morgana, and Gwen all have magic and are just running around trying increasingly desperate methods to hide it from one another, Uither, and everyone else. Eventually, Gwen finds out about everyone else because she's actually not completely oblivious (unlike the Pendragons), but she may or may not actually tell anyone. Gaius knows, probably, but everyone makes him swear not to tell anyone else. And at least one of the knights figure it out, but watching these four idiots run around trying to figure out how to solve Camelot's problem of the week without letting anyone figure out how they're doing these increasingly impossible things is amazing entertainment, so whoever knows just quietly helps hide it from Uither and has a good laugh over it.
  2. An Avatar: The Last Airbender AU in which the elements are controlled via dance instead of martial arts-esque moves and so every time there's a fight, it's basically a dance battle with bonus element-throwing. This AU comes about entirely because 90% of Zuko's fighting moves look like breakdancing as it is, so they barely have to change anything there. And, let's face it, watching Zuko and Aang have a dance battle every couple episodes for two seasons would be hilarious.
  3. A Marvel AU in which people actually communicate during Civil War, realize "Ok, many of us are overreacting" and proceed to work through their differences and not break up the team. Bonus points if this gives Tony enough energy to actually think about how he handles his sort-of-mentorship with Peter and gets his act enough together to be a proper mentor, thereby making all the IronDad headcanons more reasonable. (Seriously, though: I love IronDad headcanons and short fics on Tumblr, but there's so little grounding for them in the actual show that they feel more like AUs themselves.) Double bonus points if this leads to any variation on this post; triple bonus points if it leads to a variation on this one.
  4. Another Merlin AU: Merlin, instead of being a peasant from some town I don't remember, is Arthur's half-brother. He still acts as some kind of attendant to Arthur, because he's more or less illegitimate and it's inconvenient to have a half-brother lounging around with no actual job, but it's less "servant" and more "advisor and future steward" or something similar. He still has magic, which he uses to get himself and Arthur in and out of trouble, but in this case Arthur figures it out early on and is thus much less hostile to magic in general. (Arthur still struggles with reconciling his father's attitude and his own knowlede, but yeah.) And, of course, the various villains try to pin stuff on Merlin, implicating that he's trying to clear his way to the throne, but Arthur, at least, knows better. 
    From Instagram. Click for the original post.
  5. I feel really bad for wanting this, but: an Avatar: The Last Airbender AU in which Aang doesn't survive the hundred years and, through a series of undefined events, Zuko ends up being the Avatar. I am a big fan of "the person you were looking for was you all along" plotlines, at least when done well. And Avatar!Zuko would be a goldmine for both really interesting internal conflict and comedy not based in secondhand embarrassment. I did actually find one fic that follows this premise, but it had Zuko figure it out too close to the start of the fic, and also the writing quality wasn't great, so I ended up not reading more than a chapter. Tragic. (That said, I may end up taking this AU concept and reworking it into an original story, so, yeah. We'll see what happens.)
Do you enjoy reading and imagining AU concepts? What are some of your favorites? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, October 11, 2019

I Finished Season 1 of Avatar! (Ft. My Thoughts)

Hey'a, everyone! So, yesterday, my roommate and I finished season 1 of Avatar: The Last Airbender, so I thought it would be fun to do a post with my thoughts on the show so far. Obviously, I've already said some of this in my Doings! posts, but those are usually briefer, so, yeah. And I know that a lot of people reading this will probably have already seen the show and thought a lot of these things, but I do have a somewhat different perspective since I'm coming in knowing a ton of spoilers. So hopefully that's interesting.

Thoughts on Avatar Season 1

  1. As someone who knows spoilers, the characterization in this show is great. I can definitely see the seeds of who the characters are going to become in who they are now, and it's really fun to be able to spot the defining moments in a way that I couldn't if I didn't already know so much about the show. And I think the show also does a really good job of creating characters whose positive and negative traits are stemming from the same core trait or value, just expressed in positive and negative ways, which I really appreciate. Also, the relative lack of maturity in a lot of the main characters is surprisingly non-frustrating — though that may also come from the fact that I know who the characters will become. (For the record, I normally find characters with these guys' level of impulsiveness mildly frustrating.)
  2. On a related note, I'm having a really hard time picking favorite characters because I don't know if I'm basing my choices on who they are now or who I know they're going to become. Like, obviously I really enjoy Zuko and Iroh (especially Iroh; I like him a little more with every episode, I think) — but would I like Zuko as much as I do if I didn't know who he becomes? I don't know. And I think Suki is amazing, but is that based solely on the one episode she's in, or is it based on that plus what I know of her from the fandom? Again, I don't know. (I do know that I like Sokka more than he deserves right now — I enjoy his sarcasm and the fact that he's kind of acting as the One Sane Man, but I think his character flaws might outweigh those characteristics if I didn't know how he matures.)
  3. That said, I can say with absolute certainty that the Kyoshi warriors are awesome and I would almost certainly watch a whole spin-off series about them. (I say almost because in this day and age, while they might get the show very right, they might also get it very wrong in various directions.) But yeah. They're cool, they're skilled, and they very nicely avoid the two camps a lot of female warrior-types fall into. They're not trying to avoid their feminity; they take pride in it. But their feminity isn't conflated with sexiness — and the fact that it's technically a kid's show helps here a lot, but there are probably a lot of shows that would still get it wrong.
  4. I'm also really enjoying the world in which the show is set. It's clear that the show-writers thought about the world they were creating and were very intentional with how they created it and, as far as I can tell, with how they presented the different cultures in light of the real-world cultures they're based on. And I like that the world isn't solely ancient or medieval. You have many medieval elements, but you've also got the Fire Nation ships and the steampunk-ish technology in "The Northern Air Temple" that show that the world is developing and changing and growing.
  5. I will admit that some of the Eastern spiritual stuff is kinda weird. In the context of the show and the culture, it makes sense, of course. And in most episodes, it doesn't feel that much different from the stuff you'd find in some other fantasy media. The finale did seem to have a little more of that than the other episodes, but yeah. It's not a problem; it's just different from what I'm used to. (Also, note on the final: so, I thought I knew what happened with the moon spirit? And I did know the basics of what happened? But it played out in a very different way than I expected. So, yeah. That's a thing.)
What are your thoughts on any of this? Also, if you frequently watch movies or shows for which you know spoilers, how do you feel that changes how you view characters? Also, do you like this "5 thoughts on [show]" type of post enough that you'd like to see more of them? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, October 4, 2019

