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?

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Rebellion Blog Tour - Interview with Livy Jarmusch

Hey, remember last November when I talked about five regal books on my shelf as part of the Regal Reads Blog Tour? Livy Jarmusch had just released a book then, and guess what--she's come out with another this month! The Rebellion, book 2 in the Tales of Tarsurella series, released on May 8.

So to celebrate, I'm interviewing Livy about reading, writing, and indie publishing. But first, here's a little bit about the book:

Something is brewing. Like the far off rumble of a train in the distance, a rebellion is stirring. A cry for change arises in the midst of a traditional monarchy, where King Addison has inherited the throne. Who are the underground troublemakers? What is stirring their defiant banner and demand for change? Find out in The Rebellion! (The Tales of Tarsurella #2)

Vanessa Bennett lands her dream job working at the Palace in Tarsurella. She struggles to balance everything on her plate: life in a new country, stressful deadlines, crabby co-workers, college classes at the local University, and blossoming feelings of romantic adoration toward her boss–King Addison. Keeping up with her To-Do list, while trying to earn respect in Addison’s male-dominated administration, presents its challenges. Nevertheless, she can’t help but fight a reoccurring thought and the excitement rising with it: is Addison interested in her?

Addison is adjusting to his new role as King. Rumors of a rebellious uprising among the youth in Tarsurella intensifies, as acts of violence and protest break out across the city. Addison is determined to uncover the hidden instigator who fearlessly blogs democracy-driven ideals with a secretive pen name. Will Addison discover and expose the fiery rebellion leader? Or will his efforts fail to stop the rebellious thoughts spreading like wildfire, causing a heartbreaking rift in his divided nation?

* * *

What does your typical day of writing look like?

Livy: Well, my writing schedule looks different depending on what season of life I'm in. If I have a certain project I'm zeroed in on, and can write the entire day, for several weeks, that's always a huge blessing. But if I'm in the middle of a book launch or have other projects going on, then I just write a little bit here and there. Typically, my goal is to write 5 pages a day, that way I make sure I'm at least getting words out on a consistent, daily basis.

What's something about indie publishing that surprised you?

Livy: Hmm...I think I was a little surprised by the stigma that indie publishing is somehow less professional than traditional. I mean, I can understand how that bias got started, and where people are coming from when they state such things. I'm sure we've all read indie books that probably wouldn't have ever made it onto the bookshelves of Barnes and Noble. But at the same time, traditionally has a pretty narrow, cookie-cutter approach to what they publish and don't publish, so just because an author doesn't fit within that format, doesn't make them any less professional or talented. I have some AMAZING indie-author friends who are doing spectacular things in the industry, and are working really hard to show readers and aspiring authors alike, that the indie-route is just as professional, excellent, impact, and rewarding, as printing with traditional.

Which of your characters is most like you and why?

Livy: In The Rebellion, readers will get to meet a new character, Jane Akerly. She's kinda a cameo, and doesn't have a massive role in the story, but she is still very dear to my heart. She's a young, aspiring author, who has a problem with getting lost in her daydreams. I relate to her so much, so I think she's my favorite! We have a lot in common.

What's the best book you've read in 2018 so far?

Livy: To be completely honest, I don't read a lot of fiction. In fact...I don't think I've even bought a new book yet this year! I spend too much time writing, haha!

Which do you prefer: rereading old favorites or discovering new books?

Livy: I do enjoy going back to some old favorites. Pride and Prejudice is always fun to return to. ;)

Libraries or bookstores?

Livy: Both!

If you were plopped into The Rebellion as one of the characters, how would you react? What would you do first? Who would you go to?

Livy: Oh wow. Well, first of all, I'd be super excited! Spending a day in Tarsurella would be such a blast! My experience would definitely differ depending on which character I was. As much as I love Jane, I can't say I would want to be her...she's in somewhat of a stressful situation. I think I would enjoy being Vanessa Bennett. She's the American visiting this classy, sophisticated, European nation, so it's fun to see the story through her eyes, since she's not a member of the Royal Family. I would definitely hang out in The Queen's Library for several hours, and then go eat a gourmet meal fixed by Clark, one of Tarsurella's finest chefs. So yeah, I think I would pretty much eat and read all day! :D 

What do you do to refill your creative tank?

