Friday, July 31, 2020

July 2020 Doings!

Well, here we are! The end of another month! We're officially over halfway through the year and halfway through summer, and . . . yeah. I feel like this was a short month, but I also can barely remember the start of it, so . . . that's weird. Anyway. Let's get on with the Doings, shall we?


  • So, this was probably the chillest Camp NaNoWriMo of my life.
  • I was editing The Midnight Show, you know. And I expected it to take most of the month — expected to still be scrambling to finish at the end. Instead, I went through more times than I planned and had time for a few extra people outside of my original betas to look at it as well. So, that's cool.
  • Side note: either today or tomorrow is the last day to sign up for the Tattered Slippers blog tour. So if you haven't done that and you want to join the festivities, make sure you don't put it off any longer. Link is here.
  • On a related topic: have you preordered The Midnight Show? If you're thinking of getting the ebook, preordering helps my rankings and such quite a lot. (Also, all the people who've read it so far have told me they really enjoy it! So I'm not the only person who thinks it's good!)
  • Blood in the Soil/Earth is going slowly but steadily. I think I may have managed to move in towards the . . . pre-endgame? Pre-pre-endgame? Something. I still feel like I'm feeling my way along the story, but I also think I'm getting close to the point where I won't be second-guessing myself every page. Maybe I'll actually finish the book this year; that would be nice.
  • And in terms of D&D writing, I spent most of the month worldbuilding dwarven cities, culture, and cuisine. It . . . was a lot. It's kind of one of those things where I know 75% of what I build won't actually get used, but I have very little idea which 25% I'll need, so I have to do all of it. On the upside, I should be able to use a lot of it in the future, so it's not like I'm wasting my time and effort.
  • I also decided to reread what I wrote of Dust of Silver, which was a stupid decision because I had written less than I thought I did and I left off in a non-ideal spot, and I kind of want to work on it (half because I miss Poppy and Ivy; half because I really want to rewrite my Beauty and the Beast retelling), but I have no idea where I was going with the story. Gah. I have regrets.


  • This was a slightly better reading month than last month was; I managed 13 books, seven of which were rereads and most of which I very much liked.
  • My rereads included Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes (both still excellent), the Abhorsen trilogy (I still love these books and this magic system SO MUCH and I can't even explain why), and The Hobbit (because I plan to reread The Lord of the Rings soon). So that was all very fun.
  • On the new-to-me books front, I finally read Spindle's End and Beauty by Robin McKinley, which — oh my pumpernickel. They were both so good, y'all. I was a touch disappointed by the ending of Beauty, but even so, they were both so. storming. good. I should've read these sooner. They're both officially among my favorite retellings of their respective fairy tales.
  • I also read the A is for Apple anthology, which is a set of five Snow White retellings. Contrary to what the name would suggest, it's really not a children's anthology. It had two really good stories — "The Poet's Missing Daughter" and "Skin Deep" (the former of which is an Asian mystery retelling; the latter of which is a contemporary about IG/YT influencers and is just really good) — and a few other meh or ok ones. If you're looking for Snow White retellings, though, it could be worth picking up just for "Skin Deep."
  • Going back to books I should've read ages ago, we have Deep Secret (Diana Wynne Jones) and Truly Devious (Maureen Johnson). Deep Secret was fairly fun, not my favorite DWJ, but enjoyable enough. It did make me wonder what kind of conventions Jones had gone to, though. Truly Devious didn't amaze me either, but purely for personal reasons — the story was good, and the concept was interesting; I just didn't jive with the writing style and had trouble keeping track of characters. (Ok, and I didn't buy the romance. But that's mostly because I heartily disliked David pretty much all the way through.)
  • Finishing up the month, we have a reread of Plenilune, and a first-read of Song of the Current. Plenilune, I didn't enjoy quite as much as I did the first time I read it, but was still excellent. I had an easier time keeping track of who's who and connected to what and where than I did the first time around. I do think I could've benefited from a map, though. And, I mean, Dammerung is pretty excellent, so that covers over quite a lot of flaws. Song of the Current was delightfully nautical and had a good story and good vibes, though there were a few things that made it less than perfect.


  • Most of what I've been watching this month is Critical Role, trying to cram in as much as I can in the time I have. I just finished Episode 18, and I'm facepalming a little (ok, a lot) at some of what goes on, but it's still fun. Caleb continues to be my favorite of the M9, though I love pretty much all of them. Though this does have the downside of making me want to make and play so many new D&D characters . . . I mean, it's made me more open to certain classes and races now that I see how they work, which is great, and has given me ideas on how to play the characters I have better, but everything looks fun and I want to do it alllllllllll and I caaaaan't.
  • (I mean, yes, I can make them as NPCs/GMPCs and slip them into my game when appropriate. But it's not the same as actually playing the characters in a campaign; I have too many other things in my head to get the full experience.)
  • Anyway. Other than Critical Role, everything I've watched has been stuff with my family. A lot of it was movies I'd heard a lot about but hadn't seen yet — sometimes classics, sometimes not. Unfortunately, I was uniformly frustrated with most of those.
  • For example: we watched Phantom of the Opera (2004 version) about midway through the month, and while I admit the music is pretty good, the storyline is just . . . why? I spent half the movie just (mentally and sometimes verbally) yelling at Christine and Raoul and everyone and the other half telling the Phantom off for being a creeptastic stalker. So, yeah, I'm basically this one post:

  • Anyway. Also disappointing: at my request, we watched Goldfinger (because I've never actually watched any James Bond). I very quickly regretted that request, but, hey! I've now officially watched something James Bond and I never have to watch another one. Seriously, though. Bond just kind of seduces his way through the movie, and pretty much anything he accomplishes, he does through 90% luck or getting a woman to do it for him, and I am not impressed.
  • The best of the well-known-but-I've-never-seen group of movies was My Fair Lady, which we watched for my sister's birthday. It was great, but I now want to write a retelling that fixes the stupid ending. Seriously. It was really good (if sometimes awkward) up until the last two scenes. I loved Eliza's character arc, and I loved the fact that she grew enough to tell Professor Higgins off in the end and was fully prepared to make her own way in the world. But then the filmmakers screwed that up by having her reappear in that final scene when she had no reason to come back. Higgins hadn't redeemed himself to her; he barely redeemed himself to the audience — and that only if you stretch things. He sort of recognizes that he may have been wrong; we see no indication that he plans to change. And that's the essential ingredient in the arc of any character of his type. It is, in a way, a sort of Beauty and the Beast retelling where the Beast never becomes not a beast. And I do not approve.
  • Anyway. Outside of that, we rewatched Secondhand Lions, which I really liked when I was younger and apparently still enjoy. It's kind of weird — it does not, on the outset, seem like the kind of movie I would like (as it's a real-world-ish story that relies as often as not on awkward situations), but then you watch it and it's like "Why would anyone not enjoy this?" It's got humor. It's got heartwarming moments. It's got swordfights. It's almost 100% about a family figuring itself out. It's great.
  • Probably the best movie of the month was Where Eagles Dare, which was actually cooler than I expected. I fully admit that I'm prejudiced against war movies — I associate them with being dark and depressing and having a lot of characters I can't tell apart because they're all white guys with either black or blond hair and no one says names often enough for me to figure anything out. And, yeah, for the first thirty minutes of this movie, I had no idea who anyone was. I actually still don't know the names of several characters who I think I was supposed to be able to identify. But it was still really good and really twisty, but in a good way, and it's spies and stealthiness and secret identities and guile heroes, all of which I appreciate.
  • Oh, and we watched The Man Who Knew Too Much, which I did not enjoy at all. I actually almost walked out halfway through the movie (because I'd said I'd give it a try for half an hour and had already given it more than that), but ended up coming back because I hoped it would get better (and I felt guilty for leaving). It did not get better. As a result of this (and other movies I've watched), I have come to two conclusions:
    1. I like Hitchcock movies best when Hitchcock didn't actually make them. Which is to say: the best Hitchcock-style movie I've seen is Charade, which isn't actually his. I have a suspicion that this is because Hitchcock doesn't seem to have a sense of lightness or humor, and I don't care how serious or thrilling of a story you're telling; you need moments that are lighter. You need to occasionally let the tension lift or else you either exhaust your audience or your audience just stops feeling it.
    2. Jimmy Stewart often plays one of two types of characters: the sensitive, moral guy who's trying to do right and the angry guy who doesn't know how to let anyone else (especially women) talk. I don't mind the first. I hate the second with a passion. This is probably part of why I'm one of the three people in the world who don't think It's a Wonderful Life is the absolute berries/best Christmas movie ever/whatever.
    3. (I also determined that, if given the chose between watching a movie with Jimmy Stewart in it and watching a movie with Cary Grant in it, I'm more likely to enjoy the Cary Grant movie. So apparently those names mean something now, as opposed to three months ago when I routinely became frustrated with my dad for saying "We could watch this; it's a Cary Grant movie, or this, which has [insert other famous classic actor here] in it" and not giving any other information about the movies. Yay, character development?)


  • July was much quieter than June, which was nice. I spent most of the month reading, editing, writing, watching stuff, playing D&D, and occasionally baking.
  • McKays, our favorite used bookshop, reopened for business recently, so I got to go there. And then I proceeded to spend about twice as much as I planned. But it's fiiiiiiiine. I got good books. It's worth it.
  • My sister had her birthday this month, as I sort of mentioned earlier, which was fun. We didn't really do a whole lot other than watching My Fair Lady, but we did have chocolate cake. It was very yummy.
  • But yeah. That's about it.

August Plans

  • That's at the end of the month, so I'll be spending a lot of this month prepping for that. So that'll be finishing up last edits and formatting stuff and writing things for the blog tour. Which, reminder, if you want to sign up for it, you should do that now!
  • Outside of that, I'm figuring out job things still. I may be closer to a partial answer on that, but we'll see. I did apply for the Tor Books internship because it's virtual this year and it would be SO COOL to get actual experience in the big-press publishing industry, so, yeah. I'm praying that comes through and that they don't say "Nah, you graduated already; we don't need you. Get a full-time job already."
  • (Unless they decide they want to hire me for a full-time remote job, in which case YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU VERY MUCH.)
  • (It's funny; I spent a lot of time in college feeling like the only one who didn't want to go into the publishing industry, but now I've remembered that the publishing industry needs marketing and production people and I REALLY want to get in on that. Just . . . let being excited about books and making things related to books be my actual job. Please.)
  • But yeah. Other than that, it's business as usual. I kinda want to write a new book but I also know I should try to hurry and finish Blood in the Soil/Earth. It's a struggle.

