March 30, 2017

March Creative Corner

March Creative Corner

As with books, this has been a pretty slow month for create things. I've been working hard at trying to edit, and completely re-write the ending, of Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog, plus re-outline Return to Wonderland. Since I don't have a lot to show, I'll share a few excerpts from my novel. I've never done that before, so I'm a little nervous. Anyway, here we go. (And sorry about the picture quality. My camera batteries died just when I went to take the pictures. I had to use my phone instead.)

First we have a drawing I started several months ago. I forgot about it until recently, when I pulled it out again to finish. My idea was to draw a girl wearing the armor of God. I wanted the armor to be modest and practical, which is why she's wearing a long sleeved top and leggings with her leather and metal armor. I love how this one came out. I've been working on shading with colored pencils, which I think looks pretty good in this picture.

Next are these key earrings I made. My mom had some key charms lying around and she asked me to make them into earrings. These are what I came up with.

Monday we went to see the cherry blossoms that survived in DC. Here's a few of the pictures I took.

My last actually piece of art are the maps I created to go with Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog. The first one is a map of the whole continent. The second is a map of the specific country the story takes place in, called Zilmannio. I decided not to ink the second one yet, since I want to be able to change and/or add things easily.

Oops, this one came out blurry. Sorry.

Okay, so excerpts. Before I show you a few, allow me to explain a little. This story is sort of a Frog Prince re-telling. In my story, a boy gets turned into a frog by a cursed charm, and his best friend goes to Zilmannio to find a way to save him. It's changed a lot since my first concept, but I think it's really starting to come together.

Excerpt #1: Jeremiah transforms

“Kay, look at this,” Jeremiah said.
I rolled over to see what he had found. Maybe an animal. He was pointing into the creek water. I peered in, then spotted what he had seen.
It was a silver charm about an inch tall, bumping up against a rock. The charm was shaped like a frog, inlaid with emeralds to make it green, and with two topazes for it’s eyes.
“That’s gorgeous,” I said. “How did that get in the creek?”
“No idea.” He reached out to pick it up.
As he did, my gut twisted. I reached out to stop him from touching it. As I touched his arm, he pulled it from the water. That’s when it happened.
His whole body shrank, turning green and mottled. His hands grew webbing between them. His face become flat and his eyes black. In less time than it takes to read this, Jeremiah had transformed into a bullfrog.
He instantly croaked and began hopping around. I screamed, scrabbling away from him. Both of us were freaking out. Then he jumped in the creek.
“No,” I yelped, going after him. I was not about to let my friend hop away, no matter how scared I was. I pounced, my hands closing around his slick body.

Wet, and holding my best friend turned frog, I sat on the side of the creek trying to figure out what to do. Things like this just didn’t happen. Maybe I had fallen asleep and was dreaming this. Except it’s hard to say that when you're holding a slimy creature that was staring at you.

Excerpt #2: The witch's house

As I sat there flipping pages, an old woman came and sat down beside me. I pretended not to notice her. "Hello, boy," she said, forcing me into looking at her. She was quite a character. Half her hair was black and the other side was white, and all of it cut short. Her dress was also black and white, as was her makeup. There were no wrinkles on her face, although something in her demeanor told me she was older than she looked. I tried not to stare at her but it was difficult. Seriously, she looked like Cruella De Vil. 
"You are looking for Zilmannio, hmm, boy?" she said in a very young sounding voice. 
"Uh, yeah. Do you know something about it?" I asked cautiously.
"Yes. Very good. Come with me," she said, jumping right up. 
The old lady yanked me up off the bench. With much more strength than she should have had, she pushed me onto my bike. Leaping on the handle bars like a school girl she ordered, "Go to 123 Lark Lane." 
Not having any other choice, except dumping her off my bike, which wasn't gentlemanly, I obeyed. Following the directions she gave me I soon found myself facing a house that was painted light peach and seemed to be like all the others in the neighborhood. Until I entered.
Inside it was totally crazy. Everything, and I truly mean everything, was pink and squishy. The carpet that covered all the floors was pink and when you walked it squished and oozed around your foot and made sucking noises, like what a tongue would feel like if you could walk on it. The walls were also pink. Losing my balance on the floor I put my hand on the wall and it seemed to swallow my hand. All the furniture was similar. The whole place felt like a mouth waiting to eat me alive.
"How do you like my house? Isn't it lovely?" the old lady asked as she led me to the living room.
"Uh," I said, trying to think of a polite way to ask if her house was hungry.

