5 Year BLOGIVERSARY + Giveaway!

Hi everyone! Guess what’s special about today? πŸ˜‰ (Okay, okay, the title may have given that away. *cough*)

It’s my 5 Year Blogiversary! πŸ˜€

Yes, you heard that correctly.

On this day, half a decade ago, I posted my very first post on this blog!

It’s been a long, exciting journey, and I just started another shiny website too (as well as having a book blog I’ve been enjoying for a few years) — but this is where it all began, and it’s still the heart of my online presence as a writer, and… well… a human. πŸ˜‰

So I’m celebrating with a giveaway (Hobbit-birthdays and all that sort of thing, so read on for that) and general merriment and partying.

*passes out virtual cupcakes and tosses confetti on everyone*

The Stats

  • 5 years
  • 293 posts (as of this one!)
  • 590 followers (plus social media = 1,091 followers, hence the number on the side. ;))
  • 6,700 comments
  • 16,298 visitors
  • 45,789 views

Top Commenters

Commenters are my favorite — this means you! Also, special shoutout to my top commenters of late. You guys are amazing! THANK YOU! (Everyone, check out their amazing blogs! ^_^)

My top 10 most popular posts this year

Thank You

I just want to say thank you.

Thanks to all my lovely readers, followers, and commenters! You make this blogging thing worthwhile. πŸ™‚ It’s been such a joy taking this road with you all. Thank you for joining me in the journey. ❀

*GROUP HUG*

Blogiversary Giveaway

Okay, here’s the part you’re REALLY here for! πŸ˜‰

There are 5 (ish) prizes — because 5 years — and they are (surprise, surprise!) books!

I love sharing books with people, and I also frequent library sales and collect beloved books. So I’ve decided to share a few of my favorites with y’all! ^_^

But just a second, because I’m going to tell you all about one of the awesome prizes. πŸ˜€

Stellar September

I’m extremely excited to be showcasing The Electrical Menagerie by Mollie E. Reeder today!

I won an ebook ARC copy of this book, and loved it so much that I raved about it in a review, got a paperback copy when I got to meet the author at Realm Makers (!!!), and just ordered a second paperback copy just so I could give it away on my blogiversary post today. πŸ™‚

Mollie was also awesome and donated two sets of gorgeous character cards, of the delightful characters from The Electrical Menagerie, for me to share with y’all! (Visit the artist on Instagram.) One set I’m giving away with the paperback (US), and one set I’m offering as an International prize, because I love you peeps too! ❀

But wait, there’s even more delightful news! πŸ˜€

The Electrical Menagerie got a starred review on Publisher’s Weekly yesterday! :O I’m SO excited for Mollie, and so proud of her and this splendiferous book (and its characters. ;))! I just love it so much, and I hope more people will discover it. ^_^

If you’re curious to read it, now is a fantastic time to try it out, becauseΒ the ebook is only 99 cents on Amazon right now, for a promotion Mollie is calling Stellar September. And is it ever stellar! πŸ˜€ So go get yourself a copy! ❀

And, of course, enter to win a paperback copy of this (and other books) below. πŸ˜‰

You can learn more about The Electrical Menagerie, Mollie, and the characters, and sign up for Mollie’s newsletter for a free novelette about Huxley (it’s hilarious, FYI!), at thecelestialisles.com or writeratops.com!

