Saturday, June 23, 2018

Call for Questions!

Adventure Awaits turned three on March 31st, 2018! Yes, that was f o r e v e r ago. But it seems like something worth celebrating, and, well . . . better late than never.

Except I'm never late--I arrive precisely when I intend to. We shall just pretend I intended to arrive now. Shhh . . .
So to celebrate, why not follow in the footsteps of the great bloggers who have gone before me and--

Film a vlog!

. . .

. . .

Yes, yes, I can hear the crickets chirping! This is admittedly not the most original blogoversary idea in the history of the universe. But hear me out. Clichés are clichés for a reason. And I just finished reading Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, so hey, let's start our classy thievery of ideas right now. Here's why a vlog is a good idea:

#1. I've only ever filmed one vlog.

It was years ago. I dare you to find it in the archives. Actually, don't. I haven't watched it in a long time, but I suspect it's a leeeeettle cringey. Anyway! The point is, another one would be fun!

#2. Written communication is 2D, and video is 3D.

In writing, you can't hear my tone of voice or see my dorky face or any of that real-life goodness. I'd love to gather all of you around for a massive bonfire (as long as someone else starts the fire, because I'm terrible at camping skills in general) and roast marshmallows and talk about adventure and books and silly stuff and deep stuff and strange stuff! But the reality is we can't. A vlog is half of a real conversation, though, so that's one step closer.

#3. You want a chance to see the dragon living in my basement, right?

What, you thought I was joking in my bio?

So this is your chance to ask me questionssss, precious!

Now when I'm the one being asked for questions, this is usually my brain's cue to go blank, so here's a warm-up list to get you started. Feel free to ask me about:

  • books
  • writing
  • The Brightest Thread (or any of my stories)
  • books
  • favorite movies
  • why the flipping pancakes a writer would go to business school
  • what it was like to be homeschooled
  • Canada
  • favorite beverage
  • what my dragon's name is
  • favorite authors
  • life as an INFJ
  • books
  • more books
  • the time I almost died (okay, I'm exaggerating)
  • why I'm so much funnier in writing than in person (I'M SORRY, OKAY)
  • how to balance creativity and the billion things Life seems to think are important
  • um . . .
  • books?
  • seriously, just ask me anything. I'm up for the crazy, the deep and thoughtful, the surface-level, the ridiculous, whatever. (just probably not the super private stuff . . . like personal address or blood type. I can see you vampires lurking in the corner. Back, foul beasts.)

Go ahead and steal any of the above questions and/or make up a bunch of your own! The more the merrier, though I will try to keep things under control and not subject you to three million hours of my voice.

Leave all your questions in the comments! My plan is to get the vlog put together before Realm Makers in mid-July! (I'M SORRY, FRIEND, YOU'LL HAVE TO TALK LOUDER--THAT'S JUST THE SOUND OF LIFE LAUGHING AT MY AMBITIONS.) I'll be away from the internet for a bit first, but rest assured I'll be back to chortle at your amazing questions. So ask away!

Housekeeping Note: Next week's Subplots & Storylines post will be a couple of days late. See ya soon!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Voices of YA Tag

I have been tagged by Lisa @ Inkwell for the Voices of YA tag! (Everyone go say hi to her. She's awesome.) Truth be told, she tagged me a whole Y E A R ago, and here I am, finally getting around to it.
The Rules:
  • Thank the person who tagged you (thanks again, Lisa, and sorry for my tardiness!)
  • Link to the original creator (you can find it from Caitlin Lambert @ Quills and Coffee HERE)
  • Answer the ten questions
  • Tag at LEAST two other YA writers/bloggers
  • Share with the hashtag #VoicesofYA

[graphic from Caitlin Lambert]

1. What draws you to YA?

The emotions! Everyone knows teenhood is fraught with them, and so is young adult fiction. Now, I'm not a big fan of melodramatic angst--that can get ridiculous fast--but I am in love with the full range of excitement, confusion, doubt, passion, and fear that can be found in teenaged protagonists.

Of course these things are also present in adult fiction, and even to a certain extent in middle grade fiction . . . but YA is where it really shines. It's the bridge between the carefree days of childhood and the responsibility of adulthood. It's when a person starts to define who he or she is. It's one big cocoon of transformation, and that's what I love about it.
I may be older than most YA characters by now, but that doesn't make their struggles any less relevant. If anything, I think teens are just more honest about the hard things, and it's the adults who try to hide behind masks. I hope I always stay young at heart.

