Adventures and Nightstand Books May/June 2019

Adventures& Episodes

Trying to stay on top of the whole Adventures and Episodes thing, as well as getting in my Nightstand Books post, but since I’m a bit late for both of them, I’m combining the two posts into one!

Writing

I wrote rather a ton in May. I wrote 12,776 words in Towers of Might and Memory before I had my complete change in plans.

Then I wrote approximately 17,000 words in Summer Princess (I’m not sure exactly because I apparently wasn’t keeping track. But I was at 14,000 on May 30 and 20,000 on June 3, so I’m going with a number between there) for a total of 29,000 words written in May! A pretty enormous month, all things considered.

The Summer Princess is rolling along nicely and I’m planning to hit 30,000+ words on that this week, reaching the halfway point (or as near as I can figure, I believe this rough draft is going to clock in somewhere around 60k, but it could be a bit more than that, depending). As of right now, I’m still easily on track to finish this project by the end of July and then I’ll get back to the Turrim Archive! The time off from Turrim Archive has been good for me, so far, and I am excited to get back to that story when this new one is finished, so that is good.

Reading

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Didn’t get a ton of reading done just for me this month. Except for North! Or Be Eaten, all of these were books I read with the kids, either for school or for fun. N LOVES the Spirit Animals series, so we’ve been reading it alongside our school-reading books. Personally, it’s not my favorite series, but it’s kind of adventurous and has some interesting story telling. I think part of my issue is that every book is written by a different author, so style and voice become a major component of which ones I’ve liked/disliked. Books 5 and 6, which we read in May have actually succeeded in drawing me into the story more, so that’s been nice.

I really enjoyed North! Or Be Eaten a lot more than On The Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. Not as many footnotes, which was nice, and the story just kind of picked up more and the characters seemed to develop more, so that was nice. I felt like the bridge scene and the running away from the Fangs bit went on for a while longer than it really needed to, but other than that, it was an enjoyable read.

Gladys Aylward was a great read (and not everybody died, so that was a nice change), love reading this series with my kids.

The Little Riders was absolutely beautiful and made me cry. It’s a tiny little book, but packs a wallop.

Watching

Let’s see. Didn’t go see anything in theaters in May. But we did watch a few movies:

New to Us Movie:

Mary Poppins Returns – this was kind of cute. However, it was not as charming as I’d hoped it would be, and I really didn’t love Emily Blunt’s version of Mary herself, and I thought the music and dancing was severely lacking.  “A Cover is Not the Book” in particular  was a song I could have done completely without. And Topsy Turvy was nowhere near as dear and charming as Uncle Albert from the original. The children were sweet, and I liked them a lot. Bert’s nephew, the lamplighter did a good job, but how do you follow a class-act like Dick Van Dyke? I have NO idea. The lamplighters song was cool and we got a moment of choreography that felt a bit like the original, but still fell far short. Trying to recreate the feel from an era where all actors ALSO had to be able to sing and dance in an era that relies so heavily on CGI and special-effects-trickery had to have been difficult, I’ll grant them that… but I think they could have managed to make up for that with sweetness and charm… (e.g. Christopher Robin). For my opinion, the writers and directors simply didn’t understand what made Mary Poppins so dear in the first place, and they missed the mark. As a tribute, it did okay. As a movie on its own or even a sequel… I found it disappointing.

Rewatching Movies:

Monsters University – always fun and one of those magical Pixar sequel-is-almost-better-than-the-original moments

Stargate – so love this movie.

Television:

Derek and I have begun rewatching Stargate SG1 and I’m loving it every bit as much on this go-round as I did the first time. I’ve missed these characters, so!

We’re still watching Star Trek: Voyager with the kids, and they seem to enjoy it. Well, okay, Leiana likes it the most… the others more tolerate it. hehe

Been watching the Netflix She-Ra with the kids… which up until the last episode of season 2 was cheesy and cute. However, we turned off the last episode of season 2 because they did the thing Netflix seems to think is okay in a kids’ show and we will not be watching that anymore. So disappointing. I am DONE with Netflix originals.

