Pirates. They are compelling in fiction. We love them. We root for them. We want to see them succeed. We want to see them redeemed. What is it about pirates? Perhaps it is the swashbuckling, swaggering way they walk through their stories, with confidence and aplomb we perhaps wish we had. Maybe it is that dangerous feeling that we’re not sure we can trust them. Maybe it’s just because we like the idea of living on the raggedy edge of the law… but are also happy to keep them safely in the fiction-verse.

Whatever it is, we cannot deny that stories containing pirates have a certain appeal.

And what’s not to love, really?

They add an instant interesting element to any story:

They follow their own code… which may not follow the law of the common man…

They have no fear, no matter what the circumstances are

They never try to sugarcoat the truth…

They are supremely confident in their own skills and abilities

And all the best pirates have a human side, a tenderness you wouldn’t expect… but love when it shows up, a side that makes you root for them, even if you don’t agree with most of the things they do…

They often have interesting back-stories…

My favorite characters in fiction tend to be pirates… which is why pirates feature heavily in my next series: The Turrim Archive.

What about you? Do you like pirates in fiction? Which ones are your favorites? Have a happy “Talk Like a Pirate Day!”

~ jenelle

Castle Behind Thorns

I thought I had reviewed these before, but I can’t find them, so I guess I never actually got around to writing the reviews! So today, in addition to reviewing the book I just finished, I am giving two mini-reviews. Three for the price of one!

I discovered Merrie Haskell a couple of years ago, and so far I have enjoyed everything I’ve read of hers. Her first book, The Princess Curse, is a very intriguing retelling that takes Twelve Dancing Princesses and then unexpectedly merges it with Beauty and the Beast. I really didn’t see that one coming, and I very much enjoyed how it added depth to the story. Because if there’s one thing 12 Dancing Princesses lacks… it’s depth. (No aspersion meant, it’s one of my all-time favorite fairy tales, but when it comes right down to it, there are a lot of holes in the plot… which is why I am always excited about a retelling, there’s just so much left to the imagination that it allows authors to take some very neat turns with it).

Then I read “Handbook for Dragon Slayers” which was not a retelling, but still had a very fantasy/fairy-tale feel complete with a princess, knights, and dragons.

About the only negative thing I can think of about “Handbook” was that the main character wants to join a convent so that she can be left to attend to the scribe-work that she really loves. This would not have bothered me, except that the main character in The Princess Curse has a very similar desire, except she wants to join a convent so she can focus on medicine.

I know how easy it is for an author to “recycle” ideas that they just love. It’s a big temptation… but it also can get a little annoying for the reader. I’m not saying I’ll never do it… for crying out loud, I find a word or a phrase I like and end up using it FAR too often, usually pruning it out in the edits.

So, it was with excitement and some trepidation that I picked up Castle Behind Thorns.

I needn’t have worried. There was nary a wishful desire to spend the rest of anyone’s life in a convent in sight!

Meet Sand. He wakes up all alone in fireplace of a broken castle surrounded by thorns, with no idea of how he got there. He’s seen the castle, of course, but nobody really notices or cares about it. But now he finds himself trapped. The castle is frozen in time, it seems. Everything is broken in half, but no rot or decay has touched anything… so the good news is, he won’t starve anytime soon. Though he does fear that he will eventually grow tired of turnips. A blacksmith-in-training (not an official apprentice, because Sand’s father wants to send him away to University, though Sand has no desire to do anything but become a blacksmith), Sand first works out the necessities to survive (food and a method of retrieving water from the well without a bucket) and then begins to set to work mending things in the castle.

However, mending things brings about some startling consequences…

This book was so good. I had no idea what was going to happen next. I was hanging on every word, aching to discover the secrets behind the breaking of the castle right along with Sand. I enjoyed the relationship between Sand and Perotte (who shows up in the castle and adds to the mystery) and how it developed into a truly beautiful friendship. I really enjoy that this author manages to consistently write stories that involve boy-girl friendships without ever hinting at a romantic thread (there is a bit of a romantic thread in The Princess Curse, but Handbook for Dragon Slayers and Castle Behind Thorns are very sweet friendship stories).

Overall, this is very possibly the most unique take on “Sleeping Beauty” I’ve ever read. I didn’t even really notice the Sleeping Beauty elements until I started thinking more about what I wanted to say in my review.

I enthusiastically give all three of these books five dragon eggs and my sincere recommendation.



~ jenelle

Liebster Award

I was recently tagged for the Liebster Award by Nick Wilford. Thanks, Nick! I’m always up for a good game of blogging tag… particularly as it means I get a “free” day in which I don’t have to come up with idea for what to write about! And, as I’m still furiously working on Minstrel’s Call AND Arda Academy is starting back up today, I thought a nice tag would be a good way to ease us back into the school year!
The rules for this game/award are simple:
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you
  • Answer the 11 questions
  • Nominate 11 new bloggers and ask 11 of your own questions

On to the questions!

