Beautiful People Part I (from July): Meet The General (Red as Blood)

In the monthly Beautiful People (hosted/originated by Cait @ Paper Fury and Skye @ Further Up and Further In, and you can read all about it HERE.), I’ve been exploring the rather large cast of my current WIP, Red as Blood. And though I started to do the July feature back in, well, July, I never finished it – so I’m posting it today. Check back soon for BP Part II, which will feature the August questions and another pivotal character from Red as Blood.

So, if you need a refresher on Red as Blood or some of the major characters, check out these posts, and for more on the Seven Sisters, here’s the link to their general bio.

Next up is the third sister – Ayan Stonefist – more commonly known as “The General.” Here’s a photo and a quick recap of her bio:
A younger but pretty accurate Ayan reference photo
A younger but pretty accurate Ayan reference photo
Don’t be fooled by her small stature - she can, and will, destroy you. The General has one of the best tactical minds of the last century, and it’s a mystery why she’s working at an out-of-the-way food joint. Actually, most everything about her is a mystery, and she’d prefer it stay that way.

Age:  early forties (or so the Sisters guess)

Occupation: Assistant Manager of Henpecked Bar & Grill. But that’s just what it says on paper . . .

Height: 135 cm?    Weight: Unknown    Race: Human?

Weakness: *whispers* Don’t even tell her we asked.

Weapon of Choice: Throwing knives or a good spear

Likes: Order, cleanliness, and quiet. Sharp blades. Maps. Dogs.

Dislikes: Bad manners. Insubordinate people. Disorder. Cats.

Favorite Food: Strawberries (she has a surprising sweet tooth)

Of all of the sisters, Ayan is the most reserved and forbidding. However, she exudes calm and excels at managing diverse and difficult personalities. Sull tries to avoid her as much as possible, yet he admires the way she carries herself – as if she’s twenty feet tall and all corded muscle – anyone in her way will be ten feet under . . .

So, now, let’s attempt to get to know The General a bit better.

  1. Does she  want to get married and/or have children? Why or why not?

This isn’t the sort of thing the General thinks about, to be honest. She’s never desired children, and she has zero interest in any sort of life partner or romance. Still, she isn’t opposed to mentoring a young person, and she did very well as the leader of armies. As a general rule, Ayan feels that children are a nuisance, and that they are a danger to everyone if their parents didn’t really want them. Sull basically affirms everything that Ayan believed about kids. 😛

2. What is their weapon of choice? (It doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical weapon.)

I answered this in her profile (throwing knives or a spear), but the General is one of those people who can use anything for an effective weapon. Her brain is her other favorite weapon though 😛

3. What’s the nicest thing they’ve done for someone else, and why did they do it?

When Ayan had command of a particularly large group of young men (soldiers), she caught one of them stealing food from the stores. Normally, that sort of thing was punishable by discharge and the removal of a hand, and the General had not hesitated to carry out the sentence before. However, after investigating the situation, she discovered that the soldier had taken the food for a group of orphans that had lost their parents in the current battles. Ayan looked into this and allowed the soldier to go with only extended latrine duty. She then set up a fund for the children, and personally found them all homes, despite her general dislike of children. When asked why she did it, all the General would say is that war “wasn’t right, and that no one but the instigators should suffer the consequences.”

4. Have they ever been physically violent with someone, and what instigated it?

She is the General – so 99% of her existence has been in the more violent spheres of life – but she isn’t violent without cause or reason. Rather, she only uses physical violence as a last resort.

5. Are they a rule-follower or a rebel?

While Ayan is usually a rule-follower (she believes that rules exist for a reason), she isn’t afraid to color outside the lines, so to speak. If she truly believes an action is right or wrong, she won’t hesitate to act accordingly.

6. Are they organized or messy?

Highly organized. The General despises anything remotely disordered or messy.

7. What makes them feel loved, and who was the last person to make them feel that way?

The General believes that love is like down comforters or a good mattress: comfortable and a life enhancement, but not necessary for a fulfilling existence. Her soldiers usually loved her, but she discouraged it, as she thought it encouraged an unnatural level of risk-taking and devotion (when she was in a dangerous situation).

8. What do they eat for breakfast?

The General strives for balance in every area of life, so she makes sure that her breakfast is nutritious and balanced, with just the right amount of calories to keep her going until the next meal. That being said, she’s partial to strawberry pancakes.

9. Have they ever lost someone close to them? What happened?

While Ayan tries to maintain a professional distance between herself and those around her, she has witnessed the deaths of many young soldiers. The General feels personally connected to every soldier under her command, and every loss or death has made her strive to be a better commander.

10. What’s their treat of choice? (Or, if not food, how else do they reward themselves?)

The General has a sweet tooth, so she will occasionally indulge in one of Dumpling‘s famous strawberry shortcakes. But only if she has had an extremely stressful day, or she feels quite satisfied with herself.

So that’s all for today- do you feel like you know the General a little bit better? (She’s rather enigmatic). Did you do July’s BP? How is your August going, and what are you writing/reading?

Beautiful People June: Meet “The Doctor”

IT’S BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE TIME! (No, you don’t have to be as excited as I am)

If you’re scratching your head in confusion – BP is a monthly writing meme run by Cait @ Paper Fury and Skye @ Further Up and Further In, and you can read all about it HERE.

Last month, I featured Mollie, one of the Seven Sisters of Henpecked Bar and Grill (Red as Blood) and I decided to continue that theme this month as well. This time around, I’m featuring Doctor Marjorie Pierce, the owner and manager of Henpecked, and the oldest Sister. Just for a recap, here’s her bio and reference pic again:

NICKNAME: THE DOCTOR.

Yes, otherwise known as Doc, or just Boss. While she isn’t a Timelord, Doc is a medical practitioner. Despite her healing tendencies, she’s a vicious warrior in her own right. And you’d have to be a strong personality to have all of the Sisters submit to your rule (a loving dictatorship). She’s a motherly figure, though she never had any children of her own (though there are rumors of a scandalous, tragic love affair in her youth . . .)

Age: A lady never tells – but she’s north of 40 and south of 60

Height: 127 cm  Species: Human

Weakness: Orphans of any species

Weapon of Choice: Bola

Likes: Feeding People, Sharpening weapons. Being Needed.

Dislikes: Whining and Complaining. Inefficiency.

Favorite Food: Fried Chicken and Biscuits with Gravy and Strong, Black Coffee – and Chocolate Cake. She’s not a health nut . . .

Marjorie is the first person to meet Sull in the narrative, and she (presumably) takes a shine to the battered, skinny boy with haunted eyes and too pretty of a face. He needs food.

As Marjorie is the oldest major character, I thought it would be interesting (and helpful) to explore her childhood a bit, since it’s something she never talks about to the other sisters, though it obviously shaped her life.

 

  1. What is her first childhood memory?

Marjorie’s parents were tenant farmers, and her mother was the farmer’s midwife. They all lived with Marjorie’s two younger sisters and grandmother in a longhouse with the other tenant farmers, so Marjorie’s first memories are of lots of noise and people. It was like having a very, very, large family.

2. What were their best and worst childhood experiences

Best: When Marjorie turned twelve, she had her official Welcoming Day. It signified that she was an adult, and fully capable of taking on an occupation like the other tenant farmers. However, what Marjorie liked about it was how she was finally the center of attention, and how her parents managed to make her a real fruit pie, and an almost-new dress that made her really feel like an adult. She felt loved, appreciated, and happy, and she often wishes she could go back to that moment.

Worst: A rival warlord took over the plantation where Marjorie and her family lived. In the chaos, her entire family was killed. Coming back and finding everyone dead or gone was the worst moment of her life.