"Please sit. I'll get you a snack," she said and disappeared into the kitchen. I eyed the couch and chairs. No way was I sitting in them. I had a feeling I'd never get out of it again. 

Excerpt #3: Leaving Draziw

A rustling sound came from by the door. We spun to face it. It was Draziw’s peacock. “Quick, get downstairs,” said the painting girl. “He’ll tell Draziw where you are. You can’t be caught here.”
We sprinted down to the second floor. Sleeno dashed inside the bathroom, while I leaned against the wall, trying to slow my breathing. A few seconds later, Draziw charged up the stairs. He stopped short when he saw us.
“I though you might have gotten lost or wandered off, you were taking so long,” he said.
Sleeno came out. “Sorry, you know how long girls need.”
“Of course.” We smiled at each other, suspicion in everyone’s eyes. “Your friends are ready to leave when you are.”
He kept a close eye on us as we headed down. By the front door, he grabbed my shoulder. “I warn you against trying to return the boy to normal,” he said softly. “It will not end well.”

I pulled myself away. “Thanks for the warning, but I think I’ll make my own decisions, thanks.”

Sorry if these excerpts aren't very good. I've never tried to pick out good parts of my novel before. I hope you enjoyed them anyway. If you'd like to learn more about Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog, you can go here or here.

Let's talk! How have you been creative this month? Has it been a slow month or a quick one? Tell me in the comments.

March 27, 2017

March Book Reviews

March Book Reviews

The end of March approaches, so it's time for me to do my monthly book reviews. Even though this is only the third month I've done this, I enjoy going back through the books I've read and trying to pick the best and the worst. Some are easy to choose, others are hard.

March has been a weird month here in Maryland. The weather has gone from spring-like to snow and repeated. The poor plants can't decided if they should be blooming or not. Half the cherry blossoms in DC died because of a sudden snow/ice storm we had. Hopefully the weather is more stable wherever you are. I also didn't get a lot read this month. Not because I was especially busy. It was just a slow month for reading. But on to the reviews.

Best Books

Carve the Mark- Veronica Roth

My Rating: 4 stars

What I Liked:

The galaxy. Veronica did a great job building a believable galaxy with nine (if I'm remembering correctly) different planets. My favorite, however, would have to be the one most of the story takes place on. Having two types of people living on it and calling it different things was much more interesting than a planet where everyone's the same and gets along.
The cultures. I also think she did a good job building two vastly different cultures. The peaceful Thuvhians and the warlike Shotet. Each had their own traditions, ways of life, and language.
 Currentgifts. Because what's a book without some cool powers? Currentgifts are abilities given by the current, a thing that runs through everything in the galaxy. (Think the Force from Star Wars.) They can vary from bringing peace to being unable to feel pain.
The protagonists. Cyra has a currentgift for pain, and Akos has a currentgift that makes him unable to feel the current. How that works, I haven't the faintest. Personally, Cyra was my favorite. She had such a great background. Plus she was so kick-butt. Every time the book switched to Akos I couldn't wait to get back to her. Each character had their own flaws and strengths.

What I Didn't Like:

The prophesies. There were people in the galaxy that had fates, if I'm remembering the right term. Basically, it's something that's going to happen to you no matter what you do. They're obscure but always come true. I just don't like unchangeable fates. It limits things and people are always trying to get away from them. This is more of personal thing, so you may like that.
Implications. Veronica implied things between two girl characters that I didn't appreciate. The book would have been perfectly fine with her attempts at "diversity".
 It was long. This was a big book. Not that it didn't keep me turning pages, but maybe it could have stopped sooner. That cover, however, is awesome. As a side note.

Note: Many people didn't like this book because it wasn't Divergent. But, hello, this isn't. Divergent was dystopian, Carve the Mark is sci-fi. They're completely different books.

The problem with become famous on your first books is that you can't write something different without people complaining. If you want to read this book for more like Divergent, try something else instead. If you want to see an author you love try a new genre fairly successfully, go ahead and read it. My rant is complete now.

The Hidden Twin- Adi Rule

My Rating: 4 stars.

