blogging, books, Fantasy fiction, reading, writing, Young Adult fiction

Featuring Indie Authors

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Yeah, I kind of have to mention myself, since I am a self-published author. But, while including myself in this list, I want to take today to focus on those of us who work really hard to produce good quality fiction for the public to consume, often while holding down a day job or going to school, raising a family, living a non-writing life at the same time. And most of us do our own editing and marketing as well, and trust me, this is no easy task, either. Anyway, my point today is — just because we don’t have a team of editors/designers/advertisers paid big bucks behind us doesn’t mean our work isn’t worth reading. And I’m going to spotlight some of the indie authors I’ve read that prove this.

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This author is American but currently resides in Spain, and he’s a teacher, and managed, on top of all this busy real-life stuff, to create a very well-thought-out and interesting world and premise. The editing is superb — in looks alone, this novel is professional in every way. The writing is thorough, the content is appropriate for teen readers as well as adults, and for fans of Narnia, Middle Earth, and Wonderland, Where the Woods Grow Wild feels like a fun romp across all of them. Nate Philbrick is now putting up a new novel on Wattpad.

You can visit him at: https://youwritefiction.wordpress.com/

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The Assassin’s Daughter is another prime example of an indie author taking great care and effort with her manuscript. The finished product is beautifully clean on the page, and the writing and character development shows the time and passion she poured into creating this fictional world and growing close to her narrators. The world in this novel feels familiar, yet has its own twists and is a unique, fitting setting to the story. Jameson C. Smith has plans for a sequel as well.

You can find her at: https://www.jamesoncsmith.com/

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The first in the Beaumont and Beasley series, The Beast of Talesend is a great amount of fun, with a really clever sense of humor and a twist on the idea of fairytales and magic being real or not. Kyle Shultz has plans for more books set in this world, and he’s currently working on an audio version of the first release.

You can visit him at: http://kylerobertshultz.com/

I’d also like to try releases by Ichabod Temperance (https://www.amazon.com/Ichabod-Temperance/e/B00J71862M/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1), Alexis P. Johnson (http://www.phoenicianrises.com/), and Nadine Brandes (http://nadinebrandes.com/). All of these authors maintain a social media presence, they’re very approachable and won’t bite, and their work sounds very interesting, refreshing, just fun, or all of the above.

And now, because, I’m sorry, but it is my blog, here’s a moment of shameless self-promotion:

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Not to toot my own horn too much, but Masters and Beginners, the first in my YA fantasy series The Order of the Twelve Tribes is receiving very good support/acclaim on Goodreads, and for this I am intensely grateful and humbled. If you’d like to purchase a copy, please contact me (details can be found under my header or in the sidebar). I have a paperback for sale, as well as a digital edition, and there are still the limited edition mini-subscription boxes available.

Okay, I won’t ramble on about myself too much. Do check out all these other authors, and support their art!

blogging, books, Encouragement, reading

Reading Slumps

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What’s a reading slump? Only the most terrible thing in the world, ever, for a bookdragon. And yet, they are inevitable. Every now and again, you’ll realize that you just don’t feel like reading anything.

Your usual styles/authors/subjects just aren’t sparking interest. You feel terribly bored, or let down by a genre, or you simply crave something different, yet every new book you take a look at feels destined to fall flat.

Now that I’ve struck terror into the very depth of your souls…

Here are some ideas on how to get through a reading slump.

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Don’t push yourself too much. If you feel like you should be reading, there’s simply no need to feel that way. A major reason I’ve decided not to do ARCS is because I don’t want to be on a deadline and not inspired to read the work in question. Even as an author, someone who relies on volunteer reviewers getting a critique out in a timely manner, I still totally support bloggers who choose to limit the number of ARCS they include in their schedule.

Try something outside of your usual loves. If you tend to gravitate towards contemporaries, pick up a historical fiction. Not sure if steampunk is your thing? Give it a go. Never read a James Patterson or a Kristin Hannah? It’s what the library is for.