September 2019 Doings!

Hey'a, everyone! So, I was super worried that this post was going to come out a day late because this has been a busy week and will be a busy weekend . . . but I actually managed to finish up the post earlier on Thursday than I normally do! Success! It helped that September, despite being super busy, had less bloggable busy stuff than August did — but there's still plenty to report.

Writing!

  • Ok, so for one thing, graphic design classes are super time-and-energy-consuming, so I haven't had half as much writing time as I would've liked.
  • And when I do have writing time, I typically have to spend it on creative nonfiction rather than novels. I'm sure my cnf professor is thrilled about that, but I'm not.
  • And on top of that, I managed to work myself into a wall on cnf for over a week, so I wasn't writing my novel because I wasn't allowing myself to work on it if I hadn't done some nonfiction writing in the last 48 hours, but I also wasn't doing any nonfiction writing because I either hated the idea so much that I kept putting it off or I would work for ages and end up just starting the same piece over five times because it wouldn't come out close enough to right to be editable.
  • There was at least one point where I really just wanted to tear the pages out of my notebook and throw them into the sun. Not going to lie.
  • On the upside, I think that between what I have drafted and what I have edited, I have the required number of pages for the first actual turn-in-an-assignment date.
  • Now I just have to catch up on my novel . . .
  • On the upside, the D&D campaign I'm running is going well! We've had two sessions so far, and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. We have learned that my brain sometimes shuts down in the middle of character dialogue (accidentally creating the impression that the character is struggling for words in a suspicious way) and that my group has terrible luck with spiders (spider-related combat always ends up taking longer than it seems like it should), but otherwise, it's great. My plan of using a laminated grid battle map and gumdrops for enemies seems to have worked out well — I'm more easily able to keep track of distances, and the players get excited when they're able to eat the enemy gumdrops.

Reading!

  • So, the good news: you know XKCD? The stick figure science webcomic? I finally got around to reading one of his books: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions! And it's magnificent and awesome and really fun! And I need his new book to come in at the library! (With my luck, it'll come in over Thanksgiving break . . .) There's lots of sarcasm and humor and explosions all wrapped around actual science and I can't believe I didn't read it sooner.
  • H.L. Burke's new-ish book, Daughter of Sun, Bride of Ice, is pretty great too. I will admit that the romance kind of overshadowed the plot at times, but it wasn't too bad, and I'd read enough snippets on Facebook that I was already invested in the romance. Also, I really enjoy the world — it's tidelocked, so you've got a sunward side that's all desert and a spaceward side that's all cold and snowy and stuff, and it's just really cool and well-done.
  • On the downside, I'm trying to read Northanger Abbey and I'm stuck about a third of the way through and it's a problem. In theory, I want to read it, but in practice, there's no plot and I'm not invested enough in the characters for the lack of plot to be unproblematic. I kind of want to DNF it, but I also feel guilty about wanting that (I mean, it's Jane Austen), and as long as I'm in the middle of it, I feel vaguely guilty about starting any other books . . . gah.

Watching!

  • My roommate and I watched all but the last two episodes of the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender! And it's awesome!
  • We would've watched the last two as well, but then we both got sick and I got busy and we had to return the DVDs to the library. It was tragic.
  • But I'm really enjoying the show! Zuko is probably my favorite character, which should come as a surprise to no one. All the major characters have really good characterization, though, and I don't dislike any of them. (Well, except for two. But I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to dislike both of them.)
  • Outside of Avatar, I haven't really watched anything . . . well, not unless you count YouTube videos. (That said, I did discover someone's D&D story series, and it's kind of awesome — it started with accidentally causing an almost-apocalypse with karaoke and wild magic, and it just got better from there. Also, Zee Bashew's animated spellbook is pretty fun.)

Life!

