Saturday, December 30, 2017

Subplots and Storylines - December 2017 // Year-End Recap

Hello, my friends! December is winding to a close and 2018 is nearly upon us. It has certainly been quite the year, and there's much to talk about today. I'll try to keep the December subplots relatively short in order to save room for a look back on the year as a whole! (Does anybody else feel ridiculously self-centered when dedicating an entire post to themselves and their own life? No? Just me? Okay. Moving on.)

Storylines of Life

It was a simple equation this month. Exams + Christmas = December. But I'll give you a bit more detail than that! My brother, Josiah (who also blogs!), had a birthday. And then I had a week of final exams, during which I buried myself in textbooks and sighed wistfully for Christmas and at last passed first term with very satisfying grades. That means I'm a quarter of the way to graduating, woohoo! I've been on break since then, but between work and family gatherings and a baby shower, it's been a full month. Only in the last few days have I finally slowed down.

Christmas itself was wonderful. I had four days off in a row to spend with family. We went to our church service on Christmas Eve and then opened stockings and swapped ticket gifts. My middle sister Chloe (who is also a fellow blogger!) gave each of us a piece of original artwork. What she drew for me was Hadrian and Luci, the two main characters of my novel The Brightest Thread. I've never received fanart before, so this made my day!

Aren't they the cutest?! (Sorry about the bothersome watermark--I just wanted
to keep her artwork protected.)

On Christmas Day, I slept in and then we gathered around for homemade apple scones and a reading of the Christmas story, followed by our leisurely way of unwrapping gifts--one at a time, captured on video. It was slow and relaxing and so much fun.

Aaaand like the good little bookdragon I am, I'm sharing my bookhaul! My brother gave me The Tournament at Gorlan (hooray for Ranger's Apprentice prequels!). My parents gave me the first three Lunar Chronicles books (been eyeing them at the bookstore for months), Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World (not pictured because it's still in the mail--phooey on Amazon), and Steal Like an Artist (which looks utterly inspiring and is sure to kickstart my new year of writing). I also threw my new Leuchtturm into the picture because it's going to be my 2018 bullet journal! And my first two Funko Pops ever: Frodo Baggins and Captain America. Oh, and one other nerdy gift I received that is also not pictured was a S.T.A.R. Labs sweatshirt--I now feel like I'm part of Team Flash, and that's awesome.

Subplots on the Screen

As far as TV shows go, I picked up Avatar: The Last Airbender with my sisters again and watched two more episodes. I also saw more of season 3 of The Flash (it's getting extremely feelsy, you guys, and I might not survive). I rewatched more of Once Upon a Time season 3 and started season 6 at last!

Wonder Woman

A rewatch with a friend from school, because we needed to give our exam-addled brains a break. Just as amazing as the first time!

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Lo and behold, this PotC movie miiiight be my new favorite! I found the plots of the first three excessively complicated in some regards--maybe I just need to rewatch them--but this one was more straightforward. No less chaotic, however; it's Jack Sparrow, after all! I really liked the new character Philip (which has nothing to do with Finnick from the Hunger Games, nope, not at all . . .) even if he was a bit sappy in regards to Syrena. It seems rare for a missionary character like Philip to be painted in a positive light, so I appreciated that!

Cars 3

The Cars franchise has had some ups and downs lately, but I found this one to be a truly solid sequel! It had just the right balance of nostalgic nods to the first movie and new direction to breathe some fresh air into the story. Cruze was a cute addition, and I quite liked the mentor relationship between her and Lightning. One scene in the middle, which I won't spoil for you, had me laughing out loud like a kid.

Storylines on the Page

Hollow City // Ransom Riggs

I read the first book almost exactly a year ago, so I was a bit fuzzy on things going into this sequel. Thankfully there was a character guide at the front, or else it would've taken me even longer to get the eight main peculiar children straight in my head! Once I did, however, the book was pretty interesting.

I liked the new flavor of this one, with a much broader setting, and a very clear and definite goal for the characters. What can I say? Quests are one of my favorite things! Each of the children got to have an important moment in which they helped the group in some way with their abilities, which helped keep this large cast necessary and active. (Ahem, my writer side is showing.) Time loops, gypsies, bombed London, wights, trains, chase scenes . . . it was certainly a unique read, and I look forward to the finale! 4 stars.

The Phantom Tollbooth // Norton Juster (5)

I already gushed over this book in a recent post, but it's officially a 5 star book! Philosophical without being overpowering, equal parts delightful and wise, and simply a joy read. This is a new favorite!

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King // William Joyce

I loved the movie Rise of the Guardians, and have been wanting to try the Middle-Grade book series for quite some time, so Christmas seemed like the ideal season to start. This book is wildly imaginative, and I do mean wild! There's a lot going on. Ancient spaceships, wizards, the magical haven of Santoff Klaussen, Pitch's nightmare creatures, a robotic djinni, Russian bandits, Santa's origin story, Yetis . . . But that's precisely what would've captured my attention as a kid!

What I loved now as an adult were the fun characters, especially North himself and dear little Katherine. The two make an unlikely and adorable pair. 4 stars.

The Maze Runner // James Dashner

My youngest sister (yes, she ALSO is a blogger--I'm just linking to all my sibs today!) was very eager for me to read this book. I'm actually in the middle of it right now, but I aim to finish it before New Year's! At first, I didn't fully connect with the writing style, but now things are getting exciting, so I'm able to look past it. And I want more Newt, please! Also Minho! (I'm estimating that this will be a 4 star read for me--we'll see!)

Subplots on My Writing Desk

I edited Mirrors Never Lie through two or three drafts this month, and submitted it to Rooglewood Press at last! Hooray! That moment before hitting send is always a little nerve-wracking. I know the story is not 100% perfect . . . but I also know that I did the best I could given the time constraints.

Now that it's officially off my plate, I am free of writing deadlines for a little while! More on that in a future post, probably. I have some thoughts percolating in regards to 2018 and goals and writing and whatnot.

That was December! It was a good month, especially the second half. So much for keeping this post short, though, because here comes the recap . . .

Later on I'll be dedicating a whole post to the books I read in 2017, so for now we'll chat just about the highlights of life and writing and such.

life in 2017

I could look back on 2017 and consider it to have been a busy year, and that would be true. But I kind of hate that word--so instead I choose to see it as a full year. 365 days of adventure, in every risky, messy, exciting, monotonous, challenging, stretching sense of the word. Here's the highlight reel.

