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Monday, December 11, 2017

Why Writers Need a Break From Creativity

Hello, my lovelies!

Today it’s story time:

The Story of How I Wrote So Many Words:
Once upon a time I used to fill every waking moment with my stories. Even when I was reading other people’s I used to think about their stories in terms of my own- how did mine compare? What did they do that I liked? How could I avoid doing the things I hated? How could I imitate the things they did that worked? What did they do that I didn’t like?

A lot of people questioned this and asked me if this was healthy- did I ever take time to rest, to relax, to just be? Did everything have to be related to a story?

Of course, I ignored them. I was a professional, after all, and they simply didn’t understand my devotion to my craft. They didn’t understand that dedication and hard work are what it takes to make it in this world.

Looking back now, I wish I had listened to those people. Oh, how dearly I wished I had listened instead of thinking I knew it all.

Fast forward to last November (November 2016). I hadn’t written anything substantial in over a year and as NaNoWriMo was fast approaching I starting to consider participating. Maybe this was the creative boost I needed to get me writing again.

It turns out it was what I needed and not only did I complete my 50,000 words in November, but between November of that year and May of this I wrote close to a quarter of a million words.

Let that sink in a moment.

I was on cloud nine with joy over how much I was writing and unable to believe I was being creative again.

The Burn Out:
In the midst of all that happiness and creativity I started to see something was off- I was running the risk of falling into the pits of creative dryness again and I realized I was burning out.

In November, December, and into January I was writing 1,500 or 2,000 words every day. But by the end of January and into February it started to get harder for me to write. It was like pulling teeth forcing myself to sit down and do it and there were stretches where I didn’t write for days. Then I’d sit down to write and look at how far behind I was on my word goal and I’d cringe as I forced myself to push to catch up to that goal.

I was burning out. And I was doing it fast and hard. There was no way I was going to be able to keep up with this creative streak. I knew what was coming.

I was going back to the creative wasteland I had fought so hard to free myself from months before.

The Solution:
As I finished the project I was working on and started to move onto another, I remembered the counsel I’d been given all those years ago.

Was I a workaholic when it came to stories? Was that what was running me into the ground and forcing me into those dry periods of creative nothingness?

I started to think about it and mostly out of fear I made a decision- if I really was a workaholic, I’d set one day aside each week and refuse to let myself write those days. No writing, no outlining, no character sketches, no making story Pinterest boards or playlists, or anything else related to my writing. It would be my day of rest.

I chose Sundays because that was the best day for me. Sundays in our house are restful anyway, with time seeming slower and lazier, even when we have plans. So Sundays it was- both my spiritual Sabbath and my creative day of rest.

The Results:
It was that first Sunday that I took off when the reality set in- I am a workaholic. I’ve kept this in practice for almost nine months now but I still find it challenging to take a pause from my stories, to disconnect from fiction and just breathe.

But I’ve also been writing consistently in those seven months and feel more grounded and less on the verge of falling apart all the time. I’m not scared of burning out or drying up creatively and I feel more in touch with my stories when I come back to them fresh the next week.

So Why a Day of Rest?
God commands a day of rest each week, to focus on him and recharge from the week before. Creatively, it’s always good to take a step back and breathe for a moment, to come back to things with a fresh perspective sometime later.

And I’ve found it’s especially helpful that my creative day of rest coincides with my spiritual one. I have nothing distracting me from the Sunday sermon (my stories used to do that all the time) and those lazy Sunday afternoons now have plenty of time for contemplating God when I used to fill them with stories and characters.

Your own day doesn’t have to be Sunday but whatever day you choose you need to make sure you’re committed to it so that you truly get the chance to recharge and hit the reset button on your creativity. If you’re going to do this you need to be committed.

But How Do I Rest?
This was the hardest part for me- it wasn’t until I started doing this that I realized how much of my life revolves around stories. I actually had to ask people how on earth to do this because apparently I don’t know how to relax…

Somethings that have been suggested to me or thing I’ve found work are:
-Go for a walk
-Read a book for fun or something unusual for you
-Find a show you can get lost in (for me this is usually Food Network)
-Lay in bed and listen to an e-book
-Sit outside and breathe
-Make plans with friends that don’t include writing or talking about stories
-Find somewhere to explore
-See what other people are doing and tag along if possible (if my mom goes to the grocery store on Sundays I usually go too now)
-Take up a hobby that you find joy in
-Clean your room
-Organize something (if you’re like me and you find that energizing)
-Do something you’re always meaning to do but never seem to have the time for
-Respond to all those messages from friends that you never get to (if you’re like me and are really bad at messaging people)
-Listen to music
-Find things that bring you joy and energy and throw yourself into them

We live in a fast-paced world and it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy. Having time set aside specifically to breathe and recenter ourselves makes it harder for us to put it off. Like everything else in this life, if it’s a priority to us we’ll make it happen no matter how crazy our lives are.

You also don’t need to get legalistic about this- I’m writing this post on a Sunday because I knew what my weekend looked like and decided to take Saturday off instead. I still keep Sundays set aside as my day off but sometimes Saturday comes and I know I need to take my break a day early. It’s all about knowing yourself and what you need.

