Augtember Ishness: Steampunk & Star Trek & Beren, Oh My!

August – September 2017

Hello, my Roadlings! It’s October! I don’t actually want to hear that, but, well… such is life. Speaking of life, here are some Ishnesses of mine from the last two months. (Shh, of course Augtember is a legitimate month…)

LIFE

I was mostly busy with Life-ish and some Internet-ish things, but here are a few random things of interest that happened:

Sometimes I art. (Dragon from Jenelle’s Minstrel’s Song series for the Fellowship of Fantasy Fan Art Contest. I didn’t win but a different picture for the same series did. XD)

Sometimes I’m interviewed. This was one of those times. (Thanks, Emily!)

Sometimes I see an eclipse. (“See” is here a vague word. I didn’t look directly at it but the shadows did fascinating things.)

Sometimes I have a blogoversary. (A 4 year one at that!) I was so excited to give away books and celebrate. ‘Twas a blast! ^_^

Sometimes I start getting ready for being an ML (Municipal Liaison) for NaNoWriMo again this year. (‘Twill be my 5th year as an ML and 8th year participated in NaNo. I’m surprised too. What happened to Time, again?)

(Left-to-right: March-June bjournal-the-first, July-September bjournal-the-second, and as-yet-unstarted hopefully-bjournal-the-next. Also known as: whatever the latest journal I found at a library sale was when I needed to start a new bjournal. XD)

Sometimes I finish another bjournal. (Bullet Journal, for those unfamiliar with my bizzare and strangely-Nordic abbreviation.) I’d say “sorry to see you go, Max Out On A Limb” but I’m not actually sorry, because it wasn’t the easiest journal to write in so I’m actually relieved to be finished that one. Time to start the next one… (On my to-do list for today.)

WRITING

pixabay

I took a writing (and blogging) hiatus in August. It was much needed after a very busy July Camp NaNo when I “wrote” 30 hours.

I then proceeded to accidentally take a semi-hiatus from writing for most of September too, because I couldn’t decide what to work on and Life got busy.

Basically, I didn’t do much writing in the last two months. >.> Like… at all.

I did fiddle with a few stories (including Tare’s because he doesn’t ever leave me alone for too long because he’s guilt-trippy considerate like that. ^_^) so it wasn’t a total loss. Hopefully I benefited from the break?

I did, however, after much panicking (see above image. XD), finally decide what I’m writing for NaNoWriMo next month! 😀 *has minor heart-attack at the words “next month” being used to refer to November*

I’m (hopefully) writing The Siren and the Skyship, a Steampunk-Fantasy Little Mer(man?) retelling, WHICH I AM RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED ABOUT. I’m sure you’ll hear more about it this month and next, so don’t worry, there will be more on this subject sometime. XD

READING

I read 8 new books, re-read 4 (okay, one was read TO me on audiobook and was so fun!), and read a non-fiction too. Much lovely reading these last two months!

I was particularly excited to re-read The Silmarillion (it had been a few years since I read it last, so this was AMAZING!) and reading the new Beren and Luthien book, which was delightful! ^_^ I’m so pleased to (after far too long) be dipping back into Tolkien! In case anyone’s wondering, The Silmarillion is fabulous and my world from my childhood, and Tolkien’s Beren and Luthien poetry is amazing. ❤

Also The Little White Horse IS AWESOME and everyone needs to read it. And everyone also needs to read “Art and the Bible” if you’re a writer, or want to be a writer, or read, or anything.

I loved pretty much all the rest of the books I read too! 🙂 (Listed below, linked if I reviewed them recently.)

(If you’re interested, links to these books are on my Goodreads challenge page.)

WATCHING

So I watched a lot of things recently, which is rare for me. Maybe since I wasn’t writing?

I’m once again reminded that I don’t actually like to have opinions about movies because then I have to… well have opinions, and movies are my “fun” thing that I don’t do all the time and am not as passionate about as books. So I find I don’t always know what I think of movies, other than generally enjoying them… or something.

Anyway, they included:

  • The Secret of Moonacre — I saw the movie before the book! o.o I know, I’m so horrible. *coughcough* I quite enjoyed it, though I did enjoy the book (The Little White Horse) more once I read it. They’re toootally different, in a way. The film is fun but the book as AMAZING. ❤ (The movie did have Ioan Gruffudd as the grouchy uncle though, so that was fun. XD)
  • Star Trek — The three new Star Trek movies and a few episodes of the Original Series of Star Trek (I had never seen anything Star-Trek-related before; suddenly I’m understanding SO MANY references. I feel enlightened about cultural references now. XD) both of which were rather fun. I’m not a huge sci-fi fan in general? So, not my faaavorite, but I do find myself rather attached to Kirk and Spock and others. *nodnod* Overall, both the new and old versions were quite fun in their way. 🙂 (Yes, I saw the Tribbles; poor Kirk. XD Yes, I liked the timey-wimey stuff in the first new movie. Yes, Benedict CucumberKahn was interesting. Yes, it was weird that New-Kirk’s dad and mom were Thor and Emma Swann.)
  • Tuck Everlasting — Um. Bittersweet? I was bad again and saw it before reading the book (on my list) but it was kind of fun… kind of… except for some of it… I dunno what I think about it. 😛 The idea was neat and I loved the melody thing… Fun-ish. 🙂
  • Spider-Man — I had never seen anything Spidey-ish, other than his cameo in Captain America 3, but this month I managed to see the first two Tobey Maguire films. Pretty fun, though seemingly unnecessarily focused on “let’s make Spidey’s life miserable”. XD Not my faaave, but again, I feel so cultured now. XD
  • Saw Captain America: Civil War again, and Emma (with Pepper Potts and Obi-Wan; shush, I can call it that) again. That Emma film is quite fun, and I’m only in CA:CW for Bucky and Hawkeye and Bucky. *cough* Basically I want a Bucky and Hawkeye and Agent Hill movie. Is that so much to ask?
  • Aaand I started Once Upon a Time. I’ve seen all of 5 episodes so I’m not very far along. XD But, again, I now feel sooo much like I can start “getting” things. XD Quite fun thus far; curious where it’ll go. 🙂
  • I saw some other stuff but those are the highlights. 🙂 Basically, now I Know Things.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

Attention, everyone!

