Monday, June 29, 2020

An Echo of the Fae Blog Tour: Interview with the Jana, the Summer Princess!

Hey'a, everyone! Just like last Monday, I have an interview as part of the An Echo of the Fae blog tour! But this week, I'll be interviewing one of the story characters: Jana, the Summer Princess! I am super excited for y'all to meet her; she's pretty great. But before that, a bit about the book and author.

About . . .

An Echo of the Fae

Echo enjoys the peace and solitude of the Faeorn forest, regardless of how strange spending time in the "haunted" wood seems to others.

But on the cusp of her thirteenth birthday, the discovery of a family secret reveals why Echo has never been drawn to the sea like her mother. This discovery shakes the foundations of her world and sends Echo on a quest, not merely into the forest, but into the heart of the fae-lands themselves, to rescue the sister she didn't know existed.

Elves, dragons, and fairy courts will put Echo's wit and resolve to the test. But with time running out for her sister, will Echo even be able to save herself?

A fairytale adventure perfect for fans of The Secret of Roan Innish and The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

Find it on: Amazon || Goodreads

Jenelle Leanne Schmidt

Jenelle first fell in love with stories through her father’s voice reading books aloud each night. A relentless opener-of-doors in hopes of someday finding a passage to Narnia, it was only natural that she soon began making up fantastical realms of her own. Jenelle currently resides in the wintry tundra of Wisconsin—which she maintains is almost as good as Narnia—with her knight-in-shining armor and their four adorable hobbits. When she is not writing, she homeschools said hobbits and helps them along on their daily adventures... which she says makes her a wizard.

Follow Jenelle around the interwebs to get news about latest releases and her writing adventures: Author Site || Facebook || Twitter || Instagram || Goodreads || Newsletter || Amazon

Interview with Jana

Art by H.S.J. Williams
Welcome, Jana! We're excited to have you join us here at Dreams and Dragons! To start out, can you tell us a little about who you are and what your role in the story is?

Oooh! I am the Summer Princess. That means that I am the daughter of Queen Titania and King Oberon. Usually, I am the life of the party, and I’ve been known to be a bit of a prankster in my parents’ court.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been feeling very well lately. I get these awful dizzy spells, have been feeling weak and tired all the time, and even have been prone to sleep-walking. Sleeping isn’t any better than being awake, either, because whenever I’m asleep I have these vivid and terrifying dreams. My parents are worried about me, so they’ve put me up in a tower where I’ll be safe. It’s a bit lonely, but at least it keeps our subjects from worrying.

That sounds awful, frankly. What are your thoughts on the other characters in the story? (At least, those you've interacted with or know about?)

We-elll... I mean, Nevyk is a little grumpy and strict. But my own dear bestest friend ever, Drayeth is always a lot of fun. He has been my co-conspirator in many a prank. He’s keeping me sane, really. I just wish we didn’t have to stay in this tower. I hope my parents find a cure soon.

Are there other characters? What does that mean? Is someone coming who can cure me?

Well . . . um, that's a spoiler, now isn't it? Moving on, what is your favorite thing about your home? Your least favorite thing?

Oh, just... everything! I love living in Faerthain. Everything is always so full of life and color and magic!

My least favorite thing? That’s harder... I guess, I just wish that I could be healthy so that I could enjoy everything I love again.

I can understand that. If and when you get better, if you could spend an afternoon doing anything you wanted, anywhere in the world, with anyone you wanted, what you do, where, and with whom?

I’ve always wanted to go on an adventure. Not a really dangerous one or anything, but maybe something a teensy bit daring or different, just to give all the fae courtiers something to gasp about behind their hands. (giggles a little). But that’s probably never going to be possible, I shouldn’t be selfish. I’d definitely want Drayeth to be there, whatever I was doing. And anything to get out of this tower. Being cooped up in here is so very dull.

Oh, I completely understand about that. And I'm sure you'll get your adventure sooner or later . . . Thanks for answering my questions!

Thanks, everyone, for reading! Remember to check out the rest of the tour stops to meet other characters! And please tell me in the comments what you think about Jana and her story!

-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Monday, June 22, 2020

An Echo of the Fae Blog Tour: Interview with the Author!

