WINTERTIDE ALBUM TOUR – Announcing The Release of a Delightful Wintry Album!

good morning, cyberspace!

Y’all, I have some INCREDIBLY exciting news to share today! Recently I was contacted by a dear friend to help spread the news of a brand new Christmas Album, WINTERTIDE, which released just last week! Ever since the album dropped on Friday, I’ve been streaming the music on Spotify and falling absolutely in love with the beautiful guitar and vocals… It’s honestly the perfect wintry backdrop to the cozy snowfalls we’ve been having here in Michigan, and I could not be more excited about sharing this release with you all!

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NaNoWriMo, 2021 – Week Two

good evening, cyberspace!

It’s currently the evening of Monday the 15th, and I’m sitting here trying to type up an accurate summary of the past week with an insane amount of difficulty.

The goal? Get this post drafted and posted by the end of the night.

The struggle? This week was a blur and I don’t even know what timeline I’m living in anymore, let alone what happened within the past seven days.

But alas! We are officially entering the third week of NaNoWriMo, and I must not let it slip past without acknowledging the week that came before it! So Week Two Recap, here we come!

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Know The Novel – Part Two: Within Project Sunset

good morning, cyberspace!

And we are back with another episode of Know The Novel!–the monthly writer’s linkup hosted by the inimitable Christine Smith! Last month, I talked about the (non-spoilery) details surrounding my current WIP, Project Sunset. This month, we’re going to take a deeper look into the process behind the writing!

If you’re a writer participating in NaNoWriMo–or even just a writer working on a book–I would highly recommend checking out this linkup. You can find the questions to Part One here, and Part Two right here! This linkup is such a fun way to connect with other writers, as well as a much-needed gentle reprieve from the absolute chaos that is writing a book in one of the craziest months of the year, so if you’re not participating already (or if you’ve never read Christine’s blog before), do yourself a favor and check both of them out immediately.

Or, ya know, after you finish reading this post. Because I’m also cool, apparently. XD

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NaNoWriMo, 2021 – The First Week

happy november, cyberspace!

I was going to do a whole introduction post for the first day of NaNoWriMo last week, but alas alack, sometimes things don’t go according to plan.

Whoopsies Oops GIF

The past two weeks have been silent here on my end of the blogosphere, but let me tell ya, folks: that time away was used for some much-needed rest. I have exactly 0 regrets. XD I’ve definitely missed being present on the blogs, though, and now that I’m back, I thought it would be fun to jump back in with a Weekly NaNoWriMo Recap! It’s crazy to think that we’re already a solid week into November, but I guess time truly does fly when you’re having fun! *awkward laughter*

Let’s take a look at the first week of NaNo, shall we?

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PREPTOBER 2021 – Behind The Scenes of The Project Sunset Playlist

good morning, cyberspace!

And welcome back to the 2021 Preptober series! Today’s post is a little more on the lighteared and fun side, which I feel provides a nice little relief from the nitty gritty topics we discussed last week. This particular idea wasn’t voted on too heavily during the Instagram polls, but some of y’all really wanted to see what I had up my sleeve in regards to my Spotify playlists! And who am I to tell you no? If it’s behind-the-scenes content you want, it is behind-the-scenes content you are going to get!

So without further ado, let’s dive into my playlist for Project Sunset!

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BEHIND THE SCENES OF PROJECT SUNSET – THE PLAYLIST

Not gonna lie, this playlist was one of the highlights of drafting Project Sunset. I absolutely adore creating playlists, specifically ones with themes or inspiration for character casts, and this one is by no means an exception. The creation process of this playlist was a labor of pure and intense love, and I am so excited and proud of how it turned out. (and since we’re only just beginning the second draft, I have a feeling it’s only going to grow as time progresses.) However, since this is a Behind The Scenes sort of deal, I feel it is not only necessary, but my duty to share the nitty gritty details behind some of the song selections. Because there is a LOT of thought that goes into choosing a song for a story playlist, my friends. A lot of thought.

And at the forefront of my mind at all times, no matter what song I’m listening to, there are the characters.

I’ve mentioned multiple times that I’m a character-driven writer, so it’s by no means a surprise when I say that my playlists are typically driven by my characters, as well! One of my favorite things to do when learning the “voice” behind the cast of my novels is to find songs that perfectly match their unique personality. And since Project Sunset has so many characters, I have quite a few songs that are character specific.

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THE SONGS BEHIND THE CHARACTERS

ED WHITTAKER

As the Main Main character of Project Sunset, Ed Whittaker’s main theme is technically double-sided. Not only is it his theme, but it’s the Main Theme for the entire novel as a whole! He also has two theme songs in particular, whereas the majority of other characters only have one–thus is the curse of being a side character.

behind the scenes: this is Ed’s Main Theme song, and also one of the very first songs I chose for this playlist! When drafting the first scene of the novel, Song For Ten was the track I listened to in order to orient myself into what I wanted the vibe of the book to be. I still use it to reorient myself into the novel, even, and when I switch over to re-outlining later today, this will be the first song I play before working on my outline.
behind the scenes: this particular song has a very specific part to play in the story of Project Sunset, and I have listened to this track a LOT during the first drafting process! There’s something about the guitar in this song that gets me every time. XD

SHELBY WESTBURN

As the other main character of Project Sunset, Shelby’s theme song is, once again, directly integrated into the plot. I discovered her song while listening to Pandora one day, and it immediately stuck in my head. I knew that it would play during a pivotal scene for Shelby (one that I had planned since the very inception of this novel), but trying to find the song after it stopped playing on our Alexa was nothing short of a nightmare. (curse you, lyric-less music XD)

behind the scenes: not gonna lie, the scene this song was chosen for may or may not have brought tears to my eyes when I drafted it. I’m… not exactly excited to get back to it during the second-drafting process. (even I’m not proud of my Vulcan soul sometimes, friends.)

