Saturday, September 24, 2016

Book Review: Five Enchanted Roses

What do you know, my first official book review! It doesn't feel like my first, however, since I've been sharing my thoughts on various novels in all the monthly wrap-ups, but still. I promised a review on Five Enchanted Roses, and a review is what you shall get.

Esprit de la Rose by Kaycee Browning

Well, well, well, the collection starts out with a swashbuckling bang! I got a bit of a Pirates of the Caribbean vibe, especially from the cursed sailors; the evil mermaid element was pretty cool (and also served as a tool to bring home several Beauty and the Beast elements); and I just love pirate ships. I don't know why exactly, but those big, beautiful ships with their sails and rigging and adventurous crews just get to me.

Cecilia was a plucky heroine, but it was Captain Pepin who kept me engrossed in the tale. Arrogant, humorous, unpredictable . . . and with more to him than meets the eye, of course. The story's conclusion was a tad on the swift side, but given the limits of the contest, it couldn't really be helped. 4 STARS

Wither by Savannah Jezowski

Okay. This might have been my favorite story of the entire collection--though it's hard to say something so conclusive when all the stories were unique and enjoyable! But something about the writing style really clicked with me. Not to mention the main characters: especially sturdy, spitfire Bet (oh my goodness, such a refreshing heroine) and gruff, hurting Corwin (my poor baby). And Quarrel! I want him as my own pet now.

And I can't go without mentioning the world. In the space of a short novella, we get a rich taste of it--a deep lungful of its smells and sights of its scenery--all without bogging the story down. It's dark and gloomy, a tale populated by bloodthirsty monsters and lonely wraiths, but the chilling backdrop served to make the themes of love and sacrifice shine brighter. Quite the powerful story here. 5 STARS

Stone Curse by Jenelle Schmidt

I found it extra fun to read this one because I've gotten to know Jenelle in the blogging world since this book was published! A very sweet read, slower than the previous tale, yet still twisting Beauty and the Beast in a clever way. I did predict the twist early on, but I enjoyed taking the journey with the unknowing characters as they traipsed through a comfortably familiar fairy-tale world of woods and castles and cozy inns.

Plus the beast is a bear! A big, cuddly, I mean ferocious bear! Poor Barend might be the kindest beast character in the collection. The romance between him and Karyna left me smiling by the end. And Ritter, charming fellow that he is, stole my heart rather easily. 4.5 STARS

Rosara and the Jungle King by Dorian Tsukioka

What a unique twist! Amazonian-type tribes in a jungle setting . . . brutal customs . . . a talking jaguar . . . Who'd have thought? And yet the core themes of Beauty and the Beast transplanted into this unfamiliar setting are immediately recognizable. Rosara is a courageous young lady, and Tupa is a huggable beast. (Sorry, but large predators often look so cuddly and wonderful--it's one reason I adore Aslan.)

I'm not sure what to think about the spiritual aspect of the karawara birds and whatnot. It did fit the tribal aspect of the story and provided for some cool twists, though. This tale is harsher than some of its companions, but it's fast pace kept me flying through the pages. 4.5 STARS

The Wulver's Rose by Hayden Wand

This historical novella was a sweet, satisfying end to the collection. It took a while to get into the Beauty and the Beast elements, but the beginning segment was necessary to set things up and get Bonnie Alleway into the right mindset for future story events. I found her guilt over her mistakes to be done in a real, relatable way.

And it's in Scotland, people! How dreamy is that? I adored the bits where the characters' accents were stronger. And the setting comes through beautifully throughout the story, making it feel like you're in the rolling hills yourself. Oh yes, and the non-romantic relationship between Bonnie and the beast was a nice flip too. 4 STARS

Overall . . .

I give the collection 4.5 stars! It's well-rounded and yet there's still a common feel threading through each story. I found it interesting to see which qualities the various beasts shared, such as at least one lovable quality hidden beneath some kind of monstrousness, whether it was a gruff nature or an ugly appearance. And all the beauty characters were spunky, kind, courageous, sacrificial, and able to see beauty underneath brokenness.

