My (Very Much Belated)Summer 2021 Reading Recap

Hello!

Meant to get this post out way sooner, but then school and school paper and Book Club and internship and pep band and community service work and social life and sleep happened. But better late than never, right?

Here are my favorite reads from the summer of 2021!

Let’s dive in, shall we?

First, we have the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo. A friend of mine recommended these books to me about a year ago, and I added them to my mile long TBR list and forgot about them for a while. Flash forward a few months, and Netflix released a trailer for a TV show adaptation. And what can I say, I’m a sucker for a good trailer (seriously, I’m in love with the energy of montage editing!). I was deep in Jane Eyre at the time, but I was sure to put those books on my summer list, and I’m so glad I did!

Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows are two series set in the same universe, with some character overlap. If you check these books out, I recommend starting with Shadow and Bone, since its events take place before those of Six of Crows, and it helps you get into the worldbuilding better. There are no major spoilers for Shadow and Bone in Six of Crows, but there are Easter eggs and allusions that are just way more fun if you’ve read Shadow and Bone first.

Shadow and Bone takes place in Ravka, a fantasy country inspired by tsarist Russia. Ravka has two major problems: 1- seemingly endless wars with their neighbors to the north and the south, and 2- the Shadow Fold, a swath of pure darkness filled with carnivorous monsters that cuts the land into eastern and western halves. When orphaned mapmaker Alina Starkov discovers that she possesses the rare ability to summon and control light, it becomes her task to save Ravka from the Shadow Fold… and those who seek to harness and weaponize its power.

I absolutely loved this trilogy! The world was unique and richly rendered, with vivid descriptions of beautiful settings with little details that really brought it to life. There were so many characters to love, the magic system was fun and well constructed, and the story itself was an adventure indeed. Some scenes made me laugh. Others brought tears to my eyes. They all had that “hard to put down” quality to them, but the last book in particular had me glued to the page well into the night.

Six of Crows takes place shortly after Shadow and Bone ends. It’s set in Ketterdam, a city of the island nation of Kerch, often referenced but never visited in the previous books. Ketterdam is home to some of the world’s most prosperous and cunning criminals, including teenage crime boss prodigy Kaz Brekker and his rag tag crew: Inej, a former acrobat whose skills help her work as Kaz’s spy; Jesper, an energetic sharpshooter who can never walk away from a wager; Nina, a former Ravkan soldier who can quite literally stop a man’s heart with the flick of a wrist; Matthias, a falsely accused convict who can’t decide if he wants to kiss Nina or kill her; and Wylan, the wayward son of a prominent merchant. Together they embark on a near impossible heist, each with their own motives. If they succeed, they’ll attain fortune and infamy. If they fail, it could forever alter the balance of power in Ketterdam and beyond.

These books absolutely blew me away with their ability to juggle six POV characters that all felt authentic, whole, distinct, and well developed, and if you ask me to pick a favorite, I would not be able to, because I love them all so much, each for different reasons. There were beautifully written lines that melted my heart and hilarious lines that made me laugh out loud, and the plot was full of twists and complex moving parts that kept the pages turning and destroyed my brain in the best way possible. Fantasy + heist= super compelling combination. The author got to expand on the world she crafted in Shadow and Bone, and it was so fun to see new facets of it.

There’s another installment in this fictional universe- the King of Scars duology- which I started reading yesterday. I look forward to seeing what these next two books bring, and I’m looking forward to season two of the Netflix adaptation.

Next up on my list was The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie. I started this book with my book club back in October of 2020, but all of us were busy, so none of us finished in time for the meeting, and I was in the middle of another book, so I put it down for the time being. I bought my own copy at Barnes and Noble over winter break. Great decision on my part. They don’t call Agatha Christie the Queen of Mystery for nothing. She has a knack for making the answer so obvious, yet impossible to guess at the same time, and her “big reveal scenes” are an exhilarating experience. There’s a certain thrill to watching and feeling all the little pieces click into place and having it all become clear. Spring semester, Book Club read Death on the Nile, which I finished and loved. I knew I’d have to pick up Mysterious Affair at Styles again soon. I thought it would make a nice summer read, and it would be refreshing to check out a new genre after reading five fantasy novels back to back.

The book follows the events leading up to and following the murder of Ms. Emily Inglethorp (how fun to have a fictional murder victim with the same name as me!). Not only was it Agatha Christie’s first novel, but it also featured the debut appearance of her iconic character Hercule Poirot- a former Belgian detective who stumbles upon new cases wherever he goes. He is, in my opinion, endearingly quirky and particular. He extrapolates the truth from the tiniest details, thing most people would overlook. He’s amiable and good hearted, but he never lets you forget that he’s the smartest person in the room. The narrator, Hastings, an old friend of Poirot’s, think’s that he’s gone crazy and makes all the wrong assumptions about the case. While I could see that Hastings was wrong, I couldn’t begin to guess what was right, and I enjoyed watching Poirot piece it all together.

Then, we have The Photograph by Penelope Lively. My aunt gave it to me a while back. It had once been hers (I actually found a lock of my cousin’s hair and a pressed four-leaf clover between the pages, so that was fun), and she thought I might like it.

This book centers around a man’s discovery that his late wife, Kath, once had an affair with her sister’s husband. His search for more information causes him and all those who knew Kath to take another, closer look at her, the ways in which they viewed her, the ways in which they treated her, the little things they overlooked, the events that led to her death, and all that’s happened since and will happen after.

