WIP · Writing

Some MIDNIGHT QUEEN Music & Persevering with Writing

I promised I’d have a new post up by the end of the month, so here we are! (Um. JUST.) I’m still working on MIDNIGHT QUEEN, which I’m probably about a quarter of the way through. I’m battling some minor health issues right now…so progress is slow. The last draft clocked in at 80k, and I’m expecting this redraft to be of a similar size (if not a little longer.) I’m still so obsessed with this book but I promise I won’t rant about it too much this post. I mean, even as I’m writing this post I’m aching to get back into the world and characters. To start—I thought I would share some of the tracks I’ve been listening to (almost on repeat) as I’m writing the book.

Okay, so the Snow White & the Huntsman film wasn’t amazing…but that soundtrack? Chills. Literal chills. It’s elegant and magical and romantic and just that little bit foreboding—everything I imagine and want MIDNIGHT QUEEN to be. This book was born from my love of fantasy-romances, as well as my ever-growing passion for mythology. (Like, seriously, don’t even get me started—because I won’t shut up about it.) Pretty much 90% of this soundtrack (James Newton Howard is a musical genius) is on my MQ playlist. If you guys have any music recs (soundtrack/classical), pleasseeeee let me know below. 🙂

So, today I wanted to talk about perseverance…and being a writer. Because really, they come hand-in-hand. You can’t be a writer and not be persistent. Because you are going to doubt yourself. You are going to wonder whether it’s even worth it. You are going to get stuck when writing/revising, and you are going to get up, brush off that frustration—and keep on going. One of the earliest pieces of advice about writing I’ve ever gotten has been that simple…and that hard.

Don’t.

Quit.

I’m one of the most stubborn people that I know. If I want something, then I’ll work as hard as I damn well can to make sure that I’ve achieved that dream. I’m shifting my writing visions now to sci-fi/fantasy, and I know, I know that it’s not going to be easy. It’s already not. I’m already doubting myself. I’m already asking myself if I can do this. Maybe I’ll find successes with my current WIP, maybe I won’t; but what I do know is that I’ll never reach my dreams as a full-time fantasy/sci-fi author if I don’t try.

Every writer out there—no matter how infallible you think they are—are going to have these moments of self-doubt. We all have that tiny voice in the back of our mind, questioning our dreams, fueling our doubts. But blast that inspirational music, open that Word doc., and try again. Because this book—and writing in general—means way, way, way too much to me to give up that easily.

I’m going to end this post with one of my favorite motivational quotes (by Louisa May Alcott)—

“…I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

So. Take a deep breath. Battle that storm.

Keep working hard.

And persevere.


Currently reading: THE GREEK MYTHS VOL. 2 by Robert Graves (a really, really detailed look at Greek mythology!!)

Currently listening toSwan Lake by Tchaikovsky

 

travel · WIP · Writing

Update! New Zealand & WIPs

So…I must confess that it’s been over two months since I last blogged. (Seriously?? The last time I blogged was Jan. 31st!? Where have the months gone?) But, I have good reason! I turned twenty in March, and at the end of the month my parents and I took a ten-day trip to New Zealand. So with that, along with working on MIDNIGHT QUEEN, I sort of let my blog slip through the cracks.

JMvkQ+EOSwipRes0iCcccg_thumb_6e3fI’ve been to NZ a couple of times before (once after I finished grade 9, and again early last year), and I have to say: it never gets old. It’s SUCH an incredible country, rich in both incredibly beautiful landscapes and culture, and honestly, I’m already mentally planning a trip of where I’d go next time. It rained a lot of the time, but the highlight of the trip was Hobbiton (!!!) and the Waitomo glowworm caves.

