Writing is not always glamorous

Nearly two weeks ago, my last post talked about accidental novels.  I’d introduced these three new characters in Saints at sea, and I had all these grand ideas about a prequel novel for their adventures before we get to Saints at sea.  It was exciting, and I was plugging away at Saints at sea, putting in work every day.  I’d reached 78k, and I was so happy with how the story was going.

And just like that, it stopped going.  I’m not really sure what happened, but my brain started to reroute itself, pretty much overnight.  By the time the weekend had passed, I was thinking about this bookstore romance that’s been in my brain for a little bit now.  Over the weekend, I figured out all of the characters, wrote up an outline, and got to a place where I was feeling pretty good about it.  I told myself it was just a quick diversion from Saints at sea.  I used to do it all the time with fanfiction.  I’d stop in the middle of a big one that I was writing to dash out a quick one on the side, and then go back.  I’d even done it a couple times with my earlier novels–pause while writing something original to write up a quick fanfiction.  This felt like that.  Give me three weeks, four tops, and I’ll have a fast 80k written for a bookstore romance, and then go back to Saints at sea.

I wrote three chapters for the bookstore romance, and they were good.  I like these characters.  They remind me a lot of where they originally came from, but they also have a lot of their own idiosyncrancies that make them completely different.  (Last night, Alex asked me why all of my novels have broken boys, and I really don’t know, but the main character in the bookstore romance is broken af, and it’s beautiful.)  I shared the first chapter with Jen, she was an ALL CAPS kind of excited, and then–it was gone.

I stopped writing it.  It’s not that I didn’t like it, it was just–not what I wanted in that moment.  I tried not to be discouraged because Saints at sea still needed to be finished, so I went strolling on back to that, but on my way, I was thinking about how Gordon and the bastards have a lot of high fantasy elements, and hmmmm, you know what would be interesting?  Maybe doing some work on Ronan?  So, I switched directions, hopped on over to Pinterest, and did some serious work.  Figured out actors for all of my main characters, plotted out what POVs might be a good idea, decided which characters to get rid of and which to keep, finally definitely decided on my plot and how the story begins, and then started to think maybe I could write out an outline.  I pulled up the last version of Ronan’s story, realized I actually had to go another version back since I never finished that one, and didn’t even get that far before I was back to not doing anything.

What is going on with me?

Like, why is it so goddamn hard to focus on one idea?

Whatever.  Okay.  So clearly I need to take a break.  The weekend came, and I spent all of Saturday finishing up Lost in Space.  It was amazing, and I can’t wait for the second season.  I caught up on some Nile vlogs, binge watched Buzzfeed’s Eating Your Feed, and started rereading an old fanfiction of mine.  Sunday was Father’s Day, and after waking up early to go to Todd Farm, I didn’t do a whole lot.  Read some, hung out with my dad, just generally lounged.  I was starting to feel like, okay, I’m ready to be back to work, I’m ready for this break to be over, I want to write things.

And literally nothing has happened since then.  I’m so frustrated.  I want to write, but I don’t want to write anything that I have right now.  Which isn’t even true, because I do want to write Saints at sea, but every time I even think about it, I just get this weird ughhhhhh feeling and go read something instead.  For a half second, I thought maybe what I needed was fanfiction, and I started coming up with ideas for one, but that fizzled out super fast.  I haven’t written fanfiction in ages, and I don’t know if I’m likely to ever do so again.  Each time in the last year that I’ve tried has died before it even began, and I’ve made my peace with that.  I’m happy writing my novels.  But I’m not writing my novels right now, so what the hell am I supposed to do?

What made things worse is that I’m not really enjoying the books I’m reading this month.  This happens sometimes, weeks where the books are good, but not great, and so my reading is lackluster.  I’m not saying that I outright haven’t liked anything I’ve read this month, and most of them have gotten four stars, they just haven’t been that kind of all-consuming oh my god I love these characters so much kind of books, so I’ve been reading slower and just sort of moseying along.  That’s also aggravating, though, so combine not reading a lot with also not writing at all, and I am just losing my marbles.  I hate this so much.  I hate not being busy with a book.  I hate not writing.  I know that sometimes breaks are necessary, and that they’re good for you, but I just–I don’t feel burnt out?  I don’t feel like I need an extended break?  Maybe I do, and I just can’t see it, but my creative productivity has been through the roof lately, and it’s been so exhilirating.  I’m so happy.

So why can’t I write?

I don’t know.  I don’t have an answer.

What I do have, though, is Oliver’s crystal in my pocket for the last four days.  What I do have is a printed copy of the last Pen boys draft.  What I do have is Setting Out by Citizen of the World on repeat for the last two days.  What I do have is James’s snide voice in my head.

Yesterday, I made the mental health decision to leave work an hour early so that I could go to yoga.  I hadn’t taken a class in who knows how long, and even longer since I’d taken one with Jenny.  I’ve posted about her magical classes before, and how often times wild things happen to me in her savasanas where all of a sudden, I just know.  I know exactly where I’m supposed to be next.  So, I stuck Oliver’s crystal (sunstone for my poor sad boy) in that little pocket on yoga pants, surrendered to my mat, and prayed.

Give me guidance, savasana.  Show me the way.

The other day, I nearly ran over a turtle.  I didn’t see it as I was pulling into my parking space at Barefoot, and when I ran out of the car after, he was boogying away from my car, going much faster than I had ever seen a turtle go.  Initially, I thought this was clearly a sign from the universe to slow down.  But as I thought about it more, it seemed to me that the turtle was telling me to pay attention.  Focus.

The thing about Oliver is that he doesn’t know where he’s supposed to be.  When we first meet him, he’s just lost his mother, moved all the way across the country, and is trying to find his footing again when he’s not even sure he wants to.  He’s depressed, teetering a little too close to suicidal, and can’t really figure out how to breathe on his own.  The Pen boys are a godsend for him.  Harrison, Dad friend archetype to the core, swoops in and wraps Oliver up with understanding, kindness, and friends.  He brings Jasper and James with him, who are prickly and rude, but also keenly aware of the kind of emotions Oliver’s feeling, and they’re everything that he needs.  I’m not saying that the Pen boys save Oliver’s life, but I am saying that they show him life is worth living.  Throughout the novel, he starts to figure out where he’s supposed to be, or rather, where he wants to be, who he wants to be.

Pay attention, the turtle says.

I’ve been feeling lost, unmoored.  I’ve been carrying around Oliver’s crystal because that’s pretty much how he always feels.  And then, on a whim, I asked my boss to leave early yesterday, and when he said yes, I texted Alex, asked her if she wanted to go to class with me and then get dinner in Salem.  I broke a couple road rules trying to get to Barefoot on time, twisted and sweat and played on my mat, danced through a couple handstands when everyone else was gone, and then we drove into Salem to go to Life Alive, get tea from Jaho, and walk down to the Wharf.  We shared life stories, giggled our way through some partner poses, and eventually meandered back under the setting sun.

Last year, kind of around this time, after one of the worst nights of my life, I did something pretty similar.  I asked my boss if I could take a half day, went to Jenny for a private healing, and then, under her guidance, asked my brother if he wanted to go to Jaho with me.  We got tea, walked down to the Wharf, and just sat together, listening to the water and watching the sunset.  It was exactly what I needed then, and last night was exactly what I needed now.

Am I saying that miraculously I’ve figured out what I want to write?  Hell no.  But the turtle is onto something.  Pay attention.  Why am I carrying around Oliver’s crystal?  Why have I been listening to his song on repeat?  Why did I ask my dad to print out the last draft of Pen boys?  Is it because I’m going to see Erin this weekend, and I’ve been craving the beach like crazy, and all I can think about is sitting with her on the rocks at Wingaersheek last year in May and whispering, teenage boys and magic–that’s what’s next.

I miss them.  They were the first thing I wrote after Jack broke my heart.  It was almost like the universe said, oh, someone told you that you were a terrible writer?  Well, here.  Here’s an idea to prove every single person wrong.  Yes, Saints is in better shape than the Pen boys, and yes, I’ll probably submit that first, but those boys are more than anything I ever imagined.  Landon holds a very special place in my heart, but Oliver is like Alex to me (the Destroyer, not my friend).  Alex the Destroyer invades my every waking thought.  He’s there in the car with me when I’m singing out loud, there telling me to kick ass when I’m working out, there when I’m not paying attention and his thoughts are louder than my own.  Oliver is there, too, but quieter.  He’s there when I’m listening to Sleeping at Last at night, he’s there when I’m curled up with a book and tea, he’s there at night when I’m driving without music and the stars are out.  And maybe it’s because Alex and Oliver take place on Earth and that Landon is somewhere else entirely that Landon doesn’t do this to me, but there’s something to be said about coming back to characters who haunt you.  I can’t go back to Alex–he’s done, and I’ve let him go.  But Oliver?

