Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Summer Fun Tag // Owl City + Whale Crackers

Welcome, everyone, to the Summer Fun Tag!  This lovely list of questions was created by Mikayla@Making Music for the Maker.  I was tagged by Gray@Writing Is Life.  Prepare to learn some strange things about me that don't relate to books or writing, for once.


1.  What's a nickname only your family calls you?

My dad likes to say my full name, except replacing my actual middle name with "Fred." It doesn't annoy me - he's been calling me that since forever :D

2.  What's a weird habit of yours?

This is going to sound really weird, but I tend to curl my top lip up so it touches my nose. That way I can smell my Chapstick  *everyone looks weirded-out*  What??  I like Chapstick!  And the cake batter one smells great.

I have tried to break this habit, but it's hard.  It just... happens.

3.  Do you have any strange phobias?

*beads of sweat gather on brow* It's an insect, but not just any insect.  It loves my basement and has long legs.  Whenever I try to kick at it, it jumps the exact opposite direction I want it to go - toward me!  They're terrifying beasts that are most likely hiding downstairs plotting my death and probably world dominance at this very moment.

They.  Are.  Invincible.

And they are camel crickets.

(If you've never seen one, I dare you to Google them.  They're hideously disgusting.)

4.  What's a song you secretly love to blast and belt out when you're alone?



*shouts over the loud music* I LOVE THIS SONG.

Click the red button.  Do it.  I've made it super easy for you to experience the awesomeness of Owl City right here, right now.  Then you shall know what I blast and belt on a regular basis.

Owl City is my jam, people.

5.  What's one of your biggest pet peeves?

Hashtags.  These days, you can have a normal conversation via hashtags only and it wouldn't be #weird.

BOB: #Hello #HowAreYou

LOIS: #Good #HowAboutYou

#HashtagsAreAnnoying

#Don'tWorry  #It'sJustMe

6.  What's one of your nervous habits?

Nail-biting.  It's a regular habit, but I bite them more viciously when I'm nervous.

7.  What's a YouTuber that always makes you laugh?

Blimey Cow!  Jordan and Josh are so annoying, and yet they're so funny.  Messy Mondays is great, but Jordan's Messyges are my favorite.

8.  What was your first stuffed animal, and what was its name?

Her name is Spotty, and she's a stuffed owl. (I'm holding her in my lap right now because I haven't given her much love the past, erm, five or six years.) I won her in a reading contest at my library a long time ago, and I hope she's grateful, because I chose her over a super cute stuffed husky dog.

9.  What's a drink you always order at Starbucks?

I never get anything at Starbucks.  Whenever we go, though, my mom always orders a chai tea latte.  ALWAYS.

10.  Do you have any weird body skills?

Well, I can curl my tongue.  That's about it.

11.  What's your favorite comfort food?

I never turn to food for comfort, but I do munch on Whale crackers a lot. *stage whisper* They're better than Goldfish.

Chocolate chip muffins, too.  You know, I'm really just answering this question as if it said, "What do you regularly snack on?"

12.  What is a phrase or exclamation you always say?

I used to say "I lurve it so murch" all the time, until I realized how stupid it was :D

13.  What did you use to wear that you would never wear now?

Pigtails.  My hair is curly and short-ish, and I used to wear it in bouncy pigtails for soccer games. Now I wouldn't dream of it.  For years now, my look has simply been jeans, a T-shirt, and a low, loose ponytail.  Clearly, I'm not big on fashion.

14.  What did you want to be when you were younger?

A singer, even though I knew it would never happen.  My sisters and I would strum tennis rackets like guitars while I sang songs I wrote myself.  We even had this pink toy microphone that makes your voice sound echoey. NOTE: I can't sing.

I would share some of the lyrics (I still know most of my songs by heart, unfortunately), except that the very notion of doing so horrifies me.  I think it's better for both our sakes that I keep it to myself :)

15.  How tall are you?

5 feet, 8 inches.  Last I checked, at least.

16.  What are five ways to win your heart/become a great friend?

1) Encourage me in the Lord.  I need friends who are on fire, so they can help keep my flame burning.
2) Love books. (obviously not required, but it's a relateability thing)
3) Be a writer. (same as above)
4) Be weird, and unashamed of it.  That way we can be weird together. (weird is the new norm, anyway)
5) Simply be there for me.  I'll be there for you.

I get to tag people!  Huzzah!

Catherine@The Rebelling Muse
Abi@If You Give a Girl a Blog
Penny@The Aspirations of a Teen Writer and Reader

And, like they always say, anyone else who wants to do it is 100% welcome to.  Have fun!