What I Liked:

The plot. It was one of those plots where the protagonist is trying to do something, but every time they get close, something drags them away again.
Standalone fantasy book. You don't find a lot of standalones in the fantasy genre. Most a five book epics that if they fall off your bookcase are likely to squish you. It's nice to read a single book and know the whole story is done.
The redwing. Redwings are the children of humans and beings called the Others. People hate and fear them, even though the protagonist of the book is the only real one for a long time. She doesn't have a name but she was still a great character. Sassy should have been her middle name. That was my favorite part about her. I can't resist a good sassy character.
Worldbuilding. This was a unique fantasy world. It reminded me of Indian culture for some reason, probably because of all the different gods. It was also interesting because the place they lived only had warm water and lots of fog and ash. Cold water was a rich person's treat.

What I Didn't Like:

I didn't fully understand everything. The world was great, but I didn't fully understand the rules. I felt like it might be an alternate Earth, but I'm not sure. It could have used more grounding.
The ending. It wasn't a bad ending, it just felt rushed. The climax was over so quickly, you could blink and miss it. And it had like a two page resolution. Not a bad thing, but I prefer a little longer wrap-up.
Goal wasn't very clear. I had a hard time figuring out where the plot was going. I know it was partially the redwing trying to discover who she is. But the blurb talked about her being used by people, and that didn't really come in. It could have used more clarity.
Love triangle. *Gag* The redwing meets a reporter in the first few pages and is instantly attracted, and then later she meets the younger prince and falls in love with him too. Both boys obviously like her back.

I did have a slight bit of confusing when I picked this book up. I thought it would be about changlings for some reason. Maybe I read the blurb wrong. Then when I read it, it wasn't even close. So, just a warning to make sure you know what the book is about before you start.

Worst Books

Glass Sword- Victoria Aveyard

My Rating: 3 stars

What I Liked:

The cover. It's really pretty. The crown, dripping with blood. But shouldn't a book called Glass Sword have a sword on the cover? Or is that just me?
Page turner. I did keep reading this, even if the book was annoying me. It could also be because I'm stubborn.

What I Didn't Like:

The plot. It continued to steal from other books. Plus a lot was covered, but there didn't seem to be anything consistently driving it forward. People, like Shade, just up and died for no reason. (Highlight the sentence if you want to see the spoiler.)
Mare. She continued to annoy and grate on me. Headstrong to the point of stupidity one minute, a total drama queen the next. She kept acting like she was the only important person in the whole book and the only one who had to make horrible choices. No one else "understands" her. The rant Cal gives her near the end perfectly sums up my feelings.
Everyone else. All the other people annoyed me too. Backstabbing and cruelty at every turn. And why don't we just make "Anybody can betray anybody" the title of the series, since that's all Mare says and all that happens.

Sorry if you love this series, but I just don't. I'll keep reading it, partially to see how it ends and partially to see if it gets better. But it's not exactly my thing.

As Old As Time: A Twisted Tale- Liz Braswell

My Rating: 3 stars.

What I Liked:

The original parts of the story. While I didn't like some elements of the plot, the parts that were completely different from the Disney movie were great. The bad guy was so demented and the thought that Belle and the Beast have a connection is interesting.
Awesome cover. The dark tones of the cover go well with it's subtitle of twisted tale. I especially like the Beast silhouette rising above the words.
Belle. Though this wasn't the Belle of the Disney movie, she was smart and resourceful. She used her knowledge she got from books to help her. I understood her feelings about her situation, and I liked how strong she was.
It explained some things the movie didn't. Like why the Beast's portrait looks like a twenty year old when he was cursed at eleven. Or how a whole kingdom disappeared and no one thought that was strange.
It wasn't black and white. Many of the characters, Belle's mother especially, where straight cut good or bad. They did things they thought were right, but actually weren't. Like the villain. Or the curse. It was nice to see that.

What I Didn't Like:

Too twisted. The prologue was a repeat of the one from the movie word for word. That is where the story went wrong. It tried to be like the Disney movie and not like it at the same time. It would have been better if she had dropped the parts of the movie and just went with her original idea.
The characters. Like the previous point, the characters tried to be the movie version and the twisted tale version at the same time. It just didn't work for me. Gaston especially annoyed me. (Although that is his nature, right?)

