Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Bibliophile Sweater Tag

GUYS. I haven't done a tag in an eon or three, and while I'm pretty sure I've got a few stockpiled somewhere, the lovely Mary Horton @ Sunshine and Scribblings just created a tag of her own . . . and tagged me with it! It's all about books and sweaters, which are two of my favorite things. So I had to jump in on it now, while it's still sweater weather!*
*Yes, Canada is preparing for another six months of sweater weather. Don't laugh.

Rules:

  • Give the person who tagged you a never-ending supply of cookies (or just thank them - either works) [Mary, your lifetime supply of gingersnaps is in the mail!]
  • Answer all the questions and use the blog graphic for this tag somewhere in your post
  • Pass along the tag to at least five other people [Read on till the end, my curious questers.]
  • Wear a sweater (okay, this is optional...but why wouldn't you want to??) [I would love to wear a sweater, but today was unseasonably warm--it's a t-shirt for me!]
Before we get going, two teensy tiny announcements:
  1. I'm on Instagram! I'm painfully new at it, but I've been participating in #drachtober over there, which is super fun, and I'd love for you to pop by and say hello. Also my social media icons are now conveniently on the blog's sidebar for your clicking convenience.
  2. I've got an email address! Okay, yes, I've always had an email address (I don't live under that big of a rock), but now I have one I'm sharing publicly. So if you have thoughts about the existence of ladybugs or questions about how to tame the fiery rage of the nearest bookdragon, you can shoot me an email at traceydyckauthor[at]gmail.com.
All right, now let's hop right to it, shall we?

lovely graphic by the lovely Mary Horton

Fuzzy sweater (a book that is the epitome of comfort)


The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis // Yes, this counts, because my copy is the whole series in one volume! I reread it for the first time in forever about a year and a half ago, and I can't tell you how many times I've missed Narnia since then. The familiar adventures, the delightful prose, the deep-yet-simple themes, all the nostalgia . . . I seriously need more time so I can reread more often.

Striped sweater (book which you devoured every line of)


Reaper Reborn by Bryan Davis // I HAVE TO PICK JUST ONE? I feel like I'm betraying so many other riveting reads. Why do you do this to me? But okay. Fine. I'll play along and go with what I'm currently reading. It is intense. Bad stuff is happening, people, and I'm not sure how Phoenix and his mates are going to fix everything in the last 50% of the book. I am definitely devouring every line!

Ugly Christmas sweater (book with a weird cover)

The Dark City by Catherine Fisher // I had to search through my Goodreads list for a while to find this. (Apparently I read a lot of attractive books.) That face/mask thingy is just . . . creepy. And I honestly remember next to nothing about this book. Either it was rather bland, or so terrible I blocked it out of my memory.


Cashmere sweater (most expensive book you've bought)


The Royal Ranger by John Flanagan // I don't actually know which is the most expensive book I've bought. #bookdragonfail But this is one of those monstrously priced hardcovers--well, fine, it was $20. So not awful. But not cheap either. BUT PRICE ASIDE, I'm picking this one because I don't talk about the Ranger's Apprentice series enough around here, considering how much I love it! I know some people complain that this 12th book ruined the series ending, but I actually enjoyed seeing Will all grown up and training a new Ranger. Bittersweet.

Hoodie (favorite classic book)

sadly, I don't own it. but I would love
this version!

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie // Since I already picked Chronicles of Narnia for the Fuzzy Sweater, I'll pick one of the next best classics: Peter Pan. I was supremely late to that party, seeing as I read it for the first time last year. But I'm hooked! (Ha. Terrible pun intended.) It's so whimsical and arbitrary in a childlike way, and I adore it.

Cardigan (book that you bought on impulse)


Siren's Song by Mary Weber // I promise you I was shopping for someone else at the bookstore. Yet somehow I walked out with a book for myself? How did that happen? I'm not sure if this was a true impulse buy, because I've been meaning to buy it ever since finishing Storm Siren earlier this year. But obviously I bought this book so fast, I didn't realize this is BOOK 3. AND I DON'T YET OWN BOOK 2. OOPS.

Turtleneck sweater (book from your childhood)


The Black and White Rainbow by John Trent // I'm going waaaay back to my early childhood here. This was one of my absolute favorite picture books, a story about MooseBerry Mouse and his friends trying to restore color to their black and white world. (I specifically remember my parents giving Monty the Mole a funny voice when he talked with his mouth full.) And the illustrations--my word, they are gorgeous.

Homemade knitted sweater (book that is Indie-published)


Prodigy Prince by Natasha Sapienza // My reading diet is a little sparse in this category, unfortunately! But I've got one very intriguing indie book waiting for me right now. It's high fantasy and involves a banished villain, six gifted youths, and a second-in-line prince. Sounds like my cup of tea!

V-neck sweater (book that did not meet your expectations)


The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead // I thought I would love this one--goodness, I wanted to love it--but unfortunately, the great cover and the fact that Ross Lawhead is Stephen R. Lawhead's son didn't translate to a five star book for me. The concept was pretty cool, though, and I will eventually read the sequel. It's just not . . . on the top of my TBR pile right now.

Argyle sweater (book with a unique format)


Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke // It contains copious footnotes. Does that count? It's also a faint-inducing one thousand pages or so--that definitely counts, right?! But despite its density, I loved it to pieces. Like I mentioned, I don't do enough rereading, but this is absolutely going to be something I return to one day. I keep eyeing it on my shelf, promising, "One day . . . one day."

Polka dot sweater (a book with well-rounded characters)


The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater // Again, there are so many books I could highlight here! But this was one of the first to come to mind. Despite my quibbles with the Raven Cycle, the deft characterization is my favorite part. Every gesture, every description, is artfully nuanced and painfully real. I'm kind of in love with Steifvater's prose, especially as it relates to characters.

