My Goodreads Quotes

Allison’s quotes

"Don't you think it's rather nice to think that we're in a book that God's writing? If I were writing a book, I might make mistakes. But God knows how to make the story end just right--in the way that's best for us."
Do you really believe that, Mother?" Peter asked quietly.
Yes," she said, "I do believe it--almost always--except when I'm so sad that I can't believe anything. But even when I don't believe it, I know it's true--and I try to believe it."— E. Nesbit

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Merry Christmas!

And so concludes my first year of blogging.  Thank you for embarking on the journey with me, readers.  May 2015 be a blessed year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Concluding the 2014 Blogger Awards: Best Book!

Early in October, I decided that I wanted some way to draw our blogging community together in a group project.  I toyed with various ideas before settling on an award ceremony concept.  But I couldn't do it alone; I didn't want to do it alone.  So I told Hannah about it, and she not only helped smooth the idea out, she also illustrated the gorgeous widgets that you've seen, going above and beyond her duty as a host.

Still, we needed others, and two bloggers rose spectacularly to the challenge: Ghost Ryter and Clara Diane Thompson, both of whom have busy lives of their own and took time out of their schedule to read and review the books for the awards.

Thank you so much, Hannah, Ghosty, and Clara.  You, along with these authors, are the true stars of the Blogger Awards.

But even with these great people, we couldn't do it without the books.  Twelve books in total, written by ten different authors.  Twelve wonderful books, which we highly recommend.  So thank you Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Andrew Peterson, Jill Stengl, Clara Diane Thompson, Brandon Sanderson, Jennifer Freitag, Emerald Barnes, Rachel Heffington, Melanie Dickerson, and Jaye L. Knight for your unique and extraordinary contributions to literature.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, we are pleased to conclude the 2014 Blogger Awards with the final category, Best Book of 2014.

Anon, Sir, Anon, by Rachel Heffington, is often described as 'cozy'.  The word does not quite do it justice.  The debut adventure of niece-and-uncle detective team, Vivi and Farnham, is both sumptuously, deliciously mysterious and relatable and familiar-feeling.  It has all the snap and wit of Shakespearian comedies, and I can see how the authoress draws inspiration and style from the Bard.  Our judges adored level-headed Vivi and sharp-tongued Farnham, and we strongly hope there are more adventures to come.

Golden Daughter, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, spans the epic journey of Masayi Sairu, assassin for the emperor.  In a novel that spans over five hundred pages and countless plots, subplots, and intertwining secrets, characters live, die, love, and fight in a massive power struggle that spans both the Near World and the Far, humans and mortals, evil... and good.  The judges hold this book in the highest regard, rivaled only by the previous books in the series.

The Warden and the Wolf King, by Andrew Peterson, concludes the adventures of the Igiby family.  Plunged from their stately, beloved life as common villagers into a world of politics, intrigue, and rebellion, they have struggled to remain whole as a family.  The last battle between mankind and the Nameless One will tear those fragile ties apart.  The judges would like to issue a statement regarding the superb quality of this series, but we'll need to stop hysterically sobbing first.

All three of these are epic, glorious books to which we, the judges, give the highest recommendation and honors.  But only one could win.  And that one is...

"The Warden and the Wolf King," by Andrew Peterson, is an awe-inspiring, emotional conclusion to a series that literally reduced three of our four judges to teary wrecks.  It has spectacular poetry and profound truth, but most amazingly, it has characters that, by the end of the series, will feel like your brothers, your sister, your grandfather, your mother.  Your friends.  People you've never met but you've known your whole life.
Mr. Peterson was gracious enough to write an acceptance speech for the awards: "Thank you... I’m so honored."
And this, ladies and gentlemen, concludes the 2014 Blogger Awards.  We hope you thoroughly enjoyed them!  If you wish to host a category for the 2015 Blogger Awards, please e-mail me at  On behalf of myself and the judges, have a blessed, merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Blogger Awards 2014, Best Heroine!

Merry Christmas, readers!  I can't tell you how excited I am for the Blogger Awards... and how honored and astounded I am by the wonderful books I got to read for them! 

For over a month, our judges read and studied three books: "Entertaining Angels," by Emerald Barnes; "Plenilune," by Jennifer Freitag; and "Resistance," by Jaye L. Knight.  Specifically, we examined the three heroines of those novels: Madison, Margaret Coventry, and Kyrin Altair respectively.  We thoroughly enjoyed reading about all of them, but one particularly caught our eye.  Although it was difficult, we have made our decision.

But first, meet these lovely girls!

MADISON no longer feels comfortable in her own body.  She's an unhealthy weight, and she hates herself for it.  Despite the support of her family and friends, she develops an eating disorder.  With her psychological and physical health at risk, Madison must remember that she is a person worth loving, and that is worth fighting for.

MARGARET COVENTRY has a perfectly reasonable plan: in order to avoid family scandal, she will flee to Naples, then woo and wed a rich gentleman unfamiliar with her questionable relatives.  The plan goes awry, however, when the future Overlord of Plenilune kidnaps her to be his unwilling bride.  Little does he realize, though, that Margaret Coventry is more than a pretty face.  She is an Englishwoman, an she is prepared to fight for her own.

KYRIN ALTAIR can remember with perfect detail everything she experienced from the age of four.  This curse disguised as a blessing attracts the attention of the malevolent emperor, who forces her into his service.  Kyrin cannot hide her controversial faith forever, though, and soon she must face perilous choices in her quest for a free life.

The winner is...

Margaret stands apart from the crowd in a variety of ways.  Tough-as-nails and selfless, she also behaves with manners and inhibitions entirely believable in a Victorian lady.  She is witty, fierce, and though not fearless, brave enough to behave the same way.  She is a golden heroine, and I adored reading about her.