Notable Mentions

Everything Everything- Nicola Yoon

My Rating: 4 stars

Now, I'm not a big romance reader. Or a reader of books that feature protagonists with a disease that they could, and probably will, die from. But this book was exception, in the fact that it wasn't really a romance, and the main character lived! (Amazing, I know.) I actually picked it up because I watched the movie trailer and decided it might be worth a try.

This book was actually, to me, a self-discovery novel. Maddy learns about the world and who she is, not in a bad way, over the course of the book. I think the novel would have been fine without Olly, but I guess the author couldn't figure out another way to get Maddy out of the house.

This paragraph is about the ending, so if you want to read it, just highlight it. That twist at the end was so surprising. I thought Maddy would die or something at the end. But instead, it turns out her mom has been lying to her the whole time? Wow, mind blown.  You go from loving her mom, to being scared of how mentally hurt she is in pages. It was an excellent twist.

Yeah, there were problems. But there was lots of good things too. Even if you think you're not a romance reader, give this book a try. You may like it.

Other Books Read

RoseBlood- A. G. Howard- 4 stars
Poor Unfortunate Soul: The Tale of a Sea Witch- Serena Valentino- 3 stars
The Legend of Holly Claus- Brittany Ryan- 5 stars
Rebellion of Thieves- Kekla Magoon- 4 stars
The Turncoat's Gambit- Andrea Cremer- 4 stars
Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book- Jennifer Donnelly- 4 stars
City of Thirst- Carrie Ryna- 4 stars
The Game- Diana Wynne Jones- 4 stars

If you want reviews for any of these books, be sure to follow me on Goodreads. I do my best to write a review for every one. They may not be very good, but practice makes perfect, right?

Let's talk! What are the best, and worst books you've read this month? What are your thoughts on authors trying new genres? Tell me in the comments.

March 23, 2017

The Importance of Writing

The Importance of Writing

Humans have been writing for a long time. Writing is how we communicate, pass on our knowledge, and share our stories (true or fictional). That's why in this day and age we need to write more than ever. Our words, our novels, our blog posts, are all important to the world. Want to know why?

Why Writing is Important

Writing has power. Why do you think anything important, like the Bible or the Declaration of Independence, has been written down? Words have power, and when you write your words down, they can last forever.

The world today is troubled. There are wars, poverty, homelessness, and more. It can feel like there's nothing you can do to help. But that's where writing's importance truly comes in. Our stories can give hope and truth and shine light into the world.

That's why I think it's important for Christians to be writers. It doesn't matter what your genre is or whether you even mention Christianity in your books. It just matters that the light of God's word shows through your novel. Without hope of something better, there's no point to life. We need to share the hope we have, and that's why we need to write novels that show that.

My dream has always been to write YA books. Not only because I love writing, which I do. But also to give other teens out there healthy books to read. I remember going into the teen section at my library for one of the first times and realizing how much trash was in there. It's no wonder teenagers act like they do with the books they have to read. I decided that I was going to write the books I wanted to read; good books that teenagers would enjoy.

That doesn't mean my books are preachy. In fact, my faith doesn't often come in to my novels. Instead, they embody the Christian message other ways, by following my values and the hope that I have. N. D. Wilson does the same thing with his novels and I'm sure there are others out there.


So, what am I trying to get at? My point is, write. Blog posts, social media posts, and most importantly, novels. Use your words to change the world, one book at a time. It's never been easier to get your work out there. The internet has a wealth of knowledge on writing books, publishing books, and finding readers for your books. You don't have any excuses not to do it.

You don't have to publish, either. You can just write for you if you want. Express your feelings and never let the world know. But if you have something to say, let it out. Write it down. If writing's not your passion, find other ways to express your feelings. Movies, art, photography. The important thing is that you use your talents to share the truth to the world.

Let's talk! What are your feelings on the importance of writing? What's your favorite way to express yourself? Tell me in the comments.

March 20, 2017

5 Reasons to Watch Trollhunters

5 Reasons to Watch Trollhunters

I'm a big Netflix fan. I love watching their original shows like Race to the Edge and White Rabbit Project. Recently, my siblings and I tried Trollhunters, one of the best shows Dreamworks has come out with yet. Tying with Race to the Edge.