The themes of Beauty and the Beast were highlighted in different ways in each of the stories, which was really neat. The original fairy tale is so powerful. Sacrifice, love, seeing past appearances . . . all beautiful themes that have the potential to make a great impact--which I think this collection accomplished. I'll definitely be rereading it in the future!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Guest Post: Interview with Christine Smith

I'm super-de-duper excited to welcome a special friend to Adventure Awaits today: Christine Smith from Musings of an Elf! I've been blessed to know her for a couple years now, and she is such an encouraging ray of sunshine everywhere she goes. Enthusiastic, kind, perceptive, and an awesome writer to boot, she brightens her corner of the internet . . . and a whole lot of other people's corners, too. I've had the privilege of beta reading one of her books (in novella form and as a full-length novel), and she's returned the favor for me.

So it's really about time I feature her here on my blog, and what better topic to discuss than her writing life? Ladies and gentlemen, I now give Christine the floor!


Christine Smith is a twenty-something, homeschool graduate who still believes in fairies and has every intention of owning a pet dragon someday. One day she thought it'd be fun to write a book. Fifteen years and much caffeine later, she's still writing. Stories are her life—reading, writing, watching, whatever it may be. She writes primarily YA novels, and refuses to stop, no matter how old she gets. She loves tales grand and epic and whimsical and beautiful. But her greatest love is her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Her favorite adventure of all is letting Him sweep her off on His beautiful plan for her life. You can find Christine at her blog, where she muses on those many peculiar things writers think about.

1. How long have you been writing? Was there a certain point in your writing life when you decided to pursue it as a career? Can you share a little excerpt of your work-in-progress? (We've got to start off with a bang and cover all the basics!)

I've been writing for 15 years, since I was 9 years old. I always loved reading and just stories in general, but it never occurred to me to try writing my own until I discovered a contest to write a short story involving a horse in some way. It sounded fun, so I couldn't help but try it. Well, what was supposed to be a short story, turned into a full novel, and I completely abandoned the whole contest thing and instead happily became a novelist writer for fun.

The thought of publishing had always been in my mind from the very beginning. But I never really...did anything about it. I just dreamed and hoped. I called myself a writer, but I really only wrote occasionally and never once read books on writing or learned the craft too much. But then NaNoWriMo happened. I participated in my first NaNo in 2010 when I was 18, and, oh, what a magical experience. I lived and breathed my NaNo novel for 30 days, and managed to finish it soon after NaNo ended. Before, it took me yeeears to finish a novel. But this one I wrote completely in under 3 months. I was in awe that I was capable of such a thing. And LOVED it. NaNo taught me I could finish books, AND that writing was absolutely what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

After that NaNo, the thought of publishing wasn't a dream, but a tangible goal. I started following writing blogs, making writing friends, reading articles on the craft, writing more books and more and more. My books before this were cringe worthy, but slowly and surely I saw improvement. I still have a long ways to go, but now, yes, I definitely am pursuing it as a career. Writing is my world.

My current work-in-progress, Burning Thorns, is a Beauty and the Beast retelling and the book I hope to start pursuing publishing with first. Here's an excerpt:

“Palms still spread out in front of him, chest heaving, and blood pounding in her ears, Rose looked into his face. “Dragon?”

He blinked, over and over, face scrunched as if a war wrought inside his mind. Slowly, the untamed gleam in his eye faded. For the first time since he attacked, he looked at her. He saw her.

She took a shuddering breath. A thousand words she longed to say stormed in her throat, but only one broke free. “Please.”

His charred lips parted, trembled, like speaking pained him. His eyes roved over every inch of her face. They gazed deep, piercing, hungry. Searching for something. She could see him now. Not the dragon, but the man hidden underneath, so desperately trying to claw his way out.

