Winner of Best Character // 2015 Blogger Awards

And it’s time to announce the winner of Best Character! Thank you so much to everyone who entered nominations back in October — you all have excellent taste. ^_^ And, of course, thank you to the authors for creating such amazing Book People.

Honestly, characters make or break a book for me. It can have an almost non-existent plot, but if the writing is good and the characters capture my heart and run away with it? Well, that book automatically jumps onto my favorites list.

Weighing each of the finalists in the balance and choosing the best out of all of them was hard. When you have three such incredible characters, the choice is not going to be easy.

JACE has to be my favorite character in the Ilyon Chronicles so far. He is a half-breed who used to be a slave and gladiator and he still struggles with the trauma of his scarring past, and the rejection of others because of his bloodline. It’s gut-wrenching and convicting to see his refusal to deny his faith, despite his deep fear that he may not even have a soul. He challenges me not to give up on the things that matter, no matter how hard the struggle might be.

ISIDORE believes herself unlovable, ugly, and left-out and her pain becomes so strong that she hurts even those trying to help her. She is a girl whose heart is splintered more with every blow it takes, and who draws the bleeding shards close to herself and away from others, believing that will keep her safe. Her story is one many can relate to, and seeing how her heart mended and opened to welcome others in was so beautiful it moved me to tears.

PERCEVAL as one of the Knights of the Round Table has an adventurous and demanding life. His evolution from a merry-hearted, untried youth to a mature, wise man is one of the best parts of Pendragon’s Heir. He is flawed, and impetuous which only makes him more realistic.

And the winner is…


His character embodies everything a hero ought to be, and yet he is still believably human with his own faults and temptations. There is a bright, clear essence about Perceval’s steel-true integrity that is wonderfully refreshing. I wish there were more heroes like him in modern day literature.

*much applause and confetti*

I highly recommend you add all three of these fantastic books to your TBR.

Don’t forget to check out the winners in all the other categories of the 2015 Blogger Awards!

Best Cover — hosted by Schuyler on Saturday, December 19th.

Best Title — hosted by Hannah on Sunday, December 20th.

Best Short Fiction — hosted by Ghosty on Monday, December 21th.

Best Character — hosted by Annie (Yours Truly *bows) on Tuesday, December 22th.

Best Book — hosted by Sarah on Wednesday, December 23th.

Best Author — hosted by Allison on Thursday, December 24th.

(I do apologize for the lateness of this post. Two words: unreliable technology.)

“And the winners are…”


This is the day, my friends! Today you learn who the three winners are of the SEA Scribblers short story contest. Everybody all shriek in excitement together!!!

This contest was an amazing experience, and I was blown away by the sheer amount of people who entered. The talent and the clever usage of the prompts, the fascinating stories… there was so much to be in awe over, and Schuyler, Emily and I are incredibly honored in having the privilege to judge. You all did not make it easy on us. O.O

Anyone curious about who won?



*suspense builds*



Third Place:

We Three Gifts written by Sarah Holliday

Second Place:

Red, Yet White written by Victoria Marinov

First Place:

Song for Liselei written by Elisabeth Hayse

Congratulations, ladies, and well done! I’m so excited for you all. ^_^



I will be sharing Red, Yet White here on Curious Wren and you can visit Schuyler’s blog to read We Three Gifts and Emily’s blog will feature Song for Liselei.

As for those of you who didn’t win, rest assured, your stories were wonderful. We had a torturous time nearing down to the Top Three and because of that we are each going to have an Honorable Mentions section to honor the talent of some of you amazing writers. Seriously, I was so happy and pleased by all the entries. Thank you to everyone for making this the best experience for the SEA Scribblers that we could have asked for!

Honorable Mentions

Stardust: a retelling

Final Choice

The White City 

Night Mission

And now for the Second Place entry…..

Red, Yet White

​Doesn’t Aunt Mae get it that the last thing I need right now is a boyfriend? Especially not one who goes to a fancy private school and has rich parents. Or has never known any pain in his life.

​I storm out of the back door and shut out Aunt Mae’s voice, pleading me to come back. No, I’m not going back. Bradley is an obnoxious, stuck-up brat. Anyone can see that. And besides, when he finds out who I really am, it’s going to break his shiny little heart made of golden foil. I don’t see why Mae is trying to set us up.

​I mean, she and Uncle Tim aren’t annoying people in general, except that they resemble the nerds you see on Animal Planet. Uncle Tim could’ve gone and had a brilliant career in Wall Street, but instead they came here to the middle of nowhere in Virginia and bought a few acres of forest, for no other reason except to make a “sanctuary” for baby wolves abandoned by their pack because of deformities. They raise the wolves here. They – the wolves – are all supposedly tame, but I still don’t like going out in the back yard too often.

​It’s much better than if I had gone to stay with Great-Uncle Carl, my other choice for Christmas. He’s this old, quiet dude with a mustache and he used to work with strategic intelligence. And besides, all the aunts on the other side of the family like to gossip that he was a spy for the KGB once. I’m not sure I believe that, but there’s no way I’m spending Christmas with him.

​The cold air forces me to button my jacket and rub my arms where the raw skin is. I wish I had put ointment on them. The cuts are over a month old, when I had my last fit, but for some reason they’re not healing. And the cold is making my skin all dry and weird. I never get that in California. Nor do we get snow.

​I leap over a patch of it, and Fassbender limps from behind a tree, wagging his tail. He comes up and sniffs my hands, and I rub his thick, warm fur.

​From the first day I arrived, I guess Fassbender took the responsibility of watching over me. I didn’t think wolves have a protective instinct, but I guess tame ones do. He’s really sweet, and somehow the presence of another broken being soothes me. Although he has it better than me. He’s deformed physically, with his foot. I’m deformed mentally. And that’s breaking me physically.