How was your July? Any exciting plans for August? How do you feel about Hitchcock movies? Have you watched Critical Role (or another D&D podcast), and if so, do you have this problem of wanting to play ALL the classes and races and characters? What's your favorite D&D character concept that you haven't gotten to play yet? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, July 24, 2020

The Great Redwall Reread Reviewed (Fixed? I hope?)

(Note: If you tried to read the earlier post and it was blank, I have exactly 0% idea what happened. Hopefully this fixes it. If not, I'm going to go throw Blogger into a lake or something, or maybe just seriously consider consolidating all my blogging over to Wordpress.)

So, I've been saying for some time that I was going to do a review of or reflection on my reread of the Redwall series. And since it's been nearly a month now since I finished that reread, I figure I'd better do that review now or it'll never get done at all.

I discovered Redwall when I was twelve or thirteen, on recommendation from the same friend who introduced me to most of the fantasy books I've loved longest. I must've read the series two or three times in that first year — first in publication order, then in chronological order. I kept all the books in a great stack beside my bed and refused to return them to the library until I had to — though I usually refused to return library books sooner than necessary. After all, I never knew if I'd want to read them again the day after I took them back. I reread them a time or two after returning them as well, after I'd built up my own collection from library book sales. However, I discovered other books quickly, and Redwall got left behind — until I returned to it this year. And when I did, what did I find? Did the series hold up to the test of the time?

The Great Redwall Reread Reviewed

  1. To answer the question I just asked: Yes. Yes, much of the series is as good as I remembered — some of it's even better. Not that I ever mistook Redwall for high literature. But there's a bit more artistry than I recalled, and more importantly, there's more nuance than I recalled. True, the sides are fairly black-and-white — these races are almost always good; those races are almost always evil, and nature wins over nurture in almost every case — but there's a surprising exploration of the pain left in the wake of violence and battle that feels more genuine even than some more modern, gritty stories. Perhaps because it's balanced by a great deal of light and hope and promise and a recognition of what's most important — things that are missing in a lot of stories I encounter these days. Anyway. A lot of the books that I didn't like as much when I was younger, I like much more now. These are mostly the early books, chronologically — Martin the Warrior, Mossflower, The Legend of Luke — and a few later ones, like The Long Patrol, Taggerung, and Triss. That's not to say that they've all become favorites now, but I appreciate them more now. And the books I really loved — Pearls of Lutra, Marlfox, Rakketty Tam, High Rhulain, Lord Brocktree, held up very well indeed. Some of them held up better than others (Pearls is one of the best books in the series; I will fight you on this point), but that's beside the point.
  2. The stories in general are much less formulaic than I remembered. When I started the reread, I laid out five "types" for Redwall stories with the expectation that all the books would fit perfectly into at least one of those types. And a lot of them did, but many more of them didn't fit as well as I expected or only technically fit the plot type. (It was also interesting to note that one of the plot types — "Evil comes to Salamandastron (and besieges it)" — just stopped happening altogether after Salamandastron.) In addition, I had a sort of idea that the villains in Redwall books almost always went crazy by the end of the book, which was just . . . not correct? A few do. But most of them stay sane and surprisingly cunning all the way through, aside from the habit some have of killing off their minions. (Even the number who do that, though, is lower than I remembered.)
  3. I'm pretty sure this is why food figures so heavily in almost all my books. Well, this and Narnia. But you cannot read a Redwall book without getting hungry at some point. And more than that, food is pretty much a plot point in some stories. I could probably write a not-insignificant essay on the role of food in Redwall as a series — not that I'm going to; I've written enough essays in the last four years. But food and types of food and its quality or lack thereof are pretty significant in these stories, and care is taken when describing food, and yeah. It's a thing, and I adopted it without really realizing it. (On a side note: part of me wants to try to cook and bake my way through the books sometime. The other part of me quite reasonably points out that I probably would just end up disappointed.)
  4. The inconsistencies didn't bother me half as much as I expected. I went into the series knowing that there were inconsistencies and half-expecting to make fun of them in a loving sort of way. But that . . . didn't really happen? There are some things that still really bug me (like the fact that a plot-relevant location in Salamandastron doesn't exist until several books later, chronologically), but a lot of the other inconsistencies (most of which involve the Guosim, for some reason?) just feel like things that have shifted with the seasons. And there are a lot of actually-consistent callbacks to other books, which I had forgotten about! And finding those was quite fun!
  5. The level of nomance in these books is honestly refreshing. Just under half the books involve romance of some kind. Of those eleven-ish books, only eight recognize that romance outside of an epilogue or a one-sided or short-lived flirtation. And even then, the romance is almost always, at most, a sub-subplot. Everyone seems to recognize that, romance or no, there's work to do, and relationships can be sorted out after the villain is gone for good. (And before you say that the reason for the lack of romance is that it's a middle-grade series: so are plenty of other books I've read that had much more romance in them than this.) It's really nice.

So, yes. Perhaps not as poetic or scholarly of reflections as I thought I'd do, once upon a time, but there's my honest thoughts. In addition, if you're interested in more of my observations from rereading the series, I kept track of everything in a spreadsheet available here. Y'know, if you want to know exactly how many books involve villains actually going crazy, or what I mean when I say that a lot of inconsistencies involve the Guosim, or what are the plot types I thought I'd identified.

Have you reread Redwall recently? If so, what were your thoughts? If not, what are your favorite Redwall memories? Please tell me in the comments!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, July 17, 2020


THE TIME HAS COME! A bit later than usual, yes, but it's HERE: my annual MID-YEAR BOOK FREAKOUT! In which I don't actually freak out but do get really excited over the best (and worst) books I've read in the first half of the year.

