Sunday, March 13, 2022

Writing Update: Four WIP's

When I was in school, I told myself I was never going to become a teacher. I had several motivations, but the main one was that someone once said when they became a teacher, they didn’t have the energy to write. Ouch. Why would I want to do a job if it meant giving up writing?

Long story short, now I’m a teacher and a writer. Ha! Not today, discouragement.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve changed jobs, schedules, number of projects, you name it. Usually, I tend to write about two novels a year. Whether I stick with that project or not is another matter entirely. Lately, though, I have two projects in the editing phase, another I just finished writing, and a fourth one that I’m outlining.

Four whole works in progress. So many!

 


Novel 1: Edge of the Solar System

Genre: adult sci-fi, mystery
Stage: Draft 3

Cory Bailey is used to working alone. When the Interspecies Investigation, a cross-cultural agency, offers her a position as a linguist, she jumps at the chance to work in her field, even if it takes her halfway across the Solar System. Now she has to figure out how to work as a member of a team if she’s to survive. But meeting with the Tchotovoroc, an alien species resident to the colony outside Neptune, isn’t quite what she expects, and the greatest threat may just be the humans closer to home.

Oooooh! I’m so excited to share this one with you guys! I’ve gotten some feedback from my critique partners and soon I’ll be looking for beta readers and sensitivity readers. Then it’s off to querying literary agents.

 

Novel 2: Water Sprite

Genre: YA contemporary fantasy, poetry
Stage: Draft 3

Astor Foster doesn’t plan on making any new friends during her last year in Germany. Not since her best friend moved back to the States last December, and not when she is going to move soon. Nobody is more surprised than she is when a family outing leads her to hang out with a girl at the local pool. But there’s more to her new friend than her strange name—Sturm. There’s also her ability to breathe underwater, and Astor wants to know how.

I had a hard time settling on the plot for this story, but once I turned it into a novel in verse, it really took form. I just need to find some more critique partners… It’s a trickier to find people who are willing to read a novel in verse.

 

Novel 3: Not-So-Secret

Genre: YA sci-fi
Stage: Draft 1

I started using Campfire Writing to outline my books, and had a lot of fun developing the story even before the writing process. I just finished the rough draft. Like any first draft, it’s a mess, but that’s a good thing. I’ve got plenty to work with, and I get the feeling I’ll enjoy rewriting it come summer.

I’ve been experimenting with style a lot lately, and it’s been lots of fun!

 

Novel 4: Secret

It’s a little early for me to share much about this one because it’s so new. Even if I were to tell you about it, that info would likely change by the time I get around to writing it. I’ll just say it’s a fantasy.

 

Blogging

Because I’m working on so many books, I’ve decided to step back from my blog for a while, posting once a month instead of once a week. I haven’t yet decided whether I’m going to share poems or book-related posts. Maybe a bit of both. We shall see.

Until next time, happy reading!

 

Let’s chat! Fellow writers, what kind of projects are you working on? What’s your favorite genre to write? Do you have a preferred writing style?

 

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Similar posts: Campfire Writing, Writing Update: To Sequel or Not to Sequel?, and My Latest Writing Desk

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Book Review: Alone

“There is something about poetry
being nonfiction
but not factual.

“The most intimate personal thoughts
—things people would never dream
of saying out loud in middle school—
right there on the page in black and white.”

 

I really enjoy novels in verse, and this one hit at just the right time. Last year, I attended a novel in verse writing session by Megan E. Freeman. I even turned one of my own stories into a novel in verse. After hearing about her story, I eagerly awaited reading it. I suggested my library purchase a copy a while back, so I was first in line for checking it out. Freeman did not disappoint!

 


Book: Alone by Megan E. Freeman
Genre: MG, contemporary, survival, poetry
My rating: 4.5 stars
Mini description: isolation

 

I’ve always enjoyed survival stories. This one feels like a mix of a survival story with a smidge of dystopia. An entire city becomes devoid of people, and young Maddie is left by herself, until she adopts the neighbor’s dog. Usually, I’m not a big fan of dystopian stories, but maybe my taste is changing. Either way, I really enjoyed the overarching survival elements, from Maddie’s storing up wood for the winter to finding food and water.

Of course, one can’t forget the poetry in regards to this story. Like a good novel in verse, it’s not too heavy on the metaphors, but the imagery is enough to be compelling, allowing a perfect comparison between the beauty and harsh realities of nature.

Another element that I enjoyed was the coming-of-age element. Maddie becomes a teenager all on her own. As time passes, she makes long-term plans, often speculating whether it’s better to stay put or move on.

