Saturday, January 26, 2019

Guest Post - How Realm Makers Impacted My Writing Journey

Earlier this week, I had the honor of guest posting for the Realm Makers blog! So in lieu of a new post here on Adventure Awaits, I'll just drop the link here: How Realm Makers Impacted My Writing Journey.

It's a particularly timely topic for those of you who might be considering attending this year's conference, because registration opens on February 1st! (Wink, wink.)

Tally ho! These days of me being an MIA blogger are numbered, friends. Thanks for bearing with me.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

DEAD MAGIC - I'm Published in Havok!

Hey, friends! Just popping in to say that if you haven't heard yet, my story called Dead Magic is published on Havok's website! You can go read it right HERE.

But remember, it's available today only unless you're a paid subscriber to Havok.

Hope you enjoy it! I'd love to interact with you in the comment section over there throughout the day. Tally ho!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

2018 Recap // 2019 Goals

A crisp new morning. The wide open feeling of new potential. This is January--or rather, it's my idealized January. At this time of year, I find myself reflecting on what the past 365 days have been like and where I hope to go in the next 365. It's definitely been a journey.

At the beginning of 2018, I slowed down and took a different approach to goal-setting. You can read about it here: What Lies on the Horizon. Today let's look at those goals and see if I hit them.

2018 Goals

Organize my beta readers' feedback on The Brightest Thread. Check! It was one whale of a job, but I did manage to wrangle all the feedback into one place and took an objective look at the critiques. (And smiled at the fangirly comments, let's be honest.)

Try my hand at flash fiction and submit to a magazine. What do you know, I managed that too! I wrote a few flash fics, and Dead Magic was accepted by Havok. Details coming VERY soon!

Edit The Brightest Thread. I made progress on that front, for sure. The beginning of the novel gave me a hard time (how dare it), but the first 22,000 words are now in pretty good shape. I think. It's been a while since I looked at it, thanks to college.

Start querying literary agents. Nope, I didn't make it that far, since I didn't finish editing TBT.

Attend Realm Makers in St. Louis and pitch TBT again there. I did make it to Realm Makers for the second time and pitched twice, with promising results. I'm excited to pursue that in the future.

Finish The Creative Way course. Ahahaha . . . no. This was on my list of goals last year too, and I worked through even fewer lessons in 2018 than I did in 2017. College swallowed my LIFE.

Get my secret project off the ground. Aside from brainstorming, I made no progress here either. See the above reason.

Spiff up the blog. Again, nope.

Maybe plan my next novel? Nuh-uh. You know the drill by now. #collegelife

Three and a half achieved out of nine.

A couple years ago, that might have made me depressed. But now? I can smile, nod, and turn my face toward the new year. Because I know that list of goals doesn't paint the whole picture. There were more important things I wanted out of 2018, bigger wins to achieve. Most of them can't be quantified.

I took more time for people. I noticed a marked difference in how I treated time spent with family and friends. Not that I'm oh-so-generous now, but I've become a little more willing, a little more able to shut up my inner critic when it wants to yak about the looming to-do list. The people in my life mean more than getting that blog post up in time or editing another chapter.

I carved out time to read and recharge. I skidded too close to burnout in 2017 and 2016, so with college ramping up this year, I knew it was even more crucial to stay rested. Again, I wasn't perfect at this, but there were many, many occasions I made the decision to pick up a book instead of a task in my free time. Sure, there were weeks in summer when I went full-steam ahead in editing my novel, and most definitely times during the school months that I worked my fingers to the bone. BUT. Overall, I took steps to nurture my mental health, and now I'm thanking myself for it.

Most importantly, I grew closer to God and forged a new devotional habit. Recently, I reread the What Lies on the Horizon post from last January . . . and it almost made me cry. Many of those words had faded from memory since writing them down, including this thought:

"What I know right now is that every time I have hungered for more of God and cried out for a deeper knowing of Him, He has responded. And every time, all it took was asking... and then putting one foot in front of the other with my eyes open for an answer. Another thing I know right now is that I miss digging into the Word." [Jan. 2018]

Since writing that, I started a contemplative Bible-reading plan--and kept up with it all year. Coming from a 2017 of very sporadic times spent with God, that's huge for me.

And when I look back at all the things God has whispered to my heart in 2018, I am moved by how kind and wise He is. All year, He encouraged me to rest, to accept grace, to trust Him. To do everything WITH Him. This was made especially clear at Realm Makers, where author Allen Arnold taught a class called Chaos and Creativity.