We are lucky enough to have an acceptance speech from her creator, Jennifer Freitag:

"I want to thank all my supporters for the opportunity to be nominated for the Blogger Awards of 2014. You did it behind my back, without my knowledge that the Blogger Awards was even in existence, which means you actually cared about Plenilune and my work enough to spread the word. I want to thank everyone who voted my character Margaret Coventry as Best Heroine: you all know that Plenilune is a long book, and having come to know and love Margaret over such a lengthy period of time as it took to write the novel, it is wonderful to see others enjoying her company as well. My hope is that this award will inspire others to meet her as well. Thank you."

Well said, Ms. Freitag!  I hope you enjoyed the awards, readers-- and be sure to check out these lovely books and tune back in for the rest of the awards!  Head over to Hannah's  blog tomorrow for Best Hero!  And if you're interested in hosting a category next year, contact me at


Best Cover,hosted by Hannah Williams on Friday, December 19
Best Title,hosted by Clara Diane Thompson on Saturday, December 20
Best Heroine, hosted by myself on Sunday, December 21
Best Hero, hosted by Hannah Williams on Monday, December 22
Best Author, hosted by Ghost Wryter on Tuesday, December 23
Best Book, hosted by myself on Wednesday, December 24

Monday, December 15, 2014

Three More Days!

It's almost time for the 2014 Blogger Awards!

In only three days, Ghost Ryter will host the first category, Best Book Design, on her blog Anything, Everything.  The hosts have been working hard to make sure this event is perfect.  Among the four of us, we've read more than twelve books in a month!  Be sure to come join us for the celebrations.

Best Book Design, hosted by Ghost Wryter on Thursday, December 18

Best Cover, hosted by Hannah Williams on Friday, December 19

Best Title, hosted by Clara Diane Thompson on Saturday, December 20

Best Heroine, hosted by myself on Sunday, December 21

Best Hero, hosted by Hannah Williams on Monday, December 22

Best Author, hosted by Ghost Wryter on Tuesday, December 23

Best Book, hosted by myself on Wednesday, December 24

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Where Did All Our Time Go?

It's halfway through December?  Really?  But... I have so much still to get done!

This has been an insanely fast-paced semester.  Last week I had three concerts in four days.  This week I had three concerts in two days.  And remember Five Enchanted Roses?  Yeah.  Some of that still needs to get done.  And I should probably think about Christmas shopping one of these weeks, too.

But that's not really why I'm writing this post.  Blissfully, the semester is almost over, and I've found the perfect way to celebrate: the county-wide library book sale.

For those of you unfamiliar with library book sales, I am very sorry.  You're missing out on one of life's simple joys.  Sometimes libraries overstock books.  With an ever-present need for more shelf space, they sell the excess for absurdly cheap prices.

This year my county is selling more than 350,000 books.  According to my rough estimate, I have bought approximately 272,000 of them.  As cheap as former library books are, this still means that the aforementioned Christmas presents will likely feature large amounts of popsicle sticks, glue, and glitter.  And it isn't even Sunday yet, when you can buy a whole crate of books for $5!  $5!  That is, to my estimate, upwards of fifteen books!  For $5!!

I always find it very interesting to see which books the library overstocks.  Usually, there is a surplus of books featuring some sort of vampire hierarchy, books with titles like The Last Rose of Chatham County or The Highland Secret, and, regrettably, John Flanagan.  (Maybe not regrettably, since it means I get to flesh out my collection of Ranger's Apprentice.  Happy sigh!)

But this year, I was saddened by how many beautiful old books the library sold.  I collect old books.  My collection ranges in publication date from the late Victorian Era to the seventies, whereupon I decide a book ceases being old.

But books from World War II are my very favorite.  The government put restrictions on paper, which forced publishers to be extremely selective in printing books.  I always find it interesting, then, to see which books they deem worthy of paper.

This year I found and purchased two WWII books.  One is surprisingly Green Dolphin Street, by Elizabeth Goudge (best known, I believe, for her book The Little White Horse).  I admit I did not recognize her name when I picked up the book, nor did I buy it only because of its publication date.  Writing on the first page caught my eye: elegant, curving handwriting that says E. Marynat 8-27-45.  The only thing I love more than books published during WWII is books with old signatures and dates in them.

I did some research on it, and I realize that it's a first American edition published in 1944.  I haven't started it yet, but I look forward to finding out why those publishers considered it worthy of paper.

That leaves one more book, and I confess I found this one more emotionally moving than Green Dolphin Street.  It is a 1941 copy of Richard Burton's The Arabian Nights.  (I realize that in 1941 America hadn't yet joined the conflict, but we were rapidly expanding the size of our Navy, so I assume paper must've been more precious.)

Even during World War II, publishers thought it was worthy to read fairytales.  And if they did, why don't we?  I feel like I'm running out of time in 2014, but I have much, much more of it than they did in 1941.  If they in their times of danger and conflict reprinted and reread The Arabian Nights... then why don't we?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Merry Christmas To Me!

My Christmas presents to myself came.

Yes, I do buy Christmas presents to myself.  I have found that if I rely on others to determine what I'd like for Christmas, I end up with plenty of socks but little in the way of reading.  So I chose to take matters into my own hands.


They include the following:

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman.  I cannot express how powerfully this book struck me.  I listened to it on audiobook while practicing ballet.  For those who have read it, you know the strange, dreadful power of the conclusion.  I remember dancing and listening to it, then stretching and listening to it, then finally just listening, tears rolling down my face as the book ended.  I confess I had a great shock when I received the print copy.  As cunningly narrated as the audio version is, it neglects one detail: The Graveyard Book is illustrated!  I look forward to many a happy rereads, gleefully examining the pictures.  This is easily my favorite book by Neil Gaiman, and I recommend it highly to all ages but especially older teenagers-- not because of any content, but because the message is particularly true to us.

Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis.  Like The Graveyard Book, I read this one only a few weeks ago.  It takes place at Oxford College in the year 2056, where historians now have access to time-travel technology in order to study events first-hand.  (Absolutely!)  This book is stunning.  Willis greatly explores the social effects of science fiction.  For example, if one could visit the future but not change or take back anything, what would the good be?  Who would monopolize it?  I highly recommend this one to mature readers because it can be incredibly gruesome in its portrayal of disease.

To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis.  The sequel-companion to the tragic, dramatic Doomsday Book, this book instead follows an intensely humorous route.  I love this book even better than its predecessor, and I am particularly impressed that Willis mastered drama and comedy so effectively.  Although this book is, to the best of my remembrance, entirely clean and suitable for readers of all ages, I don't suggest reading it before either Doomsday Book or Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome, which inspired it.

Royal Assassin, by Robin Hobb.  I recently finished her wonderful Assassin's Apprentice and was ready to sink my teeth into the rest of her work when-- the horror!-- I realized that my library only has the first and the third book of this trilogy.  Quitting was absolutely not an option, so I bought the pretty paperback.  I confess I haven't actually read it yet.  The books for the Blogger Awards are amazing, but I've had to read eight of them in a month, so I probably won't get to this until after I finish those.

Edit: I forgot to mention anything by Robin Hobb is definitely for older teenagers.  Also, let it be known that mere minutes after writing this, I broke and started reading Royal Assassin.  Oops!

And last but not least, Pictures of Hollis Woods, by Patricia Reilly Giff.  This is the story of Hollis Woods, abandoned when she was only an hour old.  Through a collection of sketches, she tries to understand where her life went wrong and where she can go from here.  This is not my usual cup of tea; so much so that I actually didn't buy this book.  Instead, a dear friend lent it to me, promising I would love it, and she was not wrong!  Although less than two hundred pages, this book stamped over my heart in the most delightful way.

These are only five of the books from my wish-list.  If I'm feeling particularly nice this year, and Amazon is feeling particularly cost-friendly, I might buy myself a few more for the actual day.  How about you?  Any books for Christmas?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

It's the Holiday Season!

"No, it's not," says a Certain Member of My Family, who considers the holiday season to be December 24, 25, and the first half of the 26.

I believe that the holiday season starts October 31 and keeps going until February 24 (the birthday of yours truly), and once you get that far, Easter and spring break are right around the corner, and then the year is practically over!

Maybe that's because I've been busy lately.  You decide.

Anyway, while decorating my family's Christmas tree and listening to John Denver and the Muppets, I came up with some questions to help remind myself that the holiday season is not about the commercialized celebration but something much more profound.  They are:

Is it possible for an ornament to actually hang straight, or do they manufacture them to spin around sideways?

Will anyone notice that I haven't decorated the top foot of the Christmas tree because I'm too short?

Why do I always volunteer to cook Christmas dinner?

Why do we eat Christmas dinner on Christmas Day, not Christmas Eve?

(I actually know the answer to this question.  It's because on Christmas Eve my family, for reasons unclear, has Sloppy Joes for dinner.  I don't like Sloppy Joes.  I usually eat a bun soaked in sauce.)

How many times can you watch Larry the Cucumber's rendition of Oh, Santa before it gets old?  (I actually can't answer this one yet.  Ask me in January.)

And finally, why, oh why, is every project in my life due on December 16?

Feel free to use these questions yourself to discover the true meaning of Christmas.  Alternatively, you could watch Veggie Tales, which works just as well.

My family has a wealth of eccentric Christmas traditions, some of which have already begun, such as the Advent calendar, and some which will not be done until December 23, such as Christmas shopping.  On the afternoon of Christmas Eve we fight viciously for seats in Church so we can remember how blessed we are.  For dinner we (most of us) eat Sloppy Joes.

Then we tear into our family Christmas gifts.  The general rule is that the sillier the gift, the better.  This apparently originated in my mom's family, where one time Great Grandma Dorrit gave a gift so funny that it circulated through the family for countless Christmases and my mom, when attempting to tell it, giggles so hard that I'm actually not sure what it is.  Perhaps it is better off that way.

On Christmas morning, the only morning of the year when Certain Family Members rise early, we shred wrapping paper violently then lay about, stunned and shell-shocked, for the rest of the day.

What about you?  Any crazy traditions?

Note: This was supposed to publish this morning, but I was silly.  : /

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Book Review: Ingrid, by Lynnette Kraft

First of all, happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  May your cooking go smoothly and your kitchen clean themself!

I saw this lovely volume floating around Goodreads for some time before I actually read it.  Even then, the elegant title and the enigmatic expression in the heroine's eyes might not have fully tempted me if I hadn't learned some background information on the book.  Ingrid, by Lynnette Kraft, features the artwork of her daughter, Abigail Kraft, and music by her son, Jared Kraft.

(Unfortunately, since it seems right up my alley, I can't review the music because my Kindle wouldn't download it.  So I'll just go ahead and say it was lovely.)

In the village of Scot, two children are born on the same day: rich, healthy Adair, son of the most hated man in town, and poor, mute Ingrid of the happy Harrison family.  Despite their different backgrounds, the two grow to young adulthood as best friends.  But railroads and industry are changing the world, and Scot must change with it.  When two strangers come to town, Ingrid must embark alone for a chance to understand herself, uncover the truth, and find her own voice.