3. What was their childhood home like?

The tenant farmers lived in a series of longhouses – which are exactly what they sound like – long buildings with almost zero privacy. Families would put up rough curtains between sections, and sleep in a small space on shared pallets. The average number of occupants in each house was around 20, with families that often included grandparents or great-grandparents. The farmers worked long hours, with plantation duties in addition to their other jobs (such as mechanics, android supervisors, medics, etc.) Though many of the farm chores were done by mechanicals and robots, human workers were needed to run things.

4. What’s something that scared them as child?

As a child, Marjorie was frightened of the alien warlord who (basically) owned her parent’s as indentured servants. Though she never really saw the warlord, or his wife (who actually supervised and ran the entire estate), Marjorie heard too many stories about what happened to tenants who broke the rules.

5. Who did they look up to most?

Marjorie had a good relationship with both of her parents and her grandmother, but she looked up to her mother most. Marjorie remembers her mother as a loving, giving, and genteel but capable woman, who never raised her voice above a yell, but was (almost) always obeyed.

6. Favourite and least favourite childhood foods?

Favorite: Other than fried chicken and chocolate cake, Marjorie always loved anything with fresh fruit. Fresh fruit that wasn’t synthetic was a rare luxury that her hardworking parents could hardly afford.

Least Favorite: Slurry. Slurry was the all-purpose name given to the “leftover soup” fed to the tenant farmers twice each day. Morning’s offerings were usually grainy and bland, while evening slurry often had strange, unidentifiable chunks in it. It was so bad that Marjorie never speaks about it, to anyone.

7. If they had their childhood again, would they change anything?

Marjorie would change a lot of things. She’d help her parents more, and daydream less. She would pay more attention, and she would have found a way to get her parents out. That’s what she tells herself, anyway.

8. What kind of child were they? Curious? Wild? Quiet? Devious?

Marjorie was distracted and flighty. She was curious about the world around her, and frequently disrespectful of her elders. Despite this, she was very caring, and she was devoted to her younger sisters.

9. What was their relationship to their parents and siblings like?

Marjorie loved her whole family, but she felt like they were always disapproving of her, and that she couldn’t be as good as them. Her father was very quiet and stern, and they rarely had conversations, but he silently gave up everything to make his family’s lot a little better. Marjorie’s grandmother and mother were two in a long line of midwife/healers, and they imparted a great reverence for life to Marjorie. They taught her everything they knew, and encouraged her apprenticeships with the other longhouses’ healers. Marjorie’s little sisters were twins, and four years younger, so Marjorie frequently had the care of them. Since their parents were normally working, it was up to Marjorie to feed, bathe, and watch over her sisters on a daily basis. Marjorie resented it at times, but it also made her incredibly close to them.

10. What did they want to be when they grew up, and what did they actually become?

Marjorie wanted to study medicine off-planet, though she knew her parents could never afford such a thing. She always dreamed of running away, becoming a famous doctor, and coming back with lots of money to redeem her indentured family.

Due to the traumatic events in #2, Marjorie’s interests turned from healing to revenge. She was thirteen when the rival warlord wiped out the plantation, and she fled for the neighboring plantation. There, she convinced the tenant farmers to take her in as one of theirs, and she enrolled in the warlord’s guard. Through cunning, knowledge of anatomy and herbals, and determination (and aided by her small stature), Marjorie developed a reputation as a capable assassin. She finally caught the attention of the Matron (formal title of the warlord’s wife), and after many successful missions, her indentured servitude was lifted, and she was formally employed. Having achieved this goal, Marjorie set to undermining and destroying the warlord who had wiped out her family. She did eventually receive her medical training, and become a renowned doctor, but the planet she left behind never knew her as anything resembling a healer.

Well – that was darker than anticipated. That’s what I get for writing a book about a bunch of assassins-turned-restaurateurs taking in a troubled runaway . . .

Did you do BP this month (or do you plan to?) – if so, leave your link in the comments so I can go read it 🙂

What do you think about Doctor Pierce? Does she sound like an interesting character to you? Anything else you’d like to know about her/like clarified?

Thanks for reading!!

 

 

Beautiful People: May Edition – “Meet” Mollie (Red as Blood)

So I’m back from BEA ’16 and Chicago (*sniffles* Chicago . . .*), with loads of books and not nearly enough pictures.

*(I never want to leave, but I always do, just like the hero at the end of a western . . .) Err, or rather, like someone who has to go to work on Monday . . .

I fully intend to finish my lowdown on BEA, just not right now. Right now, I’ve been working through my character profiles for Red as Blood, and it’s time to further my character development with this month’s Beautiful People.

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If you don’t know – BP is a monthly writing meme hosted by Sky at Further Up and Further In and Cait @ Paper Fury. Click the links for their fabulous blogs and info on how to join!

Just like Sherlock needs a Watson to humanize him, and the Doctor needs a Companion for almost the same reason, a larger-than-life main character needs someone more relatable and “average” to ground them. Sull, the protagonist of my WIP, Red as Blood, might be a conflicted, angsty teen, but I know that I gave him a rather outrageous story (read more about it here) that few people can (hopefully) relate to in the details.

Enter Mollie. 

If you read my intro to the Seven Sisters of Henpecked Bar and Grill, you know that Mollie is the youngest (and tallest) “sister,” and that she’s not really content with where she is in life. Just in case you didn’t read her bio, here it is again:

Mollie was raised by warrior priests, and fell in with the seven sisters after events that she doesn't like to talk about. However, she is artistic and dreams of opening a shop or gallery in a big, fashionable city. Though she is a passable fighter, her heart isn’t in it, and she ran away from her army-school-temple as a teenager. Mollie’s real name- Machlah – was hard for her superiors to pronounce. Mollie stuck, but she’s sore about it (why doesn’t she get a fun nickname?)

As the youngest, the tallest, and a half-blooded outcast, Mollie immediately sympathizes with Sull. However, he isn’t looking for an annoying surrogate older sister. Still, she’s enamored with the life he left, or what little hints he drops, and she is determined to be his friend. And what Mollie wants, Mollie usually gets.

Age:  23                      Race: Half human/half alien

In my mind, Mollie looks a lot like a younger version of Morena Baccarin in The Red Tent:

  1. How often do they smile? Would they smile at a stranger?

Mollie smiles quite a bit. She’s naturally easygoing, and a daydreamer, so she’s usually smiling at a thought she had.

She would always smile at a stranger – even if she didn’t work at a restaurant. To Mollie, strangers represent different and exciting, so she’s happy to see them and hear about their adventures.

2. What is the cruelest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?

Mollie is used to being the target of bigoted jokes about her mixed alien and human heritage. Though she looks human enough (her eyes are red-gold and she has triangular pupils, and her skin has a gold flush to it, along with scale patches), everyone (where she came from) knew her story and how her parent’s left her with monks rather than raise her and bear the shame. So the cruellest things she’s been told are probably not worth repeating, but they almost always are directed at her heritage.

3. What is the kindest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?

When Doctor Pierce (her mentor and employer) told Mollie that she (Mollie) wasn’t defined by her success or failure, and that her art was valid even if only she (Mollie) believed in it, this was something Mollie had never heard. Doctor Pierce is not lavish with praise or unnecessary words, but her encouragement gave Mollie courage to continue pursuing art in the most unlikeliest places.

4. What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?

Mollie was raised by warrior monks. They were strict, ascetic, and firm but well-meaning with their wards. Mollie will never forget when trying to brighten up the drab brown robes with some colored fabric scraps that she sewed on to make flowers. The monks called her to the front of morning meeting and gave her a lecture on vanity in front of everyone. Next, they tore off the flowers and cut her long hair (another sign of her vanity), and she was relegated to latrine duty for a month. They weren’t trying to be cruel (she understands this now), but at the time she was just crushed.

