oh, look, she exists // #CuriousWrenhappenings + incidentally I am still on this planet

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Currently: today is a quiet, mellow day. Later I’m going christmas shopping with the Older Sister and I have a chiro appointment, but right now there’s a cup of hot mint tea at my elbow and out the window I can see the bare limbs of the birch trees and the heavy, dark-green boughs of the pines swaying in the blustery November wind.

Thinking: about all the books I want to re-visit. Little Women. Brambly Hedge. The Mistmantle Chronicles. David Copperfield. Narnia. Lord of the Rings. Tales of Goldstone Wood. Johnny Tremain. Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates. Wind in the Willows. Pooh Bear. Tintin comics. Can someone please tell me the way to Gallifrey so I can st–borrow a TARDIS? Time shall not be the boss of me! [she says as she keeps one eye on the clock so she’s not late for her appointment]

Words Percolating: this verse from Ephesians chapter 5; “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.”

Listening: Enya. Sometimes you just need soft, breathy vocals to enhance your happy place.

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Reading: Three books. Anne of the Island because I started re-reading the entire series a couple months ago. I’m almost done with the third book and am falling more deeply in love with the magic and simplicity of Montgomery’s writing. She understood people at a level few authors have. Jane Eyre, which is a traditional autumn read of mine. I’m taking it slow because I forgot how despicable her relations were and it riles me every time I read. The only things keeping me from flinging the book across the room is my reputation and the fact that I don’t want to ding the corners of my precious copy. Les Miserables. [insert silent bow at all the various humans in my life who’ve been badgering me to read it]

Mood: Poirot when he sits down with the Perfect Cup of Hot Chocolate.

Loving: Thomas Newman’s soundtrack for Little Women // Modcloth’s thigh-high fox socks // Autumn-autumn-everything-autumnal // flannel plaid shirts that are just the right shade of rich blue // gingersnaps // inside jokes with my coworkers and our boss // the crackle of dead leaves crunching under my boots // stories that give me a nostalgic glimpse of my childhood // studies on What It Means To Be Holy // people who do not hesitant to hug you back // spontaneous outings with friends // writing at coffee shoppes // being a Sunday School teacher // Panera’s chai tea // Spiderman: Homecoming. I am so here for awkward + adorkable young superheros who don’t want to kill people and have homework and strict moral compasses and will fight you even though they are terrified and just want their Hero/Father figure to come save them // customer service people who go out of their way to make your day amazing.

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Anticipating: christmassssssssssssss — there are not enough letters in the alphabet to express how much I adore everything about the christmas season // Blogging again. I’m so excited to have cleaned the cobwebs off the door and stepped back over the threshold of Curious Wren. I missed all of you! // Nadine Brandes’ newest novel, FAWKES. Check out that gorgeous book cover // WAR OF LOYALTIES COMES OUT ON THE 30TH IM NOT HYPERVENTILATING YOU’RE HYPERVENTILATING. #WW1SpyNovelsFTW

Thankful: for every single day I have to spend with all my precious humans. More about this topic + the Reason for my Hiatus in the next blog post, Lord-willing. [she said ominously]

What are your Current Happenings, friendlies?

Of gingerbread and sibling-angst and space sirens and poison gardens // Beautiful Books #1

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Do you know what tomorrow is?

The first day of (Na)tional (No)vel (Wri)ting (Mo)nth.

*collective shrieking of writers all over the world*

This is my first year properly participating–unlike last year when I sort of forgot all about the fact that I meant to write the whole month long + life happened.

Am I nervous? Hah. I’m on the nervous level of a gingersnap on a cookie platter in front of a little boy right now.

Am I excited? YOU HAVE NO IDEA. I’ve counting down the days and I have this grand plan of getting up at 5:00 a.am on work days so I can write, and I’ve warned my family in advance that I may become a hermit, and–*flailing* so excited i become incoherent when i talk about it. Half of my excitement could be attributed to the fact that I am in love with my story, which reminds me of the whole point of this post: who wants to know what Annie is writing for NaNo?

FYI: I’m planning on writing most of my book in longhand–which is how I usually first-draft–so that means I’m aiming for a lower word goal that 50,000. Basically I am going rogue and turning NaNo into Camp NaNo.

(also FYI: some of you may recognize this as the book I worked on briefly for last NaNo. I’m hoping to finish it this time around. Absolutely. Definitely and for sure.)

Cue the Beautiful Books questionnaire hosted by Cait and Sky wherein I divulge never-before-revealed secrets of….

Witchling

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What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

Witchling is the book that was never supposed to exist. It’s actually the sequel to I am Juliette, the first book in my series of science fiction fairytale re-tellings. When I first started toying with the idea of a sci-fi Beauty and the Beast re-telling I sternly ordered myself to keep it a standalone novel because I have a very bad habit of spinning every story into a series. That would not be the case with I am Juliette, I declared.

*laughs at poor, ignorant, innocent Past Self*

(If we’re getting technically it was actually a character’s fault. He mentioned someone briefly in IAJ and, of course, my curiosity got the better of me and I had to find out all about said charrie. So, it is my fault? Never mind. Carry on.)

