Chronicling The Craft: Draft #3 Is DONE!!

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Plus, the Final Five-Song Reveal from the WIP’s Playlist

Chronicling The Craft is a series where I share my experience with working on my YA fantasy novel THE KEEPER’S CURSE. These articles alternate between a) progress updates and fun “TKC-related” content, and b) revising / editing tips. Today’s post marks the end of Draft #3 with a final progress report and more songs from TKC’s novel playlist.

Well, the title gives it away… but this happened 2 weeks ago!!

So, yes, TKC is done for the third time, and 2 weeks before my “soft” deadline of November 20th. Since then, I’ve been feeling… well, a weird mix of emotions. Relief. Accomplishment. Excitement-anxiety-nausea over the upcoming beta-reader phase.  Also, a sense of “What do I do with myself now?”. You get used to weeks and months to doing something on most weeknights and weekends, and when it’s done you’re almost at a loss. But I won’t let myself flounder for long, and I’ll explain why shortly.

You know what else this means? It’s DANCING PIKACHU TIME!!

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Now, here’s the final progress for Draft #3, as well as the final five-song reveal from TKC’s novel playlist. 🙂
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Time Flies!: July 2015

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Welcome to the latest edition of Time Flies! It’s my version of a monthly update, where I recap the past month’s accomplishments and articles, share news and random things from my offline life, and hint at what may be coming in the month ahead.

Hello from Writer’s Digest Conference! Today is Day One of the event, and I’m beyond excited for everything. The individual sessions, meeting other writers (especially some of my DIY MFA colleagues), being in NYC for the first time in a while, LOTS of books… It’s hard to believe that this weekend I’ve been looking forward to since early March has finally arrived, but it’s here! I can’t wait to share more of my experience with you once I’m back at home. 😀

And what about the past month? It’s been an interesting one, that’s for sure! So, here’s your chance to catch up with the month’s blog postings and other things:

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One Lovely Blog Hop

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This Blog Hop stop has been in the works long enough that not one, but two fellow writers invited me to take part: Angela B. Chrysler, and E. Rawls. I “met” Angela on Twitter (I think?) late last year, and we immediately bonded over our love of fantasy literature and our dreams of becoming published authors. She’s now preparing to self-publish her debut novel, Dolor and Shadow, which is due out in late May. As for E. (full first name is Elizabeth), she was also nominated by Angela for the same blog hop; and like me and Angela, she’s a fantasy writer and Tolkien fan. Thank you, ladies – and sorry it’s taken me so long to respond!

Here’s some information and rules about the One Lovely Blog Hop:

This blog hop is designed to show our readers a more personal side to ourselves. We’ve been challenged by another author/ blogger (somewhat like the ‘ice bucket’ challenge) to list seven interesting facts to help cast light onto that tough writer’s/ blogger’s persona we all like to project. But we want to show that behind every story is a story, our story, my story; and like everyone else, I have dreams, hobbies, problems, and goals. This blog hop is a way to share some of them with you, my readers.

The rules are that I share 7 Lovely Facts about myself, and links to a maximum of 15 blogs that I enjoy reading. If I’ve nominated your blog (see names below) please don’t feel any obligation to join in but, if you do, please link back to the blog of the person who nominated you (that would be me, Sara Letourneau), share facts about yourself, and nominate 15 blogs (or as many as you can).

My brain tends to freeze when I have to think of random things to share about myself… But I’ve come up with seven that fit the billing. 😉

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Music Monday Review: Xandria – “Sacrificium”

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Xandria – Sacrificium

Rating: 2.5 / 5

Recently I’ve noticed a pattern with my opinions about female-fronted symphonic metal albums: When a band releases what ends up becoming my favorite album of theirs, their next release fails to impress me. This has happened with Epica (I loved 2009’s Design Your Universe, then was bored by 2012’s Requiem For The Indifferent) and earlier this year with Within Temptation (The Unforgiving was my favorite album of 2011, while Hydraneeds a miracle to make my Top 10 of 2014). Unfortunately, I’m now adding Xandria to this list. The German quintet’s new album Sacrificium has its moments but doesn’t electrify as its predecessor, Neverworld’s End, had done. (Click here to read my review of Neverworld’s End at Sonic Cathedral.)

Let me be clear: I wasn’t expecting a repeat of the last album. With Dianne van Giersbergen replacing previous frontwoman Manuela Kraller last year, I knew Sacrificium would be different. And it is, with a slight power metal edge, a greater choir presence, and a more sophisticated air – almost like Epica without the male grunts. As for Dianne, fans who are familiar with her work with her other band Ex Libris already know she OWNS the mic. Her expressiveness and operatic gymnastics rival the likes of Floor Jansen and Tarja Turunen. Dianne shows shades of her vocal colors on Xandria’s new material, but she doesn’t paint with her entire palette. Instead, she takes a more conservative and reserved approach that pales in comparison to her Ex Libris recordings. Comparing the work of two different metal bands here may not be the fairest way to review. But with Ex Libris releasing a new album just a few months ago and Dianne’s outstanding performance there still fresh in my mind, it’s awfully hard not to.

What disappoints me more about Sacrificium, though, is that none of the new songs stand out to me. They’re not terrible, but most of them sound… well, like filler. I remember very little about this album when I finish it, so I walk away unmoved each time. Also, my brain just can’t process Sacrificium as a Xandria album. It’s convinced that a completely different band is playing. Sure, this album’s equally as bombastic as Neverworld’s End, but the latter album retained the playfulness and sensuality we’d heard from Xandria on other older albums, going back as far as Ravenheart. I can’t detect those qualities anywhere on Sacrificium, and I miss them.