We’ve also been rewatching Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes as a family and Gracious, I love this show so much! Definitely recommend if you’re at all a fan of the MCU. I actually think I like this cartoon more than most of the MCU movies, so that’s saying something!

Road to Avonlea season 3. Love this series. Set in the same world as Anne of Green Gables, with some of the same actors/actresses playing the same roles, but new kids and new stories… it’s so much fun and so sweet and dear and wholesome and charming. We love it.

Started watching Miraculous Ladybug with the kids based on a couple of recommendations from some of my blogging friends and so far it’s entertaining and fun. Kind of feels a little bit like PJ Masks meets Littlest Pet Shop.

Life

Finished up the school year and looking forward to summer and all things summer. Just hoping it doesn’t fly by too fast!

NIGHTSTAND BOOKS

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This is my summer-reading stack.

Based on various recommendations, I’ve started reading Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett. I started reading it out loud to Derek and we were having such fun with it that I’ve decided to continue reading it out loud to him. However, it did mean I had to buy a copy of the book, because I’ve already maxed-out how many times I can renew it and we’re only 1/3 of the way through!

Don’t know if I’m going to get to Merlin: The Lost Years. I read this series many years ago and remember liking it, even though I did read it all out of order and somewhat backwards.

Spirit Animals — technically, I’ve already finished this one, but we’ve started in on book 7, so we’ll pretend that’s what is in the picture. mmmkay.

Crocket and Crane: Horseman by Kyle Robert Shultz is the June Fellowship of Fantasy Book Club read. I’m looking forward to that one!

Lady Dragon, Tela Du by Kendra E. Ardnek is the sequel to Water Princess, Fire Prince, and so far I am enjoying it.

Spindle by W.R. Gingell is another book club book that I want to catch up on, and I’m looking forward to diving in.

Summer Plans

Lots of time at the pool.

We’re also getting a yard put in so that our house will no longer look as though it’s in the middle of the Sahara Desert.

My kids are signed up for swim lessons and art classes and camp, oh my!

Derek and I have plans to spend our 15th anniversary celebrating in Chicago and catching a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, as well as going to a couple of my favorite museums and enjoying lots of Chicago-style pizza we don’t have to make ourselves!

And writing! Lots and lots of writing!

Here on the blog I have some plans to do a a super fun summer series on indie publishing, marketing, building your author platform, and whatnot! I’ve got some awesome guest-bloggers who are further along on the authoring-path coming in with posts on the subject, so I’ll be soaking up some of their words of wisdom right along with you!

What have you been watching, reading, writing, and doing here at the end of spring? Do you have any fun summer plans in the works?

 

~ jenelle

Ask Me Your Questions!

Dear Reader, I need your help!

I’m planning a bit of an “indie-publishing crash course” series of tips and tricks on the blog this summer.

I’ve got a couple of ideas, but I could use a few more.

Topics I’m considering:

Newsletters! Yikes! What are they and do I need one?

The Marketing Beast: how much do I need to do?

Social Media: Do I really need to be on there?

What do all the acronyms stand for? (also, if you have seen a writing-related acronym and don’t know what it means, please share it with me, because I’m blanking on all acronyms right now… LOL)

I have a finished, polished manuscript and I want to self-publish… what do I do now?


 

Your Turn!

 

Do any of these topics look particularly appealing? Are there any I should skip? What are the things you’d like to know about Indie Publishing that you can’t find anywhere else? What are questions you’d like to ask that you haven’t felt the ability to ask anyone? I’m no expert, and I sort of muddle through some of the technical aspects of things, but I am more than willing to share what I’ve learned thus far and what works and doesn’t work for me in the hopes that it might help YOU! So… ask away!

~ jenelle

Dark Phoenix

It’s been a long time since I went to see a movie on opening day. I miss the days of a big movie coming out at midnight and waiting in line outside the theater for hours playing cards and chatting with friends. I think, if there’s one thing I miss about college, it’s those memories. Nowadays, there’s no such thing as a midnight opening anymore. Everything starts on Thursday around 7pm… which is far more boring… but does work better for scheduling babysitters.