There’s going to be a blog tour, coming soon (early November) and it’s going to be cool! It’s going to be… Vintage Jane Austen Week! So if you’re a blogger and want to a) interview some awesome authors, b) read and review some of those awesome Jane Austen retellings set in the 1930s that I’ve been flailing about, or c) share the word with a spotlight post . . . then NOW IS THE TIME. The time to sign up, that is! Which you can do HERE. Otherwise, be watching out for that, because there’ll be cool stuff and a giveaway and it’ll be grand, basically. ^_^ (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can find out more about the series here.)

OCTOBER PLANS

Whew! What a busy couple of months, with much reading and watching and not-writing (whoooops) and a lot of lifely things which don’t seem interesting to report but somehow keep me quite busy outside of said mentioned things.

My upcoming plans include:

  • Starting a new bjournal (because how else can I keep track of all the things I need to do and don’t have time for? *coughcough*).
  • Doing ALL THE NANO PLOTTING AAAAHHH.
  • Freaking out about said NaNo’s approach (shhh, we all do it).
  • Trying to read ALL THE THINGS and review them and basically do a few months’ worth of work and projects BEFORE NANO.
  • Because clearly I’m insane. XD
  • *slumps* Yes, it’s that time of year when I’m trying to clear slates and do EVERYTHING, while trying to plot a novel (oh, I capitalized that as Novel when I first typed it. Feeling important, are we?).
  • Which is only slightly less insane than ACTUALLY trying to write a 50,000 word Novel (I did it again; must be reflexes trying to write November, or NaNo. Or a steampunk story with delusions of grandeur) in a month.
  • But we won’t think about that until November, right? RIIIIGHT???
  • [I lie. I’m going to be thinking about it 24/7 for the next month.] Ahem.

ANYWAY. That’s it for today! Thanks for reading my (dubiously interesting?) rambles about the ishnesseseses (precioussss) of my last one-sixth-of-a-year (goodness, that sounds long, where have I been?) — and have a splendiferous October, friends! It’s Fall and almost NaNo and we don’t know what to do about it, but let’s have a glorious fun mess of a time, shall we? *gives out cupcakes and throws Fall(en?) leaves and NaNo-prep-papers like confetti*

P.S. I may or may not be sharing tidbits about The Siren and the Skyship on Twitter all month for #WIPjoy. And also may or may not be participating in #Drachtober as well. You know, if I have time to keep up with both, which is dubious. XD Also, in regard to Drachtober, Jenelle is having a short story challenge on her blog, so check it out.

P.P.S. Thanks for reading! (Again.)

P.P.P.S. I feel like Gandalf now. This is marvelous. (Never resist the urge to use several postscripts. Embrace your inner Gandalf! And you will never be late! Or something. Because… wizards? *laughs at own joke* …Yeah, okay, I’m done now.)

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Blogoversary (4 Years!) + Giveaway!

Happy blogoversary to meeee!

That’s right, The Road of a Writer is turning 4 YEARS OLD!

*confetti*

*fireworks*

So I’m celebrating by reminiscing, sharing some numbers and links, and giving away some fantasy novels!

It’s crazy to think it’s been so long since I started this li’l ol’ online way-post on the writing road… It’s been quite a journey, I’ve learned so much along the way, and I’ve definitely been enjoying it. It’s grown so much that I had to start a spinoff blog just for my reviewing and bookish posts! I love blogging. ^_^

Thanks so much to all of you for reading The Road of a Writer, commenting, encouraging, and generally putting up with my shenanigans — it means a lot! I’m supposed to be a writer, but in this case I don’t think there are words to say how I feel about you all… So. JUST — THANK YOU. ❤ *virtual hugs and cupcakes all around*

The Stats

(Look who wished me a happy blogoversary. XD)

  • 4 years
  • 250 posts (yes, last week‘s was my 250th!)
  • 470 followers (plus linked Twitter followers, hence the 789 number on the side; full disclosure. XD)
  • 5,562 comments
  • 10,328 visitors
  • 33,910 views
  • 9,043,930,894,038,098 hours spent trying to find the right gifs (okay, I exaggerate slightly… *cough*)

Top commenters of late (I think based on the last 1000 comments?):

Most popular posts I’ve posted:

Most-viewed posts from this year (after the ones above):

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Here are some of my favorite posts from the past four years…

CHARACTER INTERVIEWS, ETC.

ABOUT MY SERIES (because I’m nostalgic. XD)

ABOUT MY FAVORITE BOOKS

ABOUT WRITING

ABOUT NANOWRIMO ADVENTURES

SOME FAVORITE WRITINGS OF MINE

The Giveaway

In the tradition of Hobbit birthdays, wherein Hobbits on their birthday give away presents to other people, I’m giving away four books to my lovely followers to say THANK YOU for being amazing and putting up with my shenanigans. 🙂 I’d like to share the love on some of my favorite fantasy novels, which is why I’ve chosen these to give away.

