Today’s post is a “kill two birds with one stone” type of post (has anyone ever wondered whether its actually possible to kill two birds in one go? Or is it just me?)
So, first of all, I shall give you the December updates, and then we’ll go for the much more vague, yearly update (in which I shall try to actually remember all the way back to January!).
Well, my greatest writing achievement this month was finishing Stars Fill Infinity. I finished the first draft, which weighed in at ~100k, in two documents of 50k each (since my computer freaks out at documents over 30k). I killed a lot of my characters and I’m suffering from Writer’s Guilt.
I’m still playing with the ending, because I wasn’t happy with the way it finished. I rewrite the epilogue yesterday (the day I wrote this. Not the yesterday you’re reading this on. Goodness, I confuse myself) but I still think it needs some work.
Other than that, I’ve been writing a lot of journal entries and blog posts. I haven’t started work on another novel yet, but I’m hoping to have the outline for rewriting Jihi finished by the time you read this. And I’m hoping to have finished the actual rewrite of Jihi by the beginning of February.
Well, thanks to #2017 Goals—and a panic that I wouldn’t get everything done in time—reading exploded this month. Also, my library is running a summer reading challenge, in which you read and review as many books as possible in the hope of winning bookish prizes (like gift cards!). That’s also helped. The problem with that is that the library only wants you reviewing books from the library, and I have so many books on my shelf right now that I wanted to get read before the end of the year. Oh well. I’ll get time for those when summer’s done.
Here’s a selection from what I read this month:
Count Zinzendorf: First Fruits by Janet and Geoff Benge. Pretty good! I enjoyed reading about the life of someone who I wouldn’t usually read about, but who was definitely very interesting. I always enjoy the Benges’ biographies. Three and a half stars.
Kids Like Us by Hilary Reyl. Definitely different to my usual reads. I don’t usually like contemporaries, but I quite enjoyed this one. I also liked the fact that the main character was autistic, and portrayed very well, I’ve heard, and that isn’t seen a lot in YA fiction. Four stars.
These Strange Ashes by Elisabeth Elliot. Awesome read that I procrastinated a lot on. But like all Elisabeth Elliot books, it was really good, though I don’t think it quite lived up to Through Gates of Splendour, or Passion and Purity, my two favourite Elliot books. I recommend it to each and every one of you. Four and a half stars.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I’m a bit confused by this book. No one can deny that it is an extremely popular book, and though I enjoyed it, I’m not entirely sure why. I also always thought that Tom Robinson must be the titular mockingbird, but now that I’ve read it, I think maybe the mockingbird was Boo Radley? I’m not sure. What are your thoughts? Three and a half stars.
Maskerade by Terry Pratchett. My first ever Pratchett book, and I was quite impressed! It was a satirical parody/retelling of The Phantom of the Opera and it must have been good, since I was only mildly annoyed that they made such fun of my darling Phantom. I did enjoy the eventual reveal of Maskerade’s Opera Ghost, though. It was very well written. Four stars
The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun by J.R.R. Tolkien. An interesting look at some of Tolkien’s earlier works. I enjoyed the examining of the poems and the information on the mythology which inspired it. Four and a half stars.
The Elusive Pimpernel by Emma Orczy. This was really good. I enjoyed it even more than The Scarlet Pimpernel. It just had less of the sappy romance and more cleverness and I may or may not be in love with Percy Blakeney. I also love Margarite too, she’s a very cool female character. Five stars.
Billy by Col Stringer. This was the worst book I read this year. I’m serious. I read a lot of books I didn’t like this year, such as Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars, but I appreciate that some people love those books, and that even though I didn’t like their content, they did have genuinely good writing. However, this book was something else entirely and I’ll spare you an entire review here. Suffice to say, the story was bad, the research was bad, the accuracy was bad, the writing was bad, the editing was awful, the theology and message didn’t sit well with me. The only things it had going for it were a beautiful cover and a premise which involved Australian Aborigine soldiers in WW1. half a star (for the cover). I apologise for the rant.
