Saturday, July 22, 2017

Subplots and Storylines - July 2017

(I almost wrote 2018, you guys. Scary.)

Hello! Whew, it feels like a massive party has been happening around here, what with the fantastically epic SilmAwards going on! I hope you've been having as much with it as I have. (If you missed it, click HERE to check out who won the Wisest Counselor Silmaril.) The awards take a break over this weekend, but then on Monday, the next post will go live!

If you're looking for a schedule of the awards presentations, Deborah has a handy one right here.

In the meantime, S&S is coming to you a week early. "What!" you say. "July isn't over yet!" I know, but in a matter of days I depart for Realm Makers (which will require a recap post, trust me). And after that's over, I'll be away on family holidays and shan't return to the internet until sometime during the first full week of August. Hence the early post.

July thus far has been a little less crazy than previous months. We celebrated Canada's 150th and my dad's birthday. One afternoon, I went out for a spontaneous coffee date with two friends I hadn't caught up with in a long time, and it was good to step away from writing for a couple of hours. I spent a fun day shopping in the city with my mom and sisters. The week after that, I took my brother to the city too, and we enjoyed shopping, watching Spider-Man Homecoming, having milkshakes, and listening to a super long, super amazing playlist he put together for my novel The Brightest Thread. (I love my family, guys.)

Another highlight was strawberry picking. Come on, who doesn't love getting down on their hands and knees between the rows and hunting down the brightest, reddest berries? But the best part is eating them afterward. Strawberries everywhere--with cream and sugar, with ice cream, with yogurt, with cake, with waffles and whipped cream, with French toast. EVERYTHING. Strawberries have a way of making it feel like summer (so does pea shelling, which we've also been doing).

(*looks at above paragraphs* Apparently I can talk about food for just as long as I can talk about life happenings. Ha.)

Oh! Before we move on, I have to share one of the biggest things that happened this month. You know how I applied for college this fall? Well, recently I was told that I was put on the waiting list--I would have to wait a full year to get in. Needless to say, I was disappointed. But all the delays in my life thus far have ended up being really good things, and God has used them to take me down better paths than I had set out for myself. So I was resigned to spend a year working at my job, trying to get my writing out there, and seeing what unexpected opportunities God might bring my way.

But a week after getting that email, I got another one saying I've been accepted after all! A few students dropped out, making room for me this fall! Classes start at the end of August (which is ridiculously close, you guys). It's a two year course in business administration. I never would have thought of taking something like this, but I've come to realize that a) this can help me start a financially stable career, and b) this will also help me in the writing/publishing field, because authors are essentially small business owners! Anyway, this is a big answer to prayer! And life is going to be changing yet again in just over a month.

On the Screen

Yep, you guessed it again: more Once Upon a Time. Still slowly going through seasons 2, 3, and 5. After a decidedly blegh episode in season 5 (called Ruby Slippers, for those who may be wondering), the season is looking up again. Or rather, looking very bleak for the characters, but much more exciting for me. Can't wait to see the last few episodes!

I mentioned it above, but I must say it again: I saw Spider-Man Homecoming in theaters and LOVE LOVE LOVED IT! There was a tad more language than I expected, but other than that, this was the perfect Spidey flick. I love Tom Holland's performance, because we finally have a Peter Parker who looks and acts exactly like a high school teenager. Don't get me wrong, Andrew Garfield was fantastic (and Tobey McGuire . . . eh, he gets points for being cheesy and nostalgic), but Tom Holland brings out the things that make Spider-Man Spider-Man.

The movie was funny, endearing, down-to-earth, and still had its intense moments. I was literally on the edge of my seat near the end. That plot twist. Wow. And it was so great having Tony Stark around for a bit. I love seeing him play mentor. The villain had a more grounded/realistic backstory than some, the high school dynamics were the best, and Ned was a hilarious best friend/"guy in the chair."

I wish I had a more cohesive mini review to share, but my thoughts are all over the place. It's one of those movies I have to see again!

On the Page

Scorpia by Anthony Horowitz
Probably the best Alex Rider book yet! It still feels like a kid playing James Bond, but this book had a more complex plot. I think Alex is growing up. He discovered more about his father, was faced with some pretty difficult choices, and had to get out of even worse scrapes than before. My favorite scene was near the beginning when he's stuck in a flooding prison cell in Venice! Kind of reminded me of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation a little bit.

