The New Year

2015 was a slow blogging year for me. There were months where I had lots of ideas and wanted to write a bunch of posts, but then there were months where I had no motivation to do any at all.

I’m really not one to make definite new years’ resolutions, but I do like to make an effort each year to make the next one better than the last. So, I do have a couple ideas for what I would like to improve upon for the months and years to come.

Blogging is a big one. I’ve always meant it to be a platform for me to grow off of, be that by learning new things, sharing my thoughts, meeting new people, but I’ve struggled to put as much effort into it as needed in order to achieve those things. So, as of 2016, I’ll be writing up a minimum of one blog post per week, and hopefully from there I can get brave enough to reach out to other bloggers.

The only other thing I really want to work on is reading. This last year I really didn’t make time to read as much as I wanted to, even though I had plenty of time to read if I’d made the effort to. So, maybe in 2016 I’ll actually manage to read 50 or so books…

Besides that, I’m open to discover what other aspects of my life and habits need work. As the new year progresses, I’ll definitely find things to work on, but I’m counting on finding those things and not setting my goals right from the start.

What about you guys? Do you have any plans of improvement set up for 2016, maybe even some new years’ resolutions that you want to share?

~Erynn

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Eon: Dragoneye Reborn

I really have no idea when I bought this book and its sequel, Eona. It would have to be at least two years ago now, quite some time before I moved and added them to my to-read list.

After reading hundreds of YA novels, I’ve really come to expect very little from them. Generally speaking, I find the plots boring, I don’t like the characters, and the romances more often than not annoy me. The worst part, however, is that I find a lot of the Fantasy YA I’ve read over the years are just YA with a touch of fantastical elements here and there, not really a YA story taking place in a fantasy world, like what always want to read.

Though of course Eon, like all books, had its ups and downs, I was quite pleased with the characters, the plot, and the world. I’ll start by talking a bit about the world itself, as that’s what I most often find the least pleasing about YA fantasy.

We look at the world through the eyes of Eon, who is basically a slave in a monarchical society. She has few possessions, even fewer friends, and no place in the world. Of course as her position changes, her outlook on her surroundings changes, but it’s really the evolution of that viewpoint that brings the world to life. It’s difficult to explain this without providing spoilers, unfortunately, but let me try to articulate it in a way that’s similar to what happens in the book.

Let’s say that the story begins in a small, 10×10 room. There are no windows, no doors, and no ways to speak to the outside. This is the extent on Eon’s outlook on life and knowledge about the world around her.  But then some time through the story, one wall to her room is knocked down. She can now move from her small 10×10 space and into another room that had been connected to hers all along. As she explores the additional space, she comes to suspect that there is much more to everything than she can see, and so she carefully goes about knocking down the other walls on her own.

Exploring the world like this– through the eyes of a character that really knows about as much about it as you do– was quite fascinating, and I feel that it really allowed the world to build up into something very rich and versatile. Even through the final pages of the book, where I had already guessed what the ending would be, I thought the world was beautiful through both description and discovery.

I’ve decided that I’ll save talk about the book’s characterization and plot for the post on the sequel, Eona, so I’m going to use the rest of this post to talk a bit about the writing itself.

In all honesty, I liked some parts of the writing, hated others. I thought the beginning was a bit slow (although it provided enough to keep me interested in learning more, albeit quite annoyed) and that there was a lot of unnecessary information thrown in here and there. In the end, however, the good outweighed the bad. I loved reading about the dragons, the magic, the characters, and the environment… I found that a lot of words were weaved together beautifully.

So that’s all for now– you’ll get the rest of my thoughts once I get to the Eona post.

Have you read Eon or plan to? What are your thoughts on the book?

~Erynn

How I Became A Writer

My earliest memories of writing are from Elementary school. I don’t remember much about those days, honestly, but I know it’s where my road to becoming a writer started.

During school, I would sometimes go out of class with the counselor to write stories. Well, this would have been over 10 years ago now, so she would have done the writing and I would have been telling her what to write. I don’t have any of those stories now, nor do I remember what they were about… but I can imagine that they were cute and innocent stories, much unlike what I write now. Still, the memories are there, and I think that’s what’s important.

Fast forward to middle school, where I wrote my first book. It was crap, of course, as is most 11-year-olds’ writing, but it was mine. I think I wrote a bit about this event on my blog before, but I’ll recap regardless.

I didn’t attend much during middle school. I was “sick”. But I still did my school work from home and handed it in when I actually did go to class. I had an English assignment where we were to write a short story. Nothing fancy, just a short story. But I wrote a couple pages and then just kept going and going and going… and I handed that in as my “short” story. Hah. My teacher wasn’t offended, though, fortunately enough. In fact, he wanted to nurture my desire, and what he called talent, so it was something I continued to pursue in the future. So with him and one of the teachers’ assistants, I worked on the computer to expand on the story, though it never really got anywhere.