In all, I gave Alone 4.5/5 stars, rounding up to 5 for a compelling story, enchanting descriptions, and interesting themes. I’d recommend it to anybody interested in survival stories and/or poetry. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go buy a copy.

 

Interested in the book? Have you read it yet? You might also enjoy these novels in verse: Audacity by Melanie Crowder, Somewhere Among by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu, Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton, and Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

 

Let’s chat! Have you read Alone yet, or has it made it to your TBR? What are your thoughts on poetry? Do you have any favorite novels in verse?

 

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Similar book reviews: Almost American Girl, Kids Like Us, and Audacity

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Do Your Characters Share Your Beliefs?

I was chatting with one of my friends the other day, and she asked a question that got me thinking, “Do your characters share your beliefs?”

“Sometimes,” I said, “it depends on the story.”

There’s a whole debate out there as to whether or not entertaining stories should have a message or not. Personally, I lean toward a message, but not necessarily a forced one. I like to slide it in-between the theme so that those really looking for it can find it. These themes usually show up halfway into draft one and get fully fleshed out in drafts two and three. I don’t usually pick a theme in advance but let one develop naturally in my story.

The same applies to the characters. I don’t necessarily set out going, “Okay, this is what you believe. Go. Act.” I prefer to discover what my characters believe as the story goes on, then I’ll delve into those beliefs a little more throughout the drafts. This process allows me to come up with something naturally. It feels more genuine that way. I don’t like stories that try to shove a message down a reader’s throat.

Here are a couple of examples of my protagonists with different beliefs.



Adult Sci-Fi: Edge of the Solar System

Cory, the protagonist of this story, is a fresh-out-of-college graduate who’s starting a new job. I’ve been there, done that not too long ago. But that’s about where the similarities end. She comes from a different background than I do, and her personal goals are purely career-driven.

She first sets foot in a religious building during the narrative itself. Some of her coworkers are Christian, and some are atheist. Cory herself is searching, still figuring out what she believes.

 

YA Contemporary Fantasy: Water Sprite

Astor is just starting high school, and she is being raised in a Christian military family. I drew a lot from personal experience in this particular story, but as a result, I worked hard to make her different from me in other ways.

Personally, I don’t like it when a writer inserts themselves into a story. Then, all they have to do is ask “What would I do?” in regards to certain situations, which is kind of boring. It’s much more challenging to ask, “What would this character do?” Besides, another danger of self-inserting is wish fulfillment, where everything magically works out in the end for that character. As a reader, I find this trope terribly annoying and unrealistic.

So yes, Astor and I share similar background and beliefs but our approaches to certain situations are different.

 

More…

In my latest story (where I just finished the rough draft!) my main character is also raised in a Christian household, but there’s still plenty that’s different about her life.

As for my next project, who knows? My characters often surprise me. I like to write with themes and a purpose, but starting out, I just want to tell a story. Everything else develops as it goes along.


Let’s chat! Writers, what about you? Do your characters share your beliefs? What’s your writing process for developing them?

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Similar posts: Campfire Writing, Finding the Best Writing Method, and Writing Update: To Sequel or Not to Sequel?

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Subgenres: Historical Fantasy

My brother is an avid history buff. While I may not share his enthusiasm for all things history, especially when it delves into the politics of the past, *gags* I do enjoy historical fiction. I’ve already written a post about this genre, and my opinions have only slightly changed, so I’d like to jump into a blend of genres—historical fantasy.

Historical fiction can be a fun genre. Fantasy can also be great. But what about when you have historical fantasy! Prepare for historically inaccurate magic, everybody. Or maybe it’s real…


 

Historical fantasy: a subgenre of fantasy that takes place in the real world in the past. The character(s) may be involved in historical events, meet historical figures, or experience historical settings. Magic is an element that puts a twist on events that we may be familiar with.

 

Suspension of Disbelief

In historical fiction, writers might get flack if they didn’t get that one date right. Or maybe that character was supposed to be blonde. Hold up. What is this, a movie adaptation? *checks notes* Nope. It’s about books. Okay, moving on.

Historical fantasy is designed to be inaccurate. Or maybe a more appropriate word would be unexpected.

One thing I enjoy about fantasy is the suspension of disbelief. Historical fantasy is one of those fantasy sub-genres that pushes that boundary of disbelief. It puts characters real or made up and puts them in situations that actually happened, then asks the readers to bear with them while it throws in a touch of magic, in a similar manner to magical realism, where it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not.

A great example of book that suspends disbelief is Megan Banne’s The Bird and the Blade. Though it leans more toward the historical than the fantastical, there are fantastical elements that may leave the audience wondering, “Hey, wait a second… Did I read that right?”

