Two Tags: The 7/7/7 Challenge and The Infinity Dreams Award

Two Tags_ The 7_7_7 Challenge +

The 7/7/7 Challenge:

So basically you take the seventh page of your WIP, go down seven lines, and share the seven lines that come after that.

At least, that’s how I understand it.

I looked at my editing WIP, and I thought about it, but I decided that I would forgo that and use instead last week’s WIP, a novelette titled Unarranged.
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Quick synopsis: Matilde, young ward and niece of a nobleman, discovers that she has just been promised in marriage to the prince of her country. The only problem is, he is fifteen years older than her, and altogether grim and boring. And she is determined to be heartbroken.

The Seven Lines:

My aunt returns before long and I am ready. I place my small hand in her dark-gloved hand, mine white and bare save for a ring with three small sapphires set in twisted silver. I think it looks very becoming on my hand, and so does my aunt, for she smiles as she looks at it.

Not that I want to look becoming.

I heard once of a princess—they called her The Fire Princess—who was so wild that her father promised her to any man who could keep her safe. It is said that she came riding to meet a suitor in flaming scarlet with her hair flying loose, and reared her horse practically upon him and then laughed. She was a bit wild, I will admit, but today I wish I could do that.

The Infinity Dreams Award:

  1.  What’s your absolute favorite book currently?

Ooh, that’s impossible to choose! But Call It Courage, Swift Rivers, San Domingo: Medicine Hat Stallion, Smith of Wootton Major, and Mark of the Horse Lord are all near the top in my affections today.

  1.  If you could hang out with 2 characters from any movie, show and/or book, who would they be?

Hawkeye and Tadashi Hamada.

  1.  What’s your favorite season?

That’s hard. There is something sweet about spring and summer, as they are the absence of winter, but I think I would have to say autumn. There is something about the crisp air, the harvest food, and the feeling of new beginnings that I cannot resist.

  1.  If you could pick one character to portray you in the movie of your life, who would that 1 person be?  (You can pick from any movie, book and show.)

Probably Scarlett Johansson. We resemble each other quite a bit and she’s just about my size.

  1.  What’s your favorite type of flower?

Morning glories, probably, though I do love carnations.

  1.  What’s your favorite instrument?

Uilleann pipes. They are like bagpipes, but Irish, and played by an arm bellow instead of the lungs. I seriously want to buy a set someday.

  1.  What is your favorite genre?

If you are talking books, it’s probably historical fiction. I love experiencing other people’s lives in other places and times.

  1.  Pick one character from any movie, show or book, and pick a candy to describe them.  What candy would they be?

Um, I think that Steve Rogers/Captain America could be a Snickers bar.  Solid, no-nonsense, and American.

  1.  What’s your favorite movie?   

It constantly changes. Currently it might be Cinderella (the new live action version) or Avengers: Age of Ultron.

  1.  What’s your favorite OTP pair?

Clarkson and Martitia from They Loved to Laugh. If you haven’t read this book, you need to.

  1.  What’s your favorite song?

In Pace by Patrick Doyle. I discovered it almost a year ago, and have listened to it over 1,000 times. It gets more beautiful every time I hear it.

Thanks to Annie from Curious Wren Blog and Charisma from Twisted Two for tagging me!

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September Article Roundup

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Since September is drawing to a close (please tell me I’m not the only one who can’t believe it’s over this soon!), I have decided to share with you a handful of articles I’ve run across in the last month or so that stuck in my mind as helpful or inspiring.

  1. 7 Things Writers Should Stop Wasting Their Time On http://carlywatters.com/2015/07/06/stop-wasting-their-time/
  2. Why Homeschoolers Need To Read Modern Literature http://ladybibliophile.blogspot.com/2015/08/why-homeschoolers-need-to-read-modern.html
  3. Work Hard: http://carmel-elizabeth.blogspot.com/2015/08/work-hard.html
  4. Start Your Writing Career in Less Than Fifteen Minutes http://blotsandplots.com/2015/08/31/start-your-writing-career/
  5. 10 Reasons Why You Should Participate in NaNoWriMo http://www.shesnovel.com/participate-in-nanowrimo/
  6. How to Get a Literary Agent (When You’re a Newbie) http://thewritepractice.com/literary-agents/
  7. 20 Novel Storyboards You Should Be Following http://writingonewordatatime.com/2015/08/22/20-novel-storyboards-you-should-be-following/

Have any of these articles been helpful to you? What are your favorite articles you’ve read in the past month?