Anyway, Dark Phoenix wasn’t even on my radar. I knew it was coming out, but I didn’t intend to see it in theaters, and certainly not on opening weekend. However, a friend invited me to go and Derek was cool with watching the hobbits, so I jumped at the chance and we went to see it last Thursday. Opening day!

The theater was pretty empty, actually.

It’s not going to break any records. But for me, it was definitely the X-Men movie I have been waiting to see ever since the first one came out way back in 2000.

A lot of reviews have been bashing this movie, and if you compare it to Endgame, I can understand why. The reviewers are asking “Is Dark Phoenix the Worst X-Men Movie Yet”?

Short answer: no. X-3 was the worst. It continues to be the worst. Even Logan was better than X-3, and I really didn’t like Logan, either.

So, what did I think of Dark Phoenix.

Well, without giving any spoilers… it is a fairly straight-forward plot. I actually kind of liked that. It wasn’t the deepest or most philosophical movie on the planet, but sometimes you just want to watch something that’s fun.

And this movie was definitely fun.

The main thing I loved about this movie was that we finally finally got to see the X-Men being heralded as super heroes. They even get called that early on in the  movie. Thanks to the time-hopping that they’ve done in previous movies, the world no longer hates and fears mutants. They are heralded as heroes and Professor X has a direct line to the president who apparently often calls him to see if his X-Men can help with situations beyond the ordinary. FINALLY, the writers did something other than the “humans vs mutants” device that got old somewhere around the second movie in this franchise.

The other thing I loved about this movie was that we finally got to see the X-Men go up against a different villain than Magneto or some other mutant. (Though, perhaps it could be argued that they had a non-mutant villain in Apocalypse, but I either didn’t see that movie or I REALLY don’t remember it, because reading the summary just now doesn’t ring any bells at all). Anyway, I’m not going to say who the villain is because SPOILERS but it’s fun.

Overall, this movie felt like I was watching the 90s cartoon again, and that’s about the highest praise I can give to any comic-book based movie, because that’s where I first met all of these characters.

Objectionable content:

One use of the F-word that not only bothered me with its existence, also felt forced and almost scripted after-the-fact, as the character who says it delivered it in a “what? I’m supposed to say what, now?” sort of way in the middle of a scene where he wasn’t actually a part of the conversation. I’m not certain, but if I had to guess I’d guess they threw it in on the fly in order to guarantee a PG-13 rating. There may have been some other swears, but that was the only one that I noticed.

There is a lot of super-hero violence, which shouldn’t be surprising. Not much in the way of gore or blood, though, so that was good.

Mystique gets all angsty and shouts at Xavier that maybe they should be called the X-Women and that the “women are always saving the men around here.” Groan. Can we just… sigh. Please? Why? Ugh.

And that concludes the spoiler-free portion of my review.

My rating – a solid 3.5 dragon eggs (I don’t have half-dragon egg images, though). I know that doesn’t sound great, LOL but it means I found the movie to be solidly enjoyable. 3.5 stars for an X-Men movie is high praise. It’s not on par with the movies I normally give out 4 or 5 dragon eggs to, but it was fun and I’d watch it again. If this isn’t my FAVORITE of the X-Men movies, then it’s definitely up there in the top 3.

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SPOILERS BELOW – PROCEED WITH CAUTION

Here we get to talk about some spoilery things.

Ready?

Let’s go.

One of my favorite things about this movie was getting to see Magneto and Professor X on the same side. This happened occasionally in the cartoon, and I’ve been missing it in the movies. In fact, Magneto doesn’t really have ANY bad-guy moments in this movie. Even for the brief moment when he and Charles are at odds, you kind of want to side with Magneto on this one, especially knowing that he doesn’t have the WHOLE story, his actions make logical sense. Magneto is my favorite, and I love the way Michael Fassbender plays him so much more than Ian McKellen’s version. I like the broody anti-villain Magneto much more than the vengeful villain version. Haha, alliteration!

X-Men versus aliens. I’ve been waiting for this FOREVER. A NEW VILLAIN! YAY!