In a way, this almost made things worse – Mollie kept her artistic tendencies secret, and she refuses to cut her hair for any reason.

5. What book (a real actual published book!) do you think your character would benefit from reading?

Probably something practical, like 48 Days to the Work You Love. But I think Mollie would get a kick out of (and be encouraged by) Little Women.

6.Have they ever been seriously injured? How severely? How did they react?

Not really. The worst injuries Mollie has ever sustained were minor fractures and sprains from combat training with the monks and their wards. She’s stubborn and has a high level of pain tolerance, so she rarely shows a reaction – especially if people are watching her.

7. Do they like and get along with their neighbours?

Mollie is generally pretty agreeable. However, if she doesn’t like you, she really doesn’t like you. That being said, she gets along well with most everyone she knows.

8. On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being easy and 10 being difficult) how easy are they to get along with?

2 – see above.

9. If they could travel anywhere in the world, where would they go?

She wants to go to Ithir (also known as Earth-that-Was), the homeworld of the original humans. She also wants to go to New Milan – which is the fashion epicenter of the galaxy. (And where Sull spent a lot of time)

10. Who was the last person they held hands with?

Despite their asceticism, the monks actually encouraged familial bonding between their wards, as well as kind touches and comforting gestures. Mollie held her fellow wards’ hands all the time, but she grew hesitant to touch others after she left. Being a huggy person herself, she doesn’t understand the premium some people put on personal space. The last person Mollie “held hands” with was probably her mother figure-Doctor Pierce-when the latter rescued her from an ignominious fate and told her to run.

So there you go 🙂

I hope you enjoyed reading more about Mollie and Red as Blood. Thanks for reading! (And if you participated in BP, please leave a link so I can check it out)

TTT: Top 10 Books I Love but I Just Haven’t Talked About As Much (with quotes!)

toptentuesday
Copyright : The Broke and the Bookish

I know for myself (and probably most of you) that there are tons of books I’ve read that I absolutely loved – I just don’t talk about them as much. So naturally, I had to participate in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (if you don’t know what that is, click here) hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. So let’s get started.

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Mulan = one of the best movies ever.

Top 10 Books I Love (I Just Don’t Talk About Them Much)

  1. The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine (first read in 2001)

9780060293154
This is the cover I have

I love Ella Enchanted, but I actually prefer The Two Princesses of Bamarre. I discovered it in a tiny Northern Michigan bookstore when we were on vacation (15 years ago, *cough, cough*). At the age of twelve, I was obsessed with fantasy and still high off of reading through The Lord of the Rings by myself a couple of times (my dad read it to us when we were little). I was also at that stage when you’ve fallen in love with something (in my case, the feeling that LOTR gave me), and you read ravenously, just trying to find that feeling. This is also around when I discovered Robin McKinley and Patricia Wrede, who have remained lifelong favorites as well. Anyhow, this is a story about the bond between two sisters – one who starts out as the classic “hero,” and the other, who becomes a hero. And it was way before Frozen. ;P

“I put my fingers around the unmarked ring of the spyglass and twisted. The scene became clear. 
Oh no! A hairy brown spider clung to a vine! I couldn't go there!
I'd go to the desert to find a dragon. I began to reset the spyglass, but then I stopped myself. A spider was worse than a dragon?
No.
My first monsters would be spiders, then.” 

2. Dragon’s Milk (The Dragon Chronicles) by Susan Fletcher

“The wild creatures of the earth are as milk for the human spirit; to destroy them is to starve our souls.”

I love these covers <3

While Susan Fletcher is better known for Shadow Spinner (another one of my all time favorites), her Dragon Chronicles were some of the books I reread repeatedly growing up. It’s somewhere between MG and YA, as  I recall. The heroine, Kaeldra, is a gawky, awkward girl who gets thrust into a difficult situation – she basically becomes orphaned Draclings (baby dragons) nanny, in a world where dragons are misunderstood and hated. There are two sequels that take place in the same world, and I remember liking them just as much.

3. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

“We have our clothes, some more splendid than others,—this is our credit; but when a man dies he has only his skin;”

Over a thousand gripping pages (really!), The Count of Monte Cristo is an epic adventure and revenge drama with complex characters and intricate morality. Edmond Dantes is wrongfully imprisoned, and he swears to get the ultimate revenge on the man who put him there. Will Edmond follow his path to the end, or will his convictions and his fear of Heaven stop him before it’s too late? You’ll have to read it to find out. And if you saw that movie, it left out, well, almost the entire book. Another one of my all-time favorite novels, and a definite influence on my writing. On an interesting side note, the nonfiction book The Black Count (about Dumas’ father-an inspiration for a lot of the Count’s adventures) is also well worth the read.

“There are men who have suffered and who have not only gone on living, but even built a new fortune on the ruins of their former happiness. From the depths into which their enemies have plunged them, they have risen again with such vigor and glory that they have dominated their former conquerors and cast them down in their turn.”

4. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

One of the most beautifully written, lyrical fantasies I have ever read. It’s my favorite one of McKillip’s novels, and the one that made me track down her other novels. Sixteen year-old Sybel is given a baby to raise, even though her only companions up to that point were a fantastical menagerie of creatures. This book is gorgeous, magical, and if you haven’t read it, you should. A strong female lead, enduring themes, and amazing prose – this is one of those “so close to perfect it hurts” novels.

“What do you think love is- a thing to startle from the heart like a bird at every shout or blow? You can fly from me, high as you choose into your darkness, but you will see me always beneath you, no matter how far away, with my face turned to you. My heart is in your heart. I gave it to you with my name that night and you are its guardian, to treasure it, or let it whither and die. I do not understand you. I am angry with you. I am hurt and helpless, but nothing will fill the ache of the hollowness in me where your name would echo if I lost you.”

5. Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis

“Holy places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them. Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood.”

“I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”

I might have mentioned this book in passing, but I haven’t sung its praises enough. This was the last work Lewis completed, but it started out as one of his earliest projects. Most people know how C. S. Lewis loved Greek Myths and classic literature. Till We Have Faces is the story of Cupid and Psyche told from Psyche’s sister Orual’s perspective. But it isn’t a simple retelling – it’s a complex, dense, thought-provoking, and deeply philosophical novel that thoroughly explores the nature of love itself. Till We Have Faces is nothing you would expect if you’re only familiar with The Chronicles of Narnia – it’s more akin to The Four Loves, or C.S. Lewis’s essays on the power of myths and legends. If I could just take a handful of books to a deserted island, this would be one of them.

“Oh, I can see it happening, age after age, and growing worse the more you reveal your beauty: the son turning his back on the mother and the bride on her groom, stolen away by this everlasting calling, calling, calling of the gods. Taken where we can't follow. It would be far better for us if you were foul and ravening. We'd rather you drank their blood than stole their hearts. We'd rather they were ours and dead than yours and made immortal.” 

6. Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer

“Confidence is ignorance. If you’re feeling cocky, it’s because there’s something you don’t know.”

Twelve. Millionaire. Genius. Criminal. Artemis Fowl is all of those things. And Eoin Colfer sells it with the writing equivalent of a cheeky grin and a magician’s sleight of hand. One of my favorite middle grade series ever, Artemis Fowl is laugh out loud funny. The characters are hilarious, the plots are crazy, and at the center are the epic odd couple of Artemis and his loyal butler, Butler. Yes – Butler. Butler is the other best thing about these books.

