Saturday, March 31, 2018

Subplots and Storylines - March 2018

March was a head-down, nose-to-the-grindstone kind of month--at least in terms of schoolwork. As soon as one project wrapped up, another one (or two) would be added to the list. I'm sure most of you students can relate! But I'm chugging along, counting down the weeks until freedom summer break!

We had an honest-to-goodness SNOW DAY at the beginning of the month--which is impressive, given that Manitobans are stubbornly snow-resistant--so it's kind of amazing that four weeks later, I can practically watch the snow melt. Spring is on its way! That always fills me with hope.

A couple of random highlights before we jump into the juicy stuff . . .

I took my sisters to our church's youth group, which doesn't happen all that often due to the distance. But during leadership college last year, I spent many, many Friday nights volunteering there. So it was refreshing to go back and spontaneously throw on my volunteer name tag, roll up my sleeves, and dive in again. I had missed that place.

Second-hand book fairs are a Very Wonderful Thing. I went to one with my fam jam and came away with an arm-aching load of ten books, six of which were hardcovers: all for $14! I am still ecstatic, despite the realization that at this rate, my floor will disappear in approximately 2.3 months.*

*This is what happens when your bookshelves are so full they throw up on the floor. You're welcome for that mental image.

Juicy News Item #1: I registered for Realm Makers! Yes! It's official! This will be my second time attending (actually my second writing conference altogether), and I couldn't be more thrilled. The lineup of speakers looks amazing, and I'm not at all ashamed to admit that at least half of my classes will be held by Nadine Brandes and Mary Weber, both of whom are Queen Authoresses in my humble opinion. I've got roomies set up, the hotel is soon to be booked, and I'm working on my flights right now. Deciding to attend this year is, once again, a step in faith financially speaking (thank you, college tuition), but God provided for me last year and I'm confident He will again!

Juicy News Item #2: Today marks the third anniversary of Adventure Awaits! Say what?! I know, it snuck up on me this year too. I'd love to do some kind of celebration to thank all of you incredible souls who have either recently joined me, or have been around since the beginning, or something in between . . . But. College life. See first paragraph. That being said, what do you all think about a belated blogoversary party sometime, oh I don't know--end of April? Beginning of May? I want to do something this year, since last year I didn't have time to do anything either! (And I'd be open to party suggestions!)

Juicy News Item #3: Many of you probably know this already, but the winners (and honorable mentions, and Special Unicorns, etc.) of Five Poisoned Apples are being announced on the special Facebook page TONIGHT at 8pm EST! I . . may have created a temporary account just so I wouldn't miss the festivities.* I am about to burst with excitement. There has been such creativity and skill this year that no matter who wins, I can't wait to get my hands on the complete, polished Five Poisoned Apples book when it releases!

*But at this point, I wouldn't bother friending me, if I were you. My plan is to keep Facebook very much in the background after the announcement until I can figure out a productive, disciplined social media schedule. I'm spending too much time on such things as it is!

Screen Subplots

Avatar: The Last Airbender
I watched only two episodes of this with my sisters, but it's still an amusing show, and Aang is still cute.

Finished Once Upon a Time Season 3 and started Season 4
Yep! My siblings and I finally finished the third season, which may be one of my favorites, and dipped our toes into the fourth--as in, we watched only one episode. It's a rewatch for me and my sisters, but it's all new to our brother, Josiah, whom we've successfully roped in.

Once Upon a Time Season 6
My sisters and I saw a little bit more of the second-newest season. It hasn't wowed me yet, but it's starting to improve. Here's hoping it continues that upward trend! (I'm still in this for Hook, no matter what.)

Finished The Flash Season 3
*sobs for hours*



My heart is a mangled mess of feels and the only way I'll recover is if Season 4 FIXES ALL THE THINGS THAT ARE BROKEN AND MAKES EVERYTHING HAPPY AGAIN. I refuse to give spoilers, but let's just say that was the most bittersweet ending of a Flash season yet. Yet it's currently my favorite show! Because I like pain, apparently.

Image result for thor ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok
I've been waiting forever for this to come out on DVD, and it finally arrived. I felt like I knew a bit too much going in, after seeing so. many. pictures. all over Pinterest, but it was a really fun, really enjoyable movie. I laughed out loud. Like a lot. Seeing Thor's funny side take over, rather than his moody god side, was just the refreshing twist a lot of fans were looking for, I think. Although, like Christine said, there were a couple of places I would've liked to see the emotion drawn out a bit more. Still--Loki was there! I will never get tired of seeing those two banter back and forth (albeit in a "I'll kill you if you so much as hint at betrayal" kind of way).

Image result for ferdinand movie

Eh. It was cute, and it had a few laughable jokes, but . . . I don't know, guys, I feel like I've seen this plot about twenty-five times before. And Pixar does it better. Still, apart from the eccentric goat nicknaming the titular character "F-Bomb" once, I think kids would enjoy it. On a more positive note, this movie is set in Spain, which is unusual! And Ferdinand himself stuck to his convictions without wavering, so that's another plus.

Black Panther

Not perfect, but really, really, really good. I wasn't sure what to expect, since we don't get to know all that much about T'Challa in Civil War, and since half the internet seems to be making this movie a race thing when--I'm sorry, but can't we just focus on making good art? (Which is a whole 'nother post for a whole 'nother day, if I decide to put on my controversial hat.)

Anyway! Where were we? Right, it was a great movie, beautifully shot, and full of well-drawn characters. I loved T'Challa's sister, Shuri! She's the real deal, guys. And there were so many other great ones: Nakia, General Okoye, Klaue, and Agent Ross being among my favorites. If you didn't get the hint yet, I'm always in it for the characters! But truly, the action and plot and setting (Wakanda forever!) were fabulous too. The main downside for me was the ancestor worship, but even that didn't detract too much from my enjoyment.

Related image

Jumanji (2017)
I remember watching the 1995 version a long time ago. It was one of my first scary movies, and I loved every thrilling minute of it. So when I saw the hilarious trailer for the remake, I was super excited!

And . . . well. It wasn't quite as good as I'd hoped. I was fine with the plot being the shallow action flick kind--and it made fun of videogame tropes, which even I enjoyed as a nongamer--but I really could have done without the crude humor. If you haven't seen the movie yet, the basic idea is that four teens get sucked into a videogame, where they appear as the avatars they chose. One girl unwittingly chose a male avatar, and as you can guess, this becomes the source of way too many inappropriate jokes.

Other than that, it was pretty funny! I still liked the old one better, though.

Page Storylines

Image result for last star burning caitlin sangster

Last Star Burning // Caitlin Sangster

Hmmm, very mixed feelings on this one.