I thought that this book was very moving and thought provoking, albeit tragic (definitely meant for more of an adult audience, and trigger warning, it discusses a suicide). Its shifting POVs allowed me to get a full sense of the characters, how they saw themselves, each other, and Kath. No angle was left uncovered, which gave the story a sense of depth and realness, and it illustrated the characters’ complexities. The book was written in the third person, but each POV chapter was tinted with its leading characters voice, and the messages behind the story are as beautiful as they are important: even the happiest-looking people can harbor secret pain, no one is above the depth and struggles that come with being human, and we all need to remember to remember each other. Through the hustle and bustle of our lives, all our responsibilities and ambitions, we need to make time for one another, look past the surface, and extend help, care, and understanding where it is needed.

And last but not least, we have World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. I saw it advertised in my Barnes and Noble mailing list subscription, and it looked like a really beautiful book. I mean that in the literal, visual sense, I mean, look at the cover! But I also thought the description was very interesting, insightful, and uplifting, so I put it on my Christmas list and read it over the summer, alongside whatever fiction book I was reading at the time.

The book is a fusion of mini memoirs and odes to nature. Each chapter discusses a different plant or animal species and the ways in which it has impacted the author’s life, either through an actual encounter she had with said species, or through a symbolic connection that she felt to it. She touches on topics of family, love, identity, belonging, life and death, and the beauty and fragility of our world, and does so in bright, captivating words. In the end, this book is a celebration of earth, life, memories, growth, and wonder.

This book really resonated with me. I love nature, being outside, and trying to tune in to all the beauty around me, material or otherwise, and that’s what this book was all about. It also served as a nice balance with everything else I read this summer. I read fiction to rejoice in the magic of imagination, and I read World of Wonders to rejoice in the magic of this world. It was a beautifully written, lovely, calming, grounding-yet-uplifting, and inspiring book. It made me think, it made me nostalgic for moments in my childhood, it deepened my appreciation for life and this world, and it reminded me just how amazing this planet is.

In the last few days of summer, I started reading The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler, and I finished it over the course of September and the first week of October. I might give it its own post here eventually, as I did quite enjoy it, and it actually gave me some ideas on how to format and market The Lockbox. I wouldn’t say that these two books have an overwhelming number of traits in common, but I do see a handful of similarities, and now I’m pumped to work on Lockbox more. I’ve allocated more time for it recently, and after a month off, I’m getting back in the groove with it again. Yay!

Next up on my TBR: the previously mentioned King of Scars duology, and probably something spooky in preparation for Halloween. Wish me luck on my reading endeavors, and I wish luck to you!

And let me know in the comments: Have you read any of these books, and what did you think of them? What are your favorite recent reads? Any recommendations?

Have an amazing day!

Jolly Genre Jubilee Blog Tag

Greetings again everyone!

A few weeks ago, the lovely Lauryn Trimmer of Pro Story Builders nominated me for the Jolly Genre Jubilee Blog Tag. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

The Rules

I do not know how to insert gifs, so sadly our pelican is stationary. 😦 He’s still majestic though! 🙂

The Questions

What’s your favorite genre to write?

I definitely prefer to write speculative genres- fantasy, paranormal/supernatural, anything with magic or some sort of twist on reality. Stuff like that has always fascinated and captivated me, and I love to give my imagination free reign.

What genre would you never get caught writing?

Hmm… This is tricky, because there are so many genres that I DO want to try writing. However, I will say that I have no desire whatsoever to write anything “X-rated” or excessively gory.

What fictional genre feels like home?

Fairy-tale-esque/folkloric fantasy. I grew up on stories of whimsical mythic creatures in picturesque settings, so stuff like that always takes me back to my childhood.

A tree from my front yard. When I was little, I thought fairies lived in it

If you could live in any genre, which would you choose?

Definitely something fantasy related. I’d probably choose the sort where magic exists in this world, hidden, but still there, because as much as I would LOVE to visit all the fantasy realms I’ve read and written about, I do love all the real places I call home, and I would miss them if they weren’t part of my life. They have a realistic magic all their own, even without incorporating fantasy elements to them. Still, it would be fun to see fairies flitting around my backyard, or to have some sort of magic ability as I go through life, or to slip through a portal to a parallel dimension and return home whenever I so choose.

What genre does your real life resemble most at this moment?

Right now, I’m a plucky, dorky college student with a hectic schedule and a wacky assortment of friends, trying to get my degree, make some memories, and grow as a person in the process, so I feel like my life could best be defined as a coming of age comedy/drama. There’s humor, there are emotions, and things are never dull, even in the most seemingly dull moments.

What’s a genre that you’re interested in trying but haven’t yet?

Historical fiction and mystery/thriller. I enjoy both, but historical fiction requires research that I don’t always have time for, and mystery/thriller requires a level of cunning and cleverness that I’ve yet to hone. Hopefully one day I’ll get to try my hand at both and see how it goes. My plan is to write a couple “classic” historical fictions and mysteries, and then maybe try some genre mashing by writing a historical fantasy or a magic murder mystery. I think that would be fun.

What genre is your most recent plot bunny, and where did it come from?

Not gonna lie, I had to look up what “plot bunny” means. But, upon discovering that a plot bunny is “a story idea that gets stuck in your head and refuses to leave you alone until you write it”, I can safely say that my most recent plot bunny is a fantasy quest story that I came up with last January and have since decided to title Out of the Blue.