How To: Editing Treat Box

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As some of you know, I am currently editing my WIP (work-in-progress), and while I’ve done some editing before, this is the first time I have done an edit to send to beta readers. I have to admit, on the verge of this undertaking I was a little intimidated.

So I made myself a survival kit. I didn’t have a clear outline for it at first…I just figured I would collect some nice things to help keep me happy and sane. And then I mentioned it to a friend, and she asked if I could write a post about it.

Oh, twist my arm…I love talking about treats.

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What’s inside:

  1. A mug
  2. Instant coffee
  3. A fancy notebook
  4. Nice pencils
  5. Treats
  6. A useful or inspiring book

These are just a few of the many things I could have included. You could put in a candle or a CD, or a gift card to a restaurant when you just really need that break from cooking.  Bottom line: choose things that are helpful and make you happy. For me, that’s instant coffee and pretty pencils.

And just saying, these would make great gifts for writing friends.

Is a treat box needful, you may ask? Can’t you just make yourself do the work? Of course you can. But editing is hard. Everyone who has been through it can tell you that. In the end, I’m not going to remember the few bucks that mug cost me, I’m going to remember the memories I made with my coffee in one hand and my WIP in the other, changing worlds.

What would you put in your treat box? Have you ever made yourself one?

My Top Five Favorite Character Naming Resources

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Today I am going to share with you my go-to resources for finding character names. For why the perfect name is so important, see my earlier post here.

  1. Scrivener Random Name Generator: Scrivener is an incredible tool. Period. I could go on about it for hours—I really could. Anyway, one of its great features is a name generator. It will randomly generate character names for you, and you can sort (if you choose) by first or last name, gender, beginning or ending letter, and ethnicity. Seriously, they have everything from Ancient Assyrian to Norse to Tongan. You can also search by meaning, or type in a name to look up its origin and meaning. In addition, it has a shortlist feature, so you can select the names you like and compile a list that you can then send to various documents within Scrivener. But the coolest thing? You can upload your own names into the database to customize it. I could see this working really well for the fantasy folks.
  2. The Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon: This book was published by the Writer’s Digest, and my dad picked it up for me at a book sale almost ten years ago. Since then it has been my go-to book for names. There is a section at the front talking about the use of names and how to pick the best names for your genre, but the bulk of the text is names, sorted by origin. Female and male names are in sub-sections within each origin category, and ordered alphabetically. It has most of the standard origins (English, Latin, German, Norse) as well as some rare ones (Native American, Arthurian Legend, Basque).
  3. Baby Name Books: Baby name books were my very first naming resources. I use them nowadays when I want good standard names for modern books or the like. Some titles that I have used quite a bit include The Reader’s Digest Baby Name Book, Baby Names Around the World, and Beyond Jennifer and Jason.
  4. The History of Christian Names by Charlotte Yonge: This is a great in-depth resource for first names. Yonge does not just list the names, but gives an entire commentary/history lesson on every name’s development and origin. For lovers of history or mythology this is a goldmine.
  5. Family and Friends: It may seem odd, but this is actually a really good one. Oftentimes other people’s suggestions will be different from your first thoughts, and they can help you break out of those naming ruts.

How do you find names for your characters? Have you used any of the tools or books above?

The World of Writing Music Artist Feature: Patrick Doyle

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I am very excited to share today’s post with you…behold the first in a monthly series featuring some of my favorite noveling-music artists!

My first featured artist is a film composer. Now the thing that I find sets some composers apart from others—speaking strictly as a writer right now—is that with some, I enjoy their music for a while, but I find them bad companions for long term work. The music makes me tired after repeated listening and I hit skip when their tracks come up on my playlist. However, others I can listen to almost indefinitely. That is the test of intelligence over time.