It’s actually okay not to read anything for a bit. Yes, you heard that right. If you go for a few days, or even a few weeks, without finishing that novel on your shelf that you started last year, truly, the world will not end, I promise.

Attempt a re-read. Not sure anymore what happened in book 5 of Harry Potter? Book 3 of Percy Jackson? Do you have Me Before You or A Monster Calls marked as “read it” on your Goodreads account, but you’re honestly not sure if you’re just thinking of the film versions now?

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Now, what about this dreaded prospect?: You’re a book blogger, so putting new content on your site kind of makes it necessary that you read new stuff. Well, in the event of a reading slump, I have you covered there, too.

Find a related topic to discuss. Like a trend in publishing that bugs you — like if there are dystopias everywhere, or road trip novels, but you’d really prefer to see an uptake in pirate stories or new sorts of mythological/legend re-tellings.

If you like to do tags, catch up on a few of those. Or join a weekly theme that doesn’t rely on recently completing a new read. Top 10 Tuesdays are usually good for this, because the theme often relates to books you’ve already finished.

Consider reviewing a book you read a long time ago that you decided not to review before. Maybe because it was a novel outside of your usual genre, or was it a biography, or a collection of poetry? There’s no rule about the type of reading we “have” to be reviewing.

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The most important thing to do is: don’t panic. It really is all right — and probably natural — to hit a reading slump. And it happens for all kinds of reasons — whether your life is busy, or the latest publishing trends just aren’t your thing, or even looking at a towering TBR makes you go, “Meh.”

One day, this will be over. I promise.

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blogging, community, reading

So, You Want To Be A Book Blogger

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Note: Do not ask me for tips on origami. I borrowed all these photos from the internet, and I do not make any animals out of paper.

So, being a book blogger is now a thing. If you’re a reader/fangirl/fanboy, blogging about it means a big community (where geeks can all band together to take over the world), where you can find like-minded souls to share the hype and the flops and the overall love for books. It is good.

However, like with all good things, humans tend to forget that “in moderation” is really the best motto for life, and now book blogging is developing its own issues. For example, the “echo chamber” — meaning we all seem to be getting excited about and promoting the same authors and series. And the very sad notion that if someone disagrees with your review, they need to be strung up by their thumbs. Truly, this is not the sort of environment we should be cultivating.

So, here’s my advice for those of us just starting out in this interesting internet culture.

Along with creating the design/layout for your blog, plan which social media sites to join and how to link them to your own site. Of course, you hope that this will be fun. But, realistically, it’s just as much fun to see your stats go up, and know people are experiencing your content. So, after you place posts on your blog, you need to let folks know it’s there. One of the best things I did for boosting The Invisible Moth’s visibility was to join Twitter. Lots of book bloggers really like using Instagram or Facebook as well.

A personal note on social media: You don’t have to do all of it. Find the sites that you feel are easy to use, have a community you’d like to be a part of, and connects others to what you want to share the most.

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Choose which sort of books you want to review most, but let yourself break the mold every now and then. If you mostly read fantasy, it’s totally fine to build your foundation on fantasy fiction. But if there are certain classics or fluffy romantic contemporaries that just really stir your soul, feel free to share those with your readers, too. After all, it is your blog.

Having a posting schedule helps, but it’s not necessaryIn my experience, declaring that you will, without fail, be posting every Monday, Wednesday and Friday is not realistic. Things happen. You’ll get sick, go on vacation, misplace the charger to your laptop, need to make an emergency trip to the vet…and your post won’t get uploaded that day. And nothing’s wrong with that.

Don’t feel compelled to only read the hot new releases you see “all” the other bloggers featuring. Last year, I realized that there’s a big problem within our community — I’ve read other posts that refer to it as “the echo chamber syndrome.” Indeed, it seems that there aren’t just 4 or 5 people discussing the new Cassandra Clare/Rick Riordan/Nicola Yoon/Marissa Meyer publication, these are the only discussions going on anywhere, and “everybody” loves them without any dissent. Hey, guys, I’m sorry, but there are plenty of other books out there to read, and if you just don’t care for a novel/series that the majority of your community seems to adore, that’s really okay as well.