Well, that was super cozy and fun, and now I want to go read allll the things! Thanks again, Mary! You are a tag genius. And now I get to pass that genius along to five other bloggers.


(because all my siblings are bibliophiles and bloggers too!)
Emily @ Stranger Worlds (formerly known as Ink, Inc.)
+ anyone who's wearing a sweater and wants to grab this tag!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Book Review: Five Magic Spindles

Goodreads // Amazon


When Rooglewood Press published a collection of Cinderella retellings a few years ago, Five Glass Slippers, I snatched it up. To my delight, the creative spins on a tale that's been told hundreds of times blew me away.


And when the next collection of Beauty and the Beast retellings, Five Enchanted Roses, came out, I was even more delighted! It was clear that all these writers deserved to win the contests Rooglewood was hosting; these were talented, creative individuals, all with their own distinctive approach.


Well, I'm happy to report that the third collection, Five Magic Spindles, is just as wonderful as its predecessors! In fact, it might be the most unique set of retellings yet.




The Man on the Buckskin Horse // Rachel Kovaciny


When I first heard that one of the stories was a Western, I was . . . well, skeptical. I don't read Western books or watch Western movies all that often. I'm a fantasy nerd at heart!


But within the first chapter, Rachel Kovaciny had me hooked with her dry humor and the no-nonsense midwife Emma Thornberry. I didn't think it was possible to plunk Sleeping Beauty into a log cabin, toss in a farmer and a gunslinger, and come out with anything remotely like the original fairy tale. But she did it!

"The closer I get to fifty, the rarer sensible folks become."


Favorite Things:
  • Emma. She's practical and blunt and hilarious. Why don't we have more books from middle-aged perspectives?
  • Snark!
  • Palmer, the swoon-worthy gunman, has a deep backstory packed into just a few pages.
  • I felt like all the characters had a history--their own stories, their relationships with each other, everything.
  • It was such fun picking out all the Sleeping Beauty elements in this wildly different setting. I won't spoil anything for you, but it was definitely creative!
  • The heartwarming ending.


Not-so-favorite Things:
  • I must have missed a detail, because I thought Palmer was about 20 years older than he actually was, right up until the end. Oops.


I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and flew right through it. 4.5 stars!




Guardian of Our Beauty // Kathryn McConaughy



I remember when Anne Elisabeth Stengl (the lovely author who runs Rooglewood) shared a collection of first lines from a bunch of writers entering the Five Magic Spindles contests. And I still remember how Kathryn McConaughy's first line about a king drowning in daughters jumped out at me. That same amusing, old fairy tale style is all over her story!


This is possibly the most exotic tale of the collection. Despite being written in a slightly more distant manner, I was fully immersed in the Middle Eastern-inspired setting and its almost mythological flavor.


Palli did not know how she could save anyone. But if all she had to was sleep--well, she could do that! She slept every night. When her other small sisters wondered why Palli went so willingly to bed, Palli only blinked at them and said, "It is good practice."


Favorite Things:
  • Palli, the Sleeping Beauty character, was so sweet and altruistic.
  • All the cool creatures! They were what gave the story a mythical slant. At first, they seemed random, but I should've known better--they all became important later on.
  • The setting. It felt like there was a whole world to explore.
  • Political happenings that were realistic, not ideal, but still not dry at all.
  • Neriya, the prince: oh my goodness, he's a sweetheart too! So brave and endearing.
  • The God Who Answers. I shan't say more. It's best to read it for yourself.


Not-so-favorite Things:
  • At times, like when I thought the inclusion of the creatures was random, it felt like the story meandered. But in the end, it did tie together, so this isn't completely a negative!


This was another pleasant surprise! A solid 4 stars.




The Ghost of Briardale // Grace Mullins



I think I was most excited by this middle story when I first read the blurb. I mean, it takes place in an insane asylum! Forgive me, but I have an odd fascination with both crazy characters--both the creepy psychopathic kind and the lovable/gruff/off the rocker kind.


And while there wasn't a lot of those kinds of craziness going on, the delightfully convoluted plot was more than enough to keep me engaged! There's a ghost, a dwarf who can't turn invisible, a miniature prince turned human-sized, a Slavering Swamp Beast, and buckets of enchantment. There's gloomy dungeons, locked towers, and a courtyard full of statues. Doesn't that sound fun?


Never before in his life had Franz wished this much to throttle anyone, but there were important reasons why he couldn't. First, she was a girl, and he would never hit a girl even if she were as annoying as this translucent green creature.

The second reason was that he was helplessly strapped, so, even if she'd been some sort of brute, the only harmful thing he could do was glare.


Favorite Things
  • Franz. Dear, dear Franz! He's exactly the kind of unlikely hero that I love to cheer for! As a banker's clerk wrongly committed to the asylum, he tries so very hard to be the True Hero everyone is looking for. He's not strong enough to slay a dragon, he's never saved anyone, and the only thing he has going for him is a big heart.
  • While Franz was the kind of hero I love to cheer for, Mara was the kind of antagonist I love to hate.
  • Roselee, the green ghost, was adorable.
  • The fairies were trapped in the forms of a squirrel, a chicken, and a lizard. (Yep. You read that right.)
  • Lots of banter.
  • All the magic! It was so layered and complex, with each chapter revealing more and more of the enchantment. I was kept guessing the whole time.
  • A certain subplot I won't name was really sweet.
  • A satisfying ending.


Not-so-favorite Things
  • Not much to say here, except for the very minor disappointment of not including crazy people in the way I expected.


All in all, this was a complete pleasure to read. Props to Grace Mullins for her twisty plot and lovable characters! 5 stars!