One of the most intelligent composers writing today is Patrick Doyle. Patrick Doyle is one of the greats. I say this for the record. As I musician myself, I can testify to the fact that his work is very high quality, which means that the more you listen to it the better you like it, instead of vice versa. One of his tracks hit over 700 plays on my list after eight months and I only love it more now.

So, with no more of this unprofitable chat (to borrow a phrase from Edmund Mortimer of Shakespeare’s Henry IV), I present to you Maestro Patrick Doyle.

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About the artist: Patrick Doyle is a Scottish composer who grew up in a large, musical family and studied music in college, but fell into composing almost by accident. He was an actor/musician for Kenneth Branagh’s theater group, The Renaissance Players and was asked one day by Branagh to compose the score for his film production of Henry V. Doyle’s brilliance with that score put him on the map, and from that time he has been a well-loved and sought out composer.

Why I recommend him: He is a versatile composer, so from epic pieces (Thor, Rise of the Planet Apes, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) to sweet, beautiful pieces (Sense and Sensibility, Cinderella) and everything in between, Patrick Doyle has something for every situation. His music is always telling a story. With his background in acting and literature, he has a deep understanding of narrative structure, and every soundtrack reflects that. (If you’re a Marvel fan, ask me sometime about what his score has to say about Thor and Loki’s character arcs. It’s epic.)

What I use his music for:

-General playlist music

-Listening through an album start to finish

-Character theme songs

Favorite Albums:

Hamlet

Thor

Cinderella

Sense and Sensibility

The Last Legion

Brave

Man to Man

Henry V

Wah-Wah

Favorite Tracks:

In Pace (Hamlet)

Combe Magna (Sense and Sensibility)

Go Bid the Soldiers Shoot (Hamlet)

Kindle My Heart (A Little Princess)

The Day is Yours (Henry V)

Forgive Me (Thor)

Sons of Odin (Thor)

Abigail’s Feeling (Man to Man)

Who is She? (Cinderella)

Have you heard any of Patrick Doyle’s scores? If so, which are your favorites?

Pendragon’s Heir

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A couple weeks ago I finished Pendragon’s Heir by Suzannah Rowntree, and wow—if you haven’t read this book, you should seriously think about it. It is legend and adventure with a splash of honest, unsentimental romance.

Synopsis: Blanche Pendragon enjoys her undemanding life as the ward of an eccentric nobleman in 1900’s England. It’s been years since she wondered what happened to her long lost parents, but then a gift on the night of her eighteenth birthday reveals a heritage more dangerous and awe-inspiring than she ever dreamed of—or wanted. Soon Blanche is flung into a world of wayfaring immortals, daring knights, and deadly combats, with a murderous witch-queen on her trail and the future of a kingdom at stake. As the legendary King Arthur Pendragon and his warriors face enemies without and treachery within, Blanche discovers a secret that could destroy the whole realm of Logres. Even if the kingdom could be saved, is she the one to do it? Or is someone else the Pendragon’s Heir?


In the first place, I loved this book because I love a good adventure story, and that is what Suzannah Rowntree delivered. It’s one of those stories where you feel like you are on the cusp of a great adventure and you’ll never be the same after. This book took the old Arthurian legends I knew and stayed true to them, while at the same time keeping me on the edge of my seat, wondering what was going to happen next.

The setting was fantastic. From 1900s England to Logres to the wilds of Arthurian England, I felt like I was there, and not once was I pulled out of the story by an out-of-place detail.

I loved the vividness of the characters. Perceval was my favorite by far. At first I was not sure whom I liked the best, but by the last third or so, it was without a doubt him. He was impetuous, yes, but he had a good heart, and was a realistic fellow that you loved despite his faults.

Blanche had a fantastic character arc, in my opinion. She started the book as a sympathetic character with some flaws, of course, but they were not glaring ones. Over the course of the book, you see her drop selfishness that you didn’t even know was there until you see the new Blanchefleur emerging from the old, and you watch her become a brave and considerate young woman.

Simon Corbin was really cool. I’ll leave it at that. If you don’t know why, then please, read the book.