Livy: My number one way to get refilled and refreshed is to spend time with my Creator! All of my inspiration and creativity comes from Him. If I'm ever feeling drained, I know He is a well of endless inspiration.

Best writing advice you've been given?

Livy: The rough draft is as bad as your book is ever going to be. If you can keep that in mind, you'll have the freedom to produce a rough draft that is indeed rough, and then not beat yourself up over it. You can keep editing and improving, and know that you're only getting better and better with each re-write. :)

What are you working on next?

Livy: The next book to be released will be Regal Hearts Season 2! Regal Hearts is a series I'm working on, that is written in an eposodical TV show style, format. The first season had ten "episodes", which was initially released just digitally, and readers asked for it to be in paperback. So now we're doing the same for Season 2! If you're interested in reading the first episode for free, I give it away to all my email subscribers! :) You can check it out here:

* * *

Thanks for stopping, by Livy! It was great to have you here on Adventure Awaits. Everyone, you can check her blog tour schedule RIGHT HERE to see everyone else's posts, enter a giveaway, and find out more about The Rebellion!

Livy Jarmusch is a twenty-something author, singer, and songwriter. She enjoys crafting YA 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.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Don't Leave Change to Chance

[image mine; edited with Portra and BeFunky]

I attended a college graduation this week. It was strange to see a new batch of students on the very stage on which I stood a year ago!

For the more recent readers here, my post-high school life thus far looks like this:

  • Spent a year looking for a job
  • Found a retail position and just worked for a year
  • Went to the aforementioned college (while still working part-time on the side) where I completed a nine-month program that focuses on building leaders who are strong in their faith and also successful in the business world
  • And most recently, completed my first year of a business diploma (yep, still working in the meantime)

Anyway, life progression aside, seeing a new class graduate made me realize how fast time moves! Something the valedictorian said in her speech stuck out to me:

"Don't leave change to chance."

Something like this leadership program is only as valuable as the effort a student puts into it. Simply attending won't do a blessed thing. The same goes for a multitude of other opportunities for learning. A powerful book, a thought-provoking blog post, the wisdom of a mentor, a challenge before you, a mind-numbing job, a sandpaper person*, an informative class. All of these have the potential to mold you, change you, and catapult you to a higher level of life, but only if you do your part.

*None of us shall name names, but we all know these individuals--abrasive, prickly, uncomfortable-to-be-around people whose role in your life is to smooth your rough edges.

What is our part?

We are constantly processing information. I don't know enough science to go into the cognitive details, but your brain filters a CRAZY amount of data all the time. You discard what is unimportant, routine, and involuntary in order to function, since your focus is incredibly narrow. How does a magician fool an audience? Misdirection. If you're watching one hand wave the scarf over here, you won't see the other hand reach for the card over there. It takes concentrated effort to ignore the flashy new things your brain deems as "important" in order to focus on a crucial but mundane detail.

How often do you read or hear something and think, "Wow, that was good. I need to remember that." And then . . . don't? Yeah, me too. I don't even remember what I had for lunch yesterday. It wasn't important.

Okay, so what am I getting at? We've covered grads, brains, and magicians, oh my!

The point is this. You want to change. So do I. But we leave transformation to chance most of the time. We sit around waiting for a golden key to fall into our lap, for Gandalf to knock on our door, for someone to invent a USB port in the back of our skulls so that we can download new skills. But it doesn't work that way.

Proverbs 2 talks about pursuing wisdom (personified throughout the book as a woman), and it uses a lot of action verbs.

  • Accept what I am telling you
  • Store my counsel deep within you
  • Listen for Lady Wisdom
  • Attune your ears to her
  • Engage your mind
  • Cry out for insight
  • Beg for understanding
  • Sift through the clamor of everything around you
  • Seek wisdom
  • Search for it
  • Grasp what it means
  • Discover knowledge

And here's what this wisdom will do for you.

