Friday, July 5, 2019

June 2019 Doings!

Ok, that kinda snuck up on me . . . which is ironic, seeing as I was basically counting down the days to Camp NaNoWriMo (in the sense of "how long do I have to do x, y, and z before Camp?") in the second half of the month. And yet I still got to June 28 and was like "Wait, what? July is in three days? That's not right. That can't be right." But, obviously, it was right, and here we are with a new month's worth of Doings.


Picture of the Mechanical Heart ARC
  • PROOF COPY! It's so shiny!
  • So, yeah; as you can see, I finished edits and formatting for Mechanical Heart and got my proof copy! I'm kind of ahead of schedule, but I wanted to get everything with the actual book finished before Camp NaNoWriMo. At this point, I just have to write blog posts and do marketing stuff.
  • Seriously, though, it's so shiny. And big. Mechanical Heart is roughly three times as long as Blood in the Snow, and, like, I knew that? That's why it took so much more time to edit? But it didn't really hit me until I got the physical copy and could hold it and all that.
  • Also, there was a cover reveal, and you can now preorder the book on Amazon and add it to your TBR list on Goodreads if you haven't already. I'd really appreciate it if you did.
  • In other news, it is now, in fact, July, and I'm working on my Camp NaNoWriMo novel! The tentative title is Blood in the Night, though I might change it to Blood in the Earth (except that earth technically is not a term that exists in this world?) or Blood Beneath. As you may be able to guess (or may have heard from me elsewhere), it's a sequel to Blood in the Snow, and it retells the Twelve Dancing Princesses crossed with a very loose retelling of Hades and Persephone. Interested? Great! Have a rough sort of blurb/synopsis thing!
A year has passed since the events of Blood in the Snow, and Baili is determined to keep the promise she made to return the captives to their homelands. She, Xiang, Chouko, Gan, and Azuma travel to one of the Three Peaks provinces to put her plans into action — but mysteries await there that will make their task more difficult and dangerous than anticipated.
Azuma believed he'd put sorrow behind him when he found a new purpose as a member of Princess Baili's personal guard. But the journey brings the ghosts of his past back in a way he never expected. To make matters worse, a mysterious visitor hints at danger to Baili, and the province princesses are undoubtedly hiding a dark secret. It's Azuma's duty to rescue his princess — but when he's failed with only one life in the balance, can he hope to succeed with thirteen?
Meanwhile, Princess Choi Eun-Ji of Cheongaeui Ttang is determined to save her older sister, no matter the cost. But that's easier said than done when it means defying the incredibly powerful Lord of Beneath. Desperate, Eun-Ji strikes a bargain that may be her only hope of success — if it doesn't claim the lives of her and her other ten sisters first.
  • So, yeah. It's going well so far. A few elements are showing up earlier than I anticipated, and an unexpected subplot sort of popped up and I don't know what I'm going to do with it, but it's still good. It's the first time in a while that I've written a new novella/novel-length work, so that's exciting. I've missed writing by hand, haha.
  • (Also, the Lord of Beneath is stupidly fun to write. He manages to be intensely Extra and dramatic while also surprisingly straightforward and practical, and he does ominous quite well, and yeah. I think this is the most fun I've had writing an antagonist since . . . oh, I don't know. Binding Destiny? Between Two Worlds? One of those two.)