1. If you were to write a historical novel, which time period would you pick and why?
I would probably pick the middle ages or the some time  during the age of exploration…. possibly even as late as the late 1800s.
The middle ages, of course, so that I could write about princesses and knights and castles… and possibly throw in a dragon or two… or at least reference someone THINKING there might be a dragon. But then, the age of exploration is just fascinating. I think I would enjoy writing about one of the polar expeditions or telling a story from the perspective of a crew member getting on a ship and sailing off into uncharted waters in search of “whatever might lie beyond.”
2. Have you ever taken a creative writing class and what did you learn? If not, would you consider it?
I have taken several creative writing classes. I learned a lot in them about free-writing, structure, taking into consideration the sounds in words and how they go together to create a mood or emotion in the reader. I learned about story structure and using imagery. I learned about tightening up my writing and keeping it shorter. I learned about how to use narrative to move the story along and paint the setting for the reader. I also learned that there are certain types of writing projects that I do not enjoy.
3. Describe one thing from your everyday life that inspires you.
My children. Their sense of wonder at each new discovery, the way they talk and process things, the funny things they say… they constantly inspire me.
4. What’s your social media outlet of choice and why do you enjoy it?
This blog is my favorite. I enjoy it because it lets me write short things that I can finish in less than an hour. I enjoy interacting with you, dear Reader, in the comments. I enjoy discussing favorite movies and books with people who share similar preferences.
5. What’s the maddest thing you’ve done when researching a story?
Um… I’m pretty boring. I don’t typically DO a lot of things to actively research a story. I think probably the only thing I’ve done for the purposes of research is spent a bunch of time outside during a downpour to see just how wet and miserable it would be. Other experiences that I’ve done have made it into books, but I was just doing them for fun, not to research for any particular story.
6. Pick a favourite book character and give one question you’d like to ask them.
Apparently, I… forgot this question earlier.
But the truth is… I have no idea. Most of the questions I have for characters tend to be in the heat of the reading moment, “WHY?! WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT?” But I can’t actually think of any specific ones at the moment.
7. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A teacher or an author. I also spent some time wanting to be a fighter jet test pilot.
8. Describe one ambition you would still like to achieve.
Successfully raise four kids to love the Lord God with all their hearts, souls, and minds.
As an author: See that little “best seller” flag next to my name on amazon. #AuthorGoals
9. What was the last book to make a big impression on you?
The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher. And the Lunar Chronicles….
10. Name one musical artist that inspires you and say why.
Brittany Jean – because she is making a name for herself with steady perseverance. I love that she doesn’t compromise her sound or her lyrics or write “filler songs” just to crank out albums, but puts care and depth into every song she writes.
11. Have you ever been lost and what was the outcome of the situation?
Have I ever been lost?
It’s not a true road-trip with me if we DON’T get lost at least once!
How about the time my roommate and I were driving from Indiana to Boston? I don’t think I’ve told that one here before…
It was Thanksgiving break and we were off to visit a friend who had graduated the year before. We were driving through the night, which may not have been the wisest decision ever, but we were poor college students and had no interest in spending money on a hotel. I drove the first half of the way. We stopped for a couple of hours in Pennsylvania to visit a friend of mine. We hung out, ate at Denny’s, tried to find a sled to go sledding… but struck out. By the time we were on the road again it was around 2am. We switched drivers around 4:00 or 5:00am — I don’t remember exactly — and I curled up in the passenger seat to get a little sleep, only to be awakened by my roommate yelling at me frantically:
“Wake up! Jenelle! Wake up!”
(I don’t wake up well… particularly when I haven’t gotten more than an hour or two of sleep)
I blearily looked at the clock: 6:15.
Then I looked outside. Some tall buildings. A few parking lots. Not tons of traffic.
I sort of grumpily asked what was wrong.
My roommate was rapid-fire telling me that the road she had been following had ended and she had to go over a bridge that cost $12 to cross (this was extremely important, you have to understand…. a $12 bridge toll was NOT in our calculations for the trip cost) and that now she was lost and needed me to navigate.
I had no idea what the name of the street we were on was, or any idea where we were in the country… as I pulled out the atlas (we didn’t have smartphones or GPS back then) and tried to reason out how far we could have possibly gotten. I sort of ball-park estimated that we were in New Jersey… and spotted an open parking spot on the road ahead that did not have a meter or any “no parking” signs near it. (That spot was a miracle straight from the Lord, we would soon discover). It also “happened” to be right across the street from a 24-hour McDonalds.
We stumbled into the restaurant, me holding the atlas, both of us looking less than stellar… and the friendly gentleman behind the counter asked, “What can I get for you?”
I tried to smile back and asked, “Where are we?”
He grinned cheerfully (obviously a morning person) and said, “Girl! You’re on the corner of 23rd and Fulton!” (I don’t know if those are the street names he actually said, or if those streets actually exist… but that’s how I remember it)
This was not helpful.
I sort of blinked at him and shook my head. “No… I mean… what STATE are we in?”
I don’t know if he was confused or amused, but he grinned again and said, “Girl! You’re in Manhattan!”
Dazed and a little freaked out that we were so far off course, I said a desperate sort of “thank you” and we turned and walked out of the McDonald’s.
Pretty sure he went home later and entertained his family with a story about the two crazy people who wandered in off the street with no idea what state they were in!
It took us 45 minutes to get out of Manhattan… leaving did NOT cost as much as getting into the city. Once out of the city, we promptly got lost in Newark, NJ and wandered around there for a good hour before finally getting back on track!
We did eventually make it to our hotel in Boston… and it has become one of my favorite stories to tell! It was a little stressful at the time, though!
And that’s the end of the tag/award!
I do not currently have the brainpower to come up with 11 new questions… but I would like to ask you all this: what’s YOUR best after-the-fact story? What is something that has happened to you that may not have been any fun at the time, but turned into a fabulous story to tell later? I’d love to hear about it!

~ jenelle