What I’m Reading: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

I attended a writer’s group around here and someone recommended this book to all of us. It was a winner of a contest called Pitch Wars, which she also told us about. If you don’t know what pitch wars is, I suggest you Google it. Got a manuscript? Want some advice from experienced writers? This contest is for you. You get a chance to partner up with with a mentor, who will offer you advice and ways to edit your novel so you can pitch it to agents. In the end it’s like a bidding war for the best novel and sounds so exciting. I’m going to give it a try myself.

Anyway, this book is about four young adults who are brought together by tensions exacerbated by the politics surrounding the world of the novel. On one side there are those who have magic, or used to have it. On the other: the evil king who is determined to keep magic away for good.

Friendships form, romance kindles, and adventure makes this book as absorbing as the world the author has created.

Happy Reading and Writing!

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What I’m Reading Tonight

Got the Yankee – Astros game playing in the background, the fan is whirling and making a steady shwooo noise, and I’m snuggled in bed with a book.

Everland, by Wendy Spinale. It’s this steam punk version of Peter Pan. I love the cross genre and diving into the realm of fiction classics is always fun, too.

What are you reading? Anything good?

Game of Thrones Season 7 episode 5 Recap & Review: Eastwatch

I forgot to write my review for Game of Thrones last week…so here’s a recap/review to get ready for tonight’s episode.

Although, there wasn’t as much action compared to the previous episode, there were still a lot of plot twists. 

Beware, spoilers ahead!

Photo credit: HBO

Well, Jamie lives! Big surprise there, eh?  He and Bronn manage to swim further on down the river. Jaime tells him they need to get to King’s Landing to inform Cersei about the dragons.

Meanwhile, Dany offers the Lannister army a choice: bend the knee or die. Many start to bend the knee, except for Randyll and Dickon Tarly. They will not serve Daenerys, because she is a foreign queen and she did not grow up in Westeros.  She turns Drogon on them and after they are burnt to ashes, the rest of the Lannister army falls to their knees.

Dany shows up at Dragonstone and Jon Snow is there to meet her. Drogon allows Jon to pet his face, and it almost looks like Dany is going to swoon. Does this mean that the dragon can sense Jon’s parentage? Also, Jorah arrives at Dragonstone and Dany is very pleased to see him.

Tyrion and Varys drink wine and ponder if Daenerys is as bad as her father. Jon gets a message from Winterfell, and although he is shocked that Arya and Bran are alive, he doesn’t have time to feel joy. Bran saw a vision of the army of the dead marching towards Eastwatch.

Dany doesn’t want to help Jon, because she is afraid if she leaves, Cersei will march in and take back everything she has gained. Tyrion offers a different solution, by way of proof. Bring one of the dead men to Cersei, convince her the dead men are real and she will then join the fight against the Night King, and come to a temporary truce.

Ser Davos manages to smuggle Tyrion into King’s Landing. Bronn tricks Jaime into meeting with the dwarf, and although Jaime doesn’t wish to speak with him, Tyrion tells him about the army of the dead and Jaime relays their plan to Cersei.

Although Cersei recognizes that they are vastly outnumbered and that a parlay with the dragon queen might be in their best interest, she still delivers this wonderful quote: “Dead men, dragons and dragon queens, whatever stands in our way, we will defeat it.” She tells Jaime she is pregnant and that they must fight this war the way their father did. What, sneakily?

While Tyrion is off meeting with Jaime, Ser Davos finds Gendry working as a blacksmith in the streets of King’s Landing. Ser Davos jokes to us fan’s delight, “thought you might still be rowing.” Gendry joins the fight and tells Jon Snow exactly who he is when they meet. He tells him he is very handy with a war hammer, and the instant bro-mance between them is entertaining.

Meanwhile, in Winterfell, Arya is being fooled by Little Finger who is trying to sow discord between the two Stark sisters. He sneaks around the castle, has quiet conversations and basically looks like he is up to no good.  Arya finds the message that Sansa was forced to write by Cersei after Ned was beheaded. It looks to Arya, (who doesn’t know Sansa was forced to write it) that her sister has betrayed her family.

In Old Town, Gilly reads from an old manuscript and asks Sam what an annulment is. After Sam tells her, she reads that the Maester who wrote the manuscript performed a secret annulment and a marriage for a Rhaegar Targaryen in Dorne. This is big news to us, but Sam cuts her off mid-sentence. Does this mean that Jon’s parents were actually married?