  • This is always the hardest section; I don't have as clear a record of life stuff as I do of anything else, and I think half my memories get overwritten before they're fully formed.
  • Anyway. That said: what happened this month?
  • The biggest thing that happened was probably the Ren Faire. I ended up going by myself this year — my roommate was sick, my sister didn't want to spend the money, and my other friends were busy. It was still fun, though! I got to wander around at my own pace, I watched the joust (and the knight for my side won, whoo!), I ate fish and chips, I bought cool necklaces as souvenirs. It was a good time.
  • The same weekend as the Ren Faire was the TDK Kickoff Party, which went pretty well! We had a much better food situation than last year, and we reorganized the schedule in a way that I think worked better. (Namely, it allowed people to eat close to the start of the party instead of all the way at the end.)
  • The weekend after the Ren Faire, my friends and I went to the local sunflower fields to take portraits. Although pictures in the sunflower field is kind of a stereotypical Cedarville activity, only one of the people in our group had gone before. I was excited for a chance to take pictures of my friends at their request, and I think the pictures turned out pretty well. I still need to edit them, but yeah.
  • And then social activities kind of crashed to a halt the week after that because my roommate got sick again and I got hit in the face with allergies and it was not a good time.
  • Classes are going fairly well, though I spend more time feeling overwhelmed than I'd like. My two graphic design classes are uncomfortably synced so big assignments are due on the same days, and that's kind of frustrating (especially since it cuts into the time I'd like to spend on other classes, namely nonfiction). That said, I made a cube! So that's cool.
  • I already mentioned the D&D campaign I'm running, but I would also like to mention the fact that in the D&D campaign I'm playing in, we just fought a whole army of drow and met up with the Big Bad of the campaign. Who then proceeded to congratulate us on how well we killed those drow and to thank us for dealing with them so he didn't have to. Cue indignant sputtering from my neutral-good-paladin-self and considerable confusion from our rogue, whom we apparently didn't fill in on the situation as well as we thought we did. Oops.
  • I also accidentally drank coffee in the form of a specialty drink that people told me was frozen hot chocolate. It was, as it turned out, a frappucino. I am neither pleased nor impressed.

October Plans!

  • I'm hoping really hard that the graphic design workload will slow down a little so I can do more writing of both fiction and nonfiction. I'm still holding out hope that my 12DP retelling will be done in time to publish with the Arista Challenge again, but it looks like it's going to be tight. And I'm torn between "hurry and write as much as possible so you can edit in November for NaNo," "don't overdo it or you'll burn yourself out and not be able to do NaNo," and "do you really have time for NaNo anyway?" I should probably listen to that last one, honestly.
  • I have the next couple D&D sessions planned, though only one is fully written. They're going to introduce some of my favorite NPCs that I've created so far, and I think they'll be really fun for everyone. Hopefully I'm right.
  • I'm also really looking forward to fall break! I'm going to my roommate's house, as usual, and this year my sister and her roommate are coming too. It's going to be a little crazy, but hopefully still fun. The current plan is homework, animated movies (Disney and/or Studio Ghibli), board games, and possibly some crafting; we'll see what actually happens.
  • And, of course, the end of October means Halloween! I'm super disappointed that my dorm probably won't have any Halloween events, but my major will still have its party. My cloak is coming along reasonably quickly, so I'm hopeful that it will be done in time for the party. (If not . . . eep. I'll figure something out.)
How was your September? What plans do you have for October? Have you read Northanger Abbey, and if so, does it ever develop a plot? What books have you gotten stuck on and then felt guilty about? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, September 27, 2019

Would You Rather . . .? Tolkien Edition!

So, for those who are unaware, this is Tolkien Week, and Edge of the Precipice is hosting their annual Tolkien Blog Party! As usual, the party includes a fun blog tag, and this year's is a "Would You Rather?" game. I thought it sounded like fun, so I'm joining in here at Dreams and Dragons. Over at Light and Shadows, I'm posting about my favorite Tolkien poetry, so make sure you check that out too!

Would You Rather . . . ? Tolkien Edition!

1.  ...join Thorin's Company or the Fellowship?
Well, on one hand, I do love the adventure of The Hobbit, and I'm probably a bit less likely to die in Thorin's Company than in the Fellowship. Plus, my presence would bring the total to fifteen, which is an even better number than fourteen. On the other hand, I can very much get behind the Fellowship's mission, and I think I'd get along with the group a lot better, so we're going with the Fellowship (even if I would mess up the numbering).

2.  ...ride Shadowfax or an eagle?

Ok, here's the thing. Shadowfax is great, but he's just a horse. A super-fast horse, but still a horse. I'm pretty sure that if I tried, I could find somewhere in this world to ride horses. (Also, I've ridden horses before and was not terribly impressed.) Riding an eagle, on the other hand? Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, definitely not something I could do just anywhere, so I'm going with that one.

3.  ...travel through Moria or Mirkwood?

Mirkwood. Absolutely Mirkwood. Yes, I hate spiders, but you know what else is in Mirkwood? Elves. I like elves. So all I have to do is survive long enough to find the elves (or be found by them) and I'm good. Moria, on the other hand? Full of skeletons and darkness and orcs. Not somewhere I want to go questing if I can avoid it.

4.  ...learn to make elvish rope or mithril chainmail?