​I wonder why there isn’t a sanctuary for broken humans. Why is it that animals seem to get so many more privileges than people? It’s ridiculous.

​As I continue walking through the forest, I see a couple younger wolves running playfully in a circle. A robin, feathers puffed up against the cold on a branch I pass under, sings a couple notes before taking off. My ears are beginning to get cold, and I let my hair down from its ponytail. It’s one advantage of having ridiculously thick hair. I can use it to warm my head.

​Suddenly I realize that the candy cane Bradley gave me is still in my pocket. It’s all crushed now. I’ve never really liked candy canes. They remind me of myself. Bent, and so easily crushed. And red stripes.

​I shove it back in my pocket and reach over to touch Fassbender. His presence is reassuring. I’ve never really realized what a difference an animal can make, and I’m sort of glad he’s by me. After several minutes I reach the fence that ends the property. The gravel road passes right by it, and I lean against the fence and stare at it.

​There’s something inviting about roads. They stretch forever into the horizon, and you don’t know what’s over the bend. It could be something bad, but it could also be good. You would think with all that’s happened in my life I wouldn’t be so optimistic, but I guess I am. There’s always a chance for something different, if not better. I think that’s what’s keeping me alive. The hope that something better will come. I wish I have a promise that something better will come, because hope can seem so pointless sometimes.

​This road has a bend too, and I want to see what’s beyond it. So I climb over the fence and tell Fassbender that I’ll be back in a little bit. He sits down and looks at me with those large, soft eyes of his, almost pleading to come with me.

​“Sorry, boy,” I rub his head over the fence. “I’ll take care of myself, I promise.”

​The gravel turns to rough pavement shortly after the bend. The forest grows thick around the road, but ahead I see a clearing. I walk toward it, not really expecting anything, just wanting something to keep me going down this road. Because I need something. Desperately. Before I do something stupid.

​There’s a parking lot in the clearing, and it’s empty, except for an old pick-up truck that doesn’t look like it’s been driven since Charlemagne was crowned emperor. Across the parking lot a small, whitewashed church huddles in the clearing. Its steeple rises up toward the overcast sky, standing securely through the cold wind which suddenly blows through the clearing. Sudden memories come to me, of when I was in high school a couple years ago and my choir went on a trip to Europe, and we visited a cathedral. It had been so peaceful to sit in the old wooden pews with carved angels keeping guard high overhead.

​I don’t suppose a small church in the middle of nowhere will have that same effect, but I walk up to the doors anyhow. They’re unlocked. I tug them and walk inside. The lobby is empty, and a couple papers on the bulletin board flutter when I close the door. The sanctuary doors open more smoothly, and I shyly tiptoe in. The floors creaks under my steps, and it sounds frightfully loud in the empty building.

​I find a pew near the front and sit on the edge. It’s quiet and peaceful, but so terribly lonely. Loneliness feels like the ideal environment for dark thoughts to reproduce. And yet, the silence inside this church is soothing, in a way. The high ceiling and the grandness of it all somehow reminds me that my problems don’t really matter in the world. Nothing is going to be changed by my failures, and they won’t hurt anyone I love. There really isn’t anything to cry about, and I don’t really cry that much, but a couple tears slide down my cheek.

​Then I hear the door open, and someone walks across the sanctuary. It’s probably just a janitor or something. I hope the person hasn’t noticed me. The last thing I need right now is someone to disrupt my precious privacy. Maybe coming here was a bad idea.

​“Would you like me to sit with you?”

​I look up. There’s a guy standing by me. If these emotions weren’t here now, I would probably laugh, because he really looks like such a typical nerd. With the glasses and messy brown hair and the sweater and everything. But I really don’t care now. I shrug.

​“Sure, go ahead.”

​He sits beside and looks ahead, and I try to ignore him. This is awkward. I’m always awkward around guys. I’m always awkward around everyone, actually.

​“So, have you recently moved into the area?” he suddenly asks. “I don’t think I’ve seen you before.”

​I wipe my nose on my sleeve, wondering why I wasn’t asked the normal “why are you crying” and “can I help you” that strangers normally ask me when they see me and my depression in the park.

​“Kinda. I’m visiting my aunt and uncle. The Reynolds.”

​“Oh, really? The ones who take care of the deformed wolf pups?”

​“Yeah, those.”

​“It must be great.”

​“Yeah, I guess.”

​I want to end this conversation. But I suddenly feel really rude, so I ask something before I realize it’s really stupid.

​“Do you live here?”

​“Yup. Just around the bend. My dad’s the pastor of this church.”


​“So is your family here too?”

​“No. My parents sent me here because they’re busy with some … legal things.” Their divorce, that is. I mean, they’ve never wanted me around anyway, so I’m sure why they really sent me away was so they wouldn’t have to drag their embarrassment of a daughter around at Christmas parties.

​“Hey, I know this is awkward,” he says, “but is there any way I can help you? I just saw you were kind of sad, and–”

​“It’s fine, really,” I cut him off. He won’t understand, especially if he’s a pastor’s son. There was this kid in my tenth-grade class who was a pastor’s son, and he was so perfect and holy and annoying, and I can’t stand these people.

​He shrugs. “Alright then, I just though I could help. I guess I’ll leave.”

​I watch him as he stands up. In a way, I don’t want him to leave. Someone else’s presence helps me from believing that I’m worthless and stupid, but he would never understand. He must have thrown his coat in the front pew and he reaches for it, and then I notice something, and stare, adrenaline surging through me. On his arms, there are lines, in the same places where my cuts are. Except mine are red. His are healed scars.

​“You too,” the words breathlessly tumble out of my mouth before I can stop them.

​He turns around and looks at me. “What?” Then, somehow, he understands. “Is that what–”

​“Yes,” I nod, and the tears come again. “I – I hate myself.” I pull my hand from my pocket and see that I’m still holding the crushed candy cane, and stare at it for the lack of anything else to do.