LIAM FITZ

Not necessarily a Main Character, but still one of my favorites–Fitz’s theme song is one that I still jam out to to this very day… I even went so far as to add it to my work playlist so that all of my coworkers could jam with me. (it’s fine. they love me. kinda.)

behind the scenes: I actually used to HATE this song, and I’m not entirely sure why. Thankfully, I wizened up, because holy guacamole, this song is a bop. Now I can’t help but think of Fitz every time I hear it, and it makes my heart weirdly happy. Any day where Fitz pops into my head, I know it’s gonna be a good one.

CARLOS & JUANITA GUTIERREZ

Not gonna lie, these guys impacted the playlist a LOT. XD Carlos and Juanita love music–particularly songs they can dance to–and there are at least two or three songs on this playlist that they directly influenced due to their passion for dance. However, the song that I’ve chosen to highlight was their “first dance”, if you will. It was also my initiation into actually enjoying some of Michael Buble’s music, which I still blame Carlos and Juanita for to this very day.

behind the scenes: this song is what I envision to be playing in the very first scene in which Carlos and Juanita are introduced. It makes my heart happy to listen to this song now, because all I can see are these two characters being absolute goofballs. (also, a bit of a side tangent, but one time I was working at my old thrift store job, and a guy with the same last name as these characters came through my checkout line. I was so excited I might have fangirled for a moment…and then they never came back.)

BONUS TRACK!

behind the scenes: Another song that is specifically Carlos and Juanita! This song used to come on ALL THE TIME at the thrift store, and I would dance through the aisles, hanging up clothes and trying not to look like the delusional psychopath that I definitely am.

EUGENE CRANDALL

To be honest, this guy is such a minor character that he probably shouldn’t even have his own theme song. But one day my mom started playing this randomly during dinner and… well, honestly the rest is history.

behind the scenes: to be perfectly honest, I have no clue why this song reminds me of Eugene, but if you know the character and his personality… it just… it just makes sense, okay. Trust my word on this one. XD

SAM PLINKETT

Similar to Eugene, this is another minor character who somehow managed to get his own theme song! I can’t really complain, though, because Sam was one of my favorite characters to write during this first draft. He was unpredictable and chaotic, but with a soft heart of gold that made my own Vulcan soul melt. If I’m excited about anything when it comes to this novel, it’s for you guys to meet Sam Plinkett.

behind the scenes: I first heard this song on The Blacklist, which is–oddly enough–where a few of the songs on this playlist came from. XD (tbh, The Blacklist had a BOP of a playlist, so if you haven’t checked that show’s soundtrack out yet, I highly recommend it.) It wasn’t until much later that this song would appear on this playlist, but I love that about music. It’s eternal, in a way, and sometimes the songs you heard a year ago won’t click until they’re meant to.

CASEY CRAWFORD

And last, but certainly not the least, on the flipside to Ed, we have our antagonist–Casey Crawford. And if Ed, our hero, has two songs dedicated in his honor, it only makes sense for the villain to have two songs, as well.

Parallels between Good and Evil and all that.

And that, my friends, is exactly why Casey has two songs! (that, and two songs claimed him organically, so it only made sense to feature both) The songs I chose for Casey are not only ballads, but by one of the greatest musical artists of our time… The man. The myth. The legend. Scott Sterling! Freddie Mercury.

behind the scenes: I’ve always loved Queen, but it wasn’t until Project Sunset that I was finally able to give one of my villains the Queen ballad that they truly deserved. XD I don’t know what it is about this band, but there is ALWAYS a Queen song on each of my story playlists. Always. It literally makes no sense.
behind the scenes: not to give away any spoilers or anything, but the selection of this song was pure genius on my part. Once you know, you know.

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THE SONGS BEHIND THE BOOK

Despite the fact that there are about a gazillion characters in Project Sunset, not all of the songs on my playlist have a specific character to correspond with. Sometimes, a song makes it through simply because it matches the vibe of the book–that particular blend of guitar riffs and vocals that takes you away from this mortal plane and deposits you swiftly into the world of your story.

So while the next few song highlights may not be driven by any character in particular, they are still driven by the story as a whole, and without them, I could never have captured the sound of Project Sunset.

behind the scenes: once again, this song was added very early on when creating the playlist. I knew right away that I wanted Istanbul to be a main staple for this book, and this song along got me through many a tough scene when first drafting.
behind the scenes: if you’ve ever watched a movie in which this song played, you will know the impact it can have during a critical scene. I don’t pride myself on my action/fight scenes. In fact, I think they’re one of my greatest weaknesses as a writer. But this song pushed me through the difficult battles and helped me keep writing, even when my brain was screaming at me to quit and become a goat herder.
behind the scenes: …yeah. I got a lot of my music from The Umbrella Academy. I mean, can you BLAME me? XD That soundtrack was a BOP. But also, I’m just eternally in love with Fitz and The Tantrums. They’re incredible, and they’re music has been used in many of my playlists–both writing and personal.
behind the scenes: I have used this song in almost every single project playlist I have ever made. There’s something about the vibe of this song that just screams “found family”, and I’ve been in love with this track ever since the days of everlost.
behind the scenes: not gonna lie, the only reason I’m including this song is because it reminds me of my one eternal love, Jim Moriarty. That’s it. That’s the Behind The Scenes information. XD

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THE PLAYLIST

And lastly, in case you just wanted to take a peek at the playlist as a whole and listen to it for yourself, I’ve included the entire thing right here for easy access!

Of course, please keep in mind that this playlist is still very much a work in progress, and I’m constantly adding and removing tracks as I see fit. Some songs help me write for a little while before I realize they don’t match the specific vibe I’m going for, and then I’m forced to remove them to make room for the tracks which do fit the vibe. But all in all, this playlist has been–and will continue to be–my constant companion when drafting Project Sunset. And as I prepare to head into this story’s second draft, I expect it to continue morphing and changing with the theme of the story.

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talk to me, peasants!