I wish, wish, wish that I had read Ingrid years ago.  It is bursting with heart, lively characters, and adventure, but some treacherous grown-up part of me kept observing, "The fantastical element isn't well-integrated into the story.  Kraft doesn't establish the setting.  Could she have introduced the railroad earlier?"

But alas, all of these things are true.  Although I wished I could be friends with the majority of the characters in Ingrid, I couldn't suspend my disbelief on the two magical strangers who were introduced a little too late into a story that felt a little too normal for fantasy.  And despite the presence of a railroad and terms like French doors and newspapers, Kraft never specified where and when Ingrid takes place.

But as surely as those flaws are true, I must confess that I neglected calculus for a deplorable length of time in order to finish Ingrid.  I recommend it highly to those in need of a literary pick-me-up.  It is light, enchanting, and welcomingly reminiscent of the books of my childhood.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Oh say, can you see...

I sing the National Anthem for sporting events.  This is less cool than it sounds for a variety of reasons:

1. In the past, I've only sung for NCAA Division II, which means I sing for teams whose mascot is something like the Flying Squirrels.  (I'm kidding; I actually sang for the Argonauts.  Not like the Greek adventurers; like the sea shell.)  (I had to have this explained to me, too.)

2. For reasons that are still unclear to me, when the NCAA decides who will play where, the general rule of thumb is that the teams must go as far away as possible.  So in one instance, I sang for Sonoma Valley (California) and University of West Florida (... from Florida) in the same championships.  Which means that the only people who actually come across the country are the parents of the players, and all they want is for me to sing really quickly so they can see their sons play.

3.  The gods of sports have decreed that it must either be ninety degrees or thirty-five.  There is no in-between.  Here, for example, is a picture of me at the last game:

I'm the girl with the turquoise scarf and the grey coat looking cold and pathetic.

And 4. The only time I sing at a game big enough to make it on ESPN, they replace me with a Ford commercial!  A commercial!  For Ford!  As in-- trucks!  Instead of the National Anthem!

Not that I let it bother me.  Not.  At.  All.

I don't mean to sound so cynical about it.  I really love singing the National Anthem for these games, especially since, until recently, I've only sung at baseball games.  My mom's family comes from Cardinals-territory, which means my sister and I played baseball growing up.  Such happy times!  We would hit the ball, then Mom would go run and get it.... Then we'd hit it again, and she'd run get it again...

We really liked baseball.

But recently, I had two opportunities to sing for soccer games for the Atlantic Coast Conference and the NCAA Division I.  (Division I!!)  There are approximately five to sixty times as many people at these games compared to baseball games.  It is so lucrative, in fact, that I am only going to whine about two things.  First, the sound system in the soccer stadium has a terrible echo but otherwise good acoustics, so when I sing, you can faintly hear my voice, then you hear the blaring shriek of the microphone a few seconds after.

Also, I don't know anything about soccer.  The first game I sang Sunday before last (Clemson versus Louisville) was, quite literally, the first soccer game I had seen in my life.

It was very confusing.  So confusing, in fact, that I've decided to compile a list of Soccer Rules according to Allison for your reading convenience and enjoyment.  (Also, in addition to graphs, I really like lists.)

They are as follows:

1. It must be either boiling hot or cold and raining heavily.  (This seems to apply to most outdoor sports.)

1a. In the aforementioned freezing cold rain, you must have a paperback with you that you will vainly try to protect beneath your coat.

2. The teams playing must have similar colors so you're never entirely sure who is winning or who you're rooting for.  This will annoy the die-hard fans next to you.

3. Between the two halves, when we baseball fans start to inquire about the seventh-inning stretch, the goalies will switch sides.  For the next few minutes, you'll vainly protest that everyone is running the wrong way and kicking the ball into their own goal before someone explains it to you. 

4. Every few minutes, a player will fall down and writhe, sometimes screaming in pain.  The audience will shout abuse at him until, as memorably happened once in the game, he pulls up his shorts to reveal a foot-long gash on his thigh, gushing blood.  The crowd will grudgingly admit that it is a quality fake.

5. The crowd will not limit their abuse to the other team.  From their cozy seats beneath umbrellas, hand warmers pressed into their gloves, they will shout constructive criticism at their own players, particularly if they fall/are trampled/appear to be in pain/aren't running quickly enough

6. If it is cold and raining (see Rule 1), the game will go into double overtime.  (This happened.)

Did I still love the game?

You bet.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Best Blogging Buddy Award!

Ghosty nominated me for the Best Blogging Buddy Award!  Isn't she a sweetheart?

The Blogging Buddy Owl, christened Dave
Here are the rules:

You must post to show the award on your main blog.
You must tag the person who nominated you in your post.
You must tag all of your best buddies, and those whom you want to become buddies with, who, to your knowledge, have not been nominated for this award. You must ask your buddies at least fifteen questions on your post.  You must answer all of the questions your buddies ask you on your post.

And here are her questions for me!

1. What is you favorite aspect of blogging?

My favorite aspect is definitely the people!  I am blessed to be part of a wonderfully supportive blogging community that provides ample opportunity for the Blogging Buddy Owl.  : )

2. Your least favorite?
It is a ton of work, and when I say a ton, I mean you can't comprehend how much if you don't have a blog.  I have stayed up far past my bedtime, madly dashing out a promised post or frantically e-mailing someone about a deadline, crossing my fingers that it won't be too late...

3. What's one of the best books you've read this year?
I read Assassin's Apprentice, by Robin Hobb, last month.  I have heard absolutely glorious things about her, but I was still floored.  She wrote using much more summary than you see in the market these days, but she managed to convey alacrity in a far-spanning story and complex characters.  She also doesn't pull her punches, which I love in an author.