Hey'a, everyone! Welcome to the blog tour for An Echo of the Fae, Jenelle Leanne eSchmidt's latest release! This book is absolutely delightful, full of fae and magic and summertime vibes, and I'm super excited that I get to take part in its promotion. Today, I have an interview with Jenelle herself, in which we discuss some of the behind-the-scenes of the book. But first, a little about the book and author . . .

About . . .

Echo of the Fae

Echo enjoys the peace and solitude of the Faeorn forest, regardless of how strange spending time in the "haunted" wood seems to others.

But on the cusp of her thirteenth birthday, the discovery of a family secret reveals why Echo has never been drawn to the sea like her mother. This discovery shakes the foundations of her world and sends Echo on a quest, not merely into the forest, but into the heart of the fae-lands themselves, to rescue the sister she didn't know existed.

Elves, dragons, and fairy courts will put Echo's wit and resolve to the test. But with time running out for her sister, will Echo even be able to save herself?

A fairytale adventure perfect for fans of The Secret of Roan Innish and The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

Find it on: Amazon || Goodreads

Jenelle Leanne Schmidt

Jenelle first fell in love with stories through her father’s voice reading books aloud each night. A relentless opener-of-doors in hopes of someday finding a passage to Narnia, it was only natural that she soon began making up fantastical realms of her own. Jenelle currently resides in the wintry tundra of Wisconsin—which she maintains is almost as good as Narnia—with her knight-in-shining armor and their four adorable hobbits. When she is not writing, she homeschools said hobbits and helps them along on their daily adventures... which she says makes her a wizard.

Find her online at: Author Site || Facebook || Twitter || Instagram || Goodreads || Newsletter || Amazon

Interview with Jenelle

Welcome, Jenelle! First, where did the idea for this book come from, and were there any additional sources of inspiration along the way?

Originally, I was trying to think of a story I could write to participate in Kendra E. Ardnek’s multi-author release of Rapunzel retellings. But other than a vague idea for mixing it with selkies and the fae, I couldn’t come up with a story in time.

Then I met a young cashier at Menards. Her nametag said, “Jana” and I struck up a conversation with her by asking how to pronounce her name. As a fantasy author, I’m always on the lookout for unique and interesting names. We chatted for a while about books and she gave me permission to use her name in a book if I ever wanted to. As I was leaving, she called out, “My middle name is Echo, if you want to use that!”

Well, something about that conversation stuck with me, and the next thing I knew, I had the glimmerings of a story idea. “Jana” and “Echo” became sisters and the main characters of the book.

That's such a cool origin! What were some of the biggest challenges you had in writing this book, and how did you deal with those challenges?

Honestly, this was the easiest book I’ve ever written. It practically wrote itself. However, the ending was a major struggle, and probably made even more difficult because the rest of the story came so easily. I went through 12 different versions of the end before I hit on the right one.

Thankfully, I have an incredible team of editors around me, and my developmental editor refuses to let me settle for sub-par. I rewrote the ending six times before I sent it to my line editor, who helped me hash out yet another ending idea. I made the edits and rewrote the ending (which I absolutely loved... it made me cry as I was writing it) and then sent it back to my developmental editor to see what he thought, and he didn’t like it. At all.

I edited the ending another couple of times, each time, trying to figure out a way to salvage what I had already written, but it never felt quite right.

Finally, after several more back-and-forths with my editor, I scrapped the whole ending and started over, replacing the epilogue with three separate chapters. Taking more time on the end allowed me to tie up some of the loose ends, but it also changed the ending quite a bit from what it had been before and really made the whole story feel more completed than it ever had.

When I sent this version to my editor, he wrote back and said, “I think this is the one!”

My goodness. That's a lot of endings! To finish up, if you could spend an afternoon with one of your characters, either in their world or ours, who would you pick and what would you do?

I think I’d want to hang out with Jana. She’s just such an impetuous little ball of fun. When we meet her in the story, she’s become very ill, so you don’t get to see her at her best, but when she’s healthy she’s a chatterbox which means I wouldn’t have to carry the conversation, always a plus when I’m hanging out with anyone.

Nobody could ever be bored hanging out with Jana. She might not be the most adventurous on her own (climbing trees is apparently something she’s never thought to try), but she’s up for any suggestion, and she does have the ability to think outside the box and sometimes acts without thinking.

What would we do? I don’t know. I’d have her show me around Faerthain and maybe we’d play a couple of harmless pranks. Or climb a tree, because that’s always fun and something I’m already good at.