​Again he sits down by me and puts his arm around me. “I know,” he says after a moment of difficult silence. “I’ve been there. I did it too. I – I hurt myself too.”

​So I’m not the only one in the world. I resist the tears that force themselves through my eyes and wonder what to say. I don’t know what to say. My feelings sometimes feel too complicated to be put into words.

​“Have you ever heard of the legend of the candy cane?” he adds after a moment and points to the one I’m holding.

​I remember something vague from when I was in kindergarten. My teacher read us a picture book about the candy cane or something, but I don’t remember anything. “No, I haven’t,” I answer.

​“On Christmas we celebrate Jesus’ birth,” he says. “He came to be a shepherd to those who love Him.”

​When I was little and my dad still dragged us to church I used to hear this stuff. I’ve never really thought about it since then, though.

​“That’s why the candy cane is bent,” he continues, taking it from my hand. “Like a shepherd’s staff.”

​“Oh,” is all I can say.

​“You know He came to die as a sacrifice, right?”

​I nod.

​“The red stripes – they represent the blood that He shed for us on the cross. He suffered so we wouldn’t have to. You don’t have to bleed anymore,” he softens his voice, “because He already bled for you.”

​Why would anyone bleed for me? Why would anyone die for me? That’s what I never understood. “What about the white?” I ask hoarsely, running my finger across the candy cane.

​“We can be white – washed clean of our sins, if we turn to Him,” the young man tells me. “As white as snow. Your wounds will be healed if you believe that He died and rose again for you.”

​Not bleeding sounds wonderful – something that hasn’t sounded wonderful in a while.

​“Can– can I come here on Sunday?” I ask. I suddenly want to know more. Maybe this guy can help me. Maybe – maybe I really don’t have to bleed anymore.

​“Of course. Everyone’s invited.”

​“Thank you,” I try to smile appreciatively. “Thank– thank you for everything. Well, I probably have to be going,” I stand up after a couple silent moments.

​“Would you like me to walk you home?”

​“If it wouldn’t be out of your way …”

​“No, it wouldn’t,” he reassures me.

​We walk out of the church. It’s gotten cold, and definitely darker. And it’s snowing. There’s something magical and refreshing about snow. As white as snow, my companion’s words echo through my head. I suddenly realize that I want to be like that.

​We climb over the fence, and Fassbender comes trotting up and wagging his tail.

​“It’s alright,” I see my friend’s reluctance and laugh. How good that feels. “He’s perfectly tame.”

​“If you say so,” he says with a smile and reaches out to pet my wolfish friend. “What’s his name?”


​“Like the actor? That’s an interesting name for a wolf.”

​“Oh, I don’t know. I don’t really watch movies.”

​“What do you mean you don’t watch movies?” he looks at me incredulously.

​I shrug. “I don’t know. I’ve never really been interested. I don’t even remember the last time I watched anything.”

​We continue silently through the woods and soon reach the house. I guess most of the sanctuary’s inhabitants have retreated into their kennels, which I’m thankful for. I wouldn’t feel safe in a dark wood with wolves around.

​“Well, this is me,” I say. “Thanks for, uh, everything. I feel better.”

​He smiles. I never noticed until now how kind and genuine his smile is. “I know what you’re going through, and I’ve gone through it. And I want to help you.”

​“Thanks,” is all I can say.

​“By the way, I was thinking, do you want to go see a movie together? After church this Sunday?”

​“Um, sure, I would love to. I’ll ask my aunt, but I think she’ll be okay with it.”

​“Alright then, I guess I’ll see you then. Oh, wait, what’s your name?”

​That’s right. We don’t even know each other’s names. Awkward.

​“I’m Destiny,” I say. “You?”

​“Gabriel,” he answers. “And you have a unique name.”

​“Thank my parents for that,” I smile and open the door.

​“Oh, and, Destiny, I forgot to return your candy cane.” He hands it to me.

​“Thanks,” I accept it and fumble for a moment in the dark. “Have a good evening.”

​He returns my farewell and walks away into the dark. I close the door, walk into the lighted kitchen and dust my boots on the carpet. Uncle Tim and Aunt Mae are talking in the dining room. By their voices I can tell that they’re not discussing me, so I head that way. But before I head in, I look at the candy cane in my hand, and stop. It’s not my crushed one. This one’s whole and new, and bigger.

​I smile when I realize that Gabriel must have had this one and given it to me. Fingering it, I think of our conversation in the church.I don’t have to bleed anymore, because One already bled for me.

​I think from now on candy canes will taste better.


“Tilly’s Christmas” // Twelve Days of Christmas Countdown

Tilly’s Christmas

by Louisa May Alcott

“I’m so glad to-morrow is Christmas, because I’m going to have lots of presents.”

“So am I glad, though I don’t expect any presents but a pair of mittens.”

“And so am I; but I shan’t have any presents at all.”

As the three little girls trudged home from school they said these things, and as Tilly spoke, both the others looked at her with pity and some surprise, for she spoke cheerfully, and they wondered how she could be happy when she was so poor she could have no presents on Christmas.

“Don’t you wish you could find a purse full of money right here in the path?” said Kate, the child who was going to have ” lots of presents.”

“Oh, don’t I, if I could keep it honestly!” and Tilly’s eyes shone at the very thought.

“What would you buy?” asked Bessy, rubbing her cold hands, and longing for her mittens.

“I’d buy a pair of large, warm blankets, a load of wood, a shawl for mother, and a pair of shoes for me; and if there was enough left, I’d give Bessy a new hat, and then she needn’t wear Ben’s old felt one,” answered Tilly.

The girls laughed at that; but Bessy pulled the funny hat over her ears, and said she was much obliged, but she’d rather have candy.