The Giveaway Prizes

  1. The Electrical Menagerie by Mollie E. Reeder (paperback) — Steampunk (ish). The rest of these books I got at library sales, but this one I ordered. It’s a recent release, which I may have flailed about a lot. πŸ˜‰ And since I’m writing steampunk right now, and love humor and dynamic characters, it seemed to fit the theme of my giveaway. πŸ™‚ Let me just tell you that if you love The Greatest Showman, or steampunk, or dynamic duo friendships, or humor/snark, or magical worlds (floating islands with sky-trains run by stardust!), you simply have to try this book out! ❀ Included with this book is a set of the 4 lovely character cards!
  2. Magician’s Ward by Patricia C. Wrede (paperback) — Regency Fantasy. You can read my full review here, but this is a fascinating and fun story set in an alternate Regency London, about the fabulous magician (and eligible bachelor) Mairelon the Magician, and his ward, Kit, who is a street-thief-turned-Regency-lady. And yes, this is as fabulous as it sounds. XD It’s technically the second book in a duology, but I read it as a standalone and understood it just fine. (I’ve since read the first book, and enjoyed it, but not as much as I loved this one.) This is an ex-library paperback and is slightly worn — apologies! — but the story inside is lovely. πŸ˜‰
  3. Conrad’s Fate (Chrestomanci Series) by Diana Wynne Jones (hardcover) — Fantasy. You know this had to be on here, because of COURSE I have to give away a DWJ book. πŸ˜‰ Even if you haven’t read any of the Chrestomanci books before, you can start with this one (as it’s sort of a prequel). It’s a lot of fun, and features a teenage Chrestomanci/Christopher Chant, which was AWESOME. It’s also a buddy story, from the point of view of the “servants” at an older, fancy, British-like house, with magical shenanigans and humor. I love it. πŸ˜€
  4. The End of the Third Age by J.R.R. Tolkien (paperback) — This is the tail-end of a series of books featuring some of Tolkien’s older drafts of The Lord of the Rings (edited by his son Christopher Tolkien). But the reason I’m giving away this one is that it has the UNPUBLISHED epilogue of The Lord of the Rings, which never made it into the final version, but which I strongly believed SHOULD HAVE. It’s about Sam and his kids after the end, and makes the end of LOTR not sad, say I — it ends on a better note. There are two versions of the epilogue, both collected in this volume, and even if you don’t read the rest of the book, you HAVE to read them. And I want to make it possible for some LOTR fan to read it, so I’m giving away a copy. πŸ™‚ (Plus, what with the Silmaril Awards going on right now — don’t forget to vote for your favorite characters this week!! — this feels like an appropriate thing to give away. ;))
  5. If You Want To Write: A Book About Art, Independence, and Spirit by Brenda Ueland (paperback) — Nonfiction. This is one of my favorite books on writing. I wrote a whole post about it once, which you can check out to see if it’s the sort of book you would like. And since this is “The Road of a Writer” and I know many of you are writers, it seemed fitting. πŸ™‚
  6. Another set of Electrical Menagerie character cards (INTERNATIONAL) — Because, as I mentioned, Mollie kindly sent along two sets, and I wanted something for any of my lovely non-American readers who would like to enter a giveaway. (Huxley makes a great bookmark. I’m just sayin’. ;))

Giveaway details

  • You must be subscribed to my newsletter, or if you haven’t, your email address will be added to my newsletter, from which you can unsubscribe any time. (But I like to think that the sort of people who enjoy the sorts of books I’m giving away above, will be the sort to enjoy my newsletter. ;))
  • This giveaway is open from September 11 – 15, 2018
  • The books are US entries only (sorry! Because shipping) but the second set of character cards are just for international entries! πŸ™‚
  • There will be 6 winners
  • Winners will be chosen by random draw. The winners be contacted by email, and posted here on or after September 17

You can subscribe to my newsletter here. πŸ™‚

Enter the giveaway in the form below, or, if it’s not working for you, click here!

Giveaway Form

That’s it!

P.S. If you want to follow me on Instagram, I’m hoping to post a different fun picture there each day this week during the giveaway to showcase each of the books, so… there’s that. πŸ˜‰

Whew! I think that’s all the fun I have for you guys today. πŸ™‚ (Special thanks to Mollie for providing the character trading cards for the giveaway!)

Do you want to read The Electrical Menagerie? And which of these books would you most love to win? πŸ˜€ Thanks for joining me in my blogoversary as I celebrate 5 years of blogging! You’re all awesome! ❀

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Realm Makers 2018 Wrapup + The Greatest Showman

It’s here at last! The epic wrapup of my 2018 Realm Makers conference experience.

I was thinking of doing a day-by-day recap, but honestly everything blurred together into a whirlwind of amazing, and I don’t remember all the things that happened or necessarily when they happened . . . so I’m just going to break this up into highlights and segments. πŸ™‚

And throw pictures around all over the place. XD (I took SO many, but here is a taste.)

These are a few of my favorite things . . .

The People

My favorite memories from Realm Makers are undoubtedly meeting friends old and new. It was INCREDIBLE to meet so many people I’ve known online, so many authors, and new kindred spirits as well.

Some of my favorite memories…

Exploring the clocktower with some favorite people (Spoiler alert: the stairs didn’t go all the way to the top. XD)

Having chats with my awesome roomies, Claire Banschbach, Tracey Dyck, and E. Kaiser Writes.

Staying up past midnight in the big room after everyone else had gone to bed, chatting in a big fun circle with Gillian Adams, Mollie Reeder, Tracey Dyck, Claire Banschbach, Emily Hayse, Kyle Robert Shultz, and Andy Sheehan (Captain America) — we talked about Marvel and Brandon Sanderson and it was just one of the BEST times.

Going out for pizza with some of my fellow Silmaril Awards bloggers! (Speaking of which… it’s coming soon! Like, September-soon!) I finally got to meet Madeline J. Rose, Tracey Dyck, Jenelle Schmidt, Kyle Robert Shultz, and Savannah Grace!

H.L. Burke and her awesome laptop bag — she was one of the first people I met, since I had to bring her a pineapple. πŸ˜‰

Bringing a pineapple for H.L. Burke (long story, but she said she’d trade books for pineapples, because Psych. Of course I had to take her up on that. ;)), MEETING her finally (and Theodore the dragon), and having lunch with her and my roadtrip buddies.