The idea came into my head one night as I mentally spouted off random, entertaining sentences to occupy my mind to while putting clothes away and preparing to shower. They were just goofy little lines, things that may or may not find their way into a book one day, but then one particular sentence hooked me, and I just had to elaborate on it and develop the narrator and his voice and demeanor and actions more, and from there I had to develop this humanoid species that went with it, and then I got thinking about what kind of situations might arise from all this, what adventures could take place. I asked myself how, why, and what if, until I had the basis for a novel. I dashed off the first scene that night, and since then, I’ve been building on it, creating characters, settings, scenes, and back story.

I’m still not sure of the best way to summarize this story, but in simplest terms, it’s “Rag tag team on a long distance quest to the ruins of an ancient fallen city. Half of them are in it for the treasure at the end, while the other half are more focused on saving the world.” I’m super attached to the characters and the concept, and it’s coming along quite well. The Lockbox still holds my top priority, but Out of the Blue is turning into a very prosperous side project indeed.

How many genres have you tried so far?

So far, I’ve tried my hand at various fantasy subgenres, paranormal and supernatural mysteries/adventure, and a little bit of realistic fiction. I’ve also recently been dabbling in poetry and memoir/creative nonfiction.

My Nominations

That’s it for today guys! Have a lovely week!

End of Summer Recap

Hey guys!

Once again, I have come back from the dead to post here. I kept thinking that I would post more over the summer since I had more free time, but I ultimately decided to relax and soak up that free time as much as possible before it ran out. But I’ll be making up for that by posting three times this month: this post, a fun blog tag I was nominated for, and my summer reading highlights.

So, let’s get started, shall we?

What have I been up to?

Writing

I ended up dropping out of the 100 for 100 Writing challenge towards the end because moving back and settling into school was quite the busy and time consuming process. However, I did make a TON of progress on The Lockbox prior to dropping out (39,347 words worth of progress to be exact), and I’m in a really great place with it. I’m only a few chapters away from the end of the second draft, and after that, I’m going to start really diving into specific issues, like my magic systems/world building, characterization, plot holes, continuity errors, research, and things of the like. I’m not sure how long that will take, since this promises to be a very busy school year. But I’m just gonna keep at it until I get there, even if that means chipping away at it bit by bit during small scraps of free time.

Some concept art I did for the aforementioned fantasy story I’ve been toying with. The plot is still a little shaky, but I have lots of good ideas in mind.

In addition to Lockbox progress, I also played around with characters and worldbuilding for a fantasy idea I got back in January, wrote some poems, and started an effort to keep better track of the countless little story sparks that flit into my brain on a daily basis. So that was really great. Daughter of Gollerus is still on the back burner. I have a general outline for it and a semi solid cast, but the actual writing of it will require a good amount of research. I’ll get back to it though, one of these days.

Other Little Fun Things

I managed to complete an entire summer’s worth of waitressing shifts without dropping a single plate, which I call a huge success. I also went on a few fun trips to Maryland and Rhode Island with my family, hung out with my friends, and got my room in semi decent shape. So that was great.

I did not get the chance to finish reading the Narnia series, however, someone did give my mom a box of Turkish delights for her birthday, so naturally I did a photoshoot with my copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

And my dad helped me stain that box I bought back in May to make it look more like the box from Lockbox. We managed to match the color to the image in my head almost perfectly. We still need to put new latches on it and carve the poem into the inside of the lid, but that will be a winter break project.

Back to School

I moved back to campus last Sunday. I’ve got a pretty good room this year, some fun classes to look forward to, and a whole lot of extra curricular responsibilities ahead of me. Do I tend to overbook myself? Yes. Do I sleep much? No. But am I having fun? Yes. And will I be attempting to reduce my workload anytime soon? Hahahahahahahaha heck to the no.

In all seriousness, I am looking forward to this next semester. I’ll be busy, but I work well under pressure (at least I think I do). It helps that I have multiple planning notebooks, calendars, and color coded schedules.

A screenshot from a video of me doing karaoke at an event my school hosted the day I moved in. I sang “King of Anything” by Sara Bareilles. I sounded terrible, but I had fun.

I think the key to managing any cluttered schedule is to remember why you do everything that you do and to give yourself breaks when you feel like you’re about to burn out. I hope to apply both of those principles to my life in these next few months. Will it be easy? No. But will it be worth it? Yes. And that’s what I’m going for. Because I really love everything that I’m involved in here at school- my classes, my clubs, my friends, the overall experience of being here, and I want to try and make the most of it. I have a chaotic whirlwind ahead of me, but I’m looking forward to the ride. (Wish me luck though!)

That’s all for today. I’ll be back within the next week or so for the previously mentioned blog tag, and after the seasons officially change, I’ll give you guys a look at some of the lovely books I had the chance to read this past summer.

Until then, have a great day, and good luck to anyone else starting school right now!

Another Lockbox Update, Plus Some Fun Summer Plans

Hey guys!

I really do disappear a lot, don’t I?

I could say I’ve been busy, but really, I’ve just been relaxing and soaking up a summer of doing nothing after a school year of doing so many things. I’ve gotten a lot of writing done, quite a bit of reading, and a few other fun things. It’s been relaxing, and I’ve enjoyed it. I figured I’d give you guys a few general life updates, then get into my current progress with my WIP The Lockbox and some other fun author-related summer goals and projects.

Let’s begin, shall we?