“Let’s look, and may be we can find a purse. People are always going about with money at Christmas time, and some one may lose it here,” said Kate.

So, as they went along the snowy road, they looked about them, half in earnest, half in fun. Suddenly Tilly sprang forward, exclaiming,

“I see it! I’ve found it!”

The others followed, but all stopped disappointed; for it wasn’t a purse, it was only a little bird. It lay upon the snow with its wings spread and feebly fluttering, as if too weak to fly. Its little feet were benumbed with cold; its once bright eyes were dull with pain, and instead of a blithe song, it could only utter a faint chirp, now and then, as if crying for help.

“Nothing but a stupid old robin; how provoking!” cried Kate, sitting down to rest.

“I shan’t touch it. I found one once, and took care of it, and the ungrateful thing flew away the minute it was well,” said Bessy, creeping under Kate’s shawl, and putting her hands under her chin to warm them.

“Poor little birdie! How pitiful he looks, and how glad he must be to see some one coming to help him! I’ll take him up gently, and carry him home to mother. Don’t be frightened, dear, I’m your friend;” and Tilly knelt down in the snow, stretching her hand to the bird with the tenderest pity in her face.

Kate and Bessy laughed.

“Don’t stop for that thing; it’s getting late and cold: let’s go on and look for the purse,” they said, moving away.

“You wouldn’t leave it to die?’ cried Tilly. “I’d rather have the bird than the money, so I shan’t look any more. The purse wouldn’t be mine, and I should only be tempted to keep it; but this poor thing will thank and love me, and I’m so glad I came in time.”

Gently lifting the bird, Tilly felt its tiny cold claws cling to her hand, and saw its dim eyes brighten as it nestled down with a grateful chirp.

“Now I’ve got a Christmas present after all,” she said, smiling, as -they walked on. ” I always wanted a bird, and this one will be such a pretty pet for me!”

“He’ll fly away the first chance he gets, and die anyhow; so you’d better not waste your time over him,” said Bessy.

“He can’t pay you for taking care of him, and my mother says it isn’t worth while to help folks that can’t help us,” added Kate.

“My mother says, ‘Do as you’d be done by;’ and I’m sure I’d like any one to help me if I was dying of cold and hunger. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ is another of her sayings. This bird is my little neighbor, and I’ll love him and care for him, as I often wish our rich neighbor would love and care for us,” answered Tilly, breathing her warm breath over the benumbed bird, who looked up at her with confiding eyes, quick to feel and know a friend.

“What a funny girl you are,” said Kate, “caring for that silly bird, and talking about loving your neighbor in that sober way. Mr. King don’t care a bit for you, and never will, though he knows how poor you are; so I don’t think your plan amounts to much.”

“I believe it, though; and shall do my part, any way. Good-night. I hope you’ll have a merry Christmas, and lots of pretty things,” answered Tilly, as they parted.

Her eyes were full, and she felt so poor as she went on alone toward the little old house where she lived. It would have been so pleasant to know that she was going to have some of the pretty things all children love to find in their full stockings on Christmas morning. And pleasanter still to have been able to give her mother something nice. So many comforts were needed, and there was no hope of getting them ; for they could barely get food and fire.

“Never mind, birdie, we’ll make the best of what we have, and be merry in spite of everything. You shall have a happy Christmas, any way; and I know God won’t forget us, if every one else does.”

She stopped a minute to wipe her eyes, and lean her cheek against the bird’s soft breast, finding great comfort in the little creature, though it could only love her, nothing more.

“See, mother, what a nice present I’ve found,” she cried, going in with a cheery face that was like sunshine in the dark room.

“I’m glad of that, dearie; for I haven’t been able to get my little girl any thing but a rosy apple. Poor bird ! Give it some of your warm bread and milk.”

“Why, mother, what a big bowlful ! I’m afraid you gave me all the milk,” said Tilly, smiling over the nice, steaming supper that stood ready for her.

“I’ve had plenty, dear. Sit down and dry your wet feet, and put the bird in my basket on this warm flannel.”

Tilly peeped into the closet and saw nothing there but dry bread.

” Mother’s given me all the milk, and is going without her tea, ’cause she knows I’m hungry. Now I’ll surprise her, and she shall have a good supper too. She is going to split wood, and I’ll fix it while she’s gone.”

So Tilly put down the old tea-pot, carefully poured out a part of the milk, and from her pocket produced a great, plummy bun, that one of the school-children had given her, and she had saved for her mother. A slice of the dry bread was nicely toasted, and the bit of butter set by for her put on it. When her mother came in there was the table drawn up in a warm place, a hot cup of tea ready, and Tilly and birdie waiting for her.

Such a poor little supper, and yet such a happy one; for love, charity, and contentment were guests there, and that Christmas eve was a blither one than that up at the great house, where lights shone, fires blazed, a great tree glittered, and music sounded, as the children danced and played.

“We must go to bed early, for we’ve only wood enough to last over to-morrow. I shall be paid for my work the day after, and then we can get some,” said Tilly’s mother, as they sat by the fire.

“If my bird was only a fairy bird, and would give us three wishes, how nice it would be! Poor dear, he can’t give me anything; but it’s no matter,” answered Tilly, looking at the robin, who lay in the basket with his head under his wing, a mere little feathery bunch.

“He can give you one thing, Tilly, the pleasure of doing good. That is one of the sweetest things in life; and the poor can enjoy it as well as the rich.”

As her mother spoke, with her tired hand softly stroking her little daughter’s hair, Tilly suddenly started and pointed to the window, saying, in a frightened whisper,

“I saw a face, a man’s face, looking in! It’s gone now; but I truly saw it.”

“Some traveller attracted by the light perhaps. I’ll go and see.” And Tilly’s mother went to the door.

