So…I Finished My Rough Draft

So in the month that it’s been since I last posted (I have lacked blogging inspiration on an extreme level lately), I finished my rough draft of The Nikolai Project. No, it doesn’t have a title yet. Still.

Anyway, it came in at just slightly under 57,500 words. It’s going to be longer in editing- there were multiple times I just kind of skipped sections of the story because I didn’t want to write them at that moment, so I’ll have to expand on all of that.

It’s an odd feeling, being done with my draft. I started thinking about this project in at least July 2017. It’s been a year and half I’ve spent with these people inhabiting my brain. So to be done with the draft, to take a long break from it, is kind of terrifying to think about. Because I really don’t want to be done with this draft. Nikolai and Amira have become second nature to me– I don’t think I’ve ever known any of my characters as intimately as I know them and no story has developed so naturally. But if I were to keep drafting, there wouldn’t be any more of their particular storyline.

That said, there is going to be a sequel. I was trying to avoid that, but I believe I’m going to have a duology. The sequel will not be about Nikolai and Amira, although they will certainly have a role to play.

But. I am not writing the sequel yet, although it’s (extremely) tempting.

I have started the sequel (and conclusion to the trilogy) to Lady Gwen. I hope this draft won’t take long and I don’t intend for it to. I’ll be working hard on it as I have a lot to figure out.

After I’ve drafted that, I’ll do a round of edits for TNP and then finish/publish the conclusion to my trilogy (yay!).

So that’s an update on my writing life for you.

If you’ve finished a rough draft of a beloved story, how did you deal with it?

-Clara

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50 Things That Make Me Happy Tag!

Ann tagged me to do the 50 Things That Make Me Happy Tag, in which I list 50 things that make me happy.

  1. Jesus
  2. My family
  3. My friends
  4. The Nikolai Project
  5. The characters in The Nikolai Project
  6. Amirkolai, the main ship in The Nikolai Project
  7. The Gwendolyn Trilogy, even though it makes me frustrated a lot. 😉
  8. My French fairytales class
  9. French as a whole
  10. Zaho
  11. Charlie Boisseau
  12. Florent Mothe
  13. French musicals
  14. Makeup
  15. Red lipstick
  16. Notebooks
  17. Kathleenlights
  18. Tati
  19. Tiramisu
  20. Macarons
  21. Café au lait
  22. Black coffee
  23. Cappuccinos
  24. Lattes
  25. Film scores
  26. Playing the piano
  27. Fur Elise
  28. This mug my friend got me that has pictures of me and my friends on it
  29. Earl Grey
  30. Skincare. All of it.
  31. Beauty and the Beast
  32. Disney
  33. Thor
  34. Marvel
  35. Watching chick flicks at 2am
  36. Tangled (I watched this on my birthday and I cried. I actually cried.)
  37. Being a Hufflepuff
  38. Pinterest
  39. Carswell Thorne
  40. Roshani Chokshi
  41. Brendan Reichs
  42. Prince Cardan Greenbriar of Elfhame (although we are having a rough patch in our relationship right now because he made a really stupid decision but we’re not gonna talk about that)
  43. BEN. SOLO. (my child)
  44. Dorian Havilliard (he is my child and you can’t make me change my mind)
  45. Hot showers
  46. New sheet music
  47. Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina
  48. I Love Lucy
  49. Red roses
  50. SANDALWOOD EVERYTHING

I am tagging everyone who reads this: pause, pull out a piece of paper, and write down 50 things that make you happy/that you’re thankful for. It will make your day 10x better.

Love,

Clara

2019 Reading/Writing Goals

It is January 12th. Already.

So…my 2019 has already been very interesting. I won’t go into details, but it’s been both amazing and difficult.

That said, I have some books I’d like to read this year specifically and some writing goals that I want to share with you all here. I am not including any books I put in my Anticipated 2019 Releases post.

Books to Read:

  • The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo: I have been wanting to read this for a while and I think I am finally going to do it.
  • The Six of Crows Duology by Leigh Bardugo: Same as above.
  • Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers: I received an ARC of this and am currently reading it.
  • The other books I got at YALLFest: There were a bunch that I have yet to read; if you’d like to know what all of them are you can read about them here.
  • Emma by Jane Austen: I need to read more Jane Austen because I always LOVE her books.
  • Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody: I got this for my birthday, have started a little bit of it, and I am so excited to continue!
  • Go Teen Writers: Edit Your Novel by Jill Williamson and Stephanie Morrill: Another birthday gift, and seeing as I’ll be editing soon it’s going to be very useful.
  • Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi: I’ve been wanting to read this because hello, it’s Roshani Chokshi, and I received it for my birthday as well.