First, some life updates

  • I got a waitressing job, and so far I have not dropped a single plate! (Trust me, for me, that’s an accomplishment.)
  • I turned 20…. which I’m still processing… like, I’m no longer a teenager… I’m in my twenties… it’s kind of insane
  • I’m actually starting to fix my sleep schedule! Granted, I’m not exactly getting to bed early per se, but it’s earlier than I was before, so I’d call that a win.

Now, some Lockbox updates

Hard to believe, but as of June 29, it’s been a full year since I completed the first draft of The Lockbox. The second draft isn’t quite done yet, but it’s progressing nicely, especially since I signed up for the Go Teen Writers 100 for 100 challenge, where you write at least 100 words a day for 100 days in a row. I’m just past the book’s halfway point, getting into some really exciting scenes, and having a lot of fun with it. I’m noticing a lot of areas for improvement, but I’m improving a lot along the way. I’ve a long way to go before all the wrinkles are smoothed out, but I’m at the very least identifying the wrinkles. Some of them are easy fixes, while others will take more time. The important thing is, I’m getting there.

My goal is to have the entire second draft done by the end of the summer, and then get into tidying up big issues, like plot holes, character development points, worldbuilding/magic systems, etc throughout my fall semester. Hopefully by winter break, I’ll be getting into the nitty gritty details and refining it all. We’ll see how that goes. Even after I have it all polished, I still want to workshop it with some close friends and relatives and really make sure that it’s the best it can be before I send it anywhere. I have another two years to go on my “query an agent by graduation” goal, so we’ll see how that goes.

And, some other fun goals, plans, and summer projects of mine

Fun fact about me- my brain doesn’t stop. It wants to do a million things, so if you give me free time, it will easily find a way to fill it with some project or another!

My summer reading list

Look how pretty all the spines look together!!!

After having close to zero reading time back at school, I’m going all out this summer. I just finished the Shadow and Bone trilogy, and I’m about to start the Six of Crows duology. (Yes, I chose to read these books after I saw the trailers for the Netflix adaptation. But I’m really glad I did. They’re absolutely amazing, and I highly recommend them to fantasy fans. I’ll get into it more when I do my Summer Reading Highlights post in a couple months!)

After I’m done with the Six of Crows books, I plan on switching up my genres and reading either The Truth Project by Dante Medema or The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie. I also intend to finally finish the Chronicles of Narnia series this summer, tackle some unread books that have been on my shelf for a while, and, if I have time, read the Lord of the Rings series. I’ve heard great things about them, and I quite enjoyed the bits and pieces of the film adaptations that I saw in middle school. Hopefully I’ll get to read the books this summer. If not, they’ll be a winter break thing, as they are quite long, and as I’ve said before, I have very little reading time at school.

Wish me luck on my literary escapades!

Other writing projects

In addition to working on The Lockbox, I hope to dabble in a few other writing related activities. I’m trying to revamp my Idea Bank, where I store all the concepts I like but can’t write at the moment. I want to try my hand at poetry a bit more and jot down some random story bits just for fun, like I did when I was a kid, letting my imagination run as it will with whatever inspires it at the moment.

I’d also like to put in some work with Daughter of Gollerus and/or my still unnamed quest fantasy. I haven’t done much work on Daughter of Gollerus in some time, and I’m finding that I miss the characters, the concept, and the world. I have been toying with the other idea a bit, and the more I do, the more I fall in love with it. So we’ll see what I have time for.

Possible video projects and craft type things

I want to try and finish the Lockbox book trailer I started last summer, and I plan to revise a video project I did for my editing class that I now wish I did differently.

And I’m doing some needle point patterns and such. Those are always fun.

This

So, yeah, I found this little wooden box while making a Target run with some friends, and I couldn’t not buy it. I intend to stain it an put new latches on to make it look like the box from The Lockbox. Granted, it’s a little smaller than the actual thing, but close enough. I’ll show you guys when it’s done!


And yeah. That’s about it for this post. Hopefully I’ll remember to get something else up again soon. Until then, have an amazing day! I hope you’re all enjoying your summer!

Happy Belated National Poetry Month

Hey guys!

Last month was National Poetry Month, so my school’s book club partnered with out literary magazine and posted poems all around campus. I though it would be fun to share my posts here. Here they are!

Posted in the windows of the library
Posted on a door leading to the patio of my building
Yeah I literally just left this one in my window when I moved out.

End of Semester Recap

Hey guys!

Guess who’s NOT DEAD!

Sorry for the prolonged absence. I just finished my spring semester of my sophomore year of college, and all of my classes were super time consuming. I only took one actual “final exam”. Everything else was project based, and those projects took a while to complete. However, they were a lot of fun, so I’m not necessarily complaining. I got to write a lot of stories, draft the outline of a TV show, and make some fun videos (one of which you’ll get to see at the end of this post!).

Now that the semester’s over, I look forward to my nice, long summer vacation (one of the few perks of getting spring break withheld due to COVID safety, which I totally understand, but still, it was draining). My goals: actually get some work done on The Lockbox, as school kind of cut into that; catch up on some much needed sleep; spend time with some friends; go outside more, maybe do some fun little projects; and overall relax and enjoy the little things after all the frantic busyness of the past few months.

I have nothing but free time now, and I am looking forward to it.

I do intend to post a bit more this summer. For now though, here are just some quick little updates that I thought would be fun to share.

I am now president of my school’s book club

Yup. I am now president of the beautifully chaotic group that is my school’s book club. Am I excited? Yes. Am I worried about managing it? Absolutely. Do I think I can handle it? Hopefully.