Okay, y’all! It’s time to talk about one of my favorite topics–MUSIC!

do you create specific project playlists for your stories, or do you prefer to work in silence? if you’re a music listener, what kinds of songs do you typically listen to when writing? and for my non-music friends, do you create playlists to listen to when you’re NOT writing, or do you prefer other methods of inspitation–such as pinterest or aesthetic boards?

As always, let’s talk about ALL OF THE THINGS down in the comments below!

* flings cookies in the air and disappears *

PREPTOBER 2021 – Know the Novel Linkup: Re-Introducing Project Sunset

good morning, cyberspace!

Today’s Preptober post was a wee bit impromptu, but GUYS. My favorite linkup has officially returned for the chaotic NaNoWriMo season, and there’s no way I could do a Preptober series without participating! Know The Novel is a linkup created by not only one of my favorite bloggers, but one of my favorite humans, as well! Christine Smith is the sweetest, most kind-hearted individual you will ever meet, and if you’re not already following her blog, I highly recommend checking it out!

Know The Novel is a yearly linkup set within the final three months of the year. There are different “themes” for each linkup, and this month’s theme is Introductions! So without further ado, for anyone who’s interested in the novel I’ll be working on next month, here’s all you could ever hope to know (and that I’m comfortable sharing) about Project Sunset (SK)!

Fun Fact: I actually did this linkup for Project Sunset way back in 2019 when I first decided to draft this novel! Buuuut, since so much has changed between then and now, I figure it wouldn’t hurt to “re-introduce” this book to the blogosphere! If you’d like to take a peek at the previous entry, however, here’s the link!

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PREPTOBER 2021 – My NaNoWriMo Survival Kit: Rebel Edition

good morning, cyberspace!

It’s that time of year again, folks! NaNoWriMo is on its way, and for our first Preptober 2021 post, we’re bringing back a yearly tradition! That’s right! It’s time for this year’s NaNoWriMo Survival Kit: Rebel Edition!

honestly the only reason I’m claiming my rebel title this year is because it reminds me of the Rebel Alliance. do NOT judge me. XD

This year’s survival kit is a wee bit different than years’ past since I’m revising a novel rather than first drafting it, but there are definitely some familiar staples I’ve included! Also, I’ve been trying to fit most of this stuff into my writing bag, and it’s… kinda chunky at this point? Almost back-breaker level chunky. I definitely will not have a hunch by the time this NaNoWriMo is over from hauling this guy all over the place. Absolutely not.

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A Long Overdue Writing Update & Two Exciting Announcements

good morning, cyberspace!

I can’t believe that this is the last post of September. This month has absolutely flown by, and now that I’m sitting at the end of it, I couldn’t tell you where on earth all the time went. The Silmaril Awards have been happening–and if you haven’t managed to check out the Awards Ceremonies yet, I highly encourage you to do so!–and I think I got so swept up in the thrill and excitement of the Silms that I might have forgotten to reveal some very exciting news that happened back in August. (tbh, I might have already told you all about this, but I can’t find a single trace of it anywhere on the blog, so please forgive my cornflake of a brain cell XD) So while I wanted to jump on in here and tell you all my exciting plans for October, I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be able to do that until I patched up some untold information in regards to my current WIP, Project Goblin.

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A LONG OVERDUE WRITING UPDATE

So! Last we talked, I believe I was telling y’all about my grandiose plans to try and enter Project Sunset (or SK) into Pitch Wars this year. That, as we all probably could have predicted, did not happen. Of course there was some slight disappointment in regards to this, but all in all, I’m actually not all that sad about it. I knew September was going to be a giant chunk of a month regardless of whether I participated in Pitch Wars or not, and after about the first week of September, I realized that Pitch Wars just wasn’t gonna happen. One month wasn’t near enough time for me to redraft an entire novel–at least not to a point where I was proud of it and willing to let potential mentors look at it–so I decided to drop the idea of Pitch Wars before it could consume me and swathe September in a blanket of anxiety and dread. (and between you and me, it was one of the best decisions I made all month)

But all of this talk and dreaming of Project Sunset begs a very obvious question: what happened to Project Goblin? Astute readers of my blog, followers of my Instagram, and listeners of my everyday life will know that Project Goblin has been my WIP for the past 6 months or so. It’s been one wild adventure after another with that book ever since its birth in 2018, but after some careful consideration, I have decided to no longer work on that book for the time being.

Because I finished its first draft back in August.

Yep! You read that correctly! Project Goblin is no longer just a thought, but a messy, chaotic, plot-holey mess on my hard drive! The characters are a little warped, the setting is a little deprived, and the overall story arc resembles more of a limp noodle than an arc, but my goodness it’s finished! At least, the really sloppy first draft is finished, and that is obviously the hardest part.

I feel like I might have mentioned the fact that I finished this book somewhere in a blog post a month or so ago, but for the life of me I can’t remember saying it. So I’m saying it now! Project Goblin’s first draft is over and done with, and after a much-needed month-long novel hiatus (in which I read good books and essentially just stared at a wall in contemplation for four hours a day), it is my greatest pleasure to announce that I’m back to drafting and ready to dive in to another project!

Which is perfect timing, if I do say so myself, because–*another announcement incoming!*–I’M PARTICIPATING IN NANOWRIMO THIS YEAR!

excitement GIF

Except I’m not participating in the traditional sense of the word. In fact, one might even say that I’m rebelling entirely. But I’m definitely going to be working on a book during the month of November, which obviously means that I’m a perfectly reliable Wrimo, and no one can tell me otherwise… *brandishes pitchfork menacingly*

Ahem. Anyway. Now that I’ve clarified where I’m at with Project Goblin and have announced my rather sketchy participation in NaNoWriMo, you might be wondering… what AM I working on during the month of November? And this, my friend, is a very solid question–and also one that I’m more than happy to announce!

