An Adventure with Sarah J. Maas

Ready to hear about some valg bunnies?

I just realized that I never sat down and made a blog post about going to Sarah J. Maas’s Kingdom of Ash Tour(October 23), and as it was one of the most significant events in my literary journey, I’m going a couple of weeks back in time to tell you guys about it.

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I flew to New York with one of my friends who is also a survivor of Maas destruction. I feel slightly guilty about saying this, because I know she was really nervous on the plane ride, but I love flying. There’s something about going faster, and faster, and faster, until you leave the ground and are flying through the air, that gets me, every single time.

In NY, we stayed with an aunt of mine who lives there and who, as an artist has a schedule flexible enough that she was able to shuttle us around for a day. On the morning of the 23rd, before the tour, she took us to MoMA, and to a bookstore where we both had to exercise enormous amounts of restraint not to immediately grab KOA and begin reading before the tour even started.

But now to the event…

  • Elizabeth Evans read chapter 12 from KOA, and when she said Rowan’s name, she had to stop and wait for everyone to stop cheering and dying of happiness.
  • Throne of Glass started as a story on FictionPress called Queen of Glass.
  • Sarah was on the stage and realized that she couldn’t really talk about KOA, since it had only come out that morning: “Nobody could have read 1000 pages yet.” People raise their hands. “No you didn’t. You skimmed it.”
  • She kept trying to keep from crying because she was afraid her fake eyelashes would slide down her cheeks. The audience assured her that they would not care if she had shown up without makeup.
  • She’s thirty-two now, and she started writing Thorne of Glass when she was only sixteen, so KOA marked the end of a huge journey in her life. Now she’s beginning another with her baby son, Taran.
  • We saw Taran, who was adorable, and Josh, her husband.
  • She was asked about her favorite scene and embarked on a journey to tell us about every beautiful scene in the entire series.
  • Sarah cackles like Manon when she laughs, and I love that.
  • She wrote Rowaelin fanfiction for her books, even before Rowan had entered the series.
  • Was asked who she would want with her on a desert island(I wrote these down as I remembered them afterwards, the wording isn’t perfect):
    • “Not Rowan, because he would be nice and everything, but he’d look at me and really intimidate me, and the whole time would be thinking, “Yeah, this one’s an indoor cat.”
    • “Not Aelin, because she would get mad, and I would cry, and then she would feel bad, and we would just live on the island being unproductive.”
    • “Not Manon, because Manon’s not a cannibal, but once the coconuts run out she would start thinking of me less as a human and more as a walking steak.”
    • “Not Chaol, because he would obsessively build a raft until he could escape from the crazy woman.”
    • Then she picked the obvious choice, Dorian.
  • Mentioned there being Killer Valg Bunnies in the last book, nobody was sure if she was serious or not.
  • Talked about how she had the ending in her mind for a long time, and the whole time as she wrote KOA, she was begging Aelin to let her go there, and she did.
  • She needed there to be toilets in her book, and since it’s her world, she can do whatever she wants.
  • Sarah thought that there should have been an everlasting roll of toilet paper in LOTR.
  • “So we’ve heard Crescent City is going to be an adult novel. Does that mean we can expect more smut?” Sarah pauses for a moment after hearing this question, and then says in a duh voice, “Yes.”
  • One of her favorite moments is when Manon and Aelin were comparing the names of their swords and Manon was like, “Well my sword has a better name,”(She said this in a snooty teenager yet strangely Manon-like voice.)
  • Her editor said that Heir of Fire was too big, since it was so large compared to the first two books. Sarah’s response: “Well look at Harry Potter.” Her editor wanted to cut out “this Manon character,” but Sarah wasn’t letting that happen.
  • The glue they bought to bind the books could only hold 1000 pages, but the book was 1008 pages, so when people opened the book, pages would come fluttering out. Designers had to use bible pages and edit the space at the beginning of each chapter to fit it all into 992.
  • She talked about Aelin and how she wants to inspire us to be strong, and I can’t remember how exactly she said it, but the way she worded it made me cry, it was so beautiful.
  • I got a KOA tour bag, a beautiful poster of Aelin, an Amulet of Orynth pin, and Amulet of Orynth tattoos. I also wrote a letter to Sarah and signed her copy of KOA.