I liked the world--a dystopian/futuristic China! I liked the hints of Sleeping Beauty scattered throughout. The Sleeping Sickness, based off a real disease called encephalitis lethargica, was cool too. I liked that Sev, the protagonist, was actually loyal to her City's (abusive) government, which is uncommon for dystopian heroes. And because this book came in a PageHabit box, there were sticky note annotations by the author, which I also liked.

But I wasn't a big fan of the info-dumping used to explain how everything worked, especially at the beginning. I didn't like having to reread action scenes to understand what was going on, since the writing style got a bit jerky at those parts. By the end of the book, there were very few characters left that I actually liked. Most people turned out to be backstabby. And a lot of the conflict could have been avoided if Sev had just asked more questions and used her common sense. You'd think that an orphan who was branded and bullied by the City would naturally be a little more suspicious!

Oh, and Howl's name made me think of Howl's Moving Castle, which this book was definitely nothing like. Not a bad thing, per se, just a thing.

So overall, I was decently entertained and will probably pick up the second book when it comes out. But my disappointment in a certain character has colored my opinion of the whole story, sadly. Three stars.

Image result for circles of seven bryan davis

Circles of Seven // Bryan Davis

THIS IS MY FAVORITE DRAGONS IN OUR MIDST BOOK AND I LOVE IT SO. I'm such a sucker for symbolism and metaphor, and this one is packed with it, so of course it's my favorite!

Billy has grown so much since the beginning of the series. It's refreshing to see a hero actually learn from his mistakes, instead of constantly backsliding to square one. And as all the friendships deepen, these characters just keep growing. Bonnie is one of my heroes; her faith is so beautiful to see. I loved seeing Ashley and Walter argue and banter more--there's so much snark, but also a really healthy conflict resolution! Professor Hamilton continues to be a lovable, sprightly old gent who yells about driving on the wrong side of the road, physically attacks baddies, trips a rude cameraman, and holds fast to godly wisdom through it all. I love him. The only character I hate is Morgan, and she's, well . . . supposed to be hated.

I loved the setting too. Most of it takes place in England and in the seven circles, which carry so much of that spiritual symbolism I was just raving about! And there's one scene near the end that I'd nearly forgotten, a scene heavily inspired by Ezekial 37 . . . chill-inducing, in a really good way.

I feel like I uncover more of this book every time I read it. This was my third time, I think, and I'm sure I'll still find more next time. Five stars!

Written Subplots

I'm not quite sure how I managed to get any of this done, but . . . apparently I did!

I compiled more beta feedback on The Brightest Thread, this time covering chapters 7 through 15. I was hoping to get to chapter 18, but didn't quite make it. I'm seeing patterns in what's working and what's not working in the story, and the more I prepare, the more excited I get to tackle revisions this summer! Just this week, I received some golden advice for how to fix one of my main trouble spots.

I also wrote another little flash fiction piece this month, and I quite like it. It needs a bit of buffing up, but then I plan to submit it to Splickety for one of their summer editions!

Farewell, March

So it was a good but busy month! It looks like I watched more movies and read fewer books than usual (oops), but still got some writing progress done. Now I'm looking forward to April!

Happy Easter, everyone! Tell me, how was your month? Are you going to be at the Five Poisoned Apples reveal? Any ideas for a belated blogoversary party? And--as if our TBRs need any help--what's a book that gets richer every time you read it?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Interview with Kate Marie - The Bubblegum Rebellion

[Via Unsplash]
Guess who I'm featuring on Adventure Awaits today, questers??? It's Kate Marie, who's basically a ray of sunshine disguised as a human!* She's here to talk about BOOKS (surprise, surprise) and answer some questions about the Bubblegum Rebellion, the blog she launched in January. In her words, this rebellion involves sharing stories about "beauty, wonder, hope, freedom, healing, and starting over." Sounds like a much-needed focus if you ask me!

*(Shush, you didn't see the title already. Be surprised.)


As a four-year-old, Kate regularly yelled long, enraged monologues to the nonplussed white wall of her bedroom when she got sent there as punishment. Her penchant for the dramatic was born then and it continued to grow and flourish as Kate matured. In recent years, the realization dawned on her - she was never happier than when she was acting. Her passion is to bring stories to life - whether it is on a stage or in front of a camera - and her hope is that those stories will change people. When she isn't at rehearsals, she loves writing dark, heavy books that usually include explosions, a big family, and lots of ethnic culture, drawing creepy things that are either burning or bleeding with her art pencils, and reveling in the haunting wistfulness of the trees when she takes long hikes in a nearby park.

But I don't want to steal her thunder. She has a lot more details to share with you. Give it up for Kate!

*insert thunderous applause*

What inspired you to launch The Bubblegum Rebellion?

Kate: I think this is something that has been growing in my heart for a long time, slowly evolving into the full-fledged thing that it is now.

The first step was thinking ahead to my years at college – I’m a senior in high school right now – and how that means, in many ways, a new beginning for me. Or at the very least, a whole new chapter of my life. I’m heading away to college, so I won’t know anyone, I won’t have a reputation or a certain set of expectations that I have to fulfill.

Then I watched the Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube – it’s basically a TV show styled as a blog - and I thought, “This is so engaging and fun. I WANT TO DO THAT.” And I suppose the nail in the coffin was talking to my friend Kenzie and deciding that this passion of mine was really an aesthetic, a lifestyle. It isn’t just about me and what is happening in my life – it’s something I want for everyone.

She came up with the name too, by the way.

Who is the Rebellion aimed at?

Kate: I’d say kids in their teens and twenties because that’s where I’m at right now. But this isn’t an exclusive sort of thing – anyone can join because I firmly believe that anyone can have a fresh start. I don’t care how old or how young you are, we all need to find our way back to the wide-eyed wonder of childhood and that’s what this is about.

I wholeheartedly agree! So what can people expect from the Rebellion?

Kate: A big part of this project, for me, is that we as the next generation have so much potential. So much energy and talent and passion. We can do great things. I’d like to build on that bedrock. So The Bubblegum Rebellion is a place where JUST PLAIN GOOD indie art is made and where beauty is celebrated. Photography, film, and writing are three major tools I hope to use.

I realize that I’m dreaming big, but I’d love work on short films and travel documentaries throughout my college career. But even if that stays out of reach, I’ll be doing the vlogs and posting poetry on the blog.

This might be an impossible question, but what was the best book you read in 2017? Or a few of the best?

Kate: Wow, Tracey. Way to send me scrambling to Goodreads.

Well, I’m going to cheat. (Surprise!) Instead of just one book, I’m going to say that most glorious adventure I went on through the pages of a book in 2017 was The Lunar Chronicles.

