My Christmas Gift to You

Author Banner 2019 Christmas Lights

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers, friends, and family! And for those of you outside the U.S.A. happy third-to-last day of November!

And to everyone: let the Christmas decorating and music commence!

I love Christmas. It’s my favorite time of year. (I love Thanksgiving, too… don’t worry, this isn’t me hopping on the “skip Thanksgiving” ride… today is one of my favorite days of the year and I hope yours has been lovely and restful and filled with good food and quality conversations and peace and that you have spent some time reflecting on those things you are truly grateful for… I know I have).

But I have a Christmas gift for you, and I couldn’t wait one. more. second to share it with you, I’m FAR too excited about it.

Like many of you, I have a lot of favorite Christmas traditions. Every year, we watch all our favorite Christmas movies throughout the month of December. The kids and I put up our Jesse tree and hang ornaments each day. We buy a new Lego Star Wars advent calendar each year because we’re nerds. I also pack up all the Christmas picture books when we put away the decorations so that I can pull them out, wrap them up, and put them under the tree and each night in December the kids pick one out to unwrap and read together as a family. Another tradition we started last year was Jolabokaflod, an Icelandic tradition in which everyone gifts each other books and we open them on the morning of Christmas Eve and then spend the rest of the day reading our new books and eating chocolate. (Could there BE a better tradition anyone has ever come up with anywhere?!?!?) It was awesome and we are definitely doing that again this year.

This year, I’m so excited to be able to include MY Christmas Picture Book in the mix of these traditions.

A few of you know that one of my dreams is to narrate my own audio-books. Yes, this is why there is no audio version yet, because making an audio book requires a few things I don’t have access to: namely TIME and QUIET. But it’s on my list.

But, in spite of my lacking the time/quiet/nice microphone that I need to narrate one of my longer fantasy novels… a portion of that dream has come true for me this year anyway! And today, I would like to present it to you as an early Christmas present. I hope you enjoy it!

Merry Christmas!


Make sure to come by tomorrow and find out about some awesome book sales and freebies you can get over the holiday shopping weekend… and if you’re leaving your house to join the insanity of Black Friday…. I salute you… from the comfort and quiet of my own home… be safe out there!

And now it’s your turn! What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?

~ jenelle

NaNoWriMo Log: Days 15-21 Falling Behind

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Looks like I won’t be “winning” NaNoWriMo this year after all. I fell behind rather badly this week, and now that the holidays have begun in earnest, I don’t see myself getting much if any writing done this week. But that’s okay, because I managed to write 34,869 words in 21 days, and that’s a pretty big number. I’m happy with it. Towers of Might and Memory is now 77,451 words long and I love how this story is coming together, and I’m enjoying the character development and how many of the various threads are getting tied up. There’s still a lot of work to do, and probably another 40-50k words left in the story, but I think I am still on track to finish the book before we ring the final bell on 2019.

Day 15: 37 words

Yeah… that’s really not a lot. But it kept my “writing streak” going.

Day 16: 85 words

Again, nothing much actually getting done on this day…

Day 17: 2004 words

Picked up the pace and actually wrote a considerable amount of story. Felt pretty good about how everything was going, but starting to get discouraged about how far I was falling behind on the daily goals.

Day 18: 2465 words

I think the word-count goal was getting to me, because even though I wrote a good number of words two days in a row, seeing that I was still 2,000 words short of where I was “supposed” to be was discouraging and I didn’t feel good about the writing I did get done. This is an ever-present possibility when it comes to NaNoWriMo, and can be difficult to overcome or ignore.

Day 19: 914 words

Yep, that discouragement was starting to paralyze me.

Day 20: 0 words

Wednesdays are difficult days for me to get writing done in general because it’s the day of our children’s midweek program at church and by the time I get home in the evenings and get the hobbits to bed, I don’t have a whole lot of energy left to for writing. If I don’t get it done in the afternoon, it rarely happens later in the evening. So I took a break and watched Stargate with my husband. It was awesome.