As far as I can remember, there were only a couple sensitive things in the book; the first was the use of magic by the antagonists. This, frankly, did not bother me, since it was basically just following the legends, and it was definitely not portrayed as a good thing. The second was the storyline of Lancelot and Guinevere, and Guinevere’s faithfulness was questioned throughout a portion of the book. I feel that the author handled this very well, however, and brought it to a good conclusion.

I felt that the middle dragged some. Blanchefleur is in one place and Perceval is traveling old-legend-style about the countryside, jousting and coming to adventures. It was not a boring sort of dragging, but I did feel perhaps like the plot was not driving forward the way it did at the beginning and the end.

The end was incredible. It sucked me in and I was caught until I had finished the book. I have to say, Suzannah concluded the book in the best way I’ve ever seen these tales concluded, hands down, and for once I did not walk away from them downhearted. There is hope and rightness in the end, and that is as much as I dare say about it.

Altogether the book was very clean and tight and easy to read. I would recommend caution for younger readers due to the discussion of infidelity in the book.

Have you read Pendragon’s Heir? Do you intend to? What do you think of it?

Summer Reading Challenge Recap

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This summer I participated in a reading challenge in which we were required to choose books according to various prompts, such as “Involving time travel” or “You picked for the cover”.  I read ten books, some old favorites, and some new or out of my comfort zone. So I decided that for today’s post I would share brief observations on each.

  1. The Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff: I love this author’s books, and this one is no exception. Set in Roman Britain just as Rome was beginning to show signs of failing, it follows two cousins, both in the Roman army, as they deal with trials, failure, spies, and usurpers. It’s a riveting tale with less tragedy than most of her books, and I highly recommend it.
  2. Anchors Aweigh by Jean Lee Latham: This was a book I grew up reading, and my admiration of the ease with which Latham writes about ships and the sea never ceases. It follows the adventures of David Glasgow Farragut, an American Civil War naval hero, from life as a midshipman during the War of 1812, until after the Civil War. Great historical fiction book.
  3. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World Official Movie Guide by Tom McGregor: Laugh if you like, but I enjoyed this book immensely. It was better than most movie guides, as it focused on the lengths they went to for historical detail, the ship itself, the actors’ experiences on set, and their portrayal of the characters. So if you liked the movie, I highly recommend the movie guide.
  4. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis: Every time I read this book I love it a little more. My parents read this whole series aloud to me and my siblings when we were little, and ever since I have loved Narnia. But there is something special about that first book, about the adventure just beginning, that I have always loved. I actually listened to it this time, read aloud by Kenneth Branagh. He does a fantastic job bringing across the story and doing brilliant voice changes with different characters.
  5. Pendragon’s Heir by Suzannah Rowntree: This was a book that through random circumstances I was shamefully long in reading. When I finally finished it, though, I was so glad that I did. I was only intending to read a chapter or so that day, and ended up getting swept into the last ten. It is a very exciting story, and a great mix of legend and knights and 1900’s England. However, I will not say any more, because I am going to post a full review on Saturday.
  6. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: I wouldn’t normally pick up this kind of book on my own, but I considered this more of a research read. (For more on the subject, see this article.) As for the book itself, I found it well-written and very engaging, and I really loved some of the characters. However, I also found it violent in places, dark in others, and I really didn’t care for the main character. It is a book I will likely not read again.
  7. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens: This was the first full Dickens that I’ve completed (A Christmas Carol and skimming aside), and I loved it dearly. The characters were warm and lively, and in the end, the bad guys were served justice (often by their own hand) and the good characters came round happy.
  8. The Prince of Fishes by Suzannah Rowntree: I am now at the point where I eagerly look forward to anything this author puts out. This was a retelling of a fairy tale, cleverly set in the Byzantium Empire. Suzannah pulled this setting off beautifully; I could see everything in my head, the colors were vivid, and I did feel like I had actually been there when I finished. I liked most of the characters, especially the father and his children. However, I did not like or sympathize with the wife in the story. She was well-written, but she drove me crazy with her nagging and pushing, and my heart always sank when I saw her coming.
  9. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson: I love Stevenson’s writing, and it is only made better by the history, the Scottish countryside, and the unforgettable characters. I forgot how much I had enjoyed this book in the past, and it was quite worth the revisiting.
  10. The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse: On a recommendation from a friend, I picked up my first Wodehouse book. The first chapter had me in stitches, and the book continued to deliver. By the time I had finished it, two more members of my family were avidly reading it and a half-dozen of Wodehouse’s other works. If you want a good laugh, and a very clever one at that, then please, look it up.