Four stars.

Solitary by Travis Thrasher (audio book)
I read started reading the Solitary Tales back in 2013. I remember loving it back then. The writing style isn't particularly beautiful or complex, but that's why it's so easy to fly through. Listening to the audio book over the last couple months (what can I say? my drive to work is too short), I couldn't speed through the story, but it was cool to "reread it" now that I know how the whole story ends.

I'd forgotten how dark and hopeless it gets, but I don't mind because I know that Chris, the main character, is embarking on a journey to find light. Even if he doesn't know it by the final page of book one. Meanwhile, the web of secrets strung over the little town of Solitary is intriguing and terrifying. It's still suspenseful the second time around, because I don't remember all the ins and outs.

Anyway, back to the audio format: four stars for this one. The book itself gets five stars, but I enjoyed the narrator of the last audio book I listened to (Crazy Dangerous) more.

Reapers by Bryan Davis
I'm in the middle of it right now, and expect to finish before I leave. I'll have more thoughts to share in next month's S&S post, but for now I'll say that the pace is picking up, and I'm quite enjoying myself! Phoenix is a very different protagonist than most of Bryan Davis's. He's still principled, but not to the extent of someone like Billy Bannister or Adrian Masters or Nathan Shepherd. (Although I'm still figuring Phoenix out, so don't take that as my final say on the matter.) I look forward to seeing where the second half of the book goes!

On the Writing Desk

As you know, the Silmarillion Awards have been going on this month, which sort of counts as writing--at least part of it.

Other than that, I clocked my writing time again this month: about 30 hours spent writing and/or editing The Brightest Thread. As I edited, I wrote in a few new scenes and added touches of description, contributing another 6,665 words to the manuscript. Now it stands at precisely 68,727 words. Not quite as close to my 70k goal as I wanted, but at this point that's all I have in me to add. After days of slow progress, including taking my laptop along on the drive to and from church a few Sundays, just to get more writing time in, it's a relief to be done!

I think The Brightest Thread is the strongest novel I've written to date, despite the fact that it's also the shortest. I'm excited to pitch it next week and see what kind of feedback it gets! Even an unfavorable reaction is a learning experience, so it's impossible to lose out.

In other writing-related doings, I finished up session 12 of The Creative Way (the writing course by Ted Dekker I'm slowly going through). I also designed business cards and wrote up a one sheet for the conference!

Farewell for now, my friends!

Although I'll be using the internet whilst at the conference, after that I'll be unplugging for a week. You won't see me around here for a little while. However, I hope to schedule a few posts to go up during my absence, so it won't be completely quiet on Adventure Awaits.

One of the scheduled posts will be for the end of the SilmAwards on July 29th. All of you are welcome to join in as well with your own posts (blog or otherwise) to celebrate all things Tolkien and fantasy! There are no rules. Feel free to write a tribute to Tolkien, pen an ode to Samwise Gamgee, start a discussion about favorite elements of fantasy, share a collection of quotes, include a gif or two (or three hundred) from Lord of the Rings, make a list of favorite fantasy novels, or whatever you like! (Remember to use #SilmAwards2017 on social media!) I'll catch up on it all when I return.

Take care, my friends! I look forward to sharing my adventures with you! And if any of you are coming to Realm Makers--I'll see you there.

How has your July been? I hope you're having a fantastic summer. Bet you're craving strawberries now, thanks to me.  If you've seen Spider-Man Homecoming, what did you think of it?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Silmarillion Awards - Winner of the Wisest Counselor Silmaril

Me: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the final phase of the 2017 Silmarillion Awards! It has been a rollicking adventure indeed, and we can't thank you enough for your enthusiasm and participation this year. To kick it off, I'd like to welcome up a very special character from Middle Earth to present the award for Wisest Counselor. *peeks over shoulder* Um, a very special character from Middle Earth. *clears throat* A certain wise counselor . . . to present . . . Ahem, it appears our presenter has yet to arrive--

*a pointy grey hat pokes out from backstage*

Gandalf: Not so, you fool! *strides onto stage and snatches mic* A wizard is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he intends to. I was merely arranging celebratory provisions for later.