Spindle Cursed // Michelle Pennington



Before I knew that all these stories were actually amazing, the presence of a good ol' high fantasy amongst the less-traditional genres was a relief. Spindle Cursed guaranteed at least one story I'd love. And, though all the other stories proved to be far better than I foresaw, I was right about this one--I did love it! It follows the original tale a bit more closely than all the others, but still stands apart in its fleshed-out storyworld and vibrant characters.


The story primarily follows Prince Edmond, a rather dashing, serious, down-to-earth character who completely stole my heart. But all the others were fantastic too! Aaaand this is the only story to include an honest-to-goodness dragon. Instant brownie points right there.


"Martin, I am a fool," Edmond called.

Reining in his horse, Martin turned his craggy face to look back in surprise. As Edmond drew even with him, Martin inquired, "Would Your Highness wish me to agree with you or disagree?"


Favorite Things:
  • DRAGON.
  • Classic fantasy settings that popped off the page rather than settle into dusty clich├ęs.
  • Lona, the fairy who looks after the sleeping princess, lives alone in the thorn-riddled castle and has gone utterly mad. It's wonderful.
  • The rapport between Edmond and Martin reminded me of Sage and Mott from The False Prince at times.
  • Lady Rhoswen is another one of those love-to-hate-them villains!
  • A neat twist on the sleeping curse.
  • Arabella was noble and good-hearted and all around a likeable princess.
  • I absolutely loved how Michelle Pennington dealt with the romance. There was still the magical kiss, but it required a genuine relationship to develop first. It was done really well!


Not-so-favorite Things:
  • At times, some of the action scenes seemed to take a step outside the character's head and became less immersive.


This was a fantastic addition to the collection! It kept a more traditional fairy tale slant, which I loved. 4.5 stars.




Out of the Tomb // Ashley Stangl



Sci-fi is something I haven't read much of either (although there's more of it in my reading diet than there is Westerns), so I wasn't completely sure what to expect. I needn't have worried, because Out of the Tomb was superb! Ashley Stangl thrust me right into a teeming new world full of flora, fauna, and gadgetry I'd never heard of, yet made me feel right at home.


But it was the raw, relatable characters that won me over completely. Tanza, though an alien girl, was a rough-around-the-edges protagonist who wormed her way right into my heart. And her tale flipped Sleeping Beauty upside down, because this time, it's a prince who gets woken!


She turned her back on the spindle and rifled through the boxes of antique medical tools, falling into a quiet rhythm as she searched for anything of value. Most people found tombs eerie, but Tanza luxuriated in the peace.

A man's voice, deep and smooth, flowed through the silence. "I beg your pardon, but are you robbing me?"


Favorite Things:
  • Tanza is bacon-flipping SMART. She robs high-tech tombs for a living and definitely knows how to look after herself.
  • Prince Auren is absolutely adorable. So confused and old-fashioned and struggling to understand the ways of a world one hundred years ahead of him.
  • The concept of virtue names was genius, and it made me love Auren and Tanza even more. I won't explain it, because that's something else you need to read for yourself!
  • Maybe it was just the genre, but somehow I got a few Lunar Chronicles vibes . . .
  • There's so much culture, history, and worldbuilding jam-packed into this novella, and all without resorting to too much telling.
  • Hovercars!
  • Plot twist!
  • The Moon-Cross Festival scene was my favorite thing ever. So precious!


Not-so-favorite Things:
  • Nothing to report here, unless you count my severe distaste for Keffer, Tanza's low-life boss.


I think, surprisingly, this might have been my favorite story in the collection! The ending nearly made me cry, which is difficult to do in less than a hundred pages. I would gladly follow these characters into more adventures. 5 stars!


Overall



A rollicking Western. A world of priests, princes, and flying cats. A castle woven in complex enchantments. A prince brave enough to face a dragon. A sci-fi adventure. Five completely different stories that somehow all paid homage to the original Sleeping Beauty we know and love.


This is a strong collection indeed! Just like the two books before it, there's bound to be something in it for everyone; yet you may be pleasantly surprised by stories you didn't even expect to like. I'm giving Five Magic Spindles a smashing FIVE STARS. This is one book I'll be eager to return to in the future!


If you've read Five Magic Spindles, which was your favorite story? If you haven't, tell me which ones looks most promising! (And then get thee to Amazon and go buy it!)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

What I'm Looking & Listening For

"Give thanks to God no matter what circumstances you find yourself in." (1 Thessalonians 5:18a)



Can I be completely honest with you? Canadian Thanksgiving is coming on Monday, and while I am relieved and grateful for a long weekend . . . today I'm not feeling it. Holidays are supposed to bring warm fuzzy feelings, but sometimes we're just too tired or frazzled or upset or sad to get in the spirit.


I'm not all of those things, although I've had a busy couple of weeks with frustratingly long hours of homework. My creative soul feels stifled. My to-do list doesn't seem to be getting any shorter.


But that's just it--thankfulness is not about feelings. In this social media age where all we see are the highlight reels of people's lives, it's easy to think everyone else is so much happier than we are. Yet neither life nor emotions are static; they're constantly changing like the seasons. And the truth is that if I can find reasons to complain, I can find at least as many reasons to rejoice.


To remind myself, here's a brief list. (Perhaps it will remind you, too, of the good things in life.)


***
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I have a wonderful, fun, supportive family who loves me.

I have friends checking in on me and praying for me.

I get to walk to school each day, enjoying the crisp air of autumn mornings.

I can still make money at my job despite going to school full-time.

There's a stack of good books on my desk almost two feet high, all waiting to be read.

I've been in college only six weeks, and already I understand how to make an income statement, what factors change supply and demand, how to write memos, how to calculate equivalent payments of compound interest, all kinds of things that Microsoft Word can do, and how business is all about creating value for customers.

I have an amazing church that makes every Sunday morning feel like coming home.

I'm healthy.

I have opportunities every day to laugh.