This is about you- it’s about resting and breathing and resetting the creativity button. It’s about taking a step back so that you don’t run the risk of burning out. It’s about learning to relax in a world that’s always on the go.

I hope to see you on Friday for another review. Until the next time we meet, don’t forget to live happily ever after <3
~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

P.S. Let’s Chat! What are your favorite ways to relax? How do you keep from burning out creatively?

Friday, December 8, 2017

Cloaked in Red: A Review

Hello, my lovelies!

Between the holidays and traveling I know I’ve missed a few posts in the last few weeks but no more!

I am back to stay. I promised you last week that I would be sharing a review of this book with you and here it is:

Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde
3 Stars
So you think know the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the girl with the unfortunate name and the inability to tell the difference between her grandmother and a member of a different species? Well, then, try your hand at answering these questions:

-Which character (not including Little Red herself) is the most fashion challenged?

-Who (not including the wolf) is the scariest?

-Who (not including Granny) is the most easily scared?

-Who is the strangest? (Notice we're not "not including" anyone, because they're all a little off.)

-Who (no fair saying "the author") has stuffing for brains?

Vivian Vande Velde has taken eight new looks at one of the world's most beloved (and mixed-up) stories. You may never look at fairy tales in quite the same way again.
-From Goodreads

This book was broken up into short stories, each one a retelling of the same tale. Some of the stories I adored, other I absolutely hated. So today I thought I’d do something a little different and talk about each story individually. I’ll try to keep each one short and spoiler free.

Author’s Note:
3 Stars
This comes before the stories begin and sort of sets the tone for the rest of the book. The author is discussing the classic tale of Little Red Riding Hood and why it was she chose that story. She also raises a lot of really great questions about the time while doing so in a very hilarious way.

I didn’t know what to make of this. On the one hand it offered some great commentary into the tale and as I said it asked some valid questions about it. On the other hand it had a very judgmental air about the whole thing. It was as if the author didn’t even like the tale and that was why she was writing this book- to make a not great thing good.

I much prefer to read books written by someone who clearly loves a tale, though they can definitely see its flaws and aren’t afraid to acknowledge them. I don’t like authors who look at fairy tales and come across as snooty and better than that writer.

Also, as someone who loves fairy tales very much it makes me angry when people who don’t like them use them in ways like this. If the story is so terrible don’t write a book based on it and make money off of it. Find other things to write your book about.

The Red Cloak
2 Stars
Right out of the gate running I knew I didn’t like this story.

The main character in this tale is Red Riding Hood- a girl named Meg in this tale- who is clearly better than everyone else she meets. This story sets the precedent for several other stories- as in this one we will later see parents who are idiots and evil woodcutters. We’ll also continue to see main characters who think they are better than everyone else.

Meg makes it pretty clear that she thinks herself the mature one in her relationship with her mom, though the thing we’re told is most immature about the woman is that she met her husband and fell in love with him at first sight. There’s a pretty clear knock on fairy tale romance in the tale, but it’s weird because the dad isn’t really in it but you get the impression he’s still around. So their knock on fairy tale romance makes little sense since the couple who fell into it is still together.

The Red Riding Hood Doll
2.5 Stars
This tale was a lot more interesting than the last but still had a very judgmental air. It’s told from the perspective of the Mother, though there is an interesting added twist on the original.

This story seems to send the message that everyone secretly hates everyone else and wants to be mean to them and you know the person is a good person if they only think the rude thing and don’t actually say it. I wanted so badly to smack the main character on several occasions.

I did, on the other hand, understand where she was coming from. She’s lonely and sad and the author does a good job of bringing that across. I felt her loneliness as I read and it tugged at my heart in probably the strongest bit of emotion I felt in this whole book.

But then the author took it too far and the story got downright weird. Georgette- the main character in the story- is a seamstress and she makes Red Riding Hood out of cloth. She then proceeds to insist this doll is her daughter and we’re supposed to side with her when her mother is weirded out and refuses to accept the cloth creation as her child.

And that’s not even the weirdest bit. That comes at the end, which I won’t discuss so as to avoid spoilers. But it bugged me. A lot.

Red Riding Hood’s Family
1 Star
I this was downright weird from beginning to end. I just- I can’t even make words for how much I didn’t like it. It mostly just made no sense and I kept reading because what else was I supposed to do?

There was another knock on parents being in love, like it was some horrible, horrible thing. Which I just don’t get. Parents being in love is a good thing. It’s a healthy thing in a marriage. We really need to stop knocking it in stories.

Also Roselle- the Red Riding Hood character in the story- was so judgmental and thought herself so much better than everyone else. And it just grated on me.

And then there were others weird, random elements that there was zero precedent for and the whole just confused me.

Granny and the Wolf
4 Stars
Why is the woodcutter always underdeveloped and evil in these stories so far?

Okay, that’s out so now I can get to the good bits. I actually really loved this story. Maybe it was because the others leading up to this point were so bad? Whatever the case, I liked this one a lot.

The story is told from the perspective of the Grandmother. It’s cleverly told, keeping mostly with the original tale but adding some really fun twists and the like. Nelda- the Grandmother- is spunky but also weirdly kind for a character in this book? She has a little bit of judgmentalness but even that actually seems justified in this one?

I don’t know. I just really liked this one.

