Paper Crowns Blogtour: Mirriam Neal Interview

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I’m SUPER excited to be part of the Paper Crowns blog-tour (going all month long!) with an interview with Mirriam Neal herself! *cue excited squealing*

I kid you not when I say that when I learned Paper Crowns was published, I spent the next day+ dancing ecstatically around the house making high keening happy noises and randomly shrieking “Paper Crowns is published!!” (You think I’m joking? Ha. Just ask my poor family who had to put up with my fangirling…)

I had the pleasure of beta-reading the story when it was first written, and I remember flailing with happiness whenever I found a new chapter in my inbox. THIS BOOK IS EXCELLENT, PEOPLE.

I recently got the published version (THAT was a happy day, aaahhh!!) and read it again and it was just as good — or, well, BETTER BECAUSE IT’S PUBLISHED! (Aside from some typos. Which I have it on good authority are being fixed, so.) I plan to read it again very soon. Maybe tomorrow… And again soon after that. (What, I’m totally normal, honest.)

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(My cat, Callette, was not thrilled about a photo-shoot… BUT CATS. Unfortunately she is not blue, but I love her anyway…)

I AM NOT EXAGGERATING WHEN I SAY THAT THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS EVER. It’s just… perfect. Mirriam Neal is a genius writer, and while I’ll read anything she writes, this just takes the cake as the best ever because of its unexpectedly light fantasy faerie-tale feeling. The CHARACTERS are the best of ever (Halcyon! Azrael! Astryn! Ginger! Salazar! Asterope! I love them alllll!) and the humor and bickering and plot and setting are all just perfection.

It has everything: a sarcastic fey blue cat, a fire elemental, a grouchy wysling, a gingery heroine, friends and traitors, villains and lovable heroes, lots and lots of snow, muffins, forests, and a good deal of folded paper. It makes you laugh and wrenches at your heart and makes you fall in love and long to go on an adventure. I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH.

I’m so very excited it’s published now so that I can insist everyone reads it.

And I do, you know. Insist you read it, that is. You will NOT regret it.

THIS BOOK THOUGH!!! ❤

Here’s a bit about the book and author and then on to the interview!

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Paper Crowns

Ginger has lived in seclusion, with only her aunt Malgarel and her blue cat, Halcyon, to keep her company. Her sheltered, idyllic life is turned upside-down when her home is attacked by messengers from the world of fae. Accompanied by Halcyon (who may or may not be more than just a cat), an irascible wysling named Azrael, and a loyal fire elemental named Salazar, Ginger ventures into the world of fae to bring a ruthless Queen to justice.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Publisher


Author Bio

tumblr_o4995pxJel1tkzty6o1_500Mirriam Neal is a twenty-two-year-old Northwestern hipster living in Atlanta. She writes hard-to-describe books in hard-to-describe genres, and illustrates things whenever she finds the time.  She aspires to live as faithfully and creatively as she can and she hopes you do, too.

You can connect with Mirriam online here:

Blog | Email


Interview with Mirriam Neal

Deborah: Could you tell us a little about your usual writing process (planning/pantsing), and how the process of writing Paper Crowns was similar or different?

Mirriam: Paper Crowns is different because it was spur-of-the-moment. I more or less woke up one day and thought, ‘I want to write this story,’ and so I did. Usually there’s a lot more work involved – I wait until I have at least half the cast created, until I have a vague idea of the ending, until I know some major plot points. Usually I have a framework, but with Paper Crowns I knew the ‘feeling’ of the book I wanted to write, and that was enough. I wish this happened more often, honestly.

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Which character from the Paper books would you say you are the most like?

I actually had to ask my friend Lauren about this. We settled on Rooney (the heroine of Paper Hearts) almost simultaneously. I’d say Rooney is more extraverted than I am, but we share many of the same characteristics.

Part of Paper Crowns takes place in our world . . . Is it any particular place—America, England… (double-decker bus?)—or did you deliberately leave the setting open to the imagination?