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Doing tags or challenges is optional. Honestly, I’ve given up doing these, as well as weekly themes, because I simply don’t have the time, and I’d rather be someone who posts discussions/topics I came up with on my own. There’s no right or wrong; a lot of newcomers feel it’s expected of them after another tags or links them. You can if you want; but most bloggers won’t hold it against you if you opt out.

Don’t feel bad if you hit a reading slump, or aren’t sure what to review this week, or even just want to hide from the world for a while. The great thing about maintaining an online presence is that you control how much of it is in your life. Sometimes bloggers need to take a break (the local vernacular is “on hiatus”), either because physical life is requiring your online stuff to take a backseat, or you’re just not feeling the posting/tweeting/instagraming vibe. And all of that is just fine.

Most of all, keep it fun. Unless you’re one of the rare breed who’s being paid to blog, you’re here for fun, so it needs to stay that way.

Having a platform to share my thoughts on things that are close to my heart has been very rewarding. But a major part of what’s made it worthwhile is all the super-supportive feedback and conversation I’ve received from the visitors to my site. That’s what makes this ongoing project really special.

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art, blogging, books, Fantasy fiction, reading, writing, Young Adult fiction

How to Make Those Pesky Tropes Work for You

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Yes, you read that right. For those of us in the know, we cringe when we see the word “trope” in a book review. For those of us scratching our heads and wondering what the heck I’m going on about, a “trope” simply means an overused theme in fiction, and some authors apparently devote entire series to using as many of them as possible. And they are more prevalent in certain genres than others (YA, anybody?), and fantasy fiction has been falling prey to them lately.

But just the existence of a trope isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Generally it indicates that a particular theme or idea is popular, so, as an author, you may consider including popular things that your audience may be asking for. (If, you know, you want to actually sell your work.) However, this can also backfire very easily, when too many people write a trope in too short a span of time, and then the audience gets tired of it.

So, how can we authors take advantage of some tropes that may actually a) fit our story, b) we in fact like them? Here are a few thoughts on how to shake it up and stay true to our cause of producing unique work.

To begin with, remember that no one’s book is truly original, and that’s totally okay. We’re all influenced by the storytellers to come before us. We’re living in an advanced age of humanity, there’s a lot of influence to draw on. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t seem to come up with something that hasn’t been seen on this planet yet. It depends on what you do with your influences, as to how unique your writing is.

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Tried-and-true tropes that just need a different spin to still be successful:

Examples: the love triangle, insta-“love”, the chosen one (or, the “special snowflake”), bad/absent parents, and throwing every kind of tragedy conceivable at the hero/heroine.

Okay, let’s start with the love triangle and “insta-love.” When it comes to YA fic, these can be dangerous if portrayed in a way that suggests falling into complete love with the first person you lock eyes with at a party is normal, or that not only will you have one potential boy/girlfriend but you’ll fact have 5, all fighting over you. Is it impossible to believe that — especially in close social circles, as teens tend to have — more than one person would have a crush on the same girl/boy? Nope, not at all. But does this inevitably result in pistols at dawn? Good grief, no. We’re in the 21st century here. And might you be at a party only because your friend begged you to go, and over by the punch bowl you see a totally attractive person with a great smile and a fantastic dress sense, and in your head go, “OH MY GOSH, I LOVE THEM”? Yeah, of course. But that does not mean they’re about to propose and buy you a sailboat and pounds of chocolate and novels. And it is very important to make the difference clear to impressionable young people.