Jana sounds a lot of fun! And I get to interview her in a week, so I'm excited for that! Thanks for your time!

Thanks, everyone, for reading! Make sure you check out the rest of the tour stops, and stop by this blog next Monday for an interview with Jana! (Also, hop over to Light and Shadows on Friday for my thoughts on the book!) Have a fabulous day!

-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, June 19, 2020

Summer 2020 Reads!

Well, here we are: another summer, another exciting batch of books! Including, if you missed my news earlier this week, a few unexpected releases . . . Ok, mostly one unexpected release. But we have a lot of other books to spotlight too, so let's get going, shall we? As per the usual, some of these are already out but weren't included in the spring post because they're still June releases, but that just means there's less of a wait if you haven't heard of them already.

Summer 2020 Reads

  1. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown (June 2). I've said before that I wish authors would take a look at African folklore as inspiration for their stories, and apparently this author is doing just that. And, yes, it's another "would-be assassin falls for their target" book . . . but it still sounds pretty cool. And I give the author props for not trying to pretend we don't know that's going to happen.

  2. The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant (June 2). This one is advertised as "Les Miserables meets Six of Crows," and, look, I have no particular opinions about Les Mis, but I absolutely love Six of Crows, so I have high hopes. It's getting good reviews from some of my friends, so that's promising. Also, it's apparently driven by the main character's desire to protect her younger sister, which we all know usually makes me happy. Here's hoping that the sibling relationship is given its proper attention, yeah?

  3. Beast of the Night by E.E. Rawls (June 11). Here's an author I keep hearing good things about. Her Strayborn is on my TBR list for Mistborn vibes, and now she's got a Beauty and the Beast retelling! And, yeah, it doesn't matter how many times you retell this story; I will always be excited for more. This sounds like a pretty interesting twist (the Beast is cursed to not be able to fall in love! the Beauty is not your typical Beauty!), and I'm excited to get my hands on it.

  4. An Echo of the Fae by Jenelle Schmidt (June 21). I'll be joining in the blog tour for this next week (yay!), so you'll get my full thoughts on this book in next week's Friday 5s, plus some interviews on Dreams and Dragons. But it's another family-focused story, and it started off as a Rapunzel retelling, and there's fae(!!!!), so . . . I think you can guess how I feel about it.

  5. Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee (June 23). I'm a little uncertain about this one — it sounds kind of dark, to be honest — but it's also giving me Abhorsen vibes, just a little. And Abhorsen is awesome. Plus, I've heard this is a nomance, which is always a plus. (Almost always. I do enjoy a good romance in its proper place. But life can be perfectly fulfilling without romance, and we need books that reflect that.)

  6. Sisters of Sword and Song by Rebecca Ross (June 23). Another sisters-focused book! This summer is just full of them, and I love it! But we also have some Greek-culture-inspired vibes going on, which I'm also really excited about — Greek-influenced stories have been my jam ever since I discovered the Queen's Thief series. As a bonus, I actually won a copy of this in a Goodreads giveaway (whaaaat?), so it's on my shelf, waiting for me to get through my ARCs (and my Redwall reread) so I can pick it up.

  7. Heaven Came Down by Bryan Davis (July 1). Ok, so this actually has two release dates. The paperback version came out on Monday (it's up on Amazon, if you're interested), but the ebook version won't release until July 1 (though you can preorder it). I have an ARC of this, but I haven't quite read it yet — the release date changed from what I was originally told, so I gave other books priority. I'm still excited, though. Davis is an excellent wordsmith and storyteller, and what I have read of this sounds very promising.

  8. The Princess Will Save You by Sarah Henning (July 7). Apparently, this is somehow either inspired by or retelling The Princess Bride, according to some of the early reviews I've seen. I'm trying not to think about that too much, though. Based on the blurb, this story seems to have a lot of potential; here's hoping it doesn't end up just being disappointing. (Early reviews are mixed, but there's only a few of them, so who knows?)

  9. Dust by Kara Swanson (July 21). So, Peter Pan retellings can be hit-or-miss for me, even though I quite liked the book when I was younger. I've mostly avoided them, to be honest . . . but I'm making an exception for this story. It's getting some good reviews from people I trust, and I think there's potential for family-based stories. (Also . . .  it's kind of just really pretty and that makes me want to read it. So, yeah.)