What I am giving away:

  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (paperback; US)
  • The Bone House by Stephen R. Lawhead (paperback; US)
  • The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander (paperback; US)
  • Mossflower by Brian Jacques (paperback; US)

And alternate giveaway to enter internationally:

  • The Beast of Talesend by Kyle Robert Shultz (ebook; International)

Notes on each of these:

  • I do not entirely approve of the Hobbit movies, but I love this cover of The Hobbit all the same. XD If you’re not fortunate enough to have read this book yet, or don’t own a copy of your own, do enter this one! Or, ya know, if you already have a copy and want to give one as a gift to a friend/niece/nephew/neighbor/anybody — still enter! 😉
  • The Bone House is book 2 in the Bright Empires series, and I DO NOT recommend reading it unless you have read book 1, The Skin Map; but feel free to enter this one if you’ve read the first book and haven’t gotten around to the second yet (or, ya know, promise to get the first one and read it first. XD) — it’s one of my favorites! ^_^
  • The Book of Three is book 1 in the Prydain Chronicles; HIGHLY recommend; this is an ex-library book donated to Salvation Army, so it’s a readable copy and in good shape but with stickers/markings/etc.
  • Mossflower is a “prequel” to Redwall, but can stand alone, and it’s my favorite of the Redwall books. ❤
  • The paperback giveaway is for US residents only — sorry international peeps! I love you all the same! And to prove it, I also am giving away an ebook copy of The Beast of Talesend by Kyle Robert Shultz, so this one is open internationally!

You can enter via the form below — and you can pick which of the giveaways you would like to enter, so if you already have one or more of these, or for some reason do not wish to enter some of them, you can easily pick which one(s) you’d like to enter.

Details: Five winners — one for each book. Paperback giveaway open to US addresses only. Ebook giveaway open Internationally. (I’ve never tried giving away an ebook internationally so HOPEFULLY it will work…) Giveaways are open Monday, September 11 – Sunday, September 17, 2017. Winners will be listed here as an “EDIT” and also contacted by email, on Monday, September 18. So check back on this post on that day to see the winners!

EDIT: The winners have been chosen and contacted! Thanks so much to everyone who entered. 🙂

  • Winner of The Hobbit: Maddy
  • Winner of The Bone House: Savannah Grace
  • Winner of The Book of Three: Florid Sword
  • Winner of Mossflower: Emily Drown
  • Winner of The Beast of Talesend ebook: Skye

Thanks so much for coming with me all this way, my dearest Roadlings! ❤ You’re legit the best! ^_^ *group hug*

Junely Ishness + Snippets + Hiatus

Hello, my Roadling friends! *tackle hug for everyone and also cookies*

It seems to be August.

*cue explosion of the world at this shattering news because it really should still be March*

*tries to recover from the tricks Time has been playing on us this year*

Ahem. Anyways. August.

Aaand that means it’s time for another Ishness since it’s been a couple months since I did one. Or rather, it’s been the-long-month-that-starts-with-Ju, namely June/July which for our purposes I’m calling Junely.

Three things for this post:

  • Junely Ishnesses (because you love me and hearing about my oh-so-interesting life)
  • Snippets! (From my impromptu Camp NaNo. Because I love you and am nice like that.)
  • Also, I’m hiatusing. Kinda.

Hiatus

(pinterest)

In brief, July was very busy. I spontaneously did Camp NaNo in July, which I did NOT have time for; plus life was crazy; I’m behind on things like reading and reviewing; the Silmarillion Awards were very busy and bloggy; not to mention I’m recovering from a weeklong sunburn; and I’m just BEHIND and very, very tired.

So! I kind of need a vacation, and the only one I’m going to get is from my self-imposed deadlines etc. like blogging and writing. I’m therefore proposing doing less internet, probably taking a break from blogging here (though I might post reviews on my other blog because I have some of those to catch up on), and taking a writing break.

Essentially, I’m giving myself permission to be online less and hoping to stress myself out less too. So if you see less of me, that will be why.

I’m trying to catch up on a few internet things in the next few days and otherwise cutting back. But I hope to return with some fun blogging topics in September. 🙂 (If not sooner, if I get inspired…) And remember that I’ll probably be reviewing books on the side. Probably.

Onward to the Ishness!

Writing

Not a lot of writerliness happened in June… I wrote about a thousand words (including Other Half of Everything fun!) and kinda-sorta decided on what I might write for NaNo this November… maybe. But otherwise, my writerly life was stalling and it was kind of frustrating. Until just before July hit…

Then I spontaneously signed up for Camp NaNo in July (largely due to Sarah; thank you! XD). THIS WAS NOT PART OF MY PLAN. But I’m glad I did. I decided to try an HOURS goal, which I’d never done and is a new feature. I was going to try 15 hours… buuut apparently they only let you put in a number as low as 30 (probably to figure out their graph algorithms or something), so I had to do that.

I made it, but it was hard. It did allow me to make progress on things besides first-draft words, though. I’M A HUGE ADVOCATE OF HOURLY GOALS NOW.

Here’s what I accomplished for Camp:

The Numbers:

30 hours total

14,468 new words total

  • 7K on 3 short stories
  • 5.5K on KW stuff
  • 300 words OHE
  • 1.5K SilmAwards presentation
  • Edited about 45K worth of words

The Accomplishments:

  • Finished a short story: Invisible Beauty
  • Started The Treasure of A Distant Storm
  • Started The Tangled Thicket of Perilous Perrifeld
  • Wrote SilmAwards Heroine presentation (counting this; essentially fanfiction. XD)
  • Some minor Other Half of Everything snippets
  • Major progress on KW2 for the first time in a long time — finished a chapter that had been giving me major trouble, and started another. SO EXCITED.
  • Snippet of KW3
  • Edited Invisible Beauty
  • Edited above other stuff as I wrote it
  • Went through all my short stories — including IB — and edited them again (eight stories; nearly 35K total). I’d been meaning to do this for awhile.
  • Majorly restructured/re-titled my Starrellian epic fantasy series books — VERY excited!!!!
  • Solved some structural problems for a KW novella — yay!
  • Various plotting on a few other story ideas
  • Indexing some references/notes for KW books and OHE in my writing journals — which I’d been meaning to do for AGES; call it research, since I have oodles of notes spread across several notebooks and needed to find those notes in order to write those stories…

WHEW. I was especially pleased that I could count all those as “official” parts of my writing hours, because many of them are things that were rather time consuming, but I’d been wanting to do, and are equally helpful to my writing as first-draft words are (like major plotting, editing, finding notes). Too often, I only consider ACTUAL words “progress” and sometimes the quality suffers for that. XD The variety also kept it interesting and less overwhelming. I FEEL VERY ACCOMPLISHED AND I’M VERY HAPPY. ^_^ Also exhausted, hence the hiatus, but still happy. 😀

Will share snippets at the end of the post…

Reading

In June, I did ALL THE READING and actually finished my Goodreads goal of reading 50 books this year.