2. Describe your writing process. Do you like outlines and structures, or seeing where the story takes you?

Both! When I started out, I wrote by the seat of my pants, content to see where the story wandered. (Outlining? Pfft, that was for school.) That worked until I started writing actual novels and got very stuck. Then I switched to outlining--the full Roman numeral chapter-by-chapter method--and that worked until the plot and characters took on lives of their own and refused to listen to my plan. I tried bending them to my will, but they clammed up and became wooden and boring.
So now I'm a hybrid, neither a pantser nor a plotter. I like a good roadmap with all the important signposts in place, but I want the freedom to figure out the road in between as I go. Whenever the space between signposts (a.k.a. bullet points in a Word doc) is too big and I get lost, I step back and re-evaluate, usually filling in a few more plot points before I keep writing.
That's what works for me now, but who knows? That could change one day. Every book is a new adventure, and my process keeps evolving.

3. How long have you been writing? Where are you in your journey?

I have been writing in some form or another since I was six or seven, when a love of books and the encouragement of my first grade teacher overflowed into the act of writing my own tales.
I have been writing novels since I was twelve, when I started The Prophet's Quest, which, at the time, was a thinly veiled Chronicles of Narnia / Dragons in Our Midst crossover.
Since then, I wrote the sequel (The Prophet's Key) and started the third book in the series (untitled). I edited TPQ, the first book, numerous times--first on my own and then with the help of amazing mentors (you know who you are!)--when I was sixteen. That's what really jumpstarted my writing craft. I also started rewriting TPK, the second book.

I wrote four novella-sized retellings of fairy tales in between those edits/rewrites: The Glass Girl (Cinderella), Blood Rose (Beauty and the Beast), The Brightest Thread (Sleeping Beauty), and most recently, Mirrors Never Lie (Snow White). All of these were for contests hosted by Rooglewood Press, and I'm still delighted whenever I think about TBT and MNL placing as finalists.
Because I fell irreversibly in love with The Brightest Thread, and because it had so much room for more story, I expanded it into a full novel last summer. After taking a break for college, I'm now editing this special story.
But I guess that's my writing history, and the question asked about the journey. So where am I right now? I'm honing my craft, working to sharpen my plotlines and smooth my characters' rough edges. I'm devouring all the education on writing I can, from blogs to books to conferences to conversations with real-life authors. I'm researching the publishing industry. I've been putting my work out there in little ways. And right now, I'm slowly but surely researching literary agents and preparing myself to query in earnest.
This author thing is a long road, and I refuse to put timelines on it anymore, but I honestly do feel like I'm a lot closer to publishing than I've ever been.
(None of this is supposed to be an "oh, look at me!" statement. Just sharing my journey: where I've been, where I am, and where I dream of going.)


4. What do you need to write? Coffee? Music?

Neither is a necessity. I like coffee, but most days tea is more appreciated. I love music, but it's been a long time since I wrote to it consistently. All I need is a spot on the couch in the living room, my laptop, maybe a notebook, and relative quiet. (People can be talking, but I can't have a movie playing in the background.)
In high school, I would hole up in my room for hours at a time with Narnia soundtracks on loop, and that's how I wrote. But since the adult life takes me away from home a lot more often than the homeschooled-teen life did, these days I like to camp out someplace in the house that's closer to my family. I guess I've gotten used to having distractions people around?

5. If you could offer one piece of advice to another writer (other than "don't give up"), what would it be?

If you want to publish, you're going to need to be in this for the long haul. Even if you don't want to publish, and your dream is to share your stories with friends and family, you still need to see the long game. Because writing a book is not a fast process. Publishing it is an even longer process.
See question #3? I've been writing seriously for ten years, and only now do I have a novel I think might be publishing-worthy. (And it's not even done. Revisions take time.) As a young writer, I dreamt of being a breakout bestseller at age sixteen. All those other authors with stories about hundreds of rejections and years of waiting? Ha, that wouldn't happen to ME. Fast forward to today, and I'm honest-to-goodness glad it's a longer journey than I once thought. Sixteen-year-old me was not ready. That book I was writing at the time wasn't ready. Great gobs of gravy, I'm not sure if I'm 100% ready now, but I'm a lot closer than before. Your journey will look different, but be willing to see the big picture and Take. Your. Time.
The thing is, if you're serious about this, you're going to need patience by the truckload. Determination, humility, a willingness to learn, and courage help a lot too. Writing is easy. Writing well takes a lot of practice and a lot of guts. And publishing? Well, I'll let you know how that goes! See the big picture. It will keep you from getting discouraged when you feel stuck.