Great movies are a thing.

So is good music, such as:
Reckless Love by Cory Asbury (a long one, but so, so good)
Deeper by SVRCINA (thanks to Katie Grace for introducing me to this singer)
Clap Your Hands by Owl City (it's about golf? but it's really fun)
Something in the Water by Tim Neufeld (this cover never fails to make me happy)
I Need Thee Every Hour by Anthem Lights (their entire Hymns album is so peaceful)

I haven't run out of things to write about, and after a week of no writing, Snow White is waiting for me to pen the next part of her adventure.

I get to connect with faraway friends through the internet and snail mail.

The sun rises.

Seeing the full moon shining over the harvested fields makes me want to shut my car headlights off and stare for a while.

Watercolor pencils are magical.

So is pumpkin pie.

Dreams aren't out of reach--I'm on my way, and you know, the days of small beginnings are actually exciting when I stop and climb to a new vantage point.

It's sweater weather.

Tea. (What else needs to be said about that?)

The blue jays have returned.

Asking customers at work what their plans are for Thanksgiving transforms mediocre small talk into real conversations and real smiles.

Journaling late at night when my brain is tired and filters are down is relaxing.

God is there. Quietly faithful. The same today as He was yesterday. The same as He will be tomorrow.

***

Sometimes we need to stop, breathe, and consciously think of all the things we have to be grateful for. And to be completely honest with you again--after writing this list, I feel a lot lighter. Happy Thanksgiving!


What are you thankful for today?


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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Subplots & Storylines - September 2017


And all at once, summer collapsed into fall. -Oscar Wilde


That about sums it up. September was beautiful and crazy and challenging and good. School (and the ensuing homework) has swallowed up much of my time. I'm doing better in my Financial Accounting class than I thought I would, Math is a challenge, and both Business Communication and Intro to Canadian Business are still my favorite classes. Everything else is a bit meh, but I know I'm learning useful skills. Still, I'm glad that after laying a foundation this year, I'll get to choose a more interesting course load next year.


Anyway, many of you are up to your ears in schoolwork as well, and probably don't want to hear any more on that subject! So let's move on.


In between classes, I've been enjoying the beauty of autumn. My cousin got married, my parents celebrated their wedding anniversary, and . . .


I went to a Skillet concert with my brother! (For those who may not know, Skillet is a Christian rock band.) Now, truth be told, I'm not much of a concert-goer. In fact, this was only the second real concert I've ever been to. So I felt like a shocked little old lady when the volume skyrocketed and rattled my eardrums. My ears were still ringing the next day, haha! But once the two opening acts--which involved much more screaming and much less intelligibility than I prefer--were over, I loved seeing Skillet perform. They're kind of amazing. I've had Comatose playing in my head for weeks since then. If you're looking for story inspiration, a ton of their songs are great for that!


Here it is--the blurry, sat-in-the-top-balcony proof that I was there!

Screen Subplots



finished Once Upon a Time Season 2 // started Once Upon a Time season 3


If you guys get tired of seeing OUAT mentioned in every. single. S&S post, I wouldn't blame you! But I'm still watching/re-watching it, so you're going to keep hearing about it. Currently enjoying Neverland and lots of friction between characters!


started The Flash season 3


Oh my gracious goodness, I love this show. I've only seen a couple episodes, but I'm excited to see where it goes! Much heart-wrenching-ness has already happened.




Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2


So this was really wild and fun! Not quite as good as the first one, and it took a while for the plot to get moving, but it was still entertaining. (I could've done without the crude jokes, though.) But BABY GROOT. HE IS THE REASON I WATCHED THIS MOVIE.


The whole crew, really, is awesome together. They fight and call each other names and hold grudges, but in the end, they do love each other and stick up for one another. I loved how they played on the "typical North American family drama" you see in a lot of movies, yet it was in an intergalactic, superhero context.


Other things I liked: Rocket is terrible at winking. Drax is as guileless as ever. Baby Groot is the best thing to grace the silver screen. Yondu is grouchy and awesome. ("I'm Mary Poppins, y'all!") Gamora has sister issues. Star Lord has daddy issues. Okay, pretty much everyone has issues.


How dorky can Peter Parker get, you ask? (I can relate, though, because
I have definitely waved to people who aren't waving to me.)


Spider-Man (2002) (rewatch)


Yes, the old one. Yes, the cringey-but-still-adorkable one. This was the first time all of my siblings have watched a superhero movie together. I remember loving this one years ago, but now I just laugh at all the cheesiness! (Sorry, Maguire, but Garfield and Holland are my favorites.)


Page Subplots



This was the month of Sleeping Beauty retellings! Which sounds like I read a pile of them, but in actuality, it was only two books.




Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer


I was really looking forward to reading this one, especially because I've got my Spidey sense tuned into the fairy-tale retelling market (wink wink, The Brightest Thread) . . . but sadly, it didn't quite live up to my expectations.


One of my main problems with it was small, yet it affected everything: the tense. Spindle Fire was written in third-person present tense. Like this:


Aurora is startled from fitful sleep by a loud rustling of feathers . . . and a voice. "Evening, caged bird," it says.


I don't mind present tense at all--I'll admit that past is my favorite, but I often forget about the tense when the story sweeps me away. Problem is, pretty much all of the present tense books I've read are also first person. Third-person present just felt . . . odd. Lurching. At times, it read more like a long synopsis than the kind of narrative I'm used to. There were a handful of truly beautiful moments and snippets of enchanting prose. But then I would feel jerked out of the story again by the way it was written, or by some out-of-place modernism. Obviously, not everyone will feel that way! It could very well just be me who didn't like that aspect!


But on to the story itself. This is a Sleeping Beauty retelling in which Aurora has a half sister, and both of them are missing senses that were tithed to fairies. Aurora is mute and has no sense of touch; Isabel is blind. So alternating between their viewpoints was very intriguing! And reading about a strong sister relationship is so, so refreshing in YA.