The book that I’ll be working on for NaNoWriMo this year is none other than Project Sunset! (a.k.a SK. a.k.a. oh my word I need to stick to a name for this book already) Despite the fact that I wasn’t able to enter it into Pitch Wars, I still very much want to have a solid second draft of this book done by the end of 2021. It would make this slightly terrifying year feel slightly more productive than it currently does, and also… I’m just so beyond ready for people to be able to read this book already. I know there’s still so much left to do before it’s reader-ready, but a second draft would be one more step closer to that final goal, and that alone makes me excited and inspired to dive in and do the hard work necessary to accomplish that.

However, since NaNoWriMo is still a month away, and technically I’m not QUITE ready to start revising this novel yet, I’ve decided that one more exciting thing should happen between now and November. Something a little bit bloggerly, but also a little bit writerly. And what is this Thing, you might find yourself wondering? What exciting diversions do I have in store for all my NaNoWriMo peeps during the month of October? Well……..

*drumroll please*

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PREPTOBER 2021: The Beginning

For anyone in the NaNoWriMo-sphere, you already know what Preptober is. For those of you who maybe aren’t quite as familiar with this hobgoblin of a writing event, allow me to explain!

Preptober is, essentially, a month long event in which hopeful Wrimos spend the 31 days of October prepping their novels–and themselves–for the 30 days of intense, grueling writing which is to be done during National Novel Writing Month (November). Typically, I don’t do Preptober. I usually pin down what book I want to write somewhere between October 20th and Halloween (#procrastinationftw), do some very minimal prep-work, and then wipe my hands of the mess and call it good. XD But THIS year, since I’m revising a novel and–hopefully–coming out on the other side with a partly revised second draft, I decided to do things a little bit differently! This year, I’m gonna be going all out with my Preptober planning, and you guys get to come along for the ride!

I recently did some polls over on my Instagram page asking for y’all’s opinions on some of the topics I wanted to cover this month, and you guys absolutely delivered! Currently I have 5 posts in the works which cover everything from my re-outlining process, to what’s inside my NaNoWriMo Rebel Survival Kit (a yearly staple at this point XD), to the mentality behind writing. It’s going to be an intense month of writing and prep and all of the delicious creativity, and I am 100% here for it.

All in all, October is going to be packed with writing and work and Halloween and two of my favorite humans’ birthdays, and I’m so excited for all of it. Autumn is the time of year where I truly thrive, and with NaNoWriMo just on the horizon, I sense beautiful magical wonderful things on the way! So thank you all for sticking around and putting up with my slightly chaotic posting schedule as of late. It hasn’t been as consistent as I’d like, but I’ve been managing to get something posted every week, and in this crazy season of life I’m in, I consider that a pretty big win! So here’s to October and all of the craziness it throws our way! Let the Spooky Season officially commence!!!

*maniacal cackling in the distance*

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talk to me, peasants!

are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? if yes, what project are you working on? are you sharing it on the cyberwebs, or are you keeping it private until it’s finished? if no, what sorts of beautiful wonderful magical things are you doing during October? let’s talk about ALL OF THE AUTUMN things down in the comments below, my friends! And as always, until next time…

* flings cookies in the air and disappears *

The 2021 Silmaril Awards: Wisest Counselor Awards Ceremony

The Smudged Thoughts stadium has been filled once again, noise and bluster bubbling out over the stands and onto the large, paneled stage. It has been quite a time since the last interview was held here—quite a time since this particular room has been used at all, in fact—but it is obvious that the ceremony being held here today is one of grandeur and importance. For one thing, there is not an empty seat in the house.

For another, there is cake.

The cake and tea has not been touched yet, however—end of party things, you know—but judging by the restless shifting and murmurs sweeping their way through the room, some of our less amused guests are wishing they’d made it to the desserts table before taking their seats.

It would appear as if clocks are running a little bit behind.

“What do you mean he’s not here yet?” a voice hisses in the corner. The cameramen swing their lenses towards a hushed little huddle, where two security guards (are those wings?) try to calm a very frazzled looking girl out of a frenzy.

It doesn’t look like it’s working.

“Miss, it’s not that we haven’t tried—“

“Call him again!”

“Miss—“

“Call him. Again.” The girl smooths out the skirt of her green and white polka-dot dress with a huff, pulling out some of the wrinkles. “And I shall calm the crowd.”

The two security guards exchange a look that clearly states they don’t believe her capable of calming a corpse, but they do as she says and bustle off, fingers tapping on tablets as they try to reach the mysterious force who hasn’t yet arrived for the party.

The girl climbs up the three steps carved into the side of the dais and grins, waving her fingers towards the stands as she plasters a smile on her face that resembles that of a very panicked Cheshire Cat. She adjusts the thin headset connected to her ear and breathes in deeply, stretching her arms out to encompass the entire room.

“Friends! Family! Most esteemed members of the fictional realms! I welcome you one and all to the sixth ever Silmaril Awards!”

A hush has entered the stadium, followed by a thin ripple of confusion that makes its way through the stands like wildfire.

“Hang on, where’s the old guy?”

“Late again, I’d say. For a very important date…”

“Never on time, nohow.”

“And contrariwise, he’s always off it.”

Kenzie’s grin slips for just a moment, but she quickly catches herself and claps her hands together, the sound reverberating through the room, catching everyone’s attention. “Ah. Yes. I see you’ve noticed our little hiccup this morni—“

“DRAGON!” The scream rents throughout the circular room, making even the punch bowl quiver on its table, and several people in the back row scream bloody murder and duck into the stands, covering their heads.

“NO NO NO,” Kenzie shouts, waving her hands as a group of archers rise out of the stands, bows nocked and at the ready. “NOT THAT KIND OF HICCUP! DON’T SHOOT! There are no dragons here! None! This is the Awards Ceremony for the Wisest Counselors, you heathens!”

Kenzie’s voice shoots through the stadium, and the archers pause for a moment, glancing down at her with skeptical eyes.

Kenzie releases the world’s heaviest breath and laughs nervously, manic energy in her eyes. “My goodness gracious, you guys really know how to tizzy yourselves up into a flurry, don’t y—?”