4. Describe yourself in five words.
I read while practicing music.

5. If you were supreme ruler of the world, what would be the first thing you'd do?
I would grant myself early access to my library's book sale.  I am not kidding.

6. What Disney character do you relate to most? (Yes, I did just ask that.)
I'm so glad you ask!  My favorite character, and the one I relate to most, is easily Mulan.  Hers is a movie I watched when I was very young, then forgot about.  Watching it afresh as a teenager inspired me.  How many of us have looked to the arrow at the top of the post?  How many have been clever and determined enough to reach it?  (Also, I love Lea Salonga.)

7. Do you have many siblings?

Technically, I have one older, professional-musician sister.  In my heart, I have numerous siblings.  This works out well because it means I don't have to share a bedroom.

8. Think of a book, any book at all. Now, what's one thing you would change about that book?
The first book I thought of was Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn.  Without giving any spoilers, I would've changed the end of Schmendrick's storyline.  Although it's possible there is imagery I'm missing, and I reserve the right to change my mind, my first impression was that the opposite ending would've been more profound.

9. Who is one of your biggest role models? (Besides the obvious answer.)
I'm inspired a lot by my cousins.  They're all older than I am (the youngest is around twenty-one), so I've had an opportunity to watch them chase their dreams and catch them.  They feature a comedian, a music teacher, a bed-and-breakfast owner, a clothes-designer, a pastry chef, someone who writes commercials, a lawyer, and a professional dancer who tours Europe.
10. Autumn or spring?
Autumn, please!  I am both a competitive singer and terribly allergic to pollen.  I lose about half an octave off the top of my range each spring, and my tone suffers.  Also, it's hot, and I can't abide the heat.

11. What's a yet-unreleased book or movie you are really excited about?
Obviously, Stengl's Poison Crown and Draven's Light are high on my list, but I'm also eager to see Ricker's The Battle of Castle Nebula and the remaining books of Turner's the Queen's Thief series.  Also: Rooglewood Press's Five Enchanted Roses.

12. Realistic fiction, or speculative? Why?
Speculative fiction all the way!  For as long as I've been reading, I've loved the fantastical.  I haven't yet identified what draws me toward it.  When I read fairytales, it's as though a far-off voice calls me, and I long to follow it.

13. What is one of your favorite non-fiction books?
Priscilla Galloway wrote a wonderful book called Archers, Alchemists, and 98 Other Medieval Jobs You Might Have Loved or Loathed.  It teaches a wonderful dose of history and humanities while being vastly entertaining as well.  I'll read virtually any book on history. 

14. What's something happening this month that you are really excited about?
Thanksgiving, of course!  I've been working quite busily lately, and I'm read for a break.  Plus, I get to spend time with my family, which I always love.  And I get a break.  Did I mention that?  I plan on getting a serious amount of reading done.

15. Alright then; the last question. You have just had a mysterious ring of great power that can turn the wearer invisible entrusted into your care, and told that it must--must--be destroyed at all costs. What are you going to do?
I'd get myself fitted for Eowyn's white dress from The Lord of the Rings movies.  No, I'm kidding; that would be the second step.  First, I would probably post a Craigslist add: Grim-faced adventurer wanted.  Preferably long-lived; must have an absent love interest.  Apply to the local Holiday Inn.
I tag Grace at Fictionally, Laura at Crafty Booksheeps (I love that name!), Joy at Fullness of Joy, and Rachel at the Inkpen Authoress.  Here, if you choose to accept, are your questions:
1. What is the last book you read?
2. Do you have any pets?
3. If you were a super hero, what would your super hero outfit look like?
4. What is your dream review of your book (future or present), and who would ideally give it?
5. What quirky traditions does your family have?
6. What book are you reading now?
7. How many cousins do you have?
8. What is the most exciting e-mail/letter you ever received?
9. What languages do you speak?  (Music is a language.)
10. What songs play in your head?
11. What's the last book you bought?
12. If you could have any signed, first-edition book from any point of time, including the future, what book would it be?
13. What color is your bedroom?
14. Who is your literary or cinematic twin?
15. What do you daydream about?
I hope you enjoyed!  I'll give you a hint about my next post.  It's about a sport that involves running, more running, injuries both feigned and real, then more running.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Finalists for the 2014 Blogger Awards!

Hello, readers!  We've experienced such a huge outpouring of nominations for the awards, and I couldn't be more pleased!  Although we faced difficult decisions, our panel has reviewed the nominations, and we present to you three finalists.
Finalists for Best Heroine:

Margaret Coventry, from "Plenilune," by Jennifer Freitag
Finalists for Best Book:
So now you can sit back and get on with your holiday season while our panel reviews these books, but be sure to check out the finalists Hannah, Ghosty, and Clara chose, and tune back in for the final awards in December!
Best Book Design: Thursday, December 18 (Ghosty)
Best Cover: Friday, December 19 (Hannah)
Best Title: Saturday, December 20 (Clara)
Best Heroine: Sunday, December 21 (me)
Best Hero: Monday, December 22 (Hannah)
Best Author: Tuesday, December 23 (Ghosty)
Best Book: Wednesday, December 24 (me)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Guest Post-- Fan Fiction, by Ghost Ryter

Hello, Ghosty!  Thanks for dropping by the Art of Storytelling.  Tell me about yourself.  Do you have any hobbies?  What's the last book you read?     

Let's see ... I just finished "House of Stairs" by William Slater, which was amazing. (If you want a dystopian novel WITHOUT a love-triangle,  and one that DOESN'T tell you humans are little more than animals, then this is your book.) For hobbies, I enjoy playing music (ukele, guitar, mandolin...), crocheting, and growing roses (which is actually more a form of self-torture than anything else, what with how I stab myself with thorns left and right). And of course,  I love to read.  
I'm sure you get this a lot, but... how did you choose the penname Ghost Ryter? 