The romantic relationships were pretty good. I kind of feel like Isbe (a.k.a. Isabel) got over something a tad too quickly, but I love a certain prince that gets involved later. And Heath and Aurora were sweet together.


Oh, that brings me to another thing! Aurora winds up in a dream realm . . . except I couldn't quite figure out if it was a dream realm? It seemed more like a real kingdom trapped by an enchanted wall, and it was even on the map at the front of the book. I'm a little fuzzy on those details. Despite my confusion, it was a chilling setting with some lovely little illogical things you'd expect from a dream.


I will credit the author for making the world feel incredibly real! Despite experiencing half of the book through a blind girl, I do feel like I was right there on the wintry seacoast of Deluce and the green meadows of Aubin. Loved that.


This is turning into a long ramble of random things I liked and didn't like, but here's one more: the fairies were quite interesting. It's hard to like any of them, since most fall somewhere between selfish and downright evil. But they were quite fascinating. (Caution: one fairy, who takes people's sense of touch, lives a very loose lifestyle. Her flagrant ways are referenced several times, and a scene or two takes place in her brothel-like house, thankfully from blind Isbe's point of view.)


Anyway, I should wrap this up. Books that give me conflicted feelings are the hardest to review! Three stars.




Five Magic Spindles by Rachel Kovaciny, Kathryn McConaughy, Grace Mullins, Michelle Pennington, and Ashley Stangl


I plan to post a full review on this in the near future, so I won't say anything now except that this was a positively delightful collection! Five stars.


Writing Subplots



Wonder of wonders, I actually managed to write during the college life! Here's a peek into what happened on my side of the computer screen:


  • I brainstormed my Snow White novella for Rooglewood's Five Poisoned Apples contest.*
  • I plotted Snow White. Briefly. There are holes. But there's also a basic framework in place, so hooray, I know what I'm doing. (Not really.)
  • And I wrote close to 8,000 words of Snow White! Almost halfway!
*The deadline is December 31st, 2017. All you incredible writers out there who are even considering entering: there's still time! For one of these contests, I wrote my entry in a month. Not advisable, but still possible.


The novella still has no title, and the plot is a skeleton I'm joining together bone by bone. But I can tell you that it's a Nordic-inspired fantasy setting, it may or may not take place in the same world as The Brightest Thread, and winter is coming. There's creepy mirror magic, hunting, and BFFs that won't admit they love each other. Oh yes, and everything you know about Snow White actually happened in the past.


On another note, beta feedback on The Brightest Thread is trickling in (you readers are amazing!), and I'm excited to see where the novel is working and where it needs some tune-ups. Getting fresh eyes on a story is so helpful, guys. I polished that novel as best as I knew how, but now I'm starting to know more--so there's additional work to be done. And that's exciting, because it means TBT will improve!


I suppose it's almost worth mentioning school papers I've been writing in the meantime. Besides practicing writing memos, business emails, and informational reports, I actually got to write a letter from the perspective of a young Titanic survivor. That exercise nearly brought tears to my eyes.


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Onward to October



Life moves in seasons, much like the earth spins, and I'm learning to be content where I am. This month was harder in that regard, as school pulled me away from so many of the things I love. (And many of my monthly goals for September remain unfinished.) But I have to remember that I'm in college to equip myself to do the things I love better. And I'm thankful for family and friends and God who all love me through my frazzled moments and remind me that seasons do change.


What sort of adventures have YOU been on this autumn? Are you back in school? Writing something new? And obviously the most pressing question: what are your thoughts on third-person present tense?!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World by Bryan Davis // spotlight, interview, giveaways



As promised, I'm coming to you today with a super special post--and yes, it's related to superheroes! Bryan Davis, one of my favorite authors ever, has just released his new middle-grade novel called Wanted--A Superhero to Save the World. I'm excited to get my hands on this fun-looking tale in the near future. In the meantime, I have the privilege of participating in the blog tour! Read on for a peek at the book, an interview with Bryan himself, and details about two super (ahem, pun intended) giveaways.



Eddie Hertz is smart, real smart. He has to be. What other twelve-year-old patrols the streets of Nirvana alone, hoping to foil the schemes of the evil Mephisto? Since Eddie is small for his age, he trusts in his Batman-style gadgets belt and acrobatic skills as well as lots of experience, like knowing how to swing across dark alleys without being seen.

Eddie has a dream, to become like Damocles, Nirvana’s great superhero. To make that dream come true, Eddie invented a device that is supposed to give him superpowers, but using it on himself is dangerous, maybe even fatal. He doesn’t have the nerve to try it.

When Mephisto unleashes an earthquake machine on the city, Eddie gets a surprising teammate — his quirky eight-year-old sister, Samantha, who comes up with an unexpected way to help Eddie in the frantic battle to prevent the biggest earthquake of all.

Since Damocles has lost his ability to help in physical form, Eddie and Samantha are the only hope for Nirvana and the world.


(Available on Amazon)


Interview with Bryan Davis


Tracey: Most of your books are Young Adult. Did you encounter any challenges while venturing into Middle Grade territory?

Bryan: The biggest issue for me was reader targeting. I looked over some current middle-grade offerings and found that they spanned quite a range with regard to simplicity versus complexity in both story and vocabulary, also in the level of seriousness versus silliness.

Because of this wide range, I decided to imagine my characters and write what felt right based on my own experiences with seven children. The story includes a blend of seriousness and quirkiness, and the vocabulary will stretch some readers, though I hope the context will allow them to figure out the words.


Tracey: What might attract some of your YA readers to Wanted, despite the fact it’s labelled below their age group?