Being the massive Tolkien nerd that I am—I literally bought a copy of The Silmarillion while I was over there…it just seemed fitting—Hobbiton has been in my bucket list for years. And oh my gosh, it did NOT disappoint. Because wow. Just WOW. I definitely teared up a little on the bus ride there. I don’t even have the words to describe how amazing the set was…and even the photos I posted on Instagram pale in comparison to just how stunning the entire location is. Rolling green hills, the glimmering lake, the old mill, monarch butterflies landing on the well-tended flowers… Oh my god. It was like 1HxqOVeFSEinVgGBAldF4Q_thumb_71efsomething out of a fairytale. The beauty of the place rendered me speechless several times.

Yep. Aaaaaaannddd now I’m going to rewatch the entire trilogy.

Another massive highlight was the Waitomo glowworm caves. Because Jesus, the caves in themselves are incredibly beautiful: mysterious, dark…basically just one giant result of Mother Nature. Stalactites hung from zmqLgjQNSpS%APx%PLotlA_thumb_71a2the ceilings. A labyrinth of streams cut through the caves… it was just magical, and that was without seeing any glowworms. And rowing on the river through the caves was just…ethereal. An experience I doubt I’ll ever, ever forget. Entire constellations of glowworms clung to the ceiling and gave the cave an amazing blueish hue, and the atmosphere was so damn unearthly it literally felt like I was in another world. There’s absolutely no way my words can do that place justice.

I’m not going to ramble about New Zealand forever because I have a lot of other things to talk about, but addition to the photos here, there are heaps on my Instagram. Seriously, New Zealand is every photographer’s dream, and sorting through my iPhotos is already making me nostalgic and I literally just got back a few days ago (and I took an embarrassing amount of photos…)hQLkhkK8RgOg1rpTfbaG3A_thumb_72e7

So, to shift the subject, I’ve been thinking a lot about mythology lately. I read a lot of it, and some of my all-time favorite books/movies are usually in some way related to ancient myths and legends. It’s such a rich well of inspiration to draw from, and, being of Greek heritage, I’m pretty much obsessed with European culture/myths. As I’ve mentioned before, MIDNIGHT QUEEN is partly based on Hades and Persephone (amongst a bunch of other myths), so it’s something I’ve been doing a lot of research on as I revise it. I’ve always been fascinated with Greek mythology in general, but there was just something about the tale of Hades and Persephone that…called to me, I guess. I wanted to write a Hades-like character that was dark, arrogant, and ultimately flawed, but not evil. And Persephone herself has always entranced me, so I wanted to embody a character who was gentle and kind but also strong and fierce—she is the Queen of Hell after all. I wanted to write a Persephone-like character that didn’t submit to her Hades, but at the same time embraces the darkness he offers. And more importantly, I wanted to write the sort of Persephone that was revered, or even feared, among her people. (True story: there’s actual evidence that the Ancient Greeks, at the very least, respected Persephone. She wasn’t considered to just be Hades’ wife.) It’s a lot of fun to dig deep into Greek mythology and find the tiny details that are beginning to shape this novel.

And I really, really, really hope that one day I’ll get to share this tale with you all.

I’m currently about a quarter of the way through this draft of MIDNIGHT QUEEN and I’m falling in love with it all. over. again. That’s one of the best things about revising a novel—that love of clicking with your characters & plot again, and enjoying opening your word doc. every day. There’s so much mythology in this book—Greek, Celtic, Russian—and I’m extremely passionate about it all. Basically: this book is an amalgamation of everything I love: high fantasy, lethal magic, romance, mythology and folktales, and a queen who kicks ass.

All right, so: this post turned out to be a LOT longer than I intended… but I promise I’ll be blogging again—soon. I’ll have a post about writing & being persistent out before the end of the month. (I hope.) In the meantime, tell me what you’ve all been up to!


Currently reading: LORD OF THE FADING LANDS by C.L. Wilson

Currently listening to: The Dark Knight OST by Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard (This score legit gives me CHILLS.)

Currently watching: Brooklyn 99 (GUYS. THIS SHOW. Hilarious & addicting & such a binge-watchable show.)