With this wisdom you will be able to choose the right road, seek justice, and decide what is good and fair because wisdom will penetrate deep within and knowledge will become a good friend to your soul. (Proverbs 2: 9-10, the Voice translation)

 It goes on to say that sound judgment will stand guard over you, and wisdom will keep you away from wrong paths. I don't know about you, but I could use a good dose of wisdom in my life. But it won't come to me by chance. Neither will true change.

This is our part: to take responsibility for our own growth, to seek wisdom, to listen, to reflect, to apply.

Start small. To think of changing your entire life from the ground up is overwhelming. Instead, pick one habit to replace. When you're studying, pick out one thing you can apply right now. When you step into an environment that encourages change, use it. Seek, store, discover. Sift through the clamor. Fall in love with change. Fall in love with the pursuit of wisdom. Involve God on the journey, too. He gives wisdom without finding fault in you.

It's been said that the clearest memories are made by repetition or strong emotion. Once you've grasped a nugget of wisdom, don't let it go! Find ways to repeat it to yourself, whether it's leaving notes around the house or setting a reminder on your phone or learning the discipline of reflection. Attach emotions to it if you can. Envision what your life could be like if you applied that little lesson; paint the most vivid picture you can.

And then act. The quickest way to get something from your head to your heart is to start moving your hands and feet.

What's something small you want to change this week? Don't leave it to chance.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Holes in the Literary World Part 1 - Realism in Fantasy

Thanks to the response on the recent Beautiful People post, we're launching another blog series! This one is on five of the holes in the literary world that I'd like to see filled. (Credit goes to the lovely Arielle of The Splendor Falls on Castle Walls and Intuitive Writing Guide for suggesting this.)

The first point we're tackling today is realism, specifically in speculative fiction. "Wait just a dragon-blessed minute," you might be thinking. "The very reason I read speculative fiction is to get away from boring reality. If you make fantasy or sci-fi realistic, will you obliterate every dragon and spaceship entirely?"

To that I say, "No."

Because I agree, one reason we love speculative fiction is the otherworldliness of it all! I love dragons! I love superheroes and tech that doesn't really exist. I love quests and kingdoms and new worlds and magic and everything else that comes with these genres. And I love these things so much that when I read about them, I want to be able to suspend my disbelief long enough to fully enjoy the story. I want to forget that Narnia's not really at the back of the wardrobe. I want to forget that superheroes aren't actually blazing over New York. I want to believe just for a few hundred pages that elementals can shape lightning with their hands, dragons rule the skies, and a portal could suck me into another realm at any minute.

That's what I mean by realism. Not an absence of wonder, but a means of grounding a story so that my mind is free to wonder.

Here are just a few ways that can be achieved. Keep in mind this is opinion time--these are things that help me personally to connect to a story (regardless of genre, actually), but your list might look a bit different!

1. I want all my senses engaged.

This is particularly important for fantasy, or any book that introduces a new world. Fantasy readers want to be immersed. For the duration of the book, they want to live and breathe a new place. But even the most amazing worldbuilding falls flat if the reader feels like a spectator, rather than like he's inside that world right alongside the characters. Using the five senses is one of the easiest ways to make such a connection.

I want the story details to be deftly painted--neither overwritten to the point of eyeball exhaustion, nor skimmed over with barely a glance. I'd rather not wade through pages of exposition on what a single setting looks like, but neither do I want to encounter "White Room Syndrome." It's a bothersome thing when visual details are so lacking that it feels as if the characters are talking heads floating in a white room.)

[via Pinterest]

I want to see the thunderclouds roiling, the sun beaming through a dusty windowpane, the moss growing like skirts around massive oak trees, the unraveling hem of a peasant's cloak, the dents and scratches in a knight's shield.

I want to hear the characters' voices, the ambient background noises, the clamor of battle, the patter of rain on the roof, the snap of a log in the fire, the rush of wings.

I want to feel the aching muscles after a long day's ride, the damp rock of a cavern wall, the electric tingle of portal jumping, the swaying of a precarious rope bridge, the blistering flames springing from my hand with only a word.