The show is about a boy named Jim, who is picked by a magic amulet to become the next trollhunter. He discovers there's a whole other world of magic creatures out there. Being trollhunter means he has to protect the world from bad trolls, as well as balance his normal life. At the same time, some trolls and changlings are trying to bring back an evil troll to take over the world. With the help of trolls Blinky and Aaarrrgghh! and friends Toby and Claire, Jim must protect both worlds from this threat.

They released the first 26 episodes, all making up season one, in December. We didn't start watching it until January, but once we did, we couldn't stop. Here are five reasons you should give this show a try.

1- Great Characters

The first thing that stood out to me about this series was the characters. Each one is excellent. Take Jim. His dad left, leaving him with his mother. They have a great bond, even though Jim is more often parent than she is. He's a good boy, except for the lying about his trollhunter duties. He can cook and is always sweet. Yes, he has his flaws, but he's one of those characters that you just love.

Then there are the side characters. Toby lives with his grandmother and makes friends with the killer turned pacifist, Aaarrrgghh!. Claire's little brother was stolen by trolls and replaced by a changling. Blinky becomes Jim's surrogate dad. They gave thought to each character to make them come alive.

And the bad guys are bad. One of Jim's teachers, Strickler, is a villain and an anti-hero, who happens to fall in love with Jim's mother. He's the one you come to understand best. Then there are evil trolls like Bular and Angor Rot. The latter is an especially good baddy.

2- Anton Yelchin's Last Work

Anton Yelchin, known to Star Trek fans as Chekov in the new movies, died last year. He was crushed by his own car in his driveway at the age of 27. It was a shock, and still very sad. This is the last thing he completed before he died. If you're a fan of his, or even if you don't know who he is, you should watch Trollhunters for the excellent voice work he brings to the show. His portrayal as Jim is sweet and heartfelt.

Because of his death, many fans questioned whether they would make a second season since the voice of the main character died. (When I watched the first episode and saw the dedication on the end to Anton, it made me so sad.) However, it has been renewed for a new season and I guess we'll have to wait and see what they do about Jim.

3- Well Balanced

Like most shows, it has it's share of humor, especially between Jim, Toby, and Claire, and the trolls trying to understand our world. But all that is carefully balanced with darker and more serious parts. Like Jim's dad leaving him when he was five. On his birthday too. 

There's a lot of depth to this series. It's called a children's show, but it would be great for anyone of any age. Good versus evil, balancing two lives, even bullies. The whole thing is perfectly balanced.

4- Beautiful Worldbuilding

When Jim discovers there's a troll town underneath his own, he literally enters a whole new world. The troll world is built on strict rules and they don't trust humans, leaving it up to Jim to earn their trust. The troll world is really well built. You can learn lots about worldbuilding from it.

For example, there are different types of trolls, and they all have their own rules and legends. The trolls also have their own types of technology, like a sphere that can get you places really fast. Magic is also prominent, but it comes with it's own set of rules. One character, Angor Rot, trades his soul to get magic so he can kill trollhunters. I also liked how they chose less popular creatures for their series. Trolls, gnomes, goblins, and changlings.

5- Excellent Storytelling

This is the best part. The storytelling. The 26 episodes, which should technically be two seasons, are carefully paced to keep you riveted. Each episode makes and answers questions, but leaves you with enough questions or a cliffhanger, so you want to watch just one more episode. This is a technique that could easily be applied to each chapter of your novel, or even each book. You'll find, once you start this series, you won't want to stop.

This is a story of good versus evil, but it's also the story of Jim learning to grow up. At the end of season one, he makes a big decision that will have even bigger consequences. He's changed since the average boy at the beginning. Now he's a strong, experience character. However, I think next season will test him to his limits.

Let's talk! Have you watched Trollhunters? Have you ever watched a show you didn't want to stop? Tell me in the comments.

March 16, 2017

My Writing Journey: Thoughts and Lessons

My Writing Journey: Thoughts and Lessons

I realized as I was planning this month's blog posts, I'd never written about my personal writing journey. Each writer has a unique story about how and why they started writing, so it's time I shared mine. I'm going to take you from when I started writing to today, then share with you a few lessons I've learned along the way.

My Journey

I've been a writer forever. Or so it seems. Ever since I learned to write, I've been writing. And not just for school either, though my mom was big on creative writing. I have notebooks full of doodles and stories I started but never finished. Most were just me recreating my favorite books, like stories about tiny people and talking animals. One of my favorites was a tale about a rat who lived in a doll house and had a long, curly mustache. Complete with illustrations.

