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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.)


  • 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)