I want to taste and smell the rain in the air, the smoke of a burning building, the butter melting into fresh bread, the acrid scent of a witch's brew, the coppery blood when I'm punched in the teeth.

In short, I want to feel like I'm there.

Some books that succeeded in this:

  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater // I can't recommend the entire series due to the amount of language and some worldview disagreement, but she is marvelous at conveying setting and atmosphere.
  • The Tales of Goldstone Wood series by Anne Elisabeth Stengl // Incredible depth and scope! Even though it's written in an omniscient point of view, I can see and feel everything.
  • Wither by Savannah Jezowski // Part of the Five Enchanted Roses anthology. Very immersive and engaging.

2. I want the emotions to pop.

This is where so many books fall short. Maybe I'm just particular about how I like my characters, but the number one thing I look for is connection. I don't want to just feel like I'm walking the same dusty road or smelling the same ancient library as they are--I want to smile with their joy, weep with their sorrow, cringe at their pain. I want my pulse to race. I want my breath to catch. I want to feel a laugh rising in my chest.

In fact, I think the lack of realistic emotions is one reason speculative tropes feel so . . . well, cliché. Like two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs with little more than tradition to prop them up. But that also means there's an incredible opportunity to breathe fresh live into those well-worn tropes with grounded, relatable emotions and reactions!

[via Pinterest]
You're the chosen one? Great. What does that feel like? Actually? The crushing pressure, the crippling self-doubt, the spine-tingling excitement . . . You're alienated from your friends and family. You're elevated to a spot of high publicity, usually in very short order. A whole kingdom, or perhaps a whole world, is riding on your shoulders. You're probably not ready for the task ahead of you. Oh, and guess what? You're probably sixteen and haven't even figured out high school. I want to experience that chaotic spectrum of emotions!

You're a superhero? Love it! Let me feel what it's like to discover your powers, to live a double life, to save the very world that critiques and condemns you, to accept a role you never asked for.

You're fighting an epic fantasy battle? Okay, put me on the battlefield. Let's hear the chaos and see the carnage, utterly stripped of the soaring musical soundtracks and nicely choreographed movements. Let's feel the desperation, the animalistic actions mixed with startling humanity. Do it tastefully, but show me the heartbreak of war. And don't forget to show me the damaging emotional aftereffects.

I could go on and on! Basically, what I'm looking for is real humans within the strangeness of spec fic. I'll believe your dragons are real if I can believe in the living, breathing, thinking, feeling people in their midst.

Some books that succeeded:

  • A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes // I felt Parvin's ups and downs so deeply. One of the most thought-provoking books I've read.
  • Eye of the Oracle by Bryan Davis // Despite the fact that this sweeping story covers entire centuries, I felt all of the major characters' struggles.
  • The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer // Every character is well-drawn, and each point of view is arresting and immediate. Cinder in particular offers a deep perspective.

3. I want to the world to be beautifully balanced.

Yes, I want some fabulous worldbuilding! Give me convincing cultures and subcultures, populated by believable people, anchored in a world that's so tightly woven it seems as if it's always spun on its axis. Give me realistic politics where nothing is as black and white as we wish it were. Give me geography that makes sense. Give me history that builds upon itself and affects the current storyworld. Give me realistic prejudices, worldviews, values, fears, and desires that spring naturally from the world you've created. Give me something that has meaning, something nearly as textured and intricate as our own planet earth.

There are books, particularly in fantasy, that feel as if they're checking off a series of worldbuilding boxes. Like the author took a template* and divided everything into little boxes. Each individual box is cool, but none of them work together cohesively. They're cogs on a wheel, but each are different sizes, so when the wheels start turning, the story jolts. And suddenly I'm a spectator again--or worse, a critic with a red pen.

*By the by, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using templates! I've done it! They're great for helping a writer beef up the parts of their storyworld they tend to neglect.

What I'm looking for is a story where all the moving parts fit together, and each element affects all the others. For example, if we look at a fictional kingdom's geography, that aspect alone should play a crucial role in:

  • natural resources, exports, and imports
  • political position
  • global influence or lack thereof
  • culture
  • dress
  • food
  • history
  • wars
  • etc.