Well, as most people can probably tell, it's a play on 'ghost writer'. But the unusual spelling comes from a book I first read whe I was eleven, "The Last Book in the Universe". It was a huge influence for me, and still is, especially the character named---you guessed it---Ryter. 

What book has most influenced you?

Hmm... tough question. If you mean fiction, I'd have to say I've been most influenced by The Chronicles of Narnia (not one book, I know). Those were some of the first fantasy books I ever read, and they showed me there was more to Christian fiction than Elsie Dinsmore (*gag gag*).

At what point did you become a writer?  Have you always been a writer, or was there a specific point when you began?

The earliest that I can remember writing down the stories I came up with is eleven. But it wasn't until I was thirteen that I took writing seriously. I looked at wg at I was doing, and said to myself, "Okay, you've got something here, but it needs work." So I work. 

One last question... can you tell us anything about your work-in-progress or past works?

At the moment I am valiantly fighting against the clock to finish my 5 Enchanted Roses submission 'Of Thorns and Roses'. It's a retelling of Beauty and the Beast,  woven with the Greek myth of the minotaur.
And here's her post!
It's a tricky business, writing fan-fiction. A good deal of people will tend to look on the stories you produce like the gum stuck to the bottom of literature's shoes, which isn't fun. And, you'll find yourself wondering, what if they're right?
Is fan-fiction weird? Is it a waste of time? Is it wrong??
Short answer: Not always.
People think it's disrespectful? Hardly. Fanficers are showing their deep love, laying their fan-fiction down before the author in homage. Of course, if the authors says they don't want you touching their stuff, than it's common courtesy to respect that.
I don't actually write much fan-fiction when you get down to it. A few things for Tales of Goldstone Wood, and I recently began twiddling around with Queen's Thief and The Lunar Chronicles. But when I was about 13-14 I came up with all sorts of rubbish; mostly for Hunger Games, and then mainly AU stuff where I put Gale through all sorts of agony. Hehe. Anyway, it was rubbish, and I'm very ashamed of it, but the very fact that it was rubbish was endlessly useful. I could pinpoint what had made it so awful and make note of that.
That's how we writers learn and grow, by imitation. Fan-fiction can be a helpful tool, allowing your mind to explore, letting you test out your writing skills. And it's also just absolutely, ridiculously fun to do. . . . (Fess up: You love giggling over an OTP as much as the next person.)
You're practicing with ready-made characters and worlds, building your own skills. Unfortunately, that's what can backfire. You can become too dependent on it, using what's already been accepted and published, afraid to take a step on your own. Because who says people would like it if it's just you?
You have this talent for a reason. Words and ideas that are all yours, which is what makes them so special. As wonderful as fan-fiction is, it has its place. And you have so much more to give the world.
So, is fan-fiction worth it? I say—
Thanks so much, Ghosty!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Snippet

I have been deplorably absent of late.

I have been busy, true.  So busy that I contemplated doing another Deadlines post, but I eventually concluded that two less than a month apart would sour from mildly pretentious to full-on whiney.  So instead, I decided to give you, readers, a snippet of what has been keeping me so busy.

Like the rest of our blogging community, I am entering Rooglewood Press's 5 Enchanted Roses writing contest.  (I'll actually announce a call for beta readers soon, in case anyone is interested.)  I have been diligently plugging away at my two entries since early June, and I am quite pleased with one of them; I think it is the best I have ever written.  And the other is... um.  Yes.  It is, and it will get better, and I will somehow scrape it together in time for the deadline, because I always do.  But now I am tearing my hair out in search of some refinement for my convoluted plot.

But I digress.  The other entry turned out better than I had hoped, and, with parent-like proudness, I have decided to share a snippet with you.


What was Father like?
"He's a scientist," the boy said.  "An astronomer."  He laughed.  "Before we came to this strange land, he used to wake me up at night to see the stars.  I knew all the constellations, from the Phoenix to the Cobra to the Great Polar Bear."  His smile faded.  "But he couldn't see them when we moved to the city.  There were too many lamps.  Once we took a trip to the country to see them properly.  I think he loved them because they were the only thing that stayed the same when we left home to come here."
"But you like the stars?" the princess asked, raising her eyebrows.
 "Yes."  The word slipped from the boy's mouth.  "More than anything.  They're so lonely and-- and beautiful.  Like ice.  And they don't feel anything, so they're sad."  He caught a characteristic gleam in the princess's eye.  "What is it?
"Nothing," she said, smoothing the look away.  "I'll tell you after dinner."
And she refused to say more, although he pestered her all through their evening meal, which was pickled shark with stuffing, and pudding for later.  The princess waited until he finished, then rose and said, "Follow me."
She led him through the cold, dark hallways and up a flight of creaking stairs, the musty carpet releasing the scent of dust beneath their feet.  There she paused for a moment, and he heard the clink of metal on metal before burningly frigid air brushed his face.
"Up here," the princess said.  "Mind the steps."  She turned and helped him rise into darkness, snow squeaking beneath his feet.
He looked over at her.  He could barely see the paleness of her face, but he knew she was smiling.
"Give it a minute," she said.  "Almost there... Now.  Look up."
The boy tilted his head back and gasped.
The silver disc of the moon rose above the trees, and the land flashed silver.  Radiant paleness stretched as far as the wind could breathe and the light could reach, dancing in the shadowed forest.  Overhead the spilled-sugar stars mirrored their movements, spritely spiraling into the dark void of the universe that was a snowy winter's night.
The princess gazed up in contentment.  It had been many months since she had seen the sight and bathed in the gossamer lightness of the moon, and she tilted back her head to take it in.
She heard a soft sound and looked down sharply.  The boy was crying.
"No," she said helplessly.  "Please don't be sad.  Is it the stars?  Do you want to go back inside?"
The boy shook his head, gasping for breath.  It wasn't his father's stars, as ashamed as that made him feel.
"It's the snow," he said, and the word set off his tears again.  "I've never seen anything so beautiful and white.  In the city it's always ugly and black with coal dust."
The princess stared at him.  A few tears, pale and insignificant next to the stars, fell from her lashes.
They sat together on the edge of the roof and watched the stars until the moon faded beneath the trees again.