“NIGHT FURY!” one of the archers shrieks, and they cock their bows once more. This time, someone lights a match and sets the arrows ablaze.

“THAT IS NOT WHAT I SAID!” Kenzie shouts, but no one is listening. The archers are searching the skies, their flaming arrows ready for takeoff at the first glance of a dragon. Somewhere near the rafters, a shadow shifts. Before Kenzie can call them off, the archers shoot.

Three flame-tipped arrows speed towards the ceiling and hit their marks, torching the rafters until flames light up the wood. Kenzie’s jaw drops open, and she watches as the rafters split apart, revealing bare patches of bright blue sky above them. Fire drips down like raindrops into the awaiting crowd, and screams lace the stadium as humans and fae alike dive for cover.

Somewhere near the back of the room, a door bangs open, and twenty or so men in black suits race into the room, their backs stitched with the bright white words—FIRE SQUAD.

The Smudged Thoughts security team clearly isn’t taking any chances after last year.

The fire is dealt with swiftly, refugees returned to their seats with awkward shuffling and more than a few grumpy looks from the fire squad, and soon everyone is back in place, not a stitch out of line.

Except, of course, for the giant, gaping maw now punched into the roof of the stadium.

Kenzie stares up at the hole for a moment longer before returning her gaze once more to the gathered crowd. Her composure, it would seem, is thinning.

“Thank you,” she says through a grin that feels more like gritted teeth, “for that lovely display of showmanship. I will most certainly be reporting you to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and Civilian Safety later today. But for now, as I was saying, there are, in fact, no dragons here. This is the Awards Ceremony for Wisest Counselor, and we are gathered here today to honor the Wisest of Counselors among us. Those placed within the Top Five slots of Excellency, voted in by you—our lovely viewers.”

A wave of understanding ripples through the crowd, voices breaking through the general round of “ohhhh’s”.

“Ah. See that makes more sense. It explains the beards, at least.”

Kenzie’s eye twitches, and she folds her hands behind her back, presumably to keep from strangling anyone.

“Normally, this award is presented by none other than Gandalf the Grey, but it would seem as though our esteemed wizard is running by a very different kind of clock this morning, so I shall—“

A thunderclap storms through the room, and a sharp, blinding white flash sears the middle of the stage. Kenzie topples to the side, nearly falling headfirst off the stage before managing to catch herself. The light disappears as quickly as it came, and a second later, it has been replaced by none other than a tall, wizened old man with a long, haggard beard. His slouching gray hat is a little lopsided on his head, and he pulls it straight again as the crowd erupts in applause.

“Lovely entrance, my dear fellow! Absolutely splendid!”

“Gandalf!” Kenzie gasps. Her braids have become slightly undone by the frenzy, and they have now taken on a slight “mad-scientist” frizz. “Gandalf the Grey! You are LATE.”

Gandalf calms the crowd with a small pat of his hand, and the crowd settles in, watching the proceedings with renewed vigor. “Ah, my dear girl. A wizard is never late. Nor is he early. However, he arrives precisely when—“

“YOU ARE LATE, YOU BLASTED OLD FART!” Kenzie stomps one foot against the stage, and the sound ricochets through the room. “You are late, and you will be receiving a write-up for this! Just wait until Jenelle hears about this one, I swear… This is the last time I’m hosting this thing indoors. Blasted dragons and fires and magic happening this way and that… Last year was an absolute mess—“

“Ah, yes, well you were in the presence of a very dark wizard…”

“A dark wizard!” Kenzie scoffs. “Very dark, indeed! But you know who wasn’t late last year? You know who arrived precisely when he was supposed to?!”

Gandalf opens his mouth as if to answer, but Kenzie beats him to it.

“SARUMAN!”

Her shout echoes through the room for a moment, and she clenches her eyes shut, squishing her palms together as though trying to regain some semblance of control over the situation. Another deep sigh follows, and when she reopens her eyes, there is a slight—but promising!—look of acceptance there. “You know what? It’s fine. This is fine. Just… continue the ceremony, will you? I’ll be over there. By the cake. Definitely not stress eating a hole into the center of it.” Kenzie tips a hand against her head in a salute before bouncing off the stage, heading in the general direction of the desserts as her grumbles fade into the distance.

“Blasted wizards. Always disappearing and reappearing and never showing up on time. Oh, just WAIT until the others hear about this one…”

Gandalf blinks after her for a moment, but clearly does not think much of his late appearance, for he returns to the crowd with a smile crinkling the corners of his eyes and the edges of his beard. “Welcome back, dearest of friends, to the 6th Annual Silmaril Awards. Why, I remember when this award first started all those many years ago. What an honor it is to continue handing out this most coveted jewel to those worthy of receiving it.

“In my hands I hold the names of five very worthy contenders for this year’s Silmaril. These Counselors have sustained hardships and trials, good days and bad. They have led those beneath them to victory time and again, though the perils stacked against have been great. They have tutored and protected, taught and—like a very old man I know who befriended the most unexpected of hobbits—perhaps learned a little themselves along the way.” Gandalf offers up a smile, and somewhere near the middle of the crowd, someone lets out a soft “aww…”

“But enough about me. Today we are gathered to celebrate the finest among our Counselors. Those who have gone above and beyond the extra mile to counsel those who need it. These mentors have put aside their own personal gain to create a future which is better for all—a future built by the hands of a younger—sometimes wiser—generation—and today, it is my pleasure to bestow upon one lucky member of our group a Silmaril worthy of highest admiration.” With a sweep of his hand, Gandalf produces a glittering Silmaril out of thin air, letting it dangle before the awe-struck crowd, its shine brighter than that of a thousand diamonds.

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A collected “oooooOOOOOOOOOOOoooh…” races through the room, and Gandalf’s eyes twinkle with the faintest of mischief before he waves his hand again, swiping the Silmaril out of sight.

“Now, now, my dear hobbits—“

No one tries to correct him.

“—I am very excited to reveal who our winner is today, but first, we must acknowledge those who did not quite reach such a bar of excellence. They are, however, very much worthy of mentioning. Celebrating, even. And who better to celebrate than a very dear old friend of mine.