I deliberately left the setting open – when I began it, I wasn’t even sure it was set in our world! But I quickly realized it was, and decided it was more fun to leave it open for interpretation. Personally, I see it set in England, but that’s just me.

On that note: Accents. I hear Hal’s accent as British and Asterope’s as some sort of Irish. Is this more-or-less accurate (I hope)?

You’re correct on Asterope’s accent (points to you!) but during the rewrite, I realized Hal’s accent wasn’t so much London as a bit of Korean (Busan-dialect, specifically) with a splash of Scottish.

(I’ll probably still hear Hal as British, but oh well. XD) Will we get to learn which wysling was involved in the intriguing Hal/Astryn/kingfisher backstory and/or might we ever get this tale in book (or even short story) form? Because that would frankly be awesome. 😀

I’ve lowkey considered writing a novella dedicated to this particular slice of backstory, because it would be fantastic fun and I’m as curious about it as anyone!

(Yay!) Is Asterope still going to get his own book?

His book is waiting in the wings; very much alive, but not in the immediate future. Ras Algethi Chow gets his own novel first.

Do the verily muffins have an inspiration?

I was hungry and I wanted muffins. Hunger is good inspiration when writing food.

The main character of Paper Crowns does a lot of origami. Is that an art form you’ve dipped into yourself?

It’s inspired by two things. One: Yes, I’ve always loved origami, although I’ve never been ‘into it.’ I’ve never devoted the time – except for paper airplanes, and paper boxes. I’ve folded those my whole life, and the stories surrounding paper cranes have always fascinated me. Two: Owl City’s ‘Sky Sailing’ album featured a music video starring a paper airplane. That album heavily inspired the novel.

Your answers to a couple of questions from other interviews got me wondering about your outlook on wanting readers to take away a certain message (or not) from many of your books. I’m curious: Do you see there being a difference between tackling a “big question” in a book versus trying to preach a “message” to readers?

It’s a tricky line on which to balance, I’ll give it that, and I used to be ‘preachy’ (although even then, I was trying not to.) I think honesty and a genuine heart are very important when you really want to make your readers think and question. Readers are intelligent. They’ll know if you’re an arrogant know-it-all, forcing an opinion down their throat. Rather than forcing my opinion, I present it. I think that’s the difference.

Your books seem to have simultaneously a freshness of originality and a touch of richness of story that’s already out there. How do you view this in your own writing and what advice do you have for writers about coming up with “new” things but using echoes of other tales and, without “copying,” putting a new spin on them to deepen the story tapestry?

I’ve never been asked this question, honestly, and it’s fascinating. (Also, thank you for the compliment!) I think stories ‘echo’, as you so wonderfully put it, when there’s truth and honesty to them. People will tell you that every story has already been written. If you break a story down into a basic three-step formula, then sure, every story has been written; but I disagree with the statement. A story is so much more than a formula. Each story is different due to hundreds of tiny factors, circumstances, and personal influences from the author. I also find that you can create a world that’s been created a million times before, but if you fill that world with a cast of funky, original, diverse characters, nobody will care about the world. (At least, they won’t care about the world nearly as much as its inhabitants.) Also, I think it’s horrifyingly easy to be caught up in trying too hard. When you try too hard to be original, it shows more care about what people think than the story itself. Novels know what the author cares about, and novels know also know what the author should care about. It’s why readers, I think, can tell the difference between a real novel and a hollow one.

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Your vivid characters are a classic feature of your work, and always one of my favorite things. Any tips for writers about writing characters, especially involving interactions, snark, and humorous banter? (Of which you are the queen.) Share your secrets if you have any…

Have a sense of humor. I know that’s not very helpful, but it’s true – you can’t write humor without a sense of it in the first place. I don’t know how to teach a sense of humor, but you can definitely learn it. What makes you laugh? Dissect that. Also, there are many kinds of humor. Subtle, circumstantial, slapstick, sarcastic, trickster. As for the non-humorous part of the question, I think it’s a tendency authors have to think they must know their character perfectly before they start writing them. I used to fill out three or four bio sheets for every character before I wrote them, but in doing so, I essentially murdered their personality before it hit the page. You want them to be alive and breathing when they first open their eyes. You DON’T want them reduced to a set of answered questions. That’s a surefire way to kill them before they’re ever really alive.