As per the usual, we'll start out with some statistics. I've read 59 books and 19,709 pages so far this year, which is a bit over half of what I'd read this time last year. You would think I would've read more this year, since I was home for several months longer than usual, but nope. Oh well. I'm still ahead of schedule on my overall reading goal of 99 books in the year.

What about my other reading goals? Well, towards my goal of twelve non-speculative-fiction books this year, I have read either eight or ten such books, depending on whether or not you count a few things that I read primarily for class and/or skimmed rather than reading properly. As for my twelve books written before I was born, I am currently at ten such books, thanks to my decision to reread Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes (which was an excellent decision, I'd like to add). So, on the whole, I'd say I'm doing pretty well.

Mid-Year Book Freakout 2020!

1. Best book you've read so far in 2020:

Moonscript by H.S.J. Williams

I wrote a full post with my thoughts on this book a my other blog a while back, but to sum up: I love the characters, I love the focus on friendship and family relationships, and I love the overall vibe of the book. As I've said before, it's like someone took The Silmarillion, Goldstone Wood, and Orphan's Song and blended it all into one beautiful book.

Also, two runners-up:

Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson

This is a beautiful book about creation and community and faith, and ohhhhhhh, it's so good. It's poetic without being pretentious and deep without being discomforting. If you're a person who creates, you ought to read this book as soon as humanely possible. Trust me.

An Echo of the Fae by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt

I also reviewed Echo one at Light and Shadows, so go check that out for my full thoughts. But this is another very family-oriented book that's full of fae and beauty and fairy tale vibes. Also, it has selkies. How could anyone not love it?

2. Best sequel you've read so far in 2020:

Not strictly a sequel, but the closest I can come . . .

Basically, I love sarcastic-yet-oddly-excited science and I cannot lie. Randall Munroe's books are the perfect blend of sarcastic cynicism and eagerness to share cool knowledge, and it's just so much fun!

3. New release you haven't read yet but want to: 

There are SO MANY of these, mostly due to the fact that I haven't been able to get my usual book hauls from the library even though I've been home, plus I didn't get all the books in over Christmas break or spring break that I wanted to. But the main one is probably:

I don't even have a good excuse; I own the book! But I got in the middle of my Great Redwall Reread, and life has been very full of good books to read, so yeah. It's still there, waiting for me.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year:

We've got a tie between two books that I've been looking forward to for nearly two years in one case and a solid three or four in the other:

Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

It's Stormlight #4!!!! Need I say more? I am SO looking forward to returning to Roshar and spending several excellent days (maybe a solid excellent week) lost in this sure-to-be-a brick of a book.

Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

EUGENIDES. I am concerned by one particular bit in the blurb ("death of the king?" Gen, nooooo!), but at the same time, I am sure that Eugenides will be in top scheming form (just as his author will be in top storytelling form), and I CANNOT WAIT. Hopefully it doesn't get pushed back again.

And then a runner-up that's actually multiple books, but is also mostly just one book:

Featuring, as y'all know by now, my next book, The Midnight Show! But also featuring Russian vibes, Greek-esque secrets, Celtic fae, and more. There's so much variety in this collection, and I am HERE FOR IT! (Also: sign up for the blog tour! Or ARCs! It will be much fun!)

5. Biggest disappointment:

Libraries being closed and preventing me from reading new releases, haha. But in terms of books I actually read, I'd have to say . . .

Masters and Beginners by Daley Downing

This is a book that I really wanted to love, and that I'd heard a lot of good things about, but the execution (and the focus) just wasn't what I hoped it would be. It had a lot of elements that I did enjoy, but they were outweighed by my frustrations with the writing style, my inability to keep track of the massive cast of characters, and my issues with the visual aspects of the book.

6. Biggest surprise:

Hmm . . . This one is hard this year. In general, I liked new-to-me books either as much as I expected to or less; there were no books that I was like "Wow, I enjoyed this way more than I thought I would!" I was surprised by how much more I liked some of the Redwall books when I reread them, so I guess I'll say that.

7. Favorite new-to-you author:

I . . . don't actually have one so far this year. All the books I've loved have been by known authors; all the books by new-to-me authors have been somewhere in the area of "Ok, but not my favorite thing ever." So . . . yeah. That's unfortunate.

8. Newest fictional crush/ship:

Coren and Zizain from Moonscript for life, y'all. They're so cute together. Also, Rhen and Harper from A Curse So Dark and Lonely. Not a perfect couple, but still a good one. (Yeah, that's all I've got.)

9. Newest favorite character:

Basically the entire cast of Moonscript? Is that an acceptable answer? But in particular, Errance (Actual Disaster, slightly burnt cinnamon roll, tries so hard before realizing that trying so hard is 90% of his problem, angst but for a good reason), Coren (smuggler with a heart of gold, a fox's wit, and plenty of flair), and Tellie (mum-friend, wants adventure but also wants people to behave sensibly and not go doing stupid things).

Also, shoutout to Grey from A Curse So Dark and Lonely. He's loyal and stubborn and determined and just generally an excellent character. I actually like him and Harper and Rhen all, but Grey is my favorite.

10. A book that made you cry AND 11. A book that made you happy:

I'm combining these because the same two books apply to both, pretty much:

Ok, I don't specifically remember crying, but if anything I've read this year would've made me cry (in a good way), it would've been North!, and I know that both of these books made me very, very happy. So, yeah. I love these books, and their new editions are SO pretty.