Running into people I didn’t know would be there, like Jacob Parker (author of the AWESOME Kestrel’s Midnight Song), who I’d met before and had fun reconnecting with; and Emily Hayse (author of the new release Crowning Heaven which I’m looking forward to trying).

Getting to reconnect with author friends I’d met before, like my dear blogger friend Christine Smith/Lauri (I had the best time hanging out!) Jamie Foley (who is awesome), Lisa Godfrees, E. Kaiser Writes, Claire Banschbach, Kendra E. Ardnek, Robert Treskillard, and Jacob Parker. Lovely to see old friends again!

Meeting my blogging buddy Jenelle Schmidt, FINALLY, which was amazing, and a new friend Liz Koetsier, and making sure the two of them met each other to talk about Timothy Zahn and the Star Wars EU. XD

Takeout lunch in a gorgeous courtyard with friends! One of my favorite memories.

Having takeout in a big white courtyard with Jaye L. Knight, Tricia Mingerink, Ashley Townsend, Savannah Grace, Bethany Jennings, Christine Smith, and several other people further down the table who I couldn’t hear (heheh) but it was so much fun!

Chatting with Lindsay Franklin about endorsements, telling her how I read The Story Peddler because of Tracey Dyck meeting her at Realm Makers LAST year (Tracey mentioned her and the book to me and I knew I needed it when it came out!) and fangirling with Lindsay over Mollie Reeder’s The Electrical Menagerie. XD

Speaking of which — MEETING Mollie Reeder, who is as much fun as one would expect the author of Carthage and Huxley would be, and Gillian Bronte Adams (after all this time! I’ve been a fan of her and her writing since beta-reading a couple of early chapters of Orphan’s Song way back like six years ago!). *waves at fellow Texans* ❀

Meeting Ashley Townsend and connecting over her books and how much I love them, my tree necklace (the yew!), and wearing the unicorn-pegasus-kitten socks I won from her years ago when I was one of her early fans. XD

Speaking of being a fan, meeting Hope Ann and fangirling over her snarky character Verus. πŸ˜€

Just before going over and hanging out with friends after the closing keynote speech.

Going to Starbucks with a whole lovely group of gals and trading business cards and chatting.

At the costume banquet, meeting Allen Arnold who was talking with Jenelle Schmidt (who sat next to me). I didn’t realize who he was for some reason, but I got to meet him and he asked a little about my writing, and during his talk with Jenelle, which I heard some of, I finally figured out he was Stephen Lawhead’s editor! :O He was talking about editing the Bright Empires books, which are only some of my FAVORITE books EVER. ❀ I had no idea, but it was so amazing!

Meeting Mary Weber a few times, who is THE NICEST HUMAN, and always makes you feel like you matter as a person, and like she knows all about you, and is just so friendly. Telling her about how I found an ARC of The Evaporation of Sofi Snow at a thrift store two weeks before Realm Makers, and having her sign that and my new copy of Siren Song, and joining her and everyone for tacos. ^_^

The Taco Train! A whole bunch of us formed a train with Mary Weber after her closing keynote, and went to the taco place, where we sat outside on the steps while we ate. It. was. awesome. So many friends in this picture!

Getting books that I brought signed by so many authors, including Nadine Brandes (can’t wait to read Fawkes!), Wayne Thomas Batson (I got to “ambush” him at the taco place with friends. XD), Sarah Delena White, Kyle Robert Shultz, Mary Weber, Gillian Bronte Adams, H.L. Burke, S.D. Grimm, Laurie Lucking, Janeen Ippolito, Jaye L. Knight (who’s so delightful), Robert Treskillard, and Serena Chase (who is one of the FIRST authors I reviewed for!).

I also got my notebook signed by Bryan Davis, Will Wight, and Catherine Jones Payne, which was really cool. πŸ˜€

All the authors whose books I bought and got signed. All the authors whose books I didn’t get, but wanted to!

Andrew Winch as the Big Bad(?) Wolf and S.D. Grimm as Little Red Riding Hood — their skit was so fun. XD

Scott and Becky Minor and all the Realm Makers staff being amazing — encouraging, faith-filled, and also full of fun and fantasticalness.

Hanging out in the lobby before leaving, the final day, with so many lovely friends. Sad to say goodbye, but SO MUCH FUN to hang out!

Lunch with some of my favorite blogger people! (Savannah, Mary, Tracey. I wish I had more pics like this of just PEOPLE. But forgetting to take pictures normally meant I was making memories instead, so that’s okay.)

Meeting blogger friends (Mary Liz, Blue, Katie Grace, etc.!), authors (Becky Metcalf, Bethany Jennings, H.A. Titus, Morgan Busse, and so many listed above), Fellowship of Fantasy bookclub members and authors (Heidi Burke, Cathrine Bonham, Kyle Robert Shultz, Pam Halter, Laura VAB, Laurie Lucking, Sarah Delena White, etc.), Goodreads friends (Sierra, Kira Thomas/Athelas), publishing industry people (Kirk DouPonce, Steve Laube, Amy Williams, Janeen Ippolito, Splickety people, etc.), and new friends (Jeneca, Audrey, Rosalie, and many others — including a girl I met during the nerf war who said she likes my blog and my steampunk story! Aww! Made my day. ^_^).