So many characters to love. So many ships to ship. So many friendships to laugh and cry over. Just wow. I have feels, guys.

YESSSS, a fellow Lunartic! That series completely captured my heart. Okay, now what's on your TBR (to-be read) pile?

Kate: Ooooooh. Are you sure you wanna go here?

Well, I won’t burden you with the whole length of it, but the Harry Potter series resides at the top of the prestigious pile, with The Scarlet Pimpernel and the Ilyon Chronicles nestling right underneath. I also have a fat stack of classics that WILL get read someday.

What are you writing these days?

Kate: I’m glad you asked!

Sunshine is sort of a “for-fun” novel for me. Not that I’m not passionate about it or don’t love the story and characters… I do. But I intentionally threw some very weird ingredients in the blender with this one. One of my weaknesses is writing overly dark and foreboding stories that lack humor and fun. So I called this one Sunshine, made my main character a maniacally upbeat ray of pure happiness, and tried for a lighter tone. I also struggle with my novels being too short so I expanded the cast – there are nine main characters and a dozen or so others that make up the supporting cast. I split the point-of-view up for the first time as well – nine people are sharing it and one of them is, in fact, a dragon. And, just in case things were not interesting enough, I thought it would be fun to mix things up by making the book unrealistically diverse – every single character has a different country of origin.

If the fact that it has made me laugh out loud and get teary-eyed is any indication, I think it’s going really well.

Sounds really fun, Kate! Now this question gets a bit more serious: Readers and writers alike have differing views on fiction. To some, it's an escape. To others, it's self-expression. To still others, it's a form of worship or a calling. For some, it's all that and more. So what does fiction mean to you?

Kate: I’ve thought long and hard about this and I’m still not sure that I have a good answer.

Escapism has always felt wrong to me. But now that I’m a writer, reading is a part of my job. I guess that makes me feel better about how much time I spent lost in the pages of a book? Maybe.

I just recently went to a coffeeshop for the first time in my life. It was a lovely experience and the atmosphere was my favorite part. They were hosting a music night and it had the vibe of a family hanging out, laughing, talking. The guy performing used a quote I had never heard before and it changed the way I think about fiction and escapes. He said that “art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” I like that.

Fiction has done so much for me. Broadened my horizons, educated me, taught me to think for myself, gave me a passion for telling my own stories.

But I do try to remember that moment in the first Hobbit movie when Gandalf tells Bilbo “the world is OUT THERE, not in your books.” My thirst for adventure is strong, but sometimes I need that extra push to prioritize – I should ALWAYS choose a hike in the park with my dad or a long talk about whatever with my little brother over more time reading. Every time. Make the right decision, Kate.

[via Pinterest]
(Sorry, did I take that too deep?)

Not at all. I loved your answer! It's so true that the world is out there, beyond our beloved books. What's the best writing advice you've been given?

Kate: Um.


That’s the best advice because it always works. It isn’t something that’s different for everyone or only works some of the time. There is no writing malady that cannot be solved with more writing. The more you write, the better you get. It’s as simple as that. You get out exactly what you put and you certainly have to exercise some patience – one cannot become a veteran overnight, after all – but I find it immensely encouraging to know that I will get better with time. There is no other option.

Who are your heroes?

Kate: William Wilberforce and Gianna Jessen.

Those two are the most important. But Tolkien is my writing-hero and C. S. Lewis is my Christian-hero and Louisa May Alcott is my womanhood-hero and my dad is my dad-hero and Johnny Depp is my acting-hero and Adam Young is my introvert-hero and there are probably some others I’m forgetting.

"Introvert-hero." *laughs* Love it! Okay, here's the last question(s) to wrap it up . . . Tea or coffee? Pizza or brownies? Narnia or Middle Earth? Marvel or DC? Pen or pencil? (These are important questions, okay? *winks*)

Kate: THESE ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTIONS OF ALL AND IF YOU SAY OTHERWISE I WILL… give you… chocolate??? (Nice save, Kate. Very smooth.)




Middle Earth. Sorry, Narnia-fans. The nostalgia is definitely there for me too, because The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe was one of the first books I remember my dad reading aloud to me, but when I revisited the series as an adult… I couldn’t see past the sloppy writing and weak worldbuilding. Yes, I know they are for kids – much The Hobbit. But it’s not for me. The books got better as he continued to write them but in the end, there is no way that Middle Earth can’t win this fight. Tolkien is too brilliant.

Marvel. I haven’t watched many of the films – three Marvel and only one DC – but I’ve done enough research to consider myself something of a nerd and while DC’s aesthetic and soundtracking is better, Marvel’s acting and stories appeal to me more. I think it’s the large cast and the variety of dynamics. Natasha’s friendship with Tony is different than her friendship with Clint which is different than her relationship with Steve. I love that. But I do love Superman. And the kid playing the Flash in Justice League. And I’ve heard some good things about Wonder Woman. So…?

Pen. Pencils smudge and scratch and need sharpened. Not a fan. Writing in pen is confident and permanent.

Thank you so much for having me, Tracey! It was a pleasure.

Thank you, Kate! It was so much fun interviewing you and hearing more about the Bubblegum Rebellion! If you guys are looking for a place to rebelliously joyful, go check out her blog! I believe she has some exciting things in the works, so be sure to follow her so you don't miss a thing. And if you have any questions, leave them here in the comments!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Lessons Learned from Rooglewood Press Contests

The journey began in 2013.

It was summer when I spotted a pretty novel in the local bookstore. The cover was deep blue, depicting a dragon's face with the image of a young maiden in its eye, the girl gazing thoughtfully into the water. The back of the book looked interesting too. But . . . Aethelbald? The love interest was named Aethelbald? It sounded odd, and being the wary book-buyer I am (or was; I'm getting alarmingly good at purchasing books these days), I resolved to check it out at the library before I invested $20.

That book was Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. And as often happens with mental notes-to-self that are never committed to paper or phone notes, the promise to seek out the book later quickly slipped through the cracks of my memory. Until one day in late November, I rediscovered Heartless on the library shelf. "Why hello there," I said to myself. "I do believe I forgot about you. Good thing you popped up again."

Image result for heartless anne elisabeth stenglVery good indeed, I soon found. It was a snowy November Sunday when I first cracked that book open. My family and I were Christmas shopping. The opening tale of young Una and Felix's adventures--the bridge, the sibling dynamics, the talking cat--drew me in so fully I couldn't help but twist around in my seat as we drove along and read funny excerpts to my siblings.

I devoured the story cover to cover. Not since beloved favorites like Chronicles of Narnia or Bryan Davis's Dragons in Our Midst had I been so captivated with a perfect elixir of wonder, magic, tension, and heart-wrenching hope. Heartless was an instant favorite, oddly-named Aethelbald and all.