Day 21: 1072 words

Not a bad day of writing. Hit my personal goal, anyway.

Day 22: 3,352 words

I know the graphic says days 15-21… but I’m throwing in this extra day because I’m pretty sure it’s the last big day of writing I’m going to get in for the month. Derek got his nose broken a couple of weeks ago, (long story… short version, it was a crazy accident and no, he didn’t get in a fight, and yes, the slightly crookedness of it DID give him “a rather devil-may care look” as Luna Lovegood might say) but the long and the short of it was that he needed to have surgery to get it fixed so he could breathe correctly through his nose again, and today was the day for that to happen. Some wonderful friends watched the hobbits for us and I sat in the waiting room for a couple of hours and got 2500 words written while the surgery was happening, and then Derek insisted that I write a bit more later that evening after the hobbits were in bed… but I had a pretty awful headache and “only” managed about 800 more words.

Mountain Segue

And now the holidays are upon us, and while it looks very much like I won’t win this marathon… I am content. I am a teeensy bit jealous of all of you who have already hit 50,000 words… and those of you who have even managed 100k…. I am in awe!!! You are superstars and I am SO proud of you for all your hard work this month! And to everyone else, whether you were participating in NaNo or not, whether you wrote 0 words or 150,000 words this month…. your stories are worth telling. Keep up the good work. It’s hard, it’s thankless, and it’s not likely that you’ll get rich at it… but then, nothing worth doing ever came easy. There is a reader for every story. And you don’t know whose life you might touch, whose heart you might change with that story that only YOU can tell. So don’t give up!

And Happy Thanksgiving, dear Reader. I am thankful for YOU.


~ jenelle

NaNoWriMo Log: Days 8 – 14

NaNo Log Image (1)


And then November was halfway over, and most of us were left with something like whiplash…

It’s been quite a crazy time here. The days have been hectic, as they often are during NaNo, but this past week seemed to fill up with other things MORE than usual.

Day 8: 0 words

Yep. Day 8 was where everything fell apart and I got super discouraged. Actually, the stupid thing about it was that I DID actually write on this day. I wrote about 1024 words. Just… not on Turrim Archive. I saw that the Dynamic Duos theme deadline at Havok had been extended and I was seized with the irresistible desire to write a sequel story to Space Lanes. So I did.

But I didn’t get much written on Turrim. Which was what I was supposed to be working on. NaNoWriMo or not… that’s my MAIN FOCUS and here I was, wandering off in the weeds.


Day 9: 2304 words

But I managed to get my act together on Friday and pounded out a good number of words in the afternoon – I had to write in the afternoon because the girls and went to see a high school performance of “Shrek: The Musical” that evening and we didn’t get home until late. I was still behind, though… and heading into the weekend, which is not usually a good time for writing for me.


Day 10: 5,001 words!!!

Can I just gush for a moment about how much I love my husband? Seriously. He made sure I took plenty of time to write on Saturday, for two hours in the afternoon and another 2-3 hours in the evening, and I hit an all-time new personal-best record for most words written in a single day. And I really LIKED the words I’d written at the end of the day, too! Felt good to get ahead, too.

Day 11: 2139 words

Derek went out to play board games with a friend in the evening, so I hosted some word-sprints and got a good writing session in, staying more than a full day ahead of schedule.

Day 12: 738 words

Lost a little bit of the momentum I’d gathered. Also just had a REALLY busy day that involved an afternoon visit to the doctor, followed by grocery shopping, which meant that the littlest hobbit did not get his nap AND we didn’t get home until 4-o’clock, by which time, I had been out and about throughout my afternoon writing time and was too tired to spend much time on it that evening.

Day 13: 541 words

Didn’t actually expect to get much writing done on this day, as Wednesday evenings are when we have our mid-week children’s program at church. However, I had a little unexpected time and although I didn’t have my computer with me, I did find a pen and paper and managed to write for a little bit by hand.