  10. Splinters of Scarlet by Emily Bain Murphy (July 21). Ok, I am a sucker for any kind of crafts-based magic, and this story promises that in abundance. But it's also got found family (!!!) and maybe mystery in a historical fantasy, so . . . yep. High hopes here. Don't let me down, pretty book.

  11. The Dancing Princess by Kendra E. Ardnek (August 24). We wrap up the summer with the Arista Challenge releases, starting with the final Twist of Adventure! I'm an alpha/beta-reader for this, and I can confirm that it's going to be super fun. Besides the fact that it's a 12 Dancing Princesses retelling, it has a Russia-ish setting and some undertones of other cool fairy tales. It's going to be great.

  12. Wrought of Silver and Ravens by E.J. Kitchens (August 25). Ok, we've discussed my love of ancient Greek stuff already in this post . . . but this one does Sisters of Sword and Song one better — two better, actually. Again, it's a 12DP retelling in the Arista Challenge Tattered Slippers group, and this one has DRAGONS. Storms yes. What else do I need?

  13. Poison's Dance by Tricia Mingerink (August 26). Another Arista Challenge book! Full disclosure, it's the one I'm probably least excited for — but that's a personal preference thing. I had mixed feelings about the first Beyond the Tales book, and I haven't yet read the second. Still, this sounds like an interesting twist on the story, and I'm sure that people who enjoyed the first books in the series will love it.

  14. A Time of Mourning and Dancing by Abigail Falanga (August 27). This is the Arista Challenge book I know the least about, but it sounds very cool, and the cover looks very Grishaverse-esque, which I call a good thing. Apparently, the author didn't go the usual curse route with why the princesses are dancing, which is cool.

  15. The Dark King's Curse by Wyn Estelle Owens (August 28). The second-to-last book in the Arista Challenge release, this is the latest from my lovely friend Wyn Estelle Owens, and I am SO STORMING EXCITED. It's honestly the one I'm most looking forward to reading. (Better yet: I get to beta-read it. So I can confirm that it's going to be great, based on what Wyn's given me thus far.) Anyway. It's Celtic and involves Enchantment of Ravens-esque fae and a faery cat and all sorts of goodness. And I CANNOT WAIT for it to come out!

  16. The Midnight Show by Sarah Pennington (August 29). And we finish with my book! If you saw my announcement earlier this week, you know what I'm talking about. If not: this is the Secret Project I mentioned a few weeks ago. It's a Jazz-Age-inspired urban fantasy of music, magic, and mystery, featuring fae secrets, strange dreams, a singer with a shoe problem, and a private investigator who has to untangle it all, and I am so excited to share it with y'all! (And if you want to read it or any of the other Arista Challenge books early, you can sign up for an ARC and even join the blog tour!)

All right! That is all of this summer's exciting reads that I know of, but I may have missed some. If I did, please tell me in the comments — and if I didn't, tell me which of these you're most excited for!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

A Secret Revealed: Introducing The Midnight Show!

So, you know how I've mentioned a "secret project" a few times in the last few weeks? Well, the time has come for that secret to be revealed! Introducing The Midnight Show, a Jazz-Age-inspired urban fantasy of music, magic, and mystery, featuring fae secrets, strange dreams, a singer with a shoe problem, and a private investigator who has to untangle it all!

This mystery is the case of his dreams — and her nightmares.

By day, Dayo Temitrope is a swinging singer, an up-and-coming star with a shining career ahead of her. By night, she’s . . . well, she’s not sure, but whatever she does leaves her every morning with sore feet and worn-out shoes. And after six months, she’s had enough.

Enter Bastian Dennell, a private investigator just trying to get by. When Dayo hires him to find out where she goes at night, he’s sure it’s his big break: his chance to establish himself and get the funds to pay off his family’s debt. Plus, he gets to work with his favorite singer, even if she isn’t exactly what he expected. What could be better?

But first he has to solve the case — which means navigating a tangled web of strange dreams, fair folk schemes, and show business. It will take all Bastian’s wits, along with the shining talents of Dayo herself, to figure out the truth before the curtains close for good on Dayo’s career.

A jazz-age-inspired twist on the Twelve Dancing Princesses from the author of Blood in the Snow.

Releasing August 29

Preorder on Amazon || Add to your Goodreads shelf

(Want to know who designed that cover? Yours truly! It may have been one of my most challenging design projects to date, just because I had to actually draw stuff, but I am SO HAPPY with how it turned out!)