In The Order of the Twelve Tribes, I included romantic situations that the adolescents involved are possibly over-thinking how serious it is, and that’s actually quite a healthy lesson for teens. (Being the parent of a 14-year-old myself, I am definitely concerned with him not planning on marrying his very first crush.) Through the rest of the series, I’ll be exploring how the couples grow as individuals, learning about themselves and what they want, along with how to be a good partner. (Which should lead to a lot less dysfunction in their adult lives…)

Anyway, so how about instead of always having one girl and two boys making fools of themselves for her affection, let’s try — a) the girl tells both of them to go away, b) after she strings them along, the guys tell her to shove off, c) it’s two girls after the same boy who ultimately decide being friends with each other is more valuable.

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Moving on to the dreaded chosen one, aka the special snowflake. It became a big deal with Harry Potter, and therefore a bit jaded soon after, as there were a plethora of trilogies or series (The Maze Runner, Divergent, Legend, Percy Jackson) released in quick succession focusing a variation on that theme. The unique thing about Harry Potter was that he didn’t know he was considered the “chosen one,” and had never thought of himself as anything special. Then he rose to the challenge, anyway — even though we found out in book 7 that it was never confirmed Harry was the chosen one.

Now, that’s a twist. So, how about more twists? Instead of the chosen one being groomed from birth (think King Arthur), he/she — a) avoids their “destiny” at all costs, by running away to a far land to herd llamas, b) turns out not to be amazing and powerful but really rubbish, c) was mistaken for the real fated hero, but decides to give it all they’ve got.

We’re up to bad or absent parents. Come on, folks, let’s do away with the way there are never any consequences for neglectful parenting in fiction — a) the family is irresponsible, so your protagonist ends up in a loving foster care situation, b) the dysfunctional home life results in a tragedy that creates intense character growth, c) we think the parents may be dead but are in fact alive, and simply in hiding to protect their offspring.

(For The Order of the Twelve Tribes, I went with the last. And for the record, when push comes to shove, she steps up to the plate.)

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And, please, let’s do stop throwing every kind of tragedy conceivable at the hero/heroine. I wrote an entire post earlier this year about how important happy endings are, even to dystopia and fantasy. (You can use the search bar to find “It Is Not Too Much To Ask For A Happy Ending” if you missed it.) Anyway, my view is that, while it’s (unfortunately) realistic to have some bad things happen to your characters, readers need to have hope and the opportunity for life to be okay for these fictional beans they’ve grown attached to. (And I will be writing this way, too. There will be losses, but not the absolute entire end to the complete and total universe. There will be love and peace as well.)

So, instead of endings like in Mockingjay and Allegiant, what about — a) broken friendships are restored, b) only half the major characters get killed (remember, most of them survived in The Deathly Hallows), c) after winning the war, rather than becoming a devastated husk of a former human being, the narrator quietly retires to a farm to raise teacup pigs and does not suffer from PTSD for the next 743 years.

Trust me, your readers will thank you.

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Autism, blogging, Encouragement, family, Parenting, writing

Mothering and Writing

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So, this was the next most-voted-for on my Twitter account poll. For those of you who don’t follow my Twitter feed and may be wondering what the blazes I’m going on about, I’m referring to the fact that, while I was sick, I truly had no energy/time/inspiration, but knew that eventually — like, when I was no longer sick — I would desire to post something on the blog (if nothing else, so you all knew I was alive). Anyway, I decided that the honorable tradition of asking your readers really wasn’t such a bad notion; so I placed a poll on Twitter — “what do I post about next?”

And, here we are: *mothering and writing*.

As most of you know, I am beset on a daily basis by two underage beings, one small, one taller than me, who are both under my charge and my jurisdiction. In human speak: I am a parent. (To three if you count the cat.) So, I spend a fair amount of my time cooking for the small thing, cleaning up after his destruction, making sure he participates in his physical and speech therapy home sessions, and that he doesn’t conquer Mars without a signed permission slip. (Oh, who are we kidding, Muffin sets no score by what I grant him permission to do.)

And White Fang, when he’s not in school, needs constant reminders to finish his chores, finish his homework, eat something, and prepare his dirty laundry for the washer, because he is a teenager and Minecraft is more important than anything else. And so, between all of this, there are days when writing (which I have now turned into my livelihood) becomes the challenge.