Bryan: My YA readers will recognize my usual desire to portray sacrificial heroism and the growth of relationships. There are enough situations and dynamics that only older readers will truly understand, which makes it an intriguing read for YA as well as middle-grade readers. I think older readers will also enjoy the humor.


Tracey: I've been hearing great reviews from YA friends already! Considering this is a superhero story, I have to ask: do you prefer Marvel or DC?

Bryan: Frankly, I don’t like either superhero universe, with the exception of Captain America, though I have heard they are trying to take even him to the dark side.


Tracey: Who is your favorite superhero in your preferred franchise?

Bryan: As I mentioned above, I like Captain America. I always enjoy a hero who is virtuous and sacrificial while still being caring and kind.


Tracey: Amen to that. What’s the best novel you’ve read this year?

Bryan: I read Till We Have Faces for the fifth time. I have a hard time finding recent novels that I enjoy, so I often go back and reread novels I know I will like.


Tracey: As a writer, where do you get your inspiration?

Bryan: I get inspiration from dreams, my children, everyday life, and other stories. Several of my novels had their origin in dreams, including Raising Dragons, I Know Why the Angels Dance, and Let the Ghosts Speak. Regarding other stories, whenever someone else’s story really hits me hard, I analyze it to see what creates the impact. I don’t want to copy the story at all. I just want to know what gives it that punch in the gut. What aspect reaches the heart? When I figure it out, I try to do the same in my story without copying the other story’s device.




Tracey: Writing being a form of self-expression, many authors put parts of their own personality, quirks, or struggles into their characters. You may or may not have done this, but regardless—which of your characters is the most like you?

Bryan: From Dragons in our Midst, Professor Hamilton reflects my analytical side, Jared Bannister reveals my fatherly side, and a trio of females, Bonnie Silver, Sapphira, and Acacia display my spiritual ideals. Last but not least, from Tales of Starlight, Adrian Masters lives out my chivalry principles.


Tracey: Ah, SIX of my favorite characters! What’s one mistake you see young writers consistently make, and could you share some advice on how to avoid/correct it?

Bryan: The most common mistake I see is in how they develop the characters and story world early on. Some jump right into the intense action before developing the characters and story world, which disconnects readers since they don’t know the characters well enough to care about them during the action.

Some young writers dump loads of information about the back story without progressing the main story at all. I see that problem most often with dialogue dumping, that is, having two or more characters talking for several paragraphs, thereby revealing past events. Yet, nothing really happens except for dialogue and maybe a smattering of interior monologue.

The best approach is to give the main character something to do, a goal to achieve no matter how small, then have that character go about the business of getting it done while giving readers clues regarding the back story and the story-world’s environment in a natural way.


Tracey: What was the most enjoyable part of writing Wanted?

Bryan: I enjoyed the blend of seriousness and quirkiness. There are many light-hearted moments to provide comic relief. At the same time our heroes have to suffer through quite a few dangerous sequences while growing in their relationship to each other. The combination of fun and thought-provoking events was a pleasure to write.


Tracey: I can't wait to read it! What are you working on next?

Bryan: I am working on a young adult space adventure tentatively entitled Search for the Astral Dragon. It’s about Megan Willis, a 12-year-old girl who, through a series of strange events, becomes a military space cruiser’s mechanic. Her parents were arrested for space piracy, and Megan was allowed freedom as long as she served under the military ship’s captain. This captain takes her on a mission to find his kidnapped son. She learns later that this captain had ulterior motives for bringing her along, to become bait to draw the kidnappers out from hiding. Yet, the deeper she digs into the secrets, the more she learns how dark the motivations of both the captain and the kidnappers are.

I am also trying to find a publisher for Let the Ghosts Speak, an adult novel that is a combination of historical thriller and supernatural intrigue.


Tracey: I'm definitely looking forward to both of those. Thanks for the great interview!


About the Author



Bryan Davis is the author of the Dragons in Our Midst, Oracles of Fire, Children of the Bard, the Reapers Trilogy, Dragons of Starlight, Tales of Starlight, and the Time Echoes Trilogy, fantasy/science fiction/dystopian novels for youth and adults. His first novel, Raising Dragons, was released in July of 2004, and several books in that series have hit various bestseller lists, including Eye of the Oracle, which hit number one on the CBA Young Adult best-seller list in January of 2007.

Bryan was born in 1958 and grew up in the eastern U.S. From the time he taught himself how to read before school age, through his seminary years and beyond, he has demonstrated a passion for the written word, reading and writing in many disciplines and genres, including theology, fiction, devotionals, poetry, and humor.

Bryan is a graduate of the University of Florida (B.S. in Industrial Engineering). In high school, he was valedictorian of his class and won various academic awards. He was also a member of the National Honor Society and voted Most Likely to Succeed.

Bryan and his wife, Susie, work together as an author/editor team to create his imaginative tales.

Here are some places you'll find this superhero-in-disguise lurking about. Go stalk him and say hello!





Giveaways




By now you must be chomping at the bit to get a copy of Wanted, am I right? Right! The generous author is hosting not one, but TWO giveaways/contests!

#1

Prize: Winner's choice of any Bryan Davis book, plus a Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World t-shirt and bookmark.

How to enter: It's a simple Rafflecopter drawing. a Rafflecopter giveaway

#2


Grand Prize: All the items from #1, PLUS a complete Bryan Davis series of the winner's choice OR a $50 Amazon gift card.

How to enter: This one requires your involvement! Every participating blog has hidden a number in their post. So your job, hero, should you choose to accept it, is to read every post, add all the numbers up, and enter that sum into the giveaway form: a Rafflecopter giveaway There's a lot of great bloggers in this tour--you may want to give them a follow as well!

Speaking of which, you'll find the full list of participating blogs at The Author's Chair right HERE.