“That was horrible. Horrible. That poor little guy."
Pex was unrepentant. "Yeah, well, he asked for it. Calling us ... all those things."
But---buried alive! That's like in that horror movie. Y'know -- the one with all the horror."
I think I saw that one. With all the words going up on the screen at the end?"
Yeah, that was it. Tell you the truth, those words kinda ruined it for me.”

7. The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf (The Squire’s Tales #3) by Gerald Morris

“I said you lie, knave!” shouted Beaumains, drawing his sword. “And for telling such craven falsehoods, you must die!”
The knight looked plaintively at Roger. “What’s wrong with this fellow?”
He was dropped on his head when he was a baby,” answered Roger.”

This book is hysterical – even if you haven’t read the Arthurian original that it reinterprets (The Kitchen Knight). I loved every book in this series, but this one is a definite stand out. It takes Arthurian story constructs and constants, and turns them completely on their heads, all while keeping the basic story intact. With its witty, sharp-tongued heroine, a dash of faeries, crazy characters, and of course, the aforementioned sense of humor, this is another book I’ve read repeatedly.

8Sorcery & Cecelia: or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer

“I am determined to have the headache Thursday, if I have to hit myself with a rock to do it.”

Manners, Magic, and Mayhem

The concept behind this book is positively brilliant: two writers decided to write letters to each other, assuming the characters of Regency girls with magical aptitude. Their letters became this delightful light fantasy novel that mixes Jane Austen with Diana Wynne Jones’ style magic and hilarity. The sequel, The Grand Tour is equally funny, and highly recommended.

“She probably enjoys cutting up everyone's happiness. Not to mention cutting up other parts of people; given her penchant for poisoning people and turning them into beech trees, I fail to see how she has reached thirty without leaving a trail of bodies behind her.” 

9. The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl

While I’ve mentioned my affection for Pearl’s writing, I doubt I’ve praised this book enough. Dante’s Inferno is a favorite of mine, and this historical novel surrounds the translation of the Inferno made by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Oh, and there’s murder most foul, as well.* But who doesn’t like to watch a group of middle-aged writers solve a murder, all while being terribly literary?

“The force of Dante's poetry resonated most in those who did not confess the Catholic faith, for believers would inevitably have quibbles with Dante's theology. But for those most distant theologically, Dante's faith was so perfect, so unyielding, that a reader found himself compelled by the poetry to take it all to heart.”

10. The Kestrel (Westmark Trilogy #2) by Lloyd Alexander

The dedication in this book: “To those who know they are only human, but strive to be nothing less.”

Lloyd Alexander is another author I’ve touched on at times – with his excellent Prydain Chronicles being one of my favorite MG fantasy series ever. I’ve also named off Westmark in passing. But The Kestrel is one of the first, and best YA novels (that I have read) to deal with the trauma of war and fighting (especially for causes you believe in). Theo, the young printer’s devil from the first book, convincingly transforms into the Kestrel, a fearsome warrior and bogeyman to haunt the enemies dreams. Humanity, hatred, fear, rage- this book covers it all, in a surprisingly slim package. There are touches of Les Miserables and A Tale of Two Cities (two more of my all-time favorite novels), but it’s an easier read. Not convinced? Read this excellent review and see if it changes your mind.

Well, if nothing else, I’ve learned that I need a shelf just for silly fantasy novels (I hadn’t realized what a great favorite they were of mine until I started working on this list!)

Have you read any of these books, or do you intend to?

What are some favorite books that you don’t mention enough?

TTT: Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR

 

Top 10 Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted/created by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish. For instructions on how to participate, click here.

I couldn’t pass this one up, as it’s nice and easy. My TBR stretches from here to Jupiter (and fills up half of my rental house), but picking out a few to focus on might help me get to more of them in the end

1. Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani

I'm not posting the cover today (even though it's gorgeous) because I'll be participating in the cover reveal tomorrow! Be sure to check out my blog for the cover, info on preorders, and other fun stuff! More importantly, Memories of Ash is diverse, layered fantasy and the sequel to Sunbolt, and I couldn't be more excited about it. Read my review of Sunbolt (or better yet, read the book), and get all excited with me.

2. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

I actually just started this as a buddy read with blogger-friend Sara Letourneau . It was a little hard to get back into the swing of things (it's been over a year since I read The Name of the Wind), but it's good so far. I've decided that reading my favorite genre (epic fantasy) is like a mini vacation - not because it's easy, per se, but because it's a welcome respite from the business/stress of everyday life. So thank you, Patrick.

3. The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

SO PRETTY
I heard about this one through Cait over at Paper Fury (she's part of the blog tour). Russia, dueling magicians, historical fantasy - this book sounds right up my alley!

4. Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

MORE PRETTY COVERS
Persian-inspired fantasy? YES. Deserts, djinn, gunslingers and rakish foreigners? Please and thank you.

5. A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

I'm actually kind of embarrassed that I haven't read this :) I  mean, it's about magic and multiple Londons. Anyhow, I decided to fix this problem by buying a shiny paperback edition and putting it on my desk. Now I just have to read it.

6. Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale by David Kudler

I wanted to read this one as soon as I saw the title ( a kunoichi is the simplified/modernized term for a female ninja). It's a historical adventure novel set in 16th century Japan - and thanks to the author and NetGalley, I have an eARC of this one that I can start ASAP!

7. The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dei Randel

Now we have the Tang Dynasty of China. Mei, the young woman who became the most infamous empress in Chinese history, is the narrator of this debut novel. Naturally, I'm also fascinated by Chinese history, and this book looks really good. (Thanks for the eARC Sourcebooks!)

8. Masque by W. R. Gingell

And the prettiest cover yet
I literally read about this book ten minutes ago - and now I really want to read it. It's a murder mystery retelling of Beauty and the Beast by an indie author. The reviews compare it to Jane Austen, and say that the romance takes a backseat to the mystery. After reading just a few blurbs, I'm sold.

9. The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Another one that I actually have a copy of. It's about time travel, and there's a ship on the cover. And I heard there was a Persian thief involved. That's really all it takes to make me want to read a book.

10. Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh

Prehistoric Pride and Prejudice? I'll read that in a heartbeat. Warring clans and survival stuff are just bonuses. Honestly, this premise is fabulous.

So, are any of these on your TBR? (Are they now?) Which one looks the best to you? What book are you looking forward to reading this spring?

Beautiful People #16 – March Edition (Red as Blood)

In which all my good intentions for sticking to the same project derail, and I introduce my newest novel project – vintage-y sci fi/cyberpunk-with lots of food

So, I had fully intended to use The Butler Did It  . . . (my alternate history/steampunk project), but here’s the thing: sometimes characters have such a strong voice that they shove themselves into whatever you’re doing, screaming WRITE ME!

Naturally, as an author, this is a good thing – but it can be pretty inconvenient (if you’re driving on a rainy freeway, or showering, or at work with nothing to write on . . .).
At any rate - that voice belongs to Sull (a.k.a.Sully, Sullen, The Boy, etc ), a mysterious boy who is:
1. Obviously going by a fake name
2. Has a lot to hide
3. Has been starving and scavenging on his own for a year. 
4. Is so lovely that it gets him into scads of trouble and has caused all sorts of psychological trauma

What else you need to know: 
1. This project takes place in the world of The Last Coffee Shop (just later on the timeline), where alternate "Earth" is an apocalyptic wasteland, diverse species and races of aliens rule the skies, and the sci-fi environment is heavily influenced by Edgar Rice Burroughs, world mythology and music, and Lost in Space. 

2. It's currently titled Red as Blood, and it's best described as HippolytusSnow WhiteHallyu Wave culture + Haute couture. 