In addition, I am happy to announce that I will be releasing The Midnight Show with the Tattered Slippers Arista Challenge group. This will be my third year publishing as a part of the Arista Challenge, and I'm very happy I get to do so again! (I almost didn't, but this story snuck up on me unexpectedly, and Kendra let me join at the last minute.) Once again, we have a pretty snazzy author lineup, including both new and returning Arista Challenge authors. You can learn about all the Tattered Slippers books by checking out last night's Facebook reveal party or the release info page. And if you want to help spread the word about this release, we are currently taking signups for ARCs and the blog tour, and we have an Instagram challenge you can participate in!

I can't wait to share this story with y'all. Thanks for your support!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, June 12, 2020

Historical Fantasy Faves

So, as many of you may have noticed if you follow the book world, historical fantasy — that is, fantasy set in an actual historical setting and time period rather than a completely separate world — has been growing in popularity these last several years. And I, for one, am loving it. Much like fantasy mystery, it's a fabulous blend of my favorite genre and a genre I used to be really into — plus, y'know, I really do love history in general. And the fact that it adds some variety to the fantasy booksphere is just icing on the cake. Anyway, historical and historical-adjacent fantasy (or whatever you'd call books like Ranger's Apprentice that are basically an alternate version of Earth with some name changes) has been on my mind a bit lately, and I thought I'd share some of my favorites in the genre.

Historical Fantasy Faves!

  1. The Lost Plot (and the other Invisible Library books) by Genevieve Cogman. Is anyone surprised this is the first book on the list? Hopefully not; my love for the Invisible Library books is probably old news to most everyone reading this. (Unless, of course, you're new here. In which case: this series is one of my favorite things in the world, and if you love fantasy, mystery, dragons, fae, mysteries, and magical libraries, you NEED to read it ASAP. Trust me. It's awesome.) Technically all the books in the series would qualify, but The Lost Plot is the one that feels most distinctly like historical fantasy as opposed to steampunk, as it's based in Jazz Age New York City. It's also one of my favorite books in the series, so . . . yeah. It's great.

  2. The Jackaby books by William Ritter. These also should be no surprise to anyone reading this; while I haven't talked about Jackaby in a bit, it's another one of my favorites — the series I obsessed over until it ended and the Invisible Library books released. It's set in 1892 in an ambiguous New England state (I've always assumed it's in Massachusetts, for some reason) and features a fabulous intersection of mystery and fantastical beings and ideas, and it's just a lot of fun. I need to reread it, really.

  3. The Wrath and the Dawn duology by Renee Ahdieh. Moving away from American history, we've got this exquisite tale set in ancient Persia. This one might technically be historical-adjacent rather than straight historical, but it's close enough, and I can't recall the details with enough confidence to say for sure. Anyway. It's beautiful, it's a fairy tale retelling (specifically the story of Shahrazad from the Thousand and One Nights), it's twisty, and it has an excellent balance of fantasy and history and tension and political stuff and all sorts of good things.

  4. Fawkes by Nadine Brandes. Granted, it took me forever to get around to reading this book. But once I did, it was great! It's set in 17th century England and focuses on the culmination of Guy Fawkes' Gunpowder Plot. The magic system is kind of odd and confusing, but the book as a whole is great, and there's an excellent balance of the fantastical and magical. (Also, family-based plotlines. Storms yes.)

  5. The City Beyond the Glass by Suzannah Rowntree. I actually wanted to put Death Be Not Proud here, which is a murder mystery retelling of Snow White set in Jazz Age New Zealand, but then I realized Death was straight historical, not historical fantasy. But The City Beyond the Glass is my second-favorite of Suzannah Rowntree's books; it's a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling set in Venice, and it's beautifully dark and tense and so forth. Not my favorite-favorite Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling, but still very good and just as creepy as such a story generally ought to be. (And, to be honest, most of Rowntree's books could probably fit this list; I just haven't read as many of them as I want to yet.

I'll finish up by mentioning two runners-up that didn't quite make the list. One is Bryan Davis's latest book, Let the Ghosts Speak, a fantasy-ish murder mystery set in 1900s France. It's twisty and atmospheric and really quite excellent, but because the fantasy elements are odd, it didn't quite fit. The other is an older series: Brian Jacques's Flying Dutchman books. The fantasy element of these is more low-key and basically just shows up in the fact of Ben and Ned's existence, but they're still good books. Masterpieces of literature? No. But still good stories.