In July, I did much less reading because I was doing ALL THE WRITING.

That said, I read these beauties… (Listed in reverse order)

I love how, on the bottom row, it looks like The Archer is shooting an arrow across a planet — whizz! — and shooting a star out of the sky as a dog (a.k.a. Sirius), and probably landing in that forest where Martin and Elodie are looking for him or something. XD

I so enjoyed nearly all of these! My top faves, however, were Where the Woods Grow Wild, Spellsmith and Carver: Magicians’ Rivalry, and Halayda and The Tomb of the Sea Witch (both of which I intend to review soon). So, so good, all four! ❤

Watching

  • Doctor Strange [2016] — Yes, I finally saw this for the first time! It was… interesting. I loathe hospital scenes on-screen, sooo I wasn’t a fan of a lot of it. *cough* But otherwise, it was quite fun! 🙂 And I loooved the timey things, and the credits-scene with Thor. XD (Also, Holmes from Sherlock and Irene Adler from the Downey Jr. movies. MADE MY DAY.) (Also, also: what’s with Benedict’s non-British accent, though?? THAT’S, LIKE, A CRIME.) (Also, also, also: I want the Cloak of Levitation, please.)
  • Superman Returns [2006] — Very… weird, but kind of enjoyable, I guess? Some classic Superman stuff to educate me about Superman. XD *shrug*
  • Despicable Me [2010] — Very strange, sometimes annoying, sometimes funny and cute. XD
  • Studio C — As per usual. 😛 Matt’s characters are my favorite; he’s hilarious. XD

Blogging Highlights

The biggest thing, of course, for me lately, has been the Silmarillion Awards! Which I had a blast with! 🙂

In the last two months, I also…

And I reviewed these books (click the covers to read the reviews):

             

Life-ing

I finished my first Bullet Journal, or bjournal as I abbreviate it (since it sounds more Nordic and awesome than BuJo; because banjos and I don’t get on) and started a new one.

This one has a cat on the front, captioned (on the back) “Max, Out on a Limb”. The picture is a fairly accurate depiction of how I feel most of the time. XD

This is “Max, Out in a Hurricane”… XD

I went kayaking and had a blast save for said dreadful week-long sunburn, so that was fun. 😛 Going to a lake did provide excellent photoshoot opportunities for The Tomb of the Sea Witch which I was reading that weekend though. 😀

I also did something I hadn’t done in a long time: I drew art! Specifically, fan-art for the Ilyon Chronicles contest. I actually had a lot of fun; I should draw more often.

Jace and his wolf Tyra

(Disclaimer: before anyone bombards me with “YOU’RE READING THE ILYON CHRONICLES? WHADDAYA THINK???”… I read Half-Blood and started Resistance awhile back and haven’t finished it due to life. I HAVE therefore met Jace and Tyra, however I haven’t read an entire one of the “big” books in the series. So don’t ambush me, please. XD)

And now what you’ve been waiting for (maybe)…

SNIPPETS

These are an assortment of snippets from various novels and short stories I was working on during Camp. Enjoy!

The Treasure of A Distant Storm (TOADS for short. XD)

“Hallo, Henley,” he said, almost cautiously. “Didn’t expect to see you here.”

Henley found herself sighing. “Neither did I.”

His suppressed excitement burst forth like a hurricane from a mailbox. “You’ve come back to say you’re sorry!” he exclaimed, in raptures.

Henley rewarded him with a glaring frown. “I. Have. Not. Done anything of the sort,” she said icily.

“Oh.” His face fell, then briefly perked hopefully up again. “You’ve come back to have me say I’m sorry?” he suggested uncertainly.

***

“When I heard you talking it sounded like an argument. Actually like a lovers’ quarrel or . . . ah . . . a . . . er . . . a something . . .” He trailed off as his face turned very white under the glacial stare both other occupants of the room were directing at him. “I’ll just . . . Yeah, I’ll just go.” He vanished and hastily closed the door.

A long Arctic silence built itself like an iceberg between the two occupants of the room.

The Tangled Thicket of Perilous Perrifeld (TTPP for short)

Jenson Hillsong didn’t mind oddness, eccentricity, or tendencies to terrify—much—which was why he had gone to work for Lord Perrifeld as his apprentice.

Lord Perrifeld was not only a prestigious person, he was also an enchanter, and enchanters need apprentices the way large, gnarled, frightening trees need quiet dark shadows.

Jenson rather resembled a quiet dark shadow in his manners and dress, and Perrifeld Manor was up the lane among a great many of such similar large, gnarled, frightening trees, twisting this way and that through the winding fog that drifted through the shadows.

It was just past autumn, and just before winter set on, in the between-time when trees have forgotten their leaves, clouds have not yet remembered the snow, and the air is vaguely considering sending people scurrying for thicker coats soon—but not yet, not yet.

KW2 (“The Secret of Kedran’s Wood”, for the uninitiated)

Up and down some zig-zagging alleys Tare ran, across frozen asphalt with the sound of doomed-to-fall-behind pursuit behind him. Tare knew these streets like the back of his hand; better, since he’d spent more time wandering them than he had staring at his hand (he’d always thought that saying was idiotic; Baz probably loved it).

***

“What happened?”
“Tare happened,” Adrian said curtly.