What have you been reading recently? Which are some of your favorites?

10 Tips to Stay Focused While Writing

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It usually happens like this: you sit down, ready to knock out a big chunk of writing, or edit a chapter. Nothing is going to stop you. Forty-five minutes later you look up from that new book, or your phone, or the papers you are sorting, and realize that you have only two sentences to show for that time. What in the world happened? And more likely—how did it manage to happen for the third time this week?

This was something that plagued me for a long time, and still does to some degree. However, after learning the hard way so many times, I have been able to figure out (in part) what works for me and how to stay focused in situations that are—shall we say—less than ideal.

Listening to a soundtrack all the way through—This is a favorite of mine. Choose a good no-lyrics, full-score soundtrack, and listen, from the beginning to the end, no shuffling. There is a strange sense of continuity and completed story that I find helps me stick to my project.  Just make sure you pick a soundtrack that is in order, as a mixed order soundtrack lacks a cohesive storyline.

Turn off the internet—Social media, and even just emails or blogs can be a severe time trap. I’m not one easily pulled into spending lots of time on the computer, but I am still guilty of this from time to time.

Set time limits—When I was doing Nanowrimo I would race to get a hundred words done every five minutes, at all costs. At the end of an hour’s worth of writing, I would have almost my whole goal for the day done. There is something about that short deadline that helps me concentrate, because it is not a long, amoeba-like chunk of time matched with a certain large amount of work to do (which makes it easy for me to get complacent), but rather a very specific task paired with a short, manageable amount of time. I find this works well when living with a lot of little children. I never know when my lovely chunk of time to write will be suddenly truncated by the appearance of a child that has a need that can’t wait. Knowing that I utilized the little time I had is huge for me. Obviously, everyone has different speeds of writing, so maybe you can write far more than 100 words in five minutes, or a little less, but the tactic itself has been very helpful for me.

Go somewhere where you feel inspired—To be honest, this changes all the time for me. Sometimes it is the front porch, sometimes it’s the couch, and sometimes it is my actual writing desk. But whether it’s one constant place or one of a dozen, find that spot, and if at all possible, write there.

Set a goal and promise yourself a reward afterwards—Maybe it’s the brownies in the oven, or a walk with the dog, or maybe it is reading that exciting new book you just got. Whatever it is, find something you want and then don’t—I repeat, don’t let yourself have it until you’ve finished.

Have a plan—Not everyone works well with a plan, but even making a rough sketch of where you want the story to go, or what you want to accomplish in an allotted time, makes a huge difference. Before you waste time writing, erasing, and then writing just to erase it again, take two or three minutes to write out a short sketch or play-by-play of what is coming. Sometimes I even put in snippets of dialogue that come to me, and that helps determine the flavor the scene or my characters’ attitudes.

Accountability—Just tell someone—a family member or spouse across the room, or maybe a friend on Twitter or Facebook—that you are sitting down and trying to write x amount in an x amount of time. Just having someone aware that I am working motivates me to work fast.

Do not randomly edit—Resist the temptation. If you must, take a minute to find the right word, or run back and fix the typo quickly, but try not to fall into the write, erase, write, and erase again cycle.

No research—There is this tricky thing called research, and it usually goes something like this: Oh, I don’t remember how many guns a sixth-rate ship of the line had in 1698…it’ll only take me a second. *runs a Google search* Hmm, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious answer here, but there is a fascinating article on this ship that launched in 1698, maybe I should check that out…. And then, of course, after you read that article, it leads to another thing that needs research, and then another. Just put in a blank or an asterisk and move on.

Get comfortable—This might seem a little silly, but to be honest, how many of us have been distracted by being hungry, or in a bad chair, or being too hot or cold? Go the extra mile to put on a cozy sweater, get a snack, or light a candle on your desk for that lovely smell.

What do you do to stay focused? Comment with your favorite tips below!