3. My strange fixation on food service locations continues, with a greasy diner in a mining colony in the middle of nowhere (space) serving as the major setting this time. Henpecked Bar & Grill is famous for it's salvaged, antique chicken signs, and the seven short (dubious and fierce) women who run it with iron fists and toothy grins. It's no place for a pretty boy . . .

Intrigued? Then read on.
(Just in case you were wondering, Beautiful People is an awesome monthly writing meme hosted by Cait at Paper Fury and Sky at Further Up and Further In)

1. What first inspired this character? Is there a person/actor you based them off?

Most of my recent projects have involved mainly adult (or considered an adult for their time) characters, so maybe I felt the need to write in the first person perspective of a teenage boy??  

Sull (a misspelled variation of his name that he goes by for most of the book) is a complicated fellow, and he had a lot of inspiration - my teenage self, my brothers, characters I love, etc. Also, I had the sudden desire to write about a teenage model who runs away and gets a job in food service . . . ahem. Anyhow, here are some pictures/things that influenced Sull's character.
(image credits - L to R, T to B - artmeg101, LuhanMemories, amy-core, Pinterestgermanmissileskqotd

2. Describe their daily routine.

Before he ran away - Sull was on an extremely rigid schedule, supervised by his agent, manager, and nanny. Now he bums around, steals things, and looks for food. He also gets into fights - which he never wins.

3. If they joined your local high school, what clique would they fit into?

That's an interesting thought - Sull has been privately tutored all his life, and his interactions with his peers are a disaster. Personality wise, he'd be in the loners/outcasts. But (pre-story) considering his wealth, his father's name, and his background, he could be one of those rich, popular kids (though I doubt he'd last long there).

4. Write a list of things they merely tolerate. Ex: certain people, foods, circumstances in their lives…

1. Fame
2. His father
3, His agent
4. Humanity
5. Life

Note - this is not to be confused with the list of things he actively hates.

5. How does he react in awkward silences?

He stays silent. He likes quiet and solitude, and would prefer a world where no one spoke. And his poker face is A++

6. Can they swim? If so, how did they learn?

No. He's never been swimming, or even had the opportunity. It probably wouldn't occur to him as a fun activity.

7. What is one major event that helped shape who they are?

MAJOR SPOILERS. You'll have to read the book someday to find out. 
For a secondary event, when Sull gets a job in the kitchen at the Henpecked Bar & Grill, it changes his life in ways he'd never imagined.

8. What things do they value most in life?

His personal integrity. He has his own code and he never breaks it.

9. Do they believe in giving other people second chances? Do they have any trust issues?

While Sull has no problem with "second chances" as a concept, he doesn't really believe in them. Trust issues = his middle name. Based on his past/where he came from, there are a lot of reasons why he never trusts anyone.

10. Your character is having a rough day…what things do they do to make them happy again? Is there anyone they talk/interact with to get in a better mood?

Before Sull ran away, he was carefully monitored for behavioral or mood imbalances. Any sign of rebellion brought a new prescription. Now that Sull's been on his own for a year, he's used to feeling everything, and because he's all alone, he acts out however he feels like acting. He's usually pretty destructive.

Later in the novel, after Sull makes a few friends, he gets a couple confidants who can talk him out of his notoriously bad moods.

While he may not be the most personable chap, Sull is pretty fun to write about, and his adventures with the “Seven Sisters” are all kinds of interesting things to plot out. And I haven’t even mentioned half of the plot or characters here!

What do you think about Sull and his strange world? Would you like to work in the kitchens of a space diner? Did you see the movie John Carter of Mars? I am one of the 10 people who not only saw that movie – they loved it. I read the book first, and I still liked it.

Follow Beck’s board Writing Inspiration: Red as Blood on Pinterest.

Monthly Rewind: February (and Some Questions for You Bloggers)

NOTE: This post first appeared on my former blog, Wordsmithing and Worldbuilding

I almost don’t know where to start on my Monthly Rewind – February was . . . Intense.

At any rate, it’s March (the month of appropriately mad weather for Michigan), which means it’s time for the monthly link-up with Nicole at Feed Your Fiction Addiction. Instructions on how to join are here.

 

You may or may not have noticed that I was pretty absent for most of February. There are a few reasons –
First, I picked up a second part-time job a couple weeks into the month, and both my time and internet access have become even more limited than normal. That being said, I’m still here!
Working two jobs has also upped my caffeine intake, and made me seek out coffee from less savory places (like the gas station). I’m normally pretty spoiled because the coffee at the bookstore is amazing. Not so amazing at the gas station. But hey, it’s coffee. I think.
Secondly, I’ve been having an endless amount of annoying problems with Blogger and Google+. They are currently refusing to let me comment on anyone’s comments, or even read them when I’m logged into my blog.

I didn’t realize what a goldmine TOP* gifs were . . . until now ^^

Ugh.

Anyhow, after much deliberation, I’m considering moving my blog to a different platform, or possibly my own domain.

Which leads me to these important questions:
1. Is it worth buying an actual domain name?
2. What blogging platform do you use, and why? Do you like it? Is one better than the others?

Any advice/feedback would be really appreciated! (Oh, and since I can’t read your comments – note the contact form on the top right-hand side of the blog- thanks!)
And now that I have that out of the way – February in Review!
On the Blog and Reading fronts, my hectic schedule made hash of things – and I only managed 5 posts 🙁

-Current mood-

 

My reading count for this month was even worse – I started about 15 books, and finished only two of them!
The first was Stars Above, and the second was The Guest by
Hwang Sok-yong. I’m not sure if I’ll review it or not. It’s about the 52 day massacre in the Hwanghae Province of North Korea during the Korean War. It was moving, disturbing, horrifying, and profoundly important if you’re looking to understand a little more of the North/South Korean relations, the relationship of Korea with the West (especially the U.S.), and the two huge “foreign guests” of Christianity and Communism. It wasn’t light reading, but I was glad I read it. I’m just not sure how to explain it in a review! (A funny place for a writer to be in, let me tell you).
I am also reading through a manuscript for a friend, so that’s taken plenty of time and attention.
And if you’re interested, here are some of the books I’m currently reading:
 
 
Without You, There is No Us by Suki Kim
Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
The Star-Touched Queen (ARC) by Roshani Chokshi
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald
Small Data by Martin Lindstrom
Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Also in reading, Intisar Khanani’s (novel-length!) follow up to Sunbolt, Memories of Ash, has a release date!! This is easily one of my most anticipated books of 2016. It’s out May 30th – so just 3 months to wait!! In the meantime, there will be a cover reveal on March 16th, and it will be up for preorder on that day as well.

Off the Blog:

  • I started the second job (at a new local brewery)
  • I started yet another novel (I have very bad habits.) More about this in a minute.
  • I turned 27
  • I made lots of kimchi and discovered kimchi stew (soooo good. And kimchi fried rice is almost better!!)
  • I basically did a lot of cooking, now that I think about it . . .
  • One of my best friends got engaged and I get to be a bridesmaid (my second time)!
  • The only movie I watched was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Because Matt Smith – Eleventh Doctor as MR. COLLINS)***, I watched none of the Oscars, and watched an unhealthy amount of YouTube videos when I should have been sleeping after 12-16 hour work days.
  • And to be honest, if anything else happened in February – I don’t remember it. I was probably sleeping. My ability to fall asleep anywhere on anything at anytime just turned into a superpower.