2. What does a typical writing session look like for you?

I really don't do anything specific or special. I work best with goals, so if I set out to write, I usually give myself a word limit I have to write before I can stop. 500 words, 1k, 2k—something like that. Otherwise I'd just write like 100 words before quitting. If I don't have a goal, laziness always wins. But if I do have a goal, I obsess over it and have to make it. (I guess that's a good thing...?)

Once I sit down to write, I usually put on the playlist I made specifically for the book, open the story and outline if I have one (some books I pants, some books I plan, it just depends), and just write. I always have a beverage by me, whether it be water, coffee, tea, coke. Just something to keep me hydrated. I also have to be alone to write. If people are around, I get too distracted and can't immerse myself in my story. So pretty much always I write in my room by myself. Well, except for Navi—my poodle/writing buddy. ;) I tend to get most of my writing done during the afternoons. Though I think my best scenes come from when I write at night.

3. If you can manage to choose, what's your favorite part of the writing process—first draft, editing, etc.?

Does finishing a first draft count? Because that's my absolute favorite feeling. There's just nothing like realizing that story that's been roaming your brain for months or even years is finally on paper. All those hours and hours of work done. And, to me, the first draft is the most special. Because with any other draft, you're working with what's already there, no matter how much you rewrite it. But the first draft came about from an entirely blank slate. And isn't that a magical feeling? Making something utterly new from nothing.

So yes, finishing a first draft is without a doubt my favorite part of the writing process.

As far as editing vs. drafting. I think I've decided I enjoy them about equally. They both have their pros and cons, though I may lean toward first drafting a smidge.

4. Tell us about a pivotal moment in your writing journey.

Well, I guess I already did, talking about my first NaNoWriMo. So I'll tell you about my most recent turning point.

I just finished doing the first round of edits for Burning Thorns and having my amazing beta-readers (one of which is our very own Tracey here!) go through it. I've never before had a whole group of people read a full novel by me. It was an entirely new experience, and one of the best I've ever had. Ever since, I've had a huge support system, encouragement, so much great advice, and people helping me reach my goal of publishing. Publishing has always been a terrifying, overwhelming idea. But suddenly, with people supporting me and pushing me forward, it feels real and doable and exciting.

Moral of the story is: Find writing buddies! They're the best things in the world.

5. As a reader, do you prefer series or standalones? How about as a writer?

This is a tricky question. Once upon a time, I was alllll about them series. I hardly even touched standalones. I wanted a huge, epic plot and to be immersed in it for long amounts of time. BUT, back in the day, I didn't actually have a whole lot of reading material. *gasp* I know, craziness! Used to, if I found a series, I was ecstatic because it'd assure I'd have lots of books to read for a while.

Then I got older and discovered magical things like and thrift stores and library sales and made writing/reading buddies who gave me 3892348 recommendations of books to read.

Now, I'm drowning in books. Which is the best thing EVER. Obviously. also means I have a TBR stack the size of Mount Everest and not nearly enough time to read it all. And thus series are more daunting because it's a commitment, when I could just go through a bunch of standalones quickly and lessen my to-be-read stack a bit.

BUT, whenever I do take on a series, my long-time love for series returns and I wonder why I ever put off reading them. Disappearing inside one storyworld for a long time is my favorite. It's like I get to spend weeks in an exciting place with dear friends, and I love it.

SO. Loooong story short, I think I like series best because I do prefer much bigger, complex plots. But for some reason I procrastinate reading them.

Now then, as a writer. I pretty much only have experience writing series. *sheepish grin* Technically Burning Thorns was supposed to be a standalone, and still absolutely can be, but I also have a whole line of fairytale retellings set in the same world floating through my brain. Whenever I TRY to write something short, it becomes this monstrous, complicated series. It's a problem. >.> But, I kind of like it, too.

Basically, I just like long, epic plots—to read or write.