Sam is fed up with the lack of response from the Maesters in regards to the Night King. Instead of waiting for them to act, he steals manuscripts from the restricted section of the library and he, Gilly and baby Sam leave Old Town.

Jon arrives at Eastwatch, with Jorah Mormont, Ser Davos and Gendry, but they are not one of the only ones with plans to go beyond the wall to catch one of the dead men. Tormund leads them to a cell where the Hound, Beric Dondarrion and Thoros say they are there to go beyond the wall because their Lord told them too.

All the men establish that most of them hate the other, but Jon insists that they must work together because they are all on the same side against the Night King. The episode ends with the north-meets-the-avengers group heading out into the white beyond the wall.

What was the best part about this episode?

What to choose, really?

  • Jon petting Drogon.
  • Tyrion and Jaime meeting.
  • Gendry popping up out of nowhere. That “still rowing” comment. His war hammer. Jon and Gendry’s budding bro-mance.
  • Jorah returning to Dany, only to leave her again.
  • Tormund asking about Brienne.

Dislikes?

  • Arya being led on by Little Finger
  • Cersei’s pregnancy; really Jaime? She’s toxic!
  • The outrageous plan to bring a dead man beyond the wall…or is it genius? I’m really not sure.

What do you guys think? (No spoilers please! I read somewhere that tonight’s episode had leaked…)

Game of Thrones Season 7 episode 3 Review: The Queen’s Justice

Every Sunday, Mike and I have a routine: at 9 o’clock we settle in front of the TV, (often with ice cream) to tune into Game of Thrones. It’s a love we both share. A story line with characters, (compared to some) that we have become deeply invested in. So, with many character’s story lines finally coming together with others…suffice to say, every night with Game of Thrones is an important one! I think it goes without saying:

Beware, spoilers ahead!

Photo Credit: HBO

It was so strange seeing Daenerys and Jon Snow in the same room together! She looks powerful, beautiful and queen-like. He looks like a Northerner, bulky in furs, hair unkempt, and tired of politics. But who do you think won the room?

It’s hard to say, really.  Missandei lists out Daenerys’ names and even we’re tired of hearing them. Davos Seaworth retaliates with an awkward, “This is Jon Snow…King of the North.”

It’s clear that Jon is out of his element, but he is also the Jon Snow that we love best, the one who stays true to his convictions. He was trusted to rule the north by the men who named him king and that’s exactly what he’s going to do…even if it means facing a queen who at first looks too big for her britches.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Dany…but with this meeting, I felt myself turning on her. How dare she look down her nose at our beloved Jon Snow? How dare she remind him again and again that she is the ruler of the seven kingdoms, when there are clearly other things to be worried about. White walkers, for instance?

It’s funny how quickly our loyalties change when it comes to characters. However, she does grant him access to the dragon glass on Dragonstone, which is a nice gesture. Doesn’t really seem like these two will start coupling up anytime soon, but it seems like a start, at least.

Tyrion gets some great screen time in this episode. He becomes mediator between the two, especially when Jon refuses to “bend the knee” when asked. Daenerys questions Tyrion, “you told me you liked this man?”

Varys is quick to notice that Melisandre didn’t rush to Jon’s side when he and Davos arrive and she casually reveals that her and Jon Snow didn’t part on good terms, and that she will return to die in Westeros just like Varys. Something she saw in the flames perhaps?

Meanwhile, in Old Town, Sam is both praised but not really rewarded for curing Jorah’s greyscale. Jorah, who feels lucky to have escaped death once again, reveals his plans to head back to Dany’s side. I mean, what a shocker, really. I can’t imagine how he would fit into her entourage anymore. She has Tyrion now and Jorah just feels like a third wheel at this point.

Theon Greyjoy is scooped up by survivors of Euron’s attack, but they pretty much call him a coward, because he is. Also, an unexpected and beautiful meeting happens between Sansa and Bran, who’s finally arrived back at Winterfell.

But he is much changed from the Bran she knew. He tells her how sorry he is about her marriage to Ramsay, and she seems startled by how much he knows and for bringing up such a terrible memory. He is the three-eyed Raven now and it is difficult to explain to her what that means.

Sansa seems to be enjoying her new-found power as Lady of Winterfell by making plans for the long winter, but it’s the words of Little Finger that she still continues to hang on to. Does anyone else want to punch this man in the throat every time he speaks?!

Grey Worm and his fellow Unsullied take Casterly Rock, but it’s not really a victory. The Lannister army is in Highgarden, home of the Tyrells. And Euron’s ships destroy most of the Unsullied fleet.