Both. Absolutely both. Rope-making sounds like a generally interesting and useful skill and possibly something that I can do while listening to things to keep my hands busy. Chainmail is less practical, but who doesn't secretly want mithril chainmail? And I've always been kind of curious about the process. Basically, I like doing things with my hands, and I want to try all the things, and you can't make me choose.

5.  ...try to outwit Smaug or Saruman?

Smaug. Definitely Smaug. My chances aren't great either way, but I can absolutely lay on the flattery with Smaug (and probably do so honestly), while I don't think that strategy would work for Saruman, even if I could pull it off. (Also, I'd rather punch Saruman in the face for being a traitor and a fool than talk to him, SO.)

6.  ...spend an hour with Grima Wormtongue or Denethor?

Let's weigh the options here. On one hand, we've got a slimy, snakish creep of a man who's literally in league with evil. On the other, we have a man who has serious issues but at least tried to stand against the shadow (and actually succeeded for a while). I think I will take the latter, thanks.

7.  ...attend Faramir's wedding or Samwise's wedding?

Why not both? But if I have to pick, Sam and Rosie's wedding. I love Faramir and Eowyn dearly; they're some of my favorite characters. But I have a suspicion that their wedding would be very formal and stuff, while Sam and Rosie's would be much more comfortable and less imposing.

8.  ...have to care for the One Ring or the Arkenstone for a day?

Arkenstone, thanks. I can handle a glowy gemstone. Evil artefact of significant power that has a tendency to mess with the minds (and hearts) of its keepers? Maybe, but I'd rather not risk it.

9.  ...have tea with Bilbo or Frodo? 

Both. But if I have to pick, Bilbo, ideally a couple years after his adventure. I generally feel like Bilbo and I would get along well, and I know he'd have good stories. (Even if I already know his whole adventure, I suspect that there are smaller stories that didn't make it into the main narrative.)

10.  ...fight alongside Boromir or Eomer?
So, both Boromir and Eomer are great. Amazing characters, even if one of them had a tragic end. In terms of personality alone, I'd probably pick Eomer . . .  but in terms of practicality? I can't ride a horse well, so I'm not a great choice for a Rider of Rohan. Fighting on foot, however, I can probably manage, especially if you stretch the definition of alongside to include archer or another variety of ranged fighter. Not that I'd be great at that either . . . but y'know. You do what you can.

How would you answer these questions? Please tell me in the comments or feel free to pick up the tag yourself! I can't wait to see your thoughts!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, September 20, 2019

Fall 2019 Reads!

Hellllooooooooo, everyone! Tomorrow is the first day of fall, and you know what that means: new book releases! (Also, today is the first day of my hall's D&D campaign, so WHOO! I was originally going to do a D&D-themed post because of that, but then I remembered what tomorrow is and so I'm delaying that plan for a while.) There aren't quite as many books on this list as there have been on previous lists, but they're all pretty promising, so it balances out, y'know?


Fall 2019 Reads!

 
1. The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett (September 10). Historical fantasy! Granted, it's billed as "meets The Last Magician," which is not what I'd call enticing . . . but the rest of the synopsis sounds great! Relic-chasing archeologists, adventurers, and a dose of creepiness . . . what more could you want?

 
2. When She Reigns by Jodi Meadows (September 10). I read the rest of this trilogy, so obviously, I need to finish it out, right? I mean, I do really like the main character's development, even if some of the side characters kinda annoy me. Also, I have been informed that this one has more dragons than ever, which is like — yes, please!

 
3. The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas (September 10). MULAN RETELLING! The first time I watched Mulan all the way through was actually around this time last year (though I'd watched most of it several years before that), but it's amazing, and this retelling sounds even better. Possibly closer to the original story, though I could be wrong. Also, there's sneakery involved. I am always down for sneakery. And I am still very happy about the trend towards Asian fantasy that we're seeing lately.

 
4. The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah (October 29). It's sci-fi UNDER THE SEA! Featuring submarine races! Intrigue! Quests to save family members! And there's some mention of a "secretive, hotheaded companion" at the end that sounds quite promising . . . Granted, it's receiving mixed pre-reviews, so I don't want to get too excited, but I am hoping this turns out well.

 
5. Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon (October 29). I'm getting a Middle Eastern fantasy feel from this one, and I am HERE FOR IT, even if the premise is a tiny bit disturbing. But it's about sisters trying to save sisters, and that's absolutely the way to my heart. Also, we've got intrigue, and we already know how I feel about intrigue.

 
6. Blood Heir by Amelie Wen Zhao (November 19). This one sounds suuuuuper dark, but also super cool. It sounds rather Russian in setting, which is a culture I don't really read as often as I'd like. Plus, she's tracking down her father's murderer, which usually promises a mystery (at least to some degree), and we've got a conman . . . who, ok, sounds more like the Kaz Brekker variety of conman than other varieties of conman, but still. It did have a bit of controversy around it, but that sounds like it was from people being jerks on Twitter, not from an actual problem with the book.