I want to list EVERY person I met at the event, but that would take a very long time, so just know that if I met you and you’re not listed, I love you too! πŸ˜‰ Everyone was AMAZING and super nice and just a joy to meet and talk with. ❀

Like I said, the people were my favorite thing about Realm Makers. πŸ™‚

Getting My Story Read Aloud

I mentioned it in this post, but my flash fiction short story, Mentor Problems, was a finalist at the Splickety Flash Critique and was read aloud in a room full of people and I still can’t believe it! Hearing something I wrote read aloud like that, picked as one of ten finalists, and having people laugh at the funny bits, was absolutely surreal. ^_^ So grateful to Splickety for the contest opportunity! (If you’d like to read it, you can do so by signing up for my newsletter.)

Book Festival

GUYS. There were so many books! It made me happy, especially since like 70% of the books were ones I knew about. I brought home a ton of new books to read! I also brought over 20 of my own books to be signed by authors who were there. That was INCREDIBLE, getting to meet these authors I love, and get books signed, and so many books I wanted to read, all in a room together. XD

Me dumping my overly-heavy bag on my bed in the hotel room the first time. Books! Swag! Fun!

Mollie Reeder and her epic table for her epic book! ❀

Characters from The Electrical Menagerie!! ❀

 

Jamie Foley’s table!

Somebody left a pineapple here… (Oh, and look, some books that I edited which are on a table at a BOOK FESTIVAL, being sold. Totally not freaking out here… O_O)

Slightly blurry, sorry. The Uncommon Universes table and the Crosshair Press table, with Mollie and Heidi being Mollie and Heidi

Kirk DouPonce, the guy who does all the gorgeous covers! :O

Sarah Delena White’s jewelry is as gorgeous as her books

I recognize some of these books…!

Jenelle Schmidt’s books! (I went to the costume banquet dressed as her character Princess Kamarie, so that miiight give you an idea of how much I love these books.) Also, pineapple!

One corner of a book room — with an awesome poster!

Common by Laurie Lucking! ❀

Realm Makers! Books! Oh frabjous day!

Had to get a picture of Steve Rzasa’s Star Wars laptop

Robert Treskillard signing his books for me. I met him BEFORE he was published, so it was awesome reconnecting and getting these signed. πŸ™‚ (Look at the awesome sword! He made that hilt! :O)

I met Theodore the Dragon! #celebritysighting

Sorting bookmarks and swag afterward

Books I got…

Some more books…

The book cart I used to haul books around and get them signed at the book festival! So glad I had it. It was kind of heavy. XD

The Thing Of Which We Do Not Speak

(A.k.a. the Nerf War which mayyy or may not have happened. ;))

It was awesome. XD I stayed until midnight-ish and then went to bed before it was over, but the parts I joined in on were a blast.

Emily Hayse and Mollie Reeder being dangerous and fabulous

Awards/Costume Banquet

My phone battery ran out before I could get pictures of EVERYONE at the banquet, which made me sad, but here are some. πŸ™‚

My dear fairies, Tracey Dyck as Cinder, and Christine Smith/Lauri as steampunk Alice in Wonderland!

Serena Chase as the Dread Pirate Roberts — and she’s the author of the epic pirate Cazien!

Steampunk dragon lady — H.L. Burke!

I had to get one with the dragon hood on, too!

TWO Jyn Ersos! (Good friends Claire Banschbach and Jenelle Schmidt)

Andy Sheehan as Captain America!

Mary Liz as Mary Poppins — how perfect is that? (Answer: in every way. XD)

Emily Hayse as Natasha Romanov and Jeneca Zody as Bucky Barnes! (I love it!)

The one and only Kyle Robert Shultz as Superman (I wonder if the S stands for Shultz?)

Shenanigans. πŸ˜› Ashley Townsend pretending to stab Wash from Firefly, with Serenity looking on. XD

Keynote speaker Mary Weber being fabulous

And Mary’s epic steampunk goggles!

Finalists for some of the awards!

Gorgeous homemade wings!

Bethany Jennings of #WIPjoy!

Tricia Mingerink as Rapunzel!

Robin Hood (*cough* Hope Ann) in action!

E. Kaiser Writes, my roomie, dressed as Bilbo with an awesome map apron! :O She wore an epic homemade costume every day and I wish I’d gotten pictures of all of them!

Kara Swanson

Ben Wolf

Gorgeous!!

Ashley Townsend, who wrote some awesome books I love — it was amazing meeting her!

Because I’m not going to go to a banquet and then not take a picture of the food. *cough*

Kira Thomas being amazing as Sairu from Goldstone Wood

Eilonwy!

