September 28, 2017

September Monthly Recap

September Monthly Recap

September has been a busy month of getting back into the schedule. It's also been warm most of the month, which is annoying because I want to break out my sweaters and fuzzy boots. It's fall, weather! Time to cool off. But moving past the weather, let's talk about what I've been up to this month.

What's Been Going On

Like I said, I've been trying to get back on a schedule, or at least as best I can. Life does happen, and things change every day. But I do have a bit of schedule going.

I didn't do a lot this month. There was Labor Day, the county fair, and my parents anniversary, which were all fun, but we didn't do anything big. I'm also doing my last year of violin, which is both nice and sad.

What I've Done


I'm finishing up another round of edits on The Girl with the Sword. I think it's almost ready for people to start critiquing and reading. I'm also thinking up a new name for it. That's always fun. (Hear the sarcasm?)

Speaking of new names, I have a new name for Return to Wonderland and the rest of the series. The name is now. . . New Magic and the whole series is going to be called Magic of Wonderland. The second and third books are called Missing Magic and Heart Magic.

Missing Magic is also the novel I'm going to be writing for NaNoWriMo. I'm already working on pre-writing it, because I'm that over-prepared person. This is the first time I've written a sequel, so I'm hoping it goes well.


I just drew out the main character, the Mad Hatter, and the Queen of Hearts from New Magic. Celia, the main character, came out super good.

Celia, my MC
The Mad Hatter
The Queen of Hearts

I'm also getting into Studio Ghibli movies, because I'm playing some of the music for my violin class. One of them was My Neighbor Totoro, which I found adorable. So I had to draw the Totoro.

I've also taken some bookstagram pictures that I think are pretty good, so I think I'll do a picture post with them next month, or possibly in November, since that will be an easy post to do.

Where I've Gone

• The book festival. I wrote a whole post on it, which you can check out here.

• The beach. It was so nice last week, my dad took us to the beach on the spur of the moment. It was the perfect weather and lots of fun. I drew the picture below in my travel journal while I was there. We also saw a snake that was either a harmless water snake or a copperhead, so we steered clear.

Thoughts on October

• I'm going to keep preparing for NaNoWriMo. I've still got a lot of work to do plus getting all the things put in the site. I'm looking forward to seeing the update they're going to roll out.

• I have my driving test next week. Aggh! I really hope I pass.

• I've got to figure out what to be for Halloween. I forgot to think about it until a bit late for a super great costume, but I've got time to come up with something good.

• I want to get some editing done on Jeremiah was a Bullfrog, which also needs a new name. It's also getting close to the people actually reading it stage.

Let's talk! What have you done this month? Is it still insanely hot where you are too? Tell me in the comments.

September 25, 2017

September Book Reviews

September Book Reviews

I'm glad to be back with some normal book reviews this month. I've got some good, some great, and some bad ones for you, so let's get down to business. (To defeat the Huns.) As normal, all the books I didn't review here are linked to my Goodreads reviews if you want to see what I thought.

Best Books

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe- C. S. Lewis

My Rating: 5 stars


• Classic fantasy adventure. A magical realm, adventurous children, mythical creatures, and prophesies of greatness. Lewis wrote this book before any of these things were cliche, and even when you read it today, it's still amazing. This is my favorite book of the series and I love reading it over and over.

• The children. Each one has a unique personality. Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy- names that will go down in literary history. Lucy has always been my favorite. I also love how Lewis gave girls roles as important as the boys.

• The themes. Many themes run through the book, but none as deep as the theme of redemption. When I read the book this time, Edmund's story really struck me. He's always everyones least favorite character, but I realized that's because he's supposed to be like us, a sinner. Who can only be saved through someone else's sacrifice. It's powerful.


Absolutely nothing. Lewis is a master storyteller and I can't find a fault with any of his Narnia books.

Design for Dying- Renee Patrick

My Rating: 4 stars


• Lillian and Edith. These are the protagonists, and mystery solvers, of the novel. Lillian is an ex-actress-wannabe who now holds a steady job. I liked her because she had her feet on the ground and wasn't a wishy-washy young woman. Edith is a costume designer for one of the major movie studios and solves the mystery while giving fashion advice. The two of them worked well together.