 
7. Starsight by Brandon Sanderson (November 26). I'm still deciding how excited I am about this one. On one hand, Skyward wasn't really my favorite Sanderson novel. It was good, but it didn't have that spark. On the other hand, "not my favorite Sanderson novel" is kind of like saying that strawberry isn't my favorite ice cream flavor: it's still pretty storming delicious. So, yeah, I'll probably be picking this one up . . . and hoping really, really hard that Brandon Sanderson keeps the romance low-key or non-existent.

What books are you looking forward to this fall? Have you read any of the ones on this list already, since some of them are out already? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, September 13, 2019

Things I'd Say to Freshman-Me

Hello hello hello, friends! It's the first list post of the school year — took me long enough, I know. If you found my blog through the blog tour back in August and are therefore new here, welcome! If you're a regular, good to see you again.

Anyway. In honor of the fact that this is, as I said, the first non-Doings! post of the school year and the fact that it is both my last year and my sister's first year, I have decided to share five things that I wish I could've said to freshman-me. A little cliche? Yeah. But I'm going for it anyway.

Things I'd Say to Freshman-Me

  1. You never know which friends will stick. I remember having lunch with a particular girl and coming away from it thinking "I like this person! I hope we get to hang out again; we could be really good friends!" I'm pretty sure I've talked to her less than a dozen times since then. I also remember not expecting to get along super well with some of the people who are now my closest friends. My point: I am terrible at figuring out who will and won't be a lasting friend and I should stop trying to make quick judgements about people.
  2. Learn to focus your effort. Freshman year, I put a lot of effort into certain classes that really didn't require that much time and energy. Some of that extra energy did pay off, but some (for example: health class) I could've gotten the same results with much less stress and effort. I'm still working on this one (perfectionism is a hard habit to break), but I wish I would've started working sooner.
  3. You're not as weird as you think you are. I had a very high opinion of my own weirdness coming out of high school — I wasn't quite sure if I was a nerd or a geek or a fangirl or all three*, but I knew that I was something outside of the mainstream. Aaaaaand then I came to college and discovered that my brand of "weird" is actually pretty socially acceptable; I just didn't have enough data points to recognize it. (That said, the steadily-growing popularity of fantasy and sci-fi media doesn't hurt.) And even when I'm at my craziest, I'm significantly tamer than some other people I know (who can be downright esoteric at times).
  4. Group projects aren't always horrible. Honestly, I probably dreaded having to do group projects more than I did the actual academic challenge of college. I knew how to work hard and work well on my own. Group work, on the other hand? Horrors. Except . . . if you get the right group of people, it's not bad. I've had a few awful experiences (most of them freshman year), but even those weren't nearly as horrible as I feared.
  5. Don't be afraid to step up — it's less stressful than you think. Freshman year, I did not think of myself as a leader. And I still don't want to be the one in charge of everything, but I am a lot more comfortable with taking the lead. As it turns out, a major part of "leading" a group is just keeping everyone organized, figuring out who does what, making sure people stay on task, and occasionally picking up the slack — and having permission to do all that actually decreases my stress level to a degree. Yeah, my brain doesn't make sense, and I wish I'd figured that out sooner.
So, yeah. That's what I've got. What would you like to tell your younger self (at whichever point in time you pick)? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

*All three. Definitely all three, just in different domains.

Friday, September 6, 2019

August 2019 Doings!

I'm back from my hiatus at last! It probably wasn't the greatest marketing choice to disappear for so long right after my release . . . but I did need the break. August was another weird mix of really chill and "I'm DYING," and yeah. It was interesting.

Writing!


  • Mechanical Heart is officially out, and the release went really well overall! Y'all seem to like it, which makes me happy. (That said: if you've read it, please leave a review, especially on Amazon. Currently there's just four reviews over there . . . though they're all good reviews, so that's great.)
  • (Also, Kyle Robert storming Shultz read my book and liked it and I still can't quite believe that's a thing that happened. I screamed a little when I found out, not gonna lie.)
  • August was not a great writing month, let me just say.
  • I don't actually know how much I wrote, but I do know that it wasn't enough.
  • I did have an excuse, though. It's called "Work, packing, school, and more work." Also, certain scenes ended up dragging ooooonnnnn and oooonnnn and it got to the point where I was like "I don't want to write this; I will do literally anything that's not writing this." I will have to find a way to make them more interesting in edits. (Or I may find out that they aren't actually that long and they just feel long because I didn't want to write them . . . not sure.)
  • Oh, and I did some creative non-fiction pieces for my cnf class, and I think some of them turned out pretty well. I may post them on the blog eventually, but we'll see.
  • On the upside, some of my characters got nominated in the Silmaril Awards! Breen and Baili are both up for Most Epic Heroine, and Luis and Grace are contenders for Most Faithful Friend. I don't really expect them to win, but I'm really happy that people like them enough to nominate them! (And there are still a few more days to second nominations, so . . .)

Reading!