Are you looking forward to reading Wanted as much as I am? (Or maybe you've read it already!) Who's your favorite superhero? Remember, as soon as you're done here, head on over to the list of blogs and start adding those numbers! :)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Footnotes // humor & september aesthetic

Do you recall Starting Sparks? It was a link-up by Emily @ Ink, Inc. and Ashley @ [oddly novel title] that I participated in a few times last year. It has since closed down, but now the dynamic duo is back with a new monthly thingamajig called Footnotes! And it's quote themed! (Click on either one of their names to go to their latest Footnotes posts.) Each month, they provide a prompt, and bloggers link up with their posts about a quote related to the prompt.


This month's prompt: a quotation that makes you laugh.


Mr. Gilmer asked him one more question. "About your writing with your left hand, are you ambidextrous, Mr. Ewell?"

"I most positively am not, I can use one hand as good as the other. One hand as good as the other," he added, glaring at the defense table.

--from To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee


I had a grand old time reading TKAM a couple years back, and this is just one of the sections that made me laugh out loud! (Another one involved Scout building a snowman and making some comments that nowadays would be considered racist, but at the time were pretty innocent.)

Speaking of laughing, lately I've been inwardly chuckling at my teachers. Not that they're all comedians (only one of them is of a consistently humorous personality), but after sitting under their tutelage for a couple of weeks, I'm starting to find humor in their various quirks. Like how one nice older lady calls everyone sweetie and has difficulty enlarging YouTube videos to full screen, or how my math and economics teacher pronounces subtraction as "substraction."

In other mundane and unrelated news, autumn has swept in with chilly winds and drizzly skies, making hot tea even more wonderful than it usually is. So here's some pretty fall aesthetic I've been staring at on Pinterest lately.

I think that is one of the best photos I have seen
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Apparently I love foxes. And trees. And books. But what else is new?


Apologies for the brevity of today's post. Next Saturday, I've got something extra special coming your way--it may involve superheroes, but you didn't hear that from me!


So what's making YOU laugh these days? Before I hit publish, here's one last bonus quote that makes me snicker:


The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.
--Albert Einstein

Saturday, September 9, 2017

hey dreamer



hey dreamer
when did your dream become a to-do list?
a series of boxes to be checked?
when did that big, airy wonder
shrivel down to a sheet of paper?


hey dreamer
when did your dream become a memory?
an old photograph?
a distant crackle on the radio
reminding you of long-gone days?


hey dreamer
when did it become a mirage?
a trick of the light?
a shimmer of bitter possibility
in a strangely cold desert of reality?


hey dreamer
when did it become a burden?
a ten-ton weight laid across your shoulders?
a crushing suffocation
measuring your spine and timing your steps?


hey dreamer
when did it become a secret?
a well-worn hideaway?
a crumpled little trinket
you keep in a box hidden under the bed?


hey dreamer


when did the fire in your heart become the fire at your heels?
when did now lose its luster to back then?
when did someday become maybe become never?
when did summer-light wings turn to lead?
when did your banner fray and fade?


hey dreamer


can you tell me when?
tell me why?


i wish you'd remember
recall
recollect
gather up
stir up
cradle close to your chest:


the joy


the joy of the dream that once put a sword in your hand and the stars in your eyes
the wonder of the thing that pulled you around every expectant corner
the beat in your chest so loud and so hard some days that the joy of it all just hurt


hey dreamer . . .
it's still there, you know
you can find it again

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Subplots and Storylines - August 2017



I think I'm stuck in a Donkey Kong game.


You know, where he hops into a barrel cannon, and it shoots him into the next cannon, and that shoots him into the next? That is Donkey Kong, right? (Correct me if I'm wrong.) This whole year has been a series of cannons--all very good ones, though not necessarily all easy--and despite feeling full to the brim, 2017 is only two-thirds done.*


*Pshh, "only." I feel like it should still be April, thank you very much.


But for the most part, August gave me a chance to catch my breath. The day after I returned from Realm Makers, my family and I packed up and headed south of the border again for a week of much-needed vacation at a cabin! It was so, so good to not have anywhere to be, anything to write, or any deadlines to meet. Just wide open hours to swim and kayak in the lake, soak in the sunshine, devour books, eat too much food, stay up too late, and sleep in every morning. Just amazing. And I loved spending all that time with my family!













The next couple weeks were the steady as she goes kind, during which I:


  • tried (and failed) to clean my room
  • took my youngest sister out for fun stuff like riding a tandem bike for the first time ever (we didn't die! and it was so much fun!)
  • had a video chat with a dear friend who lives miles away
  • went to orientation day for college
  • had a campfire with another friend who lives a lot closer but is leaving for university
  • ate fresh corn on the cob from the garden
  • met yet another friend for root beer and a catching up


And now summer feels like it's officially easing into autumn. The days are getting a little cooler already and parts of the garden are being harvested, but the biggest indication that summer is over is this:


I started college this week!


Which is kind of a big deal. I'm adjusting to a new schedule, figuring out how to stuff as much homework as possible into the nooks and crannies of my days, getting to know my teachers, and finally experiencing a public school classroom.*


*Some classes are great. Others feel like a waste of time because hi, I was homeschooled, and I'm used to just reading textbooks for myself, no need to read it to me, thank you, good-bye. Okay, it's not all that bad. Besides, it means less school reading at home later.


Oh, yes, I suppose I should mention this is for a two-year business admin diploma! I sincerely hope to keep up with Adventure Awaits in the meantime. That may mean shorter posts sometimes, or even some Sunday posts instead of Saturdays, but I'll try to keep things as normal and scheduled here as possible.


Subplots on Screen



Mostly rewatches this month!


The Flash season 2 - rewatched three episodes
My family was watching it while at the cabin, so hey, why not join them? I was missing Barry Allen and Co.