• Old Hollywood glamour, with a dark side. I've always been fond of books about the 1920s and 30s, especially in California or Chicago. This book captured that old time feeling, plus showed a behind-the-scenes look at the world, past the movie making studios.

• Excellent mystery. I was engaged the whole way through, and didn't want to put it down. I didn't see any of the twists, or the killer coming. Of course, I don't like to guess who's the killer either, unlike some people. I like to let the mystery unfold in its own time.

• Fairly clean. There were no inappropriate scenes and not much cursing either, for an adult novel. It surprised me, as I haven't had a lot of success reading adult books that aren't classics yet.


• Too many characters. There were a ton of characters in this book, but not a lot to tell them apart. Actresses and gangsters flooded the pages so that I couldn't keep them straight. Agatha Christie was a genius with large casts, this author, not so much.

• Why does the girl always fall for the detective? This trope is becoming overused. This was another book where the MC girl falls in love with the handsome, always ready with a good comeback, totally macho detective. The romance was barely there, which I appreciated, but why can't they fall for someone else?

Worst Books

Target Practice- Mike Maihack

My Rating: 3 stars


• Good art. I like graphic novels with nice artwork. It wasn't my favorite style, but I liked the way it was done, the main character especially.

• Cute for kids. This book was a big pile of cliches, which I'll tell you about in a minute, but it would be fine for kids. They would enjoy it. I just didn't.


• The main character. Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt one, is the protagonist for this novel. I wanted to like her, I really did. But she was mouthy and untalented at everything except combat. There wasn't much to like.

• The storytelling. It started halfway through the story, which is generally a big no-no. Then it skipped back and started over to show you how she got there. This can be done well, like Cressida Cowell does, but I didn't like it here.

• Cliche plot. The main character is dragged to another world, turns out to be the savior, and instantly rejects the idea. Plus the personality I already mentioned. It was annoyingly predictable.

Legacy of the Clockwork Key- Kristen Bailey

My Rating: 3 stars (I'm not sure why I rated this one so high, except that it wasn't horrible. It just wasn't good.)


• Steampunk! There isn't nearly enough decent steampunk novels out there. I thought this one was fun, but it was a little over the top at times. I didn't understand how the machines worked, even though I wanted to. Steampunk doesn't have to be scientifically correct, but I like at least a plausible explanation.


• Meg. Who is the main character. She was not likable. She spent most of the book being wimpy, stupidly brave, or mooning over Will. *gags* Meg also had no skills except being the key. An automaton could have been more useful.

• Instalove. Meg meets Will and instantly starts getting heart flutters. And the only reason she falls in love with him is because he's handsome. The romance felt really rushed and unrealistic.

• Formulaic plot. It was a mystery/adventure, which I normally enjoy. This one hit all the marks but remained predictable. I didn't even understand why the bad guy was bad, and everything felt too easy.

However, judging by Goodreads, the second book is better, so I'm keeping my hopes up.

Notable Mention

Time Lord Fairy Tales- Justin Richards

I'm a huge Whovian. I've seen at least an episode from every Doctor, and all of the new Who episodes (except the second half of the Satan Pit, because it scared me, and the newest season, because it's not on Amazon Prime yet). Anyway, my friend let me borrow this book and I adored it.

It takes a bunch of fairy tales and makes them Doctor Who style. My favorites were "The Angels in the Garden" and "The Grief Collector". It was fun to see all the different Doctors fairy tale style. I even once starting reading on as a certain Doctor, then it turned out to be him. I only didn't know what one tale was supposed to be.

Other Books

Passenger- Alexandra Bracken (3 1/2 stars)
Marie Antoinette: Princess of Versailles- Katheryn Lasky (3 stars)
The Magician's Nephew- C. S. Lewis (5 stars)
This Savage Song- Victoria Schwab (4 stars)
Flygirl- Sherri L. Smith (4 stars)
King's Cage- Victoria Aveyard (3 stars)
Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers- Deborah Heiligman (4 stars)
My Lady Jane- Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows (4 stars)

Let's talk! What did you read this month? Do you hate predictable plots? Tell me in the comments.