I think Witchling has been in the works for roughly a year and a half? And when I say “in the works” that means I have 10,000 words of the first draft written. Everything else is still in that lovely, ethereal realm of Not-Quite-Sure-What-Is-Happening-But-It’ll-Be-Glorious.

Describe what your novel is about!

a) it’s a Hansel and Gretel re-telling which makes me all the happy because I adore that particular fairytale almost as much as Beauty and the Beast. Largely because of the gingerbread house, I expect, but also because the children are such darling, intrepid humans and the story is quintessentially fairytale.

So think Hansel and Gretel.

But in space.

Futuristic space.

Creepy, futuristic space.

Hansel and Gretel in space + poisoned gingerbread and hypnosis and possible immortals and espionage and chilling assassins and double, possibly triple, secret agents and brainwashing and classical music and deadly gardens and foot chases and masks both visible and invisible.

What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like.

spicy scent of gingerbread. cold air and goosebumps. sharp needles. a soft, irresistible voice. vicious wolf. monochrome. lost siblings. shattered glass. morbid motley of dead people’s belongings. labyrinth. tiny white pebbles. stars glittering. innocent child-laughter. masks and mind games. light at the end of the tunnel. victorian greenhouse. break the cage. 

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Introduce us to each of your characters!

The Witchling. lost girl taken under a monster’s wing. she’s like a siren but one who lives in space + keeps a greenhouse and burns souffles on the side. broken sense of morals. collects mementos of victims. brilliant exploiter of people’s weaknesses. trickster sense of humor. feeds off adrenaline-filled situations. her true self is hidden behind a finely-crafted blend of masks–so deeply hidden she would not recognize it if she saw it. her insecurity is real. (also, despite her name she isn’t actually a witch. Just too mesmerizing and enchanting for her own good.)

The Wolf Master. monster with the face of an angel. Moriarty-complex. he doesn’t lurk in the shadows: he owns them. obsessed with people’s minds and souls. literally has no boundaries when it comes to “playing God.” taught the Witchling everything she knows. passionate swordsman. he only fears one thing, but he fears it so much he’s been running away his entire life.

Erik Halsey. skilled soldier with more secrets than anyone guesses. has an alarming knack of speaking bluntly. probably breaks down every locked door he encounters. will defend the people he cares about to his last drop of blood. kind of really hates politics and double-speak: is unfortunately involved in both. loves all cookies and just wants his own island in the middle of nowhere. eventually. there are children to do something about first.

Hans(el). fiercely protective older brother. heartrendingly precocious. ponders everything from all angles. has an aversion for dark rooms. will go sleepless and hungry rather than trust anyone. has picked up a decent amount of English alongside his native German. if you ask him for a hug he might bite instead.

Greta(el).  little ray of sunshine. anchor for her brother. hoards all things shiny. does the begging puppy eyes ridiculously well. barely talks and only in German. love language is touch.

How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)

  • Excited hyperventilating has happened.
  • Also moments of “WHAT IN CREATION AM I THINKING. HAVE I GONE MAD. HALPPPP.” Everyone assures me that I was mad to begin with so all’s well.
  • This list here has various elements + vital scenes that I want to incorporate into the novel.

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  • I rarely ever research for first drafts. I just let my imagination run about unfettered, and then fix the logic holes when I edited.
  • I bought myself pretty, new gel pens since I’ll be doing most of NaNo longhand + am collecting aesthetic imagery on Pinterest because I am a visual person + hashed out details with Other Humans + am doing a whole ton of praying because I don’t do this often enough about my writing and it’s kind of really important.
  • Why, yes, I have a chocolate stash specif. for NaNo. This is Annie we’re talking about. When do I not have chocolate and/or rave about it from the rooftops?

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What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

Honestly, the fact that it’s a Hansel and Gretel re-telling is enough to make me spazz happily—which I do a lot when I think about this book (I adore that fairytale if that isn’t perfectly clear to you by now).

I am head-over-heels in love with the cast of characters, and I can’t wait to spend more (and more, and more) time with them. Be still my beating heart.

Also, the sibling-angst is strong in this one. And I’m incorporating a non-romantic friendship between a man and a woman—which is something that matters a lot to me. Bring it on, gingersnaps.

*really just loves everything about this book* *could go on for hours* *must be considerate, my precious*

List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

  1. Long corridors and monochrome colors and sharp corners. There is no happy medium of light in the Wolf Master’s city—it’s either blindingly bright or faint enough that dark, looming shadows are everywhere.
  1. Trees. Black trees with silver leaves and tangled branches and long scars across their trunks. Faint whispers. Snapping twigs followed by long silences.
  1. A kitchen with lots of high stools and brightly colored stoneware dishes. The smell of good things baking. A candy jar half-filled, and floury work surfaces, and warmth from the stove. Mugs of steaming hot chocolate. There may be gingerbread. Possibly.

What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

Fulfilling each and every one of her orders to the utmost degree of perfection. What stands in her way? Hansel and Gretel and, ultimately, herself.

(Keep in mind that these are the Witchling’s goals at the beginning of the book. Lots of shenanigans and morally grey situations go down after that.)

How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

By the end of the novel the Witchling’s world has been turned upside-down. She’s started to think for herself, to make her own decisions, she’s realizing what she thought was truthful, was right, might not be at all—and it discomforts her a lot more than she likes.

How has she changed beyond that?