How do you feel about historical fantasy? Are there any books in this genre that you love that you'd like to recommend? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, June 5, 2020

May 2020 Doings!

Well, it's been another one of those months where the first half and the second half feel like completely separate temporal divisions. It's weird. But I'm not sure there's ever going to be another month that doesn't feel like that, at this point. So let's get on with trying to remember what happened, shall we?


  • So. As you may recall, I had two goals at the start of the month: 25,000 words on Blood in the Soil/Earth and 3 episodes and 3 episode summaries in my D&D campaign. Technically, I didn't accomplish either of them.
  • As far as the D&D campaign goes: I did manage to write three episode summaries and three episodes. However, two of those episodes and summaries kind of overlap, so . . . it doesn't exactly count. Still, I have four sessions set up and ready to go, and I got to talk backstory stuff with several people, which is making me shift around my plans anyway. Soooo, I'm calling it good.
  • I did pretty well on Blood in the Soil/Earth for most of the month, averaging about a thousand words per day until the 23rd or so. I got through several scenes, including some that I've been looking forward to for a long time and some that set up some unexpected but enjoyable character dynamics. However, as the month went on, the novel started fighting me more and more, and even as long as it already was, it seemed very likely that I wasn't going to be done with it by the end of the month, or even in the next two months.
  • Having heard the advice multiple times that sometimes the best thing to do with a troublesome project is to work on something else (and knowing that it worked well for other types of projects), I decided to indulge in an extra side project. Initially, it helped; I was getting good writing done on both things. But then the new project (currently referred to as the Secret Project) started to take up more and more attention, and I decided to set Blood in the Soil/Earth aside for a time and focus on the Secret Project instead.
  • No, you do not get to know what the Secret Project is yet. Worry not; all will be revealed in a couple weeks. But if you really want a hint, I may have posted something about it on my author Facebook page a couple weeks ago when I first started it . . .
  • Anyway, my final count for the month of May was 63,665 words: 34,532 words towards my official goals (20,451 on Blood in the Soil/Earth; 13,022 on D&D) and another 29,133 on the Secret Project. Keep in mind, that number includes a solid 10K-ish words of plotting, character development, and worldbuilding. It's still a pretty solid amount of writing, especially when you consider that I wrote over half of it (roughly 42K) in 15 days.


  • If you think you're noticing a trend here, that's because there is one: the Great Redwall Reread (which I started back in January) continues in earnest! I can generally finish a Redwall book every one or two days, on average — they're addictive, and they're fast reads, even though they're mostly long enough to have some substance. So far, all my old favorites are holding up fairly well, and many of the ones that I liked less have risen in my estimation. (Notably: Martin, MossflowerLegend of Luke, Mattimeo, and The Long Patrol. There's a trend here too, if you care to look for it, though it's not as obvious as the overall reading-lots-of-Redwall trend.) Outcast is still my least favorite, though.
  • I could say more, but I'm thinking of doing a Friday 5s post with my thoughts on the series as a whole, coming back to it as a semi-adult (I may technically be an adult, but I don't feel very adult-y most of the time), and how it's influenced my writing once I finish rereading the whole series. That might actually be two posts, one for thoughts and one for influence, but we'll see what happens.
  • Outside of Redwall: I had another cozy reread, All Things Bright and Beautiful, which is the second James Herriot book. We don't own the other two, so we'll see how long it takes me to reread those. I also read two Kendra E. Ardnek short stories: The Prior Quest (a Bookania retelling of Puss in Boots, not my favorite but also not my least favorite), and Misfortune (a Twist of Adventure Rapunzel retelling; I posted my full thoughts a few weeks ago).
  • Finally, we have the two disappointments of the month. Masters and Beginners was one I really wanted to love because it had such a great concept: slice-of-life small-town urban fantasy about caretakers of a magical archive of stuff, featuring family focus, in-world textual "artifacts," and cat fairies. It could've been an instant hit. Unfortunately, the writing style felt unpolished, there was a lot of infodumping (including some huge name dumps, which I do not care for), and the formatting was not great. I know that last one shouldn't detract from the quality of the story, but — look. I spent four years studying design; I can't just turn that off. Anyway. Lots of potential; poor execution. The Narnia Cookbook, on the other hand, was fairly well-executed, but it just wasn't what I wanted it to be. Which is to say: there were no recipes in it that I actually felt inclined to try to make. It did have some nice behind-the-scenes and historical tidbits about different food, though, so that was kind of cool.
  • Finally, here's a quick update on reading goals.
    • My total reading is at 42 books out of 99, which puts me roughly on track or a little ahead. Thank goodness for having enough time to read and short enough books that I can pack a lot of them in.
    • I read two non-speculative-fiction books this month, which puts me at six such books out of a goal of twelve. That means I'm a little ahead of the game on this goal, though we'll see how long that lasts.
    • As for books published before I was born, technically I've reached my goal through my Redwall reread. However, that feels a bit like cheating. So, we're going to count all of the pre-Sarah's-birth Redwall as one book. That and All Things Bright and Beautiful puts me at eight books out of twelve, which means I'm still ahead of the game. (And if I read Chesterton, reread The Lord of the Rings, or get back to Wheel of Time like I hope to do, I'll definitely hit my goal fairly well ahead of schedule!)