September 21, 2017

12 Fairy Tale Retellings I Want to See

12 Fairy Tale Retellings I Want to See

I've loved fairy tales for a long time. Especially the beautifully illustrated ones you can find for children. Aren't they gorgeous? Not only are the stories fantastical and full of whimsy, they're also great because they often have such excellent morals.

Anyway, retellings are super popular right now. They're fun to write and read, and it gives us a new look at old tales. I love stories like Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast as much of the next person, but I'm getting tired of the same four stories being told over and over.

In this post, I'm going to share twelve fairy tales that I would love to see written. Or write myself, depending. I'll give you a quick summery of each tale (which is probably horrible, so if you're interested in any of these, you should look them up for the full story) and some ideas on what you could do with it.

1: Snow White and Rose Red

Snow White and Rose Red is about two sisters who are kind to a talking bear that shows up at their house one night. They become friends. In the end, it turns out he was a prince turned into a bear by a nasty dwarf, who the prince kills. Snow White marries the prince, and Rose Red marries his brother (because princes always have brothers in these types of tales.)

This story has it all: romance, a prince in disguise, an evil dwarf, treasure, and death. I could see this set in a modern setting, or maybe in space. What if the two girls were foster sisters? Or the bear was really evil, not the dwarf? Who doesn't love some deception?

2: Hansel and Gretel

You probably already know the story of Hansel and Gretel, but I'll fill you in anyway. Hansel and Gretel were two children with a loving father and evil stepmother (surprise, surprise). She tries to get rid of them by sending them out in the forest to collect wood. The first time, they leave stones to find their way back, but the second time, they use breadcrumbs, which get eaten. They get lost and find a house made of candy where a witch lives. She catches them and locks them up to eat. But when she takes Hansel, or sometimes Gretel, out of the cage to eat, she's pushed into the stove and the children find their way home.

I know this story has been told before, but it always seems to make the siblings witch hunters. There's got to be more ways to retell the story than that. What about the witch has a scheme to capture lots of children for something, and Hansel and Gretel have to stop her? Or do something like Wicked and make the witch good and the kids bad?

3: Anything from One Thousand and One Nights

One Thousand and One Nights is full of one thousand different tales. There a many wonderful, unique tales to choose from, including famous ones like Aladdin and Sinbad the Sailor. With so many stories, you're sure to find something to use for a retelling.

How you retell these stories depend on which one you pick. What about Sinbad, but with a girl instead? Or a modern day Aladdin? This would also be a good place to use some unique cultures, magical creatures, and mythology. Your problem is probably going to be picking a story to use.

4: The Six Swans

A king has six sons and one daughter. After his wife dies, he marries a new woman who is jealous of of the children. She turns his sons into swans, and they can only turn back for a few minutes every evening. Their sister sets out to find a way to turn them back, which is to sew six shirts of nettles for seven years without making a sound. While she's doing that, a prince finds her and falls in love. They marry. His mother-in-law, who is obviously wicked, takes away her first child when she gives birth and claims the girl got rid of it. She's sentenced to be burned at the stake. Her brothers show up just as she's about to be burned. She puts the shirts on them and saves them and herself.

I love this story because it features a family, a girl protagonist, and magic. I read one version of this set in space, and while it wasn't very good, that is a good idea to update the tale. Or what if she had to make shirts from something else, or put it in a different setting. And brainstorm more ways about why she can't talk? What will happen if she does?

5: Bearskin

Bearskin is about a man who makes a deal with a devil after the war. He has to wear a coat and skin and not cut his hair or nails for seven years. If he does so he'll be rich. The man agrees, but people are so revolted by him he can't find anywhere to stay. He finds an old man who is about to be sent to jail for not paying the innkeeper and leave his daughters without anyone to care for them. Bearskin gives him money to pay his debt and in return, the man says he can marry one of his daughters. Only the youngest agrees. He gives her a ring and promises to come back in a few years. After the time is up, Bearskin finishes his deal and returns to the girl. They marry and live happily.