What about you?  Are you entering?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Nominations are closed for the 2014 Blogger Awards

Widgets designed by Hannah Williams
Haven't these weeks flown by?  I am so pleased with the number of nominations you sent in.  We received over a hundred!  Now we're going to retire to our cozy libraries and discuss the nominations.  We'll be back on November 15 to let you know what we decide, and then it's on to the awards in December!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Remember, we're accepting nominations for the first annual Blogger Awards until November 1rst, so keep nominating!

I have been dying to do these.

For those of you who don't know what a shelfie is (I'm not patronizing you; someone had to explain it to me), it's like a selfie (self-picture of one's face, usually unflattering, always embarrassing), only of one's bookshelf instead!  That is a kind of selfie I can get behind!

So here is my first bookshelf.  It's my classics bookshelf, where I keep all of my classical literature.  Behold:

From Dumas to Asimov to Homer to Flaubert to Shakespeare to Fraser to Hawthorne to Milton to Kipling to Sophocles to Aristophanes (I LOVE Aristophanes!).  If you look carefully, you can see my favorite non-Shakespeare play, "A Man for All Seasons," by Robert Bolt, on the second shelf next to "The Crucible".  Also, Ghosty, that's "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" on the top shelf, far right.
To break up the monotony, a picture of my dog, Shadow:

Moving on!  Here's a picture of the bookshelf in my closet.  The bottom shelf has my art books, my star chart, my rhyming dictionary, my fairytales, etc...  The top shelf has my signed books on the left.  I keep them in the closet to keep direct light off them.  Aren't they pretty?  The ones on the right are my to-read books.

Here is a smaller shelf, but no less noble for its diminutive stature.  It holds my first-ever (and only) publication.

An essay on young adult heroines in What Kids Can Do's collection Stirred but not Shaken.  It occupies the place of honor atop my mantle.
Now a picture of my cat, the Princess Peach (her real name is Peaches), looking imperious yet drowsy.
Dreaming cat dreams...
This is a rather sad shelf, hidden high in my closet.  It's for children's books that didn't survive the test of time, books too big for ordinary bookshelves (I'm looking at you, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel!), and books that didn't win the fight to stay on my main bookshelf.  And, curiously, on the far right, a collection of vintage Tolkien books that I haven't read yet.

I hide these books because they make me sad.  Except for Tolkien.  He's cool.
And, last but absolutely not least, my personal bookshelf, which faces my bed so I can look at it when I wake up each morning:

From Alexander to Paolini to Stengl to Rowling to Tolkien to Jones to George to Barry to Lewis to Lynch to McKinley to Turner to Sanderson to Rothfuss to Pratchett to Flanagan...  Also note my Excalibur letter-opener, courtesy of Ms. Jennette Mbewe.
I don't know if the etiquette of social media dictates that I can tag someone on this post, but in truth, I have never cared for those rules.  So I tag

Friday, October 24, 2014

Spooky Reads for Halloween!

Remember, we're accepting nominations for the first annual Blogger Awards until November first, so keep nominating!

Some spookiness to set the mood!
I don't know about you, readers, but I am an ardent fan of Halloween.  The weather turns beautiful and cool and golden.  My grandma, great aunt, and aunt all come to visit.  We burn bonfires.  We have an annual friends-and-neighbors party.  We almost loose fingers while carving Jack-o-Lanterns.

But the festivities have changed for me this year.  Because this is the first year I won't go Trick-or-Treating.

That's right.  Last year people still gave me candy.  But I also received some awkward looks, so I have decided to fork over the extra five dollars and get my own assorted candy.  (I don't even like candy.  But it's Halloween.)  I've decided, though, that since I'm not Trick-or-Treating, I have to work extra hard to get my money's worth out of this holiday, so I've been enjoying some spooky books.

When it comes to the horror genre, I get scared very easily.  As in, this terrifies me, and I find Casper the Friendly Ghost vaguely sinister.  I suspect this might be a writer's problem; our imaginations are too active for our own good!  So when I say spooky books, I really mean, for the most part, books that take place in the autumn.

Here's what I've got so far:

We Have Always Lived in The Castle, by Shirley Jackson:

One evening at supper, beautiful Constance Blackwood poisons the rest of her family with arsenic.  Escaping punishment on a technicality, she, her surviving uncle, and her younger sister, Merricat, who was sent to bed without supper, live alone on their estate, dwelling apart from the villagers who fear and hate them.  But when a little-known cousin appears with an eye on Constance and the family fortune, he stirs questions into light-- how did the Blackwoods died, and why did sweet, gentle Constance poison them?

Of the books on the list, this one scared me the most.  It is told from the perspective of Merricat, who believes she lives on the moon, thinks she can hurt people with her thoughts, and buries knickknacks to protect her small family.  This book is chilling.  If you find yourself with the post Trick-or-Treating blues, try reading it.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken:

With no adult supervision except a murderous governess, Bonnie and Sylvia embark on a dangerous journey for freedom.