Writing

Fairy-Tale Art & How It’s Inspired My Writing

If you already don’t know, I’m a huggeeeeeee fan of fairy tale and mythic art. Like, A LOT. I’m pretty much obsessed with fairy tales and mythology altogether, and most of my fantasy books are based around—or at the very least inspired by—fairy tales. Even my sci-fi, THIS STORM RISING, has threads of myths and fairy tales that I love. In fact, right now I’m reading East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North edited by Noel Daniel and illustrations from Kay Nielsen (whom I LOVE so, so much. Seriously, if you haven’t seen his art, search it up. It’s incredible.) So I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite pieces of fairy tale/myth-inspired art I’ve seen, and how it’s inspired my work…or more relatively, my current WIP, MIDNIGHT QUEEN.

Kay Nielsen:

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Illustration from East of the Sun, West of the Moon, 1914 (‘In the Midst of the Gloomy Thick Wood’)

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In Powder and Crinoline, 1914

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Deserted Moment, 1912

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Illustration from East of the Sun, West of the Moon, 1914 (‘She could not help setting the door a little ajar, just to peep in, when—Pop! out flew the Moon.’)

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On the Way to the Dance, year unknown

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Rosebud, year unknown

These are just some of my favorite Kay Nielen’s art. He has so many amazing pieces of work that I can’t fit into this post (and this post is going to be long enough as it is…), and to be honest, I’m 1000% thrilled that we share the same birthdate.

Edmund Dulac:

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From Dreamer of Dreams, 1915

From The Bells and Other Poems (‘To Helen’), 1912

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From The Bells and Other Poems, 1912

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Firebird, 1916

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The Sleeve of Night, 1909

I don’t think I even have the words to describe how much I love Edmund Dulac’s work. That, and they’ve been and endless source of inspiration for MIDNIGHT QUEEN, in particular The Sleeve of Night. The woman above the city, the stars spilling from her cloak, the mist/clouds shrouding everything… There’s something so magical and dangerous and beautiful about this piece of art—something that captures the feeling I’m trying to write perfectly.

Alan Lee:

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Blodeuwedd, 1984

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Lady of the Lake, 1977

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Mythical Scene, 1980

You’ll probably recognize Alan Lee’s artwork from his illustrations for The Lord of the Rings (which are amazing!!), but I chose to use some of his other just as amazing artworks here, because this guy is just full of talent. If you love Alan Lee, then I can literally guarantee you’ll also love John Howe’s The Lord of the Rings (and other) artwork, too. Both artists are envy-inducing incredible and actually makes me wish I had artist talent. (Seriously, even my stick figures look dreadful.)

Sulamith Wulfing:

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In the Torment, 1984

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Title/date unknown

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Contemplative Princess, date unknown

I can see that Sulamith Wulfing has drawn a lot from Celtic and fairy tale designs, and holy god, they. Are. Beautiful. Ethereal and magical and just…gorgeous. I discovered her artwork a few years ago and have been enamored ever since. It was so difficult to choose only a handful here, because Sulamith Wulfing has so many breath-taking pieces. Into the Torment reminds me crazily of MIDNIGHT QUEEN protagonist; the color of her hair, the stars, the way the dark tree is sort of wrapped around her, the dress, the general “feeling” of the piece… Just amazing.

Herbert James Draper:

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The Gates of Dawn, 1901

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Lamia, 1909

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Figure with a Lauren Wreath, date unknown

Very mythology and history-centered, I loveeee the way Draper draws/paints women. Feminine, elegant, and fierce at the same time, his artwork is impossible to disappoint. The softly drawn lines and lovely colors are amazing too. I can’t mention EVERY artist I want to here (there are SO MANY of them), and this post is already getting longggggg, so honorary mention to Yvonne Gilbert, Kinuko Y. Craft, Mahmoud Farshchian, John Collier, Jessie Bayers, Arthur Rackham … Really, the list could go on and on, because there are just so many incredible artists out there. These are just a handful of the artists I love—seriously, I would be here all day if I listed them all—who have inspired me endlessly over the years…and for many years to come, too, I suspect.