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(you knew it was coming at some point)

What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

I put a lot more of my heart into this book than I initially realized and, whilst I am Juliette feels like a healing book to me, Witchling has more of an element of digging deep, of bringing dark things to the surface, of brokenness and what that means in a person’s life, of staring untruths in the face and saying “I refuse to believe you. I refuse to let you shape who I am.”

I have an idea of how I want readers to feel but I don’t think I can put it into words yet. BUT. I do want them to be really, really eager to find out exactly what happens to the Witchling and the rest of the charries in the next book.

If you’re participating in NaNo what are you writing about? And if you aren’t a writer, whose stories are you stalking next month? TELL ME ALL.

 

In the mood for Gothic! Nostalgic! Whimsical! Magical! Mystery! Cozy Reads! // #AutumnTBRTower

  

Autumn. The nip of chilly air. Trees blushing rosy red. Dead leaves rustling like paper in the wind. The scent of bonfires and ripe, sweet apples. Something about the Fall season always makes my bones tingle with the longing to read, read, read….

— Me from this post last year.

I adore fall. Everything about it. The crisp air that makes you snuggle deeper into your flannel and pull out your wool socks and mitts and cozy things. Brilliant tones of scarlet, gold and orange painted across the landscape by a generous hand. Hayrides and pumpkin pie and cider so hot it feels like it burns your bones, art exhibitions and mission conferences and cute, heeled boots and geese flying off into the horizon.

I could go on for ages, but I shall refrain because a) you might fall asleep over the laptop and that would be all the sads + highly uncomfortable + Not Recommended, or b) we would never get to the truly important part of this post which, obvs, involves BOOKS and LISTS and (you guessed it) BOOKS.

Since after all, what is fall without a delightful, pretty stack of books that you probably won’t even read half of, but just looking at the stack and your list of said stack gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling right down to your toes?

#AutumnTBRTower

(aka. all the excite + hyperventilating because FALL and GLORIOUS BOOKS TO BE HAPPY WITH)

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Jane Eyre — ugh, excited to re-read this, Booklings. So very excited. The atmosphere is perfect for autumn, all deliciously mysterious and creepy and simply overflowing with old English castles and foggy days and dark secrets and brooding masters-of-the-house. Jane is a heroine dear to my heart and her story is beautiful. #allthelove

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Dracula — I blame the Oldest Sister for this. She read Dracula this January and proceeded to rave all over the house about it like a cute, but hyperbolic maniac, and then bought me a copy for Valentine’s Day (we buy books for each other on this holiday. it’s great). Clearly I must read it for the sake of my safety from sisterly terrorizing, at least. she is the most lovable human, tho, really. i promise.  To be strictly honest–always a good thing–I started reading it during our recent holiday trip, but then I decided to wait until fall because for certain books ambiance is key. Actually, I am thoroughly looking forward to digging into it because the instant October arrived I’ve been in the mood for melodramatic, Gothic books and I want to read them allllll. The good ones, obviously.

Also, I have an allegorical vampire high fantasy in the planning stages which means research needs to happen. SO RIDICULOUSLY THRILLED ABOUT THIS STORY/PLOTSY THING. It’s been in percolations for a while + I want to smash all the sparkly vampire cliches to dust and show vampires for the dark, twisted, unlovely creatures they were. Not something to glamorize and swoon over, y’all. *gently nudges soapbox away from Self*

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Rebecca — speaking of Gothic literature, I have heard lots of good things about this from several friends and it sounds just like my cup of tea.

Jane of Lantern Hill — This was on last year’s list too… well, then, apparently I like re-reading favorite books in the fall. Nostalgic, cozy reads are in high demand currently, that’s for sure. I can’t wait to snuggle up with this book and immerse myself in the wonderful world of Jane and Dad and the ice-queen Grandmother, and cats with special names, and food descriptions that make me hungry every time I read them. I love this book so much it hurts.

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The Sherlock Holmes stories — for obvious reasons.

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The James Herriot books — I’ve known about this WWII era Yorkshire veterinarian all my life, we grew up on his books for children, and just recently my entire family fell in love with the BBC TV show (disclaimer: it has a goodish amount of swearing and some inappropriate moments, but other than that it’s wonderful). My Older Sister has read the All Creatures Great and Small series and I decided it’s high time I do too. They sound full of all manner of hilarity and good-old British culture and loveliness, and if they’re anything like the TV show I’ll not regret I picked them up.

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A Time to Die — How! Have! I! Not! Read! This! Yet?!! *crawls away in abject shame*

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Inkspell — I need more Dustfinger and Meggie and Mo and deliciously magical book quotes in my life.

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Scythe — I want this book for three reasons. 1) I love Neal Shusterman’s writing. He knows how to use the little details, how to grab a person’s attention and make them think. 2) have you even read that premise? NEED. BOOK. NOW. and 3) the cover is pretty. so pretty.

I fully intend to pre-order it at some point, but right now… *gestures at tweet*

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What is on your autumn reading list, Wrenlings?

 

epic villains (and the traits we love about them)

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(because we all have to agree that Kylo Ren has a pretty sweet helmet)

It’s no secret among the people who know me that probably about 50% of my favorite characters in books + film would be the villains. And I decided that a post looking into this was long overdue since, after all, I have class (*said in British accent*) and don’t just like any bad guy. I mulled over the villains I do enjoy reading/watching (incidentally I am listening to The Imperial March as I type this) and narrowed it down to the specific traits about a villainous character that makes them leave their mark on my memory.

