Saturday, July 29, 2017

Fantasy in My Veins (#SilmAwards2017)

Well, my friends, the 2017 SilmAwards have come to a glorious and bittersweet end. If you missed any of the presentations, I finally got around to putting a list at the end of my own presentation post, which you can find HERE. Thanks for joining us in this epic event!

Now, to wind it all down on the very birthday of Lord of the Rings, we're throwing a party to celebrate Tolkien and all things fantasy! Feel free to join in with your own blog post or update on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/whatever, using #SilmAwards2017. The more the merrier, of course. (And one side of me is chuffed as chips that this coincides with Realm Makers--how appropriate!)

Last year I presented a small smorgasbord of Lord of the Rings stuff--quotes, pictures, musings on what the books and movies and soundtracks mean to me, etc. Today I wish to broaden my view with a reflection on my reading history, and fantasy as a genre.

* * *
picture via Pinterest, graphics my own

Fantasy is my literary homeland.

See, I grew up in a family that treasured stories. My parents read to me copiously as a child. I vividly remember afternoons snuggled up next to my mom with a picture book, prodding her awake and asking her to reread pages when she grew sleepy and began slurring the words I'd memorized . . . evenings gathered around the kitchen table to eat night snack with my siblings while my father read a storybook of our choice . . . trips to the library every three weeks, during which my family of six would haul out 60-70 books at a time . . . lonely bus rides during my earliest elementary school years (prior to homeschooling) when I would bury my nose in a book and ignore the noisy teenagers in the back seats . . . I even recall bedtimes as a teenager, when my dad read a chapter of a novel to me every night just for old time's sake.

I remember learning to read. I remember my parents telling me that books were like picture windows. When one learns how to read, one can go through those windows into another place.

I remember grade one, when a beloved teacher taught me the bare bones of crafting a story: beginning, middle, and end. She unlocked the first of many doors into a world of making my own magic.

I was hooked.

The moment I mastered beginner readers with stories like "The cat sat on the mat," I reached for bigger books with longer sentences. From there I jumped to novels like Anne of Green Gables, which was marvellously long and dense for such a young mind, and full of words I didn't yet understand. As I outgrew animal stories about puppies and horses, I discovered the mystery genre. The Boxcar Children, Jigsaw Jones, Nancy Drew, and Mandy Shaw books held me in suspense and piqued my fascination with the unknown, with secrets to be discovered and trails to be followed.

But the moment a young classmate recommended The Chronicles of Narnia to me was the moment that changed the course of my reading years. I distinctly remember climbing to the second floor of my school library and hunting down the name C.S. Lewis. That day I went home with a copy of The Magician's Nephew, and I was utterly enchanted.

I was rather young at the time, perhaps eight years old. My parents were wise enough to put the rest of the series, which was a wee bit over my head, on hold for when I turned ten. Yet another clear memory: the day they put a massive tome containing all seven Narnia books in my hands.

There was no looking back. I had found a world that entranced me, inspired me, kept me captive and set me free all at once. The idea that another world might be as close as the next wardrobe nestled somewhere deep inside my heart. Here was a genre that deepened my understanding of reality by stretching my vision into realms beyond my own. Here was a genre that strengthened my hands with the courage of a knight and filled my heart with the compassion of a hero. A genre that allowed me to soar on dragon's wings.

Thereafter followed several years of testing my mother's patience every single time we visited the library. I very quickly exhausted their supply of age-appropriate fantasy, plagued my mother with cries of "I have nothing to read!" and subsequently turned down every thoughtful suggestion she made that fell outside the realm of my beloved fantasy. (God bless Mom.) She eventually managed to help me stretch my horizons, and I found enjoyment in a collection of other genres as well.

Older horse stories took me to Thoroughbred races and equestrian shows. Frank Peretti took me to wild jungles with the Cooper family. Melody Carlson immersed me in the elitist ranks of drama-loving high school girls. Countless other authors introduced me to all sorts of wonderful things.

But fantasy remained my One True Love. From the beginning of my teenage years, Bryan Davis and Wayne Thomas Batson pulled me into worlds of dragons, slayers, quests, and swords. More recently, authors like Anne Elisabeth Stengl have painted heart-rending images in my mind's eye of love and loss and beauty all wrapped up in another realm. And so many other authors in between have done the same.

I'm thankful for all the genres I've read, no doubt. But fantasy is where I feel most at home. Fantasy is often where I experience the greatest joys and deepest sorrows as a reader. It's where my imagination takes flight. And most importantly, it's where I see facets of the real Author's character the clearest.

pictured above: The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis // Liberator, Bryan Davis //
The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien // Halt's Peril, John Flanagan // The Door Within,
Wayne Thomas Batson // Heartless, Anne Elisabeth Stengl // The Bones of Makaidos,
Bryan Davis // White, Ted Dekker // The Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien //
Prophet, R.J. Larson // Raven's Ladder, Jeffrey Overstreet

In Aslan of The Chronicles of Narnia, I witness His sacrificial love.

In King Eliam of The Door Within, I see His blinding glory.