Pam Halter, and Sarah Delena White being a magical faerie! ❀

Savannah Grace as Arwen! And Madeline J. Rose in epic steampunk attire!

Audrey Caylin as herself. XD (Or rather, how her characters see her. I love it!)

E. Kaiser Writes as the TARDIS! :O

Kendra E. Ardnek as her character Laura, with the Dragon Lady! πŸ˜‰

Jaye L. Knight had more than one costume! I loved this one too. πŸ™‚ Meeting her was amazing.

Even when not in costume, many people had awesome geeky shirts. I saw at least half a dozen people wearing Captain America shirts — including my roomie, Tracey Dyck. πŸ™‚

Speaking of geeky t-shirts… I love Jeneca’s. XD (“I relate to Steve Rogers because I too would start a Civil War to protect Bucky Barnes.”) Also, is that an Alice in Wonderland reference in the taco place??

Sessions

My favorite part about Realm Makers was undoubtedly the people, but since a lot of it was supposed to be about learning things… well… I did take away a lot of good information and enjoyed that too. πŸ˜‰

I took 30 pages of notes home in my notebook and just finished typing those up. I have a lot of information to chew on. XD

Some notable quotes/highlights (and I’m sorry if any of the quotes are a word or two off; this is how I wrote them)

Be confident. (From several people)

β€œStories do not go out of fashion.” β€” Will Wight

β€œYour book is not for everyone. But there is always someone who needs your book.” β€” Nadine Brandes

β€œBe brilliant all the way through.” β€” Steve Laube

β€œWhat if we acted like children created by the King of the Greatest Fairytale ever told?” β€” Mary Weber

β€œWhat do you have to lose?” β€” Mary Weber

Nadine Brandes using The Hobbit as a pitching example

Steve Laube

Will Wight’s continuing sessions were so delightful, informative, and fun

I didn’t hear all of the talk Bryan Davis gave but what I did hear I loved so much!

Panelists, including Lindsay Franklin

Mary Weber’s closing keynote speech, which was so inspiring

Appointments

I had very helpful one-on-one appointments with two fabulous mentors, Grace Bridges (from New Zealand!) and Catherine Jones Payne (with the blue hair!). I took a bunch of notes, and got a lot of good answers to some questions I’ve had.

I, sadly, did not feel like my current WIP was complete enough for any agent or editor appointments. Maybe next year I’ll have something ready to pitch… πŸ˜‰

Hotel

The setting itself was GORGEOUS. This charming little hotel and little shop street of restaurants. I hear they’re going to have the event here again next year, and there’s a reason. It was perfect!

A Gillian Bronte Adams in the wild!

Love this cozy corner of the lobby. (Serena Chase is there!)

The view out the back from the stairs. I took them to and from my room a LOT because the elevator was so old and slow. XD

Roadtrip With Friends!

Highlight moments

  • 10-hour roadtrip (each way) with Claire and Kendra on a fun, crazy, awesome roadtrip, complete with epic music, too much caffeine, and silly selfies
  • My roadtrip buddies getting me hooked on A Million Dreams and Rewrite the Stars and the fact that I’ve had them continually in my head for a month now
  • Crashing at Claire’s apartment and watching Psych and The Greatest Showman

6 am, about to leave Claire’s apartment and drive all day…

Roadtrip with Claire Banschbach and Kendra E. Ardnek!

Finally back in my own state!

How I Finally Saw The Greatest Showman

So… I finally saw The Greatest Showman. That super-hyped movie I’d been avoiding for ages because I don’t care for musicals and I get reeeally tired of hearing about things when they get this hyped. XD

I enjoyed it. It’s not my favorite thing, but overall I enjoyed it — it was a fun movie (especially to see with friends and popcorn) and that’s all it needs to be. πŸ™‚ And while musicals are still not my thing, I do really love a couple of the songs.

How does this relate to Realm Makers, you ask?

A lot, actually.

The beginning of the conference — that still, excited feeling while sitting in a room full of people and thinking “I’m actually at Realm Makers!”

The story behind this is that at Realm Makers, when it was the opening of the conference proper, we were all sitting and watching a screen with a slideshow of previous Realm Makers pictures and this song came on… It was A Million Dreams, but I (because I live under a rock; or, more likely, took refuge under one when bombarded with hype over this movie. XD) had never heard it before and didn’t know what it was FROM.

For all I knew, it could have been a themesong that somebody wrote for Realm Makers; how would I know??

Ahem.

But it was playing, and there was a bunch of applause/cheers and several people started singing along to it, and I didn’t catch all the words but the ones I did catch felt right for Realm Makers. (Now that I know them, I can quote, but at the time it was just a vague sense. XD)

“A world that’s waiting up for me
That I call my own”

“But it feels like home”

“They can say it all sounds crazy”

“We can live in a world that we design”

“Every night I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake”

“There’s a house we can build
Every room inside is filled”

“…to make you smile
On a rainy day”

“I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
…for the world we’re gonna make”

— A Million Dreams (The Greatest Showman)

If that doesn’t sound like writers and Realm Makers, I don’t know what does.