Me: Apologies, Gandalf. We're just happy to have you here. My friends, allow me to introduce Gandalf the Grey, also known as Mithrandir, the White Rider, Greyhame, and Stormcrow, among other names. He is certainly the wisest counselor anyone could meet in Middle Earth. *bows and exits stage*

Gandalf: Thank you. Now then. Where were we? Ah, yes, the time has come to award the Wisest Counselor Silmaril to the character deemed most worthy by all of you. *sniffs* You're a much nicer audience than I find in Hobbiton, did you know? Taller, yes, but rather less noisy.

Ahem. Five characters of great wisdom contended for this Silmaril, but only one may receive it. And the fellow who secured the most votes is deserving indeed. I shouldn't be surprised, really, but even the very wise cannot see all ends.

The counsel this gentleman has provided his friends has most certainly changed the courses of their lives, and perhaps even saved some. Like I always say, all we have to decide is what to do with the time that has been given us, and this man has decided to do a great deal of good with his. He knows that it is not our part to master all the tides of the world. Instead, he pours all of his strength and considerable heart into guiding the tides under his control, and surrendering the rest to his Master.

Though he has walked through times of sorrow and seasons of waiting, he has stayed the course. He is a beacon of light to those who follow in his footsteps. Others may claim the title of hero in his tale, but if not for him, the road would have taken a very different turn indeed.

My friends, may I present the winner of the 2017 Wisest Counselor Silmaril:

Professor Charles Hamilton!

*a smartly dressed older gentleman with wild grey hair rises from the front row and joins Gandalf on stage*

Professor Hamilton: *in a British accent* My, your fireworks get better every year, Gandalf.

Gandalf: I should say they do. Congratulations, young man. *hands over the Silmaril* This is yours to keep for a lifetime.

Professor Hamilton: Young? *smiles* Compared to you, perhaps. I am honored to receive such a prize, though I must that any wisdom I possess is thanks to the very Source of all wisdom. I merely listen to Him.

Gandalf: And that is precisely what makes you wise. Now, before we acknowledge the runners-up, I would like to take a moment to honor you, Professor, by calling up a scene from your past. *waves staff*

*translucent image appears over the stage*

The professor grasped [Excalibur] and limped toward the central pedestal. He knelt at Bonnie's side and placed the sword in Billy's hands, wrapping his own fingers on top and elevating the blade. Billy opened his eyes and tightened his grasp on the hilt.

"William," the professor said, softly, "what now is your weapon?"

Bonnie could see Billy's eyes reflecting the professor's shining face, enhanced by Excalibur's glow. She held her breath, waiting for Billy's reply.

"Truth," he whispered, his voice rasping. "Truth is my sword."

The professor nodded, his eyes now flashing, and his voice erupted in deep, echoing tones as if Billy's answer strengthened him. "And what now is your defense?"

Color returned to Billy's face, and his jaw tightened. His voice surged with emotion. "Faith . . . faith is my shield."

*image fades*

Professor Hamilton: *blinks back tears and beams at a row of young people in the audience* How well I remember that day.

Gandalf: As I thought. It was a turning point for one of your young charges. For using your wisdom to strengthen weary bones and direct wandering hearts, ladies and gentleman, I present to you Professor Hamilton!

*thunderous applause*

Professor Hamilton: *bows, then leans over to whisper* By the way, it is an honor to meet the namesake of a certain cat.

*sounds of a scuffle*

*a cat yowls and streaks away between chairs*

Someone in the audience: Walter! I told you to hang onto him!

*chuckling, the professor takes a seat*

Gandalf: I cannot forget the wisdom of four other magnificent characters, and I thought it might interest all of you to find out how they fared in the voting round. *pulls scroll out of his robe and consults a list*

Professor Hamilton from Dragons in Our Midst - 34%
Puddleglum from The Chronicles of Narnia - 23%
Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter - 21%
Prince of Farthestshore/Aethelbald from Tales of Goldstone Wood - 18%
Beana from Tales of Goldstone Wood - 4%

*a marsh-wiggle, wizard, prince, and goat incline their heads respectfully from the front row*

Gandalf: To all who did not win this year, I will not say do not weep, for not all tears are an evil. You have all performed admirably. Once again, congratulations to the dear professor. *looks around* Now . . . what am I supposed to do? Just--leave? Introduce someone?