I ran a spring break day camp with my classmates at leadership college. That experience was the most stressful and the most rewarding part of college, and it taught me countless lessons about being a leader. Stuff comes out of you under pressure--some of it good, some of it surprising. After three months of preparation, we threw ourselves into that week, and made lasting memories with the kids.

I went to Calgary and Banff, also with my classmates. Beautiful places, fond memories, good food, and a breath of fresh air for my soul.

I graduated leadership college and said goodbye to nine incredible months.

I went to the Realm Makers conference in Reno, Nevada. So many firsts! First time flying, first time traveling internationally by myself, first writing conference, first time meeting some lovely internet friends, first time pitching to agents . . .

I took a vacation with my fam jam at a cozy cabin in the northern U.S. After a whirlwind of activity, that was a much-needed time of relaxation and fun.

I saw the band Skillet in concert. And my ears were ringing for the next twenty-four hours, but it was worth it.

I turned 22.

I completed my first term of business classes at college. I learned some really practical things--and some things I'll never use again--but it will be a steppingstone toward what I want for the future.

writing in 2017

I wrote 17,000 words in a rewrite of The Prophet's Key, book 2 in my multi-world fantasy series. That was all in January, before I put it aside to focus on another project.

I expanded the novella of The Brightest Thread, my reimagining of Sleeping Beauty, into a novel of almost 70,000 words. I edited it a couple of times, pitched it at Realm Makers, and when I came home I sent it out to a group of AMAZING beta readers.

I wrote and edited Mirrors Never Lie for Rooglewood Press's Five Poisoned Apples contest. (Final wordcount was 19,962 for anyone who cares about such stats.) This novella is a loose retelling of Snow White, involving a Nordic fantasy setting, seven huntsmen, and a mirror laced with unkindly magic.

I also wrote two poems--maybe three if you count the post hey dreamer. Definitely didn't do as many writing prompts or poems as last year, due to an intense focus on TBT.

And here on Adventure Awaits, I published 56 posts. One blogging highlight was co-hosting the second annual Silmarillion Awards, which was just as epic as the previous year's. As a whole, I feel like I haven't been able to give you, my followers, the dedication I wanted to this year, but I thank you for understanding the fullness of my season of life. Stick around--there are fun things in store!

(If you made it to the end of this monstrously long post, good on ya, mate.)

2017, you were a year that pushed me past my limits. You were groundbreaking--not in the sensational sense of the word, but in the sense of calloused hands tilling the earth. Breaking new ground. Every time I reached the end of myself and thought I surely couldn't go further, God proved me wrong and provided the strength for just one more step.

A chance to attend Realm Makers was an answer to prayer; so was getting into college this fall, after being told they had no room for me. Sometimes in the daily grind, it's easy to feel like dreams aren't anywhere close to being fulfilled . . . but when I look back, I can see there was never anything to fear.

2018, let's see what you have in store! Dear readers, how was your year?

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Wonder in the Ordinary

[image via Pinterest; graphic mine]

I've been moving too fast to think much about Christmas--I mean really think about it, settle into the Scriptures, stare out the snowy window, and journal whatever comes to mind. I plan to make time for that soon. In the meantime, though, a single thought has nestled into my heart. A tiny thought. Not a new thought or flashy thought, just a true one. In fact, this little thought starts with a single word:


After being repeated for millennia, the Christmas story is sometimes glossed over like a too-beautiful-to-touch trinket we bring out once a year to place on a shelf where we can admire it from afar. At times I forget how very humble, tangible, and imperfect it all was. How very ordinary.

Mary, an ordinary young woman. She was probably going about her wedding preparations like any other fiancée at the time would have done. Maybe she was planning the feast or washing dishes or sweeping the floor when an angel interrupted her ordinary day and dropped life-shattering news into her lap.

Joseph, an ordinary young man. Also preparing for his upcoming wedding. Startled by Mary's news that she was pregnant, of all outrageous things. And then an ordinary night gave way to a decidedly extraordinary vision confirming Mary's words.

A census. A dusty travel, uncomfortable and inconvenient. (Surely we've all been there? Road-weary and impatient and wanting nothing more than a meal and a familiar bed?)

A stable with ordinary animals, ordinary stink, ordinary cold. Nothing special about it at all, except for the baby born inside.

Shepherds--oh, the shepherds. I've always been fascinated by them most of all. These men weren't all that high on the social ladder. I don't imagine they made much money at their jobs. Just think--long hours out in the elements. Smelly, bleating sheep all around. Sore feet in worn sandals. Only the stars above their heads as they stared blearily into the darkness, trying to stay awake and watch for predators. I'm sure this particular nightly watch looked and felt and smelled much like any other, with the same old frustrations, little pleasures, and predictable routine. It was an ordinary night. Perhaps boring. Quite likely unremarkable.

That is, until the heavens exploded with light and song and the kind of news that drives you to your knees.

Emmanuel--God with us.

After half a millennia of utter silence between God and man, even the staunchest believer might have wondered if the faith of their history was little more than a fairy tale, or if God was ever planning to speak again. Maybe He'd moved on. Lost interest. Shut mankind out. Forgotten the rescue He promised.

But no, not even close. On this ordinary night, above an ordinary field, an indescribable army of angels sang of the long-awaited Answer.

I have to smile at what the first angel announcer said: "You will know you have found Him when you see a baby, wrapped in a blanket, lying in a feeding trough." (Luke 2:12, the Voice)

He didn't announce a king or conquering warrior. He didn't point the way toward a coronation ceremony or a battlefield or a palace or even a busy corner of the city.

The angel sent the shepherds to look for an inconspicuous newborn, wrapped in a definitely not new blanket, sleeping in a rough-hewn, straw-filled feeding trough. A kid in a barn. That was Jesus: fresh from heaven, expelled into an ordinary, messed up world fighting to hold onto hope.

And that's when the ordinary was never the same again.

This Christmas might not be anything special for you this year. It might look the same as it's always been. Maybe it looks a little gloomy this time around. Maybe it's good and happy. Whatever the case, chances are it's a fairly ordinary Christmas. But keep your eyes open for a glimmer of the extraordinary--a glimpse of majesty, a flicker of awe-inspiring wonder--nestled in amongst the trimming of just another day.