If you’ve heard it, of course you know. (If you haven’t, you can give it a listen here; it’s really pretty and I guarantee it will get stuck in your head. XD)

ANYWAY. I didn’t know what it was but I liked it and then forgot about it until I heard it later.

(I also didn’t realize that Scott Minor’s costume was probably supposed to be from it until afterward, even though I remarked on its fabulousness a couple times.)

On the roadtrip home, it came on and I was like OH, THAT’S THAT SONG. AND IT’S FROM THE GREATEST SHOWMAN? WHAAAT.

So we listened to it again and I heard a few of the others aaand by that time I was addicted to A Million Dreams (and Rewrite the Stars), and anyway, I now associated A Million Dreams irrevocably with Realm Makers and a feeling of sitting in a room watching a slideshow with the event about to start and feeling “I’m. actually. at. Realm. Makers” — so, well, I guess there wasn’t any going back, was there? Even though I’d been DETERMINED not to like it. XD Eheh. πŸ˜›

So I ended up watching it; like I said, it’s not my FAVORITE movie, and I didn’t love all of it, but it was in general fun and I liked the heroes’ story, and those two songs particularly. It’s fun and that’s all a movie needs to be. πŸ˜€

And, of course, I had heard it was slightly similar to The Electrical Menagerie by Mollie E. Reeder, (WHICH I LOVED) so I mayyy have been positively influenced from that quarter too. XD (If you like The Greatest Showman and haven’t read The Electrical Menagerie, go do it. That’s all I’m sayin’. They’re different but have similarities and just… do it. That is all.)

Some Random Pictures

Delicious Tortellini Alfredo and an apple; yes, there were Snow White jokes about whether apples were poisoned or not. XD

I love the geeky decorations… XD

My business card, which I usually forgot to give people. XD It matches my new official website!

Packing to leave this fun time… A bittersweet moment, but I left with my heart so full. ❀

In Closing

So ended my Realm Makers 2018 experience, and all around, it was… what was it?

Fantastic… epic… amazing… a delight?

I’m a writer: I should have words for it. I don’t, really.

It was, overall, everything I could have dreamed of. I left with a sense of community and of a new appreciation for every single person out there — all of you, those I met there and who I’ve only met through this screen, and those I’ve yet to meet either way — who I feel that we’re kindred souls. We’re all walking the same road, and we’re all here to help each other along when we stumble.

I felt encouraged in my writing journey, and learned a lot, and there may not be much in this post about the writing aspect or how it influenced me, but that’s because I’m honestly still processing so much of this. Maybe I’ll write a follow-up post someday.

I have no idea if it will work out for me to return another year, but if I can… I’d go in a heartbeat.

If you didn’t get to go this year, that was me last year — hearing about all my friends’ amazing experiences, being happy for them, but also a little sad, thinking it would never happen; that I could never go.

Well, there’s a plan for all of us out there, a road that we’re going to have the ability to travel along if we’re meant to, even if it seems that that road has far too many roadblocks and mountains and possible sudden drops over waterfalls. But there’s a way, and if it’s on your road, I hope you’ll be able to make it to Realm Makers someday too. I didn’t think I could, but here I am, and I’m profoundly grateful and glad that I was able to go.

My nametag with aaall the genre stickers (okay, most), my tree pin, and the One Ring. πŸ˜›

It was the highlight of my year, and definitely one of the greatest memories of my life so far.

I met with friends, made connections, bonded with fellow fantasy hearts, learned, and was encouraged.

I walked away filled with . . . well, a million dreams.

Whoever you are, reading this, you have one too; and whatever it is, it’s there for a reason.

Think of what the world could be — the world we’re gonna make.

A million dreams is all it’s gonna take.

So let yours be one of that million.

Draft Zero (Finally!)

I’ve only been meaning to post about my Draft Zero technique for AGES. XD

Many of you have asked if I’d share a little bit more about it, when I’ve mentioned this writing method of mine.

I’m so excited to announce that I’ve finally written a post about it and I’m sharing it today as my first-ever guest-post, on the blog of my dear friend Lisa Pickle!

If you’d like to hear about my favorite writing tip I’ve discovered, you now can!

There’s also a Howl’s Moving Castle reference. (Because obviously. We’re talking about me…)

Get ye hence and read! πŸ˜€

And maybe leave a comment if you’re so inclined!

(And follow Lisa because she’s lovely. ^_^)

When Writing Doesn’t Happen

When writing doesn’t happen, because life is happening and you can’t stop to write . . . it’s okay.

When writing doesn’t happen, because the worlds are alive in your head but they won’t go on the page yet . . . it’s okay.