This tale is a bit morbid, but it's a unique tale. There's plenty you could do with this story. Place it in the future with aliens. Change the devil to an imp or genie. Who doesn't like a tale with some true love and people in disguise?

6: Bluebeard

Bluebeard is a horrible, ugly nobleman who marries young women that mysteriously disappear. Another young woman is chosen as his wife. He gives her the keys to the house, but forbids her to go in the basement room. Obviously, she goes in to discover all his former wives dead and hanging on the walls. She runs from the room and tells her friend about it. Bluebeard returns from his trip and discovers what she did. He is about to kill her. She is saved by her friend's husband, who kills Bluebeard.

Bluebeard is a creepy and disgusting tale, but you could really go somewhere with it. It's got all the elements of a great story. A horrible villain, a curious woman, bodies in the basement. Maybe this could be made into a murder mystery. Or the girl could agree to marry him to discover what happened to the other wives. On second thought, I may not enjoy reading a retelling of this one, depending on the way it's told.

7: The Twelve Dancing Princesses

Almost everyone knows this one. There is a king with twelve beautiful daughters that he won't let marry anyone. They are discovered to have holes in their shoes every night and looking tired, like they've been out all night. However, no one sees them leave. The king offers a reward of a princess to whoever can figure out the mystery. A young man decides to try his luck. On his way to the castle, an old woman gives him some advice. Following what she said, he finds out the princesses are going to a magical land each night and dancing there. He reveals the secret and marries a daughter.

There have retellings of this one already, but it's such a pretty fairy tale, I'd love to see more. What if you placed it in a modern setting? Or add a mystery, like the princesses have to go to the magical land and the man has to figure out why? Or make it something besides dancing?

8: The Brave Little Tailor

A tailor is about to eat lunch when he sees flies gathering on his bread. He kills them and discovers seven. Being proud of that, he makes a belt that says "Seven with one blow". He decides to set out and seek his fortune (I guess he got an inflated ego). He meets some giants and tricks them into thinking he's strong and can kill seven men with one blow. He then joins the military, but everyone is too afraid of him. The king sends him on several impossible tasks, each of which the tailor completes. In the end he gets the princess's hand in marriage and half the kingdom.

I like this story because the tailor, despite having no skills, manages to convince everyone that he's some great hero, and comes out better for it. I could see this story being a really fun one, with a trickster main character. And someone who knows his secret, possibly threatening to reveal it unless the trickster does what he says.

9: Fairer-than-a-Fairy

This one's a bit complicated, so look it up if you want the full thing. Basically, this king names his daughter Fairer-Than-A-Fairy, which is a bad idea. An ugly old fairy comes and takes the girl away to be her servant. The girl grows up, falls in love with a prince the fairy turned into a rainbow, and manages to escape the fairy.

I've always found this tale interesting because it's so complicated. The girl has to do all sorts of stuff to get free of the fairy. I could totally see this tale set in a fantasy world, or in space. And maybe with some wicked twists. Like what if the prince doesn't love her, he's only trying to use to her get free?

10: The Goose Girl

There's a princess with a talking horse and a magical charm to protect her. She gets sent to marry a prince, and on the way loses her charm. Her maid takes advantage of that and forces her to change places. When they arrive at the castle, the maid claims to be the princess. The princess is made a goose girl. The boy she works with notices strange things about her and tells the king. The king tries to convince the girl to tell him, but she can't. He tells her to tell an iron stove instead, and hides inside it while she talks. Thus he learns about the maid's trickery. The king tells the maid about the false servant and asks her to pick a punishment. She says she should be dragged through town in a barrel full of spikes until she dies, so that's exactly what happens to her. The prince and princess marry and live happily ever after.