I got older. In school, I did story starters (basically the beginning of a story that you have to write an ending for), art writing prompts, and a writing exercise where you drew four cards from different stacks and wrote a story including the words on the cards. I also started officially journaling about ten years ago. Most of my entries then were about two sentences.

Then came the turning point in my journey. In school I came up with an original story idea that turned out to be 40 (composition notebook) pages. The original version of that story shall never see the light of day, but recently I returned to the idea and am currently using it as a jumping off point for a new version of it. That was when I realized I could really write a novel.

In September of 2012, armed only with a one page summery of what was going to happen in my story that I called an outline, I set off into my first full length novel. 164 pages, about 50K words, and a year and a half later, I finished it. That version was horrible. It's plot was a big mish-mash of some of my favorite books. I'm surprised it was even salvageable. But that was the start of Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog (which is about to have a name change.) Today I'm working on turning it into a real novel, the first in either a duology or a trilogy.

But that novel was empowering. It made me feel like I could be an author like the ones I loved. I started right into several more novels. Another fantasy book and a historical fiction. That's when trouble hit.

I've talked about this before, but I went through a time of extreme doubt. I didn't write for months. I didn't feel my novels were good enough and that I would never be an author. With encouragement from my mom, I got back to writing and rekindled my joy.

As I reached the end of high school, I started to truly work to improve my writing. I started finding resources to teach myself to be a better writer. I discovered sites like She's Novel (now Well Storied) and Helping Writers Become Authors. I read every writing book my library had. I researched, and worked, and dreamed.

Through my local library, I heard of NaNoWriMo. I thought it sounded pretty cool, and started looking into it. In September of 2015 I decided to participate and began my prep. November arrived and I locked myself in my room to write my fingers off. The month came to a close. I emerged from my room with 50K superhero novel and an amazing self-confidence boost. NaNoWriMo showed me I could write a novel. I was, and still am, proud of what I accomplished.

We arrive at today. I've been graduated for almost two years and I currently work for my dad. I've been working hard to improve my writing skills and learning about publishing, my dream since I was young. The past year I've really been thinking about what I want to do with my life and how I want to use my time. I've discovered I'm an introvert and a multi-passionate, which means I don't have just one thing I like to do, but many. All this affects me in different ways.

I still want to be published. Later this year I plan on starting to build my author platform. (Then blog all about it for you.) But I don't want to only be a writer. That's not the way I'm made. I want to do lots of things with my life, like run an Etsy shop, do photography, and more.

However, I will never stop writing. It will be the one thing I will always do. That, I do know. I may be uncertain where my next step is. I don't know where I'm going. But writing is my love and my passion.

Lessons Learned

Through all this, I've learned a variety of lessons. Here I'll summarize a few of them for you in hopes that they'll help, or at least encourage, you.

#1: Understand what you're doing before you start.

I'm not saying you have to know everything about writing before you begin your first novel. But at least understand the basics. Know what three act structure is, along with the basics of pre-writing, and editing. I dove in before I really knew what to do, and now I have to fix the messes of stories I wrote back then. Like anything else, you can't learn without practice, but you can know somewhat what you're doing before you start.

#2: Never give up.

There will be times you doubt. You wonder if this is the path for you. If you're stories are crap and won't sell. But never stop writing. If necessary, take a break, but always come back. Tell someone what you're feeling so they can help and encourage you.

#3: You DON'T need to go to school to be a writer.

This is the most important thing I would tell every writer. Don't spend thousands of dollars going to college to learn to write. Instead, read books, both on writing and fiction books like you want to write. Use those thousands of dollars you saved to pay for the occasional course you might feel would be useful or travel for story research. Instead of going to school for four years to learn how to write, use those four years to actually write and tone your craft. College won't help you become a writer. Only you can do that.

This was a long post, but I hope you enjoyed learning about my writing journey and the lessons I learned. I hope this encourages you to be a writer your way. Now go out there and write.

Let's talk! What is your writing journey? What lessons have you learned? Tell me in the comments.