Could you tell us a little about what’s next on your writing plate? (When the next Paper book might be out, what other book(s) we might see from you next…?)

Revising Paper Hearts (the sequel to Paper Crowns) is very high on my list, as is editing Dark is the Night (a redemptive vampire novel) and finishing The Dying of the Light (a futuristic samurai retelling of Robin Hood).

Thanks very much for stopping by my blog and putting up with my pestering! 🙂 It’s an honor to have you. ❤

Thank you so much for having me! I had a fantastic time. You have mad interview skills.

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So what do you think, blog readers of mine? Was this fun or what? (Answer: yes.) Are you going to read Paper Crowns? (The correct answer is OF COURSE. Ahem.) SERIOUSLY THOUGH IT’S AWESOME. ❤ Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour and enter the GIVEAWAY for a signed copy of Paper Crowns that Mirriam is holding on her blog! 🙂

(…And now I need to go reread Paper Crowns again.)

The Beautiful Pretender by Melanie Dickerson (Review)

beautifulpretenderThe Beautiful Pretender

(Thornbeck/Medieval Fairy Tale Romance, #2)

by Melanie Dickerson

Adult Christian Romance / Fairy Tale Retelling / Beauty and the Beast & The Princess and the Pea

Published May 17, 2016 by Thomas Nelson


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My Review of The Beautiful Pretender

5starrating

5 stars

I loved this book so much! Definitely a favorite of Melanie Dickerson’s books, for me. Ever since meeting the Margrave of Thornbeck Forest in the first book in this series (THE HUNTRESS OF THORNBECK FOREST), I simply couldn’t wait to read THE BEAUTFUL PRETENDER to get his story. I liked this one even more than the first book!

Although THE BEAUTIFUL PRETENDER is a sequel, it can very easily be read alone (though readers of the first book will be delighted, as I was, to see Jorgen and Odette, the hero and heroine of the first book, throughout this one!). If you haven’t read the first book, no worries — just read this one right away because it’s even better! Adults and young adults alike would I think enjoy it. (I don’t recall anything about it that teens wouldn’t be okay reading. :))

I have a thing for fairy tales, so the retelling aspect was awesome. It was somewhat subtle at times, much like it was in the first book, but I could definitely see the hints of the Beauty and the Beast and Princess and the Pea plots. It was fabulous! I loved seeing them weave throughout the plot, so much a part of it but also so original. I was quite impressed with that.

It also got rather exciting, especially later in the book. So much excitement! Peril and plots and deception and wolves and fire and mystery and all of that thrilling stuff. I also absolutely LOVE how the book turned out at the end! Not to give anything away, but that ending was super satisfying! 😉

The setting was also splendid — a castle in medieval Germany, yay! I just want to live at Thornbeck Castle in Thornbeck Forest in the snow!

The characters in this book were splendid. Let me go through them:

Reinhart, the margrave, was incredibly awesome. He’s very much of the “Beast” type of character, gruff and stern and growly, but he’s also a fundamentally great guy, just embittered at the world about his injured ankle and having to choose a wife when he doesn’t want to. He was my favorite! I really felt for him, and his dark, grouchy, short-tempered, man-of-few-words personality was so fun to read about. Beneath it all he’s actually noble and awesome.

Avelina was a wonderful main character. Her struggles with having to impersonate a Lady when she’s only a servant, were really interesting to read about. I also love her name! She and Reinhart have the best romance story — I loved it so much! Melanie Dickerson pens another sweet love story which was so enormously enjoyable to read. Especially with how complicated their story is… 😉 I also really loved the alternating viewpoints between them!