Books I read, people I talked to, messages from church I listened to, songs I heard . . they wove together into a beautiful melody threaded through the year, snagging my wandering attention when I strayed too far.

(And on the more superficial side of things, I finished two semesters of business college, had Mirrors Never Lie place as a finalist in Five Poisoned Apples, and read 50 books.)

I'm proud of 2018.

But now it's time to look to the new year.

2019 Goals

Continue my devotional habit. But more than just continuing, I want to build more thought, study, and variety into it as time goes on.

Give myself more grace. This one goes without explanation.

Take better care of myself. This includes getting the right amount of sleep, being intentional about unplugging, and making space for just being still.

Graduate college and get a great job. I can't wait! As much as I grumble about college (which is something else I need to work on), it really has been a valuable experience. One of these days I'll share some survival tips for fellow students. Anyway, before I graduate in April, I'll be looking for the kind of job that will make me excited to get up in the morning.

Finish editing The Brightest Thread. I'm so looking forward to brushing up this darling child of mine . . .

Send TBT to a literary agent. . . . And I'm looking forward to engaging in some serious querying!

Attend Realm Makers for the third time. It's my tentative plan, and I'm hoping it'll fit in the budget again this summer.

Actually finish The Creative Way writing course by Ted Dekker. Because there's cool stuff to learn and it's about time I finish what I started an embarrassingly long time ago.

Move Adventure Awaits to a self-hosted website. You heard it here first, folks! Rather than simply spruce up the blog, I'm seriously contemplating moving to a bona-fide website later this year. I foresee many inquiries being sent to the more technologically-minded . . .

Bring that secret project into existence. And that's all I'll say about that. *wink*

I do have a handful of "bonus goals," smaller and easier-to-achieve things that would be nice to accomplish, but not absolutely imperative. Things like purging my room, purchasing a new laptop, reading another 50 books (including my nonfiction TBR stack), even getting a personal blender with which to make smoothies. But I think ten major goals are quite enough for now, thank you!

2019 holds some big changes, that much is certain. I'm eagerly anticipating a change of season, from full-time student to . . . well, full-time something else, and also the chance to revive my writing life. In the meantime, I hope to practice grace for myself and others--and face the future with a peaceful heart.

What are you looking forward to this year, fellow questers?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Books of 2018

In true bookdragon fashion, I enjoy tracking what I read and keeping tabs on what my friends read too, because bookdragons love company! If you're here at Adventure Awaits, I'm assuming you're my scaly, story-addicted kin. Welcome.
In the interests of satisfying curiosity--yours and mine--here are all the books I read in 2018, complete with the mini reviews and stats that were popular last year!


Raising Dragons // Bryan Davis
Boy breathes fire // Arthurian legend // dragonslayers // felt like returning to old friends // 5 stars

Siren's Fury // Mary Weber
Steampunk meets fantasy // dramatic redemption // airships // darkness // cliffhanger // 5 stars


The Scorch Trials // James Dashner
Improved over The Maze Runner // Newt and Minho are my favs // Teresa is annoying as all get-out // sorry, the movie was better // 4 stars

The Candlestone // Bryan Davis
All my babies are growing up // vivid analogies // "truth is my sword" // singing in the midst of darkness // 5 stars

Hostage Run // Andrew Klavan
Super fast read // video game affects reality // angry son actually works to forgive his father // Molly is great // 4 stars

Orphan's Song // Gillian Bronte Adams
Cozy fantasy // griffins and orphans and swords // music is magic // Amos, the cranky peddler, sounds exactly like Hector Barbossa in my head // 4 stars


Last Star Burning // Caitlin Sangster
Dystopian China = very cool // sleeping sickness // confusing action sequences // common sense could've prevented 90% of the problems // backstabby characters // 3 stars

Circles of Seven // Bryan Davis
So much symbolism // one of my favorites // Walter and Ashley snark // detestable villainess // Prof is the actual best // 5 stars


The Returning // Rachelle Dekker
Powerful themes about identity // new generation of characters // I missed the old ones // some loose threads left unresolved // 4 stars

Tears of a Dragon // Bryan Davis
Great character growth // rescuing dragon souls // fighting the Watchers // solid ending // 5 stars

The Story Peddler // Lindsay A. Franklin
Cozy and full of wonder // exceeded my expectations // storytelling powers // headstrong heroine // ragtag band of misfits // I fell in love with the pirate! // 5 stars