Because the ordinary is exactly where you're living right now, and it's exactly where Jesus loves to meet you.

Merry Christmas, dear souls! He is God with us indeed.

P.S. Currently listening to Brandon Heath's The Night Before Christmas, which fits pretty nicely. I won't be active online for the next couple of days, but afterwards I'll be back to reply to comments!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Turtle Cookies, a Book About Thinking, and a Friendly Chat

[via Pinterest]

Happy Saturday, friends! Right now, I'm curled up in the corner of the couch, with the Christmas lights on and carols playing in the background and family members quietly chatting and doing their own things throughout the house. It's relaxing--which is wonderful after a week of final exams. I plan to soak in every minute of this break from school!

I've got time-specific posts planned for the next few weeks*, but nothing for today. So I thought, "Rather than hearing me yabbering on for a thousand words or so, why don't I find out how all my Adventure Awaits pals are doing?" I don't get the chance to make it to all of your lovely blogs as often as I'd like--and some of you are faithful commenters without blogs--so how about we sit down for a virtual coffee/chai/eggnog/whatever, and simply chat?

*In case you were wondering: something about Christmas on Dec. 23rd, Subplots and Storylines/yearly summary on Dec. 30th, and books of 2017 sometime in early January.

a view of the backyard


Tell me--does it look like you'll get a white Christmas? I've noticed a number of my southern friends from America are rejoicing over uncharacteristic snowfalls. It's pretty average here in Manitoba . . . We had a lovely snow just recently that dressed the yard in fluffy white goodness. It's putting me in a Narnia mood, to be honest.


Everybody's counting down the days and rushing  to finish last-minute shopping. But I hope you get to relax at least a little this holiday season. Do you have gatherings? Recitals? Other fun Christmas-y activities? What's one of your Christmas traditions, if you have any?

One of mine is getting a new tree ornament from my parents every year. This year's is a little white teapot with a blue paisley pattern, and the tag of a tiny "teabag" hanging out the top. It's properly adorable! I love tea--certain kinds, with chai being my main favorite--and this ornament goes with a different year's book ornament that's lying open with a cup propped on the pages.


Many of you are high school or college/uni students, so I imagine you're on break now, or will be shortly! Hallelujah! How did exams go? And for those of you in post-NaNoWriMo hibernation, are you recovering?

Christmas food

(Because I can't stop talking about Christmas today, apparently.)

I went over to my classmate's house one day during exam week, and we spent half the day studying, baking cookies, listening to Christmas music and Owl City, and watching Wonder Woman. Our shortbread cookies were rather epic. I brought over my family's cookie cutters, which are all normal, traditional Christmas shapes. A tree, a star, a candy cane, a gingerbread man, and so on. For some inexplicable reason, however, there is also a turtle. No idea why, but my friend and I probably made more Christmas turtles than Christmas anything-else! I also succeeded in making a snowman with a nose that stayed sticking straight up.

Do you do any Christmas baking? What's your favorite treat at this time of year? I'm currently salivating over my grandma's vinarterta she made for an upcoming gathering! It's originally an Icelandic dessert, and everybody's recipe is different, but basically it's dried plums between thin layers of cake. My grandma always tops it off with icing too. It might sound like an odd dish, but trust me--it's delicious.


What are you reading right now? Are you loving it? Hating it? "Meh"-ing it? (Shush, that is a word.) Goodreads pals, are you caught up on your 2017 reading challenge? I've got three books to go, which should be doable.

After a week of textbooks and practically zero fiction, I'm hungrily diving into The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, a quirky little book that Mary Horton sent me as a present a couple months ago. I've been saving it for the holidays, because it's one of those books you just KNOW you're going to love. You know what I mean, right?

And so far, this is a deliciously fun story with the whimsy of Alice in Wonderland, yet in a more modern-feeling world. I'm absolutely loving the wordplay and metaphors here.

"I guess I just wasn't thinking," said Milo.
"PRECISELY," shouted the dog as his alarm went off again. "Now you know what you must do."
"I'm afraid I don't," admitted Milo, feeling quite stupid.
"Well," continued the watchdog impatiently, "since you got here by not thinking, it seems reasonable to expect that, in order to get out, you must start thinking." And with that, he hopped in the car. "Do you mind if I get in? I love automobile rides."

and how are you doing?

Are you frazzled? Content? Excited? Tired? Christmastime brings with it a wide range of emotions for a wide range of people, so whatever it looks like in your little corner of the world today, just know that you are loved. Know that life (with all its bumps in the road) is pretty amazing. And know that God thinks you're worth sending His Son for.

Well, considering I promised not to yabber, I did a lot of talking! Let's hear from you now! Sit down, grab a turtle cookie, and chat away.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Tour of My 2017 Bullet Journal

[Looks like I'm posting late again. I'd love to be able to say, "Check for new posts every Saturday morning bright and early at 7 am!" But it's been hard to stay consistent with how busy school has been. My apologies, and thanks for understanding!]

Introductory note aside, I thought we'd do something a little different today! Usually I stick to blogging about reading books, writing books, admiring bookshelves, discussing the nature of books, watching books (oh wait, I mean movies), et cetera. Basically everything that equals story. With the exception of Subplots & Storylines, Adventure Awaits isn't really a lifestyle blog.

Buuuut as we all know, life doesn't fit in boxes. What affects life inadvertently affects writing. When life is prioritized, writing tends to go better. When life is chaos, I struggle to find time to string together even a paragraph, and when I do get time, my brain is too tired to make good use of it.

So, ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to...


Cue fanfare and trumpets!

This day planner/to-do list/calendar has been around for a while, but you may not have heard of it. Worry not, I shall do my best to get you well acquainted.

Before we begin, I'm not promising a miracle cure or easy fix. Bullet journaling may not even be for you. (Keep in mind, I'm the kind of person who LOVES lists, because they let me pin my thoughts down on paper where I can see them, manage them, and conquer them. You may be the exact opposite, which is great too.) But after keeping a bullet journal for the past year, and loving it, I'd like to share my experience. Who knows, it might help you put 2018 in ship-shape order!

what is a bullet journal?