Looking Ahead:

Hopefully I’ll finish a few of those books this time around, and have some time for reviews! I’m also thinking of doing a series of editing posts on The Last Coffee Shop – to help me actually edit it, and because it would be fun. Thoughts? My major goal for March is to do at least one edit through.
Oh, and that book idea I mentioned above) – it won’t go away. So I started writing it. It’s basically a vintage sci-fi + western + Hallyu wave + high fashion novel in the world of TLCS (though not a sequel). The MC’s voice is stuck in my head – he’s an angry teenage model (yes, that’s he) on the run from a truly freaky family situation. He takes refuge at a greasy spoon space diner, which is run by a posse of (former) warrior women who specialize in fried chicken. Because I just can’t write anything normal. If you’d like to see a glimpse into it, here’s the link to my Pinterest board.
Also, I plan on plugging away at The Butler Did It, and reading everyone else’s wonderful posts (I did a lot of reading posts in Feb, but rarely had the energy to comment, lol)

So that’s it for me folks. How was your February? Do you have any big plans for March? What are you reading? And please tell me your thoughts on the blog move idea/domain name 🙂 I’ll give you all the virtual cake if you do!

Footnotes:
*From BIGBANG. SO MANY GIFSSSS
**Yes, I know he’s fake. No, I will not get over it.
***Not as bad as I thought it would be, and Matt Smith was hilarious.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books That Really Weren’t My Thing (But I liked them anyway) – With gifs and reasons and stuff

Image Source: The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday is a really fun topic (again) this week* – since it highlights books from genres or on topics that we don’t normally read, but that we really liked.

As a bookseller, it’s part of my job to read a diverse selection, so I have read plenty of books that I wouldn’t pick up because I simply wanted to. Here are 10 of the books I liked more than I thought I would!
As always, TTT is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and you can find out how to participate in the link-up right here. (Disclaimer: All images belong to respective copyright holders and are not being used for any financial gain)
And here we go . . .

Top 10 Books That I Liked (Even Though They Weren’t My Usual Reads)

1. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Why it isn’t me: I don’t usually go for cute and cuddly NYT bestsellers.


*Sniffles* Pushing Daisies!
How it changed my mind: While it was most definitely cute and cuddly, and bestselling, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry was sweet not sappy, and a love letter to books and bookstores. How could I not approve? The author really captured the charm of indie bookstores, reading, and the quirky people you meet in the bookish world.

2. The Iron Fey Series (And The Immortal Rules) by Julie Kagawa

Why they aren’t me: Two words- paranormal romance. And they were billed to me as “swoony,” which always earns an eyeroll (internally, of course, one must be polite).

My eyeliner is never this flawless, but this is how I’ll react . . .
How they changed my mind: While there was zero swooning, I did find the characters charming** enough to read every one of the Iron Fey books (and I even made it through the slight love triangle unscathed).
Anyhow, these books are like those giant cupcakes — you buy one and one becomes five and . . .  anyhow, I actually really enjoyed them. But I sort of felt like I had a sugar hangover after the fact. The characters are fun, the worlds are lovely (I especially love her take on the Fey), and Julie Kagawa is a good storytellerImmortal Rules was one of the more interesting vampire books I’ve come across, and I loved Kagawa’s take on a post-apocalyptic setting.

3. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Why it isn’t me: It’s an adult contemporary romance/comedic novel. I don’t usually enjoy romantic comedies, and they only ask for an hour of my time. A book is much more demanding.

How it changed my mind: It was actually hilarious. The characters were quirky and fun, and I loved Don Tillman. He's autistic, brilliant, and so socially awkward that I was immediately charmed. Rosie was fun, but Don's narration won this novel for me.

4. The Benny Imura Series and The Joe Ledger Series by Jonathan Maberry

Why they aren’t me: I am not into zombies. Period. And the Joe Ledger series are an adult zombie series, which really isn’t my thing . . .

Before Rot & Ruin
How they changed my mind: TOM.*** While there are a lot of zombies in both series, they also include: strong characters, brother bonds that will make you cry in a hole, great action, swords, authentic and relatable teenage drama, adorable characters, plotlines, humor, philosophy, and really complicated but terrifying villains. And did I mention Tom Imura? No? Small oversight. And as for the Joe Ledger books - they're like a Clint Eastwood movie with zombies and humor. A little rough,**** but I liked them way more than I thought I would (I haven't read them all yet, but they're still going strong)
After

Why it isn’t me: I read some of Faulkner’s short stories for school and was driven mad by his stylistic decisions (run-on sentences, strange punctuation, etc). Despite my love of classic lit, we didn’t click.

Trying to capture that eerie, empty feel with a gif here
How it changed my mind: I saw how short it was, and picked it up on vacation. And I was completely won over by the eerie darkness, the strange style, the drama, the depiction of the South, the story, and the narrators. Faulkner went from my never-read-again list, to my read-everything-eventually list. Just because of this book.

6. The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

So pretty

Why it isn’t me: I tend to avoid coming-of-age novels as a genre, especially when they sound like they’re just about teenagers doing teenage things (no, I never liked them when I was a teenager).

Couldn’t resist, mate
How it changed my mind: First, there was the evocative title. Second, I met a few people at Winter Institute who completely convinced me to read it with their love for this book. And then the author read an excerpt, and I loved her prose. The story is much more layered and complicated than what I expected, the characters are lovable and seem like real people, and the peek into 60's-70's Alaska was absolutely fascinating. If you like contemporary-ish YA at all, you should definitely give this book a shot.
Just look at this cover . . .

Why it isn’t me: While I love manga, I’m not much into the shoujo/school stuff/romance. I prefer shonen, hands down.

And Hiro – that kid with unlimited adult sass
How it changed my mind: Blogger Victoria Grace (Stori Tori) convinced me to watch the anime first, and I was hooked. I swear I've never been so invested in school clubs or random everyday life before. I had to read the manga because the anime doesn't have the entire story! And there are three very important things I haven't mentioned:
1. Everyone and everything is so darn cute!
2. The Chinese Zodiac have human forms, and they revert to animals when hugged by the opposite sex. It's weird and random and provides tons of hilarity.
3. The characters have surprising layers, and/or really dark sides.

8. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Why it isn’t me: See #2. Guys – this is so “not me” that I was almost too embarrassed to put it up (and I am not knocking anyone who likes these books, I promise). Paranormal romance, love triangles, ridiculously unrealistic characters, weird taxidermied-looking dudes on the covers, I could go on for days here – but they’re not my normal thing, obviously.

Taxidermy . . .
How it changed my mind: This was just a fun book. I stopped thinking and just giggled at the dialogue and got lost in the indulgent steampunk world and fun. Quirky, cute characters and plenty of action helped too.
Got to love that title though

Why it isn’t me: This is the sort of book I’d never even notice. Confessionals, anecdotes, personal mother-daughter stuff, chick-lit, etc.

Batman, are you trying to make us all feel bad?
How it changed my mind: I got this ARC from a box at work when I was desperately seeking a beachy read for a review program. The review was due in two days, and I needed something quick and easy. What I didn't expect was how much I enjoyed it! The stories were pretty relatable, and funnier than I thought they would be. As I have a close relationship with my mother, I found the mother-daughter stuff endearing and fun. It was easy to read, but only just fluffy enough. Sweet and sincere, I could honestly recommend it as a "beach read" to readers and non-readers alike.

10. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

Why it isn’t me: I was fully persuaded that I didn’t like Dickens. (Too early of an exposure – which was my own fault!). Long, overrated, boring, and melodramatic – that’s what I thought. And Little Dorrit is basically moose-sized.

How it changed my mind: I watched the Masterpiece Theater (love MT!) version and was hooked, so I decided to give the book a chance. I liked it even better. It was hilarious - with a such a heady level of satire I was completely surprised, and the characters were brilliant. The Circumlocution Office still figures into my conversations. Anyhow, Little Dorrit rekindled my love for Victorian novels, and sparked a new one with Dickens' works in particular. Many years later, I'm still a loyal fangirl <3

So, what was the last book you read that was out of your comfort zone or not something you’d normally read? Why did you like it? Have you read any of these books?