Deems the Wood Gatherer
5 Stars
This one was my favorite story. This one was clever and well told and the judgement in the tale was from a loveable old man who more shook his head at the youths today than anything else. And Deems is a cinnamon roll.

What’s really fun about this one too is that several other fairy tales make an appearance and that’s fun. The Three Little Pigs, Hansel and Gretel, and the Gingerbread Man. They all work surprisingly well for such a short story and it’s just a really great story.

I don’t know what else to day about it. I just really, really loved it.

Why Willy and His Brothers Won’t Ever Amount to Anything
4.5 Stars
This story was beyond clever. The hints of the original tale mixed with a lot of fun twists and it was just really cool.

I do love Willy a lot and it made me sad that there was some slight judgement about him. He was earnest and good and even though he was a little quick to jump to conclusions and or let his imagination run wild I didn’t see those as reasons to hate him.

But overall it was a good story. And the ending was perfect and I loved it so incredibly much.

The Little Red Headache
4 Stars
I was so happy to find three stories in a row in this book that I liked that I was almost certain it couldn’t last.

But then it did.

This story is told from the perspective of the Wolf and it’s just so fun. He’s not this evil creature that the stories make him out to be. He’s actually rather polite and civilized and the whole story is one big misunderstanding.

It’s super great.

It only gets 4 stars though because when I was writing this review I forgot about it until I reread a little snippet and then I remembered. So it gets a star knocked off for being slightly forgettable. But it’s still really good.

Little Red Riding Hood’s Little Red Riding Hood
1 Star
And of course the love couldn’t last. I hated this story.

This one is told from the perspective of the hood and that is so clever. But that was all the story had going for it.

The cloak is accidentally blessed with intelligence by a fairy and the story goes downhill from there. Apparently if you’re smart that also makes you a little snot who judges everyone else. So fun.

In fact, going back over my notes, the last thing I wrote while reading this story was “What the heck? Another dumb one…”

It was just a very judgmental story, which as sad because I got four good ones in a row so I was lulled into a false sense of security before I read this one.

All in all this book had an air of judgment about it that was too hard to shake while reading it. The idea was clever but in the end too poorly executed for me to really enjoy.

I didn’t like the messages it sent- love is something to roll your eyes at/something for stupid people; it’s okay to be judgmental to literally everyone you meet as long as you don’t actually say what you’re thinking out loud; if you’re smarter than everyone else it also means you look down on everyone else because they’re all idiots.

There were some good stories, which I would recommend reading. If you can get your hands on the book I would recommend reading those stories but skipping the rest. And I wouldn’t bother actually wasting money on it at all. I paid $4 for this between the ebook and the audio and I’m really grateful I didn’t spend any more than that.

I hope to see you on Monday! Until the next time we meet don’t forget to live happily ever after <3
~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

P.S. Let’s Chat! What is your favorite thing about Little Red Riding Hood? What is your favorite retelling of that tale?

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Bibliophile Sweater Tag

Hello, my lovelies!

I was tagged by the very sweet Abigail McKenna over at Novels, Dragons, and Wardrobe Doors for the Bibliophile Sweater Tag (created by Mary Liz over at Sunshine and Scribbles)

The way it works is fairly simple- there are eleven prompts, based off different types of sweaters and I get to pick books that fit those prompts for me. So without further ado, I shall do just that!

Fuzzy sweater (a book that is the epitome of comfort)- The Princess Companion
I first came across this book a little over a year ago. I had been sick for almost a week, I was very behind on my NaNo word count, and I just wanted something happy to read. I found this book on Amazon and figured “Why not give it a try?”

I plan to give it a full review at some point but for now suffice to say that I love this book so much. It’s exactly the sort of book I want to write- retelling, sweet romance, great characters, slightly idealistic, well-told and fun to read.

Striped sweater (book which you devoured every line of)-The Forbidden Wish
I reviewed this book a few months ago but when I saw this prompt I knew there wasn’t any other book I could choose.

This story has the most incredible prose that even if you don’t like the story- which I did- every line is a treat to read. It nails the 1001 Nights feel that delights me so. I cannot say enough good things about the prose of this book.

Ugly Christmas sweater (book with a weird cover)- The Wrath and the Dawn
When I saw this prompt my immediate thought was “MY TIME HAS COME!” I loved this book but I am more than a little bitter about the covers this book gets and will never pass up a chance to complain about it.

The story is a YA 1001 Nights retelling sent in an ancient Persia-esque world. But this cover doesn’t say “YA and Persian” to me, it says “Adult and Indian.”

Cashmere sweater (most expensive book you've bought)- Usborne Illustrated Classics Series
This one was hard for me to decide on just one book. I've purchased a lot of books in my life and I don't know for certain which one I paid the most for.

So instead I decided to feature this series. Each volume is costs more than I would usually pay for a book but they're all so spectacular and I think worth every penny in the long run. What can I say? I'm a sucker for colorfully illustrated fairy tale books.

Hoodie (favorite classic book)- 1001 Nights
There are a lot of classics that mean something special to me- Much Ado About Nothing, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Great Expectations, The Complete Brother's Grimm, or a myriad of other fairy tale collections. But to me my absolute favorite is the 1001 Nights (or Arabian Nights as it's also called).