Are they landlocked? Do they have access to other countries? How rich are they in resources? Which ones? Are these resources scarce in other parts of the world? How does the climate affect what the people wear, eat, and do? What parts of the country's geography are strategic advantages or disadvantages? How has that impacted wars fought on their soil? Who are their geographic neighbors? Are they on good terms? Do mountains or oceans separate them from each other? There's so much to delve into based on a single aspect of worldbuilding!

But the book doesn't have to show all of this "on screen." That would get rather dry and boring pretty quickly. And because the book is a work of fiction, the author could spend the rest of his or her life developing a single world and never getting around to writing the story that's supposed to take place in it! So I'm certainly not asking for a set of encyclopaedias about every made-up world. I just want the slice of the world I see on the page to be cohesive and natural.

Some books that succeeded:

  • The Tales of Goldstone Wood series by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
  • The Auralia Thread series by Jeffrey Overstreet
  • The Bright Empires series by Stephen Lawhead
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark

In short, I'd love to see more speculative fiction that immerses me in a believable world and makes me truly feel with the characters.

There are many, many wonderful books that do some or all three points on this list, and I've shared only a few of them! I hope this literary hole continues to be filled in the future. Yes, it's a pretty tall order. But it's possible.

And as a side note, it's important to take into account that not all books are trying to do the same things (which could be a whole 'nother post on its own!), so not every book will hit all of these points with the same amount of gusto, nor do they automatically need to.

But at the end of the day, if a novel can make me feel deeply connected to the characters and solidly anchored in their world, I will probably scream my happiness from the rooftops! That's the kind of fiction I'm hungry for!

Okay, your turn! What's something you see lacking in the world of books? Is there anything you'd add to this list? Oh, and hit me up with your realistic speculative fiction recommendations! (That's a mouthful.)

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Subplots and Storylines - April 2018

(I almost wrote Subplots and Services. What even? Is that some kind of shop offering services for authors struggling with their plots? Do book mechanics work there? "Yup, not to worry, Mr. Author. Your subplot about the orphan hero just needed a little tune-up.")

(. . . I don't know where my brain goes sometimes, to be honest.)

Parenthetical intro aside, hello! How is everyone? It's crazy to think that a third of the year has whooshed by already. But I'm not too sad because it's finally summer break! The snow has melted at last and it's looking like spring out there.

Blogging nearly fell by the wayside during April, since college was incredibly busy with projects wrapping up, quizzes being crammed in, and final exams happening. Now that year one of business school is done, I'm free for the summer! College was a lot of hard work, but I don't regret it--rather, I'm excited about where this new knowledge might take me in the future.

In other news . . .

  • I bought my flights to and from Realm Makers, so that's another item to check off the list!
  • Two family members plus a grandma had birthdays in April, which amounted to much celebrating and good food.
  • During exam week, I went on a spontaneous cleaning spree and also reorganized my bookshelves. Such a satisfying feeling!

That's about it for life-y stuff, really. School swallowed everything! But I did manage to watch and read a few things.

Screen Subplots

Once Upon a Time season 4 and 6

I think I watched only two or three episodes all month, but season 6 is improving, I'd say!

Piglet's Big Movie

I still love the Hundred Acre Wood, you guys, and I don't plan to ever grow out of it. This here is one of my favorite Pooh movies. It's so precious! Piglet just wants to be important enough to be useful. When he goes missing, his friends set out to find him. Being the brilliant fluffbrains they are, they decide Piglet's scrapbook can show them where he is. As they go along, the memories inside remind them of all the ways Piglet has helped in the past. It's rather sweet.

My only quibble is that I got my DVD secondhand, and because it's scratched, it skips my favorite line: "Kanga, is that a fish in that tree?"

I'm a kid at heart, all right?