I don’t know.  We’ll see.  In three days, I could be right back where I started, unsure of where to go, or I could be working on the third draft of the Pen boys.  I don’t know, but I’m willing to find out.

Chasing Relentlessly

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Accidental Novels

Has this ever happened to you?

Because this happens to me a lot.  I’m not even joking.  I used to say to my mom, “Oh crap, I didn’t mean to kill that character.  Oh well, they’re dead now, I guess.”  And she’d just be like, “But you’re writing it?  Just change it?”  But that’s not how it works!  It really isn’t.  I remember, very clearly, sitting in the lounge of Mallett Hall at UMF with a couple of my college friends.  I had my headphones in, and I was writing a draft of the second Ronan novel (then titled The Gathering, I think?).  I was writing furiously, and I can so remember finishing the chapter, closing my laptop, taking out my headphones, and saying, “Well, Treyan’s dead.  Didn’t realize that was happening today.”  One of my friends, who read my books and listened to me rant in college, was completely flabbergasted.  (Man, what a good word.)  Treyan (man, what a bad name) was supposed to die in the second book, but not until the end, and definitely not in that chapter.  But, apparently, it was supposed to happen in the middle and right then.

That’s not the first or the last time this has happened.  While writing the first draft of the Pen boys, the boys are all talking about something, who knows what, and Jasper happens to mention a family demon, and I was like SAY WHAT NOW?  Turns out, that’s actually a huge plot point, and it took me 180k words and not working on them for a year to figure that out.  But the family demon was never part of the original plot.  It was totally just a slip, something that came out of Jasper’s mouth completely on accident.

During Saints 2, Henry decides that he wants to explore the world.  This I knew.  What I did not know was that literally one paragraph was going to turn into a freaking series of novels.  Julian’s not even in Saints 2 physically.  He’s only mentioned in brief passing.  Corra tells Henry that he should look for Julian for passage on the sea since her aunt knows him and trusts him.  Turns out, Landon also knows him and they’ve been working together for years.  Well, jeez, guys, that’s news to me.  It’s one paragraph!  It’s literally just the Saints describing Julian as basically a wild, flamboyant pirate, and suddenly I was writing an entire series?  Saints at sea was not a planned thing.  And even after it became a planned thing, I thought I was going to be writing about Henry’s adventures.  That’s–about 20% of the series.  The other 75% is Julian and his crew gallivanting around.  (Math?  5% is devoted entirely to Avery.)

Wait, Avery.

"There are no such things as dangerous weapons. There are only dangerous men."Who in the hell said it was okay to give Avery three new best friends?  Like?  What is going on?

Okay, so this was kind of planned.  Use the phrase kind of very loosely.  So far, Avery’s had two chapters in Saints at sea.  In the first chapter, there are these men that show up on her farm and try to threaten her, but Avery’s a freaking badass and shows them a thing or two about messing with women.  They don’t go away?  The next morning, after she’s shot one of them and one of her dogs has maimed another, they’re still there?  And they continue to be there for a few weeks?  Listen, I don’t know.  This wasn’t the plan.  I was going to make them leave after that incident, or only stay until the next morning, but then suddenly, they were still there, and she didn’t give a crap because she’s Avery, and without my permission they had names.  Specifically, the bastards.

I, uh.  They have a novel now?

I swear I didn’t mean to do this.  I just meant to write a little adventure into her part of the story, but then Gordon became the queen’s brother and Roland was definitely a straight up theft from Holland Vosijk (my sweet boy, I miss you) until I reeled it in and Victor just makes me giggle and I think there’s a fourth one that’s not in Saints at sea because he’s definitely back at the capital right now with the queen, but like, he’s totally Gordon’s friend, and oh, it’s not just the bastards, it’s Gordon and the bastards.

Like.

I just searched king arthur aesthetic on Pinterest, and now they have a board.

Let’s back up.  Where does Avery live?  Not telling.  Actually, I just haven’t created a name for the island yet.  But, if this novel actually survives past writing Saints at sea, it will be about Gordon (the queen’s brother) and his bastards (Roland, Victor, and unnamed fourth friend) and their adventures.  We’d get to see Gordon before his sister became queen, why she’s on the throne and not him, how he actually became friends with Roland (this is not an easy friendship built on trust or mutual like), who also happens to be the queen’s favorite magician (I DIDN’T MEAN TO STEAL HOLLAND, LET’S PRETEND HE’S MERLIN INSTEAD), and what this new world in the Saintsverse looks like.  Which is odd saying it’s part of the Saintsverse since I think, for once, there are actively no Saints in it.  This would actually probably take place long before Landon even came to the Lowlands of Obera.  He’d be alive, but still a child, probably, at this point.  The Saints are actually a fairly new concept in this world, only about 6 years old at this point, I think?  7?  Yeah, that sounds right.

LOL JUST KIDDING THE FOURTH ONE IS NOT UNNAMED ANYMORE

How do these things happen?

I would like someone to explain to me why this is allowed.

SOUTHERNCOMFORTOUTLAWSo the fourth one is named Jonah, and apparently this is just a thing now that I’m going to write someday, Gordon and the bastards.  It really is just my excuse to write something that reminds me of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.  I’m just slowly going to write all of my favorite myths and tropes into the Saintsverse until I’ve got nothing left on the other side.  Which is fine.  Really.  Everything is just fanfiction of the Bible, right?

I don’t want this blog to sound like I’m ungrateful for my very vast imagination that literally won’t ever quit.  Without it, I don’t know where I’d be.  Probably an astronaut.  I love words and writing so much, and I am so, so, so eternally grateful that Saints came to me.  I’ve always wanted to write this big grand story that encompassed several novels and just took over everything else.  That was what Ronan was always supposed to be.  Right from the beginning, I had all these plans for Ronan.  His story was going to be at least a trilogy, probably more down the line, but I also wanted to write about waaaaay before, when he barely even exists, and what started all of the chaos and the war.  I wanted to write about the different races, too–how the wolves came to be and what the history of their leader was, what the southern islands of the mages looked like, the undying land of Ulandeil (that story in particular is still one that I want to write someday).  But Ronan was supposed to be The Novel, and maybe he still will be someday.  But Saints?  Gods, I love it.  I love it so much.  This verse is where I was always meant to be.

So yes, I wish I could follow my crazy train of thought and be warned in advance when I was going to accidentally create three new characters that were interesting enough that they could hold their own in a sort of prequel novel.  (I was about to say trilogy, WHY was I about to say trilogy?  UGH.)  Realistically, it’s going to be a duology.  The author of the Shades of Magic trilogy, Victoria Schwab, always has very poignant things to say about writing.  A little while ago, she talked about how if you aren’t in love with the characters, you don’t actually care about what’s happening in the story.  I was always a reader who would not put down a book halfway through, and I still kind of am that reader to a point, but I’ve started allowing myself to put down books if they’re just not doing it for me.  And she’s right.  A lot of those times, the characters weren’t grabbing me, so the story was just whatever.  More recently, she said that the way she looked at side characters was that each and every one of them should be able to stand as protagonist in their own novel.  And wow, that’s good advice.  I think this is what’s been happening to me lately, too.  Every time I’ve decided (accidentally or on purpose) to create a new character, I’ve been giving them enough life that they could be by themself if I really wanted them to.  So, when Gordon got a name, when he became more than just a soldier, when he had lines and intentions and depth, the rest came easily.  Gordon and the bastards.  Of course.  It just feels right.  Every time I discover something new, whether it’s an idea or a character or a small plot line, I think, oh, of course.  That was always meant to be there, just like I was always meant to be writing in this verse.

Does that mean I’m only coming up with Saints ideas?  Heck no!  Because accidental novels don’t care what you want to be writing, they just happen whenever they damn well please.

We don't need a camper for an adventure. All I need is a backpack full of food, the road ahead of me and your hand holding mine, our hearts beating to the rhythm of the footsteps :)Say hello to the ones we left behind.

So, we hiked Mt Cardigan on Saturday.  It was a 9.6 mile loop hike up Cardigan, over to Gilman, and down Crane.  (Word of advice: don’t do Gilman and Crane.  The trail is overgrown, and the peaks aren’t worth it.)  Cardigan was absolutely beautiful, and the scrambles up to the summit snuck it right up into my top 10 favorite hikes.  I literally felt like I was rock climbing, and it was so cool.  On the way down Crane, we passed through this wide open field, and there was just an old, rusted, abandoned trailer sitting in the middle of it.  And just like that, new novel!  It took a few days to percolate, but now, it’s pretty much fully-formed.  It follows four college boys who decide to hike the Presidental range in the White Mountains during their spring break because why the heck not.  Their plan is to camp halfway through the 23-mile ridge hike, and while that goes according to plan, the snowstorm that descends does not.  Yes, this is totally inspired by Bad Call by Stephen Wallenfels because damn that was good, but also, that trailer was just a story waiting to happen.  It’s just one book, just one little idea, and who the heck knows when I’ll have time to write it, but I’ve got a plot, my four boys, and interest.