  • I kinda sorta definitely had to raise my reading goal multiple times this month because I kept hitting it or almost hitting it and was like "No! I can't hit it this soon! It's only halfway through the year!" The most recent raise — from 99 to 111 books — was last Saturday, and I'm still 40-ish books ahead of schedule. We'll see how many more times I raise it over the rest of the year.
  • I think it helps that I basically just said to myself, "You can read whatever you want as long as it's not trash," instead of just requesting a heap of the latest releases and pushing through them. I mean, I want to read the newest books, yes — but I also have a big backlog, and a big list of books I want to reread, and giving myself the freedom to read those meant I was reading a lot more.
  • And, yes, that would be why I reread all of the Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus books. I have exactly 1 regret, and that is the fact that I didn't finish reading the last two books before Camp NaNoWriMo. The whole thing started because I wanted to reread Son of Neptune, but then I got to the end of that and realized that I missed Leo, so I reread The Lost Hero, and at that point, I was super invested again, so I had to read the rest of HoO. And then I thought I was done, but Riordan's writing is super addictive and I kind of wanted to go back to the beginning, so I read the first three PJO books . . . and then got stuck for a few days because I didn't own book 4 or 5 and had to wait for the library. On a non-tragic note, I actually do own slightly more than half of these books, thanks to the giant used booksale my local library does every year.
Stack of Percy Jackson books
  • And I got non-Riordan books too! Behold!
Stack of non-Percy Jackson books, plus a blue stuffed dragon
  • (The dragon was not from the booksale, but the space looked empty and he seemed to fit, so I filled it. Also, please do notice that I have Volume 1 of the Chrestomanci Chronicles, which means my collection is complete! Also, A Cast of Stones is signed, but I'm honestly more excited about Chrestomanci. Not going to lie; if I hadn't gone on a Percy Jackson binge, I probably would've ended up devouring the Chrestomanci Chronicles instead.)
  • Anyway. Getting back to the non-PJO books I read. My other two rereads, Raven's Ladder and The Ale Boy's Feast, were good overall. They're frustrating books, honestly. In Raven's Ladder, basically everyone except Jordam and Partayn is a mess, and it's super frustrating, but the book overall is a very good metaphor for our current culture. And then The Ale Boy's Feast has great themes and great allegory, and I love Jordam, but I hate the ending. I don't mind if an author leaves an ending a bit open-ended, but that was too much.
  • All that said, I love how often this series wanders into what's basically horror territory, then remember they're supposed to be fantasy. It's mostly present in these books three and four, but it starts in book two once you find out about the beastmen. It's almost kind of funny.
  • Moving on: I cleared a bunch of meant-to-read-this-ages-ago books off my shelf! Most notable: Fawkes and Horseman, both of which are alternate histories/historical fantasies of a sort (though Horseman is a lot more distant of an alternate than Fawkes!). I loved both books, and would absolutely recommend them to others. Nadine Brandes did a great job with the historical element and the family relationship in Fawkes, even if I was a bit iffy about how one particular element was presented. And Horseman was just a bucket of fun; I'm alwasy very impressed with how well Kyle Robert Shultz can simultaneously have a really humorous story and really tough choices for his characters. (And right after I finished it, I read The Fourth Musketeer, which focuses on Julio and was also very fun. And I was able to read Deadwood right after it released, which was just as creepy as it should have been and also gave me feels.) Those were all definitely highlights.
  • On the short story front, I read Ray Bradbury's I Sing the Body Electric! anthology and part of Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things anthology. The Bradbury anthology was a bit mixed, as anthologies are wont to be, and both depressing and disturbing at times, but the better stories made the whole thing worth it. (I definitely don't agree with Bradbury on certain points of philosophy, but he still presented his ideas in an interesting way.) As for the Gaiman anthology — I DNF'ed it after reading a perfectly horrible story relating to The Chronicles of Narnia. I'm still mad about it; don't read it. I quite literally wanted to wash my brain out with bleach afterward. And most of the rest of the anthology was a bit too interested in the worst parts of human life and intentions for me to recommend it, even if some of them had interesting concepts. The only exceptions are the poetry, a few short stories that you can also find in his children's anthology, and a new-to-me short story, "Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire." Yes, that sounds like it ought to be sketchy, but it's actually a concept that I love — basically, the fact that, to a character in a fantasy world, our world would be the fantasy one. I absolutely recommend it. Just find somewhere else to read it than this particular anthology.


  • I haven't really watched any movies this month, due to reasons which will be explained in the Life! section. However . . .
  • I did watch a good bit of Star Trek! And by "a good bit", I mean about ten episodes, which is probably a laughably small amount to other people my age, but storm it all, I need sleep. And if I'm going to lose sleep, I'd rather do it with a book than a TV screen.
  • Anyway. My family's been slowly watching the first season of the Star Trek Original Series, and I can definitively say that Spock is the best part and McCoy is the second best. Kirk is fine, but altogether too prone to impulsiveness for the sake of the plot. Aaaaand I'm also not crazy about how he apparently is contractually obliged to make out (or at least have an implied romantic connection with) at least one woman every episode. I have been told that this is because the show was made in the '60s, but I still don't appreciate it.
  • In addition, my sister and I have been watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, and I honestly like it rather more than TOS. For one thing: a ship full of reasonably sensible, reasonable, mostly professional people! Hallelujah! For another: I currently like a bunch of the characters rather than just two. (And the characters seem to be better-developed in general?) And, of course: there's no obligatory kissing scene every episode. Again: HALLELUJAH. I mean, yeah, you've got two sort-of-couples? But neither are "official" couples yet, and it seems like they're going to take their sweet time getting there, and given the choice between pointless kissing scenes and less-pointless awkwardness, I will take the latter. (Ok, I'll be fair. The kissing in TOS isn't always pointless. But there's still more of it than there needs to be.)