So, friends, talk to me.  I welcome any and all hobbits into this corner of the Shire (aka the comments section).  Take your time - while I wait, I'll just listen to Owl City and stuff my face with Whale crackers.

~ Lila Red

Sunday, July 16, 2017

REVIEW: The Secrets of Solace by Jaleigh Johnson


Published by Delacorte Press
Released on March 8, 2016

Goodreads Summary:

From Jaleigh Johnson, the acclaimed author of The Mark of the Dragonfly, comes another thrilling adventure in the magical world of Solace.
Lina Winterbock lives in the mountain strongholds of Solace. She’s an apprentice to the archivists, the wise men and women whose lives are dedicated to cataloging, studying, and preserving the objects that mysteriously fall from the sky in the scrap towns.
Lina should be spending her days with books, but the Iron War has changed everything. The strongholds are now a refuge, and the people Lina once counted on no longer have time for her, so she spends her days exploring the hidden tunnels and passages of her home. The strongholds are vast and old, with twisting paths, forgotten rooms, and collapsed chambers, some of them containing objects that have been lost and forgotten even by the archivists.
And in one of the forgotten chambers, Lina discovers a secret.
Hidden deep in a cavern is a half-buried airship like nothing she has ever seen before. She’s determined to dig it out and restore it. But Lina needs help, and she doesn’t know anyone she can trust with her secret.
Then she meets Ozben, a mysterious boy who has a secret of his own—a secret that’s so dangerous it could change the course of the Iron War and the world of Solace forever.

My Review:

Let's have a contest.  Out of setting, characters, and plot, which did I love best?

1st Place ~~ SETTING
2nd Place ~~ CHARACTERS
3rd Place ~~ PLOT

It was difficult to choose which was better: characters or plot.  But because the first 70 pages or so of The Secrets of Solace were just a little bit dull, I decided plot would get third place.

The world of Solace is amazing.  The author set it up so simply and yet so wonderfully.  We have three main lands - the Merrow Kingdom, the Dragonfly Territories, and the archivists' strongholds.  The Mark of the Dragonfly, the other book set in Solace, starrs an incredible heroine named Piper, a girl from the scrap towns in the Merrow Kingdom.  The Secrets of Solace starrs an equally incredible heroine named Lina, from one of the archivists' strongholds.  In Piper's story, we only receive little mentions of the mysterious strongholds, so I was excited to delve into this part of Solace.  And I wasn't disappointed.  The next companion novel, The Quest to the Uncharted Lands - which I haven't read yet but really want to - is set in the Dragonfly Territories.  Perfect :)

The characters are excellently developed.  Lina tends to eavesdrop, loves to hide, and deeply appreciates transportation via ventilation shafts.  Her parents died when a fever swept through the stronghold, and now she is pretty much on her own.

Ozben is a bit harder to describe, but some of the things that stand out about him are his sense of humor and his tendency to disobey orders if he doesn't like them.  That's a huge similarity between him and Lina - they don't like to listen.  To Zara, to Tolwin, to Nareen. They're pretty disobedient.  There is also a huge difference between them, but you can find that out by reading the book.  Go ahead.  Go read it.

The plot was amazing, too!  Once she meets Ozben around page 70, things get very, very interesting.  A hairless cat wreaks havoc in the stronghold.  Ozben almost gets killed. Ozben and Lina almost get killed together.  (Fun times.)  The Iron War takes a turn for the worse.  I can't say much because I don't want to spoil anything, but this should have intrigued you.

In terms of questionable content, there was none whatsoever.  The romance, if any, is so subtle and tame that I can't tell whether any romantic interest exists at all.  No bad words, no violence, no nothing.  It's 100% clean.  Yay!  Of course, it's considered Middle Grade, and Middle Grade is generally clean.  But you can't even trust children's books these days. Sad.   

Jaleigh Johnson is one of my favorite storytellers.  I thoroughly enjoyed The Secrets of Solace, and if you like fantasy and/or steampunk, then you'll enjoy it, as well!

And don't forget to read The Mark of the Dragonfly :D  It's even better than The Secrets of Solace!  I've read it twice, and one of these months, I'll be picking it up a third time.

So, have you read The Mark of the Dragonfly or The Secrets of Solace?  If so, did you like them?  If not, do you want to read them now?  Have you read any books under the steampunk genre?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Beautiful People ~ July Edition


That's right, folks.  It's Beautiful People time!  It's fitting that they would do an author writing process questionnaire, to kick off what I hope is my dedication to the Beautiful People link-up.  I won't promise that I'll be participating every month, though, because who knows what might come up to hinder that?