6. What's a struggle you're facing as a writer right now?

Self doubt has always been a huge one. But, again, my writing friends are working on stomping away that self doubt because they're the sweetest things in the world.

As far as actual writing problems, worldbuilding has never been a strong suit. I can come up with a thousand million plot ideas, but actual interesting worlds to put them in? Nada. My worldbuilding always ends up sooo boring and/or cliché. My brain just refuses to come up with fun, clever things. *glares at useless brain* So that's definitely something I want to strive to improve on.

Also, if you can't tell by my ridiculously long answers, I'm not always good at summing things up quickly. Eheheh.

7. What are you really excited about in your current writing life?

That the first round of edits for Burning Thorns is FINISHED. But even more than that, that I'm not scared of editing anymore and actually ENJOY it.

See, I've spent basically my entire life completely petrified of editing. Thus I write a dozen first drafts, but never...actually...edit anything. Which is like the biggest part of being a writer. Heh. But I finally took the plunge and edited Burning Thorns, and all my fears were for naught. Because I liked it. I LIKED EDITING. It was the most shocking and wonderful writing revelation I've ever had.

8. What are some pieces of writing advice that have stuck with you?

Oh goodness, so many! Basically everything I've ever read on the Go Teen Writers blog. When I started reading that blog was when my writing really started to improve. The Go Teen Writers book is also my go-to for all things writerly.

Let's see...

One day I stumbled upon this quote on Pinterest and it has never left my brain since.

“The bigger the issue, the smaller you write. Remember that. You don't write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid's burnt socks lying on the road. You pick the smallest manageable part of the big thing, and you work off the resonance.” -Richard Price

It's such a simple but powerful, story changing thought. One of my most favorite writing quotes, without a doubt.

9. If one of your existing characters had to show up in every single story you ever write, who would you choose and why?

Bwahahaha! I love this question! XD

It's really hard for me to not have all my characters in every single story. They become such a special piece of my heart, it's hard ever saying goodbye. Which is probably why I love series so much, now that I think of it!

But, shockingly, I actually know exactly who I'd choose. Cael.

Cael is a sometimes villain/sometimes antihero/sometimes who-even-knows-what from my Colors of a Dragon Scale series, a high fantasy, dragon rider story. Cael wasn't even supposed to exist. But one day he popped in my head and completely took over everything. As in, the whole plot ended up centering around him pretty much. Even though he didn't appear until the 5th book. O_O Only Cael can manage that, let me tell you.

He looks young (but looks can be deceiving *wink, wink*), has white hair (because, ya know, white hair is awesome (though there is a reason, I promise)), and somehow manages to be both the villain and best friend to one of my protagonists.

The thing about Cael is he's honestly NICE. Not your usual dark, brooding villain/antihero type. Sure, he causes sooo much trouble, but he's quite polite about it and does actually care about people. He's charismatic and fun and nice and complex and, honestly, the character I've had the most fun writing out of all my many, many beloved characters. (Sh, don't tell the others.) I actually feel comforted whenever he's around. Even though, ya know, HE'S TRYING TO DESTROY EVERYTHING. It makes no sense. >.> But that's Cael for you. He's a walking conundrum.

So yes, I'd have so much fun putting him in all my stories. Even though he'd steal the show in every single one and probably cause all sorts of horrible disasters...

10. One of the things you really excel at is characters—making them deep and relatable. You make me feel strongly in one way or another about each one! What's your secret?

*blushes and flails* TRACEY. The things you say! I don't know about all that. Goodness. I don't think I have a secret! o.o

Um... It may have something to do with my personality type...? I'm super in tune to people and just...get them. I understand people and what they feel and why they feel things or do something. I'm not book smart AT. ALL. But I guess you could say I'm people smart. It just comes naturally. Also it's one of my favorite subjects. I get absolutely obsessed with studying personalities and just PEOPLE. (Reading about the Myers-Briggs personality types is one of my favorite activities. #nerd) So I guess that could be it. I just understand people, and it shows through in my writing.