I’m back to MIDNIGHT QUEEN revisions now (I DEFINITELY need to get a damn move on if I want to reach my current goals for this year), but, guys—do you have any favorite artists that you look to for inspiration…or ones that you just like to admire?


Currently reading: EAST OF THE SUN, WEST OF THE MOON edited by Noel Daniel, illustrations by Kay Nielsen

Currently listening to: Snow White & the Huntsman OST by James Newton Howard

Writing

A Writer’s Desk

So, to kick-start my new blog (and okay, sure, to procrastinate writing), today I’m posting a bit about my writing space/area/desk. I generally keep my writing space tidy, but I find it gets messy SO quickly, especially when I’m working on something—there are notepads sprawled across the desk and books, both fiction and non-fiction, lying haphazardly EVERYWHERE. I tend to try and not have too many fictional books around me when I’m writing—wayyyyyyy too distracting—but often I’ll have some of my favorite books around, anyway, and I suppose it doesn’t help that my bookshelf is right beside me. My desk is facing the large window, too, which kind of sucks since I find myself gazing dreamily out the window instead of, you know, actually writing. Right now I usually write in my room/the living room/sometimes the couch, but one day I would love to have an office completely dedicated to writing. (I can dreeaaaaammm!!!)

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Yeppp, that is literally the color of my walls. It used to be this reallyyyyyy drab/uninspiring yellow so last year we repainted it, and I love it. It was definitely the change my room needed, and I’m so glad I did it (after agonizing for weeks about finding the “perfect” color… Totally worth the struggle.)

1. The MOST essential part of my writing—my MacBook Pro. Things that will almost always be open on my laptop: a draft of something which will usually be whatever book I’m drafting/revising at the time; the Pinterest board of said novel (not sure I could write without my Pinterest boards!? It’s a constant source of inspiration and motivation that helps so much when it comes to figuring out those pesky plots); and, of course, iTunes. 90% of the time I’ll be listening to music when I’m writing because I’m a very music-orientated writer. Sometimes I coordinate what I’m listening to when I write certain scenes, other times I’ll just have my novel playlist/soundtrack on loop when I’m drafting/revising something. I don’t, at all, have social media up when I’m working. It’s just way way way way too distracting.

2. A notebook/journal/other writing things. I like to keep this on me at all times when I’m writing. I hand-write a lot of things before I even BEGIN to draft or even revise a novel—sometimes a change in medium can boost inspiration tenfold. Beside my notebook I’ll also have my writing schedule for the year and my writing goals. I’ve scribbled all over this one with handwritten notes and bits and pieces I intend to use when I’m writing.

3. This one is so embarrassing but I’m just going to completely own it: tissues! I’m an embarrassingly emotional person (especially when I’m writing and listening to music at the same time—seriously, there’s some classical songs that make me tear up just listening to them… Don’t even get me started on Tchaikovsky’s “Valse Sentimentale” (oh my goddddd, the strings in this song tears at my heart to bits) and “Pas de Deux”), and there’s a quote by Robert Frost that’s always struck me hard– “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” And that, for me, is exceptionally true. I care a lot about my characters and plots, and I probably get way too emotionally invested in them for my own good.

4. I’ll keep a small collection of books somewhere on my desk. They range anywhere from my favorite books, to classics, to reference/mythology books, to books that are on my to-be-read list.

5. My official “Wall of Inspiration”. Things I have on the Wall: some of my favorite inspirational quotes (it helps so much to ground me, to remind me of what I’m constantly working toward); my list of writing goals for 2017 (so important to me—I need to have goals to keep me focused properly); and a clean, re-printed copy of my writing schedule for the year, which, unlike the copy on my desk, hasn’t been scribbled all over so that it borders on unreadable. The wall is something that I can look up to when I’m feeling frustrated/overwhelmed…and it helps. So probably all very clichéd, but it works for me!

That’s it for today—I’m off to dive into a complete rewrite of MIDNIGHT QUEEN (my YA BaTB/Hades & Persephone/the Firebird two-book fantasy), a novel I’m infinitely passionate about because it incorporates some of my favorite myths of all time.