Monthly Highlights - February 2017


February 27, 2017


   So February decided that it was going to be just as hectic as January - if not more so.  But I got a ton done in the world of writing, so I guess I'll consider it a good month?

   Also, Nebraska can't decide whether it wants to be Spring or Winter. Thus the flower-y post header.    

pink flowers February Highlights header

Monthly Highlights

   - We celebrated my sister (Ariel) and mom's birthday earlier in February, and we're celebrating my brother's today! Needless to say, much cake has been eaten this month.

   - My sister (different sister - Skylar, the musical one, this time xD) composed an instrumental song this month that I am basically in awe of. I so wish that I could show it to you guys, but there's no way we could make a quality recording of it. Maybe someday ;).

   - I bought a copy of Martin Hospitality (by Abigayle Claire) and OH MY does it look gorgeous on my shelf. I think it's the only book with a watercolor cover that I own but now I need more*. They're so gorgeous.

   - Somehow we had a 70 degree day, and two days later we had a big snowstorm. Someone tell me what's wrong with Nebraska's weather, because I certainly don't know. I need either winter or spring, not both at once. My pollen allergies are killing me.

* who am I kidding, I always need more books.

Writer-ly Things

   - I finished writing the fifth draft of Killing Snow. It was INSANE and almost slayed me, but at least I learned a lot xD. I'm already itching to start on the sixth draft (sixth draft AND first draft, actually - don't ask me to explain, it's confusing), but I'm saving it for April. Though, I did write some snippets that might appear in draft six. I couldn't help myself.

A snippet from Killing Snow

   - I wrote 10,012 of words this month *dies of the shock*. I didn't actually expect to write as much as I said I wanted to write in February BUT I DID. I'm going to try and beat last month's goal by 5k each month - which means I need to write at least 15k in March, 20k in April*, and so on. This year is going to be a doozy.

   - I wrote and posted my short story, The Testing. I had been on-and-off brainstorming for a short story all of February, and finally had a plot bunny come hopping up to me**. "Hi, Ms. Author - I just saw a little boy standing in the middle of a courtyard and being chosen by something-or-other to be a wizard's apprentice. Wanna write about him?" "No. I'm busy."
   But the plot bunny was insistent, and thus you guys got The Testing. Go figure.

   - I did some more work on a story I've temporarily titled "The Firefly Child" (the title doesn't make any sense anymore, so I'll probably be changing that soon xD). It's one of the weirdest stories I've ever written, and I'm writing it in a way that I haven't written a story for a long time. I can't decide if I love it or hate it, but when I'm bored I tend to tack some more words onto it, so I guess I'm getting somewhere? And The Dreamer's Game (last year's NaNo novel) also got a few more paragraphs, so that was fun.

   *gives you two more (unedited) snippets of this month's work*

A snippet from The Firefly Child
yes, there's a typo. I'm too tired of writing to fix it - see if you can find it xD

A snippet from The Dreamer's Game

   The poor things. They need work. But that will have to wait until I'm done with Killing Snow xD.   

*HAHAHAHA no - it's Camp month. I'm writing 75k. 
**Just one of my millions of little plot bunny pets. DO TAKE THEM OFF MY HANDS. They're eating me out of house and home. My stories are suffering.    

Bookishness

A collage of the books I read in February
+ Heist Society by Ally Carter

   Ten books - definitely less than last month's seventeen, but I'm certainly not disappointed, seeing as this month was kind of crazy. And I didn't read any below-three-star books, which was a plus ;).

   - Illusionarium by Heather Dixon. Something insane happened this month, you guys*. I re-read a book and still gave it five stars. In the last six-ish months, I think this is the only book that I gave five stars and then gave it five stars again (I could be wrong, though. Goldfish brain, and all that). It's one of the most creative books I've ever read and it has footnotes**. Witty little footnotes, because the book is written in first person. I love the thing to death. It does have a few creepy bits, so it's not everyone's book - but for me it's a five star book, two times over.

   - Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen. I read the first chapter or two of this book a couple of years ago and loathed it. But my mom told me that I just had to read it - so I tried again and made it all the way through. And I. Loved. It. Now I own the book, and this is the second time I've read it. It's a re-read that I certainly give four and a half stars.

   And of course, you can read my review of Martin Hospitality right here - and you'll get to see my review of The Princess And I in March.   