The legend of Shahrazad will never cease to inspire, empower, and enthrall me. I cannot say enough good things about it and I hope someday I can share just what this character and her stories mean to me.

Cardigan (book that you bought on impulse)- Cloaked in Red
I get these great emails from Goodreads that keep me informed about e-book deals they think I might like. I got this book for $1.99 and was able to add the Audible book to it as well for another $1.99.

A friend had mentioned it to me a while before and so as soon as I saw it I was just like “Yup, gonna buy that!” Didn’t even think twice. (And I’m going to be reviewing it next Friday so be sure to check back for that!)

Turtleneck sweater (book from your childhood)- Princess ofthe Midnight Ball
This is another book I plan to review in depth at some point.

I will never forget the day I found this at the library. I remember thinking it looked/sounded amazing but something kept me from borrowing it. I never forgot it though and one day maybe a year later I made up my mind I was going to find it. Except I only knew it had “princess” in the title and it was a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling. So I scoured the library shelves and looked at every book until I found it. It was well worth the search too!

Homemade knitted sweater (book that is Indie-published)- Corral Nocturne
I impulse bought several of this author’s books last weekend for Black Friday and I already started reading this one. The author lives in NY (which is cool for me, since most indie-authors seem to live in the mid-west and I’m just like “Here I am on the east coast, all by myself…”)

She also writes westerns and fairy tale retellings and she’s actually good at it so as you can imagine I think she’s kind of awesome.

V-neck sweater (book that did not meet your expectations)- The Merchant’s Daughter
I wanted to love this book with everything I had in me. And I really did try so hard. But in the end I just couldn’t. I wrote a REALLY ranty review about it on Goodreads but here suffice it to say, it didn’t live up to my expectations.

I'm getting angry now just thinking about this book. It's time to move on before I start ranting...

Argyle sweater (book with a unique format)- Bella at Midnight
This was the first book I ever read that was told in first person from multiple point of views. I know that isn’t super unique these days but this book is actually told from six or seven different points of view and it somehow works.

It’s a Cinderella retelling I stumbled across on accident when I was younger and I am so in love with this book. It’s so good!! I hope to review this book in depth someday as well.

Polka dot sweater (a book with well-rounded characters)- The Clockwork Scarab
I also reviewed this book a couple months ago.

I gushed about the characters and their relationships in great depth so I won’t do that too much here. But I do love these characters so incredibly much. Each and every one of them is great and engaging and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!!

And then I'm supposed to tag someone else so I tag Hannah McManus and also anyone who reads this and is like "This looks cool." Because it is cool and you should do it :3 

I hope to see you on Monday! Until the next time we meet, don't forget to live happily ever after <3
~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

P.S. Let's Chat! What is your favorite kind of sweater from this list and what book fit the prompt for you?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Do Stories Matter?

Hello, my lovelies!

There are just a few days left in November and if you’re doing NaNoWriMo you’re no doubt scrambling to write that last several thousand words.

But it’s times like this when the doubt really starts to set in and you’re wondering if your story matters. What is the point of all this? Why are you still writing this?

What good are stories really? I often ask myself in my darkest moments. They’re nothing more than fiction- lies masquerading as something important and true. Why waste so much time and energy investing in something that is only make believe?

And then I remember.

Life Sucks:
Sorry for being so blunt, but you can’t deny it, can you? Life isn’t pretty. It’s one big mess after another.

I don’t need to rehash it all here but my teen years were pretty dark ones. And that’s coming from someone who would say she had a happy childhood. My parents are amazing and my home life has always been incredible. I still live at home and I have no intention of changing that any time soon.

But still, life is life, and even the happiest of us get blindsided.

I got lost. I didn’t know who I was anymore or who I was supposed to be. I stopped really living and just started surviving. Some days were better than others but all the nights were the same. After my sister went to college I was alone at night consistently for the first time in my life. And as someone who thinks way too much that was dangerous.

I threw myself into my stories and other people’s stories because that was the only thing that made sense. I finished my first book in that time- a book of light and hope and optimism, which were all things I was searching for.

We’re All Looking for Light
My relationship with God crumbled then. I fought to hold onto it but something was missing- there was a disconnect. I got saved when I was five and when people talk about returning to your first love or having childlike faith I know that they’re talking about. I remember what that was like. I remember how God transformed my family, how miraculous it was. And somewhere in those years I lost it. I wanted it back but I didn’t know how to go about doing that.

I was convinced that if I went to the right church service or prayed the right prayer it would fix everything. I was looking for a “God moment,” like in the movies, where the character prays and God fixes everything. In that instant everything changes.

I knew it could happen because I had seen it happen before. And since it wasn’t happening there must be something wrong with me. It was God’s will for me to have a relationship with him, I knew that. So if something was keeping me from that it had to be me.

I was obviously broken. And I didn’t know how to fix myself.

Story Time:
I don’t remember how old I was exactly but I was in my late teens. I bought a book at a discount story for $2.99- more than I would ever pay for a paperback I hadn’t read before (I laugh now as I write this, thinking of all the full price paperbacks I’ve bought since).

But I started reading it in the store and the main character spoke to me. She told me I wanted to read her book- I needed to. So I bought it.