Suffice to say, Cersei was pleased with the gift that Euron presented to her: Ellaria Sand and her daughter. She poisons Ellaria’s daughter and locks them both in a room together. Ellaria’s punishment is to watch her daughter die and rot in front of her.

Whoa. And here we thought Cersei was done for at the end of Season 6 when we saw all of Dany’s ships sailing for Westeros! Cersei might still be the super bitch in town, but Dany has dragons. Time to use them, I’m thinking?

But alas, it was Olenna Tyrell who really got the last word in this episode. After taking Highgarden, Jaime grants her a merciful death: poison in a glass of wine. But after chugging the poison, she looks him in the eye and reveals that she was the one who orchestrated Joffrey’s death and she doesn’t regret it one bit!

It made me sad to say goodbye to this character. Every time she was on the screen you were bound to laugh out loud or gasp at all the excellent lines she got to deliver. She was the spunky, not-afraid-to-speak-her-mind grandma that we all came to love…and I will miss seeing her very much.

She deserved a better send off than an off-screen death, but she went down fighting! And that’s what matters.

The highlights of this episode?

  • It goes without saying, really. Every scene between Dany and Jon Snow was a loaded one and seven years in the making. We want more of any type of scene with them together!
  • Bran and Sansa reunion, although bittersweet as it was. Bran is not the same Bran from the first season who liked to climb. How cute and sweet he was then!
  • Olenna Tyrell’s confession to Jaime.

What did you guys think of this episode? Who were you rooting for in the Dany/Jon Snow meeting? 

Game of Thrones Season 7 episode 2 Recap: Stormborn

Beware, spoilers ahead!

Photo credit: HBO

Daenerys makes plans with Lady Olenna Tyrell, Yara and Ellaria Sand. The other women wonder why Dany doesn’t use her army to conquer the red keep, but Dany has other plans. To quote Tyrion, she doesn’t want to be “Queen of the ashes.” The Tyrell and Dorne army will surround the city by blockade and basically starve them out, all transported there by Yara’s ships, of course.

Samwell might have found a treatment for Jorah’s grayscale, but it includes a lot of screaming and pus and is not exactly legal.

Meanwhile, in Winterfell, the king in the north receives two messages: one from Samwell informing Jon Snow of dragon glass in Dragonstone, and one from Dany, inviting Jon to Dragonstone to “bend the knee.” Um, I don’t really see Jon bending the knee to anyone, do you?

He decides to go despite Sansa and the other lords who think that the invitation might be a trap. Sansa seems to want to argue more that is until Jon leaves Winterfell in her care until he returns. Finally some power for the dear Sansa?

Arya is in a tavern and runs into Hot Pie, her friend from the  good ol’ days when Arya was pretending to be a boy. She learns from him that her brother Jon is back in Winterfell and instead of going south to Cersei, Arya heads back home.

Hot pie asks her what happened to her, and she quickly changes the subject. What happened indeed?

Death, survival, close chances to rendezvous with family members only to have them murdered minutes after or before her arrival. The Red Wedding…her aunt Lysa. You can’t help but think that something is going to go wrong again on her way back to Winterfell. Jon might not be in Winterfell when she gets there. They might pass right by each other!

Arya encounters her dire wolf, Nymeria, in the woods with a pack of her own, but Nymeria is a wild wolf now and won’t go back to Winterfell as Arya asked. She’s chosen her own path, too.

We have a nice, romantic moment between Missandei, and Grey Worm, and Varys gets some nice dialogue while he proves himself loyal to Dany. The Red Woman shows up at Dragonstone and is welcomed by Dany. It is Melisandre who suggests Daenerys meet with Jon Snow. She claims that either one might be “the prince who was promised.”

Cersei tries to convince the Lords of Westeros the horrors of Dany’s barbaric dothroki and unsullied army. While, Jamie Lannister speaks with Samwell’s father about becoming more involved in the war to come.

But no matter how careful, nothing goes like how Dany plans. As Yara and Ellaria and the Sand Snakes are on their way to form that blockade, Euron attacks. He kills one of the Sand Snakes? Two of them? And burns all of Yara’s ships. It looks like Euron’s gift to Cersei is going to be the woman who poisoned her daughter.

Euron also takes Yara as captive and Theon has a chance to intervene, to maybe beat all odds and rescue her, but in the heat of the moment, he breaks down and becomes Reek once again and like a coward, jumps over the side of the ship.