(so if you want to know how to write bad guys that Annie will enjoy, read on)

Moriarty (BBC Sherlock)

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psychotic genius.

Not going to lie: mental people who are also brilliant terrify me, whether in books or movies or real life. You could argue that Jim Moriarty’s insanity stems directly from his abnormally high IQ level, but no matter what the reason is, this guy should have been put in a straitjacket long ago. But, he is clever and when a bad guy makes me slack-jawed in horrified awe because the twisted brilliance of their plan is nothing like I anticipated…. I love it, humans.

unpredictable.

Granted, Moriarty is predictably nuts, but you never really know how it’s going to break out and if he’s just going to start shouting mid-sentence or instead decide that he’s bored. And when Moriarty is bored, be very afraid.

humor.

He’s horrible, he has no sense of decency, he would force you to commit suicide and smile while you do it, but he still manages to make me laugh out-loud every episode I’ve seen him in. So, either he has some really funny lines or I have a messed-up sense of humor. (tell me I’m not the only one who cracks up laughing whenever Moriarty breaks into the Tower of London. #dramaKing)

creep factor.

If you have a psychotic villain it’s bound to get creepy real fast. Yay for bad guys who are actually frightening.

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Gollum (The Lord of the Rings)

wily, wily worm.

Gollum is a crafty character and all the more so because it’s easy to underestimate him. There’s nothing like being controlled by a magical ring for years to make an already sly creature even more cunning. And it doesn’t help that he does the puppy eyes so well.

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humor.

“Yes, perhaps, yes,” said Gollum. “Sméagol always helps, if they asks – if they asks nicely.”
“Right!’ said Sam. “I does ask. And if that isn’t nice enough, I begs.”

Just the way he puts his sentences together is funny. Then put him and Samwise in the same scene and comedy gold happens.

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 sympathy points.

“And so Gollum found them hours later, when he returned, crawling and creeping down the path out of the gloom ahead. Sam sat propped against the stone, his head dropping sideways and his breathing heavy. In his lap lay Frodo’s head, drowned in sleep; upon his white forehead lay one of Sam’s brown hands, and the other lay softly upon his master’s breast. Peace was in both their faces.
Gollum looked at them. A strange expression passed over his lean hungry face. The gleam faded from his eyes, and they went dim and grey, old and tired. A spasm of pain seemed to twist him, and he turned away, peering back up towards the pass, shaking his head, as if engaged in some interior debate. Then he came back, and slowly putting out a trembling hand, very cautiously he touched Frodo’s knee–but almost the touch was a caress. For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, an old starved pitiable thing.” 
J. R. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

I cry every time I read this scene. I’ve discussed Gollum’s character many times and at great detail with my various fellow Tolkienites and we all agree that the saddest thing about him is that he had potential to tear himself away from his dark path, but the hold of the ring over him was so strong that every time he considered it something happened to keep him back. He is such a pathetic, pitiable creature and his story breaks my heart.

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Kylo Ren (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

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unpredictable.

A (not-quite-Sith) who throws temper tantrums and wracks havoc on inanimate objects when he’s angry? Yes, please. Uncontrolled bad guys are great because you never can quite predict how they will react (except that it will be explosive) and if you haven’t seen Kylo Ren demolish expensive equipment you’re missing some LOL moments in your life.

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actually does bad things.

When there’s a villain you expect them to actually be, yunno, villainous. So Kylo Ren torturing Poe, killing people instead of just threatening to, and generally being the darker version of his grandfather at that age is satisfying. Even if it does break your heart when he commits some of the deeds he does. *calmly drops Ren off the edge of a cliff*

struggles with the light side.

Talk about intriguing. I love, love this factor of Kylo’s character. The psychology of a Sith is interesting anyways, but when you have one that’s drawn more to the light than they are to the dark, and hence is constantly trying to prove to themselves that they really are as bad as all that…. Excuse me while I do a happy dance over all the fascinating moral quandaries. Which brings me to:

potential for redemption.

You may or may not want him to be redeemed (I’m still torn on that score), but Kylo Ren has serious potential for either an amazing redemption arc or else the possibility of becoming an even darker and terrifying villain. To quote Mirriam Neal:

“Kylo Ren has so much light still left in him that he has to physically cause himself pain in order to keep fighting, because the Dark Side feeds off pain. He is the antagonist, the protagonist, and the battleground of his own story. One thing about true Sith is the fact they are ruthless when harming others to further their own ends. They don’t care if they’re hurting someone else, and this is obviously not Kylo’s case. Kylo isn’t fighting Rey with mere anger or a heartless, stoic demeanor – Kylo is on the verge of breaking down, he’s holding back tears, he is fighting with himself as much as he is with Rey, if not more.

I find it hard to believe that the franchise would present us with such an emotional, sympathetic character if they weren’t planning to give him a redemption arc or, at the very least, giving us an even larger conflict to follow in the coming movies. There’s much about Kylo that we as viewers don’t know and can only theorize about, but they have given us the most emotionally conflicted Sith in cinema history. There is more potential for light and goodness, for redemption, than ever before […]”

Loki (Thor, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World)

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alllll the grey areas.