Suffice to say, there is a lot going on in my writing brain right now, and it’s a lot of fun.  It’s a little bit exhausting, but I just can’t say it enough, I’m so grateful that I have this, that I have a passion and that I love what I do.  Writing is why I get up in the morning.  (That, and tea.  And mountains.  AND SPACE YOU GUYS.  Alright, and my cats.)  It’s the thing that brings me the most joy.

So, I guess you could call this an addendum to the second edition of my latest current projects post.  I’m still in the Saintsverse, and likely will be for a while (I’ve got five spin-off ideas right now, it’s obnoxious five but we’ve only heard about four WHAT SECRET NOVEL), but there is so much on the horizon, and I can’t wait to share all of it with you.

May Reads

What a month this has been!  I’ve done a lot of reading and writing both, and I’m very pleased with where I am in both aspects.  I’m finally not behind on my Goodreads goal again, and Saints at sea is coming so easily.  I don’t have a lot of rambling to do, so without further ado, here’s the reviews for my May books!


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What: The Alchemist by Paulao Coelho
When: 5/2-5/3
Rating: ★★★★
Review: First, can we talk about how beautiful this book is?  I mean, damn, look at that cover.  And the back is just as gorgeous, too!  This was such a sweet little story.  It followed Santiago, who is almost solely referred to as the boy, on his journey to discovering his Personal Legend, which is really just a fancy phrase for living out his best life.  It was a quick read, and just really sweet.  I already said that, but I can’t think of another word to describe it.  That said, I’m not sure I would actually recommend it to anyone?  This was gifted to me, so I read it, and while I really enjoyed it, I don’t think it’s something that would necessarily come up when someone asked for a book rec.

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What: Strange Weather by Joe Hill
When: 5/2-5/8
Rating: ★★★★
Review: GUYS.  Joe Hill did it again.  I’m such a sucker for Joe Hill, and I’ve steadily been working my way through his bibliography for awhile now.  I started with Horns, and currently, I only have NOS4A2 left to read.  I don’t usually enjoy horror, but there’s something about his writing that really pulls me in.  If his name is on it, it’s a pretty safe bet that I’m going to read it.  Strange Weather is four short novels (which, what an idea, I’m going to have to try that sometime) that each have weird weather events as their either background or foreground of the story.  In Snapshot, dead birds fill the streets; in Loaded, there’s a wildfire; in Aloft, the protagonist gets stuck on a cloud; and in Rain, it literally rains crystal nails.

Each story was horrific and graphic and terrible, and I loved it, which is just awful to say, but Hill does it really well.  It’s not too much, but it pushes the envelope just a little bit.  Overall, I definitely liked Loaded the most.  The characters were really well-developed, and I enjoyed watching them unravel.  Plus, Hill always manages to develop his villains in a way that still makes you hate them, but also gives them as much screen time as his protagonists, which doesn’t happen in a lot of writing, and I really appreciate it.  Snapshot was my second favorite, and perhaps the scariest of all four, and even maybe the weirdest.  It was certainly the most clever.  I also really enjoyed Rain, though it felt a little lacking.  I would have liked more, but that’s what I always want.  Aloft was the only one that I didn’t fall in love with, and I can’t really pinpoint why.

Definitely an excellent read, and definitely great for Hill fans.  I’d say don’t start here if you’ve never read anything (I still stand by Horns being the best first choice to get into him, and that’s only because The Fireman is 700+ pages long), but definitely read this eventually.

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What: The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket
When: 5/8-5/10
Rating: ★★★
Review: You know, this could have been good.  I was actually really getting into it for a little bit, and was so pleased when something actually surprised me, and then it just–bleh.  Same old story every single time, and I’m just so over it.  I think I’ve made it pretty clear how I feel about these books in the past, so I’m not going to do it all again because it’s just the same review, different book, just like the plot.

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What: One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake
When: 5/9-5/10
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: YO, WHAT.  I expected none of the things that happened in this book, and it blew my mind.  This is the second in a series, and it continues following the story of the three queens–Arisone (my personal fave, whoops), Mirabella (though I really want her to be queen), and Katharine (yo she scared the heck out of me) as they duke it out for the throne.  The plot for this is just unlike anything I’ve read before, and I’m so excited about this series that I literally just went and preordered the third book.  There are five different types of a queen you can be–poisoner, naturalist, elemental, war, or oracle.  The war gift has faded out, and oracle queens are killed at birth because they go mad, so that leaves queen who cannot be poisoned, queens who can basically control animals, and queens who can control the elements.  JUST.  Ugh, these books are so good.

For the last one, I gave it 4 stars because the present tense really bugged me, and this time around it did, too, particularly because the severe lack of contractions was also driving me nuts, but this was so well written that I gave it 5 this time around and just ignored those little things.  Like, damn.  Every chapter was a surprise.  Arsinoe was amazing.  Mira was so not what I was expecting.  And Kat was so freaking scary.  This was just a really, truly well done sequel.

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What: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
When: 5/11-5/14
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: This book.  I just wanted to lie down and weep every 50 pages or so, and I mean that in the absolute best way possible.  I just love this so much, and reading it made me want to buy and read every single other thing Rainbow Rowell has ever touched.  So far, I’ve only read this and Fangirl by her, and I’m just in awe.  This was beautiful.  Truly, honestly beautiful.

It followed the lives of Eleanor and Park, who fall into one of my favorite tropes ever–enemies to friends to lovers.  Eleanor is the new girl at school, and she also has big, red hair, which everyone decides is going to be the starting point for their bullying.  Park, in a moment of heroism, tells Eleanor she can sit next to him on the bus, and the rest is history.  It’s just so good, guys.  So damn good.  I love it so much, and it doesn’t even have the happiest of endings, so that’s a lot coming from me.  Just–wow.  Read this.  You won’t regret it.

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What: A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle
When: 5/14-5/16
Rating: ★★
Review: Ugh.  This was such a struggle to get through, so this review will be short.  The third, and final, installment in the A Wrinkle in Time trilogy fast-forwards several years.  Meg is now married to Calvin and pregnant, the twins are off doing incredible things, Mr. Murry has been returned with no fuss, no muss, and Charles Wallace is now a teenager.  Meg doesn’t do a whole lot but lie in bed and commiserate that the world is going to end, and her brother is off with a–oh, honestly, I forget what it was this time.  I don’t think it was dragons, but I can’t remember.  A unicorn?  Basically, the entire novel was Charles Wallace traveling through time, except we probably only get about 50 pages out of nearly 300 with him, and the rest is the life stories of the people he was time traveling to and inhabiting their bodies, and at the end of it, somehow they’d avoided a nuclear war.  Sure.  I’m so glad I’m done reading these.

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What: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo
When: 5/15-5/18
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: This book is stunning.  This is a collection of short stories that act as a prequel to the Shadow & Bone trilogy that is part of the Grishaverse.  Going in, I thought these were going to be short stories about characters we knew, but oh no, it’s so much better than that.  It’s the legends and fairytales that the characters we know and love have grown up hearing, and it’s freaking amazing.  You could honestly read this even if you hadn’t read anything else in the Grishaverse because they are just fairytales, but spoiler alert the Darkling is in one of them, though he’s not called that yet.

Nikolai Lanstov is not, though, and I am a little sad about that because I held out hope for the entirety of The Too-Clever Fox.

Why is this stunning?  Writing aside (because come on, we’ve listened to me wax poetic about how much I love Bardugo’s writing for the last half year), every story contains artwork.  And not just a two-page piece of art at the end of the story, but artwork that is added to and changed EVERY SINGLE PAGE.  Good lord, this is a beautiful book.  This is what I strive to attain someday, this level of awesome.

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What: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
When: 5/18-5/21
Rating: ★★★★
Review: This was SO GOOD.  So unexpectedly good, too.  I kept seeing the King of Attolia while I was out book-shopping, and the covers for this series are just downright stunning, so I kept looking for The Thief whenever I was out.  I know, I could have just ordered it on Amazon, but my TBR shelf is so overwhelmed with books that I can’t fathom doing that.  That all being said, I’d never actually read the summary?  I just thought it looked pretty, and the title sounds like something I’d like, so sure, let’s buy it.  I know, I understand if you’re shaking your head at me.  But it worked out!  The Thief follows a thief, Gen, who has been imprisoned in the king’s dungeons after loudly flaunting that he stole the king’s seal.  Now he’s off on an adventure that only the best of the best can thieve their way out of, and oh my god, that plot twist at the end.  100% did not see any of that coming.

This was really excellent.  Like, I truly enjoyed it a heck ton.  I didn’t even realize I was enjoying it until my last day reading.  It’s slow at the beginning, and so I was only reading 25 pages or so the first three days, and then BAM, yesterday I started reading on my lunch break, and I could not stop.  When I got home, I wanted to just get to page 200, and suddenly, I looked up and it was 10:30PM and I was only 20 pages from the end, like what?  When did that happen?  This was just so much fun.  It was such a cute little adventure, and it was overflowing with awesome Greek-inspired mythology.  I definitely bought the other four in the series last night, and I am so excited to read the rest of them.  (And take a picture of all their gorgeous covers together, duh.)