I know this post was really late, but I hope you enjoyed it, because sitting in the same room as Sarah and listening to her speak felt like a dream to me. I didn’t get to meet her, but I will one day, and this was still one of the best days of my life.

Have you ever seen or met Sarah? Do you like her books?

– Luna

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Tips for Giving Books as Gifts

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The holidays are coming up, which for many means finding presents for their friends and families.

Books are something that I completely love, so it seems like I should like it when people give them to be as presents. And when the people who know me well give me books that I see and genuinely want to read, I like it quite a lot. However, when people who know me very well give me books that I don’t happen to be interested in, I appreciate the gift, but with the limited amount of time I have in life, I’m probably not going to read them. I don’t to be ungrateful but just because I’m a reader doesn’t mean I like every book ever written. The opposite is also true, when I give someone a book as a present, I want to make sure they’ll truly enjoy it. So here are some tips for giving books as gifts.

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Investigate

If the person you want to get a book for is a book-lover, then their preferences in most cases are not going to be a secret. Pay attention to see if they mention a bookthey might want, or who their favorite authors are. Figure out what genre they like best. If you don’t know, ask someone else who the person might have talked to. If you have the chance, look at books they already have and use those as a guide. Try not to get them something exactly like what they’ve already read, nobody want to read the third dystopian series in a row, but also don’t stray too far, if they like historical fiction best, go for that instead of sci-fi.

Ask Them

All the things I’ve said already are helpful if you want your present to be a surprise, but there’s no problem with them knowing ahead of time. Ask the person what books they’ve been thinking about buying, that way, you’re guaranteed to get them something they want. It might not be as exciting as having a surprise for someone, but if they’re happy, that makes up for it.

Gift Cards or Money

Let them choose. There isn’t any rule saying that you have to give them the book directly. If you give them a gift card to a bookstore, they can buy whatever they feel like, when they feel like it. There’s no way to fail with a gift card.

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Something Little

Once you’ve gotten them a book, books, or the means to buy some, it’s nice to add something little. Make them a card, give them a bookmark, a candle, a little bag of sweets, or get them some book merchandise. Add a little touch of something you know that they’ll like, and it turns your present into something even more heartfelt than the book would be by itself.

Books Aren’t Always the Perfect Present

There are people in the world who aren’t book-nerds. I still haven’t learned how they survive, but there are many of them. Not everybody wants books as a present, and even with people who do like books, if you don’t know their taste well, a book might not be the best idea.

What was the best book someone’s ever given you as a present? (Okay, I just tried to answer this question myself and couldn’t decide, there are so many…)

-Luna

Reading Under the Blankets

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A snowstorm is coming to my area tomorrow, so students at school are hypothesizing about having a snowday. Aside from not having to go to any classes, I love snowdays just because of the atmosphere. Everything is white, there’s nowhere to go, and for a few moments the world feels so peaceful.

In my opinion, the best thing about having a snowday is that I don’t have to get up and go to school and dark thirty. I can stay curled in my bed and read. Reading under the blankets. On a chilly day in November, don’t those words sound beautiful?

I’m sorry guys, I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t posted in a while, and today I don’t have much content. But more will be coming soon!

But while I don’t have a great message to share, I have an image to plant in your minds: Imagine the ground covered in soft white snow, flakes of it still drifting towards the ground. Outside, the air is bitterly cold, inside, the fire has softened it to a faint chill. A book lies open before you, a cup of coffee is sitting nearby, and there is absolutely nothing for you to do except read.

So tomorrow, I’m hoping to curl up under my blankets with a book and detach from this world. Who’s with me?