March 13, 2017

Author Spotlight: J. R. R. Tolkien

Author Spotlight: J. R. R. Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien is one of my favorite authors of all time. If I were ever to find a time machine, preferably a blue one with the Doctor inside, one of my top things to do would be to go back in time and meet him. I love him and his work so much, I did a whole study on him when I was in school. When I decided to do another author spotlight, I thought, why not one of my favorite authors?


John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892 in South Africa. His father was bank clerk who moved to South Africa for better prospects, then was joined by Tolkien's mother. His time in South Africa was short, and one of his most vivid memories was of a large spider. (Often thought to be where his idea for Shelob came from.) He had one younger brother born while they were in Africa.

His family returned to England when he was three, but his father died while in South Africa shortly after. Their family lived in poverty for quite a while. Tolkien started going to school and showed a keen gift for languages. Over the years he translated many books and created many languages. His mother died when he was twelve, leaving him and his brother in the care of a priest.

Tolkien met his wife, Edith, at 16, when they lived in the same boarding house. However, his priest guardian refused to let them be together until he was 21. As soon as he turned 21, he wrote Edith telling her how much he loved her. They married in 1916 and had four children over the course of their life.

When the Great War broke out, many of Tolkien's friends went out and were killed. He himself eventually joined the army, but got trench fever, which affected him so much that he couldn't fight the rest of the war. His son Christopher later fought in World War 2.

He became a professor at Oxford, where he started The Hobbit on the back of an exam paper. He continued to have a successful career, wrote more books, and translated others. Edith died in 1971 and Tolkien died less than a year later. Engraved on their tombstone are the names Beren and Luthien. He was 81.


Tolkien was both a writer and a translator of books. Many of his manuscripts were never finished, which his son Christopher later edited and published. I'll divide this list up by translations, published works, and posthumous works.

Translated Books
The Story of Kullervo
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun
The Fall of Arthur

Published Works
The Hobbit
The Lord of the Rings
The Father Christmas Letters (Not a book actually, but a collection of letters that he sent his children each year from Father Christmas. They are so adorable.)
Leaf by Niggle
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
On Fairy Stories
Smith of Wootton Major
Farm Giles of Ham
Bilbo's Last Song

Posthumous Works
The Silmarillion
Unfinished Tales
The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (Also not an official book, but a collection of his letters to various people that are fascinating to read.)
Mr. Bliss
The Book of Lost Tales
The History of Middle Earth (This is written by Christopher Tolkien, talking about how Middle Earth and LOTR came to be.)
The Children of Hurin
Beren and Luthien (Not out yet, but it will be later this year. I can't wait.)

What I Enjoy About His Work

The thing I love about Tolkien's works are that they are so rich and full of depth. Middle Earth was made as sort of an English mythology, and he worked on it from when he started The Lord of the Rings until he died. It was his passion project, which you can tell.

Today, we jump from book to book quickly, always moving on to a new idea. Most authors today couldn't imagine spending years working lovingly on one project, and continuing to write stories there. If most authors spent even a fraction of the time on worldbuilding as he did, books would be much better.

I also enjoy that Tolkien wrote so diversely. From children's books like Roverandom and The Hobbit to his adult fantasies of The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, he has something for everyone. You can start kids on him from a young age.

His books have some of the best re-readability as well. People, myself included, return to them again and again. They aren't something you read once and never return to. They draw you back to them. I know I notice new things every time I re-read LOTR. It's beautiful.

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Also, I wanted to point out that I now have a page for my novels. Just look at the pages bar across the top, or click here, to read blurbs and notes about where they are in the writing process. Once I get my author site up, hopefully later this year, that will point you there instead. Let me know what you think.

Let's talk! What's your favorite Tolkien fact? How many times have you read The Lord of the Rings(I've read it around 4 times.) Tell me in the comments.

March 9, 2017

A Series of Unfortunate Events Review

A Series of Unfortunate Events Review

I'm a big fan of A Series of Unfortunate Events. I've read the whole series and though the ending wasn't quite what I expected, I enjoyed them. The distinctive style of Lemony Snicket, once you've read it, is something that brings a smile to your face, even if he's talking about something tragic. I also liked how things were never black and white, more bordering on gray.

Once my family started reading these books, we tried the Jim Carrey movie. It was fine, but they tried to cover three books in a two hour movie, which made if feel rushed. When they announced that Netflix was going to make it into a series, I was excited and nervous, a phrase which here means, I wanted it to be perfect or else. Would they do a good job? Would it be anything like the series? Would they ruin my beloved books?