I don't think I'd even finished the book before I Googled its author, curious to see who she was and what else she'd written. Lo and behold, there was a whole Tales of Goldstone Wood series! Not only that, but Anne Elisabeth had a blog full of interesting archives--and her most recent posts talked about a writing contest called Five Glass Slippers, held by Rooglewood Press. Curious, I investigated and found that entrants were to write creative retellings of Cinderella, five of which would be published in an anthology together.

The wheels started spinning. Apparently, the contest had been announced back in June, and the deadline was December 31st. Just one month away. Accepted story length: 5,000 to 20,000 words. "Well," I said to myself. "That's not that long. I've written a novel much longer than that."

So I made a crazy decision. This young writer, with twelfth grade studies on her plate and writing speedometer typically set somewhere around tortoise mode, decided to give it a go.

I have since entered all four fairy tale contests hosted by Rooglewood Press, and each one has played an important part in my writing journey. So today I'm going to share with you the lessons I've learned.

(Thanks to Esther @ The Pen of a Ready Writer for sparking some of these ruminations!)

Five Glass Slippers - 2013/14

I wrote like mad all that December. I'd never written a retelling of a fairy tale before. I'd never written a novella before, either, just short stories and a couple novels. But digging into the original Cinderella tale was a whole lot of fun! The classic elements--orphan waif, evil stepmother, nasty stepsisters, fairy godmother, glass slipper, and nameless prince--I threw into a bottle with a cup of creativity and a sprinkle of plot twists, then whipped it into a froth.

The result? The Glass Girl, a messy story about a glassmaker's daughter turned into glass herself by her stepmother, an evil Mystere pulling the strings in a power conspiracy.

Blunders Made

Plot holes: Oh, the plot holes! I cringe now to think of the gaps I didn't catch in the rush of getting my story submitted in time.

Insta-love: Yep, Ella met Dominic, a lord's son, and proceeded to fall in love with him that evening. Within twenty-four hours, she was confessing a deep secret, crying on his shoulder, and saving his life Tangled style. Ella and Dom still have my affection, but if I ever rewrite this thing, I'll make sure their affection takes a little longer to develop.

Weak writing: It wasn't bad quality considering where I was as a writer at the time. In fact, I discovered something about my own voice while writing The Glass Girl. (More on that in a minute.) But I've grown since then. And looking back? I'm cringing again. I wasn't even sure at the time if novellas were long enough to merit having chapters (news flash: they are), so I wrote one big, long story split up only by scene breaks!

Lessons Learned

Writing fast: There was only a month to write and edit 20,000 words. Professional authors usually accomplish that many times over in a month, but I'd never worked that fast before. I learned a good lesson in butt-on-chair-fingers-on-keyboard that December!

Cutting words: I ended up going a little bit over the word limit, so in my feverish editing, I had to do some trimming. See, I tend to write long. (Ahem, this post is a case in point.) But this contest provided me with valuable practice in cutting back.

Catching a glimpse of my voice: Writing teachers always talk about that elusive thing called voice, and quite frankly, I had not yet found mine. But Ella's story, framed in a fairy tale, set in a fantasy world, and laced with emotion, provided me with an opportunity to fuse poetry and prose. Was my writing flawed? Of course, but that's how everyone starts: in a mess. I caught a glimpse of what it was like to write the kind of imagery I've always loved.


I didn't win, but I learned to produce a story in short order, practiced putting myself out there, and had a really fun time doing it. There's enough likable bits of The Glass Girl that it might be worth revisiting in the future.

image via unsplash

Five Enchanted Roses - 2014/15

When the second contest rolled around, I was ready for it! And let me tell you, I was so excited to find out that the chosen fairy tale was Beauty and the Beast, because it has long been one of my favorites. This time, I had the full half a year to ponder the original tale and spin a new twist on it. I decided to step a wee bit out of my fantasy comfort zone and write a contemporary . . . although in the end, it still had a fantastical flavor. (Apparently the fantasy genre won't leave me alone.)

So Blood Rose was born: the tale of a young medical graduate stranded in the secluded mansion of a man who is much older--and deadlier--than he appears.

Blunders Made

Plot holes: The genre mashing of this story meant that my fantasy/sci-fi ideas had to have a real-world medical grounding. I did as much research as I could within the time limits, but in retrospect, I do believe I left a few shaky spots.

Somewhat unbelievable romance: While Emi and Will had much longer than twenty-four hours to get to know each other, I don't think there was quite enough development between them. Emi should have been more reluctant to take shelter in Will's mansion, and Will needed to exhibit a lot more positive character traits in order to outweigh all the red flags he was throwing up. (I mean, he is actually a good person, but that's not always . . . ahem, obvious. He is, after all, the Beast.)

Lessons Learned

Plot holes again: Yes, those dreaded holes were actually a positive as well! See, about two-thirds of the way into the story, I wrote myself into the most difficult corner I had ever encountered. If I didn't find a way out, Emi was going to die, and then Blood Rose wouldn't have an ending. Hemmed in by medical facts that I couldn't change, I had to either find a real-world loophole, or scrap the plot and start over. So I prayed about it. And I prayed some more. And then I went back to researching. You know what happened? I found a little-known medical tidbit that saved Emi's life and the story itself, and was able to write my way out of that corner! So this lesson is two-fold: trusting God with my writing, and persisting through the tough parts.

Friends: I found a lovely group of writers to beta read this story for me as I wrote it. (I guess some people call that alpha reading if it's the first draft, right?) Through our back and forth interaction, I built some amazing online friendships which I still carry with me today! One of my readers, in fact, was also writing a story for the contest, and I got to be her beta reader at the same time. That story was called Burning Thorns. Anybody who peeks into the comments around here can probably tell that the authoress, Christine Smith, became a dear friend, as did several other sweet souls!


I didn't win Five Enchanted Roses either, but I still felt like a winner anyway. I loved my characters, loved my story, and had a blast sharing it in almost real-time with a group of fantastic betas. I also grew closer to God by realizing again that He really does care about my stories.

image via Pinterest

Five Magic Spindles - 2015/16

Confession: I wasn't over-the-moon thrilled when Rooglewood announced the theme of the next contest was Sleeping Beauty. Maybe that's because I didn't watch the Disney movie as a kid, or maybe it's because nothing could quite compare to my beloved Beauty and the Beast. But the more I pondered the original fairy tale of the princess trapped in an enchanted sleep, the more I got excited about all the possibilities!

The Brightest Thread, the journey of a princess walking the realm of dreams and a faraway prince whose dreams are more real than he knows, ended up being my favorite Rooglewood entry yet.