The final battle is just epic, okay? I mean… if you set up a movie to be a cerebral, puzzle-solving, thinking-man’s sort of story and then it devolves into a fist-fight or a question of whether or not the good guy can run fast enough to beat the bad guys (I’m looking at YOU Bourne movies) then I’m going to be dissatisfied with the movie as a whole. BUT if you set up the movie to be about powerful super heroes who must use their super powers for good or evil… then I’m perfectly fine with a movie that ends in an epic battle. If I go see a movie about the X-Men, I’m frankly going to be disappointed if I don’t get to see them using their awesome powers.

This movie does not disappoint. And Magneto finally gets to let loose in a way that is impressive and awesome (but not utterly stupid like his moving of the Golden Gate Bridge in X-3… no, I’m not over it and I never will be). Ahem.

The Phoenix. So much better than the way it was portrayed in the original trilogy. And they left potential for Jean to come back, so that was nice, though I’m not sure if they will. The X-Men franchise is so all over the place with plot holes and time hopping… who knows, this one is already being heralded as an epic failure, so maybe they’ll just remake this one with even more angsty females and return to their tried and true and super boring humans vs. mutants playbook… but I, for one, am glad this movie exists, and I’ll happily watch it again.

~ jenelle

10 Things I Love to Write

A while back a tag was going around twitter called “how you know I wrote it.” The object of the game was to talk about some of the things that pop up over and over again in your own writing, whether you plan for them or not, as things you can point to as part of your “author’s signature” if you will.

I tagged Christine, and then she decided to turn it into a blog post, and I’m stealing the idea (with permission).

Without further ado… 10 story elements I love to write… or “How You Know I Wrote It — Blog Edition!”

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1. Good versus Evil

This is a fairly standard theme for epic fantasy in general, which is part of why I like it, and part of why I love to write it! In my stories, there is usually a very clear line between right and wrong and good versus evil. I love writing a story with clear lines between good and evil and the struggle of good characters standing firm against all odds. To me, this is inspiring. In real life there are certainly gray areas, and this can even be reflected in my stories, but the line between right and wrong is never blurry. Part of this is intentional, I think it’s important for my target audience to know that there is a difference between right and wrong, but much of it also stems from my faith and my absolute belief that there are absolutes, that there is such a thing as right and such a thing as wrong. And in my stories, sure, evil may have its moments, but good is always going to triumph ultimately, because as a Christian, I know how this story ends. God wins. Sin gets annihilated. And if I can remind my readers of that with my stories even in the midst of all the hurt and darkness and sorrow that comes with life on our fallen earth, then so much the better!

2. Happy Endings

This doesn’t mean I’m never going to kill a character. And it doesn’t mean everyone always ends up in a fairy tale “happily ever after” sort of scenario. But spring-boarding off the tail end of element #1 up there, I like happy endings. I prefer them. Reality has too many sad endings already, and I prefer to look forward, beyond the temporal and toward the eternal. Knowing that one day there will be no more tears or sickness or pain or goodbyes helps me get through having to deal with those things in my own life, and I hope reading stories that point us in that direction helps my readers, as well.

That said, I’m not averse to writing a heart-wrenching death scene. I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again. I cannot guarantee that every one of your favorite characters in my stories is always going to make it to the end of the book (what fun would that be?) but I can guarantee that I’ll never kill off a character just for fun or just for emotional “punch.”

 

3. Mystery

I have no idea why this one sneaks into practically every story I write, but it does. Might be due to my love of crime shows. But I do enjoy writing a story that has an element of mystery to it. A character with enigmatic motives or a mysterious past? Give me all the mysterious back-stories!!! A puzzle to solve? A riddle to answer? A vaguely worded prophecy? A whodunit? You are bound to find at least one of these in any book I write.

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4. Fantastical Aspects

Stealing the heading straight off of Christine’s post, but it’s true. I love writing a story that requires me to do some world-building. Fantasy!!! All the fantasy, all the time! I definitely write varying degrees of fantasy, but that is where I like to hang out… I love stretching my imagination to write stories where anything can happen. I love making things up and thinking about different ways of looking at the world and wondering how having something like magic or dragons would change the way people would react or behave in certain situations! I love fantasy. I love science fiction. I can’t see myself ever writing anything else.

