Writing · WIP

It’s Spring! + Writing Burn-Out

Hey, everyone! As much as I adore the cold weather, I’m super-glad it’s spring…because spring means so many glorious photography opportunities (and reading out in the sun and not getting icy-cold.) The flowers are in bloom, the skies are blue, and in Greek mythology, Persephone has returned from the Underworld and is raising the flowers from the winter-soaked soil with Demeter.

Here are a handful of my favorite shots from the past few weeks!

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Apart from photographing flowers… I’m a HUGE astronomy nerd. This was taken from my backyard!

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So, at the beginning of the year, I wrote an outline of what I wanted to complete by the end of the year writing-wise. I totally admit: it was VERY adventurous. But…I wanted to push myself. I wanted to see how much I could accomplish. I wanted to stretch those writing muscles to the very limit. It was a personal test of mine—to see if I could do everything on my adventurous writing list. It took me six months to write MIDNIGHT QUEEN, so by the time I’d redrafted that, I sort of figured: hey, I might not finish everything on my list, but I gave it a go, I tried, I did as best as I could, and I pushed myself. Once I let go of the pressure, I heavily revised (as in rewrote, like, 99% of it) TEOS in just under two months.

I now have only two things let