6. What book still has you reeling from its plot twist?

It's so hard to pick just one! But since we're talking about YA, I'll point to one of my favorite YA fantasy books, The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen. A number of my Goodreads friends say that they saw the twist coming, but for some reason I did not. Maybe knowing there is a twist makes it easier to see coming?

Anyway, it surprised me! Suddenly the plot clicked in a way it hadn't before, and niggling little things that had bothered me started to make sense. It was epic. Go read it. The rest of the Ascendance Trilogy is a lot of fun too.

7. What books are you most anticipating for this year?


Ahem. I've only read one book by Nadine Brandes so far, but I am ridiculously excited about her historical fantasy coming out next month! Because hey, it's historical fantasy, and I do not have enough of that wonderfulness in my life. Also it involves the Gunpowder Plot (y'know, Guy Fawkes and blowing up the king and all that jazz?). And it involves masks. And magic. And the cover is gorgeous. And Nadine Brandes wrote it. So I am all the excited.
I'm also looking forward to reading A Thousand Perfect Notes, C.G. Drews' recent debut! It's Cait from Paper Fury, people! Our very own queen of the universe! So I'm very happy for her and can't wait to have my heart broken by her book.
Some other books that have been out for a while, but are among the "highly anticipated" books on my TBR this year . . .
The Scorpio Races and All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater. The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron. Wanted: a Superhero to Save the World by Bryan Davis. Stars Above by Marissa Meyer. By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson. The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber. (I'd better stop.)

8. In your opinion, which YA book/series has the most unique premise?

Excuse me? How am I supposed to answer that?
Pardon me while I go stare at my Goodreads shelves.
. . .
Okay. I'm back. The problem is that all my favorites have something unique about them, whether it's fairytales in space (The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer), the non-burning of the Library of Alexandria (The Great Library series by Rachel Caine), or a spiritual journey in the midst of a creepy small town (Solitary Tales by Travis Thrasher).
But I honestly can't think of anything quite like the mashup of awesomeness found in the triplet series Dragons in Our Midst / Oracles of Fire / Children of the Bard by Bryan Davis. Where else can you read about dragons, Arthurian legend, Biblical history, and sci-fi technology in one storyworld? These books span Earth across literal millennia, plumb the depths of Hades, ascend to Heaven, and venture into realms straight out of the author's imagination. Rereading them this year has been awesome.

9. What is your all-time favorite quote from YA?

I'm no good at these "all-time favorite" questions, so I'll cop out and offer you two quotes I like--one amusing and the other deep.
First, from Winter by Marissa Meyer:
"Did you see any rice in there? Maybe we could fill Cinder's head with it."

Everyone stared at him.

"You know, to . . . absorb the moisture, or something. Isn't that a thing?"

"We're not putting rice in my head."

Second, from my current read, Enoch's Ghost by Bryan Davis:

Sapphira held the brick with the red diode close to the photometer. "You can't do this alone, Ashley."

She released her hair, leaving a bloody smear. "I couldn't reach Larry. I already tried."

"I don't mean Larry." Sapphira's eyes once again blazed. "I think you know exactly what I mean."

Ashley looked up at her and stared. "If you mean have faith, that's what I'm trying to do."

"I know you're trying." Sapphira laid a hand on Ashley's cheek. A ripple of fire rode along Sapphira's forearm and crept into her hand. "You have been trying all your life."

Ashley closed her eyes. Heavenly warmth radiated into her cheek and flowed throughout her body, loosening her muscles and draining her tension.

"Relax, Ashley, and let Jehovah work through you. Faith asks that you let his power flow, not your anxiety, not your fears, and not your sweat. His power."