*okay, so a lot of insane stuff happened this month but HAHAHA we're not talking about me making the decision to write 75k for April's Camp NaNo. 'Course not.   
** footnotes, I tell you! *is a very happy goldfish*  

Posts I did this month

http://scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com/2017/02/book-review-martin-hospitality-by.html

http://scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com/2017/02/how-i-edited-my-fifth-draft-and-what-i.html

http://scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com/2017/02/cover-reveal-princess-and-i.html
 
http://scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com/2017/02/how-to-liven-up-your-villain-character.html

http://scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com/2017/02/martin-hospitality-blog-tour.html

http://scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com/2017/02/infinity-dreams-award-vlog-style-guest.html


Elsewhere online

   - Katie posted a GORGEOUS posted entitled To The Ones Who Dream that all of you need to read this instant (also she posted an epic piece of flash fiction, so read that, too)

   - Audrey talked about finding your story's theme, which was really fun to read about.

   - Hannah wrote an amazing post about living in the moment, and also celebrated her one-year blogoversary!

   - Jonathan wrote a super-awesome post about inspiring people with stories that aren't perfect.

   - Burning Youth worked their magic ONCE AGAIN. (and then they did it some more)

   - Meredith from On Stories And Words announced that she's going to be having a Beauty And The Beast week in March - and we're invited to participate ;).

   - Michaila posted about 'you know you're a writer if ...', which was really fun to read. 

   - Abi posted 50 facts about her just-published novel, Martin Hospitality (and celebrated her one-year blogoversary, too!).

   - Christine posted a gorgeous short story that I just want to hug and read forever and ever.

Ramblings to come

   - The fourth post in my How To Liven Up Your Character series (which may or may not be about secondary characters ...), and possibly the fifth one, too.

   - A review of The Princess And I by Rebekah Eddy, which is releasing on March 3rd.

   - Possibly a whole post of me rambling about Killing Snow and giving you guys snippets of it (seeing as the one-year mark of me writing Killing Snow is coming up awfully fast)

A snippet from Killing Snow
i guess you can consider this a sneak peek of sorts

   2017 has been crazy so far, but it looks like it's going to be a good year. And if my calculations are correct, I'll end the year with over 200k words written. I guess we'll see if THAT happens, huh? xD

~ Savannah Grace

   Are you planning on joining in April's Camp NaNoWriMo? What's the best book you read this month? Tell me all about your February!

The Testing - A Short Story


February 24, 2017


   It's been a good four months since I posted my last short story - 10 'Till Midnight - and I figured it was high time I gave you guys another peek at my writing. The Testing certainly isn't the best thing I've ever written (I wrote+edited it in under three hours - go figure), but I hope you all will enjoy it none the less!
   (shout out to Abi, Anika, and Hann for helping with edits! You guys are great <3)  