My Goodreads goal is 50 books, and obviously this list isn’t that long, but I am a mood reader through and through.

Writing Goals:

  • Finish my draft of The Nikolai Project
  • Come up with a title for The Nikolai Project
  • Write and edit the third book in my Gwendolyn Trilogy
  • Possibly, depending on Gwen, start editing TNP

This is a shorter post, but I always like to share my goals for the year.

What books are you hoping to read this year? If you write, what are your writing goals?

Love you all,

Clara

Best Books of 2018

I am writing this after pulling an all-nighter for the first time in my life, but I have fortunately slept since then. Hopefully this will be mostly coherent.

For starters, happy new year! I hope you have a wonderful 2019.

I had intended, repeatedly, to write this during what we’ll all now be calling “last year,” as I normally do, but on top of all the holiday craze my mom and I have been planning my birthday party.

As a whole, I didn’t read a lot this year (I barely managed to make my goal of 40 books). I think it was just harder to get into books this year–as I learn more about writing, I am a much pickier reader. I also had a lot of moments when I really didn’t want to read, which made me uncomfortable, but I realized that sometimes I just don’t want to read, and that’s okay.

But most of the books I read this year I really loved. So while I read less, most of what I did read was amazing.

Without further adieu…

The Last Jedi by Jason Fry

The movie The Last Jedi made me fall in love with Star Wars again, and of course I had to read the novelization. It was certainly worth reading, and I usually don’t enjoy movie novelizations (that said, I haven’t read many). If you’re a Reylo shipper and you haven’t read this, you should. You won’t regret it.

French Women don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano

Or, as it is affectionately called around my house due to my mom confusing the title, Fat Women don’t Get French. A good nonfiction book about eating right without depriving yourself of things like bread and chocolate. It’s also full of recipes that sound absolutely fabulous, plus it’s about French culture.

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

This one has stood out since I read it in January. It’s a good, mostly character-driven fae novel, with a love interest I loved very much.

The Darkdeep by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs 

This one deserves a spot on this list simply because it’s the first MG novel I’ve enjoyed in what feels like forever. It’s also marvelously entertaining.

Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd

Paris. Magic. A scene set in a giant fashion store (that is real, and I going there one day). A dark brooding prince who’s one-half of what is possibly one of the most interesting ships in the world. There was no way I wasn’t going to love this.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

This book is extremely relevant to today’s culture, and that’s part of why I loved it so much. In addition, I enjoyed the characters a lot along with the political intrigue, and I expect some plot points in the sequel that I know I will love.

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

I read this a couple weeks ago and I LOVED it. I read it in two days. It was very fast paced, had lots of political intrigue, and Theodosia is amazing.

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer

Okay, so Renegades was a little bit disappointing, but THIS BOOK. I can’t say much without spoilers, but it’s amazing and I can’t wait for the conclusion to the trilogy.

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

I could really put any book in the Throne of Glass series after Crown of Midnight on this list. While I definitely don’t agree with all of the content of this series, especially in Empire of Storms, I would be lying if I didn’t say this is one of the best series I’ve ever read (please no Kingdom of Ash spoilers in the comments).

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

I am not the only one who loved this book, and for good reason. It’s beautifully written, with fascinating, less-than-perfect characters, and the plot was enthralling. The Wicked King is definitely one of my most anticipated reads of 2019.

It was a year full of good books, for sure. I hope there are just as many wonderful books in 2019, and that you have a great year of reading and otherwise.

What was the best book you read in 2018? 

-Clara

 

Anticipated 2019 Releases!

As I sit here with a giant stack of unread books in my room that are calling my name, I’m going to share the books I am most excited about that are releasing next year. The TBR pile is endless.

But in all seriousness, there are so many books coming out next year that I cannot wait to get my hands on.

The Wicked King by Holly Black (January 8th)

The Cruel Prince remains one of the best books I read this year- it had politics, fae, and the promise of a haters-to-lovers romance. Obviously I am ready for the sequel.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (January 15th)

This is my most anticipated release by far, because it’s ROSHANI CHOKSHI. Everything I’ve read of hers has blown me away and I’m sure this is going to be just as amazing.

Stain by A.G. Howard (January 15th)

I read a chapter sampler of this and I want the rest. That is all.

Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte (February 26th)

I heard about this at YALLFest and the title alone is enough to make me want to read this.

Lovely War by Julie Berry (March 5th)

I adored Julie’s The Passion of Dolssa (if you haven’t read it, you should, but be prepared for an emotional roller coaster). This one is a love story set amidst both World Wars and it’s told from the perspective of the goddess Aphrodite.

Sherwood by Meagan Spooner (March 29th)

I just found out about this as I write this post and it’s a ROBIN HOOD RETELLING. YES. It’s also Meagan Spooner, who has some beautiful prose.

Midnight Beauties by Megan Shepherd (August 13th)

I will be trying to get an ARC of this if possible, because August is too far away. Grim Lovelies was magnificent.

Also, from the synopsis, I think there’s going to be an arranged marriage. Therefore I need it.

Renegades #3 (we do not yet have an official title) by Marissa Meyer (November 5th)

I am reading Archenemies right now and IT’S AMAZING. Renegades was a bit of a letdown but I am loving book two in the series and expect a major cliffhanger.

That’s it so far, but I’m sure there are a bunch of others I just haven’t discovered yet.

(I did not include any ARCs I received at YALLFest in this list, even though I am excited to read many of them.)

What books are you looking forward to in 2019?
-Clara

 

 

Arranged Marriage in Fiction: A Discussion

Periodically, I like to do discussion posts.

I haven’t in a while, because, while I love them, I struggle to come up with ideas that haven’t been done before (or at the very least, haven’t been done in a while).

Last week, I published a NaNoWriMo post and briefly mentioned that I love arranged marriage stories. Alan Zaroff asked me why, which led to a few comments on the subject. I thought it might be interesting to do a discussion post about it.

If you’re new here, I absolutely love arranged marriage in books. I’m not entirely sure why, when I personally do not ever want my marriage to be arranged, but I have always been fascinated by the concept of falling in love after marriage.

Here’s the thing: As someone who is so intrigued by the concept, I’d really like to read about it. However, I can name exactly 2 novels (okay, so one is a series) off the top of my head involving love-after-marriage. And very few books, even political fantasy novels that I’ve read, have arranged marriage as a part of a plot, whether or not it actually happens.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge is a Beauty and the Beast retelling that executes the arranged marriage trope rather well. It’s not a personal favorite, but I did enjoy it.

Morgan Rhodes’ Falling Kingdoms series did it very well– although, to be completely honest, after book one, the arranged marriage development was about the only thing I enjoyed about the series. I still haven’t read the last two books.

What bothers me is that even these two books at first act as though arranged marriage is a horrible tragedy, etc. (I will say that, given who the characters are marrying, it makes sense that they’re opposed–but I’d also like some books where the man the girl is marrying isn’t a demon or seemingly horrible enemy prince.) And that’s the case with pretty much every book that mentions arranged marriage in some way. It’s often treated as a violation of human rights, the worst thing that could happen to a character, all that.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I know very well that sometimes arranged marriage is forced and a basic human rights violation, especially child marriage. Aisha Saeed’s Written in the Stars is a good one that illustrates this point, and I love that book.

However, in 2017, the average percent of arranged marriages that ended in divorce was only 4% (brandongaille.com). (I am aware that this article shows the dark side of arranged marriage, which is definitely important to consider.) According to the American Psychological Association, “40-50% of married couples in the United States divorce.” In America, love marriage is the most common. Love marriages aren’t bad– I want one myself. What I’m saying is that, in reality, arranged marriages aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be in the books we read.

Repeatedly, arranged marriages end up as happy marriages. My parents know people who are in arranged marriages and are very happy. This article (please excuse the curse word) shares other stories about arranged marriages that have worked out well.

I am not going to sit here and tell you that every single arranged marriage is wonderful and perfect. What I am going to tell you is that it needs to be presented differently and a little more often in books. Because, in reality, lots of people in the world are in arranged marriages. 55% of marriages are arranged, actually (brandongaille.com).

I would really appreciate more books, YA novels especially, that involve arranged marriage that isn’t treated like a tragedy. In all genres.

I’m trying to do this with my current writing project. I’ve been guilty of treating arranged marriage as horrible at first in my books, but it works out well in the end. What I’m writing now, The Nikolai Project (here’s my NaNoWriMo post about it), is, at its core, about an arranged marriage. It’s got politics and magic, of course, but it centers around two people falling in love– after the wedding.