The Giver by Lois Lowry. Billy was technically my hundredth book, but I couldn’t end my 2017 reading on such a bad note, so I decided to finish off The Giver which I’d already started reading. It was really good! I wasn’t expecting to like it, but I ended up loving it. I like Jonas’ character a lot, because he reminds me of myself, quiet, reserved, willing to obey the rules, but then hugely passionate when he discovers injustice. Five stars.
Well, quite a lot of blogging related stuff happened this month. I had the wonderful ladies, Hailey, Audrey, Jane Maree and Sarah here to talk about the things God has taught them through the downs of 2017 (click on their names to read their amazing posts!).
I had my first guest post on another blog published, so that was super exciting!
I also have a survey running currently, and I would love if you filled it out to let me know what you’d like to see happening on An Ordinary Pen next year (shout out to everyone who already filled the survey out. I love you 😊)
I have a few more exciting things, but I’ll leave them for the yearly update section.
Normal Aussie summer things. Christmas carols, sausage sizzles and trying not to die in the heat. However, I can’t complain too much because a) we have had a lot of rain lately, which is so good, b) there haven’t been any bushfires near us, c) no one and nothing has been bitten by a snake yet, d) no one’s dead yet. All things to be thankful for.
Because it’s Christmas time, we’ve been doing all the Christmasy end of year things.
Girls Brigade had its presentation night on the 5th. Our skits kind of fell apart, but it made for a lot of amusement and laughs, so that’s okay.
We had dress rehearsals for our dance school’s production of Beauty and the Beast on Saturday 9th, and then the final production on the 10th. It went brilliantly and everyone did so well! I was incredibly proud of everyone who put effort into making a truly beautiful and amazing production.
Our church also had our Christmas carols service on the 17th. This turned out fairly well too, and it was interesting to explore the origins of the Carols by Candlelight services we have all over Australia (I’m curious to know, any of my readers who aren’t Aussie, do you have Carols by Candlelight services too?). I was also asked by my youth leader to write a poem that could be read during the service. I was very flattered by this request, and also very stressed, however I wrote a poem, which I can only say was inspired by God. I’m not a poet, let’s just say that, and I hardly ever write poetry that I could actually allow anyone to read, but I wrote the entire first draft of this poem in one night, when I was pretty exhausted too. And a lot of people told me that it was beautiful. So, yeah…I was pretty happy.
And of course, Christmas happened! My family had a great day. We went to church in the morning, came home opened our presents and hung around and then had a turkey for dinner. I got some very cool presents that I’m extremely pleased with: including Anastasia: The Original Broadway Cast Recording (so excited about that! Guess what I’ve been listening to obsessively of late?), Anastasia the original animated movie, Les Miserables, the Tom Hooper movie, from my dear friend, Sarah, Daring to Hope Katie Davis Majors’ new book, and the first book in the Aedyn Chronicles. And my dad bought me a whole lot of pens as well.
Also my mum and sister got me a pyjama shirt with this written on it:
So that was my Christmas. All in all, very satisfying and nice.
Yearly Wrap Up
And now we reach the 2017 wrap up section of this post (which is already ridiculously long!)
~2017 Writing Highlights~
Well, I had a lot of amazing writing moments this year. Not the least of these would be:
Delving into several new genres which I’ve never written in before, including sci-fi/superhero (Black & White), retellings (Rose Mask and Stars Fill Infinity) and dystopian (Stars Fill Infinity).
So finishing the first drafts of those three novels were definitely highlights. I consider Rose Mask and Stars Fill Infinity some of my best works to date and I’m in love with them both, even though they each have their issues. I’m really hoping that between all my Blade of the Dragon stuff that I plan on doing next year that I get some time to edit these two, because I’m actually looking forward to editing them. And to look forward to editing anything must mean that I have an extreme bond to it.
I also wrote a story called Origami Cranes, which is, in my biased opinion, beautiful. I love it.