Blunders Made

Trying to fit a big story into a small space: This was more of a challenge than a serious mistake. Since my idea involved a long rivalry between fairy stewards, one hundred years of history between two nations, a curse and all the rules it entailed, and the development of a romance, I had my work cut out for me. Or rather, I had to literally cut out some of my work. If you've been around the blog long enough, I'm sure you remember me wailing about my first draft being 10,000 words too long!

Lessons Learned

Making every. little. thing. count: On that note, when you need to rip out a third of a story, it feels like you're maiming it. But it's amazing how much leaner a story can be when you're ruthless about weeding out the fluff. Extraneous dialogue? Out. Long-winded descriptions? In the garbage. Unnecessary secondary character? Repurposed. The large-scale result was that every single person, place, or thing in The Brightest Thread absolutely had to be there. On a smaller scale, every word was chosen with purpose.

Writing with abandon: Writing that first draft was a beautiful experience. Sure, it had its ups and downs (especially later on during the editing stage!), but I was so in love with my characters and the world of Iror and Bauglind that spending time with them felt like a dream itself. Years down the road, I have a feeling I'll look back on this story and say, "There. That's when I really discovered my voice." Because that's what it felt like. The story was unapologetically me.


Was The Brightest Thread perfect? Hardly. Even the expanded version of it I'm working on right now has its issues to be addressed. But the heart of the story, then and now, feels right. And to my surprise and delight, my dear Luci and Hadrian made it to the top ten in the contest! That news, plus the judge's thoughtful feedback, was a confidence booster and served as confirmation that this is a tale worth pursuing. Plus, I have precious memories of sharing the journey of writing TBT with amazing beta readers once again.

image via Pinterest

Five Poisoned Apples - 2017/18

Rooglewood Press postponed the 2016 contest to the following year, so by the time Snow White was announced as the final theme, I was itching to enter again! For a long while, though, I wasn't sure what to do with the Snow White tale. I was busy editing the novel version of TBT, and then I was busy starting business school, and my brain just didn't have a lot of extra space to create a new story.

Eventually, however, Mirrors Never Lie unfolded--a look at what happens when a young woman is ensorcelled by a cursed mirror and puts her surrogate family of seven huntsmen in danger.

Blunders Made

Fragmented writing sessions: Being in college made writing a challenge. Rather than immerse myself in the story like I wanted to, I wrote in short snippets on weekends and evenings whenever homework wasn't looming. That approach got the job done, but the downside was that I felt disconnected to Skadi, my main character, for quite some time.

Misconceptions: I was frustrated with the story and myself because Skadi's outer journey seemed disjointed at first. Her goals take her in one direction for a while, and then she literally turns a 180 and runs off in the exact opposite direction. It wasn't until I realized that Skadi's inner journey formed a satisfying arc that I understood the story.

Lessons Learned

Three act structure: After pulling out my hair over cutting The Brightest Thread down to size, I was determined not to make the same mistakes with Mirrors Never Lie. Thankfully, K.M. Weiland wrote a helpful article over on Helping Writers Become Authors that explained how to break down the three act structure in a way that allows you to calculate your story's length . . . before you ever write a word of it. I used this structure to plot my novella and I think it worked! I barely strayed over the word limit, and having signposts to guide my way helped me write even when I felt disconnected.

No matter how terrible a first draft is, there's always editing: You know what I found? The story wasn't nearly as bad as I first thought it was. There was plenty to edit, but when I looked back over my first draft, I found enough to love. Enough diamond under all the rock to encourage the refining process.


I love Mirrors Never Lie the way I love memories of scraped knees and stumbles. There is a rawness in that story that makes me flinch--a combination of self-doubt about the writing quality and my own vulnerability laced through the story's theme. Yet something good came out of that experience. Skadi may not be my favorite protagonist ever. But maybe that's because she embodies a part of myself that isn't my favorite, and maybe that's a good thing.

I don't know what the results of Five Poisoned Apples will be. It's bittersweet, knowing this is the last contest. I hope to see familiar names on the cover in fifteen days when the announcement is made on April 2nd!* Whatever happens, I can't wait to read the winning stories!

*I hear tell of an early announcement on Rooglewood's private Facebook page for the contest (March 31st), but since I don't have Facebook, I likely won't hear anything until the official news is posted.

image via Pinterest

Was it Worthwhile?

Was it worth it to spend so much time writing fairy tale novellas when I could have been focusing on my longer works-in-progress?

Yes! It absolutely was. I'm a firm believer in no writing being a waste. I learned something in each contest.

How to write faster.

How to edit with purpose.

How to share my stories with others.

How to write from the heart.

How to write past doubt.

Not to mention these four opportunities to send my writing out into the world! Hitting send is hard. Waiting is hard. Not knowing is hard. But every time it gets a wee bit easier. And I can say with confidence that the motivation the Rooglewood contests provided have made me a stronger writer.

Whew, you made it to the end! Perhaps I should've taken my own advice and cut this post shorter, but I really wanted to share these lessons--almost like a tribute to the opportunities Rooglewood Press has provided. How about you? Have you entered a contest in your field of creativity before? What's something you've learned? (And are you counting down the days until April 2nd as well?!)

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Fantasy Tag Fest

Much as I enjoy being tagged, doing tags, and tagging other bloggers, I don't get around to it that often! Maybe it's because I sheepishly feel like I'm not offering real content when I do one?* So it's with an even more sheepish grin today that I dust off not one, but two fantasy-themed tags that have been sitting in my drafts for a while. The always lovely Deborah O'Carroll passed on the Life Lessons Learned from Fantasy tag a WHOLE YEAR AGO. (#oops) And the recently-featured-here-because-she-just-released-a-new-book Jenelle Schmidt tagged me just last month for the What If...? Fantasy Tag. Thanks, you two!

*How do you guys feel about that, anyway?

Both tags actually originated with Jenelle, who invented February is Fantasy Month! . . . Yes, we are ignoring the fact that it is now March. In true fantasy style, I am being a wizard who is never late but arrives precisely when she intends to. So there.

Let's jump right in, shall we?

Life Lessons Learned from Fantasy


1. Link back to Jenelle's blog. (Done.)
2. Use the image above. (Also done.)
3. Tell us 5-10 lessons you've learned from reading a fantasy book (or watching a fantasy movie)--lessons can come from multiple sources as well, of course. (Coming right up!)
4. Tag 2-4 other bloggers. (Shall do at the end of the post.)

Life Lesson #1: I can make a difference.

A hobbit from the Shire had no special strength, but Frodo carried the One Ring to Mordor. A little girl was the youngest in her family, but Lucy discovered Narnia and saw Aslan when no one else did. A mute young woman was enslaved by a culture of oppression, but Imraldera's influence stretched over many lands and many ages.