No one was there. The wind blew cold, the stars shone, the snow lay white on field and wood, and the Christmas moon was glittering in the sky.

“What sort of a face was it?” asked Tilly’s mother, coming back.

“A pleasant sort of face, I think ; but I was so startled I don’t quite know what it was like. I wish we had a curtain there,” said Tilly.

“I like to have our light shine out in the evening, for the road is dark and lonely just here, and the twinkle of our lamp is pleasant to people’s eyes as they go by. We can do so little for our neighbors, I am glad to cheer the way for them. Now put these poor old shoes to dry, and go to bed, dearie; I’ll come soon.”

Tilly went, taking her bird with her to sleep in his basket near by, lest he should be lonely in the night.

Soon the little house was dark and still, and no one saw the Christmas spirits at their work that night.

When Tilly opened the door next morning, she gave a loud cry, clapped her hands, and then stood still, quite speechless with wonder and delight. There, before the door, lay a great pile of wood, all ready to burn, a big bundle and a basket; with a lovely nosegay of winter roses, holly, and evergreen tied to the handle.

“Oh, mother! did the fairies do it?” cried Tilly, pale with her happiness, as she seized the basket, while her mother took in the bundle.

“Yes, dear, the best and dearest fairy in the world, called ‘Charity.’ She walks abroad at Christmas time, does beautiful deeds like this, and does not stay to be thanked,” answered her mother with full eyes, as she undid the parcel.

There they were, the warm, thick blankets, the comfortable shawl, the new shoes, and, best of all, a pretty winter hat for Bessy. The basket was full of good things to eat, and on the flowers lay a paper saying,

“For the little girl who loves her neighbor as herself .”

“Mother, I really think my bird is a fairy bird, and all these splendid things come from him,” said Tilly, laughing and crying with joy.

It really did seem so, for as she spoke, the robin flew to the table, hopped to the nosegay, and perching among the roses, began to chirp with all his little might. The sun streamed in on flowers, bird, and happy child, and no one saw a shadow glide away from the window ; no one ever knew that Mr. King had seen and heard the little girls the night before, or dreamed that the rich neighbor had learned a lesson from the poor neighbor.

And Tilly’s bird was a fairy bird ; for by her love and tenderness to the helpless thing, she brought good gifts to herself, happiness to the unknown giver of them, and a faithful little friend who did not fly away, but stayed with her till the snow was gone, making summer for her in the winter-time.



Cover reveal and Book Release Day — The Bureau of Time

I have a Very Important Announcement, cyberspacelings.

Today my fellow writer and friend, Brett Michael Orr, debuted his science fiction novel The Bureau of Time! (congrats, Brett!)

I’m incredibly excited about this because a.) this particular book is one I really, really, really want to read, and b.) cover reveals/release days are my favorite.

What is the book about, you ask? Read on, my friends.

The Bureau of Time

You can not change fate.

Cassandra Wright is a Timewalker – a teenager with a genetic mutation that allows her to manipulate the flow of time. But her inexplicable powers have made her a target for Adjusters – monstrous assassins from a parallel universe.

Saved from almost certain death, Cassie is pulled into a secret agency sworn to defend our timeline against these threats: the Bureau of Temporal Integrity, Monitoring, and Execution. Cassie’s life soon becomes entwined with Shaun Briars – a reckless Timewalker with an alluring smile and dark suspicions about the Bureau itself.

When Cassie and Shaun cross into the parallel universe, they discover a world in the grips of nuclear winter, with a new war threatening to spill over into our universe. With time running out, they must learn the true history of Timewalkers, confront the unforgivable crimes of their future selves, and defy their own fate to save two worlds.

Join the Conversation: #TheBureauOfTime

And now for the cover reveal!

*flings red and silver glitter everywhere* *trumpet fanfare*


(loving the red and the eagle and the symbolism of the hourglass and the shinyyy.)

THE BUREAU OF TIME is the debut YA SF/thriller novel from Brett Michael Orr, available on the AmericanAustralianBritish, and Canadian Amazon stores, and soon to be available on all digital reading platforms, including Kobo, iBookstore, and more.

Add on Goodreads. Stay up-to-date with The Bureau of Time by following @BrettMichaelOrr on Twitter.

I’m so excited about this book, y’all!! Most of you know how much I love science fiction and since this is time-travel science fiction it makes me even happier.  Plus, I asked Brett and he assured me that The Bureau of Time is free of sexual content (it does have some mild swearing) which is so. much. yes. Maybe somebody will buy it for me for Christmas?

Make sure you check out the hashtag, share your thoughts with me on The Bureau of Time‘s awesome cover and how much you want to read it. And maybe even buy a few copies as Christmas pressies! You know you want to. *nudges you towards Amazon*

Later, lovelies!

“A few of my favorite things…” // Twelve Days of Christmas Countdown

My friend Hannah had this clever idea to create a taggy thing to celebrate Christmas and get in the spirit of happiness and good-will — or more in the spirit if you happen to already be there! And she tagged me because she’s sweet like that. And so did Olivia. They both deserve chocolate chips, methinks. 


Answer prompts with the wintery/Christmassy theme in mind.

Tag at least 5 of your blogger-buddies to take part.

Use the title picture I provided above.

Spread the love around!


1.) Favorite “snuggle weather” Books

The Wind in the Willows is, hands down, the best “snuggle weather” in the history of ever. Also,

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Actually, all of the Chronicles of Narnia.

— The Borrowers.

— A Christmas Carol. 

— The Hobbit.

— Jane of Lantern Hill.

— Little Women. 

And basically any mystery by Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, or G.K. Chesterton.

2.) Favorite wintery/Christmassy Snacks

Gingerbread and milk. Frosted sugar cookies. Candied nuts. Chocolate. Oreo truffles. I shared some recipes yesterday.