When writing doesn’t happen, even though we’re halfway into the first month of that year you were really going to start working toward those writing dreams . . . it’s okay.

When writing a blog post hasn’t happened, because it’s late and your brain doesn’t function and your week has been too busy to allow time for writing a post . . . it’s okay.

It’s okay
because plans go amiss
and life goes awry
and all those dreams don’t always work out
but sometimes they work out better than you planned
because off the beaten path
and off the line on the map you’ve drawn
may be better than anything
you could have wished for.

It’s okay
because if the worlds are alive in your head
there’s no need to fear (like you are secretly fearing)
that they will never be caught on the page again
because that will only happen if you are afraid.
But there’s no need to fear.
Remember?

It’s okay
because two weeks is not make-it-or-break-it
especially when life is busy
and not having started toward that dream
doesn’t mean you’ve failed.

It’s okay
because if you don’t post on your blog one week
nobody will notice or care or be upset at you
and the world will not end.

When writing doesn’t happen . . .

. . . it’s okay.

I promise.

Because you can always try again.

Because the negative space of “I haven’t…” is not stronger than the positive space of “I have.”

And between the two is “I will” — a dream, and a promise, and a hope for the future.

So we’ll write when we can. And when we can’t . . . it’s okay.

When the busy week is up, or when the worlds are bursting to come forth onto the page, or when the new year calms down and you stop worrying about how much you’re getting done (or not getting done), or when the blog inspiration is there . . . then you will write.

The words will be there. Later. When they’re ready.

These are things I’m trying to learn, so I thought I would share them, in case they help you too.

Sometimes you need to try. But other times . . . you need to let the road surprise you, and relax on the journey.

Sometimes you find Narnia when you’re not looking for it.

And sometimes, just sometimes, when you’re not trying . . . is when you succeed.

And oh, look, I have a blog post after all. πŸ™‚

A Writer’s Net for Catching Ideas: Keeping a Writer’s Journal (What, How, and Why)

Today I’m here to talk about keeping a writer’s journal: what it is, why I do, and why — if you’re a writer — you should too. πŸ˜‰

Nearly nine years ago, on November 17, 2008, I pulled out one of my many hoarded empty journals, and started my first volume of what I called “A Forest of Thought: An Author’s Journal”.

I call it my writer’s notebook/journal these days, but each year since finishing that first journal on December 31, 2010, I’ve started a new Writer’s Journal on January 1st of each year, which means I’m currently on my 8th volume. (I may actually stick with this current one for another year since it has room, but we’ll see.)

So, your question: what is a writer’s journal, and why have one?

Firstly, it is not what I call my writing log (which is where I keep a list of all the writing I do each week, throughout the year) and it’s not a place for journaling in diary-form about what it’s like to be a writer (though occasionally such thoughts will creep in).

For me, at least, it’s my catch-all go-to place for keeping writerly notes.

  • New story idea? Goes in the journal.
  • Cool name I want to save for later? In the journal.
  • Pages of frustration about how I’m stuck in my writing? Journal.
  • Snatches of dialog at 2 a.m. because my characters were talking in my head when I wanted to be asleep? Ditto.(Though these I often type in on my phone and transfer them to my journal in the morning.)
  • Random fact or cool thing I saw that day, or description I jotted down about a building I went by, or an overheard conversation? That goes in the journal too.
  • Writerly to-do lists? Yep, that too.
  • Lists and lists and lists of WIPs? Lots of those.
  • Snatches of poetry? In it goes.
  • Hit an exciting place in my writing (like finishing a story)? That goes in there too.
  • Interesting dreams? Jot ’em down. (Never underestimate the power of dreams for ideas.)
  • And, probably the most common one (besides random ideas), are new plot point flashes of inspiration for any of my dozen or so WIPs. So many breakthroughs.

Basically, this is where I write down all those things that I think “Oh! That’s cool! So cool that I’ll remember it.” Because… I don’t. How many awesome ideas have I had, only to lose them to the mists of mysterious brain fog of forgetfulness, and kicked myself over losing… I’ll tell you, it’s been a LOT.

Which is why I decided to start keeping one journal, specifically for all my writerly thoughts. I’ve had lots of other journals, for writerly or non-writerly purposes, and I still sometimes use other ones for writing-related stuff, but mostly, I stick with these, which makes it handy and easy for me to know where to find my ideas.

The first page of my first Forest of Thought journal. (Please excuse the dubious punctuation. *cough* Also, disclaimer: my handwriting is rarely this neat because I’m usually in a hurry. XD)

Because let me tell you, these journals are a gold mine of ideas. You may not know what to do with an idea when you first have it, but believe me, when you’re about to start a random novel the next day for NaNoWriMo and you’ve never done it before, these notes scribbled down over time are going to be a lifesaver.