 

Historical Events

Many of us have heard about the Battle of Waterloo, and if you’ve happened to read Les Miserables (not fantasy), you’ve probably read more than you wanted to know about it. But, have you heard about time during the Battle of Waterloo where the magician broke his moral code to create zombie soldiers? Okay, when I put it that way, it sounds weird, but I suppose weird applies to the entirety of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (Susanna Clarke).

 

Historical Figures

What’s historical fiction without historical figures? Okay, so they don’t show up in every book. But historical fantasy sometimes includes historical figures too. Just because it’s fantasy doesn’t mean it doesn’t try to be true to the character(s), though. Nadine Brandes does a great job with historical fantasy characters in Romanov (Anastasia Romanov) and Fawkes (Guy Fawkes). Though I prefer the plot of Fawkes, both stories serve as a great introduction to real figures and their tales.

Another example that includes historical figures is Dante’s Inferno. In the epic, Dante goes on to meet long-dead poets like Virgil, Homer, and Ovid. It’s a common characteristic in classical fantasy where the main character meets with a historical figure or somebody of prominence, who would now be considered historical. Though those don’t quite qualify as historical fantasy.

 


Historical Settings

Not going to lie, this is one of my favorites because a lot of these places, you can actually visit!

One of my favorite examples is The River of Time series by Lisa Tawn Bergren. Why stop at a fictional visit to Italy when you can time travel to medieval Italy and fight with a broadsword or a bow. I really want to take up broadsword fighting now. Thanks a lot. After reading these books, my sister and I visited Siena, one of the cities where the story takes place, and Firenze (Florence).

It’s been a while since I’ve read the stories, though. Perhaps it’s time for a reread…



There you have it! Just a few characteristics of historical fantasy and some recommendations.

 

Let’s chat! Do you enjoy historical fantasy? Have you read any of the books listed? Any that I missed?

 

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Similar posts: Subgenres: Portal Fantasy, 7 of my Go-To Authors, and 7 Reasons I Enjoy Historical Fiction

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Subgenres: Portal Fantasy

Do you ever have those moments where you’re visiting in a garden and see a stone archway or maybe you’re walking in the woods and come across a peculiarly bent tree and think, “This looks like a portal to another world”? Sometimes I do.

Today, I’m picking back up with blogging with a new mini-series—subgenres! Every month for an undetermined time, I’m going to pick a subgenre and recommend a couple books. I’m going start with one of my favorites, and one of the more familiar ones—portal fantasy.


 

Portal fantasy: a subgenre of fantasy that features at least two different worlds. The character(s) often start in our world and travel to another world via some magical method, often a portal, which often takes the form of a door.

 

Coming-of-Age

Many, though not all, portal fantasy stories tend to include some sort of coming-of-age protagonist, so it’s a great subgenre for young adult fiction. Part of the charm of portal fantasy is experiencing the wonder of a place through the perspective of a child.

Take C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia for example. When the Pevensie children first discover Narnia, they may not want to live there for the rest of theirs lives, but they soon come to love the talking animals of the land. In later books though, some of the characters “age out” of Narnia and are told it’s time to live in their own world from then on. While this can be disheartening, it’s a part of the growing up process (or in some cases, the re-growing up process) that the characters endure.

 


The Journey

Another feature includes one or more characters trying to stay in the other world or trying to get back to ours. In this sense, portal fantasy always features some sort of journey, from one world to another. Though why anybody would want to leave these fantasy worlds, I don’t know. They tend to be pretty awesome. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—if I happen to find myself in a magic realm, please leave me there. I don’t want to come back.

A lot of traveling takes place in Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, from a tiny little town in England called Wall across the realm of Faerie and even into the clouds where ships sail the skies. Not to mention various methods of travel from a magical candle to a unicorn to a ship to just plain walking. It’s a weird book. I like it.

One might even put Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones in this subgenre because it features a character originally from our world who ran away to another, and with a title like Moving Castle, yes there’s lots of traveling. I’m talking about the book, here, not the movie. England pops up once or twice, but it’s not the main setting. The castle also features a portal door, which lets out in various cities. Maybe I’m stretching it.

 

Magical Items and/or Abilities

Portal fantasy doesn’t just feature magically transporting from one world to another, though. It also tends to feature some sort of magical item or ability or both. Take the Shades of Magic trilogy by V.E. Schwab. Some of the characters have the innate magical ability to world-hop, and some characters (sometimes the same ones) have magical items like a multi-sided cloak or an evil rock that will corrupt the heart of an entire realm.

The term world-hopping makes me think of Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere books, but they don’t feature our world, so it’s not exactly portal fantasy… Oh, well.