-Luna

Nova Lewis would like to mention that she was here.

Also, goodreads choice awards are still going on, vote for your favorite books!

Does the Order in Which You Read a Series Matter?

Next Tuesday, I’m going to be seeing Sarah J. Maas on her Kingdom of Ash tour. At the event, there’s going to be trivia, and since we’re insane, I’ve been studying and rereading the entire Throne of Glass series along with my friend Nova Lewis.

This morning, she asked me how far along I was and I responded that it was complicated because I wasn’t rereading the series in order. This horrified her. It made sense to me; I knew that I wouldn’t have time to complete the entire series, so I began with the books that I did not know as well.

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I know that the books of a series are written and intended to be read chronologically, and I do believe that the first time around, reading a series in order is the best option. Skipping around causes unnecessary confusion and spoiling. But afterwards, I don’t see that it matters that you read an entire series in order every time you want to read a single book from it.

There seems to be a trend of writers beginning a series, and then once it takes off, going back to write a prequel that further explains a character’s motivations or the events occurring in a story. For readers who have not read any of the series yet, does it make sense to read the series in chronological order or in the order the author penned them in? I’m going to admit that I don’t have an answer for this question. Since the Throne of Glass series is on my mind, I’m going to use that as an example. In that case, I believe that if makes most sense to read Assassin’s Blade first because it gives readers a chance understand Celeana’s character before the major plot comes into motion, and also gives them a taste of the emotional agony this series has the capability to put readers through. However, in The Lunar Chronicles, Marissa Meyer wrote the prequel, Fairest, between Cress and Winter, and much of the information given in this prequel will only be understood after the reader has been introduced to certain characters. Therefore, its logical placement in the reading order is somewhere in the middle of the series.

I read for enjoyment. Though there are many benefits, the reason I read is because I love to. If I have a wild desire to read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and none of the rest of the series, that’s exactly what I’ll do. If I’m looking for the allure of a secret meetings hidden from an unbearable teacher, the warm content vibes of Christmas four books earlier is not the same thing at all and will not satisfy me in the same way. What I’d like the takeaway from this post to be is that reading enjoyable and interesting and a hobby that has exceptionally few rules, so you shouldn’t feel obligated to read books in the order they’re given.

 

Sorry, I haven’t been very active lately. I missed some days of school so there’s lots of work to make up, and I’m planning to leave school again next week to see Sarah J. Maas, not complaining about that. Play rehearsal lasts every day until seven… So anyway I haven’t posted much and this post itself is very disorganized, but I’ve been disconnected from the community for a while and wanted to post something.

-Luna

Why no Sci-fi Fantasy in English Class?

Sci-Fi Fantasy is a genre in which people can embrace read about things that don’t exist or can’t happen yet. For a long time I’ve thought of this as the “fun” genre, something that I read for pleasure but don’t actually learn anything from. That opinion was unconsciously absorbed from the attitude at school; this has always been the one genre excluded, the type of books that was considered pointless for us to study. But recently, an English teacher at my school brought it up, and I realized that sci-fi fantasy is not any less informational than any other type of fiction.

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Because I read so much of it, I’ve gained a huge amount of knowledge from fantasy novels. In history class, I have a good idea of what life was like in most time periods, which came from reading historical fantasy. When I began taking astronomy, I was surprised to find out that I knew more than most of the class just from reading When the Sky Fell on Splendor and Percy Jackson. I learned real strategies about defending myself from all those badass female heroines in books; go to self-defense class, read Assassin’s Blade, there’s a huge amount of correlation.

And these books have given me more than literal knowledge, they’ve shaped who I am. From Harry Potter, I learned that what the media says might not always be true, and where true strength comes from. From Shadowhunters, I learned about prejudice and acceptance of people with differences. After reading Spindle Fire, I realized how our eyes can blind us to everything going on not-visually and I see the world so much more clearly now. Bitterblue taught me about corruption in government and that understanding is necessary in order to make an impact. Rose, by Holly Webb, was the book that inspired me to become a writer.