Eye of the Oracle // Bryan Davis
History of millennia woven into overarching plot // underground slaves // portal jumping // Makaidos is my favorite dragon ever // 5 stars

The Sea of Monsters // Rick Riordan
Hilarious // a taxi of death // man-eating sheep // Tyson is sweet // epic bad guys plans // would've liked a bit more introspection // 5 stars

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone // J.K. Rowling
Utterly enchanting // lovable characters // my first foray into the Wizarding World // some unnecessary sneakery // I'm gonna go live at Hogwarts okay thanks // 5 stars

Gravestone // Travis Thrasher
Audiobook // dark and winding road // gloomy // creepy // a ray of light is coming // very lifelike emotions // 5 stars


Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff // Chip Gaines
Interesting anecdotes // family first // live fearlessly // felt a bit scattered // 4 stars

Steal Like an Artist // Austin Kleon
Inspiration for the creative process // celebrate imperfection // pithy and quotable // catapults your own thoughts // 5 stars

Enoch's Ghost // Bryan Davis
Sacrifice // Ashley is super relatable // creepy infinite staircase // so many awesome characters hurting so much, ow // 5 stars

Siren's Song // Mary Weber
Epic final battle // heart-wrenching ending // Nym has come so far // Myles gave me Loki vibes // thematically magnificent // 5 stars

Unblemished // Sara Ella
So fun and cute // fairy-tale-esque world connected to New York // twisty plot // love triangle // Team Ky all the way // 4.5 stars

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap // Akira Himekawa
Graphic novel // cute drawing style // the Pikori are adorable // good conclusion // 4 stars

Paper and Fire // Rachel Caine
Left me breathless // good ol' rescue plot // creepy automatons // squad goals // stacks of dusty, old books // gearing up for an epic rebellion // 5 stars

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets // J.K. Rowling
The Weasely family is adorable // rollicking adventures // Mandrakes! // ugh, Lockhart // unexpected and satisfying ending // 5 stars

All the Crooked Saints // Maggie Stiefvater
Charming, lyrical writing // eclectic pilgrims // the desert is a character unto itself // Pete, my love // healing is found through opening up to others // 5 stars


Last of the Nephilim // Bryan Davis
War is coming // everyone's gathering in Second Eden (which is a really cool place) // lots of action // Elam! // 5 stars


Embers // Ronie Kendig
Love the premise // fire powers // a bit too many characters // set up for the beginnings of an epic "fellowship," though // 4 stars

The Bones of Makaidos // Bryan Davis
One of my favorite books // epic cast // climactic battles // best-ever satisfying ending // 5 stars

Fairest Son // H.S.J. Williams
Gender-bent Snow White // wild fey // unexpected twists // I fell in love with Prince Idris // beautiful story // 5 stars

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking // Susan Cain
Fascinating // made me more aware of my temperament's strengths // 4 stars

Hacker // Ted Dekker
Took a surprising look at the unseen world // hacking the human consciousness // felt like an allegory // 4 stars


The Magician's Nephew // C.S. Lewis
Focus on the Family audio // brought back memories // dawn of Narnia brings me to tears // 5 stars

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe // C.S. Lewis
Focus on the Family audio // classic // great voice cast // except Aslan's voice doesn't beat Liam Neeson in the movies // 5 stars

The Story of With // Allen Arnold
Life-changing // awakens the heart // fiction and nonfiction fused together // 5 stars

The Horse and His Boy // C.S. Lewis
Focus on the Family audio // I loved this one more than the first few times I read it // Bree is my fav // 5 stars

Prince Caspian // C.S. Lewis
Focus on the Family audio // really fun // Trumpkin's voice is amusing // the Pevensies are back // 5 stars

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader // C.S. Lewis
Focus on the Family audio // so many adventures // one of my favorite Narnia books // 5 stars

The Silver Chair // C.S. Lewis
Focus on the Family audio // darker than I remembered // Puddleglum's the best // 5 stars

The Last Battle // C.S. Lewis
Focus on the Family audio // I want to throttle that ape // Susan, why? // happy reunions // further up and further in // 5 stars

Song of the Ovulum // Bryan Davis
Tale of mercy // new generation of characters // also a throwback to the Biblical Flood // 5 stars


Crazy Love // Francis Chan
Audiobook // some good parts about the bigness of God // bit of a guilt trip in other parts // 4 stars