Conflicted villains are the best villains. That is all.

devilish wit.

Loki’s snark is the best. He is the “god” of mischief after all. And did I mention he’s just a bit clever?

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strong sympathy points.

I don’t even know where to start with this one.

His Dad has serious parenting issues, Loki has serious inferiority issues + family issues + deeply afraid + and this guy needs a therapist like a mosquito needs blood. He’s one of those frustrating characters where you can see exactly where they went wrong and you watch as they make bad decisions (despite your [mildly agitated] shouting at the screen). You root for them to make the right decisions and pull themselves off their dark path—and sometimes they do choose right, which makes it all the more difficult when they choose wrong the next time. His relationship with his adopted brother Thor breaks my heart, and his obvious affection for his mother is sweet and makes me cry without fail. I have strong emotions about this character, in case you couldn’t tell; I think I really must write a Loki analysis article sometime.

it’s not all his fault.

This is where Loki becomes a “sympathetic” villain for me because, despite all his bad choices and wrongdoings, so much of the blame for who he became lies at his father’s doorstep—that does not absolve him of his sins, but it does give us as viewers a connection and level of empathy with him. The need to be loved and valued is an inherent part of humanity, and who hasn’t been disappointed by people they look up to? Loki’s desperate hope + his fear of trusting because he’s been hurt so often gets me in the gut every time.

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potential for redemption.

So. Much. Potential. Don’t let me down here, Loki Laufeyson.

The Master (Doctor Who: series 3 finale, series 4 Christmas special)

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humor.

He is twisted and messed up and ohmystars he’s hilarious. I love it so much when villains have a sense of humor or when they’re given witty lines—half of the reason The Master is funny is because he’s such a nutcase. Parliament execution scene, anyone? *copies his double-thumbs up*

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smart factor.

Manic brilliance is how he rolls and it’s a blast to watch. Not to mention, terrifying. The Master has legitimately scared me on more than one occasion and not a lot of villains do that. When a Timelord goes dark + insane it is not a pretty sight. Take note my Timelordy readers.

it’s not all his fault.

The Master is psychotic-killer genius but (SPOILER ALERT) he was made that way through no fault of his own. His dark path was created for him by some seriously twisted people when he was just a child and a recurring four-beat rhythm was placed in his mind to play on a loop non-stop–is it any wonder he went completely mental? The moments when you see him fight against it, when you see his agony and desperation–they’re gut-wrenching. The Master and the Doctor were best friends as children and it’s heartbreaking whenever they go down memory lane or whenever the Doctor tries to get through to him and help him–basically all the time.

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There’s nothing like a broken friendship that gets repaired slightly (only to be shattered all over again) for taking my emotions through the ringer. The potential for redemption and light is strong in this one. Which is why the last scene with the Master in the Christmas special makes me sad/happy all at once. (You Whovians out there know what I’m talkin’ about.)

Anakin Skywalker (Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith)

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struggles with the light side.

Anakin is equally torn between the light and dark side of the force. He cares deeply for people and he’s always trying to save or protect–it’s his gut reaction when anyone is in trouble: “How can I help them?” At the same time the abilities to protect and the freedom of choice that he believes the Dark Side could give him pull at his attention like a moth to a flame. His struggle against the dark, against doing what he knows is wrong, and what he’s tempted to do, is painful to watch and still hurts me every time I see it.

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actually does bad things.

Once he turns to the Dark Side there’s no denying that Anakin does some horrific stuff. That scene with the Younglings in particular is heart-wrenching. It’s deeply saddening and almost frightening to see the change in him, but as writers don’t you just love it when a villain fulfills his potential and actually is dark? I get chills every time he makes his march–not because it’s epic but because it’s how a villain is supposed to be. They’re supposed to be a threat, they’re supposed to be menacing, they’re supposed to frighten–otherwise what impact does it even make when the hero overthrows them? i will now get off my soapbox. 

potential for redemption.

As a twelve-year old writer Anakin is the first character I was attached to who spiraled onto a downward path. Even though I was 95% sure it was going to happen, I still spent the entirety of Revenge of the Sith rooting for him to pull through, to see where he was going and why it was such a very bad thing. It’s hard to articulate since he meant so much to me (and still does) but Anakin was the character who taught me that feeling empathy for someone does not mean you condone them or excuse them, villains are not two-dimensional, that as a writer I should never make them two-dimensional, and that everyone has a story.

Check out this article for a more in-depth look at Anakin Skywalker. There are much spoilers. Ye be warned.

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Peter Pan (Once Upon A Time)

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“Oh, the cleverness of me!”

Can I just mention that I absolutely love that the writers of OUAT took the potential for darkness in Peter of Peter Pan and ran with it? Peter Pan is devilishly clever and overflowing with sharp wit + manipulation + fake innocent-boy charm. He’s easily one of my favorite villains in the history of ever. And he is dark, people.

humor.

Did I mention the sharp wit and just general sassy one-liners?

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feels-inducing.

I had not expected this element at all, but when you think of a boy-villain and what exactly that means, it’s sad to begin with. Then you find out about his past and, while you detest him even more, it also hurts your heart and makes you wish, wish, wish that he could go back and make everything alright again. If only for the sake of the people he hurt.

