10 Things I Loved About Common

CommonThis book tore my heart out numerous times. I can’t even express to you how many times I felt like the book could have ended so happily only to turn the page and experience the exact emotions of Luke Skywalker upon discovering that Darth Vader is his father!

I just finished this book last night and I am still processing. There were a lot of emotions throughout this story, and trying to sift through them is complicated. I think I’m just going to have to give you a list of the 10 things I loved about this book.

1. I’m not sure how to “title” this first point… so I’m just going to explain it, instead. This is the sort of book that has time-traveling capabilities. It’s the kind of book that pulls you in and refuses to let you go. It’s the sort of book where you lose all track of time and think, “I can’t have been reading for very long… I’ll just read one more chapter.” Only to look up and discover that your afternoon has disappeared. I love that kind of book, the kind that is so immersive that you don’t even notice you’ve spent several blissful hours reading.

2. Leah Wellstone. The main character was absolutely delightful. I tend to prefer male MCs and it can often be difficult for me to connect with female protagonists… particularly female protagonists who are telling the story from a first-person POV… so this is VERY high praise, indeed, because Leah has taken a place in my heart on the “favorite characters” list, and that is no easy feat! Unlike so many typical first-person female protagonists these days, Leah was not at all a whiny, self-absorbed, angry teenager with low self-esteem. She wasn’t a perfect Mary Sue, either. (A “Mary Sue” for those unfamiliar with the term are “perfect or idealized fictional characters who are able to perform tasks better than they should be able given their experience”) Leah was definitely not that. She had her share of flaws – she is shy, she’s a little naive and a bit too trusting at times, and she struggles with doubts about herself and whether or not she believes in the Luminate (this world’s name for God).

3. Rafe. Prince Raphael, to be exact. While there were times I wanted to step into the book and absolutely wring his neck for being terribly stupid, I just couldn’t help but love him, as well. Though he is impetuous, a bit reckless, and entirely too oblivious to how he takes his position for granted, he means well, and you just have to love him for trying so hard. Despite his flaws and youth, the author does a fantastic job showing that he truly does have the makings of a great leader and king…

4. Unexpected twists and turns. Another thing I loved about this book was how it kept me on the edge of my seat. I had no idea where it was going to go next. Leah runs into several obstacles throughout the story and with each one I was left wondering, “How in the world is she going to overcome that?” She always had a plan of some kind, but I could never predict what it would be.

5. This is another point I don’t have a name for… Emotional Investment, maybe? The story ripped my heart out multiple times… not just once, like normal stories… but it also did a good job stitching the pieces back together.

6. Friendship/Romance. I loved how Rafe and Leah were friends, and how it was obvious that they had been friends their whole lives, before they fell in love. I’m not always a huge fan of romance, but the kind I tend to like best is the kind that just sort of happens naturally and feels believable as the story unfolds. This was exactly the sort and amount of romance I enjoy in a story. There were emotions and a couple of kisses, but even though their romance was central to the story, it wasn’t overpowering and the plot and character development came first. I also loved that part of the building blocks of their friendship came through Rafe teaching Leah to read when they were children!

7. The gentle fairy-tale elements to this fantasy novel. There was a lovely fairy-tale feel to this story, though I didn’t notice it at first. For the first three-quarters of the book, it honestly doesn’t even seem to have very many overtly “Fantasy” elements to it, either. The “not our world” medieval castle/royalty setting was the only clue to the genre for much of the story. I’m not going to give any spoilers, but there are some more fantasy elements that come through later in the story that took me pleasantly by surprise!

8. Leah’s Mother. It would have been so easy for the author to make Leah an orphan. SO EASY. But I’m just thrilled that she didn’t. Leah’s Ma is an incredible character and a wonderful mom (which was a neat side-benefit to reading this in May right before Mother’s Day) and there just aren’t enough of her kind of character in fantasy. I appreciated the tension that having her mother around added to Leah’s life and the decisions she had to make… as her mother is both strong of faith and capable as a seamstress, but also not in the best of health.

9. Gretchen. Leah’s best friend did not get a lot of page-time, but she was a fun little bundle of energetic addition to the story. I loved that Leah had a fairly normal existence. She has a good position as a chamber-maid, and even has potential to move up in the world. She has a loving mother, good friends, and even her “boss” is stern, but kind, and thinks highly of Leah.