And I participated in Rosalie’s Flash Fiction Dash (you can read my entry HERE) and May’s Scribbler Challenge, both of which were really fun and helped me create a few more short stories to add to my collections.
~2017 Reading Highlights~
Rereading the entire Chronicles of Narnia. I’ve decided that my favourite Narnia books are The Magician’s Nephew and Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
Reading the whole Magician’s Daughter series to my siblings.
Reading Les Miserables was, of course, a huge highlight. It was probably my favourite novel of the whole year.
Reading The Broken Way. I loved this book so much and it prompted some really good discussions with a friend of mine.
Beta reading for Gabrielle Massman. Out of the Curse was probably my second favourite read for the year. It’s not even published yet, but I loved this book so much and it was amazing.
Reading Young Digger. Such a cute book and one of my favourite nonfiction reads of the year!
Reading To Kill A Mockingbird. This is monumental because my mum (and other people too, now that I come to think of it) has been recommending this to me for ages and I finally got around to reading it. I can now tick one of the most widely read books in the world off my list.
I also read my first Terry Pratchett book. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to like him much, because silly comedy has never really appealed to me. he surprised me though, with Maskerade, by the things that he veiled beneath the seemingly mindless humour.
Finally finishing These Strange Ashes. I’ve tried to read this book so many times and I’ve never got through the first quarter or so. I don’t know why. The rest of it was awesome.
Reading more of Tolkien’s work. Most people only know Tolkien for The Lord of the Rings and maybe The Silmarillion, but I’ve been delving into some of Tolkien’s other works, especially his mythological poetry, which have been published lately. You’d probably have to be an extreme nerd (like myself) to enjoy them, but just try it. you might surprise yourself 😀
The Giver was also a very cool surprise. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I ended up liking it. It was really enjoyable.
~2017 Blogging Highlights~
Well, I have a few blog stats which I am going to share with you for the year:
As of December 27th 2017, I have:
55 WordPress followers
3 Email follows (Shout out to Sarah, Mum and whoever that random other email follower is!)
36 Posts (soon to be 38)
Beautiful Books: Introduce your NaNoWriMo novel is my most viewed posts, with 59 views.
My Favourite Characters Types is my second most viewed post at 54 views.
I’ve Been Tagged—Liebster Award Nomination is my third most viewed post with 51 views.
Thank you to all who have followed, liked, commented and invested your time in my blog. I seriously appreciate you all! After all, what’s the use of a writer who has no readers? (and another shout out to Sarah, for being my first ever follower, way back when I first started my blog).
For the rest of summer, I’m going to continue with two blog posts a week, and I’m going to be running two more series. In January, I’ll be introducing you all to my current works in progress (The Blade of the Dragon Duology/Trilogy, Kameradschaft, Black & White, and Stars Fill Infinity) and I’ll be giving you some info and random facts about my children novels. In February, I’ll be doing something a little different and comparing several well-known musicals with their book and movie counterparts.
I’ll be taking a month long hiatus sooner or later, but I haven’t decided when.
[Also, let’s be honest, this gif was also a highlight]
~Other 2017 Highlights~
Starting this blog! That was definitely a highlight of this year. I’ve made so many new friends, tried so many new books and been so encouraged by my time as a blogger.
Bonding with my sister over musicals. Seriously one of the best parts of the year.
Starting dancing again. After taking a year off in 2016, I was more than ready to begin again this year!
Starting a new youth group. A good time of fellowship every Friday night!
Starting flying lessons. I want to be a pilot one day and flying lessons are kind of important for that, and at the beginning of the year, I started getting them.
Achieving so many of my goals
Strengthening existing relationships, creating new ones and mending broken ones.
Learning about patience.
Trying new things.
Well, this post is long enough as it is! I won’t bore you anymore. Now, it’s your turn. How was your December? How was your 2017? What was your favourite read this year? What were some of your highlights—reading, writing or life wise?