Thank you so much for having me over at Adventure Awaits, Tracey! This was a BLAST.


Thanks for such awesome answers, Christine! I loved getting this window into your writing life, and I'm sure all you questers did as well. (That quote in #9 . . . wow. Just wow.) Be sure to leave a comment here for Christine, because she's taking over the blog for the next while! She'll respond to comments (but who am I kidding, I won't be able to resist piping up too), and answer any questions you may have. So ask and comment away!

Also, on Monday the 19th, she'll be featuring me on Musings of an Elf, so stay tuned for that as well. It's going to be fun!

UPDATE: Here's the link to that interview in which I chat about my writing process, a few of my favorite characters, and what my dream guest list would be for a seriously epic, authorly tea party!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

100-for-100 Challenge Report (aka i've fallen and i can't get up)

Thursday, September 8th was the final day of the 100-for-100 Challenge hosted by Go Teen Writers. In case you're unfamiliar with that, it's a challenge to write at least 100 words daily for 100 days.

So. Since the beginning of the summer (June 1st), I have written every day.* Um, wow. And I don't mean wow, look at me, I'm such a fabulous superhuman writer. Because I'm not. (More on that in a minute.) I mean, wow, did I actually manage to follow through and beat the challenge? I honestly thought I would fail.

*Minus the twelve grace days I took. Participants were allowed one grace day a week, and one grace week throughout the duration of the challenge. I saved my grace week for family holidays, but we never took any, so I just kept writing.

In a way, the challenge seemed to drag on and on. Around the half to three-quarters mark, it felt like it would never end. But then I think I just fell into a daze of writing exhaustion and typed with numb fingers until, oh look, it's over. And in a way, it passed quite quickly, and it doesn't feel terribly long ago that I started out.

A hundred days is a long time to sustain something. So I thought I'd recap the challenge by sharing with y'all what I did to stay on track (in hopes of bolstering your own writing habits and figuring out how the pumpernickel I did it myself . . . because if I don't write it down, I won't internalize it). And I'll also share the pros and cons of writing daily. I sense lists coming up! Because lists are life, am I right, my questing quizzle-birds?*

*What those are, I have no idea. Somebody make up some facts and add them to Wikipedia, quick!

I like charts almost as much as lists, so before we get to those, here's my word counts for the challenge, if you're interested:

How I Survived

  • I set a timer on my phone to go off at 8 pm daily. I'm often busy earlier in the day, so if I hadn't written anything by the evening, I had that automatic reminder to get cracking. Most days when my alarm started tinkling sweet music, I had not written a single word. I wasn't always able to put in my daily words right when the alarm went off, either, but having it ring near the end of the day kept that goal hovering at the forefront of my mind the rest of the evening. Some nights, I sat in my PJ's on my bedroom floor to throw out a hundred words before bed. There were even a few nights where I'd already turned off the lights before I remembered, shoot, I haven't written yet! Let's just say there were a couple bleary-eyed, my-brain-is-dead writing sessions this summer.
  • That's basically it.
  • But a one-item list is lame, so let me think about this harder.
  • . . .
  • . . .
  • Little is okay. Only two days did I break into a four-digit wordcount. Only twice! And only twenty-two days saw me crest 500 words. To say it another way, the only way I could manage to keep this up all summer was to be okay with producing small bits at a time. I just didn't have the stamina to come up with a ton of story every day. But even a couple paragraphs moves the book forward. It's that forward movement, that momentum, that's important.
  • I let myself write junk. On busy days where my creative juices were low and the words just clunked together like tin cans in a dryer, I refused to freeze up. I wrote down those ugly tin can words because they were words. When I sensed the pacing doing weird things, or plot holes forming, I left myself notes and plowed onwards. To keep my momentum, I didn't have time or energy to go back and fix things. Besides, this is a first draft. It's not supposed to be pretty.
  • I slacked on research. You guys know this book (The Prophet's Key) involves globetrotting and consequently, research. I had some stuff done beforehand, but once the challenge began, I very quickly realized that my schedule didn't have time for in-depth research AND daily writing. So there are plenty of places where my description is nonexistent, where I made up placeholder names and directions, and where the timelines are simply not discussed because I have no idea how many days the characters have been traveling. It was about getting the story down, not about getting all my facts right. That's for editing.