Over and over, fantasy shows me the weak, the small, the powerless, and the ordinary rise up to become heroes. Yes, their heroics are often on a kingdom-wide scale, larger than life for all to see. But they inspire me to make my own life count.

"Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage." -Gandalf

Life Lesson #2: Life is full of wonder.

The moment my imagination set foot on infant Narnian soil and heard Aslan singing the world to life, I was enraptured as I had never been before. And every well-drawn fantasy world since then has kept alive my spark of childlike wonder. Mountains, oceans, valleys, forests. Portals, ley lines, magic hiding around every corner. Vast landscapes flung farther than I can see, all ripe for exploration. I sometimes wonder if these flashes of longing and delight are little tastes of the wonders we'll see in heaven.

Life Lesson #3: The darkness does not last.

Fantasy offers a vivid canvas on which to paint the brightest of colors and the blackest of shadows. The suffering our beloved heroes endure is staggering. Sapphira Adi, confined to the lonely underground for centuries (Eye of the Oracle, Bryan Davis) . . . Nym, her powers stripped right from her bones (Siren's Fury, Mary Weber) . . . the entire Rampion crew, separated and struggling to make headway against the Lunar Queen (Winter, Marrisa Meyer) . . . Frodo and Sam, beaten down to their last breaths on the slopes of Mount Doom (The Return of the King, JRR Tolkien) . . . Cal Raven, his people homeless and his own faith shaken from its holdings (The Ale Boy's Feast, Jeffrey Overstreet) . . . I could go on and on.
But in all my favorite fantasy stories, no matter how deep the darkness becomes and no matter how long it lasts, light breaks through. Sapphira Adi finds hope in Elohim. Nym discovers a power that no one can take from her. The Rampion crew finds love and victory. Frodo and Sam find the strength to carry on and put an end to a great evil. Cal Raven makes a home and reclaims his faith.

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

Life Lesson #4: God is recklessly in love with me.

Allegorical fantasy is still one of my favorites, and there are so many books under that category that have refreshed my view of God. In Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Heartless, I see Aethelbald redeem me. In Ted Dekker's Circle series, I drown in Elohim's waters and emerge reborn. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I witness Aslan's sacrifice firsthand. In Wayne Thomas Batson's The Door Within, King Eliam's glory blinds me.

All of these stories and more open my eyes to more facets of God's character. And always I am drawn in by His wild, untamed, unreserved love. He's not a tame lion, you know.

Life Lesson #5: In the end, we win.

Fantasy is the genre in which a happily ever after is the norm. There may be bloodshed, scars, and sorrows, but in the end, good prevails. The enemy armies may be innumerable, but in the end, they fall. Fantasy rekindles my hope. We are on the winning side. The enemy is already defeated. And one day, we're going home.


The What If . . . ? Fantasy Tag


1. Thank the blogger who tagged you. (Thanks again!)
2. Include the graphic somewhere in your post. (See above.)
3. Answer the questions. (In a sec!)
4. Tag a few bloggers--and let them know they've been tagged. (Coming at the end.)
5. Have fun! (That would be impossible to avoid.)

1. Your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. The cast of the most recent fantasy book you've read comes to your assistance . . . Who are they? Will they be helpful?

Whew, I'm in luck! The book I'm currently reading, Bryan Davis's Circles of Seven, is urban fantasy with a twist, so at least most of the characters are familiar with modern inventions. Billy and Walter should have no trouble fixing my car, especially with Karen around, since she's a car expert. Not to mention Ashley's super smart. Bonnie can fly ahead to see where we are (and where the nearest mechanic is), while Shiloh keeps me company and Professor Hamilton regales me with Arthurian legend.

But if Clefspeare or Hartanna are around, I say we ditch the car and go for a dragon flight!

2. You go to bed one evening and wake up in the lair of the villain of the last fairytale you read. Where are you and how do you plan to get out?

I'm not sure what fairytale I've read most recently, but the latest fairytale retelling is probably The Tomb of the Sea Witch by Kyle Robert Schultz.

In which case I'm underwater and will probably drown in the next thirty seconds.

My plan is to accept my fate. I'll spend the rest of my days as a ghost wandering the halls of the Warrengate Academy of Advanced Magic. Perhaps I can haunt Malcolm the dragon every now and then . . . it'd be fun to scare him without fear of getting fried.

3. You are transported into a fantasy realm and given a mythical creature as a companion and best friend . . . Which mythical creature do you get?

The answer is quite obvious. NEXT QUESTION.

Oh, wait. You really don't know? A dragon, of course! Because although the blog's sidebar does say I might have one living in my basement, that dragon might be a figment of my imagination. Who knows? Either way, I need a real dragon bestie in my life.

4. In a strange series of coincidences, you end up needing to take the place of your favorite fantasy hero or heroine. Who are you?

"A strange series of coincidences"--does that kind of sound like a spinoff to A Series of Unfortunate Events?

But oh boy, this is a tough one. I'm going to fall back on a long-time favorite: Sir Eanrin from Tales of Goldstone Wood! While the term "hero" may be debatable at some points in his life, the sometimes-man, sometimes-cat is really a noble character deep down beneath his preening, poetry, and pride. (My my, the alliteration is flowing already.)

All credit goes to artist Jenelle Hovde!
(This fanart is on display at Dame Imraldera's Library.)

5. To go along with question #4, now that you are that character, is there anything you would do differently than that character, now that you are running the show?

Um, YES. TELL IMRALDERA I* LOVE AND ADORE HER. And that is all I will say on the subject.

*he? you? Am I talking about Eanrin, to Eanrin, or about myself as Eanrin?

6. If you were yourself in a fantasy novel, what role do you think you would play in the story?

I'd be the sidekick on the quest, the one who packs too many books, gives the heroes regular pep talks to keep their spirits up, and surprises everyone with a fiery verbal barrage against injustice.

But if I lived long enough, I would likely take up a profession as the village crazy person. You know, the mysterious kind who lives in a house crammed full of scrolls, knick knacks, dust, and half an apothecary--the eccentric old woman whose nonsense occasionally hides a scrap of wisdom.

7. One morning, as you are going about your daily business, you pick up an everyday item and a voice booms in your head with prophetic words about your future. What object is it, and what is the prophecy?

It is my phone, a companion that's a little too constant. And the prophecy that echoes in my head is:

Three for Goodreads stats falling behind
Seven for games with endless levels
Nine for Instagram photos divine
One for emails like Hydra devils
In the land of pixels where distractions lie.
One phone to rule them all, one phone to find them,
One phone to bring them all and in the appstore bind them.
In the land of pixels where distractions lie.