Once Upon a Time - rewatched some of season 2 + 3 and finished season 5
My siblings and I are almost through season 2, and with my parents we're well into season 3. But my two sisters and I FINISHED SEASON 5. IT BASICALLY BROKE MY HEART AND PUT IT BACK TOGETHER.


Avatar: The Last Airbender
My sisters pulled me into it, and so far I'm only three or so episodes in. Aang is cute and the episodes are nice and short.


The Maze Runner - rewatch
Also a holiday movie. My sisters had never seen it before, so it was super fun to see it with them and my brother.


Storylines on the Page



books read on holidays


August was a great reading month for me, thanks to vacation!




Ink and Bone // Rachel Caine

Ink and Bone is . . . how to describe it? Aesthetic. Rich. Colorful. Raw. It feels like dusty old books and hot Alexandrian sun and rattling trains and bloody, muddy war. It wasn't the fastest read, but that was okay because I wanted to be immersed like that!


I loved the vaguely steampunk setting, the school aspect, and the way Jess is the son of a black market book smuggler. Instant cool points! Wolfe, the ruthless teacher, was someone I hated at first, then slowly grew to love. I also loved the premise of the library of Alexandria still being around!


Unfortunately, there was a bit of language and one homosexual subplot off to the side that I didn't care for.


Still, I gave the book 4.5 stars! Read my full review on Goodreads HERE.




The Penderwicks // Jeanne Birdsall


This book came highly recommended by several friends, and it did not disappoint!


Think back to your fondest childhood summer, sprinkle it with imagination and adventure, and mix it with a dash of humor and buckets of warm fuzzies. That's pretty much The Penderwicks. Like Peter Pan did for me last summer, it transported me back to childhood in a way that made me smile and want to live at Arundel with these kids just a little longer. Seriously, if you haven't read this yet, GO DO IT.


5 stars! Read my full review on Goodreads HERE.




The Fatal Tree // Stephen Lawhead


The Fatal Tree ended the Bright Empires series differently than I expected, but it was still really, really good. I can say very little without plunging straight into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say that:


a) I love the crew, especially Kit, Cass, Mina, Etzel (dear, dear Etzel!), and Gianni.
b) I am endlessly fascinated by this multiverse of ley lines and by the topics this series has examined, such as time, the humongous effect everything and everybody has on everything and everybody else, redemption, human will, and WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE UNIVERSE STARTS TO SHRINK.
c) That beautiful cover.


5 stars! Read my full review on Goodreads HERE.




Some Kind of Happiness // Claire Legrand


I bought this on a whim, and by the time I finished I was a small mess of feelings. Which may have been the point of the whole story. Despite it's title, Some Kind of Happiness deals with a lot of sad topics: depression, cancer, broken families, secrets. (It's labeled MG, but I probably wouldn't give it to a reader that young.) However, it was a powerful, beautifully written story packed with my favorite kind of imagery and grand adventures shared by a pack of rambunctious cousins and their friends.


But to back up a little--the whole premise of this book is amazing. 11-year-old Finley deals with her sadness by writing stories about a place called the Everwood, stories that mirror her own struggles. So it was cathartic and affirming to see how her life inspired her writing, and how her writing, in turn, helped her real life!


4 stars! Read my full review (including my favorite quote from the book) on Goodreads HERE.




The Five Times I Met Myself // James L. Rubart


I actually met Jim Rubart at Realm Makers, and he is one of the kindest, most encouraging authors I've talked to!


The Five Times I Met Myself is a trippy, introspective book dealing with regret and second (and third and fourth and fifth) chances. At first, the concept of Brock's lucid dreaming and actually talking to his younger self was a bit hard to believe, but the concept was so interesting that pretty soon I didn't care. Especially when Brock's attempts to improve his life by getting his younger self to make different decisions start making everything worse.


4.5 stars! Read my full review on Goodreads HERE.


The Beast of Talesend // Kyle Robert Schultz


Another author I met at Realm Makers. You might recognize his name from the Silmarillion Awards this summer, because he hosted the award for Most Incompetent Henchman!


I'd heard great things about The Beast of Talesend as well, the highlight of my friends' reviews definitely being the humor. And it was quite an amusing tale! The dialogue is one of this novella's greatest strengths for sure. I also really liked the 1920's alternate history setting, where fairy tales actually happened long ago, but magic has since faded into obscurity. Except for instances like this one, where Detective Nick Beasley happens to turn into a beast . . . despite the fact he's spent his whole career disproving magic! His brother, Crispin, and the unstoppable Lady Cordelia prove to be entertaining sidekicks on their little quest.


My only quibble would be the writing. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't particularly arresting either, and I found the sentence structure repetitive now and then. Nevertheless, this was a good, quick read! Kind of a fluffy cupcake sort of thing, and--oddly enough--something that reminded me of Adventures in Odyssey radio dramas (even though the two aren't related in the slightest).


3.5 stars! (As of right now, I haven't reviewed this on Goodreads yet.)

Subplots on the Writing Desk



After the intensity of May-July, followed by no writing during vacation, I've been taking it easy in this department. I received an amazing, thought-provoking critique of The Brightest Thread's first chapter at Realm Makers, so I spent my writing time this month brainstorming ways to incorporate that feedback.


I ended up experimenting with chapter one and trying different approaches. My first attempt flopped halfway through. With tea and prayer, I tried again, and it went a lot better . . . though that version of chapter one is really long. Then I wrote yet another version, which was much shorter. I haven't yet decided which approach is best.


But TBT is currently in the hands of betas, so I'll see what they say!


Oh, and I updated my Writings page here on the blog! That was a long overdue change.


I had planned to brainstorm a novella for Five Poisoned Apples in August, but that didn't happen. Hopefully this month! There are only four months left of the contest--yikes.


What about you, valiant adventurers? How was your August? Are you going back to school? What was your best summer memory?