At the start of highschool, where I got big into anime, I started writing fan fiction. I don’t want to talk much about it… as everything I wrote was terrible and is still out there on the internet for people to see. NO I will not willingly show it to anyone.

Around grade 10 was when I finally had the opportunity to take an art course. I excelled at the sketches, didn’t bother doing much else. I would draw, but when I ran out of things to do or got bored of drawing, I would write. That’s where I wrote my second novel. I still have the original draft and it’s something I want to rewrite in the future, but I don’t foresee me getting into that for a long time. It’s story about magic, desire, and death.

Finally, at the start of grade 11 is when I started getting serious. My boyfriend dabbled in some writing, mostly for his English classes, but he had a few pieces that I found rather interesting. Most notably, he wrote a scene (I’m hard-pressed to actually call it a story, but I’ll explain that in a moment) about a warrior who met a she-demon. She showed the warrior a future, captivated him, and took him as one of her followers. It didn’t take me long to discover the story was about our relationship. I was the she-demon, he was the warrior. This story is something I want to go into more detail in a blog post sometime in the future, so I won’t say much more about the story than that. Regardless, from there, I wanted to take that piece that he wrote and turn it into a book. And we did, somewhat. Together, him and I wrote about 15 chapters about the demoness and the warrior. This is something we wanted to continue writing together, but it became impossible because of school and the fact that him and I wrote at completely different paces. This is something that I’ll probably finish in the future. There’s an interesting story behind this, so stay tuned for a post about it.

November that same year is where I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time. I barfed up another novel, what I’ve often referred to as Taichiren’s Heart, which ended at about 97,000 words first draft, my longest manuscript yet. I knew it was bad (I had learned much by writing it, but still had much to learn), but I finished it with the hope of rewriting it after letting it sit until the summer. I wrote out an outline for the second draft, but I never really got around to doing it. So, there is book #3 that I want to go back to and rewrite into something publishable.

About half way through grade 12 was when I gave up on all my plans to do something other than writing. I think I intended to do some network security thing, but in the end, I really didn’t think it was me. Writing was. So February 2014 I opened my doors as a freelance writer and over the year took on several projects. I struggled at first, but over time I figured out what I was doing, and by the time it mattered I was making enough off my writing to live.

I think my history is a bit colourful, even though I didn’t really consider myself a writer until just before my first NaNoWriMo.  But now you know how I became one.

What about you guys? How did you guys become writers?

~Erynn

 

Excellent Fight Scenes Are to Die For

Have you ever read a book where every fight scene has your heart racing with anticipation? Where you feel as if it’s alive and you’re a part of it?

I can’t really say that I’ve read a book where all the fight scenes are like this, but I can definitely say I’ve experienced this phenomenon before. The writers who are really good at it can do it over and over again effortlessly, but for others, it’s a matter of how lucky they are. One of my favourite authors, R.A. Salvatore, is very good at this. In his series The Legend of Drizzt, I often found myself feeling as if I were a part of the action. And that, in addition to the amazing characters, was why I continued to read his books again and again.

How does someone make compelling fight scenes over and over again? Don’t you get bored of reading the same character do the same things? Well, you see, the thing is that in fantasy, combat is very flexible. Swordplay is an art of its own and a master can surprise you with every move they take. Magic is flexible and won’t always result in the same “BOOM, DEAD” effect. You don’t really know what to expect until it’s already happened.

And honestly, I’m not going to try delving into explaining this technique. It’s something I’ve yet to master, but I am dutifully working on doing so. I think it’s something I need to take my time with.

What about you? Do any of your favourite authors have an innate skill for weaving exciting, fresh combat scenes?

~Erynn

Heir of Fire

I read the novellas that led up to this series a couple years ago before the first book came out (I believe this is the third book). I loved the characters and there were parts of the story that really made me feel. You have to admire an author when they can consistently do this. It fell a bit short in the second book and that’s why it took me so long to pick this one up– but I’m glad that special little touch was back in this book.

A couple new characters are added in this book and I found myself quite liking them. The only thing I really don’t like about this is that both of them are potential love interests for the main character. There already were two love interests! I guess it’s kind of unique, though, because how many books are there with a love X instead of a love triangle? Despite this, the characters were really strong in other ways, so I can’t complain too much.

Learning more about this world’s magic was quite the experience. In the first two books it was “blocked off” in the continent the characters lived in, but in this one, Celaena has gone on a quest somewhere else that still has some use of it. The story had an interesting take on magic, something I’ve never really seen before paired with some of your typical stuff. It was neat.

I really don’t think there’s much else I can say. It was a solid addition to the series, and after the major cliffhanger that was left at the end of the second, a fair amount of answers were given without the lack of new questions. I’m looking forward to reading the next, whenever that is. 🙂

Have you read Heir of Fire? What did you think?