***

When school got out on Wednesday, marking the official beginning of the official winter holidays, the Chess Club members had to decide what to do with their new-found freedom. At least, the ones who were still in school did, that is—leaving out Adrian, Mr. Larch, and of course Small Occasion; those three were busy with their jobs, namely: working at the mechanic shop, working at the cafe, and being adorably cute at Mr. Larch’s house while pining for Chess Club members to arrive to play with, respectively.

KW3 (I know, I haven’t even finished book 2… *cough*)

“I swear, if I find out there is even one more secret about you—” Baz warned.

Tare looked at the ceiling. “They’re not secrets. They’re just things I haven’t told you about.”

***

Tare grinned wryly. “Be my guest.”

“We are. We are,” Baz replied, glancing around at Tare’s home.

“You walked right into that one,” Ivy said, patting Tare’s shoulder as she walked past.

Tare almost imperceptibly tensed briefly, but remained leaning casually against the wall. “Maybe I meant to.”

“But—that would mean—” Ivy began, then broke off and shook her head, dismissing her thought before she finished.

It was too ridiculous to suppose that Tare would ever purposefully create a pun possibility for Baz.

Wasn’t it?


And there you are. How’s your summer going? Thanks for reading, and I will see you again in September — or sooner! 🙂

My Life’s Tower of Fantasy

Here at the end of all things, Samwise Gamgee the end of the second Silmarillion Awards, wherein we celebrate all things fantasy, Tolkien, and favorite characters, I have a bit to say about these things and their importance to me in my life so far.

So today, the 63rd birthday of The Fellowship of the Ring’s publication, seemed a good time to do so.

*distant cries of “Happy birthday!” and Bilbo saying (un?)complimentary things concerning knowing people half as well as he should like etc.*

*also birthday cake for one and all*

*and 63 still-burning candles to feed to your dragon*

(You’re welcome. I hope he likes wax.)

Warning:

The following is a somewhat lengthy post that is more of an essay than many posts I’ve written (don’t worry, it’s broken into segments with handy headers, so you might survive), and contains such things as Middle-earth, Diana Wynne Jones, Prydain, Stephen Lawhead, epic heroines, tower metaphors, nostalgia of some books/series that have shaped me, and how wonderful and life-changing Fantasy can be.

If this does not sound like your cup of tea, turn around and flee — for here in the realm of Faerie and Fantasy, truths are hidden behind every tree, characters are noble as can be, fancy runs free, and here . . . there be dragons.

On The Silmarillion

This month, using the Silmarillion Awards as a much-needed excuse, as I was re-reading The Silmarillion for the first time in many years, it startled me how much it felt like coming home. I used to read that book (as well as The Lord of the Rings, etc.) a lot when I was younger and just discovering the amazing worlds of Middle-earth. I lived in Middle-earth and The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but I lived in Beleriand in The Silmarillion too, and in a sense that was more “mine” since fewer people were into it than LOTR. The Silmarillion and surrounding mythology was like my special world that I went to live in, learning to write the Tengwar Elvish alphabet in calligraphy, studying maps, creating family trees of all the characters I knew by name…

It’s been a lovely journey, returning there and meeting these long-lost friends in this place I’ve been absent from far too long. I’m also bringing more to it now at a slightly older age, which has been fascinating. I’m aware The Silmarillion might not be for everyone, but it’s extremely special to me. I met it at a younger age and was so immersed in it that I knew all the names so well that returning was like going home and meeting old friends.

On The Tower of Fantasy

I’ve been thinking about the impact Tolkien’s works and other beloved works of fantasy have had on my life. Looking back, I can trace a few books and series that stand out as those important, life-changing, core-of-your-being books that I believe everyone (or all bookworms, at least) have. Those ones that are so much a part of you that, consciously or unconsciously, you are changed by them and they inform much of who you are and what your life is, your tastes in fiction (and in writing, if you’re a writer like me), and form a core part of your heart. They are different through the years, and that’s how I measure parts of my life (about three or four of them so far, I think) — by what was the most ME books I was reading or loving or living at the time.

Imagine your life is a tower that you are slowly building as the years go on. I see those books as the building blocks of the tower of my own life, the stones of my foundations (or at least, for the purposes of this post, the foundation for my love of fantasy in both reading and writing, which is what I’m here to talk about) that come and go in a way as I gain new interests, so that sometimes it feels like betrayal . . . How could you move on? But I can always go back down the winding stairs of the tower and visit them again, and they’ll always be a part of me. They all inform who I am, and what my reading taste is, and how I think, and what I want to be and do, and most especially (for this writer) what I write as well.

I can see blocks of time in this Fantasy Tower of my life.

Level One: Prydain and MacDonald

It started with George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin, and Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. I don’t know which were first, I only know, looking back, that they were very early and, I believe, introduced me to Fantasy. Those are at the base of the tower; they were the first, and I read them and was enchanted. I LIVED in those worlds, and I loved those stories and characters so much. I still do, as with all of these. I’m afraid some of my earliest writings bore an uncanny resemblance to both those works, but we all start somewhere, yes? 😉

So, first was my beginning years of loving fantasy, with MacDonald and Prydain. (I believe Narnia came in somewhere around there a little after, and other works of Fantasy, though I don’t know how extreme their influence was.) That’s the first layer of stones at the base of the tower of Fantasy. They’re awhile ago from when I was younger and wasn’t aware of my tower, so it’s a little jumbled and vague, hidden in mists near the ground, and more instinctive than my deeper understanding of the later portions as I grew older, as I look back and remember better.

(Do you know why it’s called “in the mists of time”? Because YOU CAN’T SEE VERY WELL INTO IT. Ahem. Foggy memories… *shakes head*)

Level Two: Tolkien

The next really big thing, which is the largest on the fantasy tower so far, was Tolkien.