I read in the car on the drive home and kept reading for the rest of the afternoon. I took breaks to spend time with my family and get stuff done but I kept going back to the book. I read most of it that day. The only reason I stopped was because it was the Saturday before Daylight Saving and we had to be up early for church the next morning.

I finished the book in church that Sunday, before the service while my Mom and Dad practiced to lead worship later that morning.

It was a YA contemporary romance. The main character falls in love with an actor who plays sparkly vampires in Twilight-esque movies. They bicker constantly but each needs the other for something else so they come to an agreement to tolerate each other. The tolerating turns to love and it’s adorable.

And in his mercy, God decided to use this book to change my life.

I’m Getting to the Point, I Promise:
See in the midst of the bickering and falling in love the main character was breaking.

She lost her brother- in a different way than I had lost mine, but I understood what she was going through. She was falling apart inside but pretending to be fine. And she was looking for God, looking to get rid of the disconnect that was between herself and him.

I saw myself in her. And as her trip to Ireland and falling in love with a sparkly vampire brought her healing, so it did me.

She finds God in the end. She finds him in such a way that she realizes he’s been there all along. She has her big “God moment” and she knows things are going to be okay.

But here’s why I needed this story- the book has an epilogue, set two years after the end of the book- after the character’s big moment. And she’s still broken. She’s healing and she’d growing closer to God but she’s not there yet.

And sitting in church that Sunday, reading the end of the book, I knew God had inspired the author to write it for me. I knew he had always been there for me, that I may be broken but there was nothing keeping me from him. And I knew that healing was going to take time. And that was okay.

We Need Stories:
I had heard everything I learned from that book before. Pastors had preached it in sermons. Wiser, older people had said it to me in an attempt to encourage me. I’d heard others talking about the principles in conversation.

But I needed a book about vampires, and crazy old ladies, and mischievous nuns to really make the message sink in. I needed a fictional character to go to Ireland to find God so that I could too.

We need stories because they speak to us in ways other things never can. They say fiction is telling truth with lies and I wholeheartedly believe that.

Stories teach us things, show us things, remind us of things. They build us up and take us places we’d never get to go otherwise.

I don’t know what my life would look like without this book. I’m sure God would have found some other way to speak to me- he’s God, after all, and I know now he never would have given up on me- but still, the process would have taken so much longer, been even more painful than it was without this book.

God uses stories. I don’t know why. I guess because he’s merciful like that- he’s willing to use the things that make us happy, that we allow ourselves to get lost in, to speak to us. He’s willing to use those things to reach us when nothing else can.

Even if you don’t think your book has a strong message, like the book I talked about does, that doesn’t matter. My best friend likes to tell me about the spiritual truths she finds in Doctor Who and Star Trek and Stargate.

You don’t have to set out to tell your readers something. Just know that if you write with the intention of telling the truth your readers will find the truth they need. If you’re writing your story, trusting that even in its messy state, God can and will use it, then that’s all that matters.

We are just days away from finishing NaNoWriMo. November is almost over and hopefully your novel is too. You’re almost there. You’ve got this.

And yes, that novel is a mess. It’s an utter nightmare right now. No one will ever make any sense of it, right?

Wrong. You will have time to edit and polish and rewrite. Right now you’re getting words on paper and that’s enough.

But be encouraged. Someday this messy, messy first draft is going to be something beautiful. It’s going to be something that changes lives. Someday a very lost teenager is going to read your book and God is going to use it to fuse back together all the broken pieces.

And until then all you have to do is keep writing. The only story that can’t change someone else’s life is the story you keep to yourself.

I hope to see you on Friday for some bookish fun. Until the next time we meet, don’t forget to live happily ever after <3
~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

P.S. Let’s Chat! What stories has God used to change your life? Which ones still continue to bring you healing?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Someday, Somewhere: A Mid-Novel Pep Talk

Hello, my lovelies!

It’s day twenty of NaNoWriMo. It’s so hard to believe that there are only eleven days left to November! It’s around this time when the doubt really starts to creep in and I need someone to remind me of the important things and keep me grounded.

So without further ado, I would like to offer you some encouragement and remind you that someday, somewhere someone is going to read your book and:

-Compare themselves to your main character

-Claim it was written for them

-Compare themselves and the love interest to their relationship

-Make the hero their role model

-Use it to get them through a rough patch

-Tell someone it is their favorite book

-Write their own book because it inspired them

-Write fanfiction about your characters

-Dress up as one of your characters for cosplay or Halloween

-Make fandom posts about it

-Give it a fandom name

-Connect with people simply because they all love it

-Make Pinterest boards and Spotify playlists and Facebook groups about it

-Draw fan art

-Talk about how they need to make a movie based on it

-Underline their favorite passages and read them over and over again

-Give copies of it to all their friends for birthdays and holidays

-Write reviews of it for their blog or vlog

Your story will impact people in ways you never imagined it would. It will become as part of someone else’s world as your favorite book has to yours. It will change lives and probably even save some. It will get people through unimaginable horrors and help them face the day or week or month or year ahead of them.

There are people out there who need this story. People who need your characters and what they go through. They need the message your book will offer them, even if you don’t even know what that message is yourself.

This story doesn’t need to be perfect. It doesn’t need to be spectacular or the next great American novel. It just needs to be. With all its heart and quirks and every last bit of you that you pour into it.