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What: Isle of Blood and Stone by Makiia Lucier
When: 5/22-5-25
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: Guys, this book is so damn good.  Do you want adventure, romance, murder mysteries, and a wild plot all in one?  Read this book.  And then weep that the sequel isn’t out yet.  Though I have no idea what the sequel is going to be about since this felt like a complete story, I don’t even care, I just want more of these characters and their world.  This was SO GOOD!  I honestly couldn’t put it down.  I found myself reading 100+ pages every day because I just had to know what was going to happen.  The writing was excellent, and in a really specific way.  I felt like I was part of the story, that I could see all the pieces coming together one by one, and I was still left shocked at the end.  It felt like I was sitting in front of a fire with some wise old oracle spinning a tale.  It was amazing.  And the characters!  Gods, I loved them so much.  So much.  I can’t even begin.  My favorite, FAVORITE, trope ever was in this–19-year-old king who is still best friends with his childhood friends despite wearing a crown, occasionally ditches his guards and goes gallivanting on wild adventures, and is snarky as heck when he wants to be.  UGH.  I can’t.  This is my trope, you guys.  It’s my favorite one in the whole wide world.  I love me a good king or leader character, but then make him in his late teens/early twenties PLUS he’s still a little shit, and I am all over that.  Besides Ulises being the greatest ever, I also fell head over heels in love with Elias, which I expected to, but then was still blindsided by when he’s hurt, both physically and emotionally.  Like, I knew I was going to love him, but still felt shocked that I was reacting so much to him.  He was just so wonderful, it makes my heart hurt a little.  I also expected to love Mercedes because, hello, badass girl always saving the dumbass boys, but at the beginning, I wasn’t sure about her, so it was like this overwhelming tidal wave of YES GO MERCEDES GO when I finally fell in love with her.  I just–I love this book so much, I want to read it again.

What is it about, you ask?  Nearly twenty years ago, there was a terrible tragedy in which several guards, two princes, and some important people at court were murdered.  Now, two maps have surfaced that hold clues that may or may not say this was all an arranged job from within.  King Ulises, mapmaker (I can’t, it was great) Elias, and kickass warrior Mercedes are hell-bent on finding out just who exactly killed everyone and what that might mean for them now.  And damn, you’re gonna be shocked no matter what you predict is going to happen.

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What: Valerian: The Complete Collection, Volume 2 by Pierre Christin & Jean-Claude Mézières
When: 5/3-5/26
Rating: ★★★★
Review: This was a really fun continuation of the first three comics.  It took me nearly all month to read it, but that’s because I’d read one and then take a week or two off, and then read the next one.  I’ve been trying to stretch these out so that I don’t finish volume 3 when volume 4 hasn’t come out yet.  The plots were really interesting for all three comics, though I did find that the beginnings of each one kind of just plunged in right away with no chance to get my bearings.  I gave this four stars because of that, but also because Laureline seemed to be playing the damsel in distress role a lot.  She’s not normally like this, so that was kind of a bummer to see.  Overall, though, the artwork was gorgeous, the stories were interesting, and I’m excited to dig into the next one!

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What: Bad Call by Stephen Wallenfels
When: 5/27
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: I’d like to take us all back to my first ever wrap-up post of book reviews: August Reads.  If you’ll draw your attention to the review for This is Our Story by Ashley Elston, that’s pretty much exactly how I felt about this book.  I was really hoping I was going to get another crazy story like with Elston’s, and I was not disappointed.  This has the same kind of mysterious plot, basically four go in, three come out.  I mean, look at that cover.  You know someone’s going down.  The story itself follows the journey of four high school seniors who go hiking in Yosemite, but all of whom lie about where they’re going, so when a massive storm descends on them, no one knows where they are to save them.

It’s got all of the trappings expected in this kind of book–fighting, building shelters, romance, secrets, murder mystery (whaaaat), and it’s so goddamn good.  I loved every second of this book.  I read it in one day, both because I wanted to and because I could not put this down.  It was so amazing.  I just want so many more stories about boy friendships who have all these complex layers in them.  Give me Raven Boys but stripped of magic on repeat for the rest of my life.  Which is basically what this book was.  I texted Erin halfway through and said, “There’s a Ronan character in this, and it’s wonderful.”  Even beyond my favorite kind of characters and the really enticing plot, the writing was great.  I was just impressed on all fronts by this book.

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What: Autoboyography by Christina Lauren
When: 5/29-5/30
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: For some reason, I was dragging my feet with this book.  I kept wanting to read it and then not actually doing so, and even when I started, I only read about 25 pages before I went to do something else.  But Wednesday night, I told myself to just sit down and get to at least page 50, and suddenly it was 11PM and I was past page 100 and OH MY GOD SO GOOD.  This beautiful little story follows Tanner, originally from California and newly out as bi, who has moved to a small town in Utah where most of the residents are Mormon, so he very quietly doesn’t tell anyone he’s bi, but whoops, he accidentally falls in love with the bishop’s son.

GUYS.  When I tell you I felt like I was reading fanfiction, I’m not kidding.  It had everything that I love about fanfiction, and it was one wild ride.  This was such a sweet story of romance and of self-discovery and of love!  Oh, the love.  It was beautiful, and it hurt, and this is in my favorite books of all time.  I just adored every second of this, and I wish I could watch it all unfold again for the first time ever.

Also, I’m in desperate need of some amazing young adult gay romances, so if you’ve got any good recs, send them my way!


And that’s May!  I can’t believe I read 12 books this month.  Like, what?  I’m currently 3 books ahead of my Goodreads goal, I’ve finished part one of Saints at sea, and life is damn good.  However, out of the 5 that I had hoped to read this month, I only ended up reading 1 (Autoboyography), and I’m a little ashamed at that.  I have these grand plans sometimes, guys, and then I just–read whatever the hell I want.  I’m still going to try to pre-plan 5 books to read, but I’m going to start not putting rereads on there since that really is just whenever it strikes my fancy.

So, for the month of June, I am going to really try to read and review these 5 books:

  1. Wildwood by Colin Meloy
  2. The Archived by Victoria Schwab
  3. Whisper of the Tide by Sarah Tolcser
  4. Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Sea Monsters by Maggie Stiefvater & Jackson Pearce
  5. Caraval by Stephanie Garber

I’m cheating a little because Whisper of the Tide is a preorder that I am pulling my hair out waiting for, so I’m reading that as soon as it comes in, and Maggie’s is another preorder that I’ll probably read pretty quickly.  I plan on it being another great month for reading and writing, though, so stay tuned!

52k, Rambles about Romance, and Part 1 is done!

About five days ago, I posted that I’d hit the 30k mark for Saints at sea, and I was super excited, and over the long weekend, I cranked out another 22k and successfully wrapped up part one!  And as always, it was interesting getting here.

Let’s start with this weekend.  It was amazing.  I’ve really needed this.  Last weekend, or the one before, I realized that it was the first time I didn’t have anything scheduled on at least one of my weekend days since early March.  And even without anything scheduled, I managed to be busy pretty much all day every day.  So, when this long weekend arrived, and my boss let us out early on Friday afternoon, oh man.  I had plans for this weekend.  And those plans meant that I was not getting out of bed until this morning, on Tuesday.

Saturday was the usual–teaching yoga, grocery shopping, doing laundry, watching a little of Black Sails, and other similar things.  It was a pretty busy day, so when nighttime rolled around, I settled in to catch up on Nile Wilson’s vlogs, finish volume two of Valerian, went to bed early because we were supposed to go to Todd Farm in the morning, and woke up to rain.  Todd Farm doesn’t happen in bad weather, so though I was up early, I didn’t have anything to do.  Sunday was perhaps one of the best days ever.  I decided that I wanted to read Bad Call by Stephen Wallenfels in one day, gave myself permission to not write, and spent the entire day either reading or watching Man About Cake (I’m obsessedddd, I can’t stop).  Paused around lunchtime to watch the new Worth It because that’s my Sunday jam, paused again before dinner to do an hour of yoga and accomplished, for the first time ever, compass pose.  I was super stoked, especially because I’d done my first handstand EVER on Saturday morning, so it was a really good fitness weekend, as well.  In the end, I finished Bad Call on Sunday, it was amazing and I can’t wait for you to see my review, stayed up a little late watching Call Me By Your Name (help it was so good), and then it was to bed again.  Monday was a writing day.  I didn’t have any books that I wanted to start or finish that day, so I took up residence on the couch again and got to work.

(After running, ugh, why do I do this to myself.)