If any of you have ever wondered why in the world arranged marriage plots are one of my favorite things, I hope this answers your question at least a little bit.

I want to hear your thoughts on this topic–let’s discuss in the comments!

-Clara

 

 

November Reading Wrap-Up

I am so excited that I am finally reading again. Lately I haven’t been reading all that much (nothing could hold my attention very well? At all?) but this month I read a few books that I really loved.

The Darkdeep by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs (aka my besties)

Okay, MG has not been able to hold my interest in forever but I 100% adored this book. It’s amazing and you should go read it if you haven’t. Also, Brendan and Ally are both amazing people. 5 stars for this one!

Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd

Also 5 stars– because this is set in a magical Paris, has a dark brooding prince that I LOVE, a main character that’s amazing, and a scene set in the most amazing fashion boutique ever that also references a lot of designers (which is always great).

Bookish Boyfriends: A Date with Darcy by Tiffany Schmidt

This was SO CUTE. The best part was when the main character was reading Pride and Prejudice and was having the exact same feelings I was when I read that beautiful Jane Austen novel.

There were, however, a few things I thought weren’t explained enough, so all-in-all, I gave this 4 stars.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

THIS. BOOK. It was amazing- from the world to the characters to the clothes (I really, really appreciate pretty clothes in books). And the plot twist at the end? Perfect. And it looks like the sequel is going to have the pretending-to-be-married trope which is actually one of my favorite things. This one was also 5 stars, if you couldn’t tell.

I am currently reading In Paris With You by Clementine Beauvais, an ARC I received at YALLFest, but I may end up putting it on hold. I’m not exactly feeling the poetry thing.

What did you read in November?

-Clara

 

NaNoWriMo 2018!

Another NaNoWriMo is over and…

I won!

I did 30k words, which is standard for the Young Writers’ Program. (Shout out to a friend of mine (you know who you are) who did 50k in 3 weeks. I am so proud of you.)

I worked on the same project this year as I did last year- what I call The Nikolai Project, although that’s not the title. It still doesn’t have one, even after working on it for almost a year and a half.

What happened with this project was interesting. By the end of last year’s NaNo, I had worked on it for about three months and had 25k words of what was more romance novel than anything. After NaNo 2017, I returned to working on Lady Gwen (which released a little over a month ago and is available here) and put The Nikolai Project away for a bit. I certainly kept thinking about it– and all that thinking led to a plethora of changes I wanted to make to the plot. So the 25k words I wrote last year are no longer a real thing. My sweet arranged-marriage romance is now more of a political intrigue fantasy with a lot of romance (and yes, the marriage is still 110% arranged, because I’m the one writing it and I am absolutely in love with arranged marriage plots, okay?).

All that said, my draft is at almost 40k words now, no where near done, and there’s a lot that I need to expand, revise, etc. when I have a full draft. But regardless, I am really proud of myself and I am hopelessly in love with this story.

And my dear friend Annabeth Tyler (The Junior Inklings) drew me this gorgeous picture of Nikolai and Amira (yes, she really does have that much hair):

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I had a very successful NaNoWriMo and am hoping to finish my draft of The Nikolai Project in December. In January I plan to start on the conclusion to the Gwendolyn Trilogy!

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? How did it go? Also, any political intrigue novel suggestions for me?

Thanks for reading!

-Clara

 

The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson: A spoilery, very ranty DNF review

themerchantsdaughter

Listen.

I have enjoyed Melanie’s books in the past. The Golden Braid is a really solid novel. Her books are cute, sweet, and Christian, usually without a bunch of preaching. I like her books, I really do.

But The Merchant’s Daughter was horrible. I tried to make myself finish it, hoping it might redeem itself, but I just couldn’t keep reading.

It’s not even plot or characters (although I didn’t really like any of them and they were rather flat).

A little background: Annabel, the lead, wants to join a nunnery. Her family is trying to make her marry this disgusting old bailiff (why are disgusting men in every one of Melanie’s books? Just once I’d like a good-looking villain) so she goes to work as an indentured servant. The bailiff very clearly wants to rape her. And Melanie will not say it bluntly for anything in the world.

And that, my friends, is why I quit reading.

If you’re going to write a book that deals with as serious a topic as rape, you’d better say the word. I don’t care if you’re trying to be “clean” or that you’re writing Christian fiction. Christians get raped too, and it’s a very real problem that should never, ever, be sugar-coated. Annabel is afraid the bailiff will rape her and the reader needs to know that. “Hurt” is not an adequate word.