 

Various Quests


One of my favorite things about fantasy is the variety of plots, and portal fantasy is no different. Some stories like Cornelia Funke’s Inkworld series feature a quest to defeat tyranny and go home (or find a new one), and others like Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January feature one character’s hunt for the truth while evading those trying to cover it up and uncovering many Doors along the way. Some stories are about realm or kingdom saving, and others have lower, more personal stakes. I enjoy them both.

 

 


I’m seeing a trend in author names. If you abbreviate one or two of your first names, you might be a perfect fit for the portal fantasy genre. L.A. Klein. What do you think, guys? Should I write a portal fantasy?

One might also argue that multi-verse stories could be portal fantasy, but I’m not actually a fan of most multi-verse stories or the multi-verse theory, so I’m going to leave those books alone for now.

Thanks for reading!

 

Let’s chat! What are some of your favorite portal fantasy novels? Have you read any that I listed? Are there any others that you’d recommend?

 

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Similar posts: 7 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book-to-Movie Adaptations I Enjoy, 8 Popular Fantasy Novels I Enjoy, 7 Reasons I Enjoy Fantasy Novels

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Campfire Writing

There’s an app for that. We’ve all heard that phrase before, and honestly, it’s a little worn out. A couple of months ago, I was in between projects and trying to figure out what I wanted to write next. When I finally settled on a story idea—a fresh one that had zero development—I decided I wanted to try something new with outlining.

And I. Hate. Outlining.

It’s probably my least favorite part of the writing process because it’s like putting together a puzzle but you have to create the pieces and you don’t even know what the picture is supposed to look like. I wanted to try something similar to the notecard method again, where you write out a plot point on a notecard and can rearrange them any which way until you find a story you like.

Now, I try not to use paper, opting instead for all digital. (Maybe that’s why I can’t read e-books? Because staring at a screen feels like work?) My sister who’s also a writer suggested Campfire, so I thought I’d give it a try.



When I first started using the site, I got really excited because you can set it to different themes according to the genre of your story. I picked sci-fi for this particular project, but I also like the look of fantasy. You can also use Campfire to outline other projects, not just stories.

 

Features

There are more options than what I list below, but I included the ones I used for this particular story.

  • Characters
    • Names. Nicknames. Age. Role. Personality Type. Positive and negative character traits. Description. You name it. There’s lots of options to choose from, and you can pick and choose what you want to fill out. You only get 10 characters in the free version, which is fine because not every story needs to have 100,000 characters, but still. When it comes to named characters, I think my last novel had about 20-something.

  • Locations
    • Like character descriptions but with different attributes. In in the free version, you only get 5. Good thing I wasn’t working on a travel story. Oh, wait… Any extra details I wanted to include if I didn’t have room, I just crammed into the timeline. Mwuahahaha!

  • Maps
    • Not to be confused with locations, though you can link the items together. This particular option allows you to upload a map, which is cool, but I wish they had the option to develop and edit a map. That would be awesome, but I understand why they don’t. To make my own map, I used the Polygon Map Generator by Red Blob Games.

  • Timeline
    • My favorite part of the app, and yes, you can rearrange the events! I only used the description section, but you can link your characters to events. In the free version, you only get 20 events and 2 timelines. I was going to make a secondary timeline but decided to focus on my main timeline and ended up combining a bunch of events. There’s no limit to how much information each item you have access to can hold.

  • Encyclopedia
    • Want to include a list of stuff that doesn’t necessarily fit in anywhere else? Use this option! I particularly enjoyed the statistics table and the description column. In the free version, you can have 5 articles, but I only used 3.

  • Species
    • Lifespan. Sleep cycle. Average height. Average weight. Kingdom. Habitat. Descriptions. I actually used the subtitles here to add made up Latin names. In the free version, you only get up to 5 species. Sure, I only used 3 for this particular story, but I can come up with dozens of others if I was writing a fantasy novel.

  • Other: Manuscript, Research, Relationships, Magic, Cultures, and Items
    • The other options I might consider using for future projects include Magic and Cultures. Normally, I would use them, but I didn’t need them for this project.

 

Pros

  • Aesthetics
    • If you’re like me and you like to collect pretty things, then you might just enjoy this site. Not only does it have genre-based themes, but you can also add your own pictures. It’s almost like having an aesthetic board for your story on Pinterest but not really. The theme option really helps set the mood for creativity.

  • Easily accessed organization
    • Once you figure out how to navigate the site, you can link everything together. Or not. It’s up to you. But it’s really convenient to find exactly the information you want without having to scroll a bunch.