I realized, about 300 words in, that there was zero romance in part one, and that just did not sit well with me.  Spoiler: I am a huge romance fan.  Like, give me any romcom in the world, and I’ll watch it.  Give me one with Chris Evans in it, and I’ll watch it 87 times.  My favorite romances are AtonementBright Star, and PS I Love You, all ones that’ll shatter your heart.  My fanfiction is–you know, I was going to try to think of another word to put here, but explicit is the only one that comes up, and I’m not ashamed.  Why?  Because my fanfiction is usually a solid 50k (usually more) of plot and steamy romance scenes.  (No, I have not read 50 Shades, and no, I will not ever.)  While writing the first draft of Pen boys, I definitely put too much romance and not enough magic given that it’s a YA urban fantasy, but like, boys.  UGH.  I love boys in love so much, it’s my weakness.  There was really no reason for there to have been no romance in part one of Saints at sea, either, because when we start, there’s already an established relationship.  Not only that, but Henry & Cole have their own private cabin since Henry’s the ship’s doctor.  So, like, what am I doing wrong over here, guys?  This is bad.  I need kissing.

Maggie Stiefvater once talked about how the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy were capital K Kissing books, and that the Raven Cycle series were not.  That is definitely true, and I’m only mentioning it because I love that phrase “capital K Kissing books” so freaking much.  There’s kissing in TRC, and it’s delightful and makes my heart sing, but it’s, yeah, so definitely not a capital K one, and Shiver makes my bones melt, that’s how gooey it is.  It’s great.  It’s one of the reasons it’s my favorite book of all time.  (YES OF ALL TIME EVEN MORE THAN HARRY POTTER SHUSH)

So.  That begs the question.  Do I have any capital K Kissing books?  Hell yeah.  They all are, let’s be realistic.  But, they all also aren’t.  Okay, the Pen boys might just honestly be a capital K Kissing book, I’m not going to lie.  But the Saintsverse novels both are and aren’t.  Aren’t because they’re way more full of magic and adventure and foreign worlds, but also are because sometimes there’s an entire chapter of just straight up fluff and I cannot control myself.

Why is all of this relevant to the writing I did yesterday?

Because 300 words into a Julian chapter, I realized there had been no romance, and promptly wrote 2600 words of capital K Kissing material.  Like.  Damn.  There was no stopping me whatsoever.  I should have listened, though, because every few hundred words, I’d pause and frown a little at the screen, wonder if this was where this chapter was supposed to be going, and keep writing.  Originally, I’d planned for Julian’s chapter to have a scene with Sam in it, and for it not to be 100% devoted to his feelings about a certain crew member.  It took me all of those 2600 words to realize that I was getting way ahead of myself, that this scene could not happen until way later, possibly not even in this book, and that hello, I already have an established relationship that I can get my fix with, so back the heck off, delete those 2600 words, and start over.

This is not the first time this has happened to me in this book.  At the very, very beginning, when I was writing Julian’s first chapter (in his POV, not the prologue one), I wrote a good 1000 words describing this awful event that had befallen the Wolf, finished up the chapter, and realized that that awful event was actually supposed to happen in this book, and don’tcha know, now I have to rewrite the first chapter and fix my outline.   I now have a “scenes that don’t have a home” file, and while it’s infuriating, it’s also kind of interesting to see this happening.  I’ve never really been one to write things, and then scrap them for later.  I usually just let the story flow where it wants, and that’s how I end up with 180k word novels that are just every plot line I could think of shoved into one.  But Saints at sea (and, really, Saints 1 & 2, as well) have been different.  I’m trying to tell a story here, and there are some things that need to take a backseat until later.

Like capital K Kissing scenes?  Girl, the first two chapters of part two are definitely going to be in Henry & Cole’s POVs to make up for the tragedy that is no romance in part one.  I miss my boys in love.

After that debacle, though, and Julian’s chapter took on the space that it was originally supposed to take on (the scene with Sam is so much better suited to the story right now), I was able to really kick it into high gear.  I knew that I only had a Julian & a Pippa chapter left, and I was pretty sure what I wanted to do in the Pippa chapter, or at least where I wanted it to end, so I put my headphones on, put on a little Lord Huron (their album, Lonesome Dreams, has been on repeat constantly for this novel, as well as literally anything by SYML), and finished part one.  Threw some angst in there cos that’s also glaringly missing from part one, and that upsets me, topped it off with a quick week and a half time jump, and now I am ready for part two.

Or not?

Nah, not yet.  I thought about just diving right in to part two today, but I keep feeling like part one is missing things.  Romance?  Yes.  Angst?  Double yes.  Has this happened to me before in this verse?  Uh, actually, yes.  I didn’t even realize.  After I finished part one of the first Saints, I took a step back and realized that I’d left out all of the emotional bits.  It was just story and adventure and go go go.  There was nothing making me feel for my characters, which means there was going to be nothing making my readers feel for them, which is bad.  Therefore, though part one is done, it’s also not.  I’m going to go back, read through it, and fluff it up with all of the feelings.  Because, in the end, no matter how good the story is, if you don’t care about the characters, you don’t actually care about the story.  Victoria Schwab has been talking about this idea a lot lately, and I 100% agree with her.  If you’re not invested in the characters, you’re unlikely to finish the book, and even if you do push through and finish, you’re probably not going to remember it.  I want my readers to remember these characters, to cry and gasp and laugh over them.  I want them to feel their hurt and their longing and their excitement.  I want this to shake you at the core, just a little.  And that can’t be done without feelings, so it’s back to my favorite things in the world–capital K Kissing and hurting my characters.

Someday, I’m going to have an answer to why writers enjoy hurting their characters, but it’s not this day.  I don’t know why.  We just enjoy it.  We like breaking them apart so that we can build them back up again.  (Hey, maybe that’s part of the answer.)

For now, though, it’s back to work, back to working out and eating well, back to Googling what ships do at night and realizing that dropping anchor in the middle of the ocean is a stupid idea because the ocean is hecka big and wow I should have realized this long before now.

Pirates will be hanged | The Machiavellian

30k in 20 days

I’m currently listening to Panic!’s new song, High Hopes, on repeat, and it kind of feels like a celebration?  It certainly made getting out of bed today feel like I was about to conquer the world.  (Yes, I’ve literally been listening to it for over an hour straight.  No, I’m not going to stop anytime soon.)  It feels really appropriate, too, because yesterday was a good goddamn day for Saints at sea.

Corey Arnold

Like, holy.  I did a lot of writing.  For the first two Saints, I kept having a moment right around this word count that things were weird, that the story was dragging, that I was having a hard time getting to the point of the story.  So, I kept waiting for it to happen now.  Where is the struggle?  Where is the fight?  Why is this coming so easily?  Because it is.  It’s coming so naturally to write these characters.  I don’t feel like I’ve known them all my life, but I feel like they’re really easy to get to know.  They’re all so different from one another, but all of them have these unbreakable ties to the ocean and to their ship, the Wolf.

That being said, I haven’t really introduced them to the world yet.  So without further ado, here are the crew members of the Wolf, our main characters of Saints at sea.

Meet the crew of the Wolf. 🌙 . Julian ☠️ Oyster. Hidden treasures. Pippa. Zebra. The eccentric one. Mila. Phoenix. Open to new adventure. Nathalie. Black egg. Speaker of truth. Brennen. Lamb. The peaceful prophet. Nasir. Wolf. The guardian. Cyrus....

Meet the crew of the Wolf. 🌙

Julian ☠️ Oyster. Hidden treasures.
Pippa. Zebra. The eccentric one.
Mila. Phoenix. Open to new adventure.
Nathalie. Black egg. Speaker of truth.
Brennen. Lamb. The peaceful prophet.
Nasir. Wolf. The guardian.
Cyrus. Octopus. Yearning to be found.
Henry. Hyena. Seeking balance.
Cole. Horse. Freedom.
Corra. Hawk. The messenger.
Sam. Bee. Steady & found.
Avery 🌊 Fish. Lost in the current.

They bleed salt water and iron, and they’ve all got darkness lurking within.

But who are they really, you ask?  They’re very odd, is who they are.

Julian Mallory, captain, lived a normal life on a normal island for the first nine years of his life until his father decided to follow work to the coast, and Julian was introduced to the ocean for the very first time.  After nearing drowning (or maybe he actually did), the ocean saved his life, and he was forever in love with her.  He hates shoes, can’t stand being on land and indoors for much more than an hour, has a secret crown of driftwood and seaweed that the ocean gave him, has two falcons (Agrona & Kumara), and is often called a sea witch.  Ships that he’s on never endure casualties during storms, and are often assisted by the ocean during battles.

Pippa, quartermaster, sailed for most of her young life under the same captain.  He was a ruthless man who attacked a small trading ship, took her crew hostage, and killed more than half of them.  The other half, he either put to work and kept in chains below.  One day, after months and months of his men whispering about the sea witch they’d captured, he unchained Julian and gave him a space on his crew.  Pippa was slow to warm to him, but when, eventually, Julian killed that captain and took his ship for his own, she was the first to follow him.  She’s been with him ever since, and is the voice of reason when his fury is a little bit uncontrollable.