10. What books do you most hope will have a movie adaptation?

Ooooh, that's a good question. My one caveat with this list is that these movies have to be made really well or not at all. Ha.

  • The Lunar Chronicles // Marissa Meyer

    • If they get the casting right and use top-notch special effects, this could be epic!

  • Solitary Tales // Travis Thrasher

    • These would be so. stinking. creepy. Especially with a good composer for the soundtrack!

  • Rangers Apprentice // John Flanagan

    • Again, good casting, please! But how fun would it be to see these adventures on the big screen? I think a TV show would work a lot better than a movie series in this case.

  • Illusionarium // Heather Dixon

    • Because I just want a steampunk movie.

  • The Montmorency books // Eleanor Updale

    • Set in Victorian London, with the main character living the dual life of a gentleman and a criminal, this could be a fun set of movies. It's been forever since I read them, but now I want to reread . . .

  • My own books!

    • Come on, every writer dreams of this, right?


Thanks for the tag, Lisa! It rescued me on a day my brain didn't want to cooperate with blogging, and it was fun to boot.

I hereby tag:
Chloe @ Faeries and Folklore*
Kaitlyn @ Animal Jam Jumble*
Hanna @ Taking My Time
Josiah @ The Steadfast Pen
Savannah @ Inspiring Writes
Victoria Grace Howell @ Wanderer's Pen
You, if you want to steal it!

*You both are YA readers, not necessarily YA writers, but go ahead and tweak the first five questions to suit yourselves. :)

Saturday, June 9, 2018

When an Overachiever Rebels - a brain dump

You ready for a brain dump?

Sometimes plans change.

Last week I gave you all an update on The Brightest Thread's editing progress, which was not nearly as far as I had planned. See, I seem to think I'm Wonder Woman, and I plan accordingly. A few months ago, while finishing up my second semester at business school, I sketched out big summer editing plans.

  1. Finish compiling feedback from my beta readers before exams
  2. Edit this entire novel before school starts again in September
  3. In fact, get as much of TBT edited as possible before Realm Makers in mid-July

Ha! It's only the beginning of June, but things are already off track. Step 1 was finished a month after exams. And steps 2-3 are well on their way to . . . not being completed, at least not under that timeline. I am, after all, still plunking away at chapter one. And there are thirty more chapters to go, some of them gnarlier than others. (Hey, if gnarly is a word, then why can't gnarlier be one too, hmm?)

"But what's the big deal?" you might be wondering. "Just adjust your goals."

The Big Deal is that my brain is a giant, whirring to-do list. Doing, achieving, and checking off boxes is hardwired into my thought process. My personality just likes progress! While some people need to work up the will to get moving, I have to consciously rein myself back so that I STOP now and then. (Neither temperament is good or bad--it's just how we operate.)

This all means that backing off from an unrealistic goal usually feels more like admitting defeat than, um, being smart.

Now, I am starting to get better at adjusting my goals. I'm slowly learning how to pace myself so that I don't burn out so often. In the past few weeks, as I've watched the Goal Train pull far, far ahead of me until all I could make out was a tiny caboose, I had to pause and re-evaluate. Want to hear how that conversation with myself went? (The correct answer is yes, of course you do, and no, you don't have anything better to do at the moment like eat peanut butter or clean your room or rule the world.)

* * *

Me: So. Those editing goals we made? Yeah, we're awfully behind.

Also Me: Shush. We're fine.

Me: No, I mean one-third of our summer vacation is OVER. That means we should be at least ten chapters into The Brightest Thread revisions.

Also Me: Right, and we're perfectly--


Also Me: *is stressed*

Also Me: Okay. So let's do something about that. Let's make plans to work really, really hard the rest of June and all of July and August, and we can still make this happen.

Me: Oh, great, so I guess all we'll do is eat, sleep, edit, and go to work. It's not like we have an actual family or friends or--good heavens--a social life. Or a blog, or books to read so that the creative well doesn't dry up, or movies we want to see, or places we want to go, or even a summer we want to live.

from my recent road trip adventures

Me: Let's trash the goals.

Also Me: . . .

Also Me: Did you just hear yourself?

Me: I should hope so, because you and I are the same person and we are carrying on a conversation. (Wonder which one of us is Sméagol?)