Lady Magdalen, who befriends Avelina, was another character I really liked. She was fabulous and such a good friend to Avelina. Magdalen was so NICE. With all the people being nasty to poor Avelina, it was so refreshing to read about a really sweet character like her. 🙂 I haven’t read an adorable friendship like that in a long time. It was touching and wonderful. Magdalen was so lovely and I hope we’ll see more of her in the third book…

Jorgen and Odette are pretty much Reinhart’s right-hand people in this one, so they’re in the story a lot, which was great. They’re so helpful, nice, and awesome. Loved seeing them more in this book! They really added to it in a good way.

I don’t really have any complaints. I do wish there had been more with Reinhart, maybe him talking more; but he’s not a talkative sort of person, so that was in character, I suppose… But really, no major complaints. It was just so good! I’m very much looking forward to another Thornbeck tale from Mrs. Dickerson… Her novels are always so enjoyable and this was one of the best yet! Now what are you waiting for? Go read THE BEAUTIFUL PRETENDER! Go on! 🙂

Many thanks to the author for the Advance Reader’s Copy of this book which I received in exchange for my honest review. These opinions are my own.

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About the Book

What happens when a margrave realizes he’s fallen in love with a servant?

The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride, fast. He invites ten noble-born ladies from around the country to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.

Avelina is only responsible for two things: making sure her deception goes undetected and avoiding being selected as the margrave’s bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea.

Despite Avelina’s best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can’t deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse—far deadlier—consequences. Will Avelina be able to stop the evil plot? And at what cost?

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Publisher


About the Author

Melanie Dickerson is an award-winning author who earned her bachelor’s degree in special education from The University of Alabama.

She has taught in Georgia, Tennessee, Germany and the Eastern European country of Ukraine.

A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA), she now spends her time writing and taking care of her husband and two daughters near Huntsville, Alabama.

You can find her online at www.MelanieDickerson.com.

Ishness of July: Otters, Hummingbirds, Retellings and Skyships

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It’s AUGUST! Guys. Guys. Did I hear myself correctly? August. AUGUST?

Sorry, I tend to repeat myself when I get confused.

Half of me is freaking out that we’re so far into the year (wasn’t it April yesterday??), and yet the other half is staring at the new calendar page in a sort of delight of new-month-itis, which is what makes me really happy when I get to write “August 1” in flowy script in my writing journal and reading log, ready for a fresh start. It feels nice, I tell ya.

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Yes, I’m a confused being.

(Plus, I always get June and July mixed up and tend to  think of them as vaguely one really long month, so it’s nice to be back to a month I can actually keep straight. Maybe that’s just me.)

But look: July is over! I don’t have the tiniest inkling of how THAT happened, since last I knew it was the Fourth of July and I still had big plans for the month… *cough* Yeah. That clearly didn’t happen. I think this last month was gone in record time, which is freaking me out.

But! You’re obviously not here to watch me freak out (or ARE you…? *wriggles eyebrows*) but to see what ishness I’ve been up to this past month! So let’s see…

July Things

I’ve been up to summery things like:

  • Celebrating Independence Day
  • Swimming
  • Going to the zoo (OTTERS. OTTERS ARE THE BEST THING EVER. OTTERRRRRRRS! ❤ That is all.)

(from pinterest)

And let’s not forget the most important one:

  • Dying of the heat because SUMMER

Seriously. It is so so hot. *steals Alaska to wrap round self like the opposite of a coat* (Because coats are for keeping you warm…? Okay, that analogy ran away from me.)

Oh! And I finally got to see the movie Epic! Oh my goodness, it was so adorable and fun and pretty! I kind of loved it to bits — aaahhh! And Ronin is so so fabulous (and I want his accent. And his awesomeness. And his hummingbird. Basically I want to be Ronin). AND THE HUMMINGBIRDS. HUMMINGBIIIIIIIIIIIRDS. I wanna ride a hummingbird so much. ❤

(from pinterest)

Writing

I wrote a pitiful 3000 words in July… Half of that was for my Kedran’s Wood short story Return to McAllistair Mansion… AND I FINISHED IT. I’m very proud of me. I finished a short story! Yayyy!