~Erynn

The Starbucks Lady

About a month ago I left my house for the first time in a while– I had pretty much been hibernating and because I work from home, I didn’t have much reason to leave the house.

Anyway, I think I ended up going out because my boyfriend wanted to get ice cream or something. I didn’t really want to leave, but I knew I hadn’t been out in a while, so I hesitantly agreed.

We’re walking down to Dairy Queen and on the way we have to pass one of those plazas with a bunch of stores. There’s a pharmacy there, and since we needed something from there anyway, I was pretty happy to walk in and get it while we were out.

So we get what we need and are coming out… And we’re one or two stores down from the Starbucks, but I see the sign. I think to myself “you know, I wouldn’t mind some Starbucks right now” so I convince my boyfriend to get some with me instead of ice cream.

This is unusual for us because we’re the kind of people who would rather burn a $5 bill than go to Starbucks, but I don’t really have anything against the place. So we go in and I order a caramel something frapp and he gets some iced lemonade or whatever. Doesn’t really matter.

While we wait we’re making small talk with the cashier (who we later determined had to be Australian) and I offhandedly mentioned that it was the first time I’ve been outside in a month since I work from home. She asks what I do, and I of course respond by saying I’m a ghostwriter… I write books for people. She actually seemed pretty interested and asked a bit more.

I walked out of that Starbucks feeling very satisfied. It’s not often that a complete stranger takes an interest in the fact that I’m a writer, so it really made my day.

Has anything as small as this made your day before?

~Erynn

Different Types of Magic

Different stories call for magic to be used for different things. Because of its versatile nature, there isn’t really a limit to what magic can do. The limits are put in place by the writer of the world, who will have decided to do so for a variety of reasons.

If you’ve read several different fantasy novels, you’ll likely have noticed that no one really uses magic for the same reasons. Some authors will make magic purely an offensive entity, where it’s used for fighting or to fend off those using magic to attack. And while this is probably the most common type of magic, it’s far from all that’s possible.

Personally, I like it most when a story allows magic to be used for pretty much anything. This means that the magic isn’t really limited by the author’s desires, but more by the physical limitations of the user, the world, and the user’s strength. When magic is used to enrich a story like that as more of an everyday tool rather than a sacred ability that’s only used when absolutely necessary, it makes magic feel more real.

Anyway, onto what this post is actually about. What kinds of magic are there?

Honestly, I don’t think you can make a list of the different types because magic in fiction is just that, magic, and it’s not really limited to anything but what the writer tells it to be. You want magic that does the opposite of what you tell it to do? It’s possible. Or maybe you want magic that can’t do anything more than grow flowers from nothing– that’s possible too.

On the other hand, you can divide magic by its use though the list would still be extremely long. An example would be like I said somewhere above, combative magic. That’s an enormous category; there are so many ways that someone could use magic to benefit them in a fight. But there are still a couple thousand completely different things magic can be used for.

Let’s see… there’s also magic that you could use to help with everyday things, like brushing your teeth, cooking, and cleaning. Or… a little bit trickier would be magic that alters your physical capabilities, so things such as eyesight, strength, etc.

If you keep the possibilities relatively normal, I mean, more or less what you’d find in our world, magic wouldn’t be as versatile as we know it to be. But as soon as you start thinking of magic in a full-blown fantasy world, what you can do with it quadruples. You’ve got telepathy, healing, flying… Magic could be somehow attuned to different elements, and there’d be people around that could start fires with a simple touch, or talk plants into growing faster. Then you’ve got the people who can make it rain, snow, or grace the world with sunshine.

You know, I’ve read quite a few books and have always loved fantasy. But even after reading a dozen or so books in the genre, I’m fully aware that it’s only a taste of what’s possible and what people have already written. Saying that, I want more. I don’t think I’ve read anything yet with an incredibly unique magic system or someone who has used magic in a completely outlandish way. I’m dying to see something that’s different than what’s considered “normal”.

How about you– what do you think about magic and its many uses? Have you read any books with an amazing magic system or know someone who has given magic an entirely new use?

~Erynn

Do You Re-read Novels?

There are hundreds of new books published every year, many of which we will never read. At least a dozen of them are added to my to-read list, which is already over three hundred books big.

I’ve been reading fifty or less books per year, and last year I read a grand total of twelve. If I ever get to the end of the list, it will be many years from now.

It’s true that a lot of the books I read I enjoy immensely. Many of the ones that I truly like I think about for days after I’ve finished reading. Even once the newly-finished-book phase ends, I think back on them from time to time.

But there’s only one book I’ve ever had the urge to re-read.