12. Favorite reread this year:

This year, as y'all have seen, I've reread the entirety of Brian Jacques's Redwall series in chronological order. It's been really fun to revisit this old favorite and see how different aspects of the series hold up after so much time away. I'm happy to say that most of the series held up very well indeed.

13. Favorite post you've done so far this year:

I feel like I missed a lot of weeks posting this year, but I do have some posts that I really enjoyed writing and think turned out very well:

14. Most beautiful book you've bought so far this year:

I have bought many beautiful books this year, surprisingly! But right now, I would like us all to take a moment to appreciate the gorgeous Abhorsen set that I found last week at McKay's.

I am super proud of it and also very happy to have a set of the core trilogy that isn't large, unwieldy, and slightly falling apart.

15. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Too many books. Basically, if I featured it in one of the last four seasonal releases posts and I wasn't part of the blog tour, I still need to read it. Thanks, COVID-19. (On the upside: the libraries are opening up now! So I can fix this soon! Though I may try to clear my owned-but-unread backlog a little more first.)

All right! There we have it: a summary of my last six and a half months of reading! How has your reading been this year? Best books? Biggest surprise? Biggest disappointments? Any new favorite characters? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, July 10, 2020


Hey'a, everyone! For anyone wondering where my the mid-year book recap posts have got to: those will be up next week, no worries. But I have one last book to give thoughts on first: Heaven Came Down, Bryan Davis's latest release and the first book in the Oculus Gate series. You've probably seen my posts about this book on social media of late (because launch team, yay), and if you have, you may also know that I was waaaaaaaaay behind on reading my ARC of this. But I did read it, and now I have thoughts, so let's get to it!

Thoughts on Heaven Came Down

  1. Conceptually, the book is super cool. The idea of false "angels" appearing and taking over by promising world peace (and the existence of a rising resistance faction) seems like something that could happen while still being a unique idea. Plus, the angel situation and a lot of the questions raised by it and the book's events were relevant to today's culture and climate without being so on-the-nose that it became unpleasant. (There's a reason I'm not reading contemporary lit, y'all.)
  2. It's not a super-techy post-apocalypse/dystopia. Or, at least, it didn't feel as techy as some. I feel like a lot of post-apocalypse/dystopian settings are either SUPER SCI-FI TECHY or else all tech is gone, but this book occupies a very nice middle ground. It feels like what you'd end up with if a few major disasters had occurred between right now and when the book takes place, preventing tech from advancing too much, but not pushing it unrealistically far back.
  3. The plot is very twisty. There were new revelations pretty much every few chapters, so that's cool. The last several chapters were basically a constant stream of "OH STORMS. WHAT THE PUMPERNICKEL JUST HAPPENED. WHAT IS GOING ON. OH STARS." But, y'know, in a good way. (Also, I saw next to nothing coming! Also in a good way! So that's great!)
  4. I had mixed feelings on the characters. While everyone is reasonably distinct, very few people actually sound distinct, and I had a harder time getting a read on different personalities than I would've liked. Still, I did manage to develop favorites (Jack!!! Also Iona and Leo!!!), so it's not a complete negative. Just something that I think could've been done better.
  5. I also have mixed feelings about the ending. It made sense for the story, both in terms of plot and themes, and it wrapped up the book well while still leaving enough questions that you want to get the next one. But it was still like . . . wow. That just happened. And it was kind of sad, to be honest.

Overall, I'd say it was good — not my favorite Bryan Davis book by a long shot, but still good. If you like dystopian, post-apocalyptic action and suspense, I'd recommend it.

Have you read this book yet? What did you think of it? If you haven't, are you planning to? And what do you think about tech in dystopian and post-apocalyptic storeis? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Monday, July 6, 2020

Prince Nácil Blog Tour: Interview with R.R. Goodwill

Hey'a, everyone! It's another blog tour day! This time, I'm joining up with the tour for Prince Nácil, a new reverse-portal-fantasy from debut author R.R. Goodwill. This book sounds very cool, and I'm excited to get to share about it. I'll be interviewing Goodwill about some of the process behind Prince Nácil, but before we get to that — you know the drill — a little bit about the book and author.

About . . .

Prince Nácil

From the moment Victor Greenwood sets foot in the old farmhouse of Willowmere, Mrs. Whitaker and her family take the friendless drifter under their wings as one of their own. Deeply touched by their kindness, Victor delights them with his stories about the Elven-king Othniel and Jael his queen, forming a special bond with Mrs. Whitaker’s nine-year-old granddaughter, Jane.

But several odd occurrences indicate that Victor is more than he admits to. When the secret of his heritage threatens Jane’s safety, he sets out for the homeland he has long been banished from, to find Jane and return her home.

Unbeknownst to his friends, Victor is doomed to die thirty days after setting foot on his native soil, with only one hope of breaking the curse. But surely thirty days is far too short a time to find True Love...

Find it on: Amazon || Goodreads

R.R. Goodwill

R.R. Goodwill began writing at the age of eight, eventually finding her niche in the fascinating realm of fantasy. Taking inspiration from J.R.R Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Faerie-tales, and folklore, Goodwill uses her God-given talents and active imagination to weave a bit of Truth among her works of fiction.