  • So, this month has actually been a reasonably good one for watching things, at least as months when I'm at home with limited internet go. And by "a reasonably good one", I mean that I watched multiple actual movie-length things, which pretty much never happens.
  • One of those was The Great Race, a comedy-action-romance movie that my roommate loves and had recommended to me. My parents happened — mostly by coincidence — to have it out from the library, so of course I wanted to see it. It was fun, partially because it's the kind of movie that knows it's utterly ridiculous and therefore isn't going to take itself too seriously. And pretty much all the main actors were a bit overdramatic, but since everyone was doing it, it worked. So, yeah, that was good.
  • The next was not a movie but rather a musical — specifically, Cats, via The Shows Must Go On, a YouTube channel that's posting legit, legal recordings of Broadway musicals every weekend. I'd been meaning to download (via YouTube Premium, don't judge me) and watch one of the shows for a while, and when I saw Cats was being posted, I figured that would be a good choice. I could find out what it was and what it was about without dealing with the weirdness of the movie . . . and then I actually watched it (with my family, no less) and discovered that however weird the movie is, it can't be that much weirder than the actual show. I mean, it's probably less weird if you see it in theaters and don't have a camera zooming in on awkward moments, but still . . . what the pumpernickel did I watch? And why the pumpernickel did anyone think a movie based on this show wouldn't be as weird as anything?
  • (I would like to add that it did not help that the costumes in the musical were, for the most part, kind of, ah, skintight. And with the stage makeup and so forth, in some cases, it didn't matter that the actors were technically completely clothed; I still felt like they were mostly naked. It was not a comfortable experience.)
  • The final new-to-me movie that I watched was Charade, which someone described to me as "The best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made," or something to that effect. It was definitely something — a treasure hunt/mystery combo, very twisty, lots of character drama and dynamics and questioning who's telling the truth and who's lying and who's killing people and so on. There was a surprising amount of comedic stuff, though, which kept it from getting too angsty. (Actually, no one really angsted about anything. It was nice.) I did guess where the money was fairly early on, but the rest of the movie made me second-guess myself multiple times, so it gets props for that.
  • (I also rewatched Singing in the Rain because I needed something set in the 20s for reasons. It was just as good the second time around as the first time, though I'm still confused about the point of the whole "Gotta Dance" sequence. It's weird.)
  • In addition, I finally worked my way through the first episode of Critical Role. Well, actually, I've been doing that for a couple months now. But I made significant progress this month! (I really want to try to get into it because I keep seeing animatics on YouTube and reading stuff about it on other media and so on. It's just . . . the episodes are three hours long. And sometimes I have trouble focusing in D&D sessions where I'm actually playing; focusing when it's other people playing is even harder. So I basically have to watch them in parts, but it's still a lot of time. Though having watched the animatics, I feel a little more attached to everyone and therefore feel like I have more of a stake in what's going on. So, yeah.)