I read The Hobbit at one point, and then I later read The Lord of the Rings for the first time when I was ten or so, I believe. Some writers (and readers) come to Tolkien first, as their big fantasy introduction, but for me I already had the groundwork of fantasy laid; Tolkien served to strengthen it and built the next part of the tower, and was a focus of mine for many years, my absolute favorite. As I mentioned, I was enchanted and fell in love with these books, and went on to read The Silmarillion (several times), as well as reading any other works, finished or unfinished, by Tolkien that I could get my hands on. But not only were these stories, this world, these characters and languages, epic and beautiful and beloved and some of my favorites of all time, but the author himself simply seemed . . . right.

Tolkien was a kindred soul, and I know that sounds pompous to say, but when I read his letters and thoughts, I find myself agreeing with him and thinking “Oh! Yes! I’m just like that!” on so many levels. He and I just agree so well and have such similar temperaments. I’m not saying I’m anywhere near his level of talent or genius etc., I’m merely saying that he and I click, in a way that no other author that I can currently think of who I’ve run across does.

Tolkien’s works remain the next solid layer of my Fantasy tower, a very large portion of it, and still inform so much of my life and core personality and interests today.

Level Three: Diana Wynne Jones

(also concerning strawberry icecream)

Then, in 2012, I read Howl’s Moving Castle on a highly-trusted recommendation, and discovered Diana Wynne Jones. This is the third layer of my Fantasy tower. As some who read my blogs might have noticed, I’ve been very big on DWJ for awhile now. XD I’m captivated by and addicted to her books, particularly certain ones which have just stuck with me really well. I love her writing style and the humor she always had in her books, and her quirky but charming and lovable characters, and the absolute originality of her fantasy, mashed together with other genres to make her books unpigeonholeable (not a word, but should be), as well as how I always learn things about life and the world and people when I read her works. I’ve seen a bit of an influence on my writing as well, wanting to write more whimsical and amusing things.

It’s funny: when I decided Howl’s Moving Castle shared my top-favorite spot with The Lord of the Rings, and have been very DWJ focused, I didn’t realize (until recently) this thing about the Tower of Fantasy, how I can have different stages and favorites; and because I had just come from the Tolkien stage, I felt disloyal to Middle-earth, as if loving something else as well meant that I was betraying it by not loving ONLY it.

But I’ve realized that we have different stages in our lives, and that’s okay — it doesn’t make the previous stages any LESS important or less a part of you, you’re just on a different part of your journey so different things are more important right now. It’s not a betrayal. It’s growth and continuing and layers over the core.

I’ve always thought of myself as the girl who loves Middle-earth and the color green and Celtic music and chocolate and writes medieval fantasy. That’s still at my core and I will always be that person. But lately, if I’ve been a DWJ person who loves the color blue and dabbles in Christian rock or pop and loves strawberry ice cream and writes contemporary fantasy . . . that doesn’t mean I’m not STILL that same person as before too.

Because I can love both, I can have different layers of favorites, different layers of interests, and it doesn’t mean that blue or green or chocolate or strawberry are better than each other, or that in trying other kinds of books, music, and genres, that I’m abandoning the ones I used to have. I can do all of it, and it can all be me.

This is a slight tangent, but I feel like I need to address it while on the subject of moving through different books that are your favorites at the time. It’s okay to have different favorites at different times in your life, and it’s not being disloyal. I’m saying this partly to remind myself (especially when I feel bad about not having re-read some of these favorites in several years; I still plan to sometime), and partly in case anyone is having problems with it like I have. XD

I still interchange LOTR and Howl’s Moving Castle as my “favorite” books (and let’s be honest, sometimes I put Paper Crowns by Mirriam Neal up there because I love it and it’s amazing) but hey, I can have more than one top-favorite, right? 😉

Level Four? (Bright Empires)

It’s always hard to know, while you’re currently on a part of the tower, if something you’re reading is going to be the next part or if it’s just another great fantasy work but not quite a core one. But I think and suspect that, perhaps (time will tell), my latest addition to the Fantasy Tower of my life are Stephen R. Lawhead’s works. I just read his Bright Empires series, and while (like I said) I can’t be sure whether or not they’re the next ring of building blocks for my tower, at the very least, it’s the best series I’ve read in a long time.

Definitely favorites, the Bright Empires books have expanded my mind so much, broadened my horizons, were thoroughly epic, mind-boggling, and fun, with beloved characters, and introduced me to the first heroine in a very long time who I want so hard to be, namely Mina. She inspires me so much. Plus, the books are simply masterpieces. I think very differently after reading these books, I clicked so well with them, and they were absolutely amazing.

Speaking of Mina, let’s talk about heroines for a minute, since the award I hosted was Most Epic Heroine.

Of Heroines

Heroines are hard to write, my friends. One strange thing about my personality is that I rarely come across a favorite female character. I think it’s because I’m a girl and I find that it’s harder for an author to write a girl character that I actually like, because I am one and we’re complicated, and the fictional girls often end up either too tough or too wimpy, neither of which I like. I more often am interested in the male characters, who are generally cooler and doing more interesting things. I do run up against female characters that I like sometimes, and that’s often a sign that the author is a good one.

But there have only been a handful that have stood out as my favorites, the ones who at some level I feel like are ME, and at another level I feel like are what I want to be, what I want to become, what I want to take and emulate because they are noble and good and show some part of humanity that I want to BE. They make me want to be a better person, while I also feel like I am them.

And those are basically:

  • Princess Irene from The Princess and the Goblin
  • Princess Eilonwy from the Chronicles of Prydain
  • Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings
  • Luthien Tinuviel from The Silmarillion
  • Wilhelmina “Mina” Klug from the Bright Empires series.

(I think on some level, I was Lucy from Narnia when I was younger, and many of Diana Wynne Jones’ characters have been instant connections for me, like Sophie and others, as well, though I haven’t thought as much about those for this post; likely because they’re more recent for me but not as mind-blowing as Mina was — who was the character that got me started thinking about all of this — so I haven’t thought them out as much.)