10. The end. I can’t say ANYTHING about this because SPOILERS but I will say that it is beautiful and perfect and I did NOT think it was going to be because the story seemed determined to prevent the ending from being anything like what I was hoping for… I think the thing I appreciate most is that the author let certain characters be far more than caricatures. People can change. Circumstances and events of magnitude can change minds and stances. Even those set in their ways can learn humility and wisdom. And that is illustrated beautifully at the end of this book.

11. Honorable mention: the nuns were another favorite aspect of this story, but I really can’t say anything about them without giving away spoilers…. so…. just go read the book yourself and then we can discuss!

Five Dragon Eggs – and I can’t wait for the sequel… and I’m not even upset or bummed that the sequel is about different characters, that’s how satisfying the end was!

dragonEgg5star

~ jenelle

Spring Cleaning Writer Tag

Today I am finally taking part in Deborah’s Spring Cleaning Writer Tag. While it’s been Spring for almost 2 months now… it only just is starting to feel like it around here (we got a TON of snow in April here in the frozen tundra this year!) But now it’s getting warmer, and we’ve had some rain that is helping the grass turn green, birds are flitting about… and so it finally feels like the right time to say, “It’s Spring!”

Rules:

1. Link back to the person who tagged you

2. Share the graphic

3. Answer the questions

4. Tag 3 other writers and let them know they’ve been tagged

The Questions

Dust-bunnies and Plot-bunnies: Reorganize Your Writing Goals (Or Make New Ones)

Well, we’re approximately a quarter of the way through 2018 (SHUSH, I KNOW we’re approaching the half-way mark, but I’m in denial… okay?) so it’s time to look at those goals DREAMS I talked about back in January and see how I’m doing. Perhaps rearrange them a bit… let’s see…

Publish Minstrel’s Call. Check! The fourth and final book of The Minstrel’s Song series came out on February 28, exactly 6 years after the debut of King’s Warrior. It made a little ripple in the reading world… and it feels good to have the completed series out in the wilds.

Something that wasn’t on my list and should have been was the release of Dragon Ward as part of the Mythical Doorways anthology. That came out on March 27th and has been a blast. The 11 stories are all quite good, I recommend them!

Drafting books 3-5 of Turrim Archive. Weeeell…. I’m about 1/3 of the way through book #3 so far (passed 40,000 words a couple of weeks ago). I am going to need to pick up the pace a bit if I’m going to get all three of these books drafted in a single year. I’m still trying to be optimistic, but I also know how crazy and busy life can get. This is definitely still the top priority.

I haven’t been great about putting out amazing content on the blog, but as you can see from the above point – all my creativity and writing time have been going into drafting. I would love to do the SilmAwards again this year, but I’m not sure I have the mental energy to run it again…. I need to make a decision about that, soon.

Going to Realm Makers. I AM GOING TO REALM MAKERS!!!! And I am SOOOOOO excited!!!!

I got a little side-tracked from Turrim Archive at the end of April and wrote up a little 5,000-word original fairy tale for the next Fellowship of Fantasy anthology, which will be fairy-tale themed. It’s fun and whimsical and kind of ridiculous, and I love it.

Which Stage Are You At? Expound!

I am currently in the “Painting the walls in colorful hues (writing)” stage. I am drafting as fast as my little fingers can type, trying to race this story to its completion. I have a feeling that the Turrim Archive books (and particularly the one I’m in the middle of writing right now) will be the first books I’ve ever written where I will be ADDING to the word-count when I’m done. I’ve been using and applying the things I learned in Chris Fox’s “5000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter” and it is incredible! I do feel like it’s helping me a ton with my drafting process as I plan out each scene.

I am writing this particular novel a little bit differently than I’ve done in the past. Usually, I write the book chronologically from start to finish. However, sometimes that results in some tangled time-lines that I have to fix during the editing process. So, with this book I’m writing each character’s (or set of characters) story-arc in a separate folder, and I will weave them together and figure out when each scene is happening with relation to the other characters’ stories later.

Treasure From the Back of the Closet (Share one to three snippets you love!)

Snippet One:

“Did you feel it?” Dalmir asked, still trying to figure out what had just happened.

“Feel what?” Ioan asked.

Drengur did not say anything, but shook his head, looking questioningly at Dalmir.

“What did you do, Tel?” Dalmir muttered. He could tell that something was different, but he was not yet sure what had just happened. It was hard to describe, but he felt… lighter, somehow. And younger. There was a sense of loss, as though something had been taken from him, but he could not quite point to exactly what it was.