Not my picture.
  • June basically consisted of two exciting things (one good, one bad), a few weeks of various people having colds, and the book sale. And, obviously, lots of reading and writing and watching Star Trek, but we already talked about that.
  • We'll start with the good exciting thing: Hershey Park! We were supposed to go at the end of May, but we got rained out, so we went the first week of June instead. It was definitely a good time, especially since there were so many rides that everyone wanted to go on together. For context: my parents and my sister are all roller-coaster people. My sister, in particular, is the type of roller-coaster person who will happily ride the most extreme coasters in the park multiple times. I, on the other hand, would rather be spun in about five different directions than get on most roller coasters — literally. Spinny rides are some of my favorite things, and I wish I got to go on more of them. (The problem, of course, is that they're best to go on with other people, and I am a single person. So, I can have a good time on the swings or the Scrambler, but anything like the teacups where you have to rotate something to spin more is out.)
  • However, I make an exception for wooden roller coasters because I don't have a problem with speed (within reason) or even with a bit of rattling around; I just don't want to go upside down or get dropped at a 90-degree angle or such. In fact, I like wooden roller coasters — and Hershey has three of them, which is a pretty decent number. All of them are good coasters too. The Racer was the best, but I'd ride any of the three again.
  • The downside of the day at the park: I came home with a particularly nasty cold that reared its head a few days after we got back and put me out of commission for two days before I could function semi-well again. It seemed like I'd mostly gotten rid of it by the next weekend, which was Father's Day, but then, that Saturday . . . Well, a bigger problem showed up.
  • And by that, I mean that my dad went to the hospital with an infected or inflamed gallbladder.
  • The good news: he's fine now. The doctors figured out pretty quickly what was wrong; they did surgery; he came home and took a week off to recover. But we did have to delay celebrating Father's Day (we still haven't caught up on all our plans), and it did freak everyone out a little.
  • Also, for anyone who's interested: I didn't cook a lot this month (mostly due to the fact that I was sick — though I did make or assist in making a few skillet dishes). However, I did bake bread, which was one of the main things I wanted to try! A family friend of ours had some sourdough starter, and I asked if I could have some, since I love sourdough bread and wanted to try making it. And BEHOLD!
Rather flat sourdough bread
  • It did not turn out perfectly; it's super dense and didn't really rise as much as I think it was supposed to, and I'm not 100% sure what went wrong. But hopefully, the next loaf will turn out better. We'll see how it goes.
  • Oh, and Independence Day was fun! We went over to a family friend's house for barbeque and other assorted yumminess, which was great. We didn't end up going to see fireworks, though, since the weather was so wet. Instead, we just watched them on TV. (I don't mind, honestly. We got see fireworks back on Memorial Day weekend, and those were pretty great, so I got my fireworks fix then.)

July Plans!

Camp NaNoWriMo Banner
  • Obviously, the main plans for July are Camp NaNoWriMo and work — but I've already discussed the one, and the other hasn't changed much from last month, so I won't get into that.
  • My grandpa is visiting this month, so that should be fun. His visits are usually pretty chill.
  • Also, Cow Appreciation Day is July 9! Basically, you wear cow-related apparel (which could be, say, a cow-spotted bandana or other clothing article, or even just a white shirt with black spots taped on), go to Chick-fil-a, and you can get a free entree. You can do this at any meal; if you have enough Chick-fil-a's nearby, you can do it for all three meals. (That is a lot of chicken, yes. But it's good chicken, it's free, and if you plan what you're eating well, you don't feel like you're eating the same thing all day.) My family is very into Chick-fil-a, and we have four different restaurants in a twenty-minute radius of our house, so guess what we're doing? Plus, we plan to go see How To Train Your Dragon 3 that day, so, yeah. I'm going to get nothing done, but it will be a good day.
  • I have some crafting stuff I want to do: I'm working on my 3D-printed sword and a knitted cloak, and I'm planning to make a cool sign for my dorm room door. (Of course I make it the last year I'll be there . . . oh well. It is what it is.) I'll post pictures of all the things here on the blog once they're done.
  • In general, I'm hoping July will be mostly chill — or as chill as a NaNo month can be, in any case. We'll see what happens.
  • (Oh, and this isn't a July-specific plan, but I picked up some games during the Steam Summer Sale because they were cheap and I wanted to reward myself for being on top of things with Mechanical Heart, and I'm suuuper excited. None of them are new or recent — one of them is Portal, for heaven's sakes — but whatever. I'm going to have fun and enjoy several good stories and that's what matters. Again, it probably won't happen in July, 'cause Camp NaNoWriMo, but maaaybe if I finish early . . .?)
How was your June? What are your plans for July? How do you feel about roller coasters (wooden or otherwise) and spinny rides? How do you feel about engaging with books, games, or other media years after everyone else discovered them? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)


  1. You made bread!!!! I'm so impressed; yeast intimidates me too much so I only do quick or soda breads.

    1. Yes!!!! Sourdough isn't that scary if you get a starter from someone else. You can feed it once a week and stick it in the fridge and it's apparently super hard to kill, according to the internet, and you can make a basic sourdough with just flour, water, and starter, and it tastes DELICIOUS. So I'd say it's a good starting place. That said, quick and soda breads are pretty delicious. :D

  2. That amusement park looks awesome! And congratulations on your book! It's so exciting to get a proof of a book you've worked on for so long. I can't wait to read it!


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