They call it the analog system for the digital age--essentially, it's whatever you want to make it. A typical bullet journal functions as a day planner combined with a to-do list, with calendars and goals and similar things thrown in. You can actually buy an official bullet journal, or read all about the real thing HERE.

Some people get really fancy and make theirs an art journal as well, with artwork and photos and quotes and washi tape and stickers all over the place. Just look up "bullet journal" on Pinterest or Instagram and you'll find endless photos of aesthetically gorgeous journals. #jealous

What's great, though, is that you don't need anything fancy to get started. A regular old notebook works just as well. Spending hours on pretty art isn't necessary unless you want to do it. The key to a bullet journal is how you organize it.

Rather than repeat what's already on the website, I'll be showing you my own personal methods.

Before we get there, you may be thinking, "But I have my phone's calendar, notes, and apps to do all of this. Why would I go to the trouble of making a special journal?" If your phone's tools are working for you, great! I still use all of those things too, because my phone does go with me where my bullet journal does not. What I prefer about bullet journaling, however, is the way everything is in one place. And I find that the physical act of writing makes things easier to remember and more satisfying to check off.

the notebook itself

I first heard about bullet journaling from my pal Lisa (affectionately referred to as Lisa Pickle about 99.3729% of the time) in 2016, and thought it sounded quite fun. So for the last couple months of the year, I experimented in an old notebook, just to see if I liked it and how I wanted to set it up. Then in January 2017, I bought this pretty notebook from Chapters and dove in for real! *is secretly pleased that the cover matches my blog* This notebook is lined, but next year I really want to try a dot-grid notebook!


Like I mentioned before, this is definitely the key to making a bullet journal work for you, and it's what sets it apart from regular planners.

I drew this legend on the first page to remember what each symbol means, but by now I no longer have to refer to it. Most of these are the official symbols, with one or two I made up for myself.

  • (dot) = a task that is yet to be completed (this is what you'd use on a to-do list, for example)
  • (x) = once you've completed a task, you turn the dot into an x to mark it off
  • (>) = to move a task to a different list, scratch a right-facing arrow over the dot to signify that it's been moved elsewhere in the notebook
  • (<) = when you scribble down a task during Monday, let's say, like "pick up cookies at the bakery" but it's really a task for next Wednesday, you later draw a left-facing arrow over the dot to signify that you've scheduled the task (as in, moved it to Wednesday)
  • (a star) = priority task (self-explanatory)
  • (open circle) = an event, rather than a task
  • (dash) = a note, rather than a task or event

If it sounds complicated, it really isn't--and you can always simplify these symbols however you like. My migrating and scheduling symbols have kind of merged over the year to just a ">" that tells me an incomplete task was moved to a future list.

On my next page, I have an index or table of contents. Since I didn't know ahead of time where all my pages would end up, I just filled this in as I went along throughout the year, naming the pages and indicating the page numbers. This makes it easy for me to flip through and find what I'm looking for.

future logs

A future log is a six-month spread (again, set up however you like) that lists the major events and tasks coming up over the next half a year. I love this spread because it gives me a birds-eye view! Pictured below is my July-December future log.

(some dates blurred out for privacy)

You can see that I included birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, exams, important writing deadlines, and miscellaneous things like a wedding and a concert.

monthly spreads

I find this is the most fun to make, but also the most time-consuming! Every month I draw out a fresh calendar, which I fill in with my work schedule, school projects, events, appointments, birthdays, and more. Basically, it's like zooming in on part of your future log, but in calendar format.

(sorry, a wee bit more blurring here too)

I start by drawing out the calendar with a ruler and pen. Then I list my goals for the month along the right-hand side, turning the dots into x's once each task is completed. Lately a number of goals haven't been completed by the end of the month, so they're forwarded to the next month . . . and then the next month, and the next, until I finally finish them. Heh.

I also enjoy decorating my monthly spreads a little bit. It's fun to change it up every month with a new color combo.

At the bottom of the spread, I draw a few habit trackers, which I'll explain in more detail right away.

(Just a note: some people break their monthly spreads down into weekly spreads as well, but for me they're redundant and take too much time.)

habit trackers

This is another favorite thing of mine! And I sound like a broken record saying this, but habit trackers are yet another thing that are very individual. Some people use them, others don't. Some people track dozens of habits, others--like me--track just a few.

I chose to track my writing, blogging, reading, and bedtime habits. (Too many habits would've been hard to keep track of, and I suspect I would've fallen off the wagon if I'd attempted a dozen right away.) Each day that I write, work on blogging, read a book, or go to bed by 10:30 pm, I color in a square. (The bedtime habit has been an epic fail this year! Oops!) I've also seen people track exercise, devotions, how much water they drink, chores, and all sorts of things. And I may add one or two new habits next year. But the point is to make habit trackers work for you. They're meant to motivate you and give you an honest look at how you spend your time.

daily logs

Every night before bed, I write down what I've done that day, check my goal progress, and fill in my habit trackers. If there are several things pressing on my mind for the next day, I'll make a to-do list under that day's heading. This takes just a couple minutes, and it's relaxing to put the day to rest on paper.

My daily logs usually take just a few lines, unless I did a lot of varied things throughout the day. I'll write down things like school times, work shifts, and errands I ran; or the fact that I edited my WIP, read a book, answered blog comments, hung out with family, or went out to eat. I'm not strict with how I list these things.

In this way, I'd say my daily logs are more like a bare bones journal. But some days that have a lot going on turn into more of a to-do list . . . which might be more effective if I carried my bullet journal around with me everywhere I went, but for what I need, using it once or twice at the beginning and end of my day works fine.

By the by, I don't actually have a superhuman memory when I sit down to write those Subplots & Storylines monthly summaries. I rely hugely on my bullet journal!

Here's a glimpse at a couple of pretty average daily logs:

As you can see, I mostly use the dashes to indicate notes about what I've done. To-do items are x'd out if I finished at the end of the day, or forwarded (>) to a different day if not. I don't keep a strict amount of lines for each day--I just fill in each one as I go along.


A bullet journal can be more than a planner and to-do list! You can also add less frequently used pages to keep track of anything and everything you want. I kept my extras to a minimum this year. Mainly, I made pages of books I've read, movies I've watched, future blog post ideas, and a few other topics.