Book Club attended a school sponsored event this semester, where we built a cage of hula hoops and took turns crawling in and out of it.

I didn’t have much competition in the election. We’re a small club, so the only person “running against me” was another member’s mom, who can’t actually be president since she’s not a student, but I would so vote for her if she could, because she’s an amazing person.

But really, I love this club, our quirky little community, and all that we do together, so I consider it an honor to be able to lead them.

I placed third in a writing contest!

Okay, I’m really excited about this one.

A few months ago I heard that I was eligible to enter my school’s English Department Writing Awards. I submitted a few stories, and one of my submissions, “Digging Up the Past” tied for third place in the fiction category.

I was so excited when I found out, especially since I’d never placed in any writing contest before. It was a huge honor, especially since one of the guys I tied with was in my creative writing class, so I’d seen the piece he submitted, and it was really good. It was super cool to place at the same level of another piece of work that I knew and enjoyed so much.

I’ve made a Summer Book-et List

With all this free time on my hands, I definitely intend to get some reading done, especially since I had so little time to read during the semester (but more on that later).

Some of the books on my list include The Lord of the Rings series (because it’s about time I read it, and it’s definitely not a read I wish to undertake during the school year when I’m super busy), The Shadow and Bone series (because the Netflix trailers look really good, but I feel I should really read it first), and several other books that have been sitting on my shelves for many months now. Because, as I said, I did not have much time to read this semester.

In fact, I only got through one book.

Okay, technically two books. When my book club read Death on the Nile, I put aside my other book and made a conscious effort to finish it on time, because really, who wants to discuss a murder mystery if you haven’t reached the end? (BTW, if you’re into murder mystery, definitely read Death on the Nile. The twist destroyed my brain.)

However, aside from my book club readings, I only got through one book this past semester: Jane Eyre. I did enjoy it though, and now I have a sort of sentimental attachment to it, as it was the book of the semester. From now on, that book shall always remind me of Spring Semester 2021, reading by my little book light as my roommates slept, stealing a few chapters as I admired the wintry views out my window and waited for French class to start, or sitting outside when the weather got warm, knowing but not caring that I should be doing homework instead. It’s a comforting association.

After so many months in the world of Thornfield Hall and its surrounding settings, it definitely influenced my creativity. My Story Development final took place in a creepy old English mansion in the 1800s, and my Digital Editing final… well…

The professor gave us options for our final, and one of the options was “make a trailer for a film that already exists, but change the genre.” I decided to take one of Jane Eyre‘s many film adaptations and turn it into a horror movie. I thought that the imagery and even some of the events in the book would lend themselves really well to that genre, especially with the nightmare sequences and the fire scene. (Not necessarily a spoiler, as I did not tell you where the fire was, who set it, or why.)

So, here it is!

(Sorry for the low video quality. I was downloading fan-posted clips of a 2006 movie off of YouTube, so naturally they won’t look as crisp as one would like.)

And yeah. That’s a little bit of what I’ve been up to lately. Hopefully I’ll be able to post again soon. Until then, have a wondrous day everyone!

Daughter of Gollerus Character Reveal

Hey guys!

So, originally, I wasn’t planning on posting today, but I realized that St. Patrick’s Day might be a good day for a post about my Irish folktale-based story. So, I am happy to finally introduce you to Kathelin Fitzgerald, the protagonist of Daughter of Gollerus, my folkloric fantasy trilogy (currently on pause in the research phase).

I created this image using this website. It’s not ideal, and it doesn’t offer full body options, but it gets the job done, and since I can’t really draw, I use it a lot.

Name: Kathelin Fitzgerald

Age: around 15

Overview: Kathelin is the daughter of a human man and a merrow (mermaid) woman. Her earliest vivid memory is the day her mother left the family and ran back to her life in the sea. (She has a few memories of life before that, but they are vague and hazy.) Her mother’s last request was for her to be good and take care of her brothers until she got back, and Kathelin took that to heart. She is very responsible and sensible, yet worried for her loved ones. Quiet and earnest. Big heart and full of joyful kindness, especially for her family. Sometimes people in town compare her disposition to that of her mother.

She doesn’t know how to feel about her mother. On one hand, she is mad at her for leaving and causing her father so much pain. On the other, she wonders if her mother wanted to return but couldn’t, and she can’t fully bring herself to hate her, especially since her mother has become so much of a mythic figure to her. A merrow who vanished long ago. Distant, magical, and unreal. 

She is afraid of the ocean. Afraid of the connection it gives her to her mother. Afraid that she might find her mother there. Afraid that the waves might entice her to leave too. 

She loves to sing, and has a lovely, light voice that is neither high nor low. It is very smooth and clear and it flows like a gentle stream. 

She does not believe that her mother will ever return but often wonders what it would be like if she did. 

Strengths:

  • Intelligent, responsible, sensible, and bright
  • Knows how to take care of others and herself, not much she can’t handle. Strong and independent.
  • Kind, sensitive, caring, sweet
  • Gentle demeanor, good sense of humor
  • Loving daughter and big sister

Challenges/Fears:

  • Simultaneously angry with and sympathetic towards her mother. Complicated relationship and feelings
  • Fears the ocean, the merrow world, and her place in it, although she is still curious.
  • Fears abandoning her father and brothers
  • She’s a little TOO responsible for her own good. She takes it upon herself to care for everyone and everything, and could use a break.