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The strange thing is that the only fantasy we are allowed to read is fantasy old enough that it has been put in the “classic lit” category. Think, Beowulf, was essentially about a man slaying giant monster, something that happens often in fantasy stories. The Odyssey is about a brave man taking a journey who then afterwards has to come home to reclaim his throne, or well, Ithaca. “Macbeth” is technically a tragedy, but with disappearing witches, ghosts, and spirits and some pretty symbolic and uncanny cough cough, magically altered weather events, that feels just as unrealistic as the books I love to read. Teachers have us read these works that influenced and created the genre of fantasy, yet they believe fantasy itself to be pointless.

In science class, we’re encouraged to observe the world around us and be curious, formulate questions and hypotheses. However, when the sci-fi books get a bit too far-fetched, many (but not all) slam down the barrier and claim that they’re not real science anymore. They’re not exactly, because it’s science-fiction, but these books are still based on fact and have taught me a huge amount of non-fictional knowledge.

Screen Shot 2018-10-06 at 8.52.01 PMFantasy is not the only genre I read. For three years I read only historical fiction and occasional realistic fiction, and some of my favorites such as, All the Light We Cannot See, The Moon by Night, When You Reach Me, and Summer of the Gypsy Moths, are historical and realistic. Last summer, I read “Macbeth” for fun, and that’s some pretty heavy literature to take on just for enjoyment. So well, yes, I’m biased towards fantasy, but I love all genres, so it isn’t the end of the world that I never get to read fantasy in school. English remains my favorite course, and I learn so much from all the literature we read in class. Still, wouldn’t it be nice if teachers could allow us to embrace everything?

I want you to know that I’m not disrespecting English teachers. I have friends who teach English and English teachers who are like friends, and none of them are prejudiced against fantasy or science fiction, it just isn’t part of the curriculum.

Do you guys agree? What has sci-fi or fantasy taught you?

-Luna

Escaping Reality…and Finding it Again

As a reader and occasionally as a writer, I escape. I leave the physical world and live in lands of fantasy where characters have magical powers and need to save the world from unbearable evil. I go to live in a land that is exciting and unexpected, where characters overcome their fears and go on to be powerful, loving, and supremely idealistic. It makes sense; when my real life feels like it’s crashing down around me, I find somewhere far far away to go, and stay away for a long as I can. But I can’t stay there forever, because of three awful words: it’s not real.

We don’t live in a land where after unbearable sacrifice, everything will be all right. We don’t live in a world where by the end of the book, the good are victorious and the bad are vanquished. We don’t live in a world of happily-ever-afters, and that can be devastating to think about.

So I’m learning to come back, still learning, even now. Reentering our physical world is much more than closing the book and not thinking about it, that’s existing. Existing is what I’ve discovered I’ve been doing for so many years of my life, not living.

I’m not saying that I’m a stick. I go to school, I participate in clubs, I eat dinner with my family, and laugh with my friends. But when I’m in a book I do so much more, I live. Along with the characters, I solve the world’s problems, one at a time.

Our world has just as many problems as the fantasy ones I love. Our world contains just as much evil, just as much famine and death. But there’s much less hope. Because in the real world, we don’t have heroes who we can journey with to save the day. We can’t just follow the protagonist. But we do have the same exact ability that they do in their world, we have the same capacity to change everything. Our problems might be bigger yes, but in a book, there are a few protagonists making change. In the real world, we have more than seven billion.

Live in the books you love most. I’m never going to stop doing that because it gives me happiness. But live in the real world too. Donate, volunteer, when someone drops something, pick it up. Characters don’t develop all at once, we don’t need to either, give yourself time.

Live.

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I’m only a woman who has ideas far too big for her own head and who needs something to do with them. I apologize for the cliché of this post.