Day 14: 1323 words

This week turned into a rather exciting/busy week as we had friends over for dinner and spent most of the day cleaning, but I did get some writing done in the afternoon, which allowed me to stay about a day ahead of the official word-count-tracker. This day of writing also brought me to the end of what I had outlined with Derek back in October (which was a more detailed outline of a specific event) and brings me back to my overall outline for the book, so that’s exciting. The story itself is now 67,000 words long and I’m guessing I have at least another 40k-50k words left before I type “THE END” on this project. My general target for each of these books has been 120,000 words, but that’s just a general goal… I’m more than happy to let the book be however long it needs to be.

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Where we go from here

This coming week I am hoping to get more 2k-5k days in and get a few more days ahead so that I can relax a bit over the week of Thanksgiving and enjoy hanging out with family, but we shall see.

I’ve had to do a little back-pedaling on the story… not in terms of erasing anything I’ve written… but in realizing that there’s still a lot of things I need to write back near the beginning of this story. Some threads from previous books that I need to weave in and tie off. And while I have the bare bones of the epic battle-sequence hammered out, now I have to go through and flesh it out more and add another level of epic-ness to it.

Snippets I’m particularly proud of

“Mouse! Mouse, wake up!”

The voice penetrated the foggy world that Mouse had drifted into. Not a full sleep, more of a light doze, the sort where the boundaries between wakefulness and sleep begin to blur and thought becomes dream and dream becomes thought. At first, he could not determine whether the voice came to him from the dream or through it.

“Mouse! Of all the times to fall asleep. Mouse!”

No, this exasperated muttering could only be emanating from the waking world. Reluctantly, Mouse opened his eyes and blinked away the crust of sleep that had already begun to form, trying to make out the identity of the individual disturbing his repose. “Mmm, whatisit?” he slurred around a mouthful of saliva. Swallowing it down, he straightened in the chair he had been dozing in, wriggling the kink out of his shoulders. “Um… Kayda?”

“He’s coming.” Her eyes were wide in her pale face, hovering only a few inches from his own. Even at this range, he could barely make out her features. The lanterns had been snuffed out and the only light came from the eerie way that it did on a cloudy night. What should have been a deep darkness somehow reflected the light of lanterns and torches in the city, giving the night an ethereal gleam. Her fingers tightened on his forearm and Mouse tried to ignore her nails digging painfully into his skin.

“What? Who?” With an effort, Mouse tugged his thoughts across the barrier of dreams and brought himself to full alertness. “The Igyeum?”

Kayda nodded, her lips pressed tightly together.

Mouse leaped to his feet and peered out into the darkness, rubbing his bleary eyes, straining to see anything. “Where? How can you tell?”

Kayda shook her head and shivered, wrapping her arms around herself with a faint whimper. Something protective and fierce rose up in Mouse at the sound. Rising, he deftly transferred the blanket that had been falling off his lap to her shoulders, putting an arm around her as he did so.

“Come on, let’s get you inside.” He tried to make his voice as soothing as he could, but Kayda stiffened.

“I’m not c-crazy!” Her teeth clacked together and her body shook.

Mouse stepped back, startled. “I didn’t say you were. But you’re cold and it’s dark out here. If we go inside, maybe you can tell me what you know and then I can go alert the city watch.”

The girl’s eyes widened. “You b-believe me?”

“Got no reason not to.” Mouse shrugged. “I don’t know what you’ve been through, but I know where Captain Marik found you, and I know what kind of shape you were in, and I’ve seen things all my life that shouldn’t be possible, but are. If anyone can sense the Ar’Molon from a distance, I’d bet all my stin on you.”


“Evening, myrthn,” he said.

The man lifted his lantern and his eyes flicked to Ioan’s collar. “Evening, corporal. What can the city guard do for you, tonight?”