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Darth Vader (Star Wars)

Does this even require any commentary at all???

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To sum up: villains with humor + unpredictability + dark deeds + grey areas + cleverness + potential for redemption + sympathy points, or a blend of the above traits, those are the bad guys who stand out. That make a hero work harder, and a reader happy. 

Which is the sort of villain that everyone wants.

Okay, Wrenlings, ‘fess up. Who are your favorite villains? Why do you like them? Or are bad guys just not your cup of dark (very dark) coffee?

fire-dancing + tintin comic books + worky-wakey-worky // #curiouswrencurrenthappenings

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Currently: i am typing this at the dining room table where i am squeezed into the smallest corner possible so the Older Sister can cut out a dress (she’s sewing it for a wedding we are attending in November. EEEP). Supper is cooking on the stove–it smells heavenly–Younger sister is reading and Youngest Sister is doing something scary with the sewing scissors (i might get my fingers cut off). Mum is chatting with Older Sister, we have music blasting on our tiny portable speaker, and i have no idea what my Dad is doing… probably taking care of our chickens. it is a good evening.

Thinking: having a close-knit family is possibly the most amazing thing in the world//i adore fairytales and fairytale retellings… just so, so much. they fill a longing in my soul and i would be perfectly happy writing them for the rest of my life//this world needs more people who smile at strangers//bravery is a beautiful and rare thing//i like to dance with fire–which basically means daring to be real, and shed the mask//living in the moment is more worth it than i can express. not thinking about what i have to do in two minutes or five or a hour or a day or a year, but reveling in the small things, giving someone my full attention whenever i’m with them, listening to the birds,just being. it’s hard and i forget all the time, but it is amazing//i actually quite like the new Spiderman. i was skeptical before i watched Civil War but he’s great–AG will always be the Spiderman to me though//why do we like angsty characters so much? i’ve been pondering this for the last few weeks and methinks i am going to have to write an article about it//SNAIL MAIL IS THE BEST AND SHOULD NEVER GO EXTINCT DO YOUR PART HUMANS//children are miracles, even when they put crayons in your coffee//i really, really am fond of my job and my “people” and even though work eats up my time and i don’t get to write or blog as much, it is also helping me learn how to prioritize better and i’ve gleaned so much story fodder it’s ridiculous//

Words in my mind: i am reading Hebrews right now and these particular verses have been rolling around in my mind all day. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” chapter 11: 6.

Listening to: banjo music because with Spanish blood from my Mum and hill-billy strains from my Dad’s side, my siblings and i adore lively music. But the Older Sister also recently found a few instrumental songs that are breathtaking. they are a must-listen, seriously, you won’t regret it: Homecoming + Compass + Men of Honor + Illumielle. And then of course there’s this one. (disclaimer: i don’t approve of much of the TSFH music, but some of it is incredible. it makes me cry, it inspires me, i love it.)

Reading: so. much. Tintin. Goodness, I love these comics. I want a Professor Calculus for a friend–actually I want all the whole jolly crew as friends. I am also sloooowly reading Isle of Fire and I just started a new Wodehouse book. I’m still seeping myself in the wonder that is Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl and I am halfway through Winter. *proceeds to fangirl over basically everything, but mostly Thorne and Cress* I have heaps of books i want to read this autumn and winter–can. not. wait. Which reminds me I need to share my Fall TBR with you all! Soon, friends, soon.

Feeling: tired, but also very excited for the future and waiting to make allll the plans and do allll the things and write alll the things, and basically, calm down Self. Breathe. In. Out. In. Out. One day at a time. #thestruggleisreal

Loving: Tintin (*cough* i feel like i am repeating myself?). pumpkin spice doughnuts//exploring the woods and following trails just because we can//random beach trips//inside jokes//being friends with my coworkers//plants that don’t require much care because apparently i have the opposite of a green thumb//foxes (they are CUTE Y’ALL)//sageuk kdramas, basically korean dramas that are set in ancient history, some of them are really good (*hugs Scarlet Heart: Ryeo*) and the costumes + culture + language + politics are fascinating. i am for sure writing a book set in ancient Korea//Captain America: Civil War–every bit as good as I hoped. I need to re-watch it now so i can review it on the blog.//lace skirts//the fact that autumn is HERE YAY.

Anticipating: all the fun, adventurous fall activities. i really want to do a corn maze this year, please and thank you//starting season 3 of All Creatures Great and Small  with the family tonight–such a cozy TV show//our church’s mission conferences coming up//taking more writing classes and researching reflexology//FALL//my newest nephew arriving, whenever he gets his act together. *wink* I need a brand-new baby to cuddle//so. many. weddings. O.O I shall be preparing all the finery and eating all the cake.//

Thankful: my family. i honestly don’t know how i would ever manage without them//sight, i’ve been thinking about blindness a lot lately and Praise Jesus, i can see//it’s fall–I love autumn very much in case you couldn’t tell//forgiveness and that God is always there to catch me when i stumble//our police force–i just want to speak to all of the good ones (which is the majority) and tell them how much I appreciate them//people who put nuts on icecream cones, bless you.

What are your Current Happenings, lovelies?