(here's proof that your journal doesn't have to be perfect--you can see the whiteout in the header. xD)
(whatever you can read here is probably incomprehensible.
looks like I was keeping track of tv episodes too)

(spoiler alert!)

some tips and tricks

  • I'm quite pleased that I managed to keep up this new habit of bullet journaling for a whole year! For me, the trick was to keep the notebook and pens/pencils right next to my bed so that it was one of the last things I'd see every day. It reminds to me to write in it every night.
  • Track what's important to you. This applies to the whole concept, not just habit trackers. If all you want to write in your calendars are appointments and big events that you absolutely should not forget, fine. If you want to go into great detail and schedule in little everyday activities, that's also fine.
  • Don't be afraid to change it up. I did stick to pretty much the same format throughout, but with my experimental journal in 2016, I tried a bunch of things to see what I liked.
  • Make it pretty if you like, but don't feel like you have to.
  • Make it functional. You can create top-notch aesthetics, but if your bullet journal isn't useful in some way, you may as well call it an art journal.
  • You do you. Yep, I've said it about a hundred times in this post already, but if you're going to use a bullet journal, set it up in a way that works for you. What's your schedule like? How much time do you want to spend on this every day? What's the best time of day to use your bullet journal? What are your primary reasons for using it in the first place?
  • Think outside the box! You could borrow the bullet journal format for something that's not a planner at all--it could be used for a writing journal, a notebook of strictly to-do lists, a collection of ideas, an address book, a homework organizer, whatever!

and that's it.

Thanks for coming along for the tour! I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into a little tool I use to manage life.

Now tell me, wayfarers: do you use a bullet journal? (If yes, let's hear your own tips and tricks!) Are you thinking of trying it out? How do you keep your time and projects organized? And honestly--am I the only one who likes lists so much that I put down already-accomplished things, just for the satisfaction of checking them off?? Come on, 'fess up.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Subplots and Storylines - November 2017

Wait--November disappeared? I left it right there, turned around for one second, and when I looked back, it was gone!

I suspect many of us are feeling that way, especially all of you who participated in NaNoWriMo! I could use a really long nap right about now. But before I crawl into hibernation, I suppose you're expecting some witty summaries of how November shaped up in my corner of the world, right?

Well, the month opened up with my 22nd birthday.
Po Po Po
And what with blueberry bran muffins for breakfast and a rousing game of bingo in the evening, it's been confirmed that I am now an old lady. It was a lovely day, despite school taking up half of it, and a few days later I received a surprise birthday package in the mail from a dear friend (you know who you are!). Later on I also went out for coffee with another good friend whom I hadn't really chatted with in--oops--close to a year, so that was fun too. (You know who you are as well!)

Let's see, what else . . .

My little sis had a birthday too! The end of the year is when half the family's birthdays snowball into Christmas, so there's always lots of shopping involved. Speaking of which, I started Christmas shopping in November too, but still have a ways to go. That, plus putting up the Christmas tree and seeing the glittering hoarfrost all over the trees on my way to work this morning, means the festive feels are rolling in.

I bought a painting from another friend of mine who was selling her artwork at a local craft faire, and the green-and-blue colors match my room quite nicely.

I finally moved a two-foot stack of books--all acquired last summer--off my desk! Had to clear a shelf to make room for them, but at least now they have a home. Any other book dragons out there struggling to fit your hoard into your existing shelves? It's tough.

So basically lots of little happenings this month, because school was intense. All the assignment due dates, quizzes, and studying kind of fell into November, plus the deadline for a group project was (and still is) looming, so much of my spare time was funneled into textbooks. Unfortunately. This is why I'm heading off to hibernate!

P.S. Marvel's Infinity War trailer dropped and I am F R E A K I N G  O U T.

Subplots on the Screen

Yes, yes, I watched more of Once Upon a Time season 3 and The Flash season 3, both of which are still great! And is it just me, or have I been stuck on these seasons for months?!

Wonder Woman

(I actually watched this in October, but somehow forgot to include it in that month's S&S post.) Back when I first heard they were making a Wonder Woman movie, I'll admit I rolled my eyes, expecting two hours of overly-feministic claptrap. The character's appearance in Batman v. Superman didn't impress me much--she seemed like just another beautiful, kick-butt heroine with little personality.

Buuuut then I started hearing great reviews from friends who were watching Wonder Woman, and when I finally saw it myself--well, I realized they were right! It wasn't a perfect movie (and it did bear some amusing resemblances to Captain America: The First Avenger), but it was one of the best DC films I've seen. Diana's strong moral compass and pure view of the world rang true for me. ("But the war is that way!") Seeing her charge into battle, inspiring dozens of men to follow her into the fray, almost brought me to tears. Plus, it was super fun to see an Amazonian women at odds with American WWI society.

The Dark Tower
The preview gave me chills! I've never watched nor read anything by Stephen King, but this one had enough of a fantasy vibe (and less of a horror vibe) to interest me. Unfortunately, the plot lacked the depth I was hoping for, and the boy, Jake, could have had a lot more personality. I did enjoy it, though! Matthew McConaughy was the BEST as the Man in Black. He saved the movie for me. So did Idris Elba as the Gunslinger--both were really cool characters. The score was fantastic too.

Not sure if this is true, but apparently the movie was based off a whole series of books by Stephen King, so maybe that's why it felt like it was missing something. Anyway, I don't regret watching it.

Soooo good! This is a movie about human trafficking, so it wasn't an easy watch, but the filmmakers did a good job of conveying the worst parts in a subtle, implied way. Even so, there was lots of emotion, and some characters I wanted to smack really hard--disgustingly hard.

Did you know that Joel Smallbone from For King & Country played the lead role? He did a stellar job. Actually, the whole movie was surprisingly good quality. Sorry, but you never know if a Christian film is going to feel low-budget. Terribly unfortunate, and I have many thoughts on that topic, but that's for another day. This movie was great, though, even if it wrapped up a bit quickly!

Due to the subject matter, I would caution younger viewers to use discernment when deciding whether to see it themselves.

Storylines on the Page

Prodigy Prince // Natasha Sapienza

The author was so sweet and gave me a free e-book copy in exchange for review! (All opinions are my own.) This was a high fantasy novel that kind of toed the line between MG and YA, and the action starts right off the bat with Prince Nuelle's older brother leaving him in the role of Supreme Prince. It was a really creative story, exceedingly colorful in all senses of the word, with things like magenta grass and blue hair and elemental-ish superpowers. My favorite powers are spoilery, however, so I can't talk about them!