Also Me: We never scrap the goals. Never.

Me: I know. And that's why you're tired.

Also Me: But sometimes you have to push on even when you're tired so that you build stamina. What about learning how to write fast and write even when you don't feel like it? That's what real authors do under contract! You do want a publishing deal one day, right?

Me: Calm down. You are doing just fine. Look, you wrote Mirrors Never Lie with full college classes and part-time shifts going on at the same time. You expanded The Brightest Thread into a novel last summer. You've written under deadline for a bunch of contests, and for even more self-imposed deadlines. You did the 100-for-100 challenge two summers ago. You know how to put your butt in the chair and fingers on the keyboard and write, and you'll just keep getting better at it. Choosing to slow down doesn't mean you're failing.

Also Me: Yeah, yeah, okay. But does this mean we have to break up TBT edits into two chunks? Leave it for eight months while we go back to school, and then come back to it next summer to finish? This will create so much extra work.

Me: But missing out on people and life in favor of meeting a goal kind of sucks. So I propose that we trash the goals, take the pressure off, and just see what happens. Let's make time for the important people in life, live in the moment, and really give TBT the time and care it needs rather than rush through a slapdash round of revisions.

Also Me: That sounds . . . kind of relieving. But what about Realm Makers? You're pitching TBT there! They say "complete manuscripts only!"

Me: TBT is complete. We're just improving it.

Also Me: But--

Me: Besides, you know how slowly the publishing business moves. Don't borrow troubles that don't exist yet.

Also Me: *sigh* Fine. I surrender. And who knows? With this new non-plan of no pressure, we might end up being more productive.

Me: Maybe. But don't push it.

* * *

also from the road trip
So that's my roundabout way of saying that I kicked my goals to the side and decided to keep a more balanced pace this summer. After two years of almost non-stop movement, I need a break. It's tough to admit it. After finally coming to grips with the fact that I wouldn't get much writing done at all during college this past year, I clung to the hope that I had all summer to write/edit as I pleased. What I didn't anticipate was the leftover fatigue. But you know what? Time and freedom and careful pondering are what my novel needs right now.

And I think The Brightest Thread will turn out better for it.

I still find myself looking over at those crumpled goals lying in the corner, wondering if maybe I'm being weak or undisciplined for putting them aside. But deep down, I know I'm not. I know this is another lesson in living the best possible life, a life in which I can work and play and be without guilt.

What about you? I know this felt like a "me, me, me" kind of post, but hopefully it was encouraging--especially for those of you who might be in a similar spot right now. (The humor of this post being published kind of late is not lost on me.) So tell me, how do you know when it's time to ease up and relax?

P.S. You may be wondering what's happened to this year's Silmarillion Awards. Never fear, they are still on the schedule! But we have elected to bump them a little bit later in the year, for reasons that Jenelle Schmidt so wonderfully explains HERE.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Subplots and Storylines - May 2018

Happy Saturday, everyone! By the time this post goes up, it'll be almost Sunday. Oops. It actually feels like I just wrote my last S&S post a week ago, but May is over already. Who on earth gave it permission to go so fast? It's been a really good month. For one thing, it was unseasonably warm, and the days were full of gardening, ice cream, and peppermint tans.*

*This is when a bookworm sits out in the sun to read and ends up with limbs that are pink on top and still winter-white on the bottom.

For another, May was also full of friend-stuff. Confession: although I love all my friends dearly, I am also an introvert who guards her alone time and likes her social life to have . . . gaps in between. But this month I decided that my introversion, while valid, does not have to mean I'm stingy with my time! So I ended up face-timing a writer friend, shopping with a college friend, inviting another friend over for dinner, and then taking a six-hour road trip to another pal's place for a weekend. (All of you extroverts may take this moment to laugh at me making a big deal over only four social events.)

Anyway, 'twas all very fun! I'd never road-tripped anywhere by myself before, so it was like a mini-vacation. The friend I visited (whom I haven't seen in a year) lives on a farm with horses and bees and the most affectionate, slobbery, big dogs I've ever met.

And now on to the story-related happenings of May: the ones I watched, read, and wrote.