When I first came up with the Blogger Awards, I seriously considered having Worst Parents as a category.  Because fiction about young people so often chafes under responsible conventions, authors must hunt for ways to free their characters from the yoke of supervision-- thus the careless parents trope is born.  Seriously, Mr. and Mrs. Bonnie's Parents?  You didn't stop to wonder if the governess was batty before you go on a three-month-long voyage?

And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie:

Ten strangers are invited to Indian Island on a glamorous retreat.  They seem upstanding citizens-- a doctor, a judge, a governess-- but each hides a deadly secret.  As accidents begin and the death count rises according to an ominous nursery rhyme, the characters must plumb their inner secrets to--

Oh, who am I kidding.  I didn't like this book.  Not.  One.  Bit.  And I'm normally a huge Agatha Christie fan!  But this one had too many characters to keep track of, and the deaths lost emphasis because they were so numerous and the characterization was so poor.  Sorry, folks.  I didn't like this one.

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley:

Does this one even need a blurb?  Suffice it to say that I haven't read it yet, but I hope to get to it before Halloween.

Dracula, by Bram Stoker:

Through a collection of letters and diary entries, Stoker paints an awe-inspiring tale of horror that traces from the depths of Transylvania to modern London...

I read this one when I was nine or ten.  It was the first classical novel I ever loved!

The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson

Lots of Jackson on this list!  I'd love to give a blurb for this one, but in point of fact, I haven't read it yet.  I might be too scared.  How can someone with a name like Shirley write stories that are so sinister?

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman:

A man returns to his childhood home for the first time in years to attend a funeral.  The old, familiar environment brings back forgotten memories of terror, vulnerability, and love...

If you asked me a month ago, I would tell you that I hated Neil Gaiman.  I was a poor, foolish child then.  Well, not really.  The truth of the matter was that I had only read American Gods and Stardust, to both of which I was indifferent and somewhat offended at the objectionable content.  (The Ocean at the End of the Lane does have some uncomfortable scenes, but it is nothing compared to American Gods.)  I did not plan on reading this book, but something about the cover-- which is really beautiful-- compelled me to try it, and I was floored.  It is a vast, in-depth 100 page book, and it is utterly lovely.  I became a staunch Gaiman fan, which led me right into...

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman:

(I'm tired of blurbs.  Can we pretend I wrote one?  Or-- you know what, just come here and read the actual one.)

I haven't finished this one yet!  On the advice of many blogging friends, I checked out the audio book, narrated by the author, from the library.  Ghosty warned me that Gaiman uses a scary little-girl voice, but honestly, I was so enthralled by the story that I didn't even notice he was switching voices.  This story is delicious; it may find its way onto my top ten list.  I got it on audio book so I could listen to it while practicing ballet, but I cheated today and listened to it while cleaning out my closet.  : )

So there you have!  Eight spooky books for Halloween.  Are you doing any seasonal reading?

And I almost forgot to ask!  Would anyone like to do a guest post in November?  It doesn't matter if you have a blog or if you don't.  I would interview you at the beginning of the post, then you can write about whatever you like, as long as it isn't politics.  Either let me know in the comments, or e-mail me at  I'm prepared to do multiple ones, so don't be shy!

Edit: Oh, oh, oh!  I forgot again!  You know what's a great, spooky, atmospheric read that takes place around Halloween?  Chime, by Franny Bilingsley!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Welcome to the 2014 Blogger Awards!

Greetings, dear readers!  Do you recall the secret project I referenced in my deadlines post?  Well... it's here!  Although it isn't even Halloween yet, I hope you're anticipating the Christmas season.  It's distant yet, but there's plenty to celebrate in the meantime!  So without further ado, I am pleased to announce the first annual Blogger Awards.
Isn't it beautiful?

The Blogger Awards is a series of awards designed to celebrate the gifted authors of 2014.  They are hosted by four bloggers: Hannah Williams, Clara Diana Thompson, Ghost Wryter, and myself.  We'll be awarding seven categories:

Best Book Design, hosted by Ghost Wryter on Thursday, December 18

Best Cover, hosted by Hannah Williams on Friday, December 19

Best Title, hosted by Clara Diane Thompson on Saturday, December 20

Best Heroine, hosted by myself on Sunday, December 21

Best Hero, hosted by Hannah Williams on Monday, December 22

Best Author, hosted by Ghost Wryter on Tuesday, December 23

Best Book, hosted by myself on Wednesday, December 24

The Blogger Award
See how they lead up to Christmas?  I can't tell you how excited I am for this, readers!  And now it's your turn to help out.  We have hosts, we have categories, we have awesome widgets designed by the incomparable Hannah Williams-- but we don't have nominations!
That's where we're relying on you, dear readers.  Comment on this page and tell me your favorite heroine and book of 2014, then take a tour of the other blogs, commenting with what 2014 favorites you'd like to see honored in their categories!  Nominations are open until November 1.
Share the widget with a link back to this page!  With your help, readers, we'll make this the best Blogger Awards ever.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Spot of Advice on the Topic of Apples?

Hello, dear readers!  I need to ask your advice on a matter.

As you may recall from the last post, I'm finishing a short story right now, and I'm pleased with the way it's shaping up!  It needs one last thing, however...

A title.

The short story is based on the myth of Atalanta and the golden apples.  I'm sure you've heard it.  A beautiful maiden vows never to wed unless a suitor can beat her in a footrace.  One cunning suitor distracts her with three golden apples, gifted to him by the goddess of love, Aphrodite, and he wins Atalanta's hand.

I've come up with three brilliant, original ideas, and they are:

Gold, Golden, and Golden Apples

I know.  They are astounding specimens.  So, dear readers, I must ask: do you have any ideas?  Do you like any of these?