So yeah. That’s what I have for Kathelin so far (or at least all I can reveal without spoiling anything!).

This whole book actually started with Kathelin. I read the original folktale, and even though Kathelin played such a small role, she came to life for me. I saw a lot of potential in her and her side of the story, and I had questions about her that I wanted answered. The rest of the book started to spring up around her and the rest of her family. It will be a while before I have the chance to sit down and get serious with this book, but I’m looking forward to it!

Let me know what you think of Kathelin in the comments, and have an amazing rest of the week!

Just a Few Quick Updates (plus a little something fun)

Hey guys!

It’s been a while huh? Sorry. School’s been busy, so while I’ve had a few blog ideas in the works for some time now, I haven’t had the chance to actually write them. Don’t worry though. They shall come… eventually. *shrug* (What can I say, college eats up a lot of time… hint hint at the subject of one of said posts.)

Anyway, I figured that I’d give a few brief updates on how my writing’s going while I have the chance. So here we go:

Daughter of Gollerus (research/planning phase):

Photo by Nick Bondarev on Pexels.com

I’ve fleshed out a pretty detailed outline of the first book, as well as a lot of the characters (I know I mentioned a character reveal for my protagonist a few posts ago, and it will come at some point). However, I have not started drafting yet. I want to do more research on Irish mythology so I can infuse the prose of my story with tones and tropes from the old tales. I also want to make sure that I understand basic oceanography and marine biology before I write a book that takes place underwater 90% of the time. So as much as I love this story and will continue to blog and brainstorm about it, it’s on the backburner until my summer break when I have time to do some in depth searching.

The Unnamed Quest Fantasy (drafting phase):

This one is actually going pretty well. It’s still really shiny and new and fun, so whenever I have a chance, I dash off a page or two or five. I’m getting a better sense of the world and its history and magic systems, and I’m really falling in love with my cast of characters. I’m just sort of freewriting it, no outline, just to see what I can come up with. It’s become a light-hearted, carefree side project for me. I’m about seven chapters in and really enjoying it. It still needs a title, but one will come to me in time.

The Lockbox (editing phase):

I’m making slow but steady progress, and I’m enjoying it. For a while I feared that I was getting so swept up in my fantasy project that I was losing touch with Lockbox, but I’ve since gotten in a good groove with it again. My excitement for it is back, and as I edit, I gain better understandings of my characters, the story structure, the magic system I’ve set up, and what I want this book to be. I’m currently editing Chapter 18, which is a few chapters off from the halfway point (it’s a LONG book, and it will need some trimming). I’ve hit a really fun part of the story, and I’m super thrilled to edit it!

I’ve done a pretty good job of sticking to the writing schedule I laid out a few posts ago. I don’t always write at the exact time that I intend to, but I always get at least one hour of writing in per designated day. The only exception is this past Monday, when I ended up staying up until 1 AM working on a project due the next day. But considering that I’ve made it this far without breaking my schedule, I’d say I’ve earned a grace day. Besides, the aforementioned project was actually pretty fun.

Which brings us to the fun part of this post! I’m currently taking a class on story idea development. Each week, we get assigned a different topic and have to write a pitch for a TV or film piece. This past week, we had to adapt a fairy tale into a movie set in modern times. It was this assignment that kept me from my normal writing schedule on Monday night… because the class is Tuesday morning and I procrastinated… but anyway, I had a lot of fun with this story, so I thought I’d share it here. I might turn it into a full book one day, but that will be in the much distant future. I mean, I can barely handle the three WIPs I have as it is.

So, without further ado, I present to you Red as Blood: Little Red Riding Hood as a modern day monster hunter on a cross country road trip!

Title: Red as Blood

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy/Coming of Age

Main Character: Sienna Rider, an 18-year-old girl descended from a line of hunters that protect humanity from malevolent wolf-like creatures that live in our world undetected. One such monster killed her parents when she was a baby, and her aunt raised her. Spunky, energetic, and curious, but a tad naïve/overly trusting.

  • Goals: Reach her grandmother’s house on the other side of the country in order to learn how to kill the wolf-like monster that has been stalking her family for centuries. Learn the truth about her family’s past, gain a sense of connection to the parents she never knew, and feel more secure in her own capabilities now that she’s no longer a child.

Antagonist: Conri Lycus, the leader of a species of demonic wolf-like spirits that lurk in our world. He has a personal vendetta against Sienna’s family and seeks to eradicate them. But in order to do that, he needs Sienna to destroy the enchanted cape that her father left her upon his death.  

Set Up: Bzous are demonic spirits that embody the pack mentality and carnivorous diets of wolves and the human vices of greed, cruelty, power-hunger, violence, and callousness. They have a nonphysical form but can also shapeshift into wolves and humans. Their populations have dwindled in recent decades, but those that remain try to infiltrate society and prey on it.

In the early 1800s, a family of Bzou hunters trapped the Bzous’ immortal leader, Conri Lycus, in his physical forms by dying a cloak red with his blood. As long as that cloak exists, he can shift between his wolf and human shapes, but not into his far more powerful nonphysical state. Conri swore vengeance and seeks to destroy the cloak. In the early 2000s, he killed Jake Rider, a descendant of that family, and his wife Willow. Their infant daughter, Sienna, survived and Conri did not find the cloak. (Even if he did, he would not be able to destroy it himself. A human must release him from the spell. He learns this in the years leading up to our story.)