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Interview with R.R. Goodwill

Hello, R.R. Goodwill! Welcome to the blog! To start out, can you tell us a little about yourself? Who you are, favorite hobbies (other than writing), favorite books (outside your own), coffee or tea?
Who I am: *Resists the urge to go all philosophical and exsitantial* In a nutshell, I'm a plain country spinster with the active, furtile imagination of a child, to whom God has given the ability to traslate my mental imagry into text with relative success. I express myself best in the written word. My stories are a channel for my inner world, and how I share my faith. On the Meyers-Briggs Personality Charts, I seem to straddle the fence between INFP and INFJ. I'm also a wee bit obsessed with red hair ...

Favorite hobbies: Yarnwork (knitting, crochet), jewely-making, and fashion/costume design are at the top of the list--what I call "cratfy bits." Also thrifting/yard-saling/antiqueing (AKA "junking"). Love me a good treasure-hunt! 😁

Favorite books: Just off the top of my head: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, the Anne of Green Gables Series (books 1-6) by L.M. Mongommery, The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen by Lloyd Alexander, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire by Hoyard Pyle, and of course the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, The Hobbit and parts of Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Coffee or Tea? Cocoa. 😜 I'm kind of allergic to coffee, and despite my mostly-English heritage, I find tea a bit too ... earthy ... for my liking (although mint is good, and there are a couple medicinal blends I enjoy during the Cold and Flu Season). There's something about cocoa that just ... satisfies ... in a way tea and coffee never can. 😊
Haha, I will agree with that, though I love tea myself. Where did the idea for this book come from, and were there any additional sources of inspiration along the way?
It began as a Faerie-tale-esque writing exercise that eventually grew into an entire imaginary world, combined with a previously-conceived Peter Pan-inspired story and a weird dream I had several years ago. I also took a lot of inspiration from Tolkien and Lewis (heh, me and every other fantasy author, I daresay), as well as old Faerie-tales and bits of folklore.
Those sound like some excellent inspiration sources! What were some of the biggest challenges you had in writing this book, and how did you deal with those challenges?
Figuring out what the story was going to be about, and developing the Romance angle properly. The main plot went through a major reimagining (which meant I had to start almost from scratch), and a big editing session that left a gaping hole in Part One. I thank God for my family's willingness to brainstorm with me wheneven I hit the proverbial brick walls with my inspiration, and especially for my brother Peter, who approaches things at a different angle, and so offers a fresh perspective that gets me thinking again.

As for the love-story ... it was fun to write, but this was my first serious foray into the realm of Romance, and well ... it was one of those areas where imagination had to take the place of experience, so there was a lot of polishing to do. 😝 Specifically, Müriel was all blushes and fearful self-depreciation right up to the end at first. And all her conversations with Nácil followed the same formula (playing out like practically every Adrienette scene in Miraculous Ladybug, OY 🙄).
Interesting. What's the most unusual or unique piece of writing advice you've ever received?
I seem to recall Kendra saying in one of her blog posts, "If an idea seems too weird, do it anyway." Or words to that effect.
That sounds like advice Kendra would give. Prince Nacil is your debut into the writing world. Can you share a little about your journey up to this moment and how you decided that this was the time and the story with which to introduce yourself to readers?
Ever since girlhood, it's been my dream to be a published author, but I never had the confidence to pursue it seriously (and frankly, I don't think I had the skill level or maturity before now). When I finished writing and editing PN in February of last year--and realized it was the first of my books I still enjoyed re-reading afterwards--I prayerfully decided to investigate publishing options. Long-story-short, I decided to print it out myself and have Staples do the finishing work ... but the minute Kendra heard about it, she figuratively grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me along on a crash course in self-publishing through Amazon, LOL. (See the full story here.) I honestly can't thank her enough for all the hard work she's put into this.
Kendra is pretty awesome. 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?
Oddly enough, while I relate to Nácil and Müriel the most personality-wise, I think the Characters I'd most enjoy spending time with would be Lady Cambria or Miss Prescott. Miss Prescott and I could discuss our favorite works of literature, and analyse the stuffin's out of them, and perhaps add new favorites to our respective To Read lists. As for Cambria (personal handmaiden to Iceheart, and something of a spy for the House of Othniel) ... it's not mentioned in this book, but she was a jeweler in her spare time (before she became the Palace mole). So it'd be fun to hang out in her workshop and do some wire-wrapping together, or just look through her supplies. 'Cos we all know how much crafty folk love to show off their Stash. 😉
That does sound fun! What can we expect to see from you, writing- and publishing-wise, moving forward into the future?
Writing-wise, I intend to continue Nácil's story via the rest of the Children of Light Series--don't know how many books that will take. However many the Lord gives me material for, wot?
I also have a prequel series planned (House of Othniel), which gives more background on Nácil's family and how their feud with the House of Lucrísha came about.

I have a couple spin-off series in the works, as well as some standalone novels, all set in the world of Ýdära, that I'm looking forward to working on.

Publishing-wise, I'm thinking of releasing a shorter, standalone novel (novella?) in time for Christmas (Lord willing!)--Princess Starflower. It's basically a mash-up of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and E.T.A. Hoffman's Nutcracker and the Mouse King. After that, I'll probably focus on my Ýdära Multiverse again, unless the Lord directs otherwise.