3.) Favorite Hot Drinks


4.) Favorite Christmas Movies

I chatted about that on Monday.

5.) Favorite holiday Songs

*sings Jingle Bells at the top of her lungs* 

I’m actually going to share a post about my favorite Christmas music next week! Complete with linkys. ^_^ 

6.) Favorite “snow day” Crafts 

I knit allll the things. And make paper snowflakes very badly. 

 7.) Do you wanna build a snowman?

I would love to… IF THERE WAS ACTUALLY SNOW. *mournful wail*

Tagging these lovelies: 

Joy @ Fullness of Joy | Hanne-col @ Ain’t We Got Fun Serena @ Poetree | Savannah @ A Scattering of Light | Lydia @ Lydia Carns
Have a jolly day, humans! 

Holiday recipes — sweets // Twelve Days of Christmas Countdown

 The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney, as that dull petrification of a hearth had never known in Scrooge’s time, or Marley’s, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam.

— A Christmas Carol

Every Christmas season at some point all of us siblings congregate together and spend a glorious several hours decorating sugar cookies — creating wreaths of colors impossible in nature, giving angels blue wings and Christmas trees snow on their branches. Icing ends up on everything, including on our faces. Sleigh Ride and Feliz Navidad and The Little Drummer Boy play in the background, drowned out at times by our laughter.

Christmas food is very important in our household. Every year we make our traditional gingerbread men, sugar cookies, homemade hot chocolate, candied nuts… and in honor of the season, I thought a few recipes would be a perfect addition in the #CuriousWrenChristmasCountdown.

Gingerbread People

1 and 1/2 cups dark molasses

1 cup packed brown sugar

2/3 cup cold water

1/3 cup butter

7 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground allspice

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix molasses, butter, brown sugar, and water. Combine dry ingredients separately. Add dry ingredients to molasses concoction.  Cover and refrigerate at least two hours.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough 1/4 inch thick on floured surface (I sometimes use powdered sugar instead of flour). Cut with floured (powdered sugared) cookie cutters. Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake until no indentation remains when touched, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool. Frost. Prepare to want to eat all of the gingerbread in one seating. Recommend festive Christmas music to enhance the scene.

(makes about two dozen cookies)

Apple Taffy Salad

 8 ounce can of pineapple

1 egg

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon flour

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

8 ounce container of Cool Whip

6 large apples (peeled, cored, and cubed)

1 cup dry roasted peanuts (chopped)

  1. Squeeze pineapple by hand. Drain juice. Set aside squeezed pineapple. Combine juice with egg, sugar, flour, and vinegar in a small saucepan. Beat ingredients on low speed. Stir over medium heat until thickened. Cool completely.
  2. Place cubed apples and crushed, squeezed pineapple in large mixing bowl. Add saucepan mixture.
  3. Fold in Cool Whip and 1/2 cup of chopped peanuts.
  4. Sprinkle remaining peanuts on top.

This is easily one of my favorite recipes of all time. I could live on this stuff, people.

Also, I trotted over to Pinterest to look for more tasty recipes and basically I am now starving and craving ALL THE THINGS.


Candied nuts


Peppermint Oreo Truffles


Twelve 4-ingredient Christmas Treats


Melted Snowmen Oreo Balls

Now excuse me while I go whip up a batch of something scrumptious.

Is your mouth watering yet? What are some of your favorite/traditional holiday treats? And which one of these recipes makes you the hungriest? (Personally, I just really want some Oreo truffles.)

The House of Christmas poem // Twelve Days of Christmas Countdown


The House of Christmas

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost – how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.

This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

G.K. Chesterton

Top Five Favorite Holiday Films // Twelve Days of Christmas Countdown

This is one of those moments where I’m not sure if I’m entirely sane — let’s go with not.

Despite being up to my ears in other Christmas-related stuff (this month is turning out to be one of the busiest in the history of ever, no exaggeration) I’ve decided that I’m going to do something special here on Curious Wren for the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Now, technically they start on December 25th and end on January 5th, but where’s the fun in that? Instead, I’m planning to post something short and festive every day leading up to Christmas Day.

It’ll be a jolly way to build the anticipation for myself (hopefully, you too) and even though I’m 99% sure I’m biting off more than I can chew — I’m going to give it a whirl anyways. Because why not?


Today I’m sharing with you five of my favorite Christmas movies.

Grab a mug of hot chocolate and a cozy blanket and let’s talk film!

1. It’s a Wonderful Life.

This is probably one of the best-known Christmas movies ever, and with good reason. It used to scare me a bit when I was little, but as I grew up I began to realize the beauty of the story and I fell head-over-heels for it. Humor, poignant moments, festive cheer, thought-provoking themes, good acting…. it has it all.

2. A Christmas Carol.

Nobody in my family considers our holiday season complete unless we’ve watched this version of A Christmas Carol. It’s our traditional viewing on whatever evening we attack a pine tree and make it all pretty and shiny. The first time I saw it I was in awe of the amazing animation — still am — and I love how true it is to the book, not to mention it has some deliciously chilling scenes and some comical ones too. Plus, the entire soundtrack is Christmas music so that’s lovely. ^_^

3. The Nativity Story.

I still remember my surprise the first time viewing The Nativity Story — it tells the story of Christ’s birth so well and with such wonder and love. I especially like that it opens up insights into Mary and Joseph’s life that I’d never thought about before. I’d never paused to think what it was like for Mary being an unwed, pregnant young woman and how people would have treated her, even though she was entirely innocent. And it’s fascinating watching Mary and Joseph’s relationship develop. When we re-watched the movie last night I couldn’t resist turning to my older sister during one of the couple’s particularly sweet scenes and whispering, “I ship it.” XD

Oh, and anyone else absolutely love the three Wise Men? “If I am right, and I usually am… ”

4. Rise of the Guardians.

I admit I was dubious about this one, but since it was a gift from my sister-in-law we tried it out and I was pleasantly surprised. Not only is it funny, it’s thoroughly heart-warming and Jack Frost is one of my favorite movie characters ever. Commonly we don’t watch films that feature Santa, but I loved the twist in RoTG that each guardian was human before they became immortal. It’s a festive Avenger-esque story for children and, goodness, the character dynamics are so much fun! Also, I will never not cry in Jack’s first scene talking face-to-face with a child who can see him. and, yes, I ship Jack and Elsa. not even sorry. 