(Also, I find this a good time to mention the dedication in The High King by Lloyd Alexander, which I never understood until now: “For the boys who might have been Taran and the girls who will always be Eilonwy.“)

Of Heroism/Nobility versus Mediocrity/”Realism”

And I think it’s important to have favorite characters one can look up to, have as role models, but still feel you are like them. There’s a sort of connection there that is marvelous. Heroes tend to be more favorites of mine than heroines, and I can learn things from them as well, of course, and they’re simply awesome sometimes, so there’s that; but I can’t exactly BE them, quite the way I can be a heroine like Eilonwy or Mina.

I think these heroines stand out to me partly because it is so rare for me to find a timeless one like that. There are many other noble and wonderful heroines I’ve liked over time, don’t get me wrong! Some even other favorites. But these are my FAVORITE favorites, the ones I want to be like. 🙂

And that’s part of why I’m tired of this “make them relatable and ‘realistic’ by giving them flaws and making them fallen and ordinary” trend in modern writing.

No.

I don’t want mediocre Main Characters. I want Epic Heroines.

If your favorite characters are mediocre, you’ll only want to be mediocre, you’ll only believe that’s how far you can go.

If, on the other hand, your favorite characters are noble and epic and extraordinary, then you’ll want to rise above your ordinary and mediocre, fallen and flawed life, and try to emulate them, to BE them; and these fictional characters who aren’t “real” can change your life and make you a better person. All by being fantastic characters. What’s not to love?

Things These Core Books Have In Common

What do all these books and series have in common? They are Fantasy, yes. But they each hold things that truly resonated with me — not just one thing but all the elements and the whole.

I love the stories. I love the worlds. I love the characters — not only the heroes, not only the heroines, but both, as well as the entire cast of characters, really. They have favorite heroes. I want to be the heroines. I want to live in the books.

“The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.'”

(from The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis)

I also “click” with the authors — when I read things that these authors like Alexander, Tolkien, Jones, and Lawhead say (in fiction and nonfiction) I’ve had these wonderful “me too!” moments, those times when, like in the C.S. Lewis quote above, you form a friendship from a shared thought or feeling. We share the same truth. I feel like they’re kindred souls, and suspect that’s one of the reasons I love their fiction so much. (It’s interesting: when I love an author’s fiction work enough to try out their nonfiction, that’s when I discover my favorite works of nonfiction, essays, etc. It’s happened so many times with these and a couple other authors.)

And I learned things from these favorite, core books. Yes, shocking as it may sound to some, these fiction books, these works of *gasp* fantasy, have taught me so many things that, as I think about it, my mind boggles and I can’t even begin to explain all the things I’ve learned from these wonderful works of literature and art. (I did do a post about a few of those things, awhile back, but that was only scratching the surface.)

Because fantasy is true. These things may not have happened in our world, but they have Truth, and I learn things far better when they’re woven into a tale (a parable, perhaps?) than I can reading some boring textbook. I can see the things unfolding and understand things about the characters and wonder about things and want to learn about them. Fantasy may not always teach “facts” like how big the sun is or how many threes make a dozen (though they might teach that too), but they teach me real things about life and about love and about how people work and how to surmount obstacles and to try to be a better person like my heroes (and heroines).

I don’t know if these fantasy authors try to put these things in their works (I know I certainly don’t, but sometimes things creep in somehow), or if they simply are trying to tell a good story and their worldviews are shining through the particular leaf of the Tree of Tales that they are telling and coming out as good wholesome lessons from the Writer of all Lives, but regardless, I’ve found so much Truth in these and other works of fantasy.

And all of that as a bonus to reading simply amazing fantastical stories about fabulous characters in imaginative worlds. What is not to love? Who would have thought it, but Fantasy is fantastic in all meanings of that word, and that is why I love it as I do.

Plus, I mean, Fantasy has dragons. And there’s the icing on the cake.

*passes around the last of the LOTR birthday celebration cake and breaks out Gandalf’s fireworks to celebrate Middle-earth and Fantasy with a literal bang*

(P.S.: If you have a Fantasy/LOTR themed post this week, feel free to share the link in the linky over on Jenelle’s post!)

Most Epic Heroine Silmaril Award Presentation #SilmAwards2017

The time has come at last, and you’re so excited to be attending the Most Epic Heroine Award Ceremony. You hurry to a door and knock quickly, hoping you’re not too late; the woods of Ithilien left you a little lost and you had to ask the way from a Gondorian guard.

The sun has just set, leaving the world in a twilight of stars, which is when the award presentation was supposed to take place. Hopefully you’re not going to miss it!

Light floods outside across you as the door is pulled open by a tall man with raven hair and keen grey eyes in a kind face.

“Am I on time?” you ask anxiously.

The man smiles. “We were only now about to begin. Enter, friend, and be welcome.”

He guides you into a courtyard edged with pillars of white stone, full of flowering trees and shrubs and many herbs, a breathtaking haven of a garden, lit with many bright lanterns as though the stars themselves were hung in the trees.

The courtyard is currently filled with a crowd of eager people staring at a dais at one end of the open, tree-filled place. You sigh in relief that you’re not late, and join the crowd, waiting expectantly.

The man who let you in mounts the steps to the well-lit dais and stands by a pedestal hung with a black cloth with a silver tree on it, which has an object sitting atop, covered by a gold-embroidered green cloth. A small mound of flowers lies over all.

“Welcome to our home in Ithilien,” the dark-haired man says, smiling. (You suddenly realize that it’s Faramir—the Steward of Gondor himself let you into his house!) “I will be brief, as this is not my day, but another’s. May I present the White Lady of Rohan, Princess of Ithilien, the shieldmaiden and healer Eowyn, who will be presenting today’s Most Epic Heroine award—and I, for one, believe her to be quite qualified to do so,” he adds with a quirking of the corner of his mouth.

The crowd laughs.