In the actions of Billy, Bonnie, Professor Hamilton, Sapphira, and their friends from the world of Dragons in Our Midst, I see what great warriors of the faith are capable of doing.

In the Prince of Farthestshore of Tales of Goldstone Wood, I see my Savior wooing me to His side, and in the song of the wood thrush I hear Him calling me to His path.

In the waters of Elyon from the Circle quartet, I find transformative joy.

In the Keeper of the Auralia Thread, I sense His mystery.

In the courage of hobbits, the strength of men, the wisdom of elves, and the determination of dwarves in Lord of the Rings, I see treasure hidden in jars of clay. I see what happens to the small and insignificant when committed to the hands of One much greater.

I escape into fantasy not to avoid the trials of this life here on earth, but to find wells of inspiration that bolster my faith to face them.

And that, my friends, is why I call fantasy my homeland. These books and more echo the cry of my heart for something beyond this world, for something greater than myself, for wonders hidden beneath what my eyes can see--and to all those desires, I hear my Father answering yes, yes, yes.

Yes, the unseen is more real than the seen. Yes, I AM greater than you yet know. Yes, I have hidden jewels of wonder in the crevices of your days, and the final treasure trove awaits beyond the veil of this life. Yes, I am here. Yes, I am present. Yes, I care. Yes, I am the One who compels you to a quest of your own, the One who charts your best path, the One who infuses your weary limbs with strength, the One who promises a crown to all those who stay the course.

Perhaps I stray too close to the ditch of exaggeration, but I think not. God knows what best speaks to our hearts, and I think He finds pleasure in my delight over the fictional worlds I travel. Whatever mouthpiece will speak the loudest, the clearest, is different from person to person. But as for me, the far-flung reach of fantasy is one of the greatest calls I hear.

It's a call I have listened to for years, and it is one I shall return to again and again for years to come. For me, fantasy is woven into the song of my Father.

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]

EDIT: For your convenience, here are the links to the award presentations! (Will be updated as they are posted.)

Most Magnificent Dragon
Most Loyal Friend
Most Nefarious Villain

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!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Subplots and Storylines - June 2017

What ho, questing June bugs! I'm pretty sure June was struck by lightning when the particle accelerator exploded, because it went by in a flash.*

*Ahem. Lame reference to The Flash show. I couldn't resist. Also I have no idea why you are June bugs today. I had coffee this morning, so I guess you have my cup of joe to thank for the offbeat humor.

Happy Canada 150, by the way, to all my fellow Canadians!
(graphic made by little sis, lostfairy)

It's crazy! We just flipped the calendar page yesterday, didn't we? And now we have to flip it again? I'm constantly amazed at just how much can transpire in just thirty days.

The month started off with Rooglewood Press announcing their fourth and final fairy tale retelling contest: Five Poisoned Apples! I have yet to develop even a sliver of an idea, but I would love to enter later on this year. That cover is drop dead gorgeous. A few friends of mine are starting to work on some seriously incredible entries too, from what I've heard.

Some of my college classmates and I spoke at an elementary school chapel, even though college is over by now. It was supposed to be our teacher's thing, but we students had come up with the lesson before grad, so some of us decided to participate anyway, even though we weren't required to be there. Lots of fun! The best part was an object lesson involving blenders.

Afterwards, I spent the day catching up with a dear friend. Pizza in the park, rants about the trials of customer service, smoothies, and a heart to heart = my kind of outing.

I somehow managed to lose my voice, but just for a day. A stupid cold lingered all during the month of May, but then it came back over a weekend this June--a weekend I was working, a weekend the store had a big sale . . . so that means trying to talk to lots of customers. The old folks couldn't hear me, one guy asked if my voice always sounded like that or did I have a cold, and several ladies gave me tips to get rid of it (tea, sleep, a cold drink--I think she meant alcohol??--vitamins, honey, etc.). All in all it was quite amusing, although manning the till was not a good idea.

Later in the month we threw a belated party for my mom's birthday! I haven't planned or hosted a party in ages, but it ended up a success anyway, and we had the perfect weather for eating outdoors.

Father's Day also happened--rather low key this year, but still very good.

This week I took my middle sister to the city for a girls day out. We spent over an hour in a bookstore (I bought The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall and Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand--thank you for the recs, my Goodreads friends! I can't wait to read these summery slices of goodness) . . . went for pizza . . . explored walking trails in the park because when it smells like rain, it's the best time for adventures . . . and ended off the day with London fogs and macarons in a cutesy little tea shop while it began pouring outside. A lovely time!

And last but not least, I finally sent in my application for the college I want to go to this fall.

Storylines on the Screen

Once Upon a Time - parts of seasons 2, 3, and 5
Still watching it in three different groups: season 2 with all three siblings, season 3 with my parents and sisters, and season 5 with just my sisters. (I'm reminded of how Neverland is one of the best parts of the show EVER. The character conflict is spot on, and Peter Pan is fantastic.)

Rogue One
My second-ever Star Wars movie--go me! I knew in advance that this would be a feelsy movie. Let's just say it lived up to those expectations, and maybe even surpassed them. There goes my heart in a million pieces on the floor, guys. Jyn, Cassian, and Bodhi were my favorite characters, so if you've seen it, you know why I had to sweep up the pieces! And now I can't decide whether I like Rogue One or The Force Awakens best.