  • To be honest, I have very little grasp on what happened this month. Most of it was writing, reading, D&D, and job searching, and I've already talked about two of those.
  • Probably the most exciting thing that happened was that some of our neighbors invited my dad and I over to take pictures of their carnivorous plants because the pitcher plants were blooming. So that was pretty cool. Everything was much smaller than I thought it would be — I imagined that Venus flytraps were the size of my palm, for example, but they're really not much bigger than my thumb. I went over twice and got some good shots the first time. The second time didn't go quite as well, sadly. (I avoided getting stung both times, though — these neighbors also keep bees, so I was a bit worried about being close to the hives.)
  • On the job search front, I've had a little bit of luck. Though I've gotten several rejections, I did get a few interviews, and one of those companies hasn't rejected me yet. So, yay for that!
  • The D&D campaign I run only met once in the month of May — well, technically twice, but the second time was overflow from the one real session. We finally finished the finale of the season, which was great. The fight did go super long because I overestimated my capability to run a large battle, but it worked out. And there were character revelations, which were . . .  less dramatic than I expected? But still pretty dramatic. I think everyone's pretty happy with how things ended, and they seem to be excited to start up again in the near future.
  • I did end up joining a new campaign, which was good because my old campaign only managed to meet two weeks out of the whole month. I'm playing a full spellcaster (bard/wizard multiclass) for the first time, and it's . . . interesting? I am not used to having so few hit points, y'all. My character went unconscious in the first real fight of the campaign; that hasn't happened to me in months. And apparently I've been confused about how many spells you can use per turn the whole time I've been DMing. So, that's a thing. It's fun, though.
  • On a related note, I have discovered that I really love multiclassing characters, to the point where if you look at my PCs and my major NPCs, there's, like, two who aren't multiclassed to some degree. And neither of those two are PCs. (My paladin recently multiclassed into Fighter so she could get the Dual Wielder fighting style and I could stop having to worry about what bonus did or did not get added to her offhand attack. It's something I've been thinking of doing for a while, but it didn't seem appropriate in terms of character development until now, when I decided that all the minor crises of faith she's had over the campaign have probably added up to a full level of not-paladin.) Plus, most of my favorite characters that I want to play in future are also multiclassed. So, yeah.
  • I did get to do some baking over the course of the month. You heard in my last Doings! about my Sourdough chocolate cake. The following weekend, I made oatmeal cookies (with cranberries, pecans, and chocolate chips in them — they were supposed to be a small batch, but they ended up making nearly three dozen, so . . . not sure what's up with that) and strawberry gallettes (basically mini freeform pies). Both turned out quite delicious. I also made another two loaves of artisan bread, which, on the upside, didn't fuse this time! Unfortunately, they still didn't turn out very pretty. But it is what it is.
  • I've also been playing Undertale on and off. I'm still on my first playthrough, and I'm doing Total Pacifist mode, so it's taking a while. (I also can't play every day, only a couple times a week at best.) So far, it seems like a great game, though I did have a lot of trouble navigating the menu controls. I kind of wish they have you some kind of instructions on that. But that could just be the fact that I'm not super experienced with video games in general. I'm also realizing that I was spoiled by my other gaming experiences that let you save whenever the heck you want and not just when you reach a save point. The fact that I had to keep redoing certain puzzles that were between a save point and a spot where I kept dying was part of the reason I didn't get further along faster.
  • Finally, a bit of exciting news: we are finally going to get actually good internet at our house! Unfortunately, it's still going to take a while. But it's definitely coming!

June Plans

  • #1 plan: finish the draft of the Secret Project and send it off to betas ASAP. This was actually supposed to have happened already, but there were delays. Should happen in the next few days, though.
  • I'm also participating in the 100-4-100 challenge, despite the fact that I barely keep up with Go Teen Writers or the GTW community anymore. I'm using Blood in the Soil/Earth for that in hopes that it'll keep me from completely neglecting it while working on the Secret Project and other stuff.
  • My last writing project is, of course, continuing to work on D&D and figure out how to potentially reshuffle things to include some of the backstory that my players are giving me for their characters. So I'm excited about that! Can't say too much, though, because some of the people in the campaign read this blog.
  • Outside of writing, I'm still working on the getting-a-job thing, though right now that mostly looks like waiting to hear back from a few places.
  • I also have a design project in the pipeline that I'm really excited about. I'll probably share something on the blog and social media about it later this month too. Can't say a whole lot, but it's the first time I've done a project of this type professionally. It's going to be great . . . as long as what I think I can do works out like it's supposed to, anyway.
  • Beyond that, it's just more of the usual: baking, reading, waiting for the actually good internet to happen. Watching stuff. Hopefully finishing the first Undertale playthrough. Praying that the world finds a better new normal than this in the near future.

How was your May? Any exciting June plans? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!