A slew of fantasy creatures and battles kept the pace running at high-speed; the Savage Shifters in particular were nifty because they were actually limited in their shapeshifting powers (hallelujah for realistic limits!).

I'm a big sucker for training sequences and heroes banding together in an Avengers-like style, so that was another plus for me. My favorite scene, however, took place in an infirmary, where a certain character with healing powers literally absorbed the wounded people's pain.

My main quibble was that the pace didn't allow me to delve as deeply into the mind of the protagonist or the nuances of the storyworld as much as I wanted to. I posted a longer review on Goodreads HERE. (Just an FYI, I believe Natasha is making some changes to the story before she fully releases it, but if you're interested, definitely add it to your to-read list on GR!) Three stars!

The Tomb of the Sea Witch // Kyle Robert Schultz

Eeep, I loved this one! The Beast of Talesend was really fun, don't get me wrong, but somehow the sequel was just BETTER. I laughed out loud numerous times while the characters went undercover at the Warrengate Academy of Advanced Magic and dealt with threats from the sea (sirens! mermaids! artefacts! oh my!). Full of twists and turns that honestly surprised me, humor on nearly every page, lots of snark, and deliciously fun spins on several different fairy tales at once, this little book was like fluffy chocolate cake. No, make that Black Forest Cake, because the surprises and jokes are like . . . cherries? No? Analogy's not working? Okay, fine. It was a great book, and I'm so glad I bought it straight from the author at Realm Makers last summer!

I caught a few unfortunate typos, but am still giving it five stars!

A Time to Die // Nadine Brandes

Another book I bought at Realm Makers, yay! And OH. MY. GOODNESS. This trilogy gets a lot of hype, at least in my reader circles, and I was desperately hoping it would live up to all those glowing reviews. IT DID. Bless Nadine's heart, it did.

This is one of the most unusual dystopian novels I've read, because it's infused with a lot more faith and hard questions and almost urban fantasy-ish settings than others. One setting in particular almost felt out of place, but I found it so fascinating that I didn't care.

But let's get back to the beginning. PARVIN. She is gold. I related to her so stinking much. In a society where everyone has a Clock counting down the time until they die, she has a year left and yearns to find her purpose, some way to make her last days count. She swings from apathy to passion a few times throughout the course of the novel, which was uncomfortably realistic (but in a good way). And she's something of a writer--well, technically an autobiographer--so that was neat.

Some quickie thoughts on other characters:

  • Parvin's mom was hard to like at first, but that was on purpose, and I felt their somewhat rocky relationship was done really well.
  • Parvin's twin brother was lovable, except for a few times when he was annoyingly secretive.
  • A certain man with a fedora was verrrrry hateable.
  • Jude--I have conflicting feelings about this guy even now. At times I hated him too, at other times I adored him. He was flawed, temperamental, but he had his reasons. So my undecided opinion is not a bad thing! Just an observation!
  • Hawke--okay, him I like. He had some moments that made me unsure as well, but in other ways he reminded me of the beloved Remko from Rachelle Dekker's Seer trilogy, minus the stutter. I want more Hawke in the next two instalments!
  • Willow was precious.
  • One minor character had a strong Ecclesiastes ("everything is useless!") vibe going on, which was intriguing.
  • The Albinos were despicable and strange and yet some of them had redeeming qualities.

I don't even know how to sum up my thoughts on this book! I've been thinking about it for weeks since finishing it. It brought me close to tears. It resonated with me powerfully. The emotions were palpable, the writing was excellent, and the worldbuilding was fleshed out wonderfully. Low cities and high cities, a humongous wall, tightropes, wilderness, a train, the Dregs, emotigraphs, super cool suits: all of it shone through the pages brilliantly. Nadine writes with truckloads of heart, and consequently, mine was broken in a beautiful way.

Can't wait to read the next two! Five stars!

A Midsummer Night's Dream // Shakespeare

GASP, what is this? Tracey read a classic? A Shakespeare play, no less? Why yes, I'm not a completely uncultured bookdragon. Sometimes the classic bug bites me, and I'm in the mood for old books. That happened this month, so I picked up this wee little play and enjoyed it immensely. All I knew about it going in was that Puck was in it. And I wanted to read about Puck. And I was not disappointed. He was one of my favorite parts--a mischievous imp who, together with Oberon, mess everything up for the play's main characters. This was a comedy of errors indeed. Very amusing.

And essentially we have a love square going on. (Thanks, Shakespeare, for inspiring 98% of all modern YA romances--although it looks like you were really just poking fun at the melodrama.) It's all rather over-the-top and hilarious, but there are also gorgeous descriptions woven throughout, along with musings on the nature of art, love's blindness, and imagination.

"The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact . . ."

Also, Nick Bottom and the other peasant actors are officially the second-best thing ever. Puck is still the best! Another five stars.

In other book news . . .

I won a discount on a PageHabit book box in October, caved in, and subscribed. My box arrived early November, containing two new hardcover YA books--both annotated by the authors--and a small collection of bookish goodies. Quite fun! But it's an American-based company, and so it's not exactly cheap for a Canadian . . . so my plan was to unsubscribe after my first box, at least for now while I'm a student paying tuition fees. Except I forgot to unsubscribe in time, and now my second box is in the mail. Oops! Oh well, it means a couple more new books.

Subplots on My Writing Desk

Hey, remember last month when I told y'all that I was going to edit my Snow White retelling for the Rooglewood contest before the end of November so that I could have a month off writing?

That didn't happen. Instead, school happened.

I think I had exactly four editing sessions the entire month, and the first two were spent reading over the novella and making notes.

But as of now, I did my first pass through chapters 1-4 (out of 9 in total). So . . . I can still finish before the deadline on December 31st. And on the plus side, it's not as much of a mess as I originally thought? So yay? I don't know, I guess I've been dealing with some writer's doubt on this one. But it's starting to shape up a bit--progress!

Oh, guess what! I also have a title AT LAST! No longer must I refer to it as Epically Confused and Possibly Schizophrenic Snow White Retelling (or ECaPSSWR). No, now it is called Mirrors Never Lie. Having something to call it is a relief!