Willow’s sister, Charlie, raised Sienna. Sienna’s paternal grandmother, Rose, was still alive, but she lived across the country on the edge of a small town just outside Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in California, and she spent much of her time traveling the state hunting Bzous. Charlie knew this, so she kept Sienna away from Rose and refused to open the chest her parents left behind for her. She didn’t know that the chest contained the cloak, and the cloak was far more dangerous to Sienna than Rose could ever be.

Synopsis: The film opens the day before Sienna’s eighteenth birthday. She’s out for a walk on a local nature trail by her home in a suburban town on the east coast, taking pictures and wearing a bright red hoodie. The flora she encounters entrances her, and she strays from the path more than once to get a snapshot of pretty flowers or ferns. She ends up getting lost, asks strangers for directions and comes home late, much to the chagrin of her loving but overprotective aunt. The two have a brief argument over dinner, but they quickly reconcile and discuss Sienna’s birthday. Sienna admits that she doesn’t feel ready to be an adult.

The next day, Sienna retrieves the mail and sees a card from Grannie Rose, a woman she’d heard of but never met. The card invites Sienna to come and visit, as they have “much to discuss”, and tells her to bring the red cloak that her father left her upon his death. Aunt Charlie gets mad when she sees the card. She confiscates it and tells Sienna to forget it, but she can’t. Sienna scours the house to find the aforementioned cloak and comes across a trunk in the attic. Inside, she finds the cloak, a large, antique dagger, a book on Bzous, and a letter from her father asking her to take the cloak to her grandmother. Sienna confronts Aunt Charlie, and the two of them fight.

As they argue, one of Conri’s minions, who had been stalking Sienna for years, sees the cloak, breaks into the house, and attacks them. He wounds Aunt Charlie before Sienna kills him with the dagger from the trunk. Sienna drives Aunt Charlie to the hospital, where they tell the doctors that she was “attacked by a stray dog”. Aunt Charlie and Sienna have a heart-to-heart discussion in which she tells Sienna the truth about her parents, their deaths, and her role in shielding Sienna from it all. She tells her that she knew about the cloak but always thought Grannie Rose had it. She admits that she can’t shield Sienna from her destiny and encourages her to go see Grannie Rose so she can properly defend herself.

Sienna plans to fly to California and take a bus to her grandmother’s hometown. She sneaks the dagger in her carry-on by hiding it in a secret compartment and wraps a sandwich in aluminum foil as a decoy for the alarms. She wears the cloak like a scarf.

Sienna has to take a connecting flight through Chicago, and while on the first plane, she sits next to a friendly upper-middle-aged man. She does not know this, but he is Conri in his human form. He sparks a conversation with her, and she cheerfully joins in. She divulges that she’s going to visit her grandmother in California. While she’s in the bathroom, Conri searches her carry-on and finds the birthday card with Grannie Rose’s address on it. When they arrive at the airport in Chicago, he calls on his minions to create a diversion so that he can beat Sienna to Grannie Rose’s house.

A Bzou in its human form provokes a fight with Sienna, and she fights back with the dagger. Security comes after them both, and Sienna escapes into the city. She is forced to take busses, trains, and occasionally hitchhike the rest of the way to Grannie Rose’s, while Conri takes the plane and beats her there. On her journey, Sienna runs into a few more Bzous that she has to fight off, and she must evade the law when these fights alarm ordinary humans who don’t understand what she’s doing. She learns to be wary and cautious, but she also gains confidence and greater belief in her ability to fend for herself.

Eventually, she reaches Grannie Rose’s house and sees that Conri has taken her hostage. He negotiates with her, saying that if she throws the cloak on the fire in the hearth, he’ll spare Grannie Rose. She pretends to do so, but instead throws the dagger at him. It does not kill him, but Grannie Rose gets free. Sienna chases Conri out of the house, and the two of them fight. Sienna wounds him, and he falls in the nearest body of water, where he drowns (or does he?). Sienna then returns to the house, where she formally meets Grannie Rose for the first time. The two of them share a heartfelt moment as Grannie Rose expresses her pride in the lovely young woman her granddaughter has grown to be.

The film closes on a shot of the two of them walking together down a forest path.

Also, some fun facts/bonus content that my classmates didn’t get to see:

  • “Aunt Charlie” is a reference to Charles Perrault, a French fairy tale writer from the 1600s.
  • “Jake and Willow”, Sienna’s parents, are references to Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, better known as the Grimm Brothers.
  • “Bzou” is the name of the wolf/werewolf in one of the earliest recorded versions of Red Riding Hood. I read it in a class I took last year. It’s called “The Story of the Grandmother” or sometimes “The Path of Pins and Needles” if you want to look it up, but be forewarned, it’s SUPER creepy. There’s a reason we never heard this version as kids. That version is also what inspired Conri’s demands that Sienna throw the cloak in the hearth, as well as his death in a river.

Escaping the Blogosphere Stop 5

Hello everyone!

For those of you who were already traversing this virtual scavenger hunt, welcome! You have made it to the fifth stop, and I extend congratulations to you on this noble quest!

For those of you just joining us, allow me to provide some context: Issabelle of Teen Writers’ Nook invited me to take part in an inter-blog event. Each day, a different blog will post a clue that leads readers to a specific post or image on their site. In that post/near that image, you will find a link to the next blog stop. The next day, the previously-linked blog will create their own post with another clue, so on and so forth until the hunt is complete.

You can find the kick off post here if you’re interested in starting from the beginning. (Which I recommend. It’s quite fun!)