5. Arthur Christmas.

Oh, this movie. *happy sigh* It stars James McAvoy who does a brilliant job as Arthur. The Christmas family has been “Santa Claus” for generations with each firstborn son taking on the role when their father relinquishes it. My sister-in-law introduced it to us last Christmas and within the first two minutes of the movie my sisters and I were all, “WHERE HAS THIS BEEN OUR ENTIRE LIVES?” I’m sure the film has flaws and plot-holes, but it is just so good. The storyline, the dialogue, the emotions, the humor, the accents… I love it all. Seriously, if you haven’t seen it, check it out, alrighty?

Honorable mentions: Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol. Doctor Who: The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe. Borrowed Hearts.

What are your favorite festive films, lovelies? And am I unhinged to attempt a Curious Wren Christmas Countdown? 

Beautiful Books — Blood Thread // sneak peek into Annie’s editing process

Okay, I’m cheating (a lot) this round of Beautiful Books. Instead of using a completed novel for the questions, I’m answering them with Blood Thread — it’s close to completion, just not quite there. book, I am begging you to hurry and be finished. i need to know what happens.

And I haven’t even started editing it yet. Eeep!

Beautiful Books (part three) — Blood Thread


On a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best), how did the book turn out? Did anything defy your expectations?

As before mentioned, it isn’t quite finished, but right now I’d rate it at an 8 or thereabouts. I’m absolutely loving how the story and characters have turned out. [insert happy flailing]

Comparative title time: what published books, movies, or TV shows are like your book? (Ex: Inkheart meets X-Men.)

Oh, help. I haven’t the faintest idea. O.o

The only books I can think of are Golden Daughter (cat who’s actually a faerie and “watches” over a young girl), Rooftoppers (children who spend heaps of time on top of roofs), and Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times (whimsical, magical steampunk).

Do you enjoy working with deadlines and pressure (aka NaNoWriMo)? Or do you prefer to write-as-you’re-inspired?

prefer to write-as-I’m-inspired, but I tend to procrastinate too much, so I set deadlines and goals for myself as much as possible so I actually get stuff done.

I just need a snarky AI to follow me around and remind me to WRITE. THE. WORDS. And to edit my books. And make me food when I forget to eat. And track down literary agents… this should be a thing, folks!


How do you go about editing? Give us an insight into your editing process.

I take care of the big stuff first: plot holes, out-of-character interactions, shaky dialogue, choppy pacing, research, left-out descrip. etc. When I’ve tidied it up and the idea of other people reading it doesn’t make me cringe, I send it to my beta-readers. This makes for a happy interlude where I try to forget the story exists. Said Story comes back sadly mangled whereupon I weep, vent, then take a deep breath and go at it again.

Music (both lyrical and instrumental) is my lifesaver when editing. Unlike when I write, I edit at any time of the day — sometimes into the wee hours of the morning, and sometimes not. I actually prefer to be around other humans while editing so I can rant and gripe and brainstorm Not By Myself.

What aspect of your story needs the most work?

Right now it’s the description. The steampunk aspect of it is still shaky in my mind. And there are some plot holes that I’m pretending do not exist.


What aspect of your story did you love the most?

The characters. They make or break a story for me and I love each and every one of them so much. Confused, stand-offish Tarquin, sweet Prism, impish Imo, the Boys, manipulative Persephone, the gruff granny…


Give us a brief run down on your main characters and how you think they turned out. Do you think they’ll need changes in edits?

Tarquin is by far the most messed-up main character I’ve actually written (as opposed to Plot Bunny charries). His good points are few, but they do exist and he is really such a lovable, transparent darling. He has a High Impression of himself and he tends to be condescending and sometimes cruel in how he treats people. But despite that he is actually very vulnerable and much of his disdainful, standoffish attitude is a mask for his true feelings.

Seeing his character grew and change over the book has been one of the best parts of writing it. I don’t foresee I’ll have to do much adjustment with his character over edits — other than making him more catlike, perhaps?

What are your plans for this novel once you finish editing? More edits? Finding beta readers? Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever?


Share a favourite snippet!

Sneaking four moist, custard-filled teacakes into a crinkly paper bag was childishly simple. Sneaking out of the shoppe with said bag promised to be much less so.
Tarquin hid under a bread rack with the corner of the bag clutched firmly between his teeth and watched the door. A women with a voluminous, grey skirt that blocked his view stepped in front of the rack. Tarquin eyed her pointy, muddy shoes, and resisted the urge to claw her ankles.

— Blood Thread

What are your writing goals and plans for 2016?

I’m saving this for a separate post. Mwahaha. Patience, lovelies.

Until then have some piping-hot scones, enjoy the festive spirit abounding… and don’t forget to enter the SEA Scribblers short story contest! Time’s running out. 

 So tell me! What are your thoughts on editing? And are you the teensiest bit curious about Blood Thread? Can you divulge YOUR writerly/bookworm plans for 2016? 

Ten Authors I first Encountered in 2015 // also, last week to enter the SS contest!

Before we get started I would like to remind you all that the deadline for the SEA Scribblers short story contest is December the 12th. If you haven’t entered yet then what are you waiting for?! Amazing prizes, epic photo prompts, a smallish word-count — what’s not to love? *bribes all the talented Writer Humans with chocolate chips* Oh! And you should totes remind/tell all your friends about it too. Go forth and write!