Mila & Nathalie, navigator & carpenter (respectively), were born and bred on the Vast Sea.  After their mother died in childbirth, the captain of the ship they were on decided to raise them as his own, and they’ve spent their entire lives at sea.  When they were old enough to strike out on their own, it was Mila who found Julian and convinced their father to let them work under a new captain.  They’re always the first to volunteer for wild adventures, and usually up to no good.

Love the fonts and sophisticated weathered-ness of old timey mapsBrennen, carpenter, is actually a sea witch, as the pirates call it, and a seer, as our friends on land call it.  She has gold eyes and white blonde hair, and it’s said that she can communicate with sea dragons, though no one’s ever seen one (yet) to prove that.  She absolutely refuses to go on land, and is almost always in Julian’s shadow, though you’ll never know until it’s too late.  She’s quiet around most of the crew, but adores Cyrus and Elijah, and can always be found singing somewhere.

Nasir, master gunner, is basically everyone’s dad.  As a young boy, he ran away from home and snuck onto a ship, intending to just sleep curled up on the deck hidden behind a coil of rope until the morning.  Unfortunately, when he woke, they were out at sea, and he was forced to stay onboard for the next year.  When he eventually returned to his home island, the captain dumped him back with his family, and a week later, realized that Nasir had been hiding in his storeroom so that he could stay at sea.  Though he’s not their cook, he often likes to help with their meals, is always checking to make sure everyone’s in good health, and is generally available for any questions one might have.

Cyrus, master gunner, might be able to out-weird Brennen.  His story is similar to Julian’s–he was found chained below deck on an enemy ship that the Wolf had attacked, barely consciousness and badly beaten.  When Julian freed him, he quietly asked to be saved, and hasn’t left Julian’s side since then.  Though he’s not fond of land, he won’t refuse to leave the Wolf like Brennen, though he will walk away if you ask him where he’s from.  He loves night sailing, sleeping in the crow’s nest, and being around his people while not actually interacting with them.

And the Wolf herself?  Three masts, a sun for her figurehead, stars carved into her hull, midnight blue sail with a crescent moon, a small crew, and built for both smuggling and speed.

That is considerably less people than are listed in the post I made with their tarot cards, I know, but Henry, Cole, and Sam are all characters from Saints, and Avery is still a secret.  But Corra?

Ah.  Corra.

In Saints 2, Sam asks Corra to come with him on the Wolf, to travel the high seas and find adventure.  She agrees, thinking it’s just what she needs.  It proabaly was, too, but it wasn’t for me.  I don’t know why, but every time I was writing a scene, I would subconsciously forget that Corra was there, and she would disappear from it.  When it finally came time for a chapter in her POV, I was stuck for a few days trying to figure out what the hell I was supposed to write.  So, I reached out to two of my readers, Alex and Jen, and was like, listen, be honest with me, does Corra belong on the Wolf?

The unanimous answer?  No.  It makes no sense for her to leave her whole life behind for someone she’s barely knows.  Thus, I made a decision and cut Corra out of the story.  And suddenly, I was writing the last 5k of that 30k like it was nothing.  I’m sad that she’s no longer in the story, but feel like it was definitely the right thing to do.

And Avery?

Sh, I’m never telling about Avery.

Yacht.Classic Yachting Art&Design @classic_car_art #ClassicCarArtDesign Writing this has been different, to say the least, and truly amazing, if I’m being honest.  It’s required a lot of research that I was expecting, but that has been way more fun than I thought it would be.  I still have plenty of research books that I need to read (thank you for the headstart, Matt!), and I found a ton of cool YA books that take place either at sea or on an island that’ll continue to help set the mood, and I’m finally rewatching Black Sails because of course it’s a little inspiration.  If I’m really being honest, though, Nikolai Lantsov is most of my inspiration for this book.  Let’s just get that out now.  King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo is one of my most anticipated books to read, and it doesn’t come out until next year, ugh.

The journey so far, though, has been really, truly wonderful, and I am so grateful to these characters for demanding a story.  It was born out of my love for secondary characters who have no business asking for their own story, and now, here we are.  We don’t even meet Julian in the first two Saints books.  He’s literally just referenced in, like, a four-line bit of dialogue, but somehow, that was enough to spark a series.

Which is an excellent segue-way.  This is, at the moment, going to be at least a trilogy.  It’s possible that it could be more, but it’s definitely going to be at least three.  I’m still considering it a spin-off even though it’s going to be longer than Saints.

And I think that’s quite enough because I’m feeling the pull to go and dash off another quick 5 or 10k.  As a thank you for reading more of my rambling thoughts, here’s a little of what I wrote yesterday.  Fair warning: it’s full of darkness.

Before the Dawn | Rosalianne

Julian closed his eyes, and let the rage catch fire.

He could hear Elijah calling orders, Mila yelling at Nathalie not to follow Brennen, and the thundering of feet as the rest tried to help, tried to find a way to quench the flame, tried to survive this night.

And beyond that, the ocean caught the scent of Julian’s rage, and started to churn.  He could feel sand between his toes and his choked breaths were stained with salt.  There was smoke in his lungs as the deck leapt orange and yellow, but there was a strange, dead calm in his bones as the first wave hit the ship, just a small, warning shove that barely rocked her.

Julian opened his eyes, one dark and flickering in the fire and the other black like the bottom of the ocean, like the spaces were nothing lived in light, the milky white gone.  He threw a dirty elbow, caught the boy behind him in the groin, and swung up to his feet.  He yanked the knife from his ribs, flipped it in his hand, and hit the girl squarely in the temple with it.  She staggered, blinking rapidly, surprised at being attacked, so Julian did it again, harder this time so that the steel bit angrily into his hand.  She collapsed to the deck.  Julian dropped the knife, hit the boy in the face hard enough that bone crunched and blood gushed from his nose, and then strode across the deck in quick, lilting steps.  His calf was screaming, and wet warmth was spreading across his side, but Julian ignored it.  The other boy was nowhere to be seen, but it didn’t matter.  He could hear the fire roaring behind him, leaping happily across his ship, his home, and when his hand caught the rail, Elijah’s voice rang clear through it all, “Cyrus!”

It was shrill and terrified, and Julian closed his eyes to it again.  His knuckles went white on the rail as he ducked his cut hand beneath his shirt, smeared it across the wound dripping blood along his ribs, and then flung his hand out over the sea.  At the first drop of his blood, something crashed against the bottom of the ship like a whale gone rogue.  Julian waited until he felt the spray of a wave building before he opened his eyes again, and the dark one was starting to stain green at the very corner, like veins of seaweed.  “Help me,” he whispered, and the ocean answered.

He could feel her twisting through him as he pivoted back to face the chaos.  His mouth was dry from the salt water coating his throat, and a cool, whip-fast breeze was slithering through the smoke in his lungs.  All around him, his crew was shouting and running.  Elijah and a few others were over the edge, hoisting buckets of water up to several men and women leaning against the rail.  Mila was throwing soaked blankets onto the sail to try to quench the fire.  Nathalie was on the forecastle, jumping up and down nervously as Brennen pressed back against the mast, her chest rising and falling in quick leaps.

To his right, the boy had risen again, and was trying to help the girl to his feet.  The rage blossomed like fire in his veins, nearly choking the ocean’s influence, but Julian swallowed past it.  There would be time to throw them overboard later, and the world be damned.  Instead, Julian rolled his shoulders forward, feet firm on the ship, and let the ocean swell through him.

Hold onto something!” he heard someone yell, someone that sounded like Nasir, and though many of them were too busy turning to stare in awe as a massive wave rippled toward them, Julian knew that the ocean would carry them safely if they were thrown from the Wolf.  He started running just as the first impact struck, the bottom of the wave bucking against the side of the Wolf, and as it cracked over them, he jumped onto the mainmast and started climbing.

The fire never had a chance.  The sea drowned the bottom half of the mainmast and much of the mizzenmast.  Julian didn’t bother holding his breath.  He kept breathing instead, and felt a rush of light and something otherworldly flood through him as his lungs flooded with seawater.  He hauled himself up the mast even as the wave began to settle.  It hadn’t reached Cyrus, who was stuck in the burning ropes, his screams echoing like bolts of lightning.

Brennen reached the topsail just before Julian did, and the fire wrapped around her even as she ran across the yard, making for where Cyrus was trapped at the other end.  She grit her teeth, muscles jumping in her jaw and pain lashing across her face.  Julian stayed just below the flames, and called for the ocean again, for something closer and taller and fatal to all other ships but his own.

Distantly, he heard Elijah screaming for them to hold.

Julian pulled himself up onto the yard as Brennen cut Cyrus free, picked him up, and prepared to jump.

A wordless plea fell from her lips, and she dropped onto the yard, holding Cyrus close to her as she curled around him.  “Julian!” she cried.