The Pros of Writing Daily


  • Momentum. If you push yourself to add something to the story each day, you keep yourself from getting stuck. With that self-imposed challenge hanging over your head, you force yourself to push through, even if the result is messy. This makes it easier to pick up again the next day. The work is fresh in your mind, so moving your characters one step further doesn't take so much forethought.
  • Productivity. I wrote 32,768 words this summer. It's not as much as I expected, but it's probably more than I would've written had I not participated in the challenge.
  • You realize how valuable a few minutes are. It doesn't take long to write 100 words. I'm not the fastest writer, and I usually did it in five to ten minutes. Some days I wrote two or three times the minimum in that timeframe. You don't need three hours of free time to get writing done! Yes, those long stretches can be great, but writing is sustainable even when you're busy. A few minutes before you go to work or school, a bit of time snatched over a meal break, a quarter hour in the evening . . . It's doable.
  • You form a habit. Eventually, it became more natural to sit down to write every day. I don't think I'll keep writing each and every day like this (which I'll explain in the con list), but now I know I can write little bits more often.

The Cons of Writing Daily

"I've fallen and I can't get up." -Alfred from Larryboy and the Fib from Outer Space

  • Some of your work is going to be horrible. Like I mentioned earlier, some days I just wrote filler. I'm not real happy about that, but there it is. Yes, first drafts are messy, but at the same time, I feel like I just made more work for myself later on.
  • Burn-out. To be honest, I'm relieved the challenge is over, because I'm feeling kind of dry. I am so ready to take a break now, which college is forcing me to do. Having to come up with another piece of the story on a daily basis sometimes stretched my creativity and even my desire to be writing.
  • If you're not careful, you can get wrapped up in hitting your wordcount goal instead of enjoying the process. I'm a goals person to begin with, so it was easy to fall into the trap of focusing on numbers rather than immersing myself in the experience of creating something from nothing. Parts of this draft probably suffered for it. But at least it's written. You can't edit what's not there, right?
  • You may train yourself to write in spurts, so when it comes time for a long haul, you're not strong enough. It's like sprinting every day instead of training for a marathon. Since the challenge ended, I haven't yet tried to write for a couple hours at a time, but it may be a stretch when I do. I'm not sure if my brain will, after writing a couple hundred words, say, "Okay, I've done my due diligence, goodbye." (Though this might be remedied by writing several spurts in one day? And decreasing the intervals between spurts day by day?)

My conclusion is . . .

I'm glad I participated in the challenge! It feels good to have beaten it, and I'm over 30k words further in my story than I was at the start of summer. But am I going to keep writing every single day? Probably not. I've come to appreciate the value of breaks. A good balance for me personally would be writing four to five days a week, if I was a full-time author. As it is, present circumstances may allow only one or two days a week.

But I don't regret participating, and I may even join in again one day! It was a good motivator to keep plowing through a difficult, stubborn first draft.

Did any of you participate in 100-for-100? Have you ever? Would you ever consider it? What do you think about developing a daily writing habit?

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Subplots and Storylines - August 2016

August passed along much like the rest of this summer: ebbing and flowing with garden work/housework/real work and periods of rest . . . of ice cream and thunderstorms and hanging out doing nothing. I had almost a week off at the beginning of the month, which was great for catching up on things that had piled up (like my inbox. which is piling up again. such is life.) and enjoying a more relaxed pace of life.

My sisters and I had a "sleepover" together like we used to do, squeezing an extra mattress onto the floor, spending exclusive time together, giggling, and watching YouTube videos.