(I butchered the meter, but that's what you get for writing parody poetry after staying up too late watching a movie.) (Anyway, all that to say I'm trying to work on my phone habits!)

8. You are transported into a magical realm and turned into a mythical beast . . . What beast/fantasy creature do you want to be?

A DRAGON. Oh, right, I already used that one for #3.

How about a shape shifter? Then I can take the form of anything I want, dragon included! I mean, talk about convenient. I could swim with the mermaids, fly with the phoenixes / griffins / Pegasi* / dragons / etc., and infiltrate any castle in the kingdom. But if shape shifter wasn't an option, I would settle for being a talking fox, like the one in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe movie.

*what's the plural for Pegasus, anyway?

9. If you could read your way into any fantasy realm, but the catch is you can never leave, would you? Which realm would you choose?

Oh dear, don't do this to me. This sort of question makes me start needling around for loopholes and exceptions. Like, if I could take my family with me, I would pick . . . or, if I could still communicate with people on earth, I'd choose . . .

If such gracious allowances were truly forbidden, then no. I wouldn't read my way into a fantasy realm, because as massively tempting as it would be, I couldn't leave my fam jam behind! Buuuut if we can stretch the rules a little, I would pick Narnia hands down. It has the perfect blend of wonder, beauty, and just the right amount of danger to make for great adventures. (I would get stabbed very quickly in a place like Middle Earth, okay.)

Hmm . . . the longer I think about it, though, the more I like the thought of living in one of the realms of my own making. Iror would be lovely, or Demetria . . .

Okay, okay, I'll stop! My answer is Narnia, but only if I can take people with me.

10. As you are going about your normal day, you discover that you have a magical power. What is it?

A super brain that learns ridiculously fast and retains it all would make college a breeze! But that sounds a little bit more like superhero/sci-fi stuff than fantasy, so . . . I think it would be cool to see an "aura" around people. Kind of a way to read their emotions, which is less intrusive than reading minds but would probably be quite helpful. Is there a name for that sort of thing? If no one's written a book about it yet, maybe I'll have to.


Whew, that got longer than I expected! I should've known that fantasy + books = much to talk about. And now it's time to tag some people to pass on the fun. I'm going to do something different and tag some of my newest followers. Feel free to take it or leave it, guys! (Either one or both of them.) If you do take them, leave me a link so I can check it out!

I tag:
Anyone else who started following Adventure Awaits within the last three months!
(I wanted to tag more of you, but couldn't find links to your blogs on your profiles.)

Well, that about wraps it up! What are some things you've learned from fantasy? Whose lair would you be escaping? Would you read yourself irreversibly into a fantasy realm???

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Subplots and Storylines - February 2018

February can be a bit of a slump. December is abuzz with Christmas hype, January opens a fresh new year, and February . . . well, good old Feb is just another cold month following three other equally cold months, at least where I live. Is it much the same for you, or are you already melting in southern heat?

Life Subplots

Thankfully, this last week it has finally begun to feel like spring! There's something hopeful about seeing the snow creep back from under the pine trees, where the sun's rays begin to gather in the boughs . . . hearing the birds start to sing again . . . hearing the drip of snowmelt trickling from the eaves. Spring has always been about life and new beginnings to me.

"O wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?" -Percy Bysshe Shelley

February was a pretty average month here in my corner of the world. Life went on as usual: going to work, going to school, wrapping up some projects, studying, and--gasp--I just finished midterms! It's funny, but once again midterm week was a really nice change of pace. It was actually less busy than a normal week of school, because I booked it off work to give myself time to study. We'll see if it paid off once I get my marks back.

One noteworthy event amongst the averageness was going grad dress shopping with my sisters, one of whom is graduating this spring. I can't believe she's the third in the family to finish high school. My siblings are growing up!

Screen Storylines

My siblings and I are just about finished with Once Upon a Time season 3 and The Flash season 3. This season of The Flash is the most intense, feelsy one yet--my poor heart has been mangled at least five times over, and the last couple of episodes promise to do an even worse number on me. It's fantastic and terrible and I just want my favorite characters to be happy for once! Is that too much to ask?!

I also watched a teensy bit more of Once Upon a Time season 6. I've yet to be impressed, sadly. But Emma, Hook, and the Charming family are enough reason to keep watching.

As far as movies go . . .

The Death Cure

OH. MY. WORD. My siblings and I went to see it in theaters at the beginning of the month. I've enjoyed the first two Maze Runner movies, but this final one blew me away. It was better than expected, and yes, it did rip my heart out and shred it into pieces. Yes, I did almost shed a tear. Yes, I did spend most of the movie with my hands close to my face as if I could shield myself from the adrenaline and feels. (Didn't work.)

The Death Cure definitely felt like a war movie. It was darker than the first two. Lots of strategy, rescue missions, gunfights, chases, and heart-stopping action--but also grave consequences. Characters have worked hard to get where they are, but some of them risk everything to go against WCKD one last time to rescue their friends. It wasn't a perfect movie, and there was quite a bit of violence (obviously), but it somehow did an excellent job of making me feel deeply.

I'm nervous to read the book now because I don't think it'll top the movie.


Much more lighthearted than The Death Cure! I haven't seen this one in a few years, although with all the hype that surrounded its release, I feel like I've watched it more often than I have.

My youngest sister and I decided it would make the perfect cozy film for Valentine's Day evening, which it was. I'd forgotten how sweet the story is, how nutso Kristoff is, and how well the foreshadowing was woven in.


Okay, I quite enjoyed the books a few years ago. I loved the Divergent movie (and its epic soundtrack, oh my goodness). But Insurgent fell kind of flat. I was hoping the series would fight past the sequel blues and deliver at least a decent finish, but based on reviews when Allegiant came out, I wasn't too hopeful.

Finally I sat down and watched it for myself. Yawn. I could have looked past the weird Martian-red landscape beyond Chicago's protective wall (which looks nothing like it did in the book). I could have chosen to ignore the plot holes and lack of explanation behind the sleek technology of the Bureau of Genetic Welfare.

But even though there were some good action sequences, like the escape over the wall, the story totally lacked emotional depth. Tris and Four felt like wooden cut-outs of who they were in Divergent. Tris makes stupid decisions (which I think she did in the book too, but somehow they felt more pronounced on screen). Four goes around being Mr. Brooding Boyfriend and punching people. Christina is practically absent. Peter is still his annoying self, but now in a juvenile way. And Caleb is . . . himself, I suppose. Don't get me started on the villain--his final moment was laughable.

It's a shame this movie bombed the way it did. I believe they were planning to split this book into two films (noooo, whyyyy), but that the fourth movie, Ascendant, was canceled. It's too bad, because Allegiant ended anticlimactically, with little sense of resolution. I was hoping for the kind of courage and sacrifice we find in the book, but alas, all Tris does during the climax is run through a ventilation shaft and shoot some things.