Also, if you comment your favorite book quote on the initial post, you can be entered for a chance to win some cool virtual prizes! Comments on the other posts along the way earn you extra entries, sort of like a raffle, but you need to comment on the starting post first in order to be officially counted.

Now… without further ado, your next clue:

Where is this post? Well, if you wish to go,

Read these directions, all you’ll need to know.

Search for the tab of what I’m writing right now.

I’ve “locked” up the post, but you’ll find it somehow.

From there you might wish to have a little extra fun.

Feel free, for under that tab, your quest will be won.

Still unsure of where you should go?

Heed these words: press play, and enjoy the show.

A brief glimpse at what a story will hold.

I warn you though, this post is relatively old.

You must look deeper, scroll all the way down.

You’ll find just the post that needs to be found.


Okay yeah, sorry, I got a little carried away with that clue. Whoops. Please let me know if it’s too hard and I’ll give another, simpler clue.

Good luck to you on the remainder of your quest! May you escape this virtual labyrinth, and have fun doing it!

My Writing Progress: An Update

Hello everyone!

The other day I started my sophomore spring semester, and so far I’m really excited about it. It’s nice to be back on campus, to see all of my friends again, and I’m taking a lot of really fun classes: Story Idea Development (I’m literally getting college credit to brainstorm and pitch story ideas of various mediums. I actually said “Aaah! Yes!” while reading my syllabus… then had to explain to my mother that I’m excited about… my syllabus of all things.), Digital Editing, Myths-Magic-and Early British Legends, French, and Creative Writing (finally starting my minor!).

(Editing and Story Idea Development are part of my my Communications major. French is for my language requirement… Also I’d like to be fluent in French. And the British myth one is just for fun.)

I’ve also decided that this semester, I want to develop better writing habits. (Also better sleep habits. So far so good there, but we’ll see where the year takes me on that front.) So, I made myself a little chart:

The pink squares represent my classes. The orange squares represent my clubs, or, at least the clubs that always meet on that day at that time. (I’m in four other clubs besides the two listed there, they just have slightly less regular schedules.) And the green and blue squares represent writing time!

The goal is to write for a minimum total of three hours a week, which might not seem like a lot, but I was taking a couple things into account:

  1. I’m still allowed to write whenever I want. If I have free time and I’m in the mood to write, I’ll write. This is just the minimum that I want to ensure I meet each week, just for the sake of consistency and steady progress.
  2. I have to leave enough time for homework, clubs, my work for the school paper (Oh yeah… guess who’s the feature editor now!), and my friends.

So, I set aside three one-hour slots on days and at times that I was sure could accommodate writing. The blue slot is reserved for editing The Lockbox, while the green slots on the weekends have a bit more flexibility. I could work on The Lockbox, or I could write on one of the two new stories I’m drafting.

You heard me right. Two new stories.

The first is the previously mentioned Daughter of Gollerus story. If you recall my last post, I said that I was debating between drafting Daughter of Gollerus or a yet to be named “de-extinction fantasy” story. I decided to work on Daughter of Gollerus now and save the other one for when I eventually do NaNoWriMo, simply because I know more about the plot and characters of Daughter of Gollerus, and I’m really attached to them.

But then… I don’t know. This other idea just… dropped into my head. I was cleaning my room and a line just came to me, and I liked it, so I ran with it, and it snowballed from there. I got super attached to the main character super quickly, and the concept seemed really unique. It fascinated me. I don’t know how to describe, because it’s still fairly new, and I’m discovery writing it instead of plotting it. (I plotted Lockbox and Daughter of Gollerus, but I’m making this one up as I go, and I’m honestly having a lot of fun with it.) However, I will tell you this, just to give you some idea:

Behold: a few characters from this new idea of mine. Uriah (the main character), Jameson, and Mercy.
  • I’ve invented a new creature- a human-like magic being whose powers are more or less a curse that they seek to be rid of. I’ll probably invent some more of my own creatures as I go, and I might incorporate some pre-existing magic creatures if they fit into the plot. We shall see.
  • It either takes place in another world or an alternate version of ours. Probably the first one.
  • The main plotline is a treasure-hunt-quest, but the characters are racing against another team who intends to use something in the treasure for evil.
  • My main character is really done with everyone and does not want to go on this quest. But he gets roped into it. Because, you know, he’s the main character.

So yeah. I got started on that idea. Had some fun with it. And I decided that this idea and Daughter of Gollerus will share my drafting project slot while I continue to edit The Lockbox. Lockbox still hold my top priority, hence why I reserved a whole section in my writing schedule for it. The other two slots can be for any of these three projects. But I’m still placing heavy emphasis on The Lockbox.

My goals for it are as follows:

  • Finish typing it up by May/June-ish. There are over forty chapters, and I’m halfway through Chapter 16 now, so I’ll have to pick up the pace.
  • Do macro-edits over the summer, micro edits next fall
  • Start a small critique circle of my closest friends and family members by this time next year.
  • Keep on editing
  • Submit to literary agents around May/June senior year (2023)

So… wish me luck there.

In the meantime, enjoy these NEVER BEFORE SEEN visuals of some Lockbox characters! My friend Gabby helped me create them using her Sims account a couple years ago.

And stay tuned for a Daughter of Gollerus character reveal! Don’t know when it will be, because life is busy, and I’m already shirking homework to make this post, but I’ll get it out… eventually…

Until then, have an amazing day!

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