Now, I can see reasons Melanie may not have wanted to say “rape” blatantly. I know some readers may not know what it is. But she writes teen fiction. I’m pretty sure her readers know what rape is. As a matter of fact, I have read middle-grade Christian novels that mention rape. We can handle it, Melanie- don’t lose your point.

And just because it’s called Christian doesn’t mean it has to be squeaky clean. I’ve read the Old Testament, for crying out loud, and I’m pretty sure most other Christian girls have too.

So, yeah, I just couldn’t stand it anymore.

It was also a thousand times preachier than her other books. I don’t mind a little bit of preachiness; it’s Christian fiction and I kind of expect it, but this was excessive. I get that Annabel had never read the Bible, but I did not need a commentary on every parable of Jesus. I don’t read novels for Biblical commentary.

All that said, I do have a good friend that adored this book. So maybe you’ll like it, but I obviously did not.

How do you feel about rape being handled in fiction? Have you read The Merchant’s Daughter

-Clara

I Went to YALLFest!

I had the privilege of taking a weekend trip to Charleston for YALLFest this weekend and it was absolutely amazing!

If you don’t know, YALLFest is a book festival held annually in Charleston, SC. There are always a bunch of wonderful authors there doing panels, signings, and other fun events. It’s also a great place to get free books- I came home with 11 including the one I picked up for my brother.

I wanted to share some pictures with you all from my trip as well as the stuff I picked up.

I’ll start with the chapter samplers:

  • The Afterward by E.K. Johnston
  • Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Stain by A.G. Howard
  • King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo (I have got to get into the Grishaverse; they all sound so good and I’ve been wanting to hop on the bandwagon for ages)
  • Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
  • To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

I also picked up quite a few ARCs (advanced reader copies):

  • Slayer by Kiersten White
  • Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills
  • In Paris With You by Clementine Beauvais
  • The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Phillipe
  • Daisies and Devotion by Josi S. Kilpack
  • Crown of Feathers by Nick Pau Preto
  • Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers (which is signed and I am so excited about this one- I haven’t read any of Robin’s books yet and after hearing her speak I really need to fix that!)

And a few books that are already out:

  • Bookish Boyfriends: A Date with Darcy by Tiffany Schmidt
  • Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright
  • There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins (I also got this one signed)

I also got a ton of bookmarks and other swag things, including a tote bag with a Flame in the Mist quote that I got Renee Ahdieh to sign and an Iko art print because I knew some Renegades trivia.

But despite all the free stuff, the authors were definitely the best part. The panels were amazing and all the authors I talked to were so nice and I loved meeting them.

I want to talk about Brendan Reichs for a minute. I met him last weekend at another event where he signed The Darkdeep for me, and this weekend he was sitting next to Ally Condie at a signing and remembered not only my name but where I had mentioned possibly attending college. He is a super nice guy and I will definitely be reading more of his books. The Darkdeep, by the way, is fantastic- and I haven’t enjoyed middle grade in a long time.

I met Megan Shepherd, Renee Ahdieh, Brandon Mull, Ally Condie, Stephanie Perkins, Dhonielle Clayton, Robin LaFevers, and Roshani Chokshi.

Meeting Roshani was the highlight of the entire trip. If you’re new here, Roshani is my favorite author (it’s a tie between her and Marissa Meyer; I like Marissa’s books but Roshani has the most beautiful writing style in this world). I got to meet her and she signed her books for me. I also gave her a copy of both Captain Guinevere and Lady Gwen that she so graciously accepted. She is so sweet and beautiful and I am so happy to have met her.

Now for some pictures:

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A panel, from left to right: Veronica Roth, Victoria Aveyard, Danielle Paige, Destiny Soria, and Adrienne Young
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A blurry picture of the Booksplosion event: Kat O’Keefe, Christine Riccio, and Jesse George. They were hilarious!
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Another panel; we were on the front row: Renee Ahdieh, Danielle Paige, Emiko Jean, Robin LaFevers, and Laura Sebastian (I ADORED Laura on this panel and will be picking up her book very soon).
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Me with Megan Sheperd- I gave her copies of my books as well.
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Renee and I took a selfie.

And last but not least:

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Here I am with Roshani Chokshi!

If you get the chance to make a trip to YALLFest next year, do it. It was an amazing trip.

Have you been to YALLFest? What was your favorite part? Who’s the author you’d love to meet the most?

-Clara

P.S. Special thanks to my mom and dad for making this happen! I love you both so much!