Me: *hurries back out* Not to worry, I've got it. Thank you, Gandalf! Make sure to follow along with the presentations, everyone. Tomorrow the winner of the Least Competent Henchman will be announced, an event you certainly won't want to miss. Happy Silmarillion Awards 2017!

[Note: excerpt taken from The Candlestone by Bryan Davis]

Monday, July 10, 2017

Silmarillion Awards - Vote for the Wisest Counselor

Welcome back to the second phase of the 2017 Silmarillion Awards! Last week was a barrelful of fun* as your nominations came pouring in. So many worthy characters were named, so many marvelous fantasy novels were discussed. Are your TBR piles toppling over yet? Mine is definitely reaching its tipping point!

*A barrelful of dwarves, that is! . . . Ahem, that was supposed to be a vague Barrels out of Bond reference.

We've tallied up the nominations and seconds (and thirds and fourths and fifths and so on), and only the top five characters in each category have moved into the voting round. If you missed the first round of action, here's the infographic Deborah made:

As you can see, the voting period is open from today, July 10th, until Friday, July 14th. So be sure to make your way around to all the blogs to read about the top five contenders in each category. And there's another reason you'll want to visit everyone: there's an epic scavenger hunt taking place!

Each of the ten blogs will include the phrase of a poem somewhere in their posts. It's your job to gather all ten phrases (in the correct order!) and submit them in the voting form. Doing so will enter you into a giveaway for the Grand Prize! I don't know about you, but that map of Middle Earth, One Ring, and copy of Aratar, Peredhil, and Halflings, Oh My! look delightful.

This is your first stop along the scavenger hunt, and here is the phrase you'll want to write down:

Three great jewels (though for our purposes, ten)

Then click on the text to head to your second stop.

While we're talking about giveaways, congratulations to Athelas H. for winning the one hosted here during the nomination phase! You've won a paperback copy of Alora: The Wander Jewel by Tamie Dearen and e-book copies of Evangeline, Eun Na and the Phantom, and Foxtails by Erica Laurie. Athelas, the email address you submitted in the Rafflecopter didn't work, so please send Jenelle an email at Jenelle.L.Schmidt [at] gmail [dot] com. She'll make sure your prize gets to you!

All right! Now to the moment you've all been scrolling down for! Drumroll, please . . .

The top five nominations for the Wisest Counselor Silmaril are:

Puddleglum from The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis: This gloomy Marsh-Wiggle may expect the worst in any given situation, but he's actually more cheerful than his pessimistic kin. His common sense and steadfast presence keep his young friends on track even in the darkest of times. A bit of a "wet blanket," he is nevertheless prepared for rain and ruin. Which, when you're on a quest of great import, is a good quality to have.

Professor Hamilton from Dragons in Our Midst by Bryan Davis: A man of stalwart faith and honorable lineage, this teacher is a mentor in every sense of the word. His sound advice provides a staying anchor and a guiding rudder for those under his care, even going so far as to affect their eternities. Not only does he offer wisdom, but he is a living example of those unshakeable convictions in action. His friends would do well to follow in his footsteps.

Prince of Farthestshore (a.k.a. Aethelbald) from Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl: Kind. Strong. Faithful. True. Those are just a few words to describe Prince Aethelbald. He is relentless in his pursuit of those he loves. He doesn't look the part of a Prince Charming, but there is far more to him than what meets the eye. And while you may not always want to hear what he has to say, it never fails to be exactly what you need.

Beana from Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl: Beana isn't who you would expect to be a voice of wisom. In fact, she's a stubborn goat. (Though she may also be something more.) But her stouthearted courage, foresight, and protectiveness are precisely the traits a wise counselor needs. Being centuries old doesn't hurt, either. Whether you need a shoulder to cry on or a bit of tough love, Beana will be there.

Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling: Albus Dumbledore is quite possibly the most powerful wizard the world has ever seen. If he plays his cards close to the vest, it is only because he loves the young people in his charge and would spare them pain if he could. A bit eccentric and secretive, Dumbledore is definitely someone you want on your side, whether you need a powerful wizard or some kind words of encouragement.