Avengers: Infinity War

I AM NOT OKAY. NOT OKAY AT ALL. But I loooooved the movie! It was completely epic and well worth going to the theater for! Marvel's been building up to this for years, so it's payoff time--and wow, they delivered. (I didn't get enough of certain characters, but there were a lot of them sharing the screen, so that's understandable. And some of them may get more attention in the fourth Avengers movie.) I'm zipping my lips and not saying anything more right now, since . . . you know . . . #thanosdemandsyoursilence. Maybe I'll talk more about it once it comes out on DVD/Blu-ray.

Page Storylines

The Returning // Rachelle Dekker

I started this one in March and it took me a couple weeks to finish, thanks to schoolwork. Reading a book too slowly tends to skew my perception of it, but I'll try to present balanced thoughts.

Firstly, I didn't feel as connected to the heroine, Elise, as I was expecting to (partially because of my reading pace), and there were too many secondary characters to keep track of. The group dynamic would have been a lot stronger had the cast been smaller or been introduced more gradually.

That being said, there were some truly beautiful scenes that nearly moved me to tears, particularly one that took place in a hospital. With a strong theme centered around identity, this book approached the topic in a thoughtful, refreshing way. References to God were a little vague--referring mostly to "He," "the light," and sometimes "the Father"--but from the right vantage point, it's easy to see how Dekker is referring to the immense love and power living in us through Christ.

Speaking of which, I was hoping she would finally clarify who Aaron's character is supposed to represent, but she didn't. It's unclear whether he is an allegorical image of Jesus, a regular human being, or a prophet-like character similar to John the Baptist. I'm all for writing outside the box, but in this case, I'm not even sure where the box is.

There were parts I liked in The Returning, don't get me wrong. But this didn't feel like the strongest book in the trilogy, which is unfortunate, seeing as it's the finale. You can check out my review on Goodreads for a few more thoughts. Wavering between 3.5 and 4 stars on this one.

Tears of a Dragon // Bryan Davis

Of all four Dragons in Our Midst books, this is the one I remembered the least plot-wise. So it was rather fun to return to it and refresh my memory! This time around, I especially appreciated how Bryan Davis concluded the series. If I didn't know there were eight more books following DIOM, I would be content with this ending. It's solid and satisfying. (But there are definitely a few things that make me very glad the story continues in Oracles of Fire!)

The main characters of Tears of a Dragon have all grown and changed significantly since the first book, and it shows. Elements introduced earlier gain greater importance as resurrected dragons face off with the Watchers, and Billy and Bonnie seek to free several key characters from another dimension called Dragon's Rest. The core story thread, Billy's relationship with his father, becomes even more compelling here too. I just love these characters so much!

And that ending . . . it still brought tears to my eyes, even though I've read it a few times! 5 stars all the way!

(I know I've been talking about Dragons in Our Midst in every S&S post this year, since I'm rereading it, but would you guys be interested in a spotlight post on the series? With it fresh in my memory, I feel it would be fitting to pay tribute to something that's been such a big influence on me.)

The Story Peddler // Lindsay A. Franklin

I fangirled over this brand new novel earlier this week! If you missed it, you can see my review HERE. 5 stars!

Written Subplots

Eheheh . . . heh . . .


Not much to see here at all. Like I said. Final exams. They are a black hole.

But I did submit a flash fiction piece to Splickety, which I mentioned last month as something I wanted to do. It wasn't chosen, but I'll write another flash fiction and try again! Truth be told, this little 600-some word story has the glimmerings of an entire novel* behind it, so it wasn't a waste.

*Something along the lines of Jennifer Nielsen's Ascendance trilogy, but a little darker and with a stronger fantasy vibe. Very twisty. Very stabby.

Right at the end of April, I also managed to compile beta feedback on a few more chapters of The Brightest Thread. Just chapters 16 through 18, though. It's fun to relive the story through my beta readers' eyes.

Happy May, my friends!

How was your April? Read anything wonderful? Students, are you slogging through your last stretch of school? (You can do it! I'm sending you reviving unicorns and memory-enhancing wizard brews!) Do we need Subplots and Services to be a real shop or what?! And tell me honestly, would you like a spotlight post on Dragons in Our Midst?