The Testing, a short story by Savanna Grace

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

  The Grand Wizard Tested male children for Talent every three years – the Talent to be one of his apprentices. I think.
  But I’m not really sure – I’m only fourteen, and I was too sick to attend the last Testing. But at least I know that it happens every three years.
  Every three years only.
  But for some reason, here I am. Seven months before the Testing, knocking on the front door of the Wizard’s castle like he had invited me for afternoon tea.
  The nervous kneading I gave my hat said otherwise.
  I was calling on the Grand Wizard half on a dare, but mostly out of desperation. In our village, any boy of fourteen years must be employed in some way or another, otherwise they were sent to the coal mines to earn their keep. I never got employed (mum says I have no aspiration, but I don’t think she really means it). If the Grand Wizard refused to test me -  or if I didn’t actually have any Talent – it would be off to the coal mines for poor Norman Aleck.
  I glanced over my shoulder. This hadn’t seemed like a good idea in the first place, and it was getting worse by the minute. I bet myself two shillings that I could rabbit my way across the over-flowered lawn and be out of here in a jiffy. Maybe I should–
  I about jumped out of my skin when the castle door flew open. Strangling my hat between my fingers, I took in the man who stood at the door. Middle-aged, dignified, and smartly dressed. And obviously waiting for me to talk. I rattled off my speech to this butler.
  “G’ afternoon, sir. I know the Testing isn’t for another seven months yet, but I’m real desperate, and I need the Grand Wizard to test me now, see? If you could just take me to ‘im, I know he’d understand – Mum says I’m real persuasive.” I paused for breath, then tacked on a, “please, sir”, for good measure.
  The man leaned against one side of the threshold and blinked at me. “They call me the Grand Wizard now? How odd. Well, persuade me, boy.”
  I blinked back. “You’re the Grand Wizard?”
  It wasn’t a good comeback, but I can’t say that I’m brilliant. This wasn’t going as planned anymore.
  “S-sorry,” I immediately stammered, giving an awkward bow and almost dropping my hat. “Sorry, I just… sir, I need you to test me.”
  The Grand Wizard’s brown eyes – very plain brown eyes, really – narrowed. “Not terribly persuasive, are you?”
  “I’m being taken to the coal mines tomorrow, sir!” I pleaded. “Please, it’ll kill my mum to have me going there, you gotta test me!”
  A gust of wind almost took my battered hat out of my hands, and it blew through the Grand Wizard’s brown hair – very plain brown, but slicked back quite nicely.
  “Coal mines,” he said quietly, staring past me. “I remember the coal mines.”
  I waited for him to speak again, but he didn’t. I awkwardly shifted my weight. “Please, sir? I don’t have much time…”
  The Grand Wizard blinked, and he stepped back to take me in. I had tried to comb my blonde-ish hair this morning (Mum said I’d done a terrible job of it) and I was wearing my least-patched clothes, but I probably looked a sight to him.
  He pursed his lips. “A little scrawny for fourteen, aren’t you?”
  I shrugged. “But I’m real fast, sir. I could outrun lots of the older boys.”
  “Older boys” had beat me up last time I’d said that. But I was pretty sure that the statement was honest now – I’m plenty faster than I used to be – so maybe it would work in my favor this time. It had to.
  The Grand Wizard looked me up and down, then sighed. “And you’re certain you’re going to the coal mines if I don’t test you?”
  “Yes, Sir, I’m certain.” I started to strangle my hat again.
  He gave a little huff, then pushed himself off the doorway and snapped. “Alright, come in. I’ll test you, but don’t think you’ll be staying.”
  I wanted to grin – but the battle was only half over. “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” But would I have the Talent?
  I barely had time to step inside before he slammed the door shut and strode away. “Well? Follow me, or go right back out those doors, scrawny.”
  My ears turned red at the name, but I hurried after him. The Grand Wizard took a dozen twists and turns (the castle seemed a lot bigger on the inside than on the outside, somehow) until we came to a fancy courtyard.
  I blinked against the sunlight – it seemed wrong that the courtyard could be so cheerfully bright when the castle was so grey.
  “Well...? Well?”  
  I snapped back to attention. The Grand Wizard crossed his arms. “You don’t have a clue as to how this works, do you?”
  “No,” I stated honestly. “I was sick at the last time of Testing.”
  “Convenient,” the Grand Wizard muttered, striding up and grabbing me by the shoulder.
  He pushed me (and not very gently, either) into the center of the courtyard. There were four arches – one for each point of the compass – plus the one that led back into the castle. The only difference was that the castle entrance archway was dull, grey stone, while the rest of the archways were white and carved. I turned in a full circle, looking at each arch – oddly enough, they all seemed to lead out to the same, beautifully green lawn. It looked so different from the brown of our village.
  “What do I need to do now?” I asked after a moment.
  The Grand Wizard stood by the castle entrance arch, arms crossed again. “Now you wait,” he said, with mocking patience. “And see if any Wind comes in through one of those arches. That’s how you know if you have a Talent or not.” He glanced at the gold watch glittering on his wrist. “I’ll give you three minutes, and then you’re leaving.”
  I opened my mouth to protest, but he cut me off. “It’s more than fair - normal Testings only last for two.”
  I gave a jerky nod, and went back to staring at the arches. I accidentally tore a hole in my hat, and sweat had started to build on my brow.
  How would I know if a Wind came? What would it do? Was the breeze already blowing in the courtyard considered a Wind? Should I tell the Grand Wizard?
  And then, quite suddenly, the breeze changed. Instead of blowing around me, it was suddenly blowing inside of me. I gasped and shuddered at the strange, uncomfortable feeling. The Grand Wizard moved from his place by the wall, but I didn’t pay him much attention.
  Because there – there, by the North archway, stood a person. And not a normal, flesh-and-bones person, either. She was made entirely of swirling, silvery snowflakes and stood taller than two men. Her feet floated inches above the ground.
  I could barely make out her features, but I had a good guess that this was the North Wind.
  The Wind came towards me. I felt the breeze inside of me grow stronger and I started to back away.
  “Him,” she whispered, speaking to the Grand Wizard but looking at me. Her voice sounding like a breeze rustling frozen pond-reeds. “I can feel his Talent halfway across my realm.” She swirled to face the Grand Wizard. “Keep him.”
  And then, in an explosion of snow, she was gone. The wind inside me stilled, and I gasped out the breath I didn’t know I was holding in. There was snow in my hair and on my shoulders.
  “Well,” said the Grand Wizard slowly. “That changes things.”
  I turned to face him, still breathing hard. “How?”
  He shook his head in disbelief, looking at the North Archway. Then he took my mangled hat from my hands and mended it with a flick of his finger. I took it back with wide eyes.
  Magic.
  “Well, scrawny,” the Grand Wizard said. “It looks like you’ll be staying here after all.” 
 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    *awards you with chocolate if you actually read that whole thing* xD