Faramir steps down from the dais to join the rest of the people, and smiles as he passes the lady mounting the steps, who goes to stand by a pedestal on the platform.

Eowyn turns. She is fair of face as she smiles down at the audience; her hair is like a river of gold, and she is clad in white, with a midnight-blue cloak with stars around the hem and neck. The audience applauds.

“Greetings, fair friends,” Eowyn begins, as the crowd falls silent in a hush of intent listening. “I bid you all welcome to the Award Presentation for the Most Epic Heroine Silmaril, which I am here to present. I do not know if I am qualified as such, although certain biased parties might say otherwise . . .”

The audience laughs again, applauding.

Eowyn laughs then too, merrily, like a tinkling waterfall. Then she continues. “But someone must, so I will gladly do this duty. I have here with me five heroines.” Eowyn gestures to one end of the dais-stage, where five figures stand among the pillars and trees to one side. “All of them are doubtless worthy heroines, but today, one of them will be announced as the most worthy of receiving this honor, as chosen by the will of the people here gathered.”

Eowyn turns toward the five heroines and beckons one forward. “In third place we have Cress of The Lunar Chronicles.”

Cress, a short, spunky young woman with an unruly mess of wavy blonde hair and a dash of freckles across her face, moves to the center of the platform. Eowyn takes a bouquet of white flowers from the pedestal and hands them to her. Cress accepts them, waves half shyly, half cheerily at the crowd (from which there are some cheers and a spattering of applause) and troops across the stage to the other side.

“Tying for second place,” Eowyn continues, “we have three heroines: Kyrin of The Ilyon Chronicles, Cinder of The Lunar Chronicles again, and Rose Red of The Tales of Goldstone Wood.”

At her name, Kyrin, a tall young woman with brown hair and grey-blue eyes, comes forward and takes her flowers. She smiles her thanks at Eowyn and at the applauding audience, her gaze sweeping each as if storing them away in her memory, and returns to her former place by the side pillars.

Next, Cinder, a thin, casually dressed young woman with straight brown hair pulled back in a messy ponytail, who may or may not be holding a wrench, crosses the stage, takes the flowers with awkward thanks, to the sound of clapping, and quickly crosses to the other side of the platform to stand by Cress. They put their heads together, chatting quietly.

There seems to be some difficulty with the fourth person, who has a slight frame all covered in somewhat dirty white veils so that not an inch of her can be seen. She seems reluctant to come out of the shadows, and appears to be having a hushed argument with the goat calmly chewing its cud next to her.

“I don’t want to be goin’ out there in front of so many people. I cain’t—” the girl in veils says.

There seems to be another voice—from the goat? But that couldn’t be . . . “Of course you can, child. Go on out just for a moment and have done with it.”

The veiled girl, Rose Red, crosses the stage and Eowyn hands her a bunch of red roses like her name. There is a lot of applause. Rosie mumbles her thanks to Eowyn and returns to her place by the pillars with Kyrin and the goat. The goat starts chewing on the roses.

“Don’t, Beana, you’ll be sick,” Rosie is heard to mutter.

“Bah,” scoffs the goat.

“And now,” Eowyn announces in a clear ringing tone, “last of all, in first place, we have the long-awaited winner of the Most Epic Heroine Silmaril. May I present:

Lucy Pevensie, Queen Lucy the Valiant, of the land of Narnia.”

The courtyard erupts into thunderous applause and cheering as a girl comes laughing out of the shadows and crosses on light feet to the center of the platform.

She is merry of face, a light of joy about her as she seems to be drinking in the beauty of the place, of the garden courtyard under the stars. From her shoulder is slung a bottle that looks like it is made of diamond, and at her side is a gleaming dagger. She moves to stand by Eowyn.

“Welcome, Queen Lucy,” Eowyn says. “I am told that you too are a healer and shieldmaiden as the circumstances require; that you are brave and kind, valiant and loving, and have the heart of a lion. May I present to you the title of Most Epic Heroine and this Silmaril.”

Eowyn sweeps aside the green and gold cloth and holds up the Silmaril for a moment for the gasping crowd to see, its beauty breathtaking, the lavender glow shining brilliantly across the fair faces and hair of both heroines on the dais.

Eowyn passes it to Lucy.

“Oh, thank you!” Lucy says. “It’s a great honor, I’m sure, though I don’t deserve it really; I’m sure there are others who should deserve it more, and I only did what I had to do . . .”

Eowyn smiles and says, “As a wise Lion once said: if you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been proof that you were not.”

“I suppose that has to be true, when He said it; it’s just hard to apply it to oneself, you know . . .” Lucy says. “Well, thank you—all of you,” she adds, bowing a little to the audience. “I’ll try to be worthy of the title, and I’m very grateful I’m sure.” She smiles and waves. “I hope you’ll all try to be heroes and heroines too.”

The applause is deafening.

“Thank you all for coming,” Eowyn says when it dies away a little. “And now, friends, the hour has come—away! To the feast in the hall which is awaiting us during this time of celebration. Queen Lucy, if you will lead the way?”

The crowd cheers and streams under the stars after Eowyn and the laughing Lucy who goes first, shining the glow of her Silmaril to light the way.

POSTSCRIPT:
A NOTE FROM DEBORAH

There you have it, everyone! Congratulations to Lucy, and thanks very much to Eowyn for presenting. 🙂

For those curious, here are the results:

Lucy Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia 54%
Kyrin Altair from The Ilyon Chronicles 14%
Cinder from The Lunar Chronicles 14%
Rose Red from The Tales of Goldstone Wood 14%
Cress from The Lunar Chronicles 4%

Next up will be the Most Mischievous Imp Silmaril over at E. E. Rawls—I’m excited to find out the winner of that and the remaining awards!

And if you come back here on July 29, I have a special post about fantasy literature I can’t wait to share with you all. ^_^

Thanks so much for reading, everyone, and for being a part of the Silmarillion Awards! 🙂