“In fifth place, with 12% of the vote, we have Rayad of The Ilyon Chronicles!”

The crowd erupts in cheers as Rayad—a calm but powerful figure—climbs the short stairs set into the sides of the stage, waving one hand behind him as though to quiet the crowd which has turned into hysterics.

“It would seem as though you have quite a set of admirers, old friend,” Gandalf says through a smile, clasping Rayad’s hands firmly between his own. “You’ve been a contender for this award before, have you not?”

“Many times, Gandalf, many times,” Rayad answers. The words are quiet, but they carry across the stadium easily, laced with a soft good-naturedness. “It is an honor simply to be standing here today.”
The audience claps politely as Rayad takes his spot in the center of the stage, hands folded behind his back. He nods at the crowd, and Gandalf raises his hands for attention.

“In fourth, with 15% of votes… Nia Wingfeather from The Wingfeather Saga!

Applause launches through the room, followed by a “get up there, lass!” as Podo—Nia’s father—practically shoves her out of her seat. Three young children laugh and cheer louder than anyone in attendance as they watch their mother climb onto the stage. Face burning, she takes Gandalf’s outstretched hand.

“Congratulations, Nia,” Gandalf says kindly, bowing her through to stand beside Rayad. “I think I can speak for all of us when I say that your wise counsel has made the lives of your three children all the greater, indeed.”

“Th-thank you…” Nia manages. Her eyes shine with pride, and when Gandalf guides her towards her spot beside Rayad, her steps are confident and sure. Her eyes, however, are scanning the crowd, and when they finally land on Janner, Tink, and Leeli, she beams.

“Very good, very good,” Gandalf calls. “With three counselors left, it is my deepest pleasure to introduce our third runner-up, with 17% of your votes, Rendar from Moonscript!”

Once more the audience implodes with applause as an ethereal figure rises from the front row. He steps onto the stage with a sophisticated sort of grace, his long, flowing locks of white-blond hair trailing out behind him. A soft smile plays at his lips as he takes Gandalf’s hand.

“Gandalf. What a pleasure to be here.”

“The pleasure is ours, Rendar, most certainly.” With a sweep of his hand, he indicates the spot beside Nia, and Rendar moves to take it, nodding as Nia and Rayad offer their congratulations.

The energy in the stadium shifts, excitement coursing through the crowd. Children and adults alike wriggle uneasily in their seats, waiting.

Watching.

Expectation hangs against every breath.

Gandalf lets the excitement simmer for a moment before folding his hands against the long, knotted staff he leans on. A hushed silence falls across the crowd, and the twinkle in Gandalf’s eyes glitters even more mysteriously.

“We have come, at last, to our final two Counselors. In second place, with 18% of votes—Beana from Tales of Goldstone Wood!”

Cheers—and more than a few giggles—explode through the room as Beana bounds up onto the stage, hooves clacking against wood as she prances over to Gandalf happily. Somewhere in the audience, someone shouts, “Aw! A goat!”

Gandalf smiles down at the nanny goat as she approaches, his voice echoing across the chamber. “Congratulations, dearest Bettina. I’m sure Varvare will be most pleased to see you’ve come this—“ Gandalf’s words cut short as Beana’s sharp teeth sink into the edge of his long gray cloak and start chewing, shredding a hole into the fabric within seconds.

“Far…” Gandalf finishes dully. “Er… could someone please remove the goat?” Gandalf asks, trying his best to gently nudge her away.

Beana simply bleats angrily—her mouth full of gray cloak—and continues to chew.

“BEANA!” Kenzie stumbles back onto the stage, tripping slightly on a loose floorboard as she makes her way over to the pair in the center, hands shooing the nanny goat away from Gandalf without any effect. “NO! How many times have we talked about this?! We do NOT chew on people’s clothing!”

The nanny goat dodges out of Kenzie’s reach and prances across the stage with an enthusiastic bleat, joining the other three in the line of runners-up. Rayad tries his best to hide his smile as Nia bends down to give Beana a scratch behind the ears. Rendar surreptitiously scoots away from them all, positioning his cloak as far from the goat’s well-used teeth as he can.

In the center of the stage, Kenzie mumbles an apology to Gandalf and retreats, leaving the wizard to frown down at the hole in his cloak for just a moment before repositioning the smile to his face—though now it looks a little more forced.

“Well. It would appear as though we’ve arrived at the moment we’ve all been waiting for,” Gandalf says, sweeping his arms out wide, his staff dangling from his fingertips. “With a stunning 38% of votes, the winner of this year’s Silmaril Award for Wisest Counselor is…

“PUDDLEGLUM FROM CHRONICLES OF NARNIA!”

An explosion of applause blasts through the stadium, cheers and screams alike drowning out the sudden raincloud of a creature making his way slowly to the center of the stage. Gandalf sweeps his hand once more, and the sparkling Silmaril is clutched once again in his fingers, ready to bestow upon the neck of this most Wisest of Counselors.

“Puddleglum, my dearest Marsh-Wiggle! I am truly honored to give you this award today. The public has spoken, and you have clearly earned it.”

“A mistake once more in the counting, I’m afraid,” Puddleglum answers drearily. “Isn’t possible—no, I shouldn’t even consider—I couldn’t possibly have earned three such awards, Gandalf. It can’t possibly be as you say. In fact I’m most certain that the other two before this were simple mistakes, themselves… Still haven’t managed to find the true winners of such awards… Couldn’t possibly be mine, not at all…”

“Nonsense. You were born for this Silmaril, my dear Puddleglum. Your—er—wisdom has proven itself true time and again. Only the wisest of counselors are worthy to wear this Silmaril, and you, my dear lad, are most certainly worthy.”