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Whew! That's quite the impressive list from which to pick! Who will you vote for? (Be sure to hit submit when you're done.) And don't forget to click on the first line of that poem and embark on that scavenger hunt!

Feel free to discuss everything in the comments! Which characters you're torn between (all of them, right?), who you end up voting for and why, and whether you'll cast the One Ring into the fire if you win it.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Silmarillion Awards - Wisest Counselor Nominations

Hear ye, hear ye! The second annual Silmarillion Awards begins today!

What are the Silmarillion Awards, you might be wondering? You might remember when I hosted the Best Riddling and Poetry Silmaril last year, but if not, let me give you a rundown.

They're like the Oscars for fantasy characters, voted for by you. This is a fun way to show your favorite characters your love and support! Of course, since Lord of the Rings is widely accepted as a standard of excellence in this genre, each award is presented by someone from Middle Earth. This means that you cannot nominate or vote for a LOTR character. But anyone else within the realm of fantasy is fair game!

And what kind of awards, pray tell, will be handed out? Well, the lineup is new and improved (since a couple of categories last year veered into spoiler territory), and it looks more exciting than ever!

infographic designed by Deborah O'Carroll
Your first step, once you finish reading this post, is to head to all the blogs and start making nominations!

Wisest Counselor Silmaril - Tracey @ Adventure Awaits

The Rules:

  • You can nominate as many characters for each award as you like.
  • You may "second" as many characters as you like. (An example of seconding: someone might nominate Susan Pevensie for an award, and if you agree, you can second the nomination.)
  • Please mention which book/series each nomination is from!
  • You may not nominate and then second your own recommendation. (At this stage of the awards, you can nominate and second as many characters as you want, but you still get only one vote per character.)
  • Authors can gladly participate, but they may not nominate/second any of their own characters. However, they are welcome to let their readers know about these awards and may suggest characters to their own readers that could be nominated for various awards.
  • The awards are for fantasy characters only. Sorry, Katniss Everdeen--you're from a dystopian series.
  • These are lifetime awards! Last year's winners are now ineligible.
  • Again, because Tolkien characters are the standard for the awards, they are also ineligible. (As one of the Silmarillion Awards hosts put it, having Gandalf present an award to himself would be awkward.)
  • Use #SilmAwards2017 when talking about or promoting the awards on social media!

This year is going to be even more fun than last year! For one thing, there is a smorgasbord of giveaways, and also an upcoming scavenger hunt. For another thing, you can now buy mugs and t-shirts! The proceeds will go to cover the costs of prizes for the giveaways.

Speaking of giveaways, before I get into the particular award I'm hosting here on Adventure Awaits, why don't you check out this giveaway? a Rafflecopter giveaway (If my attempts to embed it into the post don't work, please just click the link.) You could win these four books!

paperback copy of Alora: The Wander-Jewel by Tamie Dearen + ebook copies
of Evangeline, Eun Na and the Phantom, and Foxtails by Erica Laurie

The top five characters with the most nominations/seconds in each category will move on to the voting round next week!

If you have any questions at all, don't hesitate to ask.

Let the Wisest Counselor nominations begin!

As you have seen, I will be hosting the Wisest Counselor Silmaril. This award should go to a character who exhibits maturity regardless of age. Someone whose advice is sound and whose counsel is timely. This kind of character is often instrumental in helping the protagonist(s) achieve their goal, although their words may not always be what the hero wants to hear. This character holds fast to truth and imparts it to others. He or she is not necessarily perfect, but they provide an example to be followed. Without their sage counsel, many a quest would end in tragedy, and many a hero would make unfortunate decisions. We owe quite a few happy endings to this wise sort of character, indeed.

Last year's winner of the Wisest Counselor Silmaril was Aslan himself. (Check out the award ceremony here.) Just like last year, Gandalf will be presenting this award to the winner. I think we can all agree that these fellows of Middle Earth are two of the most iconic counselors in the history of fantasy! And Aslan was definitely a worthy first winner!

(Remember, Gandalf, Elrond, and Aslan are ineligible to receive this award.)

Now it is up to you to nominate who you think is the wisest counselor in fantasy! Nominations are open from today (July 3rd) until Friday, July 7th! Be sure to stop by each of the participating blogs this week to get those nominations in for every category. Happy nominating!