Curious Wren’s first birthday + a (virtual) costume party + a seriously epic giveaway // do alllllll the celebrating!

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Guess what, cyberspacelings????

TODAY IS THE FIRST BLOG BIRTHDAY OF CURIOUS WREN.

My baby is a year old.

One whole year.

HALP. Excuse me while I hyperventilate and hug my laptop (named Jarvis) because that’s the closest thing to hugging this small corner of the universe and all you precious Wrenlings who frequent it.

Thank you for caring to hang out here, for chatsing with me, for taking the time to interact and leave comments–I treasure every one of them and (confession) re-read my favorites when I need warm fuzzies or just because I want to.

Curious Wren would not be such a bright part of my life if it wasn’t for all of you and I want you to know that I am grateful, and so happy I know all of you. One of my favorite parts of life: how souls connect across miles, how paths cross and friendships are forged. It’s beautiful.

Thank you.

Great. Now I’m getting choked-up.

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Now, methinks, a First Blog Birthday is call for some fantastical celebrations and lots of glitter and melty chocolate chip cookies and red balloon

There were so many ideas for this blog party percolating in the cranium. Clearly narrowing down options in life is not my strong point, but then:

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HOW DOES A VIRTUAL COSTUME PARTY SOUND TO YOU, OH HUMANS.

(I know you’ve read about this in the title but, shhh, you have my permission to spazz anyway)

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And not just any costume party, but a party where you get to pretend to be:

a) one of your favorite characters from book or film or whathaveyou.

b) one of your own characters–if you happen to be a writer/screenwriter/human-who-never-grew-out-of-LEGO-playing. (AKA: me.)

c) yourself. (but costumed-out in a glorious manner. if that is not already your normal state in life. unlike many of us mere mortals who are still learning to emulate the Elves.)

“Well, this all sounds lovely, Annie,” you say, “but moving on to important details… when does the party start? How does it work? Will there be chocolate. Do you have griffin rides? OR HOW ABOUT PRIZES?”

Since you asked.

• of course, there will be prizes. of a sort. basically it’s a sweet giveaway that I wish I could enter myself and, yes, participating in the party gets you extra points because the more people celebrating the merrier, right ho? obviously I’m giving away pet baby griffins as door prizes.

• alas, Willy Wonka’s famous invention has not yet come to fruition which means I can’t send chocolate straight to your screen, but feel free to bring your own. and ice cream because ice cream is the nectar of life.

• I will provide you all with a smallish list of questions to answer in whatever persona you choose for the party. said questions will begin when you “enter” through the door of Curious Wren and then proceed in a bit of a storylike way. but not. I am aware that is rather confusing. allll will be revealed in due time.

• griffin rides are a must. bring your dragons too.

Last, but not least, when does the party start?

*evil chuckling*

You know how on your birthday you get up and then you remember that you have to wait until evening and you get to cut the cake and eat the icecream and open the presents? And the anticipation just builds and builds until you feel like it has been about a thousand years before evening finally arrives?

THAT IS WHAT WE ARE DOING.

I know.

I’m horrible.

In my defense, Curious Wren is my baby and it’s my baby’s first ever birthday so I want to draw out the enjoyment of that as long as I can.

The Curious Wren costume party will start tonight at 5:00 (roughly 7:00 a.m. for the Wrenlings down under.)

I will put up the party questions, the giveaway link, and the party playlist (yes, we get one of those!) at the end of this blog post at that time.

Aaand it’s 5 o’clock!

The party works as follows: I am going to be posting a question here every five-ish minutes. Feel free to answer them in the comments in real time or wait and collect them to answer on your own blog.

Who’s excited and ready to have a costume party?!

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(check out the costume party playlist!)

The clock strikes. You see the front door of Curious Wren open and I stand on the threshold (smiling excitedly because PARTY + PEOPLE). You can just see over my shoulder into the hallway—there’s a ridiculous number of balloons, banners are strung all around, and twinkling lights twine up the railing of the spiral staircase at the end of the hall. I wave you on in and ask you to sign your name on the party attendance sheet. Who did you come as and why did you choose that character?

Each guest gets their own slow-mo entrance into the Curious Wren domicile, accompanied by an epic main theme: what is yours?

The front door shuts and a wonderful aroma of freshly-baked gingerbread wafts towards you from a three-step stairway on your right. You start to head in that direction and then remember that your shoes are still on: what are you wearing as your fabulous costume of the evening? Feel free to share pictures. (bonus question: did you bring a friend? Who?)

Up the stairs and into the main party room where other guests—resplendent in their own amazing costumes—are already milling about. There’s music and laughter and lots of Chinese lanterns hanging from the ceiling, and tables are piled high with trays of food that smells so delicious it should be outlawed—in fact, some of it isn’t even possible to find anywhere else on Earth—such as lembas bread. What are you going to decide to eat?

From out-of-doors the Curious Wren domicile looks like the usual size of a two-story house; but as you begin to explore all the tiny side staircases and take note of the many unexpected windows and hidden doors, you realize that Curious Wren House might just be bigger on the inside… and that each room changes depending on how you want it to look. What room(s) do you choose to spend most of your time in? (feel free to share photos)

It’s getting later in the evening and in some parts of Curious Wren House the activity starts to slow down. What entertainment would your character chose to enliven the birthday party? (if fireworks destroy my house, you pay for the damage. 😉

If your character was to get a call and you realize that you might have to leave the party abruptly, what would be a possible reason?