Anyway, I'll link to Sky's and Cait's blogs again: here and here, respectively.  They're the hostesses of Beautiful People, and they're awesome.  If you haven't already done this fun July edition, then what are you waiting for? :D  

In the meantime, enjoy learning about the writer.  You know, me.

1.  How do you decide which project to work on?

Guess what?  I have control over the plot bunnies!  *locks bunny cage*  They're not getting out.  So I don't have to decide, because I'm only working on one project right now.

2.  How long does it usually take you to finish a project?

I'm going to interpret "project" as meaning "first draft," since I've never finished editing a novel before. Dusted Red is the only first draft of a novel-length story that I've written, and it took me about a year.  I'm trying to write faster, though - I often worry that I'm a tortoise writer who needs to pick up the pace.  

It took me from April 2016 (maybe March - I didn't record it) to April 2017.  The word count was a little over 100,000.      
 
3.  Do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?

Listening to instrumentals while I write draws me into the story more than if all I hear is the tapping of the keys on the keyboard, so I'll go with that.  I do sometimes prefer the quiet, though.    
 
4.  What time of day do you write best?

Afternoon and evening.  I never write early in the morning (I set that aside for Bible-reading and breakfast) or late at night.  I'd be far too tired to get my creative juices flowing, and also... did you know that it's a good idea to turn off all devices at least an hour before going to bed because your body reacts to the light from the screen as if it were sunlight, so it thinks it should be awake, which makes it harder to fall asleep?  (Sorry, that was a mouthful.)

I have a teensy bit of insomnia, anyway, so I try to stick to this rule.
 
5.  Are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?

Oh, wow, that's a hard question.  *puts thinking cap on*  Okay, so I just flipped through my copy of The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen, and when I really think about it, my writing style might be kinda sorta similar to hers.  A teeny-tiny bit, perhaps.

But I might just be a blind fan viewing everything wrong :D           
 
6.  Why did you start writing, and why do you keep writing?

I started writing because I wanted to, and I keep writing because I love it.

That's the more boring answer :D  The less boring answer?  I started writing because one day, all of a sudden, all these ideas came leaping into my brain, and I just HAD to write them.  My memory was a little vague-ish back at age 10, but not too bad. I remember the day I started writing, the day something clicked inside me and I realized how much I love inventing stories.  God must have put that love there.

Which leads me to the second question: why do I keep doing it?  Because God has used my writing before, and I know He will continue to do so.  It's always incredibly fun to be part of what God is doing, so I don't want to give up on the endless opportunities. No way.

7.  What’s the hardest thing you’ve written?

The hardest thing for me to write is full-fledged romance.  Not fantasy with a smidgen of romance - I think I'm okay at that.  (At least, a few of the only people who's ever seen the first draft of Dusted Red thought it was good.)  JUST romance.  I think I've attempted to write two romance stories, and the results will never see the light of day again.  I can promise you that.  In fact, I might built a bonfire in my backyard and burn them to ashes.

8.  Is there a project you want to tackle someday but you don’t feel ready yet?

Yes.  I would like to try my hand at a contemporary Christian YA book that focuses 100% on relationship with God.  I've already had lots of great experiences with God since I surrendered to Him, but I don't want to try yet because I feel like I'm not ready.  I want to enjoy at least a few more years of spiritual growth.  One day - perhaps years from now, if the Lord tarries - the story will solidify and be ready to bloom on the page.  Just not yet :)  

9.  What writing goals did you make for 2017 and how are they going?

I don't have specific goals, but generally, I want to finish my rewrite of Dusted Red, edit the glaring problems, and then share it with some family members and friends to get their feedback while I continue editing.  As long as I get it sent to those select few by December 31, I'll be satisfied.

10.  Describe your writing process in 3 words or a gif!

Cacchination ~ Procrastination ~ Headdesk 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Snippets From my WIP (in my opinion, wonderful)

Red

Hansel

Gretel

Goldi

Peter

Four fairy tales come together in one (hopefully) thrilling adventure: Dusted Red.  

Ready for snippets??  Both are from the beginning of Draft 2, which is what I'm working on right now.  (There's no way I could shamelessly share anything from Draft 1.)  More sneak peeks will come, once I've gotten more written in this second draft, but two should be sufficient for right now.  Enjoy!