Don't you just love a story where the villain comes to a nasty end? Plus, the princess in this story has a very Cinderella attitude, which is nice compared to some of the people in today's novels. This tale could be made into quite the story. Add some tension. Maybe the maid is a evil creature in disguise. Maybe the princess doesn't want the prince in the end because he couldn't tell the difference between a princess and a maid.

11: The Pied Piper

This is another famous tale. There's a town called Hamlin that's over-run with rats. A man shows up and offers to get rid of the rats in one day. The people don't think it's possible, so they agree to his price. He pulls out a flute and plays. The rats follow him right out of town. But the townspeople, being greedy, don't want to pay him. He warns them to pay him or they'll regret it. They don't, so he plays his flute again and takes away the children, who are never seen again.

Interesting fact: this story is based off of a real town in France where there were no children. Some people speculate it might have been the plague. Can't you just see what a creepy story this could make? Or what if you picked up after the story, telling about what happened to the children? Or told the story from the piper's point of view?

12: The Water of Life

There was a king who was dying, so he sent his three sons out to find the water of life to heal him. The two older brothers were mean to a dwarf on their journey, so he punished them. Only the youngest was kind and the dwarf told him how to find the water of life. He meets a princess on the way and they fall in love. The youngest brother returns to the kingdom with his brothers, being the only one with the water of life. The older brothers take it and switch it for sea water. That makes the king sicker. When he is healed by the older brothers, he orders the young brother killed. He escapes instead. Later the king is sorry for it, learns his son lived, and asks him to come back. The youngest prince goes to retrieve the princess and the two live happily ever after.

This story is kind of a mix of elements. Mean older brothers, lots of tests, and an escape from death. This is another tale I could see doing well in space, or in the modern day. Or maybe you could reverse it, so it was sisters and a prince. Or maybe the princess is a witch trying to trap the prince.

Let's talk! What are some fairy tales you would like to see retold? Do you have any favorite tales? Tell me in the comments.

September 18, 2017

Character Breakdown: Hiccup Haddock from How to Train Your Dragon

Character Breakdown: Hiccup Haddock from How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon is an excellent movie, and Hiccup is a great protagonist in it. I love how through the movies and TV series, we've seen him mature from a scared little boy to a wise leader. What makes him so great? That's what we're looking at today. Mild spoilers ahead for both movies and the TV shows.


• Creative. When he finds Toothless is injured, he makes a whole new tail for him. When his own leg is lost, he makes himself an amazing prosthetic. He's also a good artist. Hiccup loves to create amazing things that serve a purpose.

• Smart. He's also a great leader because he thinks about things, considering his options before rushing in. He's beaten plenty of enemies by being smarter, not stronger.

• Witty. Hiccup is always ready with a great comeback. No matter the peril of the situation, he's willing to say something funny. He also has a touch of sarcasm.


• Brave. Hiccup is willing to do just about anything for the people and dragons he loves. He even stands up to his own father and the rest of the tribe to prove a point. He may be small, but he doesn't let that stop him.

• Compassionate. Even thought Toothless could have killed him when they met, Hiccup still did his best to help the wounded creature. That's why he's so awesome. Every dragon he meets, he's willing to give a chance. There's a reason he's the mast dragon trainer.


• Too caring. Hiccup is so willing to believe the best in others, and dragons, that he's almost been killed because of it. He won't kill dragons, even if that looks like the only way to get out of the situation.

• Small. This flaw isn't exactly his fault, but he's tiny. That's why he didn't fit in with the other vikings at first. He's gotten taller and stronger, but he's still skimpy compared to his friends.


• Inventor. Like I said before, Hiccup is excellent at inventing things. Prosthetics, flying suits, and swords to name a few. His cleverness has gotten him out of several scrapes.

• Fighting. In the first movie, he doesn't have many skills in the fighting department. He can barely lift an ax. Over time he learns to fight with fists, swords, and a special shield he invented. He still doesn't make fighting his first option, however.

• Leadership abilities. Stoick has been preparing Hiccup to take over the tribe all his life. Hiccup doesn't want that, but the things he's learned make themselves evident through the way he leads his friends through their adventures. He's strategic, thoughtful, and smart.