What were some highlights?

  • Definitely all the scenes with Arya in them. Arya (so far) is getting a lot of great screen time in these first few episodes of the new season, and I feel like things can only get better?
  • Dany and Jon Snow will finally meet! I thought this wouldn’t happen until the end of the season, surely?
  • All of the strong women of Westeros gathered in Dany’s war room. Yara, Ellaria Sand, Lady Ollena, and Daenerys.

What was your favorite part of last night’s episode? I’d love to hear about it!

A Year’s Worth of Books

Happy Memorial Day everyone!

Today is a quiet and lazy day. I am worn out from the last few days, and so I am relaxing in front of the fan in my office and thinking about what to write. I was able to have lunch today with a friend, and she gave me this little book where you can record the books you’ve read and what you think of them.

img_20160530_151420369.jpgIt reminded me of what I did last year around this time. In the post I listed all the books I was able to read in five months and what I thought of them. This time its been longer, though. This is really for my benefit, mostly, as I have a terrible memory.

What could I have possibly read in a year??

Here we go, and in no particular order…

Audio Books I’ve listened to:

American Sniper, by Chris Kyle

Call the Midwife, by Jennifer Worth

I Was Here, Gayle Forman

Matched, by Ally Condie

Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl

The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel: The Alchemyst, The Magician, The Sorceress, The Necromancer, by Michael Scott

The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, by James Dashner

The Color Magic, by Terry Pratchett

The Long Earth, The Long War, The Long Mars, by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

The House of Hades, by Rick Riordan

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

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert

A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, by Brian Grazer

Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide, by Peter Allison

img_20160426_163707562_hdr.jpgAnd other books, not on audio:

The Raven King, by Maggie Stiefvater

The Iron Warrior, by Julie Kagawa

Winter, Fairest, by Marissa Meyer

Hmm…not a bad list, although its clear I need to read more books that aren’t on audio. I think its time to focus on reading some more adult fiction, non-fiction and science fiction and fantasy. And this doesn’t include the Harry Potter series that a listened to again this year on audio. (I think I have an obsession!)

What do you guys like to read? Read anything new recently?

Happy writing (and reading)!

NaNoWriMo Day 1: My Story and More Planning

It is 8:35 p.m. on this Nov. the 1st.  My word count is: 703 , and I’ve managed to do some story planning and plotting in the last two hours and a half.

I’ve also managed to create a NaNoWriMo account, which I haven’t done in several years. Not since the early college days.

I don’t remember how to do anything on the website anymore, so setting up my account, my profile info, and my novel info, took a good thirty minutes and now I’m left here wondering: how do you add buddies again?

Speaking of which…if you guys are participating in NaNoWriMo this year, my username is amandagrey1 the same on here, so add me if you want!

It’s important that us writing people stick together. Especially me. Considering how long it took me just to get online to create an account. I am such a terrible procrastinator…

Give me a goal to make and a deadline, and suddenly I find all the excuses in the world to do everything else. It’s not like I don’t want to create my story, I guess when it comes down to it, it is always the fear of the expectations.

I don’t like creating things that are bad. I don’t like the idea of failing…on anything, really. So, once again…its that same old writer’s fear…

But the point is, I’m sitting down to do something now and that’s better than nothing.

Just a cute dragon pic I colored the other day. Thought it might give me some kind of inspiration for my story.

Just a cute dragon pic I colored the other day. Thought it might give me some kind of inspiration for my story.

My story is a young adult fantasy novel about a young prince, whose royal family has the ability to change into dragons. For years, the dragons and the witches and wizards of the country have been at odds with each other. Years ago, the witches and wizards were banished from the kingdom and magic was forbidden. But all that is about to change.

I left my description on my NaNo account deliberately vague, and I’m leaving it vague here as well, because, one, I’m still working out the kinks and, two, I’m very protective of my original ideas.

I guess I’m just slightly paranoid when it comes to that. Especially considering how many different ideas there are out there. Everyone hopes that their idea is original, and who knows…maybe mine is. I guess I’m just paranoid. Plus, its kind of hard to explain a novel that you’re still working out.

Anyway, back to the grindstone, and maybe I can churn out more words on the page in the next half an hour or so. I’m so proud of myself! Perhaps locking myself in my office was a good idea after-all…

Everyone having a great first day of NaNoWriMo?

Happy Writing!