Check out my Pinterest storyboards to see all the other ideas I have cooking up in my noggin! 🤓
Well, that was fun! Thanks, everyone, for stopping by; make sure you check out the rest of the tour stops! And please tell me in the comments: what do you think of this book from what you've heard so far?
Thanks again!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Monday, July 6 Tour Stops:

Rambling Rose: Looking Forward
Dreams and Dragons: Interview - R.R. Goodwill
Knitted by God's Plan: Miss Prescott

Friday, July 3, 2020

June 2020 Doings!

Well. That was a month. And here we are! July! Normally this is one of my favorite months of the year because of Independence Day and some family events and Camp NaNoWriMo and general summertime. This year, despite the fact that all of that will still happen, it feels more like just another barely-defined block in the blurred stream of tiredness and uncertainty and worry. But be that as it may, stuff happened, and we're here to write it down for later.


  • Once again, in case you somehow missed it: I wrote a new book! And I'm publishing it at the end of August! The Midnight Show is a Jazz-Age-inspired retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, and I had a ton of fun writing it — even if it was kind of a frenzy at the beginning of the month, trying to get it written so I could send it off to beta readers in a timely fashion. But it's drafted, and I just started editing it on the first of the month (a solid week later than I intended, but it's fine), and I'm very excited to share it with y'all.
  • Here are a couple snippets, for those interested:
    • Dayo stood back up to speak into the mouthpiece, grimacing again. “You win,” she said, wearily. “I can’t let this go on any longer.”

      “Still the shoes, eh?”

      “Shoes and blisters and worse. My favorite pair’s destroyed and I can barely walk, let alone dance. It’ll be a miracle if I can perform tonight.” Dayo leaned her forehead against the telephone box. “So. You win. Find one of those private eye fellas you keep going on about. One who’ll keep his mouth shut and won’t tell my problems to the four winds and the politiet and news to boot. I’ll put up the funds, however much I have to. Can’t be more expensive than buying new shoes every few days.”

      “Not the kind of kicks you like, Dayo-doll.” Olvirsson laughed. “I have a fella in mind. Not a big name, but he’s done good work for some friends of mine. He’ll keep things quiet. I’ll have him meet you after one of your shows in a day or two, how’s that sound?"


    • Dayo nodded. “Now, Mr. Dennel, I do have a sort of missing-persons case for you. The trouble is, the missing person happens to be me.”

      Bastian frowned, raising an eyebrow. The cynical expression looked out-of-place on his soft-featured face. “Miss Temitrope, you appear to be sitting directly in front of me, and I don’t mess about with prophecies. If you’ve had some kind of vision where you vanish into thin air, notify the politiet. They have a whole division to deal with that.” He paused. “Unless you’ve seen in this vision that I’m the only one who has any success in the case, of course.”

  • (Also: signups for the blog tour and ARCs are open! Go check them out! And sign up!)
  • In addition, I'm also doing the Go Teen Writers 100-4-100 challenge again, using it to keep Blood in the Soil/Earth from stagnating again. I am having some concerns about the book and certain plotlines in the book, which I think are going to need some heavy reworking in light of some stuff I've learned in the past few months. There's a part of me that wants to just set the book aside for a month or two and then start afresh, and there's a part of me that says no, finish it so you have something more to work with and then rewrite it. I don't know which part will win. But those of you who are eagerly awaiting the book may have a longer wait than you expected, for which I apologize. I'm trying to make it good; that's all I can say.
  • On the D&D front, my group was only able to meet a couple times this month, but we've finished Season 2.5, and we're ready to jump into Season 3. People have given me some nice plot hooks to use, and I'm excited to put those into action. We'll see how they work out in practice (especially since I'm behind on writing sessions; I only have a buffer of one and three-quarter episodes), but I think it'll be fun.
  • All in all, my total for the month is 26,458 words. 3,324 of those words were on Blood in the Soil/Earth, 15,573 were on The Midnight Show, and the remaining 7,561 were in D&D episodes. Overall, not too shabby.


  • I read somewhat less this month: only 8 books rather than 20-some. That said, it was a very busy month and I didn't really have time for reading for about half of it.
  • I finished my Great Redwall Reread, so that's good. I still hope to do a post reflecting on the experience of rereading the series as an adult, though it'll be a few weeks before I do that. For now, I'll say that Rakkety Tam and High Rhulain remained excellent (which I'm glad of), and the other books were fine — they never were my favorites, and they still aren't, but they were good.
  • I also read two new releases. Echo of the Fae was an absolutely delightful original fairy tale from Jenelle Leanne Schmidt, and I cannot recommend it enough. I posted my full thoughts on it about a week ago, so go check that out (or just check the book out; that works too). Then I read Heaven Came Down, Bryan Davis's new book, which was definitely a change of tone and vibe from the rest of my month's reading — I jumped straight from Redwall and fairy tales to post-apocalyptic dystopian supernatural thriller. It was good, though a wild ride; I'll be posting my thoughts on it soon on at least one blog.