[image via Pinterest; graphic my own]

Hello, final month of 2017!

November was a packed month, so I can't wait to get final exams done and over with so that I can take Christmas break! How did all of you fare this month? Did you survive NaNo? Has it snowed yet wherever you live? Whatcha think of the new novella title? Pour yourself a hot chocolate and let's chat!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

5 Regal Books on My Shelf - The Coronation Blog Tour

Hey all! I'm popping back in the middle of the week to join indie author Livy Jarmusch's Regal Reads blog tour! (Link leads to the tour schedule, where you can check out all the blogs involved.) Livy recently released her story, Regal Hearts, which is written in a TV show format with seasons and episodes and whatnot. Pretty nifty, right? Here's the synopsis:

Following the dramatic birth of her royal daughters, the Queen of Bella Adar is murdered by the merciless sword of an evil usurper. The helpless princesses are placed in the care of the URIA, an undercover organization who safely extracts and protects the girls from a tragic fate. Sixteen years later, Lena Bodner encounters a stranger who uncovers secrets from her past...
Find Regal Reads in paperback or digital format.

Livy Jarmusch is a twenty-something author, singer, and songwriter. She enjoys crafting YA Christian fiction that is pure, lovely, inspirational, and of course, entertaining! When she's not writing, you can usually find her playing guitar, blogging, drinking peppermint tea, connecting with new friends, planning her next trip to Disney, or pinning images of Europe and Golden Retriever Puppies.

So to celebrate this royalty-themed book, today we'll be discussing five of the most regal books on my shelf!

Novels about long-lost princesses and questing princes and mad queens and exiled kings are not hard to find. We seem to have a fascination with royalty--what it means to hold power and responsibility, how it feels to rule, the consequences of decisions that affect entire kingdoms, what it might be like to wake up in a turreted fortress every day, waited on hand and foot . . . I suspect that the pauper-turned-prince trope is effective because it hints at our true identities as children of the Lord of Lords--but that's a post for another day.

Like I said, I have no shortage of those sorts of books, so let's dive in! (Links lead to Goodreads.)

Waterfall // Lisa T. Bergren

It's been years since I read the captivating River of Time trilogy, but it still holds a place in my heart. Time travel? Yep. Medieval Italy? Yes please. A fabulous Italian royal and his equally fabulous sidekick? You bet. In this book, sisters Gabi and Lia accidentally transport themselves through an ancient Etruscan tomb into the middle of the medieval era--and yes, they do begin falling in love with the royal guy and his best friend.

I'm a bit fuzzy on the details, but I remember battles, treachery, plague, castles, and romance. (I have a feeling that when I return for a reread, I may find more sappiness than I recall . . . but who cares? It's a fun series!) Marcelo, the royal guy, has definitely stuck around in my memory, though.

Heartless // Anne Elisabeth Stengl

I distinctly remember how I met this book. I was browsing the local bookstore when the cover caught my eye. The blurb sounded interesting, though the name Aethelbald seemed odd, and I resolved to find the book at the library to see if it was any good. Time passed and I forgot . . . until the day I did find it at the library. As cliché as it sounds, there was no looking back! I promptly fell in love with Anne Elisabeth's rich prose, fascinating world, and soul-stirring themes. Tales of Goldstone Wood is still among my top favorite series of all time!

And this one involves royalty too! We have Una, who is quite frankly a self-centered princess at the beginning, but still lovable, and she grows so much by the end. There's her little brother Felix, a mischievous fellow, and their father, the king of Parumvir. But the monarch who stole the show for me is the Prince of Farthestshore--and if you haven't had the pleasure of meeting him yet, please, please read this book.

Raven's Ladder // Jeffrey Overstreet

The Auralia Thread is one series I haven't talked about enough around here! It's yet another one on my ever growing list of books-I-must-reread-one-day. The writing style isn't fast-paced, but the tapestry of painfully real characters in a richly textured storyworld held me entranced.

In this book, the third of four, we follow a weary King Cal-Raven as he tries to lead the straggling remnant of his kingdom to a new home. I don't want to spoil the plot for anyone, so I won't say much more, except that Cal-Raven's doubts and struggles and search for the light spoke to me on a deep level. Just--ACK. GO READ THIS TOO.

Curse of the Spider King // Wayne Thomas Batson

Hey, look, there's a book I actually did reread! It was slightly less stunning the second time around in terms of the writing style (and I feel bad for saying so), but definitely still a fun, exciting, romping adventure. If you're looking for royal characters, this book is packed with not one, not two, but SEVEN royal Elf Lords. Seven young teens who were spirited away to earth as babies, and are now returning home to Berinfell to protect their homeland against the Spider King.

You know those special scenes that leave you breathless? The rare ones that stir your heart and wake something up inside of you? I recall one chapter involving Grimwarden training the seven Elf Lords (I keep telling you, I'm a sucker for those training sequences), where he said something profound. I couldn't tell you the details of the dialogue or description, I just have a bottle of that airy, hopeful, hold-your-breath mood stored away. Don't you just love how books stay with you over the years? Even if this trilogy is less impressive to me now as a twenty-something reader than it was as a young teen, it meant something to me then, and that is still special.

The Royal Ranger // John Flanagan

Capping off this list is the twelfth and final book of Ranger's Apprentice. For those of you who haven't read the whole series yet, I'll keep things vague and hopefully spoiler-free.

This book takes a leap forward by several years . . . Will is now grown up, and becoming just as grouchy as Halt, when his friends decide that the perfect way to snap him out of his foul mood is to give him an apprentice of his own. This apprentice is a tad rebellious and unwilling--and yes, royal as well. The result is just the kind of light, amusing, sarcastic heartwarming adventure I expect from Mr. Flanagan.

There we have it! Five beloved regal reads on my shelf. Have you read some of these? What's your favorite royal book? And don't forget to go check out the rest of Livy's book tour!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Strangest Browser Searches Tag

Way back in the days of cave paintings and sabre-toothed tigers (ahem, last July) Madeline J. Rose tagged me with a thingamajig of her own creation, the Strangest Browser Searches tag! It's so fun when blogger friends make up their own tags, isn't it? And this particular tag is pretty entertaining too.