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(Okay, so it’s technically not too short-story-ish, in that it doesn’t have a plot but is just three related scenes about Tare between books 1 and 2, and also featuring a character I’d never written before, which meant I spent most of it trying to figure out what said character was like. BUT STILL.)

The other half of the  3000 words was miscellaneous snatches of five other stories. Yup. Scattered, this month.

But this was, primarily, the month of brainstorming. All of my stories exploded in my head, which caused a mess but was fairly awesome. (Okay, that may be exaggerating. Maybe not ALL of them. But several.)

  • I’ve been doing a ton of brainstorming for The Silver Forest, my upcoming Twelve Dancing Princesses NaNo… I still need a more concrete plot, but I have ideas, which is a start, and I got around to naming the oodles of characters I now have. It’s going to be awesome.
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    (from pinterest)

    Also, my old idea for a Sleeping Beauty retelling, called The Rose and the Raven, finally clicked, so it has a plot now, which excites me a ton and makes me want to write it. Seriously, some delicious plot twists. Bwahaha! I kind of adore it a lot. ❤ [PINTEREST BOARD]

  • I also had breakthroughs on The Invisible Mask and Heartseeker! So, yay! That’s kind of exciting. My problem childs these days. (Hush, childs is totally a word.)
  • I also had an idea for a new story. Yay. (No, I don’t actually know if that was sarcasm or not.) It’s a modern Cinderella story about a writer, set during NaNo. I’m kind of super excited about this one too. But it will probably not see the light of day for a few more years, especially since I’m still half pretending it doesn’t exist… (I HAVE TOO MANY STORY IDEAS OKAY.)
  • And miscellaneous stuff on some other stories.
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(from Pinterest)

But mostly, my new idea for a Steampunk retelling of The Little Mermaid exploded in my face.

This thing is so big and epic now that I may have a panic attack from all the awesome. *SQUEEEEEEEEEEE* I LOVE IT SO MUCH. I almost considered switching to writing it for this NaNo instead of The Silver Forest, but I decided ultimately against it because I’m going to want to take my time with The Siren and the Skyship (which is its title) and just have wayyyyy too much fun with it.

The Siren and the Skyship is kind of my favorite thing ever right now. I’M JUST RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED AND LOVE IT SO MUCH AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH.

(from Pinterest)

[Pinterest Board for The Siren and the Skyship]

So, yeah. Not much actual writing but SO much awesomeness in the brainstorming department. I think it was more of a brainhurricane.

Reading

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Yeahhh, that was a fairly slow month of reading for this year. I was mostly reading things for review.

  • I obviously reviewed Chasing Shadows and Corroded Thorns on the bloggy.
  • Castle in the Air was a reread, sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle. HMC is my second-favorite book ever (after The Lord of the Rings), and Castle in the Air is also a delight — aaahh! ❤ So much hilariousness! It was awesome getting to read it again now that I know all the plot twists and secrets. >:D
  • I also read all of Five Glass Slippers, which I’m proud of me for accomplishing. I just reviewed it on Goodreads in case you’re curious what I thought of it; Broken Glass is still my favorite, followed by The Moon Master’s Ball! (Scatter the white mouse. SCATTER THE WHITE MOUSE. I LOVED HIM SO MUUUUUUUCH. *incoherent squeeing fangirl noises mixed with sobbing*)
  • And it doesn’t count because I haven’t finished reading Five Enchanted Roses but I DID read one novella from there to review it, namely Stone Curse.

So I kind of read 7 novellas and 2 novels this month. *nod nod* That doesn’t sound quite so bad, I guess… 😉

August Nightstand Books

I know, I know, I’m early on this again. But I can’t help it! You can join in on the Nightstand Books blog meme the first Wednesday of every month along with Jenelle and D.J. 🙂

Here’s mine:

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You may recognize a pattern by now…

  • I’m going to finish Plenilune this month if it KILLS me. (Look for a figurative obituary soon starring yours truly… *cough*) BUT I’M GOING TO. I WILL I WILL.
  • Yes, I’m still in Veiled Rose too–I’m determined to finish it as well!
  • House of Many Ways I’m going to get to reread, so I’m excited for that!
  • And I still need to finish The Scarlet Pimpernel, but I like the three chapters I’ve read so far… XD

And we’ll just ignore the five ebooks I want to read or finish as well. *shifty eyes* Yeah. They’re not on my nightstand so they don’t count. 😉

(And we’ll also ignore how busy I’m going to be and the fact I might have even less time for reading than last month… *cough*)

August plans?