5. Well-developed and LIKABLE Characters

My stories are always going to be character-driven. (Not to the detriment of plot, of course). But I can’t write a story where I don’t love the characters, y’all. In any story I am watching or reading, if I can’t find a character I like… I don’t generally end up enjoying the story, no matter how great of a plot it might have. Almost all of my stories start with a character first. The story comes to me later. I am always going to strive to write likable, relatable, well-rounded characters. I know I’m not always going to succeed, but that is always going to be my first goal when writing any story.

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6. SUPER old characters

I’m not sure why this is. But it appears to be a thing I do. We’re not talking characters who are 80. We’re talking characters who are five-to-seven THOUSAND years old. I do not generally go into a story intending for this to be the case, but these characters keep insisting on being a part of the stories, and… well… I discovered long ago that the characters are generally right, so I must confess that I do tend to let them take over when they get unruly.

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7. Deep Friendships

I love writing a deep, strong friendship between characters. Friendships that grow and deepen through shared experiences, loyalty in the face of adversity, and sometimes the kind of grudging friendship that develops in spite of both characters trying really hard to hate each other (e.g. Brant and Kiernan Kane).

8. Families

There are a LOT of orphans in the fantasy genre. A lot of them. And while I understand the appeal, family is extremely important to me on a personal level. And so, while I may write the occasional orphan character, most of my characters actually come from pretty solid, supportive, loving families. This definitely produces problems at times when my character needs to go on a quest by themselves… in that I have to either come up with a convincing reason that the parents are okay with this, or something happens outside everyone’s control (so that I don’t have to write an angsty, rebellious character who disregards their parents’ wishes), but I do think that it’s worth the trouble to write stories that include healthy family relationships. They aren’t represented well in fantasy, though I have noticed that this is a trend that seems to be slowly changing. Also, siblings and solid, good sibling relationships… though I’m also not averse to writing sibling betrayals, either, clearly.

 

 

9. Light Romance

Sorry, my characters all tend to be a LITTLE too busy saving the world or preventing themselves from dying to be thinking about kissing all the time. And besides, not every relationship has to end in romance. (Yep, I said it).

This is not to say that I don’t ever write any romance or shippable characters. But the romance in the stories is not the focus, and my characters are not going to spend all their time worrying about romance or thinking about it or wishing for it. They are, as I said, too busy fending off Dark Lords and the end of the world and whatnot.

Also, clearly Samwise Gamgee holds the market-corner on “things I aspire to as a writer.”

10. A dash of weird humor and maybe a sprinkle of tears

I enjoy humor in my stories. I love a story that makes me laugh. I also enjoy a story that evokes enough emotion in me to make me cry. And I love it best when those tears come, not because something is sad, but because something is extremely beautiful. Now, my own particular sense of humor is a little… strange… so those moments of humor aren’t going to be slapstick or crude or even necessarily extremely witty. Nope, they’re going to be wry moments of a weird sort of dead-pan humor that you might not even notice. But those of you who do… well… you’re my favorite.

And tears… well, I don’t always know what is going to produce those, as emotional moments are going to be different for each reader. And sometimes the same reader will have a different emotional reaction at various points throughout the story on a subsequent reading. But I strive for beauty in my writing. If you find something beautiful enough in my books to bring you to tears… that is the highest honor I can achieve, and the highest compliment you can ever pay me.

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And there you have it. Ten story elements that I love to write, and that tend to creep their way into everything I write! I could talk about this ALL day! What are some of your favorite story elements to read/write? Do you share any of mine? Or perhaps you disagree with some of them, which is what makes our world an interesting place and stories worth writing! I love discussing stories with people who have different tastes, as well! Honestly… I just love discussing stories, period! So leave me a comment and let’s chat!

(Also, I was going to turn this into a blog-tag, but I don’t feel like tagging anyone specifically… so… if you liked the idea of this blog post… please feel free to write your own! I’d love to see what story elements are YOUR favorite to write!)

~ jenelle