  • Most of my watching time this month has gone towards Critical Role; I started the month on Episode 2, and I just finished Episode 7. (There's a chance I also started Episode 8 by the time you watch this; it's hard to say.) I'm still very much enjoying it (despite the language and some of the occasional unnecessary humor). I'm not sure if I enjoy the actual story or the cast interactions more, since they're both pretty delightful, but I will say that Liam/Caleb is probably my favorite person in the show, both in and out of character. (I'm also trying to watch how people, mostly Matt, do things so I can steal techniques for my own campaigns. Hopefully the end result will be that I'm better as both a player and a gamemaster . . . though I don't think I'll ever be able to do voices anywhere near as well as I'd like.)
  • Other than Critical Role, I've watched a few movies with my family. One was To Catch a Thief, which was fairly good but would've been better if not for the entirely unnecessary romantic nonsense. (Which, by the way, I barely bought in the first place. I honestly thought both involved characters were playing each other for most of the movie.) But the mystery itself was good.
  • And we watched a few episodes of Doc Martin, which is a drama about a surgeon-turned-general-practitioner in some little coastal town in Great Britain. There is absolutely no reason I should like the show, given its periodic wanderings into secondhand embarrassment territory and lack of fantasy or action elements, but somehow I got attached? And now I'm kind of like "Well, I guess I'm watching this now." I think it's the accents.


  • This was actually a pretty exciting month! Obviously, the first two weeks were less so; I spent most of them working on stuff for The Midnight Show: writing the actual book, writing the tagline and blurb, creating the cover, all that jazz. So, exciting for me, but not a lot of unusual activity. Well, making the cover was unusual; it's the most drawing I've done in a while, and it took way longer than I thought. But yeah. It happened.
  • And pretty much as soon as that was sorted out, I turned my attention to the fact that two of the three weddings that were supposed to happen this month were still on, and I didn't want to miss either one.  And that meant I had to acquire gifts for one of the couples and an appropriate summer wedding outfit and figure out where I was staying. (That last one was the easiest; as soon as even mentioned to my roommate that I might need a place to stay, she said I could spend the week between the two weddings at her house. Because she is awesome.)
  • So, yes. On the 18th, my sister and I drove up from Virginia to Ohio, and on Friday, I attended the wedding of one of the cutest couples I know. It was a lovely ceremony, though I was mildly amused that the couple opted to do a "unity chemical reaction" instead of a unity candle or something like that. (It was very in character for them; I just thought it was funny.) And I got to see a fair number of my friends there and at the reception, so that was nice.
  • The day after the wedding, my sister and I jaunted over to Pennsylvania, where we met up with our parents at my grandpa's house to see him (and also to make sure we weren't lurking in someone else's house over Father's Day, 'cause that would've been awkward). It was a very nice weekend, and I was glad I got to see my grandpa for the first time in a while. That weekend also involved a lot of baking, since I made both crumpets and sourdough pretzels. (The sourdough pretzels turned out really well, which made me happy. I have decided that garlic-parmesan and cinnamon brown sugar are both far superior toppings as compared to plain salt.)
  • And then we returned to Ohio again on Monday to spend a week with my roommate before the next wedding. Said week involved a lot of Sentinels of the Multiverse, a good bit of D&D, and some baking — none of which is a surprise. I got to try out some new heroes and villains in Sentinels, and in general, it was just really nice to spend time with the roomie again, especially since our time together got cut so short.
  • The next wedding was Sunday evening, and it was very nice as well. It's interesting comparing different weddings and seeing what different couples seem to prioritize, so to speak, and how they approach different parts of the evening. And I'm very happy for the couple.
  • The day after the wedding, my sister and I loaded up and left early in the morning to head home, where I proceeded to be absolutely useless for the rest of the day due to tiredness and too much caffeine and sugar. And that pretty much finishes out the month. It was a busy time, but a good time.

July Plans

  • The question that we always must ask as July comes around: what about Camp NaNoWriMo? Unsurprisingly, I will be using the month to work on editing The Midnight Show to get it ready for publication in August. My goal is to do my Big Edit, where I fix any story- and scene-level issues, and at least a few rounds of minor (paragraph-, sentence-, and word-level) edits. Even that description is a little deceptive, because I am not an organized editor and will inevitably end up making minor-level changes during the Big Edit and will possibly end up reworking a scene or two after a round of minor edits, but whatever. That's the goal.
  • I'll also be working on other writing things. As I already mentioned, I'm working on Blood in the Soil/Earth for the 100-4-100 challenge, and I intend to keep doing that unless I decide I need to set it aside for a while. I'll keep working on my D&D campaign (which has definitely fallen by the wayside, but it's fine; we haven't been meeting as regularly as I hoped we would be), and if I take a break from BiTS/E, I'll use D&D for the 100-4-100 challenge. And I'm going to be pre-writing some guest posts and character spotlights for the Tattered Slippers blog tour.
  • Again, speaking of which, go sign up for the blog tour! Or even just sign up for an ARC of one of the books! It's going to be a great time, and I'd really appreciate your support!
  • Outside of writing, job searching will continue. I'll also be looking into some other potential money-making and career-investing options, though I'm not exactly sure if they're going to turn into Actual Things I Do or just things about which I say "I could do that!" and then don't pursue because of whatever reason.
  • And yeah. There's some family stuff happening as well, which will be fun. And Independence Day, which is going to be good? I hope? It'll be a thing that happens, and I will see people. So, yeah.
  • (I feel like, for the next long while, any time I go to a social event for which I have not been mentally preparing myself months in advance, I'm going to have this weird mix of "Oh, yay, I get to see people" excitement and "Please, no, not lots of people interaction" dread. I do not like not getting to see people, but I did like having everything be in smaller groups for a while. This mix of emotions is probably not helping the social front, or, for that matter, the job search front — I want a job, but I don't necessarily want to have to have people every day, but the internet still has not come through enough for me to confidently try for a full-time remote position. It's a mess.)

How was your June? Any exciting July plans? Are you doing Camp NaNoWriMo? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!