Screen Subplots

Justice League

Recommendation: do not watch this half a week after seeing Infinity War, because it will pale in comparison. It seems like Justice League was trying to be a DC version of Avengers and it just . . . didn't work for me at all. The plot wasn't cohesive, none of the major characters had any personal stakes in their cause, the villain was a negative number on the Scariness Scale, and Clark Kent's face was botched by poor CGI. The best part of the movie was the presence of Wonder Woman and the introduction of the Flash. (Except Grant Gustin brought the character to life so, so much better in the TV show than Ezra Miller does in this flick.)

My brother reviewed the movie over on The Steadfast Pen a while back, and he went into more detail about some of the things that didn't quite work.

Spider-Man 2

Watched this with my siblings and ahhh, the cringe! The nostalgia! Sadly, it was far less cool this time around than it was the first time I saw it. But it's one of those movies that's still fun to see, if only for the fact that my siblings and I had way too much fun joking about it.

The Death Cure

Still every bit as good as when I saw it in theaters! I might even go so far as to say it was the strongest movie in the trilogy. More thoughts were shared in February's Subplots and Storylines post!

Emma (BBC 2009 version)

I LOVED IT SO MUCH. This is only the second Jane Austen movie I've seen--the first being Pride and Prejudice, the one with Kiera Knightley--and I thoroughly enjoyed all four hours of it. So much that I want to go buy it right now.

Emma is the sort of person who believes she is always right, and it was rewarding to see the crumbling of her matchmaking plans force her to grow in humility. And Mr. Knightley . . . I didn't think anyone could top Mr. Darcy, but Knightley might have just done it for me. He and Emma have the sort of bantering/bickering sort of friendship that grows between two stubborn people who aren't afraid to speak their minds. His loyalty and honesty was fantastic.

There was a plethora of other vibrant characters gracing the screen too: the worrisome Mr. Woodhouse ("They might do something reprehensible--like open the windows!"), kind governess Anne Taylor, empty-headed Harriet Smith, snobbish Mr. Elton, charismatic Frank Churchill, incessantly talkative Mrs. Bates, and reserved Jane Fairfax. Speaking of Mrs. Bates, I found the picnic scene surprisingly convicting--if you've watched it, you might know why.

But seriously. Mr. Knightley. Excellent character right there. I must read the book.

Period Drama Confessions! gif

Page Storylines

Eye of the Oracle // Bryan Davis

Well, I've finished rereading the Dragons in Our Midst series this year, so it was time to kick off the Oracles of Fire series! Returning to this huge story was really enjoyable. I'm in awe of Bryan Davis's ability to weave a single story through millennia--literally, because the book starts just before the Great Flood and ends in the modern day.

Sapphira and Elam remain some of my favorite characters; so do Makaidos* and Thigocia! It was neat to refresh my memory on all the connections between the dragons and other important characters--both heroes and villains--throughout history. But lest you think this tome is boring, oh no! Battles with demonic Watchers, the toils of underground slaves, portal jumping, the growth of a Nephilim army, and so much more jumps off the page.

*Makaidos is probably one of my favorite dragons ever.

Plus the foreshadowing is spectacular. New readers could pick this up without much trouble, but readers of Dragons in Our Midst will catch dozens of hints.

5 stars!

The Sea of Monsters // Rick Riordan

I read primarily YA, so whenever I dip my toes in MG (middle grade), I'm fascinated and amused by the different approach. But before I go all writer nerd on you, here's what I noticed as a reader.

I loved the humor, the taxi of death, Tyson, Percy's water navigation skills, the sirens, the man-eating sheep, and the shouted conversation about Nobody.* The villain's plan, although revealed a little late, was great too. On the negative side, the plot matched that of the first book almost beat for beat, and there could have been some more introspection at certain moments that needed a reaction.


Thankfully, Percy didn't suffer the fate of the unchanged-protagonist-who-learned-nothing-in-the-previous-book. He was stronger, braver, and more at ease with his gifts, even if he was simultaneously more upset with his father. I'm looking forward to finally continuing the Percy Jackson series.

4.5 stars!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone // J.K. Rowling

Hello, my name is Tracey Dyck, I'm 22 years old, and this was my first foray into the world of Harry Potter.

Yes. You may all gasp.