  • August wasn't a half-bad reading month, though it wasn't as great as the start of the summer.
  • The Game was probably my favorite read of the month, as should not be surprising since it's by Diana Wynne Jones. It was really short and wrapped up a bit quickly, but it was a very clever take on mythology and just a good story all 'round. Oath of the Outcast was another great book; though I found the lack of female characters a bit disconcerting, I liked the characters and plot and focus on family and friendship. And Descendent of the Crane was great right up until it tore my heart into tiny pieces and then told me that it was actually the first in a series, so that's a thing. I do recommend it — it's a great fantasy-mystery with a bonus helping of "suddenly ascended ruler trying to figure out how to do the rulership thing" and a topping of family drama and relationships. The ending just hurts. A lot.
  • I also enjoyed Savannah Jezowski's short stories, "The Witching Hour" and "The Hounds of Darkness." They're both solid short stories, and I appreciate how effectively Savannah can write from a cat's perspective. I'm not sure how I feel about the ending of Hounds, but that's a me thing.
  • One tier down: three books that were good, but not as great as I hoped. Not Write Now was an interesting book of writing advice from Kyle Robert Shultz, and I feel like it's worth a read if you want to readily identify the ways you can accidentally (or purposefully) set yourself up to fail as a writer. Storms, it's probably worth getting just for the prologue/introduction. That said, it wasn't as effective for me personally as it might be for other people. Match Cats was a cute anthology of romance shorts from the perspective of both cats and owners . . . which is fine, but fluffier than I wanted. And The Atlas of Cursed Places was slightly less helpful for location inspiration than I thought it would be, but it was still a pretty interesting read that nicely balanced history, philosophical musing, science, and imagination.
  • Last, we have my first DNF in a while: Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword. I picked this up on a whim, thinking "Oh, hey, this looks like fun!" Spoiler alert: it was not fun. I gave up about three or four chapters in. I couldn't stand Peasprout — she's too arrogant, and too dismissive of her younger brother, and just too frustrating all around.
  • I did acquire some lovely books, mostly via giveaway! From Emma of Awkwordly Emma, I won Empress of All Seasons, Sorcery of Thorns, and Truly Devious, all of which I'm super-excited to read but haven't quite gotten to yet (mostly because library books took precedence). From C.M. Banschbach, I won Oath of the Outcast . . . twice. Thanks to a mix-up somewhere along the line, I accidentally received two copies. (Not that I'm complaining! Now I have a copy to give to someone . . . as soon as I figure out who.)
  • Oh, and I read roughly sixteen volumes of Schlock Mercenary, thanks to the recommendation of Matthew Sampson. I'm not sure whether or not to thank him. On one hand, the storyline is great. You have to get past some off-color humor, particularly in the first few books, but the craft, characterization, and worldbuilding are spot-on. I just found out that the author does the Writing Excuses podcast along with Brandon storming Sanderson, and I am exactly zero percent surprised.

Watching!

  • In keeping with last month's theme, my family and I finished our John-Wayne-watching with True Grit, which was actually really good and I would've watched ages ago if someone had properly explained how great it was, focusing on the things that I'd actually get excited about. (Which is to say: strong-minded female protagonist who knows what she wants and won't let anyone stop her from going after it, and a wonderful example of the "grizzled, cynical loner accidentally adopts small naive newbie-adventurer." Also, lots of snark and no stupid pointless romance.) Maddie did act like a bit of a brat at times, but it wasn't too bad. And while the ending was a bit odd, the movie on the whole was solid.
  • We also watched The Sting, which was a heist movie set in 1920s Chicago-ish area. And it was fine, just very slow. I think I would have loved it if it were a book; as a movie, my natural impatience and my inability to tell similar faces apart made it a bit difficult. Still, great character development!
  • On the TV-watching front: my roommate and I agreed that we needed to continue our Fairy Tail hiatus and that we weren't ready to start up SAO again . . . so we started watching The Librarians, which is pretty much about people who work for a magical library, trying to keep magic from being used for evil. It occasionally trips over cliches, but it's overall pretty fun. But we took a break from that too about four episodes in. Why? Because . . .
  • We're watching Avatar: The Last Airbender! I've had this on my to-watch list longer than basically any other show, and I can say with confidence that it is worth the wait. We're about halfway through season one and I'm really enjoying the story and characters and the really good balance between humor and adventure and drama. And while certain characters are a bit annoying right now, there's no one who's unbearably frustrating, and it's sort of a more realistic annoying-ness rather than the stupid-annoying-ness of several characters in other shows I could name. Plus, I think that the show's doing a really good job of setting up stuff that's going to occur in the future, particularly with regard to character development.

Life!