I don’t even know… I feel like I really have to get EVERYTHING done this next month because September and October look to be insanely busy and we’re not even going to SPEAK of November… So if I don’t catch up on certain things I’m going to be behind the rest of the year. Heh. Wish me luck! XD

So! There’s a (very long) update on my life!

(Basically, I want a hummingbird to ride and an otter for a pet and an intelligent loyal white mouse for a friend.)

How was your July? Any plans for August?

Did you do Camp NaNo? How did it go?

Lloyd Alexander: A Tribute Post

I was going to post this on January 30th, but as I have other plans for the blog on that date (stay tuned!) I am posting it early…

On January 30th each year, I always celebrate the birthday of one of my favorite authors…

Lloyd Alexander

…And what better way to celebrate than with pictures! I had an epic photo-shoot of all the Lloyd Alexander books that I have, which was a TON of fun…

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Lloyd Alexander (1924-2007) was the author of over 25 novels and several other works… (I am on a quest to read all of them, eventually. ;))

He is one of my top favorite authors, right up alongside Tolkien and Lewis. I probably owe my love of fantasy to Lloyd Alexander. I discovered his Prydain books at an early age, and they brought me into the rich world of fantasy… and made me decide I never wanted to leave it again.

So in a sense, you could say that I am who I am (a lover of fantasy, both in reading and especially writing — I consider myself a fantasy writer primarily) because of Lloyd Alexander.

I do remember reading the Narnia books and The Princess and the Goblin somewhere in that time-frame (and came to The Lord of the Rings at the almost-grown-up age of 10), which also contributed to my love of fantasy at an early age.

But Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles was my first epic-fantasy series, and will always hold a special place in my heart both as a marvelous series and as the doorway that led me to fantasy as a child… and thereby led to who I am today.

I am immensely grateful to Lloyd Alexander for writing those books — and all of the other delightful books he penned over his lifetime. Thank you, Lloyd!

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Signed copy of The High King that I found at library sale. Signed!! ❤

So in celebration of what would, if he were still living, have been his 91st birthday (a bit early), I’m going to share some of the pictures with y’all! And lists of his books I’ve read and want to…

MyLloydAlexanderCollection

My Lloyd Alexander book collection!! Aren’t they just scrumptious looking? 🙂

Prydain

The Prydain Chronicles:

  1. The Book of Three
  2. The Black Cauldron
  3. The Castle of Llyr
  4. Taran Wanderer
  5. The High King
  6. The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain (short stories)

(And also a reference guide book, The Prydain Companion by Michael O. Tunnell which is a lot of fun — and has a foreword by Lloyd Alexander.)

I am long overdue for a Prydain reread… I’ve read all of them several times but it’s been a few years since my latest reread and I’m itching to delve back into that beloved world with those awesome characters and epic events! Hopefully soon!

WestmarkTrilogyThe Westmark Trilogy:

  1. Westmark
  2. The Kestrel
  3. The Beggar Queen

I LOVE this trilogy!! It’s set in an 18th-century-type setting, which is my second favorite time-period (after medieval)… I remember being positively jittery when I finished reading them for the first time, because I loved them so much! Also, Florian is the best ever. ❤ Just sayin’.

VesperHollyThe Vesper Holly books:

  1. The Illyrian Adventure
  2. The El Dorado Adventure
  3. The Drackenberg Adventure
  4. The Jedera Adventure
  5. The Philadelphia Adventure
  6. The Xanadu Adventure

The Vesper Holly books are just a delight! Vesper herself has such charm and wit and cleverness, and her sidekick Brinnie is like a Watson to her Holmes as they go different vaguely fictional places around the world that capture the feel of real civilizations. And so much fun and adventure and humor!