How do you balance being a parent with being a writer? the unnamed pollsters were undoubtedly yelling at their screens (and praying for answers they could use in their own lives). Well, I truly hope I don’t cause more yelling, but the fact is, not one thing works for everybody, and I can only relay what has worked (generally) for me, and honestly wish you blessings on your schedule and accomplishment.

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First, it’s all about time management. If your kids are in school, then you have the chance to dedicate the morning or the afternoon (on that day with no errands or chores or appointments) to writing, or editing, or goofing off on the internet and calling it “research.” But, no, seriously, when you have the opportunity to work, don’t squander it on trying to find the best middle name for your protagonist or determine what breed of dog their great-uncle owned in 1989. Just write — the major stuff, like the plot — and even if you end up cutting out a lot later, know you’re at least you’re making progress.

If your kids are still small (like Muffin), and need more attention than the ones who walk and talk and can do a lot for themselves, take advantage of naps, or find a babysitter for Wednesday afternoons — just write when you can. If you need to type everything because of ease or quicker achievement, do so. (Personally, I prefer to start with paper and pen, because working around the random scribbles when a pen was stolen, or an occasional grubby fingerprint on the page, is a lot easier than trying to cope with the computer being turned off when you’re halfway to your word count goal for that day.)

If you can, take a short vacation by yourself, and create your own writer’s retreat — send the kids to grandma’s once a month, or go to a favorite cafe once a week. (The latter sort of thing never works for me, because I can’t concentrate when I’m around other people vocally debating whether they want mocha or vanilla shots in their espresso.)

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Something that really helps me organize and plan my schedule and my plot is participating in Camp NaNoWriMo (which isn’t the contest, but more like a workshop). You can find like-minded individuals to bounce ideas off, whine to, or cheer each other on. Thank heavens it’s only twice a year ( because I also need to do marketing, and blogging, and take showers and even leave the house once in a while). But every few months, it’s important to make sure I’m on the right track with my WIP, and not wandering off into Neverland following a totally unrelated minor character or origin story for their pet lizard.

And it’s a really big deal to remember why you write. Is it a hobby, something you can put off for weeks at a time, and honestly be all right with? Or is it a sort of calling, a venture that you feel is necessary to include in your life? Do you dream of seeing your work in print, for the world to share? If so, then you truly need to put in the effort.

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blogging, Fantasy fiction, The Invisible Moth, writing, Young Adult fiction

Author Q & A

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Just what it says on the tin… These are from my Goodreads author page.

Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?

Watching too much “Supernatural” and reading too much “Warriors”. (Honestly.)

How do you get inspired to write?

Mostly by what I read and watch. But also by song lyrics and things like paintings and photographs. Visual beauty.

What are you currently working on?

Volume 2 of the series. (As yet untitled, because I have the decision-making power of a sleeping llama.)

What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

Just keep trying. Don’t give up. Even when you feel like everything you produce is utter rubbish, don’t doubt your ability to create something important and special. It does take a lot of literal sweat and tears (and blood if you count papercuts on your hardcopy editing manuscripts). Listen to Churchill – “Never, never, never give up.”

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Is there? Kidding. The creation of something that was in your head to page and text. Seeing your fictional world come alive.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

Scream a lot. Throw a pillow. Rue the day you decided to attempt this venture.

No, seriously, step away from your WIP. Maybe for a long time. Try writing something else, or nothing at all for a bit. Try reading new material, or watch a fun movie – distract your brain.

What mystery in your own life could be the plot for a book?

Why my husband loses his glasses so frequently, and where do they go when he’s sure he set them down elsewhere than the spot we find them in.

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Autism, blogging, books, cats, children's fiction, Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

Warriors Update: The Prequel, The New Series, and Upcoming Extras

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Wow, it’s been, what, approximately 364 years since I did a Warriors update? (Please, no one double check the archives for an actual date. I just know it was a while back.) Anyway, I was doing really well at posting pretty regular updates with my progress on this epic. Then I hit the snag of: I joined NaNoWriMo, I was trying to get Volume 1 published, and I wanted to read other things (not just juvenile fiction) for a little bit.