I've colored the font red, for reasons that should be obvious :D


~~~

“It’s him! It’s him! He’ll get rid of those formwandlers once and for all!” they chorused. Ecstatic whoops filled the square, but as the children barreled loudly by once again, I snatched one small fist in mid-pump. The rest of the boys ran on, not noticing that the strange red-hooded girl had one of their friends in her clutches.

“Let me go.” He thrashed around wildly, but I managed to keep hold of him.

“Not until you tell me what’s going on,” I snapped.

The kid peered up at me with large brown eyes full of amusement, although he continued to squirm. Too much energy flowed through him - I could sense it. “Gosh, Red, you didn’t have to grab me. You’ll find out soon enough.”

~~~


One strange root resembled a braid, like a woman’s thick, dark hair loosely plaited. I crinkled my forehead, but I could tell that the tree it belonged to wasn’t directly in front of me.

I stepped on the root, then lifted my foot in surprise. It was soft. In fact, as I crouched down to take a closer look at it, I realized it wasn’t a root at all.

It really was a braid.

Afraid of what I’d see, I followed the snaking braid with my eyes until it met with a head. Coincidentally, a sliver of moon found a crack in the leafage above in just the right spot to illuminate a pale face.

I exhaled through my nose, straightened up, and backed away.

~~~

So, what do you think?  Not much about Hansel, Gretel, Goldi, or Peter, but again, this is at the beginning of the story, when it's just Red.

My next post *drum roll, please* is my first participation in BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE!!!  I'm super excited to join this link-up, and if you wish to know the questions I'll be answering beforehand (though, of course, there's a chance you've already seen them, if you're a BP person) or to participate yourself, then head on over to Sky's or Cait's blog!

~ Lila Red  

Monday, July 3, 2017

Why Swearing in Books is Wrong and Unnecessary #RebelliousWriting

Once upon a time, I started reading a cool-looking book.  The plot was great.  The characters had potential for amazingness.  The futuristic setting promised to be original and intriguing.  It seemed to have all the elements of a good story.

Page 1?  Hooked.  Page 2?  Yes, give me more.  Page 3?  I like, I like!  But before I even reached page 10, a single word slapped me in the face.

Now, this wasn't a minor curse word; it was one of the really bad ones.  My conscious did its thing, letting me try to continue but stripping away all the enjoyment I'd initially had.  I knew that if I didn't close the book, I would 1) feel guilty, and 2) wouldn't enjoy another word of it.  And there was no way of knowing if any more swearing lurked in later pages.

So what did I do?  Slowly, sadly, I closed the book.  A single cuss word had ruined the entire story for me.

Books don't need swear words.  Books shouldn't have swear words.  It's wrong.  But how many YA novels have you read, or at least started, and then bumped into them?  *runs out of fingers to count on*  Yeah, it's pretty bad.  And I wish it would stop.


Sure, I read plenty of books with a few minor curse words, but that doesn't mean I like it.  It doesn't mean I don't sigh, crinkle my nose, or press my finger against the word so I don't accidentally see it again before I turn the page.  On the other hand, if the book tosses an s-word or an f-bomb in my face, that's when my conscience draws the line.  Even if it was only once.  Even though it was only four letters.  

Four letters, people.  Four harmless letters combining to create something foul.

What also saddens me is when I hear some Christian writers say they like to use a d-word here or an h-word there as long as it helps emphasize something.  "I need this cuss word to get the emotion across," they explain.

No, they don't.  "Need" is a strong word.  There are better ways to emphasize a sudden problem or misfortune in a character's journey.  There are cleaner, more effective ways to convey emotion.    

No writers should include any language for any reason.  But why?  Let's start with the Jesus answer, because that's most important.

God doesn't want us to swear.

"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers" (Ephesians 4:29).

So there's your answer.  Because God said not to.  Swear words don't impart grace to the hearers, to the readers.  We want to edify others, and swear words do the opposite.  

Another simple answer would be that there's a reason bad words are called "bad" words. I mean, people call them bad, and then use them as if they aren't.  That's messed up.

Swearing is overused in books.  

As much as I hate it when writers use even one minor curse word - as much as I wish that curse words didn't even exist - I would feel better if cursing in books was just a rare thing. Every single time I pick up a Young Adult book, I'm afraid it'll have swearing.  Common Sense Media and Plugged In are great parental review sites, but they can't analyze every YA book ever published.  There's no way to escape the possibility.

Swearing is one of the biggest clichés in books.  It's time to kill that cliché.

A book without swearing isn't unrealistic.          

Swearing itself is realistic, of course.  A lot of people swear in real life all the time, sometimes way more than a book character would ever dare to.  But stripping your writing free of language doesn't make it unrealistic.  It just makes it cleaner.  And that's what YA literature needs.  A bath.

Click here to read Gray Marie's post and...
Join the rebellion!