Standalones

The standalone novels I own… Time would fail me to tell all about the delights of each one, but they each have their own special tales!

  • The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen
  • The Iron Ring
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian
  • Time Cat
  • The Rope Trick
  • The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio
  • The Wizard in the Tree (the only one of his books that I own and haven’t read yet… I’m hoping to read it this week!)
  • The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man
  • The Arkadians
  • The Gawgon and the Boy
  • Gypsy Riska
  • The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha

ExtraCopies

Aaand I can never resist getting extra copies of Lloyd Alexander books I already have… Yes, it’s a bad habit. XD But here’s a stack of them…

FaveLloydAlexanderBooks

Probably my three favorite books by Lloyd Alexander: The Book of Three (book 1 of the Prydain Chronicles); The Kestrel (book 2 of The Westmark Trilogy); and The Iron Ring, which is my very favorite standalone novel by him — loosely based on mythology from India, it’s just epic and awesome and all around amazing. ❤

There’s also The Town Cats and other Tales, a collection of short stories about cats which is very fun… He had a thing for cats. 😉

Of books that I’ve read but don’t own, there are The King’s Fountain and The Fortune-Tellers… (Hurray for libraries!)

And I would like to sometime read (mostly picture books):

  • The Wizard in the Tree
  • The Four Donkeys
  • The House Gobbaleen
  • How the Cat Swallowed Thunder
  • Dream-of-Jade: The Emperor’s Cat

And, perhaps someday, some of his adult novels/biographies etc. that he wrote. 🙂

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My shelf of books by Lloyd Alexander

And before I go, here’s a perfectly charming interview with the man himself! It’s so enjoyable to watch and has a lot of humor and wisdom and good thoughts about writing and books and fantasy and his own stories. ^_^

Be sure to check out part 2 and part 3 of the interview as well!

It is in this interview that you can hear him say himself the marvelous words I feature on the side of my blog:

“Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.”

–Lloyd Alexander

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Have you read anything by Lloyd Alexander? Do you have a favorite?

And if you haven’t, do consider checking one out! They are one and all beautiful, timeless, adventurous, and fantastical books! 🙂

FIFTY

(What? People who do NaNoWriMo are totally allowed a couple weeks of ignoring their blogs after Novemer 30th… *cough*)

1st order of business: This is my fiftieth post on this blog!

50th

2nd order of business: I managed to write fifty thousand words in November and therefore win NaNoWriMo 2014!

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…Hence the fifty in the title. (Yay double meanings!)

This was my craziest NaNo yet.

And if you know anything about my first NaNo (completely pantsing the story, no idea what I was doing, had to write 8k the last day to finish), you will understand the full meaning of that statement. Allow me to explain.

My brain is tired so I’m going to do a list. Okay? Okay. List it is.

  • My story was not plotted because I had not had time before November 1st hit.
  • Which means I was effectively pantsing my whole NaNo. I’m a planner. This was not going to go well.
  • I was also MLing. NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaisons (that’s me; fancy title, eh?) are volunteers who organize local NaNoWriMo regions, so I was taking care of a regional forum, answering question, and helping organize and attend write-ins and other events. I was also writing regional broadcast messages to keep my Wrimos up to date and encouraged. This all may sound like a walk in the park, but when you throw it on top of trying to write 50,000 words and keep up with regular life… it’s gets a little less walk-in-the-park-y.
  • All of this, while I was getting ready for, and then gone on… a roadtrip. Out of state. For the last two weeks of November.
  • Let’s just say I made enormous use of 15 minute word wars against myself. And basically freaked out all month long because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it to 50k.
  • And I wrote a lot in the car.
  • A lot.

My view for much of the trip. Yay music.

I also wrote extra for a couple days when we were snowed in ish at my uncle’s longer than we thought we’d be.