People need that. People need you and they need this story. And while this is your story and you don’t owe it to the world, you do have something to offer it. Don’t ever doubt that.

Your story will make the world a better place for people. You will bring them light and hope and joy. You will give them an anchor in the darkness. Your story has the power to change lives.

So keep writing, dear one. Through the doubt keep pressing on. You’ve got this. You will get this story written and it will be worth it.

On Monday I’ll be talking about how God used stories in my life. And of course Friday will bring another movie review. I hope to see you for those.

Until the next time we meet don’t forget to live happily ever after <3
~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

P.S. Let’s Chat! What are some ways you honor your favorite books? What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced this month?

Friday, November 17, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express (2017): A Review

Murder on the Orient Express official promo graphic ©20th Century Fox

Hello, my lovelies!

I went to see a movie last night with one of my closest friends and since it falls into the criteria for my review series I thought I would share it all with you!

Given that this is a mystery and one that only just came out (the movie, anyway) this review will be spoiler free. So even if you haven’t seen the movie, you can proceed safely.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
3.5 Stars
When a murder occurs on the train he's travelling on, celebrated detective Hercule Poirot is recruited to solve the case.
-From IMDB

I honestly had no idea what to expect from this movie- I saw it announced ages ago because I’m following Leslie Odom Jr. on Facebook and it looked like it had potential. But the only two other things I can think of that I’ve seen that are connected to Kenneth Branagh (Cinderella and Much Ado About Nothing) I’ve had mixed feelings about.

So I went into this with reservations, wanting to be excited but also really terrified that I was going to end up hating it.

In the end it wasn’t as good as I wanted to hope but a whole lot better than I was afraid it would be.

What I Liked:
Poirot’s Introduction: Until this movie I hadn’t met Hercule Poirot. I’d love to read the book this is based on now, as well as others featuring him, but before this he and I hadn’t had the pleasure of being introduced.

So you can imagine how important the opening of this movie was in making an impression on me. I am delighted to report it didn’t disappoint. We’re introduced to him and all of his intricacies so quickly and yet so masterfully. I felt like within minutes of meeting him I knew what I needed to know without it feeling forced or convoluted. Right from the moment the movie started it drew me in.

The Humor: This movie was funnier than I expected it to be. It still somehow managed to maintain the very serious air that you would expect from this sort of a mystery but the dialogue was just so snappy- it was sarcastic in places, witty in others, just so very stunning.

I didn’t expect to laugh but I did in all the right places. Every joke, every clever little line of dialogue was there for a reason and it helped enhance the mystery rather than detract from it. This was in no way a comedy but it had little moments of humor that made me laugh a lot more than I expected to and I appreciated that.

The Visuals: As I said, I’ve seen two other things Kenneth Branagh is connected to and so I expected at the very least that this movie would be visually stunning. And it was.

The scenery, the costumes, and color schemes were just out of this world. And the cinematography was amazing. This movie was gorgeous. Like drool-worthy, jaw-dropping, breathtakingly gorgeous. If for nothing else this movie is worth watching to see the art and beauty involved in the visuals.

The Cast: This movie has an all-star cast, which is something that can either make or break a movie. For this movie it worked. There were so many characters all of whom were played to perfection.

Leslie Odom Jr., for instance, I’ve only actually heard sing (thanks to his role in Hamilton, his Simply Christmas album, and the Nationwide Commercial). I’ve never seen him act before and it was a lot of fun to see him in this role.

I’ve never been the largest fan of the roles Josh Gad has been cast in but I liked his character a lot in this movie (as in, he was an interesting one, not necessarily a moral or likeable one). And it was nice to realize that I don’t actually dislike the actor, just the characters he has played in the past. Before now I hadn’t made the distinction.

Johnny Depp’s character, while not the greatest person in terms of morality, was well-written and more importantly, he wasn’t really weird, which I’ll admit I was nervous about since most roles I’ve seen him in have given me the creeps.

I liked getting to see Daisy Ridley in a role other than Rey, as Star Wars is all I know her from.

And, of course, Kenneth Branagh’s acting is beyond incredible. The man is a master, to say the least, and in this role he does not disappoint.

The Mystery (to an extent): What the movie did right it did so very right. Watching Poirot unravel the threads of the murder was engaging and the kind of mind puzzle I would expect from this sort of mystery. It moved slowly yet interestingly, the story becoming more and more complicated which only served to make it all the more intriguing.

I was on the edge of my seat watching it all unfold and when it was all unveiled I felt a little silly for not having figured it out myself. But it made sense.

What I Didn’t Like:
The Mystery (to an extent): That is, it all made sense for the most part.

Not everything made sense. Until the very end when it was all revealed this movie had a solid 5 stars. No question. I was in love with it, hanging on every word, every action, every small detail. But then it didn’t make sense.

I don’t want to go into detail to keep this spoiler free, but I feel like I would be amiss in not saying it disappointed me. If you’re interested in my reasons or would like to discuss it, feel free to contact me as I would be happy to share my thoughts on the matter.