  • Plenty of options
    • Seriously, all the options! I didn’t even use them all, but they helped me a bunch with things like character development, world building, and my timeline.

  • Fun to use.
    • I actually enjoyed outlining for a change. Maybe that’s because the site is shiny and new to me, but I just might enjoy using it again in the future.

 

Cons

  • Limited use with the free version
    • I maxed out my characters and timeline events. I might have accidentally broken the timeline and ended up with 21/20 events. Don’t know how that happened, but I’m sticking with it.

  • Limited availability
    • I know the site claims it works on mobile devices, but my sister and I couldn’t figure out how to access it on both Android and Apple. So if I want to outline my story or develop my characters, I have to use my computer, and I have to have internet. It’s not difficult, but it’s not always convenient.

  • Slow processing
    • I’m not the fastest typist, but I can get up to 90 words per minutes when I’m on a role, and Campfire doesn’t always process typing that fast. Maybe it’s my computer? Also, the autocorrect suggestions are not as helpful as Microsoft Word.

  • Characters are geared towards humans
    • This one’s a little easier to work with considering you don’t have to include all the character development options. For example, I usually skip over character description, option for the bare minimum such as height.

  • Timeline dates are limited to Earth eras, and you can’t get rid of the date option
    • If you’re like me and you’re writing a sci-fi story that takes place in a new mythical era, or you’re writing fantasy and yours don’t even use Earthen months, this bit can be frustrating.

 

Overall Review of Campfire Write

Overall, I give the site 7/10 stars. To me, the pros outweigh the cons. For the first time in a long while, I actually enjoyed outlining and was ready to start my rough draft within two weeks. Which is great considering it usually takes me two to three months. Thank you, Campfire! I will likely be using the site more in the future.

 

Let’s chat! Have you tried Campfire before? Do you use any sites for your writing process? Which ones?

 

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Similar posts: 5 Reasons to Attend WriteOnCon, 3 Types of Writers You Should Know, and 3 Methods for Outlining Your Novel

Sunday, January 2, 2022

2022 Reading Resolutions

Happy New Year! *eyes 2022 warily* I don’t really put my hope in the New Year, but it is fun to evaluate my reading progress and make new goals. My aim this year is to be more realistic, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!


Goal: 1 Book 700+ pages

Perhaps I can finally find time for The Priory of the Orange Tree, which has been on my list for… *checks calendar* …three years now?

 

Goal: 2 Writing Books

I’m a writer so this is a must, right?

I can’t remember the last time I read a book on writing. I’m a bit of a skeptic. I don’t really believe in writing rules because what works well for one person may not work well for another. Team prologue over here! My favorite dialogue tag is “said.” And when I write what I know, I know about dragons, okay?

Plenty of writing books can be helpful though. And it’s dangerous to assume you already know everything. That’s when we stop learning.

 

On my list:

  • The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donal Maass
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

 

Goal: 3 Books Published in 2022

I’m a little behind on recent releases. What’s a recent release? What year is it? Granted, sometimes these books are a little harder to get your hands on when you rely on the library, but hey! I try.

 

On my list:

  • The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen
  • The Lost Metal (Mistborn saga, book 7) by Brandon Sanderson

 

Goal: 3 Rereads

I did this last year, but it wasn’t exactly purposeful. Besides, I’d like to get back into some of my favorites that I considered worth buying. I don’t remember all of their plots anymore!

 

On my list:

  • Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
  • The Final Empire (Mistborn saga, book 1) by Brandon Sanderson

 

Goal: 5 Books I Own

Not rereads. There, I said it. Now I can’t cheat! Right?

 

On my list:

  • Inferno by Dante
  •  Journey to the Heart of the Abyss by London Shah
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

 

Goal: 5 Books by 5 Different Non-American Authors

I’m going to go a step further and say I’m not going to count Manga. It’s really cool, but I read 35+ graphic novels last year, so that’s not challenging enough. That’s not to say I won’t read Manga, but rather that I won’t count it toward this particular goal.

 

On my list:

  • The Beast Warrior by Nahoko Uehashi

 

Goal: 1 Short Story Collection

I’m a little pickier when it comes to these. Usually, I’ll only finish it if features a story or several by an author I’ve read before. But they can be a lot of fun!

 

On my list:

  • Timely: A Phoenix Fiction Writers Anthology

 

Total books: 20

 

Is it doable? Yes. Realistic? *shrugs* Happy reading, everyone!

 

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Let’s chat! What kind of books are on your list this year? Have you read or are planning to read any of these? Are there any books I didn’t list that I should consider reading?

 

Similar posts: 2021 Books in Review, 2021 Reading Resolutions, and Recommended Reading: Disability Representation