“Words you were payed to say, I shouldn’t wonder. Given a pretty penny to inflate my ego. I suspect the Lady of the Green Kirtle had something to do with this, yes? Perhaps I should surrender all three of these shiny things, before she comes for me at last…”

“Puddleglum, now really—”

“And with such terrible thunderstorms on the way, most certainly. I shouldn’t wonder that this is a prank. Just give it to the goat, Gandalf. She deserves it more than I, after all.”

“I will not be giving it to the—did you just say thunderstorms? My good lad, look at the sky!” Gandalf points towards the heavens, where the hole blasted into the rafters by the flaming archers drips with sunshine and birdsong. “There isn’t the faintest chance of rain today. In fact, I’d say there’s a greater chance that the votes were miscounted than there is for a thunderstorm on today of all days.”

Puddleglum looks less than pleased with this, and Gandalf quickly tries to resteer the conversation away from such depressing topics before the Marsh-Wiggle can continue. “Puddleglum, all I ask is for a little trust. You deserve this award, and all the Silmarils which came before it. The public adores you. They believe you worthy. That is enough.”

Puddleglum sways slightly, confliction evident on his face. “Well… I suppose if you’re certain… and it hasn’t been a mistake this whole time…”

“My good Marsh-Wiggle. I can assure you that there has, nor will there ever be, such a mistake made.”

“Well then… I suppose it would be a dishonor to those who voted if I didn’t take it, then… And I shouldn’t wonder at the offense that might be taken if I were to refuse…”

“There would certainly be some matter of offense, I’m sure,” said Gandalf.

“Well, in that case I should certainly take it. And better off, anyhow. If the Lady of the Green Kirtle comes looking for it, better she find me in possession of such a treasure than the others. I shouldn’t wonder that this is why I’ve been chosen. Placing a target upon my head rather than theirs. It only makes sense, after all, for me to the bearer of such a burden…”

Gandalf looks as though he’s about to argue, but Puddleglum finally wraps his long fingers around the Silmaril, and whatever the wizard was about to say is lost in the relief of the Silmaril no longer being in his possession.

“Well, my good fellow, I certainly wish you all the best in your endeavors. I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say you’ve definitely earned this award.”

Applause thunders once more through the auditorium, and the crowd rises in one sweep to their feet, cheers threatening to crack open what remains of the roof with its shocking swell. Puddleglum seems rather flustered by such attentions, and he holds the Silmaril at arm’s length, as though worried it will suddenly come alive and bite off his arm.

“Well, I shouldn’t wonder that some people think otherwise… Certainly there are naysayers in every group, but I suppose, with 38% of votes… well, surely there is some sort of merit in that.”

“Yes, yes, most certainly.” Gandalf seems more than eager to get Puddleglum off the stage now, and he turns back to the audience, whose applause has begun to dwindle. “Ladies and Gentleman, this has been the 2021 Awards Ceremony for the Wisest Counselor. Thank you all for attending, and don’t forget to check out the desserts table on your exit—“

A thunderous crackle ripples through the room, crashing down through the hole in the ceiling with the weight of a thousand charging giants. Gandalf’s voice fizzles out, and his eyes turn skyward just as the first fat drops of a thick rain-shower leak through the open rafters.

“Impossible…” he murmurs.

Lightning cracks the sky, splitting the darkening clouds into slits, and Puddleglum wilts as rainwater splashes down on top of his head.

“My dear Marsh-Wiggle,” Gandalf says, his hat turning limp with the sogginess of rain. “You have–despite all odds–correctly predicted the most impossible weather!”

“I’m sure nothing good can come of it, however,” Puddleglum answers gloomily. “I shouldn’t wonder that it’s some sort of prank or other. Most likely someone trying to make a mockery of me…”

Gandalf doesn’t have time to answer. Rain is now falling in sheets through the ceiling hole, and the camera lens turns to shreds through the trickling raindrops. Outside, thunder crackles, snapping into a tree until it cracks in two and crashes down into what little remains of the auditorium roof, which now begins to crumble and plummet with renewed vigor. Panic slices the room, and soon everyone is stumbling out of their seats, trying to avoid the enormous waves and rafters now crashing down from a quickly darkening sky.

Stampeding feet storm from the bleachers, creatures and humans alike struggling to get out of the oncoming tide. Through the watery camera lens, a gray blur streaks across the stage, Gandalf’s beard just barely visible through the torrential downpour which floods the studio with rainwater and tree limbs.

“Fly, you fools!” Gandalf shouts, just as what’s left of the roof caves in around them with a thunderous roar.

The cameras cut off with a *click*.

>>> <<<

THE SILMARIL AWARDS SHALL RETURN…

…on September 27th! Make sure to check out Grace’s awards ceremony for Most Faithful Friend coming this Monday! And while you’re at it, if you haven’t read the posts already published this week, check out the awards ceremonies below for MORE Silmaril fun!

Most Silver Tongue… Jenelle Schmidt
Strangest Character… DJ Edwardson
Most Epic Heroine… E.E. Rawls
Most Mischievous Imp… Tracey Dyck

TALK TO ME, PEASANTS!

And just like that, another Silmaril Awards Ceremony has come and gone! Not gonna lie, folks, I cut the deadline for this one CLOSE. XD Life has been intense, and I honestly wasn’t sure I could get it finished in time. But thankfully–by some great miracle–we managed it!

Y’all, it is honestly such an honor to be a part of this Awards Ceremony. Hosting the Wisest Counselors has been an incredible experience, and compared with last year, I feel severely blessed. XD I think I’m gonna miss my little gang of advice-givers, though… My house already feels sadly empty. But seeing as though there’s now a giant hole in my roof over at the Smudged Thoughts studio, it looks as though I’ll have PLENTY of renovations to keep me occupied for the next month or so… (or two or three… aha… someone help me)

So tell me! What’s been your favorite part of the Silmaril Awards thus far? Personally, for me, it was getting the chance to write Puddleglum. XD (what a gloomy little fellow!) And also getting to stretch my creative muscle by writing characters I’ve never read before! It’s one of the most fun and intense things a writer can ever experience, let me tell ya. XD

But anyway, that’s quite enough chatter! (goodness knows this blog post is heartily long enough as is) Let’s get the conversation rolling! As always, let’s talk about ALL OF THE THINGS down in the comments below! And until next time…

*flings cookies in the air and disappears*

The Wisest Counselor Silmaril Award: Let The Voting Commence!

good morning, cyberspace!