I can definitely understand the desire to re-enter worlds you love and follow your favourite character’s adventures. There are many I’d love to explore again from a different perspective, but with the amount of books out there and the new ones that are always coming out, I don’t believe re-reading books is practical.

It’s simply better to remember that world as it was when you initially read it. If you really need to jump back into the book, there are alternative ways to do it. You could re-read certain passages or chapters that you liked in particular, or visit fan forums that discuss the books.

Personally I don’t do any of this, but I’d do it before I made the decision to re-read an entire book.

That’s my stance on this, at least. I don’t plan to re-read a book any time soon.

What about you guys? Do you re-read books?

~Erynn

Writing About Real People

This isn’t something I think about often because I write fantasy, most often with a set of completely fictional characters. It’s not uncommon, however, for people to incorporate people in their lives into their writing in some way.

For example, writers often take traits from people they know (either desirable or undesirable depending on the character) and giving them to their characters. Doing this achieves several things, but most notably it gives fictional characters a touch of realism. Sure you can create a character with characteristics you’ve never seen or experienced firsthand, but like describing a location you’ve never been do, doing so can create some inaccuracies that the people who have are likely to catch.

I’m guilty of doing this because I know that it works. Taking one real trait you’ve experienced and slapping it onto a character that’s otherwise completely fictional can add some much-needed depth to a character that otherwise doesn’t have much going for them.

Some people write about characters completely based off of people they’ve met or heard of in real life. Personally, I don’t do this because in the world of fantasy, too much realism can ruin the experience (at least in my opinion). Don’t take me the wrong way– I just think there’s a huge difference between authentic experiences and realism. Anyway, especially when you’re just learning how to write, taking someone you know and throwing them into a fictional story can open your eyes to how story building and characterization really work. You might not run into issues deciding what your character would or wouldn’t do in a situation (if you know them well enough, the decision might even seem natural to you) but that only helps you spend more time writing and less time thinking. Not necessarily a bad thing, no?

Then we have writing about real people in real situations. I think you can do some really good stuff with this so long as you’re not writing in any genre that disallows “real situations” (I mean, your typical fantasy isn’t going to have a situation where a main character meets someone while working on their computer at Starbucks, so yeah). I don’t have too much to say about this because it’s not my cup of tea. But people do it and have found success in it– so why not?

Do you guys write about purely fictional people or do you try to take characteristics from people you know and add them to your characters?

~Erynn

What Makes a Great Antagonist?

One of my favourite things about writing and creating stories is throwing a good antagonist in the mix. This is because it’s not always the protagonists that bring the story to life– a good antagonist that genuinely frustrates you or makes you sympathize with them can build the story, too. When the characters go out to deal with the bad guy, you want the reader to be interested in the protagonist’s adventure, don’t you? At least for me, if I don’t care about the antagonist, the main characters lose a bit of their charm, too.

If it’s so important, then, what makes a good antagonist? Personally, I find that it depends on the type of story you’re trying to tell. Since I write dark fantasy with magic and plenty of killing– right and wrong are skewed and so is our perception of the antagonist.

There are a couple things that work, in my experience, to bring out some really interesting antagonists. For one, I like stories where the antagonist isn’t necessarily “evil”. They’re a person (or a collection of people with a similar mind) that think, act, and believe differently than the protagonist. And sometimes, instead of making them some crazies that want to kill everyone for no discernable reason (aka people who are obviously crazy and you have no reason not to fight against them), having the antagonists be people who just don’t agree with the protagonist can be exciting. It can make you think: Why don’t they agree? If the protagonists are so good, why doesn’t everyone follow them? Even better, sometimes a well-crafted dissenting party that you’re supposed to be against can win you, the reader, over to their side and have you thinking that maybe the protagonists aren’t right after all.

Sometimes, it’s a matter of perspective.

I think one of the best ways to make a good antagonist is to make your story more grey than black and white. When even your antagonists have to consider the moral consequences of their actions, you know you’re making something more than “this guy is good and this guy is bad”.

An example of this, in my own writing, is that there are essentially three different antagonists. One of them is a “player” in the other two’s game and becomes a separate antagonist later because she doesn’t align with either the protagonists or the other antagonists. She fights against everyone, and not just to save her own skin– she’s doing it for what she thinks is right. She doesn’t want to rule or control the world, but instead has her own list of reasons. This character isn’t the purest of people, but the reasons why she fights might even be reasonable to sway you to her side.

That’s not to say that an antagonist that is obviously evil can’t be exciting to read about, but I think there are a lot more variables that you need to get right with if you want to be successful doing this.

Ask yourself things like…

Why is this person “purely evil”?

Does this character still have enough traits to be interesting, even if my readers can’t really sympathize with them?

There are, of course, many other questions you could ask yourself while building an antagonist, but that should be a good start.

What kind of antagonists do you enjoy reading about the most? What kind do you like to write about?

~Erynn