I went swimming twice (summer goals!) and came home the first time with a brilliant red sunburn. It took a week for the sting to fade, after which time I peeled like a banana. Ick. But worth it!

I filmed my first vlog and had a blast doing it. Once the technical difficulties were dealt with, I mean. You got to hear my Canadian accent (apparently I say 'tag' differently?), and we all got to feel like we were having a lovely conversation.

My cousin got married at an outdoor wedding with the most perfect weather.

I've been missing my car half this month, because it's in the shop getting a rusty fender replaced. So it's been back to the old vehicle shuffle lately, in order to get four people to work with one less car.

My sisters went to camp for a week and had a blast, thank you for asking, though the house was so quiet in their absence. To fill the time, we powered through a ton of gardening tasks. Apples. Salsa sauce. Beans. Corn.

There was also some spontaneous friend things--long walks and tea and playing Carcassone for the first time (which I lost). I discovered the yumminess that is Spice Dragon Red Chai. It has a cinnamon-y flavor and an awesome name, so it's a win-win.


I watched more of The Flash (season 1) and Once Upon a Time (season 4). Both are excellent, and both have had very exciting developments lately.

Mockingjay Part 2 - I watched it twice, first with my dad and later with my brother. So good! It's not a happy movie at all, but it provided a satisfying conclusion to the series, and it ripped my heart out once or twice along the way. If you've watched it, you'll know exactly which scenes I'm talking about! Also, I'm continually impressed with how Jennifer Lawrence brings Katniss to the screen. She manages to convey so much depth and inner conflict and pain. The first time I watched this final movie, the pacing of the ending felt a bit off to me. But the second go-round, it was perfect.

Kung Fu Panda 3 - Probably the best of the three so far. I was tired when I watched it, so in a way it was still kind of "meh," but the music was great and I do have to admit the movie improved over its predecessors. There were some funny moments too. (But seriously, how epic is THIS theme?)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Okay, confession: this was my very first Star Wars film. Ever. My brother had to pause it several times to explain things to me. I do know some Star Wars background--it's kind of hard not to pick up on a few things--but stuff about the different sides and who was fighting for whom took a little brain work. All that aside, I quite enjoyed it! Han Solo and Chewie are hilarious together, and I loved Rey and Finn. Rey in particular manages to pull off that overly-hyped "strong female protagonist" thing while still retaining a feminine side.


34 beta chapters - I finished Christine Smith's Burning Thorns (ahhhh, so gorgeous and heartrending!) and reached the halfway point of Emily's The City and the Trees (poetic writing and a main character who shares part of a brain with me!).

The Realms Thereunder // Ross Lawhead
I was excited to read this because a) I own the sequel and it looks good, and b) the author is Stephen R. Lawhead's son. Unfortunately, the book didn't deliver quite what I was expecting. Don't get me wrong, the concept was awesome--two young adults who discovered an underground kingdom as children, and are now dealing with life, either fighting monsters or trying to forget that ever happened. I just struggled to connect to the story on an emotional level, which kind of detracted from the plot.

There are two main storylines going on: Daniel and Freya as children in the underground city called Nidergeard, and Daniel and Freya as adults. A subplot deals with a mysterious guy tracking monsters and such in rural Scotland. I liked the grown up side (some elements reminded me of my own WIP), but then Freya's parts grew dry and confusing. It was for a good reason, I found out later on, but while it was happening I skimmed a bit. Daniel's parts were cool as he fell into Elfland and learned the peculiar rules of a magical forest . . . but then he randomly spends days and days with this coal-maker and not much happens until Daniel makes another move toward his goal of getting back home.

I expected to love the childhood half of the story because, come on, discovering another world beneath our own? Monsters? A quest? Unfortunately, I felt somewhat distanced from the characters, so it fell a little flat and seemed to wander.

The Scotland subplot was great, and I think it'll feature more in book 2. The appearance of a dragon made me happy!