Beauty and the Beast (2017)
I rewatched it with my whole family. It didn't make me cry this time, but it was still gorgeous. For more thoughts, visit Subplots and Storylines - April 2017.

Storylines on the Page

The Shadow Throne // Jennifer A. Nielsen
Within fifty pages, I was scared for every single character on the good side. I loved how this book--and the whole Ascendance Trilogy--managed to be witty, intense, and still have a heart. As always, Jaron is full of sass and clever plans. At one point, when asked what he has up his sleeve, he replies, "Catastrophic levels of bad behavior." And that about sums it up.

Okay, but before I move on, it bears mentioning that while I did predict the twist at the end, I still loved this final instalment! If you're looking for a romping, sarcastic fantasy adventure with a handful of great plot twists, look no further.

The Reluctant Godfather // Allison Tebo
What a delightful, hilarious take on the Cinderella story! Check out my review for more thoughts.

The Raven King // Maggie Stiefvater

(Apparently all the books I read this month have matching titles!)

I've had difficulty reviewing all four books in the Raven Cycle, but this one was the hardest. In The Raven King, there's a sharp dichotomy between the magical prose and subtle character development (which I adore), and the frequent swearing, elements of the occult, and now homosexuality (which I cannot endorse).

Without spoiling who or what, I'll just say that one of my favorite characters was ruined by the gay relationship added to the book. It was saddening.

The ending was also kind of anticlimactic after all the buildup, but in a way it was supposed to fall a little flat. And yet because of that, it didn't fall flat enough for a long enough time, because by the very end it felt like pretty much everything was solved. The sacrifices made didn't have the lasting consequences I expected. Certain threads weren't wrapped up satisfactorily, either.

But the things I did like are Blue's very relatable longings/frustrations, her developing relationship with Gansey, Gansey's backstory, more explanations for magical things, and the way that Maggie Stiefvater made me feel things without outright telling me what to feel. Her prose, while not quite to the level of the previous three books, is downright amazing. Plus the cover is gorgeous.

In conclusion . . . I don't really have a conclusion. This book left me feeling something, left me thinking about it long after I closed the cover, which is the mark of an impactful book. Now if only I could figure out just what kind of impact it had.

(for a few more thoughts, including some spoilers, check out my Goodreads review)

Storylines on My Own Pages

This was the month I planned to add 50,000 words to The Brightest Thread! To keep myself on track, I logged my progress both in words and in time spent writing. This month, I spent over 43 hours on TBT and added 29,238 words to the manuscript. This brings it up to 62k . . . not quite what I'd aimed for, but it was still the best writing month I've had this year!

I continued going through TBT from start to finish, basically retyping a mix of the very first novella draft and the polished novella draft, while adding in new stuff along the way. Buuuut by the time I reached the end, the story was still only 55k long. So I took half a week to read over what I had so far and gain a wider perspective. And then I jumped right back in, working on some spot cleaning sort of editing here and there, incorporating a few small subplots, etc. That's where I'm at right now.

I originally wanted to get this novel up to an 80-90k length, but considering how I feel like I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel for ideas at the moment--and considering the fast approaching deadline called Realm Makers--I'm aiming for 70k.

It seems a bit low for the genre, but I've been scouring lists of typical industry standard wordcounts. YA, it seems, ranges anywhere from 55-80k, though some lists mention the genre is tending to run longer these days. Fantasy in general ranges from 90-120k. My questions is: what about YA fantasy??? A 70,000-word novel ends up under 300 pages, if I estimated that correctly. And I can't remember the last time I picked up a fantasy novel that small. However, I think that for the sake of having something to pitch at the conference, a 70k novel isn't bad, and if an agent shows interest but suggests lengthening the book, that can be done at a later date.

(For all of you nonwriters, I'm sorry for the boring stats and wordcounts. Such is the writer life.) (I also apologize for taking longer to reply to comments this month. When I'm focused on something, I'm obsessively focused.)

Anyway, it's been a very intense month of patchwork writing/editing, and I really, really hope that the result turns out well. It would be nice if I had time to send the story to beta readers before I leave for the conference, but that will have to wait until afterward. In the meantime, my July writing plans are to:

  • write those last 8,000 words
  • do a quick round of editing
  • prepare a pitch (along with written material such as a query letter to hand out)

Farewell to June and hello to July

The first three weeks of July will be full of TBT work and conference prep, and then at last I shall fly to Nevada for Realm Makers!

And here on the blog, I'll be posting mostly on Mondays instead of Saturdays, because a certain special thing is going on in July, and you all get to be a big part of it!

That's right, it's the second annual Silmarillion Awards!

I would explain all the rules here, but this post is getting long enough. Come back on July 3rd, however, and the fun will begin! In the meantime, start thinking of all your favorite fantasy characters!

How was your June? Is it just me, or is summer just flashing by? (Oops, another Flash pun. After finishing the second season last month, I must be suffering withdrawal.) How many of you will I see at Realm Makers? How many of you are pumped for the Silmarillion Awards?!