  • Ok, so obviously the main event this month was that I returned to Cedarville University for the start of my senior year. And that's been going fairly well so far. I'm pretty sure that this year is either going to be stupidly stressful or really chill. I have three different classes that seem like they'll be heavily creative: two graphic design and the creative nonfiction class I mentioned earlier. I'm excited for all of those, but they're also the ones that'll be hardest to keep up with because I want to get stuff right. In addition, I have Honors Colloqium (which has only met once because it's on Mondays and we get Labor Day off), Statistics for Business (which seems like it'll be pretty fun, if only because the professor is doing a great job of keeping class time intersting — though I also genuinely like statistics, particularly probability), and Professional Portfolio Development (which is basically "this is how you get a job, now go do it"). All in all, it's a solid lineup.
  • My roommate and I did not make it to the Rennaissance Festival on Labor Day weekend like we usually do, but I did walk down into to town several times to hang out in the coffee shops and drink yummy things (and probably spend more money than I should, but OH WELL. I'm supporting small businesses). And I went to the pancake breakfast on Monday, which was delicious.
  • (For those who aren't aware: Labor Day was basically invented by a person from Cedarville, so it's a Big Deal here. There's a parade and a three-day festival and everything. Plus the college students get the day off, which is great.)
  • Plus, I'm the secretary for TDK again, so I'm keeping busy with that. We have our first QuizBowl day today, and our Kickoff Party is in a couple days, and I'm really excited for both things.
  • And I played both Portal and Portal 2! Both were great, and I'm really sad that they're over. (Also, I'm sad that I can't go back and replay specific levels to try to get some of the achievements I missed . . . oh well. Maybe I'll replay the whole thing in a year or two.) Very good storytelling, especially in Portal 2, but also great puzzle challenges.
  • Before Cedarville, not a ton happened . . . though I did finish my sword!
  • I painted it, attached the hilt and blade, and put the wrap on the hilt literally two nights before we left for Cedarville. Things I have learned: (1) next time, print in the other direction, (2) spray paint, then craft paint, never just one, and (3) epoxy is interesting, but not as intimidating as it might seem.
  • I also finally got my bread to the desired fluffiness, though never to the desired shape. My mom's still keeping it going, so maybe she'll have better luck eventually.
  • Other than that . . . um . . . I have sometimes-glasses now. I noticed that the chapel slides were getting steadily harder to see, so we got my eyes checked and I'm basically on the border of needing glasses and not needing them. So I ended up getting them, but I mostly wear them during class and when I'm driving — I get headaches if I wear them too long, especially if I'm looking at screens. But, yeah. That's a thing. I put them on and I was like "Oh, huh, I didn't realize stuff was supposed to be sharp that far out!"

September Plans!

  • I'm still hoping to make it to the Rennaissance Festival, hopefully this weekend. We'll see how that goes.
  • Other than that: lots of schoolwork and org activities! I'm in two high-committment orgs (TDK and the Inklings) and then I'm in several other orgs where my committment is either "I'll come if I have time" or else "I'll be there at every meeting, but you only meet once a month, so we're chill." I am probably in too many things, but it's easier to test stuff out now and drop it later than to try to break into a new social group halfway through the school year.
  • And, of course, there's D&D! The campaign I'm currently in is a bit . . . intersting . . . with regard to scheduling; half our members are off-campus, and we're meeting online still, and it's a bit of a mess. But it's still fun when we're able to meet. And then the campaign that I'm running should kick off pretty soon, maybe either next week or the week after if we can get stuff sorted out there.
  • On the writing front, I really want to finish my WIP draft this month so I can take a little time off before I start the first round of edits (either in October or November, depending on how I'm feeling). And I have several creative nonfiction ideas that I want to get down at some point (and need to get down so i can turn them in, but yeah).
  • As far as reading goes: I have very easy library access, and I have a shelf full of mostly not-yet-reads, all of which I'm excited about. As long as I have time (and as soon as I finish Northanger Abbey), reading this month will be great.
How was your August? What are your plans for September? Have you been doing any fun crafty things? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, August 9, 2019

Golden Braids Blog Tour DAY 5: The Dragon's Flower!


Hello, everyone! It's the final day of the Golden Braids blog tour, and we're finishing out the week with an Asian-inspired fantasy: The Dragon's Flower by Wyn Estelle Owens. I absolutely love this book; it's got an epic scope yet a personal feel, fabulous families, adorable romances, a Fox that isn't a fox, and a writing style remniscent of some of my favorite authors. You can read more of my excitement over on Light and Shadows, but while you're here, I have an interview with Wyn Estelle Owens, so maybe stick around for that first.

About . . .

The Dragon’s Flower!

In the wilds of the mountainous country of Akiyama, there stands a pagoda. When Shichiro, an exiled, honorless samurai stumbles across it one rainy morning, he expects to find it empty and abandoned. He was not expecting to find a lonely princess with near-mythical blue eyes dwelling in the top floors.

Hanako has dwelt alone for all her life, with only her two silent handmaidens and the countless dragon effigies on her walls to keep her company; her only knowledge of the outside world gained from the books and scrolls she reads. When the wandering ronin stumbles onto her haven, she gains her first friend, never knowing how deeply this chance meeting would affect her.

The threads of fate have tied these two together, and all the while turmoil boils in the midst of the Seven Countries of Azuma-no-Kuni. Rumors of alliances and armies sprout up, and whispers of the long-lost Imperial Line returning at last. Old prophecies ripen at last, and old myths prepare to show themselves once again in the hour of need. Amongst it all stand two new allies—an isolated princess and a near-friendless ronin, as the wheels of fate and destiny circle them and draw ever closer. Will peace at last return to the fractured realms, or will remnants of the once great Empire splinter beyond all redemption?

Find it On: Amazon || Goodreads

Wyn Estelle Owens!