“Nothing arduous, I assure you,” Ioan grinned. “I spent a long day training my new company and though by all rights I should spend a few hours in my bunk, my mind is restless. Might I quietly spend a few minutes up here with you, keeping an eye to the horizon?”

The older man’s face filled with shadows as his wrinkles deepened in wry grin. “We got the news of the sighting, too, captain. I understand your anxiety. But our scout was able to estimate their speed. We won’t see our enemy for a day or two, yet. More if they intend to be any kind of intelligent about a siege. A wise man would get the rest he needs while he can.”

Ioan gave a jerky nod. “You’re right. I know it. But I can’t quite get the message to my nerves.”

The older man waved a hand at the railing. “You’re welcome to stay as long as you like. Want a biscuit? The wife just brought me dinner a few minutes ago.” He pressed a crumbly, buttery mess into Ioan’s hand. “I’m guessing you haven’t eaten either,” he raised a hand to ward off Ioan’s protests. “The wife keeps me well fed,” he patted his well-rounded stomach with a chuckle. “You youths never eat or sleep when you ought to. I know you think you’re not hungry, but take a bite. You might change your mind. There’s a pot of beef stew I can share if you find your appetite.”

Ioan’s stomach rebelled at the idea of food, until he brought the biscuit up to his lips. The scent of baked bread and melted butter and the warmth of the freshly cooked biscuit vetoed his entire worldview. A second later, he was licking the crumbs from his fingers and his stomach gurgled loudly, demanding more.

The elder guard chuckled and Ioan joined him, laughing ruefully at himself as he gratefully accepted the proffered bowl and a heaping pile of hot, savory stew filled with large chunks of beef and generously chopped vegetables. More biscuits materialized from a large basket and they set to with a will, each keeping a wary eye on the horizon as they ate.

“Good of you to come by and keep me company,” the man said after they had both eaten their fill. “Alia means well, but she always brings enough food to keep a garrison of men full on the nights I have watch.”

Ioan smiled. “You are a blessed man, to have such a caring wife.”

The guard nodded an affirmative, but in the dim light of the lantern, Ioan could see that his eyes were full of worry. “I tried to convince her to leave. We have family only a week’s ride to the southeast. Great caravans of people left, she could have gone with them. But she wouldn’t. Said if she left, I’d likely starve to death, and did I want to leave that kind of blemish on the good name of the civic defenders here in Dalton?”


Myrthn Brin Foley stood on the wall, waiting while the two men assigned to his contingent loaded the massive coria shell into the ember cannon they were manning. Sweat dripped down the sides of his face and his breaths came with an effort in the dust-filled air. The Igyeum weapons had just blasted a new hole through the wall a few meters down from where they stood, throwing rocks and debris skyward. Brin had been struck in the shoulder by a shard of the wall. If the wall had not shaken so much that he had taken a step up onto the platform to which the cannon was affixed, it probably would have hit him in the head and killed him instantly. A part of him wanted to sit down and ponder his narrow escape from death, but the more disciplined part of him continued to bark orders while he focused on his duty. There would be time later to consider his good fortune.


She glanced at him and grinned. “Feels a bit like the old days, doesn’t it?”

He chuckled. “What? You mean way back in the days when we used to hire out our ship to hunt treasure for wealthy or desperate patrons?” 

“You were treasure hunters?” Grayden stared at them, his mouth slightly agape.

Raisa laughed, a wild laugh that danced away on the wind. “For a short time. That was back when I first signed on to Marik’s crew with Oleck, about… oh, thirteen years ago.” She eyed him. “I was a few years younger than you, actually.”

“I’ll bet it was exciting!” 

Now it was Marik’s turn to laugh. “We thought it would be. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of actual treasure in the treasure-hunting business. And a lot of times, our patrons couldn’t pay us for our time.”

“So you turned pirate.”

Raisa tossed her head. “We started as pirates, kid. The treasure hunting business was more of a side hobby.” She turned to Marik. “But it did give us a chance to explore some amazing places.”

“And introduced us to a few of our later marks,” Marik replied, grinning.