“I don’t see anything that looks dangerous,” Drengur said, his voice in Dalmir’s ear making him jump.

“It’s hard to see much of anything at all,” Ioan said. “Most of the light seems to have stayed outside. Dalmir, do you think we can get these lanters lit? The matches got rather wet in the lake, but perhaps they have dried out while we walked?”

“Perhaps. If not, the orbs should give us a little light,” Dalmir said absently, still trying to sort through the strange sensation he had just gone through.

Ioan was trying unsuccessfully to light the lantern, so Dalmir reached into his pouch and pulled out his orb, intending to use it to light their way. As he tugged at its power, found himself falling towards the wall. Ioan and Drengur shouted in surprise as they also began falling in opposite directions, Drengur toward the ceiling, and Ioan hurtling to the wall opposite the one toward which Dalmir was heading.

“Help!” Drengur shouted, clinging to the chandelier, his head whipping back and forth.

“What just happened?” Ioan yelled across the room.

Dalmir struggled to his feet and found himself standing on the wall, staring up at Ioan on the other side of the room. He let out a long, admiring breath through pursed lips and glanced down at his orb.

“Impressive. Tel… now how did you manage that?” he whispered.

Snippet 2:

“Yes, sir,” Wynn replied, matching the man’s long strides. “There is also the matter of security. I imagine that you would want to be very careful who you disseminate information to on what our capabilities are, particularly with the prospect of increasingly negative relations with our neighbors to the east growing more and more certain. It would never do to allow information on the Trackless to fall into the wrong hands.”

Daegan’s step faltered. It was brief, almost unnoticeable except that Wynn had been matching his pace exactly. His eyes flicked over to the artificineer’s face and he saw a tiny, tell-tale twitch of the man’s lips.

“The Trackless, eh?”

Wynn felt his ears grow warm. “It just sort of came to me as I was mulling over the problem last night. I was thinking of the great trains. My da rode on them before they stopped running. I’ve always wanted to ride one, always regretted being born in the wrong decade… ” He dragged the toes of his boots along the stone floor. “It is your design, of course, but I didn’t know what you had named it. I wasn’t trying to be presumptuous.”

“Genius is presumptious,” Daegan snapped. “And it doesn’t need to apologize, at least, not when it’s right. As a point of fact, I hadn’t named it. I spent years planning it, but I never gave it a name. I’m no good at names. The Trackless.” He nodded. “It has a certain ring to it.”

Snippet 3:

Niveya whirled. Reaching across the table, he gripped Matei by the front of his shirt. “I have been many things in my life,” he growled. “And I have borne many insults. Many of them were even deserved. I am a thief, and a liar, and I am loyal to no man but myself. I have always looked out only for my own, knowing that nobody else would do so. I am a law-breaker and some might even call me a criminal. But you mark me: I have never betrayed a friend. And Lady Roshana was one of the few people in this world that I considered not only a friend, but an equal. She was a strong ruler with a shrewd mind for business. She beat me at our little games of intrigue as often as I beat her. And while we were not always on the same side, I would never have consciously done anything to hurt her. Now, your cousin is the only person who can ensure that the Lady Roshana’s killer is put where he belongs, and that is an event I wish to see with every breath in my lungs. So, when I tell you that you can trust me to take care of your cousin, you can believe that my words are true. Do you understand?”

Matei stared down at Niveya’s fist, full of his shirt, and then looked into his eyes, dark with fury, and nodded vigorously.

Bonus: Do Some Actual Spring Cleaning of Your Writer Self! (and share a picture!)

I have been doing some Spring Cleaning… necessitated mostly by the fact that the entire family got a nasty stomach bug at the end of April… but what that means right now is that there is clean laundry all over my house and I am NOT sharing a picture of that!

However, my writing space consists of my living room couch and/or my bed. Sometimes I write at the desk in the office, and now that it’s nice out, sometimes I’ll take the rocking chair out onto our balcony… and often, as in this picture, one or more of my children leaves me a little friend to watch over me while I write.
Workspace

Tag 3 other writers:

Trying to figure out who hasn’t been tagged already… Sarah @ Light and ShadowsBeth @ Beth’s BlogTo Be a Shennachie

No pressure to actually do the tag, and my apologies if you’ve already been tagged!