Sacrificium does have its bright spots. “Stardust” funnels a flurry of guitars, choirs, and synth-strings through an exhilarating worm hole, complete with (what sounds like) a sci-fi lyrical slant that’s new for Xandria and works well. “Betrayer,” on the other hand, breathes down the listener’s neck with saturated, throttling guitars. No competition here for the title of this album’s “Soulcrusher.” (If you own Neverworld’s End, you know what I’m talking about.) “Temple of Hate,” the short yet pretty “Our Neverworld,” and the exquisite winter-tale “The Undiscovered Land” are also worth revisiting.

I can’t say the same for the rest of Sacrificium, though. Even while listening to this CD to write this review, I’m fighting the urge to switch to other Xandria albums in my collection. Stylistically it may be a good example of symphonic metal’s grandiloquence. But as a listener, I want to be stirred or inspired – I want to feel something beautiful. Indifference with streaks of pleasure is how Sacrificium makes me feel, and that’s not what I’d call beautiful.

Highlights: “Stardust” (below), “The Undiscovered Land,” “Betrayer”

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Deciding whether to buy Sacrificium from Amazon? Let me know whether you found my review helpful by clicking here and selecting either “Yes” or “No.”

Coming Soon: The next Music Monday Review, on Divided We Fall’s Dreamcrusher, won’t be ready for a couple weeks. But I’ve finished reading George R.R. Martin’s A Feast For Crows and Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study, so get ready for two new Recent Reads! On top of all that, I passed 60,000 words on my novel last week, which means I need to get cracking on the next installment of “Chronicling The Craft.” 😉

Five Years at Sonic Cathedral – A Retrospective, Part 3: Artists #10 through #6

Finally getting around to the next part of my retrospective! We’re halfway through the countdown of my 20 favorite artists that I’ve covered at Sonic Cathedral over the past 5 years. If you’ve missed the first two installments, now’s a great time to catch up:

Part 1: Artists #20 through #16

Part 2: Artists #15 through #11

Which means that today I’ll reveal the first half of my top 10. 😉 And remember that you can catch the daily version of the countdown at my official Facebook page.

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My Favorite Music of 2012

Hello!

I hope your New Year has gotten off to a promising start. The end of 2012 was a busy time for me, between various writing projects, the holidays, and other things. However, I made sure to consider which albums from 2012 I considered as some of my favorites.

I always make two lists: a personal one that combines all of the music genres I listen to, and one for Sonic Cathedral that focuses exclusive on female-fronted rock and metal. Now that the Sonic Cathedral Best of 2012 article is online, it’s time for me to share my picks for both lists! And – ready for a shocker? – for the first time in a couple years, my #1 picks for both lists are different albums. Then again, that just goes to show how incredible some of 2012’s albums were.

So, here are the lists!

My Personal Top 10 Albums of 2012

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1. Anathema – Weather Systems

2. Beyond The Bridge – The Old Man & The Spirit

3. The Mariana Hollow – Velvet Black Sky

4. Xandria – Neverworld’s End

5. Astral Tears – Hypnotic

6. Lyriel – Leverage

7. Kamelot – Silverthorn

8. Ideal Zero – Ideal Zero EP

9. Atoma – Skylight

10. Arjen Lucassen – Lost In The New Real

My Sonic Cathedral Top 10 of 2012
(click here to read the full article by the SC staff)

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1. Beyond The Bridge – The Old Man & The Spirit

2. The Mariana Hollow – Velvet Black Sky

3. Xandria – Neverworld’s End

4. Astral Tears – Hypnotic

5. Lyriel – Leverage

6. Ideal Zero – Ideal Zero EP

7. Leah – Of Earth & Angels

8. Venturia – Dawn Of A New Era

9. Vajra – Pleroma

10. Akoma – The Other Side EP

New Review at Sonic Cathedral: Xandria’s “Neverworld’s End”

Time for another new CD review!  This one is on Xandria’s fifth album, Neverworld’s End, out now in Europe and on March 6th in North America via Napalm Records.

I’ve always liked Xandria’s music, but the only pre-Neverworld’s End record of theirs I’d recommend would be their 2005 album India.  Otherwise, their brand of gothic pop-metal with Celtic and Middle Eastern elements was… decent. Over the past few years, however, Xandria have had to replace their frontwoman twice while crafting a major shift in style. Today, Xandria’s sound is more symphonic, more metal, more bombastic and operatic (thanks to soprano singer Manuela Kraller) – and much more awesome. That’s one of many reasons why I called Neverworld’s End “[Xandria’s] ticket to the forefront of the genre.” I think we’ll be hard-pressed to find a more impressive symphonic metal album this year, even from Epica, whose next album comes out in a couple of weeks.

Click here to read my review of Xandria’s Neverworld’s End.

More articles coming soon at both Sonic Cathedral and Suite101!

~ Sara

New @ Sonic Cathedral: Our First “Round Table” Article

Have you ever read the Sonic Cathedral WebZine and wondered what its writers really think about some of the biggest bands in female-fronted metal? Or, have you ever wanted to know how different our opinions on the same bands might be? Well, my colleagues and I did. Even after several months (or a couple years) of communicating about the music we love most, we wanted to find out just how varied our opinions are.

In SC’s first Round Table article, all four of us critique 11 of the most famous female-fronted metal bands.  We then individually rated each band on a scale of 1 to 5: 1 meaning we don’t like the band at all, and 5 meaning we absolutely love the band.  Finally, we calculated each band’s average rating and arranged the bands in order from the highest to the lowest.  Some of the selections and opinions may be predictable, but trust us – we have some surprises up our sleeves. 😉

The 11 bands we discussed are:

  • After Forever
  • Delain
  • Epica
  • Lacuna Coil
  • Leaves’ Eyes
  • Nightwish
  • Sirenia
  • Therion
  • Tristania
  • Within Temptation
  • Xandria

Click here to read our first “Round Table” article.