Grayden shook his head. “So what was it that made you decide to become a pirate? You don’t seem like the kind of people who take pleasure in hurting others.”

Marik’s mouth went dry. His eyes suddenly found Raisa’s and the levity of the moment and the fond memories disappeared, replaced by painful ones, filled with fire and death. Images swirled before his eyes, images he could never seem to outrun, no matter how far he fled.

Raisa looked away, her expression clouding over.

Grayden glanced between them, clearly expecting a story, but Marik couldn’t face those ghosts. Not while soaring over the place where it had all begun.

“Sometimes life tosses you a bryukva, kid,” Marik muttered, “and there’s nothing you can do but hold your nose and swallow.”

Grayden raised an eyebrow. “A what?”

His confusion pulled Marik out of the dark spiral of thoughts that threatened to pull him down into a vortex. “A bryukva. Don’t you have those in Dalma?” When Grayden shook his head, Marik clicked his tongue against his teeth. “Lucky you. Bryukvas’re the only unappetizing things that grow in Vallei.”

“They don’t taste that bad,” Oleck rumbled from his spot at the wheel.

Marik rolled his eyes. “If you can get past the smell.”

“I’ll keep my distance,” Grayden commented.

Raisa chuckled.

Mountain Segue

How about you? Are you ready for WEEK THREE? Do you have any Thanksgiving plans? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you reading anything particularly awesome? I’d love to hear from you!

~ jenelle

The Mandalorian: Spoiler Free Review

My spoiler-free reaction to watching the first episode of The Mandalorian last night:

To start off, can I just be honest? I hadn’t really paid much attention to the rumblings about this show. I knew we’d watch it eventually, we watch all the Star Wars things. But I didn’t watch any trailers, I didn’t do any research, and until yesterday evening I thought the show was a cartoon like Clone Wars or Rebels…. so… clearly I was up on all the happenings. sarcasm 

Also, Mandalorian lore is not my wheelhouse. I think they’re cool and I liked learning more about them in Star Wars Rebels… but they didn’t feature heavily in any of the EU books I read, so I am not an expert on them.

In the tradition of the Original Trilogy, the show actually starts kind of slowly. There are a few moments of tension and some action at the beginning, but mostly, it’s a slow unfurling of where you’re at in the galaxy. There is little dialogue throughout the entire show, and the Mandalorian never takes off his helmet.

Aside: Can we take a moment to talk about the helmet thing? I’ve seen some people complaining about not being able to relate to a character without seeing their face. But here’s the thing. Star Wars has already proven over and over that we can relate to and care about characters without seeing their faces. If we can feel an attachment to droids like R2-D2 and BB-8 and puppets like Yoda and care about what happens to a Clone Trooper or love Boba Fett even though he’s only  in the movies for like 12 minutes, or feel a thrill of fear and despair at the appearance of Darth Vader, then we clearly have no need to see a human face (or any face at all) in order to connect with a character.

Honestly, IMO the only major mistake George Lucas made with the OT was taking off Darth Vader’s helmet.

Okay, rant over.

However, none of these things is a problem.

Because the show, with very little exposition, gently draws the viewer in, inviting them to explore this as-yet-unexplored region of this galaxy far, far away and get to know this stoic character whose face we never get to see. With expert care, the show gives you a glimpse of the Mandalorian’s backstory and it is compelling. With very little script, we are brought to the conclusion that this guy is well-known and good at what he does. With subtlety, we get some moments of humor that assure us he is not a robot. And with one moment of striking poignancy, we see that he is as human as the rest of us, and far more than just a cold, calculating bounty hunter.

This was the most fun I’ve had watching anything Live Action Star Wars since Rogue One. It was everything the new trilogy should have been…. and wasn’t. I, for one, am looking forward to continuing the story next week.

I’m happily giving this pilot episode 5 out of 5 dragon eggs. Here’s hoping the show continues to impress me!


~ jenelle