I give this example because it’s what I did my first NaNo — I spur-of-the-moment decided to write a book the next month, and I had a vague idea, but flipping through my very first Forest of Thought notebook was when I gathered all the ideas I needed to turn it into more of a book.

The final lines of The Owl of Kedran’s Wood were originally more or less a random snippet I wrote in there one day and had no idea who said it — imagine my surprise when it found its way into the lives of Tare and the Chess Club and formed the perfect ending to book one.

The snatch of song that became so central to my novella The Rose and the Raven was originally jotted down much earlier at random.

The idea for countless of my WIPs began with a few hastily scribbled lines in my Forest of Thought journals.

So many characters have gotten names at the right moment when I needed them because I flipped back through and found the right one I had saved.

If I’m stuck or discouraged, I go to the pages of my notebook and scribble down my thoughts and usually find my way out of the woods, or at least I know what my problem is and feel better.

And there’s no greater way to get re-inspired to go back to working on a project than to be perusing my old notes and find how excited I was about a plot-twist I had scribbled down and semi-forgotten.

But even aside from all the usefulness, it’s just a wonderfully secure feeling to know that even if you don’t actually USE your idea, or won’t for years, that at least you didn’t lose it forever, like if you said you’d remember it and then the next morning — gone. Having that security and peace of mind is fantastic.

It’s also a handy way to keep an eye on the chronicles of your writing career, as for-fun or serious as you want it to be. Each volume of my Forest of Thought journals (I call them FT: Volume 1, Vol 2, etc. and am currently on FT8) has a different flavor, both because they’re all different shapes/sizes/”feels”/looks, and because I go through different books I’m working on or focusing on, and I remember that and associate the different years with those books.

Sometimes if I’m trying to remember when I started a story, I can say “Oh, well I wrote about it in my green journal, which was in 2013, so that must be when I started”. It’s chronicling my journey as a writer, and all while saving great ideas that I periodically go back and glean from the many pages I’ve filled.

The hardest thing? Getting into the habit of writing in your writer’s journal.

It took me years to find the balance and get so that when I had an idea I would be sure to write it down.

2008 and 2009, I hardly did any writing in my journal — just every few months, if I had a really interesting idea and remembered to write it down, I would sometimes remember. Later in 2010 was when I got more active with it, and by the end of the year I was chronicling my NaNo adventures most days, and managed to fill the last page on December 31st. The opportunity to start a new journal on January 1 was too much to resist, and I’ve done it every year since. I often fill the whole journal and write on the last page on the last day of the year, but sometimes I don’t fill it and end up leaving the final pages blank so I can start a new one, but it’s a tradition of mine that I look forward to the most about the new year: starting my new writing journal the first day of the year. πŸ™‚

It’s hard to turn it into a habit to remember to write in your journal all the time, especially without thinking you need to write something even when you have nothing to scribble, but I think I finally have it down. So far this year and last year, I’ve written something (even if it’s just a single note/jot/name) in my writing notebooks every week except one. (Yes, I keep track of my writing each week in a writing log on my computer, and I noticed this trend and have kept it up.) It hasn’t really been on purpose, but even if it’s just a note to say that I’m stuck on something, it really has become a habit to dip into my journal at least once a week with whatever writerly ideas are on my mind.

But remember, I started this process nearly a decade ago, and it’s only in the last year or two that I’ve gotten better about remembering most of the time — and I still sometimes think of something and don’t jot it down, so the process isn’t perfect. πŸ˜‰ So if you’d like to do something like this, don’t feel discouraged if it doesn’t work out for awhile. Just keep at it and save those ideas!

If you’re not an oldschool journal hoarder like me, try keeping your notes on your phone or in a file on your computer — sometimes I wish I did that because they’d be searchable. XD And at times I do opt for typing my ideas when I have a LOT of them, and so they don’t go into the journal because it’s more efficient. But I do enjoy having a physical place to keep notes with a physical pen — it’s soothing for me, and also handy if I don’t have my laptop with me. But if it’s likely to make you procrastinate keeping notes, then don’t let the idea that it has to be a physical notebook keep you from doing something like this–just do it on your computer, like I said! Just try to make it a habit to keep those ideas, somewhere you can go to save your thoughts.

Later this week, on Friday, I’ll be celebrating 9 years of A Forest of Thought: An Author/Writer’s Journal, and starting (hopefully) on my tenth year keeping a writing journal. My FT volumes have been some of my best friends through my writing years, something in which I can confide my story ideas and struggles. (They of course can’t outdo real, actual writer friends, who are the absolute BEST. ;))

I’m very glad I started back in 2008, and I look forward to much more scribbling. πŸ™‚ I know I wouldn’t be the same writer without them.

I will leave you with the last words from my first volume, penned December 31, 2010:

Onward to new horizons! Horizons never seen, horizons merely dreamt of, horizons that have but been glimpsed — onward!

How about you? How do you save all those little ideas/tidbits/plotbunnies? Thanks for reading! ^_^