Overall, I'm just not sure what to think of this book. I really like the concept, but it was executed in a way that didn't click with me. It could very well be a "it's not me, it's you" kind of thing. 3 1/2 stars? I'll definitely still read the sequel.

The Runaway King // Jennifer A. Nielsen
It's been a year since I read the first book, so it took me several chapters to remember things and get re-immersed in the events of the story, but once I did, this was a really fun book. Not quite as unpredictable as the first book (which was one of The False Prince's greatest strengths), but still twisty and cool. I really can't say much about the plot because that would spoil the first novel, but there are pirates involved. And moral dilemmas. And cleverness. By the end, I was very much rooting for the main character! Five stars.

Peter Pan // J.M. Barrie
Such a delightful little book! I wish I had read it during my childhood, so that I would have lots of fond memories attached to it. Just as whimsical and funny and heartfelt as I expected, this book told a great story on the surface, but also had some profound observations on childhood to share.

When my sisters asked who my favorite character was, and if it changed at all during the course of the book, my answer was "Peter Pan" the whole time. He's so charming and fickle and full of himself! He makes things up, he forgets everything, he's vicious, he's clever, and deep down he really does love Wendy and the Lost Boys (of which Tootles is my favorite).

And the writing style was such fun to read. It reminded me so much of my own childhood make-believe. Five stars!

Started reading Five Enchanted Roses
I've read the first four novellas so far, and have just started the fifth. I'm tempted to talk about all the stories now, but I'll wait for the next S&S post. Actually, I just may post a book review sometime this month . . . For now, I'll say that this is a beautiful collection!


I did session 10 of The Creative Way. This one was on device, which covered setting, storyworld, and genre all at once, describing it as the candy of the story. Very entertaining and informative. I also re-listened to session 1 with my mom and brother whilst cutting up peppers for salsa. It was cool to hear the intro again now that I'm partway through the course.

As for actual writing, my word count was down a bit this month: 8,025 words added to The Prophet's Key. The end of the 100 for 100 challenge looms near, and I'm feeling a tad burnt out, to be honest. The last full week of August was my lowest weekly word count yet for this summer. I'm not too worried about that. Once the challenge is over and I'm in college, I'll be writing less, which may mean that when I do write, I'll be more inspired. Hopefully. Whatever the case, a break will be good. And sometimes you just have to keep marching on even when the words are bland. (Which is crazy because I'm currently writing an epic chase scene.)

Random writing observation . . . I think I've fooled myself about my writing style. In The Brightest Thread, I let myself be lyrical and imaginative--very fairytale-esque. But when I returned to my Journeys books, I felt that the style of that series was less pretty, more functional. And so as I've been drafting TPK, I haven't done much in the way of imaginative description, and I think that may be one reason I've been having a harder time with this draft. I've been restricting myself.

Looking back on book 1, The Prophet's Quest, I recently realized that I actually did write it with color and verve. Not in the same way as TBT, and not to the same extent, but it was still there. So perhaps I need to unlock that side of myself next time I sit down to work on TPK.

*random rabbit trail is over*

Oh yes, and I did some serious thinking over the last month or so in regards to publishing plans!

Farewell to August, bring on September!

It's funny to think of August as the calm before the storm of college, because it certainly was busy in its own right. But September promises to be a whole new flavor of busy. I'm looking forward to the change of pace, to the beginning of a year of personal growth and new opportunities. Next time you hear from me, I'll have three college days under my belt! I may re-evaluate my blogging schedule this month, depending on how it goes, but I do hope to keep posting here every week.

How was your August? Isn't it sad that summer is coming to a close? Are you headed back to school of some sort? Any 100-for-100 writers out there--how goes the war? Pull up a log and sit 'round the fire, folks. Pass around the hot dogs and roasting sticks. (Having a bonfire seems like an end-of-summer thing to do, right? Now I'm making myself hungry . . .)