I bring out the cake and the ice cream and chocolate chip cookies, and you remember just in time that you brought a hostess gift. What is it? (unless, of course, your chosen character has the memory span of Dory the fish and you forgot a gift entirely).

It’s nearing on midnight and the time has come for everyone to take turns giving a grand farewell speech—still in character. What do you say? 

Alrighty, lovelies! Here is how the giveaway works: the winner is allowed to pick one of the following twelve books as their prize (because multiple choices are glorious) and depending on which one they chose, there may be an extra prize. *rubs hands together and cackles with excitement*

Giveaway is opened Internationally since all books are shipped from the Book Depository.

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How can you enter?

1. Follow Curious Wren by email or WordPress account or on Bloglovin’ and then let me know about it in the comments. (this is mandatory and automatically gives you 5 entries in the giveaway. If you’re already following me, let me know in the comments.)

2. Participate in the Virtual Costume Party, either here in the comments or on your blog. (worth 2 entries.)

3. Share about the blog party on Facebook or Twitter or Google+ or what-have-you. (each mention is worth one entry–just let me know in the comments. Tweets only count if I am tagged by my handle: @annie_hawthorne).

4. Leave a comment letting me know what you already enjoy about Curious Wren and what you would like to see more of! (worth 3 entries.)

Go wild, Wrenlings!!!

(giveaway ends on September 23rd at midnight. One winner will be chosen.)

mysteries and death and steampunk creatures and British comedy // #JuneJulyReadTower

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I read fifteen books in June and July. Cue happiness!

It’s been harder to fit in the time to devour books ever since I started working my day job back in March. Do any of you Wrenlings have a similar struggle? Listen up, bookworms. I have the perfect solution: read. on. your. lunch. break. I don’t know what I’d do without that precious half hour to eagerly drink in all the doings of good-natured Wodehouse characters and try to guess Whodunits.

(if I didn’t have that half hour I’d probably be smashed to dust by my toppling TBR tower. at least, this way I can keep it from tipping too far. danger is still imminent. protect your young.)

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Might have mentioned this before, but I FOUND MY FAVORITE SERIES OF THE YEAR WOOT (why, yes, all-caps are completely necessary for this announcement). The Jackaby books make my heart sing because:

— Doctor Who-esque Sherlock Holmes.

— an amazing guy-girl friendship without a drop of romantic feeling.

— fantastical creatures, witty humor, chill-creeping-over-my-bones scenes, and more awesome that I can’t mention because spoilers.

I read Dreamtreaders. I liked it. I want to own it. I am going to start the Sequel this weekend. (take note, Youngest Sister. be pleased, Youngest Sister).

I honestly don’t know why it took me so long to read Behemoth except for the fact that it’s far too ginormous (in size, not number of pages) to stuff in a bag and read at work during lunch. Now that I’ve finally finished it, I like it more than the first book and also less. Which doesn’t make sense, I am aware. In a nutshell: more things I enjoyed (stronger steampunk vibe, new and fun characters, etc) and more things I didn’t like (the fabricated creatures continue to get on my nerves + a few squeamish moments when it comes to the romance. Barking spiders, they’re basically children still. Hold your horses.)

If you were wondering if it’s possible for me to be even more in love with Wodehouse’s books… yes, yes it is. Indiscretions of Archie is a book I actually had to stop reading at lunches since it made me laugh too hard. Archie’s well-meaning, lovable, irrepressible self is the best. I want to adopt him and take him everywhere with me. On second thought, that might be a bad idea. *carefully places all precious belongings in a seaworthy chest and anchors it in the ocean*

Give me all the Whodunits, please and thank you. Honorable mentions: Towards Zero I read in one day at the beach and the suspense was killing. Also pleasing to my mystery-loving self. The Secret of Chimneys  is aadventurous, fascinating book that i want to read again. Definitely recommended.

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One word: phenomenal. 

I am reserving all my thoughts and excitement and love for this book for another blog post, methinks.

More Whodunits. All delicious. Wodehouse at his best again in The Mating Season. Bertie sneaking into Madeline’s house to retrieve that letter is a scene I will never weary of.

 And last, but not least my favorite Wodehouse read of July: Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit. It has Aunt Dahlia which accounts for half of my affection for it already, but toss in Bertie making hilarious hash of situations, missing necklaces, imminent danger of being knocked out and/or engaged and you have the perfect read for a summer afternoon.

“Love is a delicate plant that needs constant tending and nurturing, and this cannot be done by snorting at the adored object like a gas explosion and calling her friends lice.”

Great Expectations was my most recent Dickens read and, although I didn’t like it as much as his other works, I’m glad I read it–if only for Pip and Herbert’s friendship, sweet Joe, and the eerie atmosphere of Miss Havisham. I learned a goodish amount about writing character arcs and that makes up for all the irritation I felt for Pip during the first half of the book. The ending leaves a warm glow in your bones.

Now I’m in the mood for a delightful re-read of David Copperfield. #alwaysloveDickens

Tell me, Wrenlings: what did you read last month and what books did you fall in love with? What books do I need to make my TBR tower still taller and more dangerous?