And (moment of personal weakness being admitted here) I got really, really nervous about how I’d feel about the prequel series, Dawn of the Clans. So, I’ve been avoiding it. Yes, I know, bookdragon sin committed. But the further we go into the advancing of the new series (more on that in a minute), the more I’m realizing that the authors are definitely hinting at: we are about to come full circle. The whole series will probably soon draw to a close.

(Of course, everybody also thought that after The Last Hope — book 6 of Omen of the Stars, which we all figured was going to be the conclusion. Then last year the publisher started releasing A Vision of Shadows.)

So, anyway, what I’m indicating is this — I am an intense bookdragon when it comes to Warriors, and the idea of it all actually, officially coming to an end… Sorry, that distorted sound you hear in the background is aching, broken, Vulcan tears.

Yes, I am totally aware I could just start re-reading from the very beginning — and catch up on all those novellas, super-editions, field guides, and manga I am behind on. (Never let it be said that this publisher leaves their fans wanting more.)

But my point at the moment is: An unfortunate part of being an autistic bookdragon is struggling more than the average bookworm when a favorite series finishes. (And don’t we all know that this earth-shattering event is difficult enough to deal with?!) So, I’m honestly hoping (probably a bit too strongly) that the authors develop a spinoff somewhere in the near future (like, by 2018).

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Also, Warriors is the only series that has totally sucked in my heart and soulAfter I completed The Prophecies Begin (the first 6-book set in what became the much greater series), I sat in a daze for about three hours, and had these thoughts: How in the world am I ever going to read anything else, ever again? Nothing can possibly compare now. And, how can I write something even a tenth as good?”

These authors found a way to make you care, deeply, passionately, obsessively, about what happens to this group of fictional feral cats. Most adults would see that it’s told from the animals’ point of view, and that it’s labeled as juvenile fiction, and go, “Okay, a fun thing for the kids,” and never think of picking it up themselves. But trust me, Warriors has more than enough drama, heartfelt moments, and subtle discussions on serious issues to satisfy “grown-up” readers, too.

I’ve waxed poetic about this series in several other posts. My obsession — er, my devotion still stands. Recently, we received #3 of A Vision of Shadows (the newest set of will-be-6 consecutive novels) on the actual release day (because I was smart and pre-ordered for a change). White Fang got it first (because I’m nice like that); but will be getting #4 first. Trying to get him not to give me spoilers was a NIGHTMARE.

Here’s White Fang reading it in his room: “WHAT?!?! NOOOO…. OH MY GOSH!!! Twigpaw!!! Onestar!!!”

Here’s me in my kitchen (with my hands over my ears): “LALALALALALA…”

Yes, really, I’m almost 38 years old.

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And here’s White Fang about once a month: “You know, Mom, you haven’t finished Dawn of the Clans yet.”

And I bought him the box set as a late birthday present, so now I don’t have the excuse of having to wait for the library to have them all in.

Blast it.

On top of all this, I have successfully whittled down my Goodreads TBR to almost nothing. I actually completed my GR challenge, before May, people! So now I’m down to only a few more re-reads I wanted to do in 2017, and then I…I will actually have nothing new to read.

We all know this is the absolute worst scenario for a bookdragon.

Except, with the entire set of Dawn of the Clans sitting there on White Fang’s shelves…

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Hey, on the plus side, when I do finish it, I can write a post about it (and how much it destroyed me).

Then I’ll be able to wipe away the guilt from my conscience because I don’t get the references in the fan art for the prequel.

But then, what will I write next about Warriors? Because I know the next instalment isn’t for sale until November (sob!!!).

Uh, super-editions, novellas, field guides, manga, that I just mentioned a few paragraphs above?

Okay, I get it; I’ll stop being such a baby.

Look for a review of Dawn of the Clans to hit this space in the near future.

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