If you're looking for a solid finish to a dystopian movie series, watch The Death Cure instead.

Page Subplots

This was a good month for reading! I finished up a book I'd started in January, read three more, and started another one that will show up in March's Subplots & Storylines. Here's what I finished:

The Scorch Trials // James Dashner

(Funnily enough, I was in the middle of this book when I watched the third movie. Bad bookworm!)

The writing in this one was a slight improvement over book one. I really liked the change of setting found in the Scorch and the ruined cityscape. It was a sharp contrast, and the lack of walls and rules made things more difficult for the characters. Moments like the scene with the Cranks in the Underneath were pretty intense! Newt's dry levelheadedness and Minho's blustery leadership style were fun, and Thomas's dreams/memories were interesting, if a bit repetitive.

My main quibbles fall on the two female characters. Toward the second half, Teresa was just plain annoying. "Trust me, Thomas. This is all an act. No, wait, the act is an act! No, the act is an act of an act! Trust me!" I'm not sure what Thomas sees in her. I was waiting for a better explanation behind her actions, but maybe the payoff is coming in book three.

And Brenda. I was blurring the movie version of her with the book version (that's what you get for watching the movies first), so for the most part I genuinely liked her. Some of her unwarranted touchy-feely moments were grating, but my sisters assure me she improves a lot in book three.

Speaking of movie versions of characters, I just couldn't picture Jorge as being "young" like Dashner described! My picture of Jorge is the 50-something face in the movies, and I can't see him any other way.

Anyway, I enjoyed the book overall! Rat Man was properly infuriating. The sheer craziness of the tests WICKED puts the teens through is . . . well, crazy. There are a lot of unanswered questions, but again--I must read book three and find out. Four stars.

The Candlestone // Bryan Davis

I continued my DIOM reread with the second book in the series this month. Once again it was great to return to beloved characters! In The Candlestone, Billy battles his own darkness, Bonnie faces a deep fear, Walter steps up as a comrade in battle, Professor Hamilton reveals secrets, and Ashley's eyes are opened for the first time. Their journeys really begin to gel and intertwine in this one as a centuries-old story comes to light.

The candlestone itself provided a canvas for several vivid analogies, which I appreciated again in a new way. It nearly brought tears to my eyes. I'll never forget Billy lying on the cavern floor with Excalibur in his grip. "Truth . . . truth is my sword. Faith . . . faith is my shield."

And I couldn't help but notice that Bryan Davis's writing improved over the first book. Both are fantastic, don't get me wrong, but it's neat to see how even your favorite authors grow their craft over time! Five stars.

Hostage Run // Andrew Klavan

Klavan's books are always super fast reads for me, and this one was no exception! I finished it in a few days.

Some things I liked:
  • Klavan's writing style is sharp and to the point. Nothing fancy, but that's what makes it sound like the main character himself, an ex-football player named Rick, is telling his story.
  • Rick's friend Molly featured more prominently in this book, which I loved. She was sadly lacking in book 1, and felt like just another personality-less girlfriend type. But she got a lot more page-time this time around, and her parts of the story were my favorite. She's almost six feet tall, super fit, and spiritually strong as well, a combo I don't find very often.
  • Victor One. He is the BEST.
  • Rick was honestly trying to forgive his father and mend their relationship, unlike so many embittered sons in fiction.
  • The Breach was cool, even if it wasn't explained as much as I wanted.

What I didn't like as much:
  • Mainly just the Octo-Guardian, a humongous creature with octopus legs and a humanoid face. This creature guards the villain's ship in the Realm (the videogame world that Rick is able to enter). Given the videogame context, I guess it works, but it was a biiiit of a stretch to take seriously on my part. Still, it didn't ruin the book for me.

It felt great to devour a book so fast. With that cliffhanger ending, I won't let another couple of years before I pick up the sequel! Four stars.

Orphan's Song // Gillian Bronte Adams

My friends in the blogging/bookish/Goodreads communities have been buzzing about this book ever since Enclave Publishing released it over three years ago! I was intrigued by the premise of a Songkeeper wielding some kind of musical power, but to be honest, I was hesitant about the quality. (I seem to be wary of self-pubbed or small publisher books--always wondering if the writing will be polished enough not to snag my attention with too many mistakes.)

But aside from a small handful of typos and missing commas, my fears were unfounded! This was a really sweet, cozy fantasy that reminded me the type of books I read as a tween/young teen. It just felt homey to me. With a cranky peddler, ancient griffin, mistreated orphan, mysterious sword, and young street rat, it carried many classic elements of a good ol' fantasy adventure.

Amos was my favorite character, even if his refusal to share information with Birdie, the main character, got a little old by the end. For some reason, Amos's voice clearly sounded like Hector Barbossa's in my head??? Except more kindly? I don't know, maybe it was his accent or his amusing insults!

I also enjoyed Ky's storyline and how it eventually wove into Birdie's journey. I'm looking forward to their adventures together. I sense that both of them will flourish in the sequels! Speaking of sequels, the plot twist at the end took me by surprise, even though I should've seen it coming.

I'll be keeping an eye out for book 2! Four stars.

Writing Storylines

I actually have a few little somethings to report here.

First, I wrote a piece of flash fiction about 1,000 words long, called Dead Magic. I intended to submit it to Havok Magazine, but thanks to school and procrastination, I didn't finish in time. I might post it here someday, or brush it up and find another place to submit it. Either way, it was fun to actually write something!

And I purchased an annual Realm Makers membership! Even with the exchange rate to Canadian dollars, it still will save me a bit on conference registration.* When you get a membership, they send you four free audio recordings of past RM classes, so I listened to one by Steve Laube about Theology and the Cosmos. Inspiring! I also caught part of a webinar by Thomas Locke that was open just to RM members.

*Speaking of which, earlybird registration ends on March 15 and I need to do something about that!

But the best writing thing to happen this month was that I finally started working on The Brightest Thread again! YES!!! Not editing yet--that will come later, once this college term finishes. No, for now I'm compiling all the feedback from my beta readers into one place so I can, you know, actually use it. There's about ten sets of complete feedback, give or take a few, so that's a lot of comments to go through! I've covered chapters 1-6, and there are . . . gulp . . . 371 comments to deal with so far. Granted, some of them are positive! But there are also substantial issues to fix in the first section of the book.

Farewell, February! How was your month, adventurers? Is it spring yet for you? Have you seen The Death Cure? Are my book/movie reviews getting too long? (Be honest now.) Should I post about my beta/editing process someday? Let's chat about allll the things!