   So I hope that was enjoyable for you all! I wrote this story for Jenelle Schmidt's short story challenge that goes along with her February Is Fantasy Month celebrations (I would have attached the beautiful banner here, but my computer hates me today xD) - make sure to hop over to her blog and read the rest of the stories!

~ Savannah Grace 
 

Which Wind do you think would come if you were tested? Have you ever written a short story?

Book Review - Martin Hospitality by Abigayle Claire


February 20, 2017


   I bought a brand-new book I've never read before and zipped through the thing in under 24 hours. Which basically means something very odd is going on with Savannah's brain*. The book was in a genre I never read, but it was LOVELY. Which means I had best review it ;).

*the 'buying a book I've never read before' is terribly abnormal. I don't know what was wrong with me. But the 24 hours bit is not abnormal. Savannah is still a magic speed reader. 


4 Stars

   It probably (read: definitely) would have been rated higher by someone who is a fan of the genre. But I'm mostly a reader of speculative fiction, not realistic. And yet I still highly enjoyed Martin Hospitality. 


 The characters. Oh good gracious, Abigayle did an AH-MAZING job with the characters. There was a whole boat-load of them (read: at least 20 or so), but they were all unique enough that I could remember who was who. And I loved them. Characters can make or break a story for me, and Abi's definitely made it.


   - The Christian message. While it could come off as a tad forced sometimes, it wasn't very preachy. She did a great job with it. I've never been able to get a message across (in my stories) so smoothly, so I'm kinda impressed with what she's done with it.


   - The cover is insanely beautiful. So maybe this shouldn't count as a point of it's own, but hey, I'm a shallow little bookworm*. I'll definitely want to buy a physical copy of the book if the cover is to die for. A Martin Hospitality looks GORGEOUS sitting on my shelf. If you decide to self-publish, make sure you put effort into the cover. It does actually matter xD.

   - The world-building is great. Sure, it does take place in the same world we live in**, but it was still an awesome setting. Which means a lot, coming from me, as I normally won't like ANY story-world unless it's a very well-crafted spec. fiction story-world. But now I kind of want to go stay at a little farm in Kansas ;).  

 
*no one ever claimed that I wasn't. Some times I try to convince myself that I'm not. But I am. Covers get me every time. The end.  
** most of the books I read don't. Obviously I read fantasy books because I live in one of those other-worlds. I'm just visiting earth on vacation. I come in peace.

   - I read this book with my editor eyes on. I knew that Abi had self-published this book, and mostly done everything herself. So I was a little suspicious as to how the good the story would be, which meant that I was a little bit nit-picky until the middle of the book. I stopped mostly because I was annoying myself, partially because I couldn't find much to nit-pick. The story is just beautiful.  


   - It's ... not a fantasy book.You guys should have seen that coming. This is definitely a 'me, not you' kind of thing. My sister (who loves realistic fiction) is already begging for me to hand this book over to her*. So definitely give it a shot anyways!  I mean, I gave Martin Hospitality four stars. There has to be something to it xD.


   - Mixed name syndrome. This book definitely had it. I have the terribly tendency to see a name that starts with a 'G' (say, Ginger) and get it swapped with another characters name (say, Gemma.). I would often half to go back and figure out who was talking because my brain could not remember all the names**. Of course this got fixed by the latter half of the book, but still. Even if the Mixed Name Syndrome is something that happens only to me (it can't be), I had to mention it.       
 

*she wants to, as she says "steal it". What kind of sister is she (a lovely one, a lovely one. BUT STILL *hides all my books*). 
** I've said it once and I'll say it again. I have a  goldfish brain xD. 
   Overall, I thought it was a beautiful work of art. I was very impressed with how good it was. I usually judge self-published books a little differently - but this one didn't have that 'self-published feel' that some other books have. It totally felt like a book I would have picked up from the library and been impressed with. If I hadn't already known that this book was self-published, I would never have guessed it.

   All that aside - it was a great book that I definitely suggest you go out and get your hands on ;). 