It came out in January, and we immediately started watching it. From the first note of the opening song, I was in love. I decided to review the series for all the other Lemony Snicket fans out there, so here we go.


One of the most important casting choices was Count Olaf, the biggest baddy of the whole series. They chose Neil Patrick Harris and he was amazing. As Olaf himself, he was nasty, mean, and said the lines from the book perfectly. In his disguises, he performed just as admirably. To me, he did much better at the role than Jim Carrey. Besides, Neil sang.

Tying with most important is the Baudelaires, since they are the heroes of the story. Malina Weissman (who Supergirl fans may recognize as young Cara) is Violet, and looks perfect. Klaus is played by Louis Hynes, and he was the one Baudelaire that disappointed me. He nor the boy who played Klaus in the movie were quite right. That, however, is just me. Otherwise he was great. And then there's Presley Smith as Sunny. She is so cute. The three children acted wonderfully together and had a excellent family dynamic.

And the second best casting was Lemony Snicket himself. He plays a role in the series as narrator and occasional aside maker. Patrick Warburton plays him, who Disney fans may know as the voice of Kronk from The Emperor's New Groove and Dreamworks fans may know as Agamemnon from Mr. Peabody and Sherman. His role was one of my favorites and it was nice that he wasn't just a shadowy figure.

The other series regulars, Mr. Poe *cough*, and Count Olaf's acting troupe, were picked and played well. Mr. Poe's cough was perfect, as was his super annoying, not at all helpful personality. One of the changes they did make was that his wife is the reporter for the Daily Punctilio who comes in a lot later. The acting troupe is fun, but my personal favorite is the hook-handed man, who is scary, funny, and speaks baby.

Lastly we have the people that come and go from book to book. Mostly guardians. The casting continued to be great. (Though I preferred Billy Connolly as Uncle Monty, one of my favorite guardians. Then he dies. Sorry for the spoiler.) It's interesting because they used people of all races in this series, unlike the all white casting from the movie.


Don't worry if you haven't seen this yet, I won't spoil it. But I am going to talk about what they did with turning the books into a series.

Each book was turned into two episodes, which I suggest watching back to back, so you don't forget anything. They range in time from forty-five minutes to almost an hour. This set up was perfect, giving each book the proper amount of time to be fully enjoyed. Season is the first four books, The Bad Beginning to The Miserable Mill.

The episodes start with the cheerful notes of the show's theme song- "Look Away", sung by Neil Patrick Harris. Lemony narrates, as normal, and even stands inside of scenes as they go on around him. Other times he'll suddenly pulls you away from the narrative to have one of his asides. They did a great job of making feel like the books. Many of the lines were exactly the same.

But at the same time, it was different. They had comedic moments to help lighten the mood. And yes, they changed things, but since Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, was the writer of the show, I think he knows what he's doing. It sounds like the series will end the same, but takes a slightly different path to get there. I liked the changes they add. There is more drama and side plots, like a mysterious agent who is helping the Baudelaires.

Or what about these mysterious people?

Fans who have already read the books will be sure to catch several references to other parts of the series. Like at one point when Count Olaf mentions not being able to find a sugar bowl *wink wink*. Plus, the orphans get in so many Very Frightening Dilemmas.

There were a few things I didn't like. I didn't care for how they made Sunny speak. She didn't say those adorable words like she did the book, just baby sounding noises. (Though the subtitles are handy.) And Sunny and Dr. Orwell didn't get in a tooth and sword battle. I was looking forward to that.

Though be warned. There is a major plot twist at the end of the series that is sure to crush your soul and weep with anger at Netflix. I won't say what, I'll just say they did a great job of misdirection. The season one finale is everyone- the orphans, Count Olaf, Mr. Poe, and Lemony- singing a song even cheerfuller than the open credits one titled "That's Not How the Story Goes". It will leave you so sad for the characters.

I think Netflix did a great job on the series, and can't wait for season two, which is rumored to contain the next four or more books. Until then I'll be re-watching season one and reading  the All the Wrong Questions series.

Let's talk! Are you a Series of Unfortunate Events fan? Did you like the Netflix series? What about the movie? Tell me in the comments.