Footnotes:
*Last week was 10 Songs that Should Be Books - which was a fabulous idea!
**Ash is my spirit animal (okay, one of my many spirit animals)
***Tom Imura = <3<3<3<3<3
****The Joe Ledger covers are gross. Who wants to look at this? 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Songs That NEED to Be Books

Top 10 Songs that NEED to Be Books (Top 10 Tuesday on Wednesday)

Image Source: The Broke and the Bookish

When I saw this, I knew I had to participate, no matter how I managed to obtain internet. Next to books, music is my favorite thing in the world, and I could probably make a list that goes on for days. As I’ve written elsewhere, many/most of my own writing is either directly linked to music, or music is just one of the many ingredients. Either way, music and writing are inextricably connected for me.

The challenge here was limiting myself to 10! (So only one song per artists, or it will mainly be Within Temptation) Anyhow, I included videos where applicable, the song titles are linked to lyrics, and the bands are linked to their sites for more info.

1. Dark Wings by Within Temptation

There is a fantasy novel in almost every Within Temptation song (whether they were inspired by one, or it’s one that’s begging to be written!*). I have WT songs on almost every one of my novel playlists for a reason 🙂
So why pick Dark Wings? Look at the lyrics, listen to Sharon Den Adel’s vocals and the epic power of the music. This is a fantasy novel about the Faye, or some ancient winged race (related to dragons, maybe?)

2. Dragons by The Green Children

 Speaking of dragons, metaphorically, the song Dragons has a story. There are several parts to it (just click on The Green Children’s channel in the links to find the others – starting with Life Was Beautiful), but it isn’t a book. It needs to be. Like a modern Kay and Gerda in The Snow Queen, our video protagonists get separated and caught up in a sinister looking web of magic (?) or not.
The video visuals are amazing, and the dance pop ambiance makes it fun to listen to. And the lyrics are intriguing to boot. There is definitely a book here. One of the many bands I love that haven’t made it into a post yet, The Green Children are another frequent contributor to my novel playlists.

3. One Shot by B.A.P

Note – there is a bit of blood and violence in this video, but nothing too graphic.

Life choices are the major theme in this heavy-hitting song by B.A.P** The video above has handy subs for the lyrics, but it’s still pretty obvious what’s going on. But the surprise ending . . . This gives me all kinds of novel ideas. I’m thinking contemporary YA about a gang of street boys, with a sci-fi/time bending twist.

4. The Maiden and the Selkie by Heather Dale

If you’re into the Celtic/Folk/New Age music scene (or King Arthur), you’ve probably heard Canadian singer Heather Dale. Her music is based on folklore and legends, with her own spin.
I picked this song for the unique ending – the maiden is very proactive about this marrying a selkie prince business (basically Scottish were-seals). Instead of dying on command when she can’t marry her true love (a real danger in Celtic ballads), she finds a way around it. Applause for her. Embellish this story, and it could be a lot like a Tam Lin retelling.

5. Ralph Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra

Don’t feel like you have to watch all 17 minutes of the above performance, but I promise that it’s worthwhile! You might recognize this piece from the movie Master and Commander. It’s depth and haunting beauty always make me want to write – and if I could write something half as beautiful as this piece of music, I’d be pretty well pleased.
I love Thomas Tallis and his sacred/choral music, but Vaughan Williams (impressively) actually improved upon the original with his 1910 fantasia (above). Seriously, if this was a book, I think we’d all read it.

6. From Yesterday by 30 Seconds to Mars

This video is another one that needs a book. Not only is it gorgeous and evocative, the powerful lyrics of the song just shout novel at me every time. Sci-Fi, historical fiction, fantasy, it doesn’t matter. It would just be a really cool book, regardless. (Am I the only person who thinks that this video is better than a movie already?)

7. Shadows by Red

Lyrics, music, vocals, story, this song has it all. And it’s oh so intense.  We can follow up with So Far Away and Hold Me Now. If you like powerful vocals and messages with driving rock music, then you need some Red in your life.
 I’m envisioning this as urban fantasy with a character who walks the wire between life and death, and constantly suffers from crises of conscience and complex moral dilemmas. With Red serenading them in the background, how can they not be awesome?

8. When I’m Gone by The Click Five

Maybe it starts like this: A famous young detective was on his way to propose to his gf, and he was caught in a freak accident. Or was it just a freak accident? He comes back, but no one, including his girl, can see him. He doesn’t need/want revenge, and though he has some unsolved cases, he’s kind of puzzled as to why he didn’t pass over. And there’s your story – with lots of ghost-solving-mysteries along the way. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this.***
But I want a book where the aforementioned ghost is the hero/POV character. I feel like comic books and movies/tv shows have somewhat explored this (but they’re usually stupidly violent). At any rate, this is my ghost’s anthem.

9. Generation Throwaway by The Used

I am envisioning Les Mis meets Holes meets The Maze Runner.
Led by an uncompromising idealist, a ragtag group of misfits and recreants sets out to save the world, but it’s never that simple. I think I need to write this book already, and dedicate it to everyone else who listened to lots of pop punk/emo/post-hardcore as a teenager.

10. Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon

Who doesn’t want this to be a literal book? The lyrics are nuts. I want to read it. Modern, jaded British werewolves just minding their business in London. (On second thought, I might be the only person who wants to read this)

So there you go: 10 songs that needed to be novels, yesterday.

Would you read any of these if they were books? Have you heard any of these songs/bands? Did you watch any of my videos? Is there a song that you think really, really, needs to be a book? Sound off below 😉

Footnotes:
*Seriously – just look over their lyrics. Novels happening everywhere. This seems to be a defining characteristic of symphonic metal – Xandria, Delain, Epica, Nightwish, Kamelot, Sirenia, I could go on forever but google it and you’ll understand.
**B.A.P is the only Kpop band on this list. But I find that the theatrical, overblown nature of Kpop is more suggestive of characters or themes than complete novels. And it’s very good at that (Case in point – my current infatuation with Bigbang and Kim Junsu‘s stuff)
***Closest thing was the ghost fiance in the Kdrama “Who Are You?” He was epic.

Lovely Books: 10 Literary Couples I Was Actually Invested In (With Fanart!) (February 15th, 2016)

THIS POST ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON MY OTHER BLOG – on February 15th, 2016

Image Source: Adventure Awaits/Tracey Dyck

Well, I’m behind on reading and reviewing, so I tossed it all out the window and decided to join Tracey Dyck’s new February link-up: Lovely Books (Adventure Awaits)

This is a new link-up that goes live the Saturday of every month. Rules (very few rules) can be found here. Since Lovely Books is all about loving on books with other bloggers and bookworms, I knew I had to join in. I totally missed the first one, but the second one was, you guessed it, Valentine's Day themed.

In unintentional rebellion, I’m doing it for President’s Day.*

Looking good, George.
But, yes, favorite literary couples. I'm slightly embarrassed that I did a total mind blank on this at first. I love books and characters, but I never get that invested in romantic plots. That being said, there are some couples in fiction that were so awesome, I felt my heart clenching in concern for them.** That's some mighty fine writing, my friends. (I intentionally ruled out all manga/comic book couples, because that was easier and required less mental straining)***

Warning: Some of these might be a little spoilery (but I find that figuring out romantic plotlines is one of the easiest to do, so probably not).