~ Savannah Grace 

   Have you read Martin Hospitality before? What genre do you like best?

How I Edited My Fifth Draft (And What I Learned)


February 16, 2017


   I finished editing the fifth draft of my novella, Killing Snow, last night around 9:30. I was going to name this post Why I Now Hate My Story. But that seemed harsh. So here we are with How I Edited My (*cough* horrendous *cough*) Fifth Draft.

header image for How I Edited My Fifth Draft

I started by gathering the info from beta readers that I still hadn't analyzed.


   After that, I was very tempted to hide in a hole for the rest of my days. My story was still a wreck (this is a fifth draft, already-been-torn-apart-and-mended-by-beta-info story we're talking about), and I didn't know what to do next.

   This edit was doubly complicated though, because I wasn't editing it to polish it. I was editing it in preparation to tear it apart again and turn it into a novel in April (seriously though - who even does that? Apparently me.). All that said, only parts of it needed editing: the parts that would survive the bulldozing in April.

   That being as it was, I went through all my notes (multiple times) and figured out which stuff needed to be done during this fifth draft edit. I ended up with three things that needed doing: finish editing the story according to Emily Drown's beta notes (I hadn't finished with her's yet), fix some typos that needed it, and use the Hemingway editor to cut some of the adverbs that I had overused (read: splattered very, very liberally throughout the story).

   This involved two run-throughs of the story. The first time, I edited the whole thing according to what Emily Drown had noted. The second time through, I replaced adverbs and tweaked any words that needed it - which actually took longer than I thought it would. It took about twenty minutes to half an hour to edit one chapter, unless I was moving pretty fast. It turned out to be pretty fun, except for the fact that now I low-key hate the messy story-thing. Someday this will be fixed xD.

picture of a fountain pen and notebook

So that's all well and good - but what did I learn?

   *promptly brings out the trusty list*

1. You don't need to cut ALL the adverbs.


   Adverbs are the bane of my writer-ly existence and honestly? I still don't know what to do about them. I went into the adverb-cutting process with the words KILL THEM ALL banging around in my brain (okay, so "kill them all" was what I was saying about most of my words at the moment because I was low-key hating the story, but never mind that.). Turns out ... that's definitely not the best idea. You need adverbs in your story. Sometimes there were places where they could have been cut, but I left them. Why? Because that piece of the story actually sounded better with the adverbs. It mostly depends on how you feel about the piece - could it be better with a stronger description? Cut the adverb. Does it just sound stinted without it? Leave it there. Do what makes it read best, but don't "kill them all" xD.

2. Realism is actually important.


   Well, duh. Even fantasy writers know this - but I have bits in my story where my version of "real" was just awkward. For instance, in one part of my story (I can't elaborate because spoilers) my character had to take a few steps back to test something out. I had her take ten steps back, and then had it pointed out as being kind of awkward. And then I laughed and myself (and mentally smacked myself) for not realizing how odd it would be to have my character walking back ... farther ... farther - when really, one or two steps would have been just find. Watch out for exaggerating when you can simplify.

3. Your story isn't finished yet


mock cover image for Killing Snow
   I put off this draft of Killing Snow for a long time because I may have been mentally freaking out about it. How much should I edit? Just a little, or do I need to go the whole mile and act like I'm trying to publish the novella? Do I need to fix everything this time around? (of course the perfectionist monster in me reared up and roared YES YOU HAVE TO, but I think I defeated it. This time, anyways xD).
   But then I remembered that this is not the end of my editing. I was planning on this being the last time I'd look at this story, not at all! So to limit my insanity (not that I know how well this actually worked), I picked only a few things to fix. And it helped a ton. I fixed only the things that need fixing right now, not the things that can be fixed after the April bulldozing.           
   I can't be the only one who gets a little dizzy just thinking about how much still needs to be fixed in my story - but it helps a ton to take it piece-by-piece (or three pieces). It must, because (somehow) I didn't go nuts during this fifth edit :D.

   But, all rambling aside - the most important thing I figured out is that the story isn't finished yet. The perfectionist monster in me wants it all done, all perfect, all now. But the realism in me says "that's insane. Do it right." Which means not doing it all at once. It would probably kill me (and I think my sisters want me to stick around, just saying), and I'd be so exhausted by the end that my editing skills would get sloppy. I can't be all done now - or I'd regret it later.

   Editing is tough (my sore fingers and fried brain can attest to this), but way worth it in the end.    

~ Savannah Grace

   What draft is your story in right now? What's the hardest part of editing for you? What have you learned through editing?