Julian dropped so that his legs fell on either side of the yard, ankles hooking tight and thighs squeezing against the wood, and wrapped his arms around them.  “Hold your breath!” he called over the thunder of the ocean.  In front of them, a tidal wave had risen and was moments from breaking.  Julian let it swallow them whole.

current projects: second edition

When I first made this blog public, I posted something titled boys, boys, boys.  It was a list of all the projects that I was currently working on in my head, and I posted it in July of 2017.  Suffice to say, a lot has happened since then, and that list has changed quite a bit.  That being said, I thought it might be nice to redo that post, and look at what’s going on now, almost a year later.

These are still primarily filled with boys, some of them have disappeared as their novels have been completed or they’re just so far from the realm of possibly being written that they can’t realistically be considered current projects, and some of them are brand new.

As before, I’ve also linked their Pinterest boards because I think it’s a great way to really see what the story is about, and they’re all in chronological order of when they came to me.

Madhouse

Mason & Co: Mason will always be a current project.  Like Alex the Destroyer, whose story is finally finished, he’s always on my mind.  After 11 years of working on nothing but Ronan (notice he’s no longer on the list), Mason was the first story that I tried to write that was brand new.  I have a feeling we’re going to be hearing from him this year, and that’s not only because I’ve plotted out his first novel.  It’s mostly because I keep almost straying that way.

About: YA urban fantasy.  Twenty-year-old Mason has recently moved to a small city outside of Bangor, ME where he’s purchased an old, abandoned building, and has his sights set on a tea cafe.  Immortal Dhaval is prepared to watch yet another fire elemental die, and is completely unprepared for how fierce Mason has the potential to be.  Characters include: best friend/water elemental Miriam, and Hyacinth shop owners/faeries Poppy and Aster.  There are a few other undecided characters that I still have to work out, but this takes place way before his original novel.  This is the beginning of Mason’s story, uncovering what it means to be a fire elemental while surviving in a world where just being a faery means execution.

Gallery For > Planets Drawing Tumblr ❤ liked on Polyvore featuring fillers, drawings, backgrounds, art, doodles, decorations, text, quotes, phrase и saying

planets novel: So, this was a thing a while ago, and I even posted about it on my social media, but it was never truly anything that I was seriously working on until now.  Even now, I’m only kind of working on it, but I’ve started putting the pieces together and figuring out where everything goes, so it’s starting to look more novel-shaped than before.

About: middle reader urban fantasy.  This is really just an excuse for me to write the planets as humans because come on, that’d be cute.  The plan, currently, is to write one novel for each of the planets, though some of them might end up grouped together or done a little differently.  And it’s really just about their adventures int his wild world of ours.  Characters include: sweet little Mercury who just wants his dad to love him, firecracker Venus, constantly dirty and messy Earth (duh), Earth’s older brother Mars who wants nothing to do with him and is going to wear black all the time like the little emo teenager that he is, crazy Uncle Jupiter and his wife Saturn, and all their wild little children (named after Jupiter’s four prominent moons), Jupiter’s gay brother Uranus who the kids adore, and quiet, sad, orphaned Neptune and his little baby brother Pluto.  OH GOD, IT’S SO CUTE, I WANT TO WRITE IT RIGHT NOW.  I might have gotten some of the characters wrong, but it’s been a while since I paid attention to this little story.

"We are nothing but Space dust trying to find its way back to the stars" -David Jones

comet novel: Still a thing!  I’m still actively working on this wild adventure.  And by actively, I mean working on other things and letting it work itself out because holy hell, it’s going to be complicated.  As before, comet novel takes place in seven different countries with eight different characters in several different decades (that might change), and it’ll still probably be something I don’t look seriously at until after I’ve gotten Saints and Pen boys out of my system.

About: adult fiction.  The plot of this is changing slowly, but surely, but still remains kind of the same in that eight souls are tied together, and they have to save the world for some reason.  Characters include: the wanderer (Midwest America), the free spirit (New Zealand), the monk (Thailand), the soldier (Egypt, but from Greece), the healer (ISS, but from Bolivia), the witch (Italy), the aware (Antarctica, but from Africa), and the reporter (Argentina), who all have names, but I don’t have my notebook and like a psycho didn’t type them up anywhere.

The thing about war ... is just when does it stop being a game? Does it ever stop being a game? We're all playing here, not battling for our lives but just battling to win."

the Pen boys: My boyyyyys.  I love these boys.  Theirs is a five-part series; three main novels, two summer novellas in between their years at Penhallam Academy.  It’s currently on hiatius while I work my way through the Saints universe, but I’ll be back before the end of the year, I think, and finally writing the second draft that they deserve.

About: YA urban fantasy.  Penhallam Academy is an all-boys school that teaches its students about magic.  It’s located in Gloucester, and there are several trips to Rockport.  There’s a few family demons in there, and some larger than life evil that our boys have to fight.  Characters include: sad Oliver Hollands (why are all my main boys sad, what the heck) who has recently just lost his mother and moved across the country, angry James Goddard who has recently just lost his sister and wants to set everything on fire, leader Harrison Eldridge who is every single kingly archetype that you can fit him into, and twins Jasper and Jensen Marlow, one of whom is following in his parents’ dark footsteps and the other of whom will remind you of the Weasley twins, whoops.  Oh, I love my original description of them: Oliver is terribly sad, very broken, and just trying to survive.  James just wants to watch the world burn, though only because it’s trying to burn him first.  Harrison loves bright colors, accidentally fell in love with his best friend, and is busy trying to make everyone happy.

The witches are coming.

sister witches: Oh gosh, I want to write this so bad.  I have no plot in my head, and most of the characters are just faces and names, but it’s going to be so fun.  This is one of those stories that comes to me in bits and pieces, and I just pin stuff randomly.  It’ll probably only ever be one book, and it’ll have some wild Big Bad in it that no one expects our characters to live through, and it’s gonna be hecka badass.

About: YA urban fantasy.  The only thing that makes this fantasy is that there are witches, so realistically, this should just be YA fiction, HA.  Characters include: sister witches Henley, Adelaide, Margot, and Wren, not actually sisters, but they all live together and practice together, as well as Brennen (oh that needs a name change, whoops) their friendly demon that sometimes lives his life as a cat, Eliot (Margot’s boyfriend) who is possibly just a human, Roman (Adelaide’s boyfriend) who is also possibly just a human, and Luciana (Henley’s girlfriend) who is definitely into something but only as a passing interest.

[ Ma Costa's Ship - gypsies, protecting Lyra and Pantalaimon ]

Saintsverse: At any given time, I think I’ll be working on something from the Saintsverse.  Currently, the original duology is complete, and I’m working on the at sea series, but there are also two other spin-offs: the seer edition standalone & the Saira Bone trilogy.  (It’s a trilogy?  That’s news to me.)  The Saintsverse is a world of magic, darkness, and brutality.  It’s full of characters who just want to do right by their homes, but who also maybe enjoy violence sometimes.  They’re dastardly, and they’re somehow still endearing.

About: YA fantasy.  Set in a world where the Vast Sea is dotted with islands where nefarious and awful things are always happening, and there’s usually a morally ambiguous protagonist to save the day.  Characters include: the Saints of Obera, crew members of the Wolf, seers & hellcat gang of Exis, the Ash family, a few priests both good and bad, and two wild women (one who travels the world and one who will shoot first, ask questions later).

there are thieves, who rob us blind: Okay, so, confession.  This is like Alex the Destroyer in that it was birthed out of a fanfiction.  I once wrote this really sad Bruce/Tony fic that took place in a bookstore, and I loved the plot so much that I stole it for a novel.  It doesn’t have magic, it’s sad and beautiful, and it’s really just a novel about my love of words.

About: YA romance.  You know all those bookstore fanfiction aus?  Heyyyyy, this is the real deal.  Characters include: sad Will who is in an abusive relationship with Leo until he meets older man Jude, best friend Emilien (that name may change, but I wanted to give him a fancy French name that he hates), twins Jolene (Jo) and Liana that work in neighboring stores, bookstore manager Eve, best friend Carter who works at the bookstore, and an unhealthy helping of kissing.  This book is so not like anything I’ve ever written, and I cannot wait.  This also takes place in Marblehead because I already used Rockport in the Pen boys.

And that’s it.  When I first pulled away from Ronan and started opening my brain up to the world of writing whatever I wanted, I had an influx of ideas.  I couldn’t stop them.  Now, a year and a half since I first wrote Mason, the brain has calmed down a little, but it’s still churning out ideas.  His is, truthfully, the only one that I knew about before 2017.  All of these are brand new ideas, and all of them make me so excited.  So, here it is, the reason why I’m usually only half-listening at any given time.  How I get anything done is beyond me.

April Reads

And that’s a wrap on probably one of the busiest months of my year, thank something.  I started out the month pretty slow when it came to reading, and was pretty certain that I was going nowhere fast with the desired 10 books this month.  By the second week, I’d only read two books, and I was two books behind on my Goodreads challenge.  But then, I finished editing my novel, my life stopped being chaotic, and I read all the words.