The Ending: Because of the points that didn’t make senses to me, I felt like other things that happened as a result of that also didn’t make sense. And so while I was so deeply in love for a good portion of the movie, the ending left me feeling a little empty and confused. Again, I’m trying to remain spoiler free here but if you wish to discuss it, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

The Body: I know, I know. It’s a murder mystery, of course there’s a body! But I didn’t want to see it and I felt like it was on screen a tad too long. Long enough for me to be initially horrified and then stare at it until I realized it really wasn’t all that bad. But then I remembered I was staring at what was supposed to be a dead body and got horrified all over again.

Maybe I’m just squeamish but I didn’t like it.

The Character’s Introductions: As I said, there were a lot of characters in this movie. And great lengths were taken to make sure we were introduced to each and every one of them.

Unfortunately since there were so many and their introductions took place in a crowded train station, I felt a little lost as each one was introduced. In fact, for a long time I thought Johnny Depp’s character and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo’s were one and the same.

It wasn’t until the murder had taken place and Poirot was unraveling the different characters and their stories that I really started to get a feel for who was who. So don’t get discouraged if you see it and you can’t keep the characters straight. It’ll all make sense eventually.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie. It was beautiful, it was clever, it was well cast and well acted. It had me on the edge of my seat for the whole thing, eyes wide and eager to not miss even a single second.

Unfortunately the ending didn’t quite sit right with me and left me feeling empty and confused. I didn’t want to take stars off for it but I can’t shake the feeling that it was wrong and that maybe it should have played out just a little differently.

That said, I’m not sorry I saw it and I would gladly see it again. I’m also more than ready to read the book and delve deeper into the world of Hercule Poirot. I'm excited to see what Agatha Christie has to offer me.

I hope to see you all on Monday for a little mid-novel pep talk! And next Friday I’ll be back for another review.

Until the next time we meet, don’t forget to live happily ever after <3
~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

P.S. Let’s Chat! How familiar are you with Agatha Christie’s detective? Have you see this movie or are you planning to?

Monday, November 13, 2017

How to Keep Your Creativity Flowing

Hello, my lovelies!

November is almost halfway gone already! I hope you're all doing well and keeping on track and having a blast.

But whether you’re doing NaNo or not, it’s easy to fall into writing slumps. Your writing starts to drag, you find yourself procrastinating, hitting a brick wall every time you try to write. It’s hard to focus, hard to find the energy to write, hard to get anything done. You’ve hit a creative slump.

It’s time to kick that creativity back into drive.

What Do You Need?

One of the most important things to do when trying to boost your creativity is knowing your cues. They’re different for everyone and only you can really tell what you need. But when it comes time to start taking action you need to know which you need- drive, inspiration, or to disconnect.


Sometimes all creativity needs to get going is for you to sit yourself down and force yourself to write. The writer who doesn’t write if he isn’t inspired is going to find himself inspired less and less.

Sometimes you just need to make yourself write. Whether you want to or not, you need to sit down and force yourself to put something on the paper. Anything. Just put words on the paper until you find it easier than before to keep doing that.

Word Wars or Word Sprints:

But sometimes just forcing yourself to write doesn’t work. You’re distracted, you can’t focus, it just doesn’t work. Which is why Word Wars or Word Sprints are a thing.

I first learned about Word Wars from the OYAN community. They’re pretty simple- you find someone to war with you (either in person or via the internet. At the moment the NaNoWriMo group I'm part of has a Word War group in Facebook messenger for this purpose). Then you agree on an amount of time and write until the time is up. Whoever wrote the most words “wins.” NaNoWriMo Word Sprints work the same way, just with a different name.

But sometimes there aren’t other people available to war with and that what are you to do?

NaNoWriMo does have it set up so that you can sprint withyourself. Or you can just use a regular timer. Or, if you’re like me and you like having random apps on your phone, the Forest app is pretty cool. You set a timer and if you don’t use your phone the entire time it’s running you grow a little tree (or a bush, if you set the timer for a shorter amount of time). It’s really adorable and I like having all my little trees.

But regardless of how you do it, the idea of the timer is to give you pressure to keep you focused on the story. You don’t have time to think about other stuff or you can’t work on other stuff if your phone is “locked” (the Forest app doesn’t actually lock your phone, but it does know when you use it so the moment you open something else it asks you if you want to kill the tree!!)

Break It Into Pieces:

But maybe timers aren’t your thing. Or maybe you just don’t want to do that right this second.

Something I use all the time is to break it into small little chunks. It works better if you have something like NaNoWriMo or Pacemaker to keep track of your progress, but I have done it without those before.

Basically how it works is I take the number of total words I’ve written on the project and the number of words I’ve written that day and I’m constantly trying to get one of them to a rounded number. So if I’m at 12,258 words and I want to reach 13,500 words for the day, instead of just setting my goal for 1,242 words and getting stressed I break it up.

I start with the 12,258 and I tell myself that I only have to write 242 words to get myself to 12,500 words. Then when I reach that number, I look and see that I ended up writing 257 words so if I write another 243 words I’ll have written 500 words today. But once that’s written I only have 242 words until I reach 13,000 words.

It just keeps going like that until I reach my word count for the day and then some. On days when I do this, I usually end up doubling my word count because I just keep telling myself to write another 200 words or so. And it usually goes by pretty fast- on Saturday I wrote almost 3,000 words in less than two hours by doing this.