Wyn Estelle Owens is the penname of a young woman who’s still figuring out what this whole ‘adult’ thing is all about. She lives in a big, old house in Maryland by a Hundred Acre Wood (dubbed Neldoreth) with her parents, three occasionally obnoxious brothers, her dog Jackie, and her rabbit Joker. She is fond of reading, writing, drawing, speaking in dead or imaginary languages, playing videogames, quoting classic or obscure literature, being randomly dramatic, and generally making things out of yarn. Her dream is to write stories that inspire people to chase after the wonderful world of storytelling. Her favorite all-time authors are Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Christa Kinde, and above all, J.R.R. Tolkien, who first inspired her to pursuing novel writing when she read the Hobbit at the age of seven.

Find her on Facebook.

Interview with Wyn Estelle Owens

Welcome to the blog, Wyn! First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, like your hobbies, how you got into writing, your favorite books (besides your own), or just anything else you’d like to share?
Hello, thanks for having me! Hmm… my hobbies. I have a lot of hobbies—things like drawing, reading, storytelling to my cousins, and any sort of crafting are my favorites. My favorite books are The Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl and absolutely anything by J.R.R. Tolkien. I’ve always wanted to tell stories, but what truly inspired me was when my mother read the Hobbit to us when I was six, and then reading it for myself the next year. My early efforts were, uh… interesting, but I completed my first novel (over 200 pages, written by hand), before I turned thirteen. Someday I plan to revise that story and publish it, but who knows when that will be?

That should be interesting. So, The Dragon's Flower is an Asian retelling of Rapunzel. What gave you the inspiration for this story and especially for the setting?
The inspiration happened back in the summer of 2016, during the gap year between Five Magic Spindles and Five Poisoned Apples. I had guessed the most likely retelling for the last contest would be Snow White, but I decided to come up with a Rapunzel retelling as a back-up, just in case. I think I had been musing about different settings and tower substitutes and the like, so I had been thinking about pagodas and a possible Far Eastern retelling. Then, I ran across a picture on pinterest. It depicted a Japanese samurai on a horse, staring up at something with a look of faint wonder on his face, and I thought “I wonder if he’s looking up at a princess, like the prince in Rapunzel?” And since I already had pagodas in my mind, the picture cemented my musings, and the beginnings of The Dragon’s Flower was born—a wandering samurai and a princess dwelling at the top of a mysterious pagoda. Sadly, the horse in the picture did not make it into the actual story.

Ah well. Having read The Dragon's Flower already, I can tell that you put a lot of research into the world. How did you go about doing your research, and how did it fit in with your writing process?
Almost all of the research was done on the internet, a lot of it during the writing process. This type of research, of course, led to much hairpulling, railing at uninformative websites, and desperate searches for cross-references in order to make sure any tidbit of information was accurate. Still, it was a lot less stressful than the research for my last book, and since the world of Azuma-no-Kuni is only Japan-inspired and not Japan itself, I did have some room for improvisation.

I definitely agree that writing an "inspired-by" world is nice in that regard! What's your favorite piece of writing advice you've ever received (whether "favorite" means most interesting, most useful, most unusual, or some other definition)?
It’s been so long that I can’t remember the exact phrasing or even who said it, but this is how I remember it.

“You can’t rely on the muses, or blame them when you haven’t written anything. Muse and inspiration is fickle, if you only write when they’re in your favor you’ll never get anything done. You have to sit down and write, even if your inspiration is dry. It may be trash, or at best unrefined, but that’s what first drafts are for. The rest can be polished later, but you can’t edit words that don’t exist.”

That is advice that I pretty much live by. Great quote. Fun question: if you could pull one of your characters into our world for a day, who would you pick, and what would you two do together?

Ooohhh, one of my characters? Isao, definitely. He’s my favorite (sorry, Shichiro!), and I’d love to spend a day with him! What would we do? Well, we’d probably take a drive up north to my hometown and spend the time hanging out in all my favorite spots, laughing and joking, and eating ice cream while plotting pranks on my brothers for when we get back to my house. Then we’d probably watch something fun and actiony—A-Team, maybe?—and eat ramen until he has to return.

Isao would be super fun to hang out with! Finally, any hints on what we can expect from you next? Will you be writing any more stories set in the world of The Dragon's Flower?
Well, I do have a collection of short stories I plan to release sometime this Autumn—maybe as soon as late September. We’ll have to see on that, however. As to more stories in Azuna-no-Kuni? Ahaha, well…. DF was supposed to be a standalone. Then, all these characters showed up with either extremely interesting backstories or exciting future potential, and then I started fleshing out the history and all these intriguing near-mythological, legendary heroes started showing up, each with stories of their own, and… yeah. There’s gonna be more stories in the world of The Dragon’s Flower. When, (or how many), I’m not sure… but they are coming.

You have no idea how happy that makes me. Thanks for both answering my questions and for giving me something to look forward to!

And many thanks to all of you for stopping by! So, tell me, are you excited to read The Dragon's Flower? What are you most looking forward to? Please tell me in the comments, and don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour posts and enter the giveaway!
Have a lovely day!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Blog Tour Stops: August 9

Knitted By God's Plan - Five Reasons to Read
Light and Shadows - Five Reasons to Read

Reviews

Unicorn Quester
The Language of Writing

Interviews

Safe Return Doubtful - Shichiro
Dreams and Dragons - Wyn

Guest Posts

Reality Reflected - Rapunzel and Ancient Japan

Or find the full list of stops here.