There is also fanart. So enjoy! (All art is credited when possible and belongs to the artist. It is not being used for any profit/marketing/or anything other than promoting awesome artists)

1. Howl and Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle

Unfortunately, I have no idea who the artist is! 🙁 I want to credit them. Source: Tumblr
It's a testament to the late Diana Wynne Jones' writing that she made us all fall in love with someone as awful as Howl. He's a spoiled brat of a wizard, albeit a brilliant one, and his antics are too funny. On the other hand, I think Sophie is one of the great unsung heroines of literature. She's smart, sensible, and forced to spend most of the book in the (fitting) guise of an old woman. Howl really doesn't deserve her - though I defy you to not want them to end up together. This a charming fantasy that resembles Beauty and the Beast, if the Beast was attractive in looks but not behavior, and the Beauty had a beautiful spirit but was a little old woman on the outside. A must read.
Sophie proving her love – movie version

2. Eugenides (the Thief) and Irene (the Queen of Attolia)

Attolia + Attolis by annmarieri on Deviantart
In Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series, the story of how Irene comes to respect Gen as a man and an equal is an impressive, mature look at love and relationships. And these books aren't  romances at all. They're based around a fantasy world that resembles Ancient Greece and Rome, full of intrigue, deception and lethal scheming. In the center of it all is Eugenides, the titular Thief, whose charm, wit, and quick fingers get him in and out of loads of trouble. When he starts falling in love with the powerful, proud, and disdainful Queen of Attolia, things get messy, and deadly, fast. Just read it, I don't want to give too much away.
Via Natroze on Tumblr – so funny!

3. Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing.

Love this – poster from Ali de Souza’s 2011 production
Much Ado is one of the deepest, and yet most entertaining, comedies from the Bard. If you get the chance to see it live, take it, as it's hilarious to see the action. Beatrice and Benedick are the bachelors, the confirmed singles who have sworn of love, marriage, and everything in between. Their relationship is realistic and funny, contrasted with the "love at first sight" of Hero and Claudio. My second favorite couple in Shakespeare is the Macbeths - who put the bad in badass and are scary as all get out. They're also hopelessly devoted to each other. Take that, Romeo and Juliet.
She has such a way with words, you know.

4. Sabriel and “Touchstone”  from Sabriel. 

 

 

Image Copyright: Laura Tolton

 

Image Copyright: Laura Tolton
Another pair from a book that isn't really romantic. Garth Nix's Sabriel is awesome. Sabriel is the Abhorsen, a sort of reverse necromancer that puts the dead back, as opposed to calling them up. When she's forced to take on the responsibilities of her father (the current Abhorsen), Sabriel must leave the safety of school to confront all the powers of darkness. She's a feminine, authentic girl who is  way cooler than anyone you've met, yet identifiable. She's also strong, very strong, in a quiet way that never screams "I can do anything a man can do!" Her relationship with Touchstone is believable, touching, and humorous. READ THIS BOOK. (Artist Laura Tolton has an amazing gallery with more Abhorsen related works - check it out.)

5. Kate and Christopher, from The Perilous Gard, by Elizabeth Marie Pope.

Christopher Heron by Whimsical Cow on Deviantart.com

Another book I’ve read that no one else seems to have heard of. And it’s their loss, because The Perilous Gard is one of the best YA novels ever. Really.

Kate Sutton by WhimsicalCow on Deviantart.com
It's set in 1558, and the historical accuracy makes this the most believable novel I've read about the Fae. Kate is the heroine, exiled by Queen Mary Tudor to the Perilous Gard of the title. It's an unwelcoming place, full of secretive inhabitants, including the handsome, rude, and mysterious Christopher Heron. Their relationship has a bit of the Jane Eyre-Mr. Rochester dynamic, but without all the creepiness (Christopher just acts like the type of guy who'd hide a wife in the attic, but he isn't). And there is a sad lack of fan art for this book! However, Jenn Rothwell's (Whimsical Cow) illustrations are perfect.

6. Gemma and KartikThe Sweet Far Thing (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy #3) by Libba Bray

Image Copyright Sam Schechter
I read this book a long time ago (whenever it first came out), but to be honest, the only thing I really remember is the ending - and Gemma and Kartik's characters. I always liked these two fine, but I didn't really care about their romance until, gulp, it was threatened by death and destruction and mayhem. I'll warn you, they don't get a "happy ending." But it's a beautiful finale that really proved how much they meant to each other. In other words, we had real, self-sacrificial love, that made sense, in a YA novel. Not kidding. And yes, fine, they had good chemistry and a convincing relationship too. At least, as far as I remember . . .
Dragon Fire by Leanna Crossan

7. Aerin and Luthe from The Hero and the Crown

Robin McKinley really likes her bittersweet endings. A lot. The Hero and the Crown is no exception. Somehow, her characters seem to make more adult decisions than most YA protagonists. Which means that these two do not end up together - because it would be irresponsible. Cue my twelve-year-old tears.

Yes, I really did cry for them when I was twelve. I just wanted them to be okay, you know? It doesn't affect me like this anymore (I'm all "hooray for people making the right choice instead of the romantic one"), but I still like them together. After fifteen years, it would be a shame if they weren't on this list.

There is basically zero fan art, or art at all, of either Aerin or Luthe. Sadly.

8. Luthien and Beren from the Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien

Beren, Luthien, and Huan by Steamey on Deviantart.com

Tolkien wasn’t known for romance, but is there anything more romantic than disguising as monsters to infiltrate “worse than Mordor” to steal a mystical gem from a guy who makes Sauron cower?

I didn’t think so.

Beren and Lúthien against Carcaroth by Justin Gerard
In fact, Luthien and Beren are so hardcore that they die and come back to life, mainly because Luthien is so stubborn that she refuses to lose her man after everything they've been through. It's pretty epic.(I love all of Tolkien's couples, but Luthien and Beren are definitely my favorite!). On a side note, I could probably fill about five posts with all the quality fanart of these two, so narrowing it down to just a couple pictures was hard.
Cinder by chrysalisgrey on deviantart.com

9. Kai and Cinder from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Prince Kaito, Cinder, and Iko by Mari945
I admit that I was rooting for them just because I loved both of their characters separately.

Kai's evolution from a slightly silly prince into a seriously impressive Emperor was one of the highlights of the series. And Cinder is the sort of character I love the minute they're introduced. Practical, no-nonsense, not afraid to laugh at herself, headstrong, determined, you get it. I can relate (and I'll add that I wouldn't say no to Kai either . . .).Cute fanart aboundeth for these two.

10. Morwen and Telemain from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede

Forest Scene by chibi-oneechan on Deviant.com
(I couldn't find art I liked of these two, but I did find some gorgeous forest art that reminds me of the entire series)

If you know who Morwen and Telemain are, can we be friends? I love this quirky little fantasy series, and the whole Morwen + Telemain thing is a definite highlight. Granted, the fact that they like each other isn't confirmed until very late in the series, and it is a side thing, but it was obvious.

They're hilarious every time they interact - the ultimate odd couple in denial. She's a sensible witch with a lot of opinionated cats, and he's an absent-minded magician (not a wizard) who relies on endless theories and experiments instead of raw power. Classic.

So there you have it: 10 of My Favorite Fictional Couples

True. Love.
The trick to getting me invested is making me care so deeply about the character that I want what they want.
A good author can make you feel a little heady during a romantic scene. A great author can make your heart ache with the characters, make you want their “happy ending” for them so badly that you confuse it with your own feelings. And a brilliant author will do all of the above without you realizing it happened until it’s too late 😉

What was the last fictional couple you got invested in? Why did you care (or not care) about a fictional relationship? Do you tend to anticipate the romantic bits, or are you like me, and distracted by swordfights? Have you read any of these books? Why not?

 Footnotes:
*George and Martha approved
 **Confession time: I actually have a fictional couples themed Pinterest board.
 ***Winter Soldier + Black Widow <3