From the Mouth of Elijah // Bryan Davis
Fiery volcanoes // madcap portal dashes // sacrificial love // Lauren's journey is particularly poignant // 5 stars

If We Survive // Andrew Klavan
Audiobook // so intense // Will is such a good kid // I love all the characters, though // everything goes wrong, ack // 5 stars

Fawkes // Nadine Brandes
Lived up to the hype // historical fantasy with color magic // Thomas! Emma! // twisty plot // 5 stars

Haven // Mary Lindsey
Paranormal romance // clich├ęd plot, decently cool backstory // alpha male protagonist, overly aggressive // the romance was blegh, blegh, blegh // I got rid of the book // 1 star


The Seventh Door // Bryan Davis
Awesome parallels to Circles of Seven // Tamiel is one crafty villain // deeply sad scenes // Matt grows a lot // 5 stars


The Scorpio Races // Maggie Stiefvater
So good that it hurts // atmospheric // the capall uisce horses are SCARY // slow burn romance // Puck and I understand each other // love Sean Kendrick // 5 stars

Omega Dragon // Bryan Davis
Apocalyptic conclusion // so many brave heroes // tied up the twelve books in a smashing finale // 5 stars
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban // J.K. Rowling
My favorite HP book yet // Lupin is the best // Harry is growing up // all the plot twists // I want to visit Hogwarts // 5 stars
Horseman // Kyle Robert Schultz
The Wild West of Neverica // magic and mayhem // spot-on humor // Julio the dragon is hilarious // 4 stars
The Sacred Enneagram // Christopher L. Heuertz
Enlightening // resonated with my inner journey // lots to chew on // Christian perspective on how to use the Enneagram for personal and spiritual growth // 5 stars

Reading Stats

Total Books Read: 50 (10 more than 2017!)
Pages Read: 17,656 (which is over 4,000 more pages than 2017!)
Also, let us take a moment to cast an appreciative glance at a two-foot stack made of eleven college textbooks read during the year. I'm not sure how many hundreds of pages that pile would add . . . and I'm not sure I want to think about it.

Genres of 2018

This was the year of fantasy! But . . . I mean . . . that's not new. I did average a nonfiction book every other month, which is up from last year.
Some other stats of interest . . .

I "read" a lot more audiobooks than normal (since normal used to be zero). And, as you'll see below, this was also the Year of Rereads!

Star Ratings

Pretty typical! I read a lot of books I enjoyed and very, very few that I didn't.

Most Read Authors

  • Bryan Davis (12)
  • C.S. Lewis (7)
  • J.K. Rowling (3)
  • Mary Weber (2)
  • Andrew Klavan (2)
  • Maggie Steifvater (2)

Favorite Authors Discovered in 2018

Without a doubt, my favorite new-to-me authors this year were:
  • Lindsay A. Franklin (because The Story Peddler was awesome, Lindsay is awesome, and I can't wait for her next book releasing April 2019!)
  • J.K. Rowling (because I finally joined the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and I'm rather delighted to be here)
  • H.S.J. Williams (because her Snow White novella was just so beautiful)

Least Favorite Book

Haven by Mary Lindsey. I've already complained about it, so if you're curious about the details behind why I so disliked this novel, I'll just drop a link to my Goodreads review HERE.

Favorite Books

IT'S SO HARD TO PICK. Because almost half of this year's books were rereads, I'm going to cheat and give you two lists--one of my favorite new books and one of my favorite rereads.

Favorite New Books
  • The Story Peddler
  • Paper and Fire
  • All the Crooked Saints
  • Fairest Son
  • Fawkes
  • The Scorpio Races
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Favorite Rereads
  • Circles of Seven
  • Eye of the Oracle
  • The Bones of Makaidos
  • The Horse and His Boy
  • If We Survive

Happy Reading, Bookdragons!

I'm pleasantly surprised to see what a great reading year this was! It was pretty different than my usual, what with rereads (which used to be rare), more nonfiction, and more audiobooks (which saved my Goodreads reading challenge while in college).
Looking forward to another great set of books in 2019! My TBR pile is as staggering as ever, threatening to hold me hostage; and new releases like To Best the Boys by Mary Weber, The Story Raider by Lindsay Franklin, Romanov by Nadine Brandes, and probably a lot more are just going to add height to the TBR . . . but that's a fun problem to have.

Whew, you made it to the end! Now tell me: what were some of your top reads of 2018? And what's an upcoming release you can't wait to add to your dragon hoard?