Unique Writing Prompt: Letters of the Alphabet

wpid-img_20150901_200812317.jpgI thought this was a neat idea. I always like looking for different and unique writing prompts. I got the idea from The Pocket Muse, by Monica Wood, which I’ve had on my bookcase for about a year now. It is definitely time to use it more.

The writing prompt is this:

Pick 10 random letters from the alphabet and try to write an opening sentence with it. I came up with:

M A F G H N S E Y T

“Maybe a future guiding helicopters–” Nancy stuttered. “Erin! Your tooth!”

Or…

V A W E R T M D K B

Veronica answered Waldorf, “Even Richling thought magic dragons killed Boarders…”

And I’m sure with a few tweaks (or many) you could possibly have something great here. Now, get to writing! (And that includes me, hah!).

Hope everyone has a great night!

Terry Pratchett and Questioning Gender roles in Fantasy Literature

I’ve been listening to Terry Pratchett’s The Slip of the Keyboard at work recently; it’s basically a collection of essays about his life, writing and his struggles with Alzheimer’s.

pi7KxKpdTIn one of his essays, he mentions how women are portrayed in fantasy. If there is a witch, she is generally evil and crouches around like an old hag, spitting curses at everyone. If she is beautiful, she is seductive, using her sexuality as a means to an end. (I think many Disney villains can be used as an example here: Ursula, Wicked Step Mother, Malificent, etc.)

Gandalf-2On the opposite scale are the Wizards, who are male, wise, and that mentor that most protagonists seek out in times of great peril. Think Gandolf in Lord of the Rings, or Ged in A Wizard of Earthsea.

I guess my question is: Why is this so?

One of my own stories has a witch as its main villain, and I inadvertently made her beautiful, seductive and evil. I did this without thought, yet I’m wondering if this isn’t the time to mix it up a bit? Isn’t it time we had an evil wizard? Or a kind, yet sexy witch, who is not evil?

(J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books don’t really count in this musing, I suppose. As plenty of her witches are very nice, beautiful intelligent people. And Voldemort, a.k.a most evil wizard, ever.)

One thing I love about Terry Pratchett’s writing is that he doesn’t write characters that are predictable. Everyone (of the characters I’ve read so far) are unique and one of a kind. They don’t fit a basic formula, and they aren’t comfortable, which is completely fine. By comfortable, I mean you don’t always know what you can expect from them: one minute they might be performing an act of heroism, the next, you might question their sanity a bit.11751426_10203753735158590_4103356951849478425_n

The point: Terry Pratchett creates real characters that don’t fit into the formula of basic hero and that’s fine. (He also made the point that not all best-selling fantasy books are the best written either.)

This is something I agree with. But I guess what gets me is this whole idea of how women are portrayed in Fantasy. If she is a witch in some stories, why do we assume she is evil?

Do we automatically assign gender roles to specific aspects of fantasy? Do we like when witches are evil? Is the old hag expected to bring bad news? Or is this what we’ve just seen time after time, and so, we use examples of literature before us and think: ‘this the way it’s supposed to be.’

Or, if these gender roles are missing in the novel, does that automatically make it more unique than others? Just a thought.

What do you guys think? Any examples you can think of?

NaNoWriMo Days 1 and 2: Let’s Go Places!

NaNoWriMo Day 1: I slept late, went to the mall, ate dinner with a friend and got my hair cut.

NaNoWriMo: Day 2: Slept late, drank a cup of tea, did dishes, and looked at Grad programs.

The point: My NaNoWriMo month is off to a rough start, but I wanted to take this opportunity to say that I’m going to give it a try. It’s the busiest month I’ve had in awhile, what with the holidays coming up and new jobs…and Agh! But this is important to me.

Except, I’m going to use the rules as “guidelines,” and well, cheat…essentially. I’ve already got my story in mind, and I already have a brief brainstorm, ANND I have already about 9,000 words written.

dawns-rising-cover-page1.jpgThe story that I’m going to try to write in its entirety, even if it is a crappy first draft, is my story Dawn’s Rising, which I had hoped to self publish, and use as a platform for this blog. It’s been on a hiatus for awhile, but it still lives…somewhat.

Bringing that idea to life is very important to me, and something that I still want to complete and finish….whether good, bad, ugly…I just have to face my fears, learn how to create a compelling plot, and storm on ahead no matter how many self doubts try to bring me down!

So I am going to be using NaNoWriMo as a motivator…and hopefully get some kind of finished product as a result!

Any other fellow NaNoWriMo writers out there? What are you going to write about?

I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Writing everyone!