~ jenelle

May Magics Giveaway

Once again, the Fellowship of Fantasy is banding together to bring you fun prizes and awesome reading material!

May Magics

Use the rafflecopter below to win this super-fun journal that looks like a spell book, and has a wand-shaped pen AND the following titles to add to your own, personal ebook library:

The Bookminder by M. K. Wiseman

How to Catch a Unicorn by Various

Toil and Trouble by Jessica L. Elliott

The King’s Warrior by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt

​Toonopolis by Jeremy Rodden

Beyond the Fortune Teller’s Tent by Kristy Tate

From the Stories of Old by Various

Spellsmith and Carver: Magicians’ Rivalry by H. L. Burke
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

~ jenelle

Adventures and Episodes: Summing Up

Goodness, has it really been that long since I’ve done a monthly wrap-up post? I think the last issue of Adventures and Episodes was in November! tsk tsk.

Adventures& Episodes

“Let me explain… no, there is too much. Let me sum up.” <—This has become my life’s quote of late. Well, I’m not going to update you on everything since then, or we’d be here until the end of NEXT month, but a few of the goings-on in these here parts since the turn of the New Year are as follows….

Watching

Let’s see… what new movies have we seen this year…?

The Man Who Invented Christmas – a new all-time favorite! If you haven’t seen this one yet, I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you are a writer, this movie is a must-see, because you will identify so much with so many aspects of this movie. And if you are friends with a writer or have a writer in your family, this movie may help you understand them better. I have already watched it twice and I will definitely own this one at some point.

The Dark Tower – This movie was interesting. It wasn’t great – they were obviously trying to cram far too much plot and character back story into too short of a time, but there was nothing offensive in it, and while I don’t care if I never see it again, it did make me curious to read the books by Stephen King, and I’ve never been all that interested in anything he’s written before, so there’s that. And Matthew McConaughey did a great job portraying a super-sinister villain.

The Greatest Showman – By far the best movie I’ve seen this year. This movie is beautiful and powerful and elegant. The story is fantastic, the characters are amazing, the music is breathtaking. This is a movie that lives up to the hype.

Paddington – I know, the first one has been out for a while, but the previews made it look dumb. It isn’t. This movie is super-cute. Definitely recommend if you have young kids and you want to watch something that isn’t a cartoon with them.

Coco – I really enjoyed this movie. It kind of terrified my kids (most of the story takes place in the “realm of death” and several of the main characters are skeletons, so them being scared totally makes sense). This is one of those movies that makes you think, and can prompt some really fantastic discussions. I recommend it, but just know that even though it is a cartoon, it is kind of creepy, so it might not be the sort of thing your kids would enjoy.

Darkest Hours – This movie was quite intriguing. While it is not completely accurate to all the facts, it was a brilliant portrayal of Winston Churchill and the decisions and struggles he faced when he became Prime Minister. Also, Gary Oldman did a phenomenal job, as usual – I would NOT have realized it was him if Derek hadn’t told me. Definitely recommend this one.

Jumanji – This one was… in short… ridiculous. There were parts of it I enjoyed, and parts of it that were just… really stupid. Jumanji turning itself into a video game was clever, and I enjoyed how the writers and directors were obviously working to incorporate some of the feel and flavor of the original Jumanji movie with Robin Williams… but this movie ultimately fell far short of that mark. It lacked the sweetness of the original, and was nowhere near as terrifying. The humor was entertaining, but I’d probably only give it 3 dragon eggs… I’d give it 2, but I have to bump up one star for Amy Pond… she was hilarious.

Taken (TV show) – If you enjoy the movie Taken with Liam Neeson, this show is one you will love. While the actor they got to play Brian is NO Liam Neeson… he is VERY good at making you believe that he could BECOME Liam Neeson. And since this show is basically that character’s back-story, that’s a very good thing.

Star Trek: TNG – We’ve been picking our way through this show with the kiddos, as part of my never-ending quest to not have to watch cartoons for the rest of my life (I love cartoons and animated films… but there are a lot of live-action movies I love, too)! It’s been fun going through these a second time. And the kids’ favorite character, by far, is Q… of course. (He’s my favorite, too). They are highly amused to know that the actor plays the voice of Discord in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and I think that adds to their love of him.

Lost in Space (new version) – INTENSE! We’ve only seen the first two episodes, so far, but WOW this show is a white-knuckled, edge of your seat, thriller ride. Because of this, I really have to be in the right mood to watch it, but so far I’m enjoying what I’ve seen.