What Makes Him Interesting

• His relationship with Toothless. The two of them are the best of friends. By the end of the first movie, they even have a missing body part on the same side. Their relationship is adorable and I love every scene with the two of them.

• His missing leg. At the end of the first movie, he loses his leg from the shin down. Having him wear a prosthetic makes him a unique hero in a kids film. It also adds a level of difficulty to his life, like on ice or when someone takes his leg to keep him from getting away.

• The way he acts. Hiccup is most fascinating to me because he doesn't think or act like the people around him. He may be small in size, but his heart is gigantic. He chooses the path of peace over the path of war, something I think we should see more of in the media. Why can't we have more heroes who try to work through things instead of just lashing out?

Let's talk! What do you like about Hiccup? Do you think we should have more amputee characters? Tell me in the comments.

September 14, 2017

6 Ways to Wear a Button-Up Shirt

6 Ways to Wear a Button-Up Shirt

I love a good button-up shirt. It gives your outfit an extra level and can add a bit of warmth, especially nice in the fall and winter. I've experimented a lot with different ways to wear them over time. Today I'll show you six different ways you can wear one button-up, with at least three quarter sleeves.

All of these looks can be completely personalized. You can wear it with pants or a skirt, a tank top or a tee-shirt, flats or boots. Accessorize with whatever you like. Make your outfit speak you.

1. Loose

This is super simple. All you do is put the shirt on and leave it unbuttoned. It gives you an easy, carefree look.

2. Buttoned

This is basically the same as the one before, except you button up your shirt. If you want to add an accessory, put on a necklace for something fancy.

3. Sleeves rolled up, loose

I've discovered that most button-ups can easily roll or fold their sleeves up. This can help you keep cool and give your shirt a different look. Put on the shirt and roll up the sleeves for this look. Leave it loose and flowing.

4. Sleeves rolled up, buttoned

Again, start by putting on the shirt and rolling up the sleeves. Then button it up. You can add some bracelets for extra sparkle.

5. Belted

You'll need a belt for this look. A skinny belt is best. Put on the shirt however you want. Buttoned, unbuttoned, sleeves up or down. Add the belt around your waist. It helps narrow your silhouette and adds some sophistication.

6. Tied around the waist

The final way to wear the shirt is to take the sleeves and tie them around your waist. Tuck in the collar to keep the look sleek.

I hope you got some ideas from this post. If you have any suggestions for fashion posts I should do, be sure to tell me.

Let's talk! Do you like button-up shirts? What's your favorite way to wear it? Tell me in the comments.

September 11, 2017

5 of My Writing Insecurities and Strengths

5 of My Writing Insecurities and Strengths

Recently, Kristen Kieffer made a video on her YouTube channel about her writing insecurities. She encouraged other people to share what they feel insecure about as well so we can show we aren't perfect and can help one another. I thought it sounded like a great idea, so that's what I'm doing today (no matter how scary that may be). I'll also be talking about a few of my writing strengths, the places I feel like I write well. This is going to be interesting, so let's get started.


1. My novels aren't long enough.

I often feel like my novels aren't long enough for a publisher to be interested in. Despite the fact I like short books (something I plan on doing a post about later), I feel like I have to write a giant amount of words to stand up to publishing standards.

I know if it's a good novel and well written, it doesn't matter how long it is, but I still worry that if I don't hit the "normal" word count, no one will be interested in my book.

2. My novels aren't good enough to be published.

I'm always afraid that I won't be able to get published because my novels are lacking or badly written or something. I know I could just self-publish if I couldn't find anyone to publish my books, but it's been my dream to traditionally publish for a long time. I'm planning on working on my author site soon, and then finding an agent after that, and I'm mildly terrified about it.

3. My characters are flat.

I worry all the time that my characters don't come alive on paper like they do in my head. What if they don't have good arcs? What if people don't see them the way I do? What if I accidentally make them unlikable or bland?

4. My themes aren't coming through or I have the wrong theme.

Theme is something I believe strongly in, but it's really hard to write it without whacking someone over the head with the theme. I have a hard time figuring out what my theme is in the first place, and then worry that I have the wrong theme or that it's not showing up in my writing.