The rules:
  • Get access to your browser history, and look through it
  • Pick at least 5 of the strangest searches you've had to look up as a writer
  • List them below with a short explanation as to why exactly you had to look them up
  • Tag 2-5 other bloggers

I apologize in advance--due to my slow writing lately, most of my Google searches were boring things like "how to calculate equal payments" (for math class) and "what is a contra account" (for accounting class) and "who retains rights in traditional publishing" (for a paper I wrote in business communication class). I dug through THREE MONTHS of history for these, guys, and most of them aren't even that spectacular.

If you don't have anything better to do with the next three minutes of your life, read on!

Note: they're almost all related to my Snow White retelling, so perhaps you'll glean some interesting tidbits of previously undisclosed knowledge. Or just random trivia, but pffft, what's the difference?

snow white original version

I looked this up because it's been a long time since I read the real thing, and I always go back to the source material before writing a retelling.

list of cold words

Snow. Frost. Shiver. Ice. Blizzard. Wow, what a great list. I must've been in a writing slump if I needed synonyms for cold.

norse mythical creatures

I found me a fearsome lindwyrm, thanks to this search!

how big is a hamlet

I don't remember the answer, but Skadi's home (in my inconsistent first draft of Snow White) goes back and forth between a hamlet and a village, so . . . methinks the research wasn't very effective.

how to skin a rabbit

I found some kind of hunting website and actually scrolled through bloody pictures of every step in the rabbit-skinning process. Be very proud of me.

scandinavian sailing medieval times / medieval animal skin canoes

Skadi paddles around a fjord while thinking gloomy thoughts, so I wanted to be able to visualize her vessel.

mbti and guilt

Because Skadi wrestles with more than her fair share of guilt, and I wanted to see how her personality type deals with it. (What is her personality type again? I forgot.)

how long should a chapter be in a ya novel

Short answer: nobody knows! Suggestion: 2500-5000 words.

how serious is a wound to the side

Because what would a fantasy novella be without a stabbing?!

do big five publishers accept christian manuscripts

I don't think I dug deep enough to find the answer, but I think I was contemplating the great big world of publishing that day, and simply looked this up out of curiosity.

tips for fast signature

You should see the margins of some of my notebooks, or the scrap paper I used for math equations back in high school--I'm not ashamed to admit that I've practiced my signature for future book signings. Still not happy with it, and still wondering if I should change the style of it so that it's different from what I use to sign important documents. o_O But on another note, HOW do authors manage to sign hundreds of books in an hour?

lies characters believe

I remembered reading a couple of blog posts on the subject, but didn't know where they were, so I searched them down again to help develop Skadi's inner conflict.

meaning of Skadi / Wilhelmina name origin

Meaningful names are important to me! I love hiding symbolism in my stories--it's just another secret that only I know. That is, until I blog about it or until sharp-eyed readers pick up on it. But half of the fun of these secrets is divulging them, so I don't mind. Anyway, Skadi is my Snow White character, and her name belongs to a Norse goddess of winter and archery! Wilhelmina is a German name meaning willing to protect; it fits pretty well with a secondary character who's come up in two of my stories, yet has never been "on screen."

aurora winter bird lyrics

I'm pretty sure it was Katie Grace who introduced me to AURORA, a young Norwegian singer with an ethereal voice and songs that inspire my writer brain. This particular song, Winter Bird, reminds me of my Snow White story!

sinew bowstrings

Skadi is an archer (and no, I shan't apologize for using that cliché), so I took some time to research more primitive forms of bows and arrows. I also needed to know what kind of bowstring she'd likely have access to . . . and what kind of bowstring might snap under extreme heat. *insert malicious smile*

why don't i like my protagonist

You've heard me grouse about that issue more than once here, so I won't go over it again! Since reading over my novella, I think much of my problem was imagined/the result of less-than-ideal writing circumstances, so hopefully whatever small issues are left can be corrected when I edit.

other odd things I've researched in times gone by:

This was YEARS ago, but one time I spent an afternoon performing mathematical equations for my dragon novel, The Prophet's Quest. Two characters are given special seeds they're instructed to plant in a long, continuous line across one corner of the country, and it occurred to me about five million drafts later that I'd never actually figured out how many seeds they would need. So I:

  • guesstimated the size of said fantasy country by comparing it to real life Britain or something like that
  • decided how long dragon's tails are (because the dragons are told to plant the seeds one dragon tail-length apart)
  • calculated how many dragon tails it would take to stretch across the section of land I'd drawn out . . .
  • . . . which equals how many seeds are needed
  • then I figured that the seeds were about the size of kidney beans
  • so I went to the kitchen and counted out how many kidney beans fill one measuring cup
  • converted cups to gallons
  • estimated how many gallons of seeds each dragon could carry
  • realized they needed A LOT OF HELP to transport all these seeds
  • and so I invented a species of birds called seolfor that could each carry a gallon's worth of seeds, and threw a whole flock of them into the story to solve the problem
  • WHEW.
And of course I've researched other, more typical writerly things like:

  • gunshot wounds
  • types of guns
  • types of swords
  • infection
  • injuries
  • facial burn scars
  • healing herbs
  • how far a human can walk in a day
  • how far a horse can run in a day
  • how long a person can survive without food/water
  • how far a league is (because there's no better way to jerk a reader out of your epic high fantasy story than to have the king say, "I shall travel thirteen miles to thy secret abode of magical trees," so leagues it is)
  • old cars from the 90's most likely to have engine trouble
  • blood types
  • what happens when you get a blood transfusion of the wrong type (bad stuff, okay)
  • how long it takes to fly to _____
  • how far a Beaver plane can fly on one tank of fuel
  • how many people can a dragon carry if they're about four or five times the size of a horse
  • how would a psychologist diagnose a kid who says he was a hero and fought battles on another bacon-flipping WORLD (answer: he's schizophrenic or has delusions of grandeur)
  • ETC.
In short, the life of a writer involves many questions. Sometimes Google has the answers, sometimes not. I used to think that writing fantasy was a good way to avoid research, but HA, I've never been more wrong! At least I get to research pretty cool stuff this way.

(Sorry, I've run out of time to tag anyone today, since I have to run off to work, but if you like this tag, by all means snatch it!)

What's the weirdest thing YOU have ever researched, in the name of writing or not?