Actually read the post first. Then go forth and conquer the blank page.

The theme for this Tuesday is Top Ten New-To-Me Favorite Authors I read for the First Time in 2015.


1. Kate DiCamillo.

I was first introduced to the magical writing of DiCamillo by my friend Amanda. She read Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures and squealed over it and begged me to get it out of the library and read it. I devoured that book in a few hours. It was sweet, unexpectedly moving, and had a refreshing, childlike uniqueness about it. Plus, some of the scenes are done in adorable comics and interspersed throughout the book. And seriously, how could you go wrong with a squirrel who types poetry and flies at impromptu moments? Not to mention the children. THE CHILDREN. Ack. I love them so much.

I also did a read-along with Amanda of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. It was beautiful.


2. Suzannah Rowntree.

Right now, I’m reading Pendragon’s Heir and delighting in Rowntree’s writing all over again, but the first book of hers that I read was The Rakshasa’s Bride, which is a novella re-telling of Beauty and the Beast set in ancient India (the book is actually available for free when you sign up for her newsletter.) You all know how much I adore Beauty and the Beast and I fell head-over-heels for the richness and beauty of Suzannah Rowntree’s writing. I like pretty wordage (who doesn’t?) and I especially love how she weaves in the description and character emotions and interactions, and historical detail so effortlessly — the talent, people! O.O Her books are like cake to me, but better because I never feel like I’ve devoured too much. tho if you think about it, who feels like that about actual cake anyways.


3. Ashlee Willis.

I’ll be honest, I did not expect to love this lady’s writing as much as I do now. I hadn’t heard much about her around the blog-sphere or Goodreads, but I was curious when I learned she was publishing a darker re-telling of Cinderella. It sounded like one of those stories that lingers long in a reader’s mind once you’ve finished it — the kind you mull over several cups of coffee with. And those are my favorite sorts of books.

I read A Wish Made of Glass and it hit so much closer to home than I ever imagined it would. Reading it helped heal a part of me I didn’t even realize was aching, and this book is so precious to me now. Also Willis’ style is immersive and quietly beautiful. I’m always recommending her to people. Speaking of which, READ THE BOOK MY FRIENDS. Annie has spoken.

“Her words are fire and I am only a fluttering moth.”

4. Austin Kleon.

Allow me to tell you a thing. I have a particular bookworm quirk: I do not dog-ear. Ever. To me dog-earing a book is akin to tearing a page out. It is simply not done. This is why bookmarks exist, no?

So it might give you a decent idea how much I like Steal Like An Artist when I tell you that there are so many inspiring gems in it I have actually started to dog-ear the book. And not just once, but multiple times. I can not believe I just admitted that. What’s next? Flattening out book spines? *cringes*

“Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use – do the work you want to see done.”
Austin Kleon


5. Anne Elisabeth Stengl.

Technically I shouldn’t include Stengl since I read the first book in Tales of Goldstone Wood after Christmas last year, but I read the rest of the eight books this year so I’m mentioning her anyways.

This lady is one of the most talented and incredible authors whose work I’ve ever read. And when I say that I mean it wholeheartedly. I love her books to the point where I actually spent all my Christmas money on the first four and bought the next five as soon as I was able to (and I hardly ever buy books for myself.)

If you love fantasy, if you crave rich world-building and lifelike characters, if stories with depth and beauty and emotion and heart-stirring moments call your name, if you like pretty writing, if you want to be swept up into a magical, vivid world and never be able to escape again…

Read Stengl’s books.

Then come and tell me all about it.


(I’m using one of the author’s graphics because I’m not keen on the book cover.)

6. Mirriam Neal.

I’ve been following this young woman’s blog for years now and she has been one of the most inspiring writers in my life. So I finally bought Monster in September. Sweet T.A.R.D.I.S of Gallifrey, it was every bit as heart-wrenching and beautiful and deep and unforgettable as I expected it to be. Mir broke my heart and I don’t think I’ll ever recover. pretty sure I have no wish to.

Neal is an author to watch out for, humans.

And she just recently landed a publishing contract for her fantasy Paper Crowns so excuse me WHILE I FLAIL AND TOSS GLITTER AND PAPER STARS EVERYWHERE.


7. Gaston Leroux.

I thought this book would be beautiful and dramatic and mysterious and sad and riveting.

It was.

Go you, Leroux.

*cries over Eric forever*


8. G.K. Chesterton.

Other than Sherlock Holmes and certain Agatha Christie books, my favorite mysteries are now the Father Brown books. Not every mystery is a murder, they generally have some very simple yet eerie twist, not every mystery is solved, and the villain doesn’t always get caught — it’s like Chesterton read my wishlist. And Father Brown is so adorable. I want to pat him on the head and give him peppermints.

I started The Man Who Knew Too Much and by the end of the book I had (metaphorically) flung it across the room and (literally) cried. In the best way possible, it messed with my brain and emotions and it is a genuine favorite.

Chesterton is very wise with an eccentric way of expressing his thoughts. He also nearly always hits the nail on the head. Also, more pretty writing, y’all.

“The thousand arms of the forest were grey, and its million fingers silver.”
― G.K. Chesterton

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
― G.K. Chesterton


9. Rosemary Sutcliff.

Her characters captured my heart almost at once, but what I really, really love is how sharply gorgeous her writing is — the sort that makes your breath catch from the wonder of it.

I feel as though there is a theme about pretty wordplay in this post….


10. P.G. Wodehouse.

Ahhhh, Wodehouse. I love thee well. ^_^

I shall just leave you with my mini reviews for Leave It To Psmith and The Code of the Woosters.

Carry on, lovelies!