But sometimes just sitting down and writing isn’t enough and no matter how many tricks you have up your sleeve, it’s not enough. Sometimes you need inspiration.

Inspiration comes from finding things connected to your story to help you get excited about it all over again. You’re missing a piece of the puzzle and you just need to find it again.

The first step is identifying what piece you’re missing. Sometimes you have some research that needs done or you need a clearer direction on what happens next. Or sometimes you don’t know what you need, you just know something is missing.


Research is a rather easy fix in that if you know what needs researched then all you have to do is take the time to do it. Go to the library or start Googling until you start to feel inspired to write again.

If you’re retelling a story sometimes your research might be as simple as rereading the original tale over again to remind yourself of the details and look for things you might have missed the other times you read it.

Think it Through:

Finding direction is a bit more difficult. Sometimes it helps to have a friend help with this- someone who is willing to talk the story through with you to offer advice or suggestions or just a sounding board for your ideas. Try outlining or going back over the notes you originally made about this story (if you’re like me and you made those notes in the first place).

Character Sketches:

Try doing some character sketches to help ground who your characters are, solidifying them in your mind. I really like Charahub’s questions. I’ve also used a journal with writing prompts before, with things like “What does paradise look like for you” or “What are some things you would like to pass onto your children?” I answer them as if the character is the one writing the entry and that helps me not only get to the heart of their thought process but also offers me insight into aspects of them that I might not have tapped into before.

Plus it’s just a lot of fun.

Know What Inspires You:

I love having a Pinterest board for each of my stories to pull up at the moments when I need a quick inspiration fix. My boards are usually a mix of pictures that remind me of the aesthetic and tone of the story along with quotes that fit the characters and themes.

Music also inspires me so listening through a playlist for my story or trying to track down some new songs to add can be the much needed inspirational recharge that I need.

Know what inspires you most and partake in that- if I’m writing a sci-fi I might watch a sci-fi movie or immersing myself in a fantasy might be helpful if that’s what I'm working on.

But be careful- it’s easy to blur the lines between plagiarism and inspiration. Make sure that you aren’t even inadvertently stealing elements from someone else’s story to fix your own. For example, while I might watch a sci-fi show while writing a sci-fi, I always try to avoid retellings of the fairy tale I’m retelling. This month I’m writing a Snow White/Robin Hood story so I avoid all kinds of Snow White or Robin Hood media. It’s easy for me to get confused on what is part of the original tale and what is someone else’s interpretation and to keep it from getting all muddled up I just avoid those things for the duration of my writing process.


But what happens when the drive tricks aren’t working and the inspiration is just stressing you out? You try disconnecting.

To disconnect you need to step away from the story entirely and work on other things. This is hard if you’re like me and your stories take up a good portion of your life.

But sometimes it’s easy to get so immersed in your story that you get overwhelmed. Sometimes what your story needs it for you to take a step back, breathe, and come back to it later with fresh eyes and a new perspective.

Find a Distraction:

Sometimes you just need to step away and do something else for a little bit- take a shower, finish a chore, read a book or watch a movie (preferably something outside the genre you’re writing), bake something. Find a task that isn’t linked to your story and throw yourself into it for a time.

Sometimes when I’m particularly stressed I’ll even set a time limit for myself- I can’t think about this story for the next hour or four hours or even the rest of the day.

Walk Away:

Sometimes the physical act of walking away from your story is all you need. Go for a walk, make plans to go out with friends, do your grocery shopping. Get out of the house and breathe. I write in my house most of the time so most of my stories are tied to my house mentally- when I leave without a notebook or my laptop it’s easy for me to disconnect completely from the story since it’s my house that I associate with the story.

Know the Difference:

The biggest thing to know though, with all of this, is whether you actually need inspiration or to disconnect or if you’re just procrastinating. My greatest enemy is putting off writing simply because I don’t feel like doing it. It’s easy to mistake lack of desire to write for lack of inspiration.

Sometimes there comes a point, after you disconnect and look for inspiration, that you need to put your butt in the chair and you need to write. You can only make so many character sketches before it becomes time to stop putting it off and just start writing.

So learn your cues and know what you’re doing- since I often take Sundays off, Mondays can be hard for me to get back into the writing groove, so on Mondays I know I need to give myself an extra push to write. I rarely allow myself to take time off on Mondays because I know those days that I’m not in need of anything other than a kick in the pants.

But forcing yourself to write when there is legitimately a problem will only produce more frustration and can often be bad for your story in the end. So if you aren’t sure what you need, it won’t hurt to take a little time off from writing to work on something else. Just make sure you don’t take too much time off and you recognize that there comes a point where you have to kick yourself back into gear again.


Writing is hard and it’s always good to know what you need to keep from burning out. And if you feel you might be in danger of that, make sure you take the time to take care of yourself. Writer self-care is very important.

But also know what you need and don’t use “writer self-care is important” as an excuse to put off doing the things you know you need to do. Your words won’t get written unless you write them.

I’ll be back on Friday for another movie review and I hope to see you then. Until the next time we meet, don’t forget to live happily ever after <3
~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

P.S. Let’s Chat! What are some ways you find inspiration? What are your favorite ways to disconnect from your writing?