Ahem. *taps microphone* Mhm. Yes. I do believe this is working.

Good morning, m’lords and ladies, and welcome to the 2021 Silmaril Awards Voting Round for The Wisest Counselor! It’s been a wild rush of a week tallying nominations and jotting down seconds, and I am SO excited to finally present you all with the five names for our Wisest Counselor finalists!

According to our dear readers, these are the top five wisest characters of our age immemorial. And while I’ve had the pleasure to room them–plus some 50 other nominees–in my home for the last week, I can honestly say that I can see why. I’ve had so much helpful advice thrown at me the past 7 days that I have no clue how I functioned as a normal human being for the past 22 years without it!

*eye twitches as someone’s voice floats from off-stage*

One can never have too many socks…”

ALBUS SO HELP ME IF YOU ARE MESSING AROUND IN MY SOCK DRAWER AGAIN–ahem… Er. Never mind about that… It truly has been an honor to welcome these prestigious souls into my home, but I must say I’m glad to kick most of them out I’m excited to narrow down the pool of contestants to a more… er… manageable number…

Beana has been stress-nibbling a hole in my carpet and there’s beard hair in my soup and oh my GOSH ALBUS QUIT POKING AT MY SOCKS!

Which brings us to our topic today, of course, which is The Top Five Wisest Counselors! I have our list of finalists right here in my hands, and it is my deepest honor to be able to share them with you all today! At the end of this post there will be a voting form where you can cast your vote and make your voice heard, so make sure to vote for your favorites! This is the last chance you’ll have to make your voice heard, so it’s VITAL that you vote!

The fates of the mentors are in your hands, my friends!

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THE WISEST COUNSELOR SILMARIL AWARD: TOP FIVE CANDIDATES

BEANA – THE TALES OF GOLDSTONE WOOD BY ANNE ELISABETH STENGLE

A once-mortal now gifted with immortality, Beana is a Knight of Farthestshore, who has been tasked with protecting a strange little girl, Varvere, from harm. Gentle and wise, Beana tends to hide her true human form beneath the disguise of a talking Nanny Goat (which is, you know, completely norm–BEANA PLEASE STOP EATING THE CARPET!), but no matter which form she presents, her motherly and no-nonsense nature never wavers.

RENDAR – MOONSCRIPT BY H.S.J. WILLIAMS

The king of Aselvia by fate, celestial by blood, Rendar is the kind, empathetic ruler of the realm of the earth elves. Though he’s now separated from his people, he’s still able to communicate with them through a valuable treasure known as the Moonscript. Rendar is wise, patient, and firm, and his guidance flows from his belief and closeness in Ayeshune.

RAYAD – THE ILYON CHRONICLES BY JAYE L. KNIGHT

Rayad is a member of the Resistance council in Jaye L. Knight’s beloved series, The Ilyon Chronicles. Though a bit rough around the edges—and a wee bit of a rebel (he may or may not be wanted by the emperor? *cough*)—he is a continuous source of wisdom and comfort to those around him—especially those he takes under his protective wings.

NIA WINGFEATHER – WINGFEATHER SAGA BY ANDREW PETERSON

Daughter of a chaotic ex-pirate and mother to three slightly unruly children, Nia Wingfeather is the epitome of a woman making the most of rather unfortunate circumstances. She is kind, understanding, and gentle when the world would have broken her, and she pours her wisdom and love into her three kids, whom she adores more than life itself.

PUDDLEGLUM THE MARSH-WIGGLE – THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA BY C.S. LEWIS

Puddleglum the Marsh-Wiggle is a rather dreary sort of fellow who resides near the river Shribble. With a slightly pessimistic approach to existence, this humble wet blanket still tries to make the most out of life, and is available for a word or two of wisdom when least expected. (his weather forecasts, on the other hand, may not be the most reliable source…)

>>> <<<

VOTE NOW!

*technically you only have to click the link once to vote for EACH of the 11 Silmaril categories, but make sure you hop around to the other blog hosts (linked below!) to get the full Silmaril Awards experience! Trust me. You’re not going to want to miss everything the other hosts have planned! <3

>>> <<<

I’ve gotta say, friends, having my house filled with Wise Counselors is a LOT easier on the insurance than last year… *shudders in remembrance* (I certainly hope that Jem is doing okay with all those villains this year… And also that Christine’s house hasn’t burnt down yet? *sweats nervously*) Yeah. The more I think about it, the more I realize how truly lucky I am to be hosting this particular award this year. I’m sure our Awards Ceremony is going to go as smoothly as can possibly be desired! Aha…

…right?

>>> <<<

SILMARIL BLOG HOP

Least Competent Henchman … Josiah Dyck
Most Epic Hero … Madeline J. Rose
Most Epic Heroine … E.E. Rawls
Most Faithful Friend … Grace Taber
Most Magnificent Dragon … Christine Smith
Most Majestic Ruler … Sarah Pennington
Most Mischievous Imp … Tracey Dyck
Most Nefarious Villain … Jem Jones
Strangest Character … DJ Edwardson
Silver Tongue … Jenelle Schmidt
Wisest Counselor … Kenzie Keene (you are here!)

talk to me, peasants!

eep! Here we go, folks! It’s finally time to vote for your favorites! So tell me: DID YOU VOTE? And most importantly, who do YOU think is going to win this year’s Wisest Counselor? I personally feel like it could go any which way at this point, but I’m so excited to see the results! (and also someone remind me to read the books these characters are from because OH MY WORD THEY LOOK SO GOOD….)

Let’s talk about ALL OF THE BOOKISH THINGS down in the comments below, and as always, until next time…

* flings cookies in the air and disappears *