-Luna

How I Met Dusti Bowling, and her Advice for Aspiring Authors

The Briar Patch is a local bookstore near my house. I love it there and go there often. Very often, normally a few times a week, though my record is three visits in one day. My friends and I go there to obsess about books and look for new books, and even when we don’t buy anything (we’re only a bunch of schoolgirls who don’t have that much money), the people who work there don’t mind because they’re book nerds too and they get it.

This past Tuesday, Dusti Bowling, a middle-grade author came to the Briar Patch for a book signing. I admit that before that night, I had no idea who she was and wasn’t really sure if I wanted to go to her signing. However, I’m now so glad that I decided to go.

Dusti Bowling is the author of Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, as well as 24 Hours in Nowhere, The Day We Met, and The Boy Who Loved Me. I’m currently reading Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, and once I’ve read enough to make an accurate review, I’ll definitely post one.

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I went with my friend Nova, A Fangirl’s Insights, you should check out her blog too! Anyway, after the initial rush of people getting their books signed, the store was mainly quiet. To explain why we wanted her signature even though we had never read her books, I mentioned we both wanted to be authors. She immediately, got up, led us to a small area with some chairs, and sat down with us to answer any questions we had about writing. She ended up talking with us for almost an hour.

I can’t write down everything she told us about, but here are some pointers she gave us that could be helpful to any aspiring writers.

The Beginning:

The beginning of a story is extremely important because this is where readers decide if they actually want to read your writing. Dusti Bowling gave us a sequence that should be followed when beginning a story: by the end of your first page, readers should know who your protagonist is. Not information about them, but a bit about their personality, something shown in a few of their actions or the way they speak. Once readers know your protagonist, move as quickly as possible to the inciting event. “People aren’t going to read for five chapters for the story to get going, you need to move to your plot as quickly as possible.” Lastly, don’t info-dump. Don’t give huge quantities of background information at the beginning, if you do this before a reader is invested they’ll get bored.

Only Start if You’re Passionate:

Never start a piece of writing if you aren’t passionate about it; chances are, if you don’t strong aspire to create whatever your idea is, you aren’t going to finish it. Don’t try to write something that you don’t really want to write, save your time for the pieces that you truly care about.

Know the Outcome:

The end of the book is what resonates with a reader. An amazing ending can turn a mediocre book into that readers will remember and come back too; an ending that is anticlimactic after a book full of wonderful writing will cause your book to fall flat. Especially with longer pieces of writing, decide on your ending at the beginning of your writing process.

It’s Okay to Use Said:

Many English teachers create a taboo on said. They’re wrong. The thing about said is that it’s invisible. Readers see it so much that our eyes glaze over it. If you try to substitute another word in its place, that word most of time will draw attention to itself. If someone retorts something, people attention will go to the word, retort, and it will draw them out of the story. Other than shouted, yelped, whispered, murmured, it’s fine to use the word said as much as you like. Better yet don’t use any tags at all, just keep the dialogue. As long as readers can tell who’s talking, you don’t need to specify it after every quote.

Find a Writing Group:

It’s important to read and edit your writing, but it’s also very helpful to find a group of people who you can talk with about your writing. For many people, it’s easier to be motivated working with other people, and it can be helpful to have a friendly writing group to help you meet your goals and refine your writing.

Combatting Writer’s Block:

Write. This quote of Dusti’s might not be exactly word  for word, but it was something along the lines of: “Just write anything. A dinosaur could come into the room, then he begins to eat an ice-cream sundae… It doesn’t matter if what you write is completely random and you get rid of it, but what you need to do for writer’s block is just to write-through it.”

Dusti Bowling was so friendly and gave us so much helpful general and personal advice. In the back of the store, talking so animatedly about writing, she gave me so much confidence in what I could create with my writing.

 

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while! First I got cold, and lately I’ve felt like I’m drowning in schoolwork and responsibilities. But I’ll try to post more regularly!

Have you guys ever met any truly inspiring authors? Tell me about your experiences in the comments!

-Luna