5. My novels aren't interesting.

I'm sure every writer has this fear. The fear that your novel is boring, predictable, or just plain bad. I'm pretty sure mine aren't bad, but what if they're cliche? Or boring? Or what if I go the complete opposite way and write something outlandish?


1. I write good, clean fiction.

I've always said that I want to write novels anyone can feel safe about reading. So no cursing, sex, or glorifying bad things. I won't say I'm proud of myself for doing this, but I do feel called to it. This is one area I think I do well in.

2. Dialogue.

I think, and other people have said, I'm good at writing dialogue. When I'm writing conversations, the words just seem to flow. The tricky part is making the characters say the right things.

3. Good descriptions.

I also feel like I'm good at describing things, places, and people. I'm a visual person, so it helps me if I can see it. I love translating the image I have in my head onto the paper. I have to be careful not to info-dump, though.

4. I'm good at getting things down.

Most of the time, writing is easy for me. Novels, blog posts, short stories, the word just flow from my pencil. Or keyboard. This doesn't always happen, but most of the time I'm good at getting my words out. Which is interesting, because in real life, I'm rather shy. Editing those words is much harder for me.

5. Naming things.

I've got a knack for naming things. People, places, magical items, whatever. Names speak to me, and they're important for any novel. I'm even good at suggesting names for other people.

This has been an interesting post to write. The strengths were actually harder for me to pick. I don't always feel like a strong writer, but I work hard every day to get better.

Let's keep this thing going. I challenge you to write on your blog, make a video, or put a post on social media about your writing insecurities and strengths and encourage other people to do this same. And tell me if you do.

Let's talk! What are some of your writing insecurities? What about strengths? Tell me in the comments.

September 7, 2017

Book Review: The Hunger Games

Book Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

Blurb: Winning will make you famous. 
Losing means certain death.

The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The 'tributes' are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.

When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

Cover Review: I love The Hunger Games cover because it's distinctive. Once you've seen it, it's hard to forget. The gold mockingjay and white letters stand out wonderfully against the black background. The whole thing suggests something serious.

My Thoughts

I was one of those kids who wasn't allowed to read these books when they first came out. It took a long time for me to convince my mom to let me read them. When I finally did, I fell in love, although that's a weird expression to use for these books.

Plot: The plot for The Hunger Games is beautifully balanced. While it can be face-paced, especially during the games, it also has it's down moments. There's enough of both to have nice pacing. The romance doesn't slow down the plot, it gives some extra tension.

Suzanne Collins went with a strong political message in this book, but she makes it work. The Hunger Games is a brutal, barbaric custom, and she shows it as such. The thing I like best about the book is that it doesn't glorify what's going on. The story takes a look at both politics and their affect on the normal people of the country.

Characters: I love Katniss. She's the shining star of these books. She's fierce, strong, and flawed. Despite all the hard choices she has to make in this book, she manages to make it through. The other major character is Peeta, whose name is an irony all by itself. He's Katniss's other half during the games, helping sell their romance to the crowd. While I don't like him as much at Katniss, he's still a good character.

Collins put a lot of other characters in the book, but they all are easy to tell apart. Personal favorites of mine are Haymitch and Effie. And her villain, while not entirely evident, is evil and psychotic.

World: This book has an amazing world. Not that the world itself is amazing, but it's well-built. Collins put lots of thought into the way things would work, including things like history and politics. I admire how she made this dystopian society that works so well and highlights the flaws of our current world.

Other: Another thing I think she did well is talking about the injures people got during the Hunger Games. When Katniss got hurt, it actually mattered to the plot, because real people don't heal instantly. Peeta almost dies from a wound that is left untreated for some time. I don't like gore, but I do like when authors take time to make realistic injuries.

My Rating: 4 stars

The Movies

The Hunger Games series was also made into movies, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, as I'm sure you know. I just finished watching them and I think they are one of the best book to movie adaptations I've see, right up there with Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings. It changed a few thing, but it was closer to the books than some other movies I could name. It's shot in a gritty, war film style and Jennifer was amazing as Katniss. I totally recommend you watch them if you like the books. You wont' regret it.