LEAP! – This is one I’ve been interested in for a while, and finally got around to watching. It’s on Netflix and in Redbox, and I definitely recommend this one. It is super cute. And the animation is just stunningly gorgeous. It is a sort-of Cinderella type story, and I enjoyed it enough to watch it twice in two days. The plot kiiiind of gets a bit ridiculous right at the end (an enormous sledge-hammer gets involved, and the Statue of Liberty… it’s kind of weird) but other than that, it was a very enjoyable movie.

Oh goodness! How did I manage to forget Black Panther? Seriously… this is what happens when you go 6 months between update posts. Really enjoyed Black Panther. When it comes to Marvel movies, I’d put it on par with my favorites, which are, in no particular order: Avengers 1, Iron Man 1, Thor 1, Guardians of the Galaxy 1, Doctor Strange, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Spiderman Homecoming, and Ant-Man. Black Panther was a really fun movie, with a villain who is actually not lame, which bumps it up in front of Civil War, at the very least. T’Challa is a compelling character and a hero worth rooting for, but Shuri was by far my favorite thing about the movie.

Reading

Haven’t read much for fun for just me this year, most of it has been stuff I’m reading to my kids for school. I was one of the judges for the latest (and last… sniffles) Rooglewood contest, so a lot of my reading time in January was taken up reading some amazing retellings of Snow White.

I did manage to read The Last Motley by DJ Edwardson and After by Savannah Jezowski, and even reviewed them! Both are top favorites for the year.

I also read The Birth of the Firebringer by Meredith Ann Pierce – This was a re-read. I remembered it when I was looking for books about unicorns for my common mythical creatures post, and I got a hankering to read it again. It was every bit as fun as I remembered. I did NOT know it was the first in a series, so now I have more books to read.

The Game by Diana Wynne Jones – the only actual DWJ book I managed to read and finish during March Magics. I believe I have read this one before, though I had mostly forgotten it, so it was very like getting to read it for the first time again. Cute story. Not my favorite of hers, but then, Chrestomanci sets a pretty high bar. So far, Howl is the only one who comes close.

The Black Reckoning by John Stephens – Finished up this trilogy I’ve been reading with my daughter (she listens to the audio books, and I read the paper version, and then we discuss… which has been an absolute blast). It ended in a satisfying sort of way. I did get my heart ripped out at one point, so I’m still upset about that. Book 2 is still my favorite of this trilogy. It’s a little “Series of Unfortunate Events” meets “Percy Jackson” in some respects… though the fantasy aspects are more classic fantasy than mythological in nature.

Mythical Doorways – I read through our anthology with the Fellowship of Fantasy in April and highly enjoyed all 11 stories. I am so pleased to be a part of this stellar collection, and happy to recommend. All the stories are family-friendly.

Writing

In the months of March and April I’ve managed to write 42,000 words in the third book of my Turrim Archive. I also wrote about 6,000 words for a humorous, short story that is an original fairy tale. I am feeling pretty good about how much writing I’ve managed to get done, especially considering that we had a week-long vacation and we had a few bouts of illness sweep through our family.

Life-ing

We spent a week in Orlando, FL at the end of March. Derek and I took a day at Harry Potter World in Universal Studios (with a minor detour over to Jurassic Park for a river adventure). It was a very fun “date-day” and we enjoyed being completely nerdy all day, wandering around Hogwarts and Diagon Alley.

We also took our girls to Magic Kingdom for a day (left the boys with Gma and Gpa) and had a super magical day.

AWANA has wound down for the year, and I am happy to have that off my schedule for the summer. I love AWANA and being the Sparks Director, but I also enjoy having summer vacation.

We are finally getting ready to begin construction on our house! Yay! Breaking ground is supposed to occur in the next several weeks, so I am sure that the summer is going to be a lot busier than I realize, but we are very excited to finally see this dream come to fruition.

Grayden turned one.

Brant is learning to ride a bike.

School is winding down. It’s been a fantastic year, but we are looking forward to summer: swimming lessons, bike rides, picnics, baseball games, hiking, and more!

And that’s a pretty good recap on what life has looked like in these first several months of 2018.

What about you? Have you read or watched anything phenomenal this year? Had any exciting adventures in the real world? How’s your writing going?

 

~ jenelle