View out the window. Who knew my uncle lived in Narnia?

Which brings me to my next point.

Snow.

Snow, people. As you may be aware, I live in that very big and very warm state known as Texas. Although it is not actually a desert full of cacti as many non-Texans seem to believe (at least not the part I’m in), snow is a rare occurrence. We get an occasional dusting. Every few years or so. Once, I remember we got two or three inches. Unheard of, I tell you! But on this trip… I saw SO much snow. There was like 8 or 10 inches at my uncle’s. It was so weird/awesome. I discovered, for instance, that the snow crusted on the top so that you sort of had to break through it, and you had to lift your feet high when you walked, because my goodness, that snow was taller than my boot!

(…Okay, so I don’t have all that much experience with multiple inches of snow. I’m from the South. Sue me.)

Moving on. And whoops, I fell out of my list.

Well, the long and short of it is, despite perils obstacles (and icicles. Another thing about traveling north-ish in November: IT’S COLD. ALL THE TIME. I was so happy to get back to my warmish southern sunshine, and 60 degrees felt so WARM in comparison. Normally at 60 I’m shivering in several layers of hoodies and sweaters. But after constant 20s and 30s and even getting to 14 degrees–seriously WHY?–60 felt positively summerish. After getting home, I sat on the steps in the sun and rolled up my sleeves and it felt fabulous. Naturally the weather is laughing at me now and it’s nearly freezing all the time, so I’m back to my normal winter state as an icicle, but the contrast was nice for awhile there…)

Obstacles. I mean icicles. They weren’t really obstacles…

…Where was I? Icicles and obstacles. Right. Despite obstacles of numerous sizes and shapes, I pressed on intrepidly. In the midst of a crazy last-day-of-NaNo all-day writing event, closed in at the library with several other kindred spirits all typing madly away… I made it to the other side, triumphant with 50,000 words of my novel Heartseeker.

NaNo2014dashboard

It needs a ton of editing, and it’s probably only about two-thirds done. But it was a fun crazy journey and I love the story so far and made the goal of NaNo 2014 when I was sure this would be the first time in five NaNos that I would fail. But I made it!

2014NaNoStats

The day I caught up in the middle there was at said uncle’s house in Narnia.

…Of course as soon as I finished NaNo, I promptly collapsed and wanted to do nothing ever again after such a long and stressful month of craziness…

There is that…

But still.

Aaaand this post is not 50,000 words, but seems to be rapidly approaching it, so I’m going to cease and desist regaling you all with my epic adventures, and leave you with a bit of a photo-dump of some pics from my trip. Enjoy.

On the road…

Train

A TRAIN on a bridge next to the one we were crossing. So exciting. Made my day.

Christmas scenes are all apparently from snowy places. And I managed to catch one. So beautiful!

Christmas scenes are all apparently from snowy places. And I managed to catch one. So beautiful!

orphan's song

The only book that traveled with me, which I was reading during NaNo. THAT BOOK. <3<3<3 I must review it but cannot find the words to express how much I love it. (Soon, though.) Also pines. Because PINES. (Pines do not exist very much where I live. So they are exotic and beautiful.

And a baby dinosaur I met. (...Okay, it was at a museum.)

And a baby dinosaur I met. (…Okay, it was at a museum.)

A very blurry picture of inside a cave I visited.

A very blurry picture of inside a cave I visited.

Typing at my uncle's. You can't read the "NaNoWriMo" on my hoodie very well. But I wore that thing nonstop in November and it kept me nice and warm. <3

Typing at my uncle’s. You can’t read the “NaNoWriMo” on my hoodie very well. But I wore that thing nonstop in November and it kept me nice and warm. ❤

This was at a restaurant. I thought of Sherlock and freaked out. Of course I took a picture.

This was at a restaurant. I thought of Sherlock and freaked out. “Lucky cat.” Of course I took a picture.

It should say "Except on Party Business" instead. Doesn't it know it's the month of The Hobbit??

It should say “Except on Party Business” instead. Doesn’t it know it’s the month of The Hobbit??