But guess what? I'm utterly enchanted! This made me laugh out loud multiple times, and made me want to visit Hogwarts for myself. Harry is a wonderful hero--sympathetic, clever, relatable, and unexpectedly brave. Ron and Hermione make for brilliant friends. The whole cast of characters, in fact, was distinct and charming.

I did have some quibbles. There were times when the lying and sneaking around actually weren't necessary--and it did seem that Harry and his pals could have faced more consequences for their frequent breaches. Hagrid, though I love him, was revealed to be a bit less worthy of respect than I thought, which was too bad. And I still can't figure out how Harry and Ron chucked pipes and bathroom taps at the troll--did they rip them right out of the wall or what? (Seriously, someone please enlighten me.)

But the deft writing style, magical wonder, and pop-off-the-page characters make this a book I'll probably buy. It may have taken me two decades to get to Hogwarts, but I'll be visiting again real soon.

4.5 stars!

Gravestone (audiobook) // Travis Thrasher

What better way to make a road trip pass by quickly than to listen to an audiobook? Although I did briefly question the wisdom of listening to a creepy story whilst driving through remote countryside. Heh.

This sequel to Solitary is a dark and winding road, much like the mountain path leading up to the Crag's Inn where Chris works. It's gloomy. It's sad at times, intense in others, but just like the inn, there are rays of light beginning to penetrate Chris's messed-up world.

The plot kept me on my toes as I tried to figure out who to trust. Even though I've read this book before, that was five years ago, and I forgot some of the twists. There were genuinely creepy moments standing in stark contrast to several sweet interactions and thought-provoking conversations. Chris's emotions are very real--the grief, the anger, the confusion, the weariness, the fear.

Looking forward to revisiting the rest of the series. 5 stars!

Written Subplots

Despite the fact that I am so behind on my writing goals, this was actually a pretty productive month. (More on those goals in an upcoming post, I think.)

During the first half of May, I finished compiling beta reader feedback on The Brightest Thread. This covered chapters 20 through 31. I also reviewed the feedback forms I had sent them, which resulted in a document almost fifty pages long.

Because my head was swirling with all the helpful reactions and advice from about a dozen different people, I cracked open a fresh, new notebook to scribble in while I edit. This will be the place I nail down the biggest issues to fix in each chapter and brainstorm how to patch them up.

And then . . . in the second half of May, I dove into ACTUAL EDITING. I love this stage of the writing process! But it's also challenging right now. In the past couple of weeks, I've rewritten my opening several times (bringing me up to about six different versions of chapter one, including one that was split into two chapters because it got so long). Just when I thought I might be on the right track, some sage feedback from a mentor opened my eyes to several blunders I'd made while trying to correct the original chapter's mistakes. Sometimes you have to make a mess in order to clean up, you know?

So as June unfolds, I'll keep hammering away at chapter one. It's a tricky beast, for some reason, but I just know there's a smashing good opening to be found somewhere!

By the by, once editing is really in full swing this summer, I plan to put together a walk-through post of my editing process, since some of you writerly types have shown interest.

On another writing note, Realm Makers is less than 50 days away now! Say what?! This month I scheduled my mentor appointment and two agent appointments, which makes the conference feel incredibly real and incredibly close. I also submitted the first ten pages of The Brightest Thread for a paid critique appointment . . . which now feels a bit silly, since I'm reworking those pages entirely anyway. But perhaps I'll still glean something valuable from the feedback?

Yet another writing thingamajig that went down this May was a brainstorming/planning session for a Very Secret Project. I shall not breathe a word of it yet, but it's coming along. Simmering busily in the back of my mind while I go about my work and editing and other such things. I have tentatively planned to reveal this project sometime this summer, so keep your eyes peeled!*

*Is this not just the weirdest phrase? The thought of putting a potato peeler anywhere near my eyeballs is horrendous.

So yes! That was May!

I hung out with actual people, went on a road trip, got a peppermint tan, hopped back on the Percy Jackson train, and at very long last caught the Harry Potter train too. (Speaking of trains, I'm so happy to finally understand what platform nine and three-quarters means.) I've not had this much writing news to share in a long time, and it feels good. Also I seem to be footnote-happy today. So there you have it. My summer break is off to a lovely start.

Now tell me, how are you? Do you like road trips? Harry Potter: yay or nay? Any guesses as to the nature of the Very Secret Project? What are your summer plans, folks?