Let's talk! Have you read The Hunger Games? What are your thoughts on it? Tell me in the comments.

September 6, 2017

National Book Festival 2017 Recap

National Book Festival 2017 Recap

Saturday, September 2, was the National Book Festival. It's one of my favorite events all year. I can hear awesome authors speak, get books signed, and check out lots of cool stuff. This year I had one mission in mind. Hear Melissa de la Cruz speak and get my copy of Alex and Eliza signed by her.

Today I'll be giving you a quick recap of the book festival, the panels I saw, and a few things I learned. Plus tell you how my quest to have my book signed went.


Originally, we weren't planning on heading out until around ten because the panels we wanted to see didn't start until after eleven. However, we realized the author of Captain Underpants was going to be there, so we left earlier so my brothers could see him talk. Apparently, he was quite inspiring.

We got there early, so we headed straight down to the convention floor to glance around and look in the book store. The book store is fun because they basically only sell books from the authors that are at the festival, along with a few others. They also have some awesome book merchandise, like socks, bookmarks, and pins.

Anyway, my sister and I went upstairs to the room where teen authors were talking to see Marie Lu, followed by a panel called "Falling In Love" (which Melissa was part of). By that point it was past lunch time, so we grabbed some (nasty) pretzels and then went to wait in the book signing line for Melissa. It was a really good day.

Marie Lu (Young Elites, Warcross)

Marie Lu

I tried to get into Young Elites, but I didn't like how dark they were. However, I still wanted to hear Marie talk because you never know what you might learn. I was glad I did because her talk was inspiring. Here are some things I learned from what she said.

• She used to work in video games for Disney before becoming a writer. She still loves video games, which is what led her to write Warcross.

• She wrote four novels before she published her first one. Don't get discouraged if it takes a while.

• Marie loves the Redwall series. She also likes the new Star Wars movies and Rey is her favorite characters.

And here are a few excellent things she said during her talk.

"Villains are still human."

"Female characters shouldn't be called strong, they should be called real."

"It's okay to write a bad first draft. You just need to finish it."

"If you write, you're a writer."

Panel: Falling In Love
Melissa de la Cruz (Alex and Eliza, Isle of the Lost), Nicola Yoon (Everything Everything, The Sun is Also a Star), and Sandhya Menon (When Dimple Met Rishi)

From left to right: Melissa de la Cruz, Nicola Yoon, and Sandhya Menon

This panel was also really fun since it was three amazing women authors of all different ethnicities. They were such an inspiration to listen to and I got some useful things from the panel.

"The job of writers is to tell the truth"- Nicola Yoon

• Melissa de la Cruz's favorite Schuyler sister is Eliza (big surprise, right?) She also doesn't think Angelica and Hamilton ever had an affair because she loved her sister too much.

"Everything is about love"- Nicola Yoon

• When asked how you can know if a story idea is a good one, all three said that you can feel it. They also agreed that boys can be hopeless romantics just like girls.

"Princesses can be all colors"- Sandhya Menon (Now I want to write some POC princesses)

• Sandhya also uses Scrivener and loves it. Go Scrivener!

"Career comes from being a good reviser"- Nicola Yoon

• They all agreed that copy and imitating other people's work is okay. That's how you learn what you like and don't like.

Book Signing

And yes, I did get my book signed by Melissa. I waited in line for about half an hour. Melissa was great. She took time to sign your name, personalize it if you wanted that, and take pictures with everyone. That's how I want to be when I become a published author.

Me and Melissa!

I had her sign my book with my name and a quote from Hamilton- "I am not throwing away my shot!". She said that was one of her favorite songs in the musical. I enjoyed meeting her so much.

If you ever have a chance to come to the National Book Festival, I highly suggest it. It's free and right near the heart of DC.

Let's talk! Have you ever met an author? Have you ever gotten a book signed? Tell me in the comments.