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What: The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis
When: 4/3-4/4
Rating: ★★★★
Review: This was so cute.  It was such an emotionally charged little book, and I really meant to take longer to read it, but I got so wrapped up in it that I ended up reading more than half of it in one sitting.  This was the tale of a boy who desperately wants to be out and wants to be free, but feels trapped by his family and his life.  It follows him through his journey to discovering that his happiness is the most important thing in his life, and not his parents’, and that being who you are, openly, is never a bad thing.

I enjoyed so much of this book.  I loved that the main romance came in waves, that it wasn’t just the thing that cured everything, and that it wasn’t constant throughout the story.  It was a very slow burn, and there was very realistic drama surrounding it.  The characters were really well-developed, and I enjoyed following them on their journey to figuring themselves out.  This was delightful, and definitely a must-read for anyone looking for more LGBTQ+ friendly books.

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What: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
When: 4/6-4/11
Rating: ★★★★
Review: Erin bought me this for Christmas, as well as the sequel because she said I was going to get to the end and immediately want to read the next one.  She wasn’t wrong.  Three Dark Crowns has one of the coolest plots I think I’ve ever read.  Every generation, a set of triplets are born.  They are raised away from each other, and almost always fall into one of three categories: poisoner, naturalist, or elemental.  When they come of age, they have a year to try to kill off their other two sisters and take the throne for themselves.

Like, what.  Come on, that sounds badass.  And it was!  I was constantly flip-flopping between who my favorite sister was, and who I wanted to win the throne.  There were moments when I didn’t want anyone to win it, and I just wanted them to run off together and say screw it to the island.  I definitely did end up with a favorite at the end, though, and I’m really, really curious to see how the sequel unfolds.  I really enjoyed the world, the characters (even outside the sisters), and the plot was just phenomenal.  So why only four stars?  It’s for a really little thing, but this was first in present tense, and it honestly tripped me up every single chapter.  It’s just not what I’m used to, and it kept pulling me out of the story.

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What: Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me by Lily Collins
When: 4/12-4/13
Rating: ★★★★
Review: Oh, this was delightful!  I’ve been eager to read this book for some time, and I was really excited to finally pick up a copy of it.  I love Collins’s work in film, and I was really curious to see what she would have to say.  This book reminded me a lot of Secrets for the Mad by Dodie Clark, which I read in January and have linked my review for there.  Again, I wish I’d really had this when I was younger.  I think every teenage girl at the end of their high school career should read Dodie’s book, and then at the end of college, read Lily’s book.  They pair together so well, and there are so many life lessons in there that I could not only relate to, but felt a great relief at for seeing that others have gone through similar things as me.

This is autobiographical, so it follows Lily from a young age until now, and it was really just lovely.

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What: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
When: 4/12-4/17
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: Oh man, oh man, oh man.  This was GOOD.  I actually gave the first one only four stars, but this definitely deserves five, and I’ll be straight with you, that’s because of Nikolai.  I’m a little bit mad at myself for not having read these before the Six of Crows duology cos then the whole Sturmhund thing wouldn’t have been a surprise and I would have been able to see so much more, so now I’m definitely going to go back and reread the duology before I dive into the short story collection.  Seige and Storm is the sequel to Shadow and Bone, which I read last month, and which continues to follow Alina Starkov as she searches for the second amplifier and tries to continue evading capture by the Darkling (who I still love a little a lot because he’s such a damn good villain, whoops).

This was really just so well done.  I loved every single second of it, and particularly the chapters at sea (for obvious reasons, and now I’m staying away from all books at sea since I want to write the first Saints spin-off so bad now).  It hadn’t been that long since I’d read the duology, but I had completely forgotten that Sturmhund isn’t who he says he is, and every time Alina kept thinking his face looked wrong, I’d go, “wait, am I forgetting something?  wait, is he someone cool?”  So, the surprise at him being Nikolai was almost as grand as it was the first time.  Goosebumps everywhere.  Nikolai aside–this was really well written, the world continues to get more and more gorgeous with every book, and the characters have come so far from where they were in the first book.  I’m really quite impressed with Bardugo’s early work, and I can’t wait to finish off this trilogy.

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What: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
When: 4/17-4/18
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: This was so damn good, and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read it.  I didn’t even know it existed, and this would have definitely been a book I gobbled right up multiple times in high school.  Speak follows the story of a young girl who is just beginning her freshman year of high school.  Something has happened over the summer, though, and Melinda is starting this terrifying new adventure with no friends and without a voice.  She must find a way to speak up, and to finally tell her story.

This was written in such an interesting way, broken up by little snippets of Melinda’s daily life, almost like little vignettes or stream of consciousness.  I truly wasn’t sure what had happened to her until we started getting details, and the way it unfolded was really well done.  This is such an important book, and one that all high school students should read.  It addressed so many issues that are prevalent during those years, and does it in a very believable way.

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What: When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
When: 4/19-4/20
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: Guys.  Guys.  I found another Ava Lavender.  The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender (linked there because WOW) is a book that I read in 2016, so there’s no review on this blog for it, but let me tell you.  That is now my staple for gorgeous language.  I’m always looking for another book that might come even close to as beautiful as that was, and I’ve found it.  GUYS.  When the Moon was Ours is one of the most exceptional books I’ve read.  Ever.  I don’t think I can accurately express how wonderful the language in this is–it’s beyond words.  I was hooked immediately, and I could not put this down until I’d finished it.

Like Ava Lavender, the intertwining stories of Miel and Sam are less about the plot and more about the way McLemore describes their lives.  The small and big details are both found in the language, and though there is a definite plot happening, it was not what drew me in.  I can’t say it enough.  The language in this is outstanding.  It is leagues above every other book out right now.  It is magnificent.  Read it.  And then read it again.

What: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
When: 4/20-4/25
Rating: ★★★
Review: I liked this about as much as I sighed loudly at it.  It was a real meh relationship because on the one hand, I really enjoyed the story, but on the other hand, man was it predictable as heck.  I just really didn’t want it to end in romance.  At all.  Like, totally ruined both of their characters for me.

This novel follows the story of Lira, a siren, who has her song taken away and is given human legs (sound familiar?) by her evil mother (who resembles an octopus, let’s be honest).  She’s sent to the human world as a punishment with her task that of taking the heart of the golden prince of Midas, who, coincidentally, teachers her all about love and sorrow and other human emotions that Lira’s been trying to destroy.  It’s The Little Mermaid, but with more violence and some pretty cool advanced technology and progressive topics.  It was good, but I wasn’t surprised at all, and kind of bummed at the ending.

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What: A Wind in the Door by Madelein L’Engle
When: 4/23-4/26
Rating: ★★
Review: This was honestly like reading an episode of Magic School Bus.  I didn’t understand half of what was going on, and didn’t really care for the other half.  The story did not pick up where the first one ended, and I was confused for pretty much all of it.  And upon finishing, I wasn’t really sure why any of it mattered.  So why two stars?  Because I liked the characters enough to keep on reading, and I’m still going to read the next one.  And that’s all you’re getting out of me for this.

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What: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
When: 4/27-5/1
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: Alright, listen, I know technically I finished this in May, but I really wanted to finish it before the end of April, so I’m counting it as an April read, so there.

Guys, this broke my heart.  In pieces.  In little, jagged, painful pieces.  I loved it so much.  This was honestly the perfect way to end this trilogy, which is so interesting to me because the Shades of Magic trilogy had a vaguely similar ending, and it really disappointed me, but this–yes, this was great.  I’m so happy about how this all wrapped up, though I think I’ll be a little bitter forever that Nikolai didn’t get the happy ending he deserved.  BUT ALL IS WELL BECAUSE KING OF SCARS IS A REAL THING IN THE WORLD.  Overall, I’m feeling very satisifed about this book, and I love it something fierce.


Good riddance, April!  It’s been a long, busy, sometimes hellish month, and I am not sad to see it go.  May is already looking promising as the writing vibes start to kick themselves back into high gear.

Out of the 5 that I wanted to read this month, I ended up reading 3.  And by reading 3, I mean that I tried really hard to read The Young Elites, got about 100 pages in, and decided not to finish it.  However, I did manage to read Seige and Storm and A Wind in the Door, so I’m pleased about that.  For the month of May, the 5 I hope to read are:

  1. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare (reread)
  2. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (reread)
  3. The Archived by Victoria Schwab
  4. Autoboyography by Christina Lauren
  5. Wildwood by Colin Meloy

Putting City of Glass on my list again since I do still want to finish my TMI reread, but didn’t put Inkheart back on as I’m not sure I’ll get to it soon.  Also WHAT WHAT, time to do a Six of Crows reread because holy smokes there’s so much I missed by not reading the Grisha trilogy first, what a dummy.  The other three are books that I got this year.  Here’s to a hopefully fantastic month!