Curious Wren Blog Party Tag

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Today I am going to do Annie Hawthorne’s tag from her newly launched Curious Wren blog here. It’s a lovely blog; please head over there and check it out.

  1. What was the last book you read, and would you recommend it?

Oh ho! The last book I read was one I wrote, and I DO recommend it! But it’s only the first draft yet, so I had better think of another one…. I’ll do Pendragon’s Heir, by Suzannah Rowntree; I read that one last week. For starts, I definitely recommend it; it has one mature plot line, but it is very well handled. It’s basically a retelling of the King Arthur legends, but in novel form with a great set of protagonists and plenty of twists and turns, even for those familiar with the legends. If I could use a few words to describe it, they would be: gripping, majestic, bittersweet, and epic. I am always impressed with this author’s ability to write a good story…her stories stick with me after I’ve finished them, and that is a big accomplishment.

        2. Describe the perfect reading spot.

Ooh, a window seat or chair beside a window, preferably with rain outside. And if it’s chilly, with a blanket or heater nearby.

       3. Favorite book beverage? Tea? Coffee? Hot chocolate? Tears of your readers?

I probably like coffee the best, nice and hot, but I won’t turn down hot chocolate or a good cup of Irish Breakfast Tea or Chai.

     4. Share favorite quotes from four books.

Suiting the action to the word, John Browdie just jerked his elbow into the chest of Mr. Squeers who was advancing upon Smike; with so much dexterity that the schoolmaster reeled and staggered back upon Ralph Nickleby, and being unable to recover his balance, knocked that gentleman off his chair, and stumbled heavily upon him. –Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself on this one…I just love seeing Ralph Nickleby falling off a chair!

And this is not really from a book, but I loved it anyway.

Under the wide and starry sky, dig the grave and let me lie: glad did I live and gladly die, and I laid me down with a will. This be the verse you ‘grave for me: here he lies where he long’d to be; home is the sailor, home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hill. –“Requiem”, by Robert Louis Stevenson

And here are two proper quotes:

Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind: a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass and silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise. ― The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien

It may be that the night will close over us in the end, but I believe that morning will come again. Morning always grows out of the darkness, though maybe not for the people who saw the sun go down. We are the Lantern Bearers, my friend; for us to keep something burning, to carry what light we can forward into the darkness and the wind. ― The Lantern Bearers, Rosemary Sutcliff.

  1. What is your most loved fantasy read? Dystopia? Contemporary? Sci-fi? Classic?

Fantasy: It would probably be The Lord of the Rings, though the Narnia books are close behind.

Dystopia: I’ve never really cared for any of the dystopian stories that I’ve read, but I’ve not given up on the genre yet if anyone has any suggestions.

Contemporary: I really enjoyed Linda Nicholls’s books At the Scent of Water and Handyman.

Sci-Fi: I’ve never actually read a sci-fi book as far as I can recollect.

Classic: There are too many to count. I like almost everything by Robert Louis Stevenson and I really enjoyed Nicholas Nickleby recently.

  1. List three authors you’ve collected the most books from?

Rosemary Sutcliff, Marguerite Henry, and Eloise Jarvis McGraw.

  1. What are your thoughts on magic in literature?

I don’t read a lot of books that deal with magic, but if it’s straightforward (like in The Lord of the Rings) and it isn’t either too weird or witchcraft that is used or condoned by the protagonists, I don’t mind it.

  1. What types of book covers capture your imagination most strongly? Feel free to include images.

I like covers with bright colors and either action or something symbolic to the story. Here are a few examples:  

gauden mactraol shiningcomp

  1. Mention the first book character that comes to mind. Elaborate on this.

Thormod, from Blood Feud by Rosemary Sutcliff.  It’s been a long time since I’ve read that book, but he was alive. There are very few characters in books that have seemed that alive to me, but he was one, and I loved him to bits.

  1. Do you lend out your books? Or is that the equivalent to giving away your babies?

It depends on the book. I will lend now and again—I like sharing the books I love. (Especially if you have twelve copies of the book already. True story!) However, there are some books that I hold on to either because they are really old or because I don’t want to be separated from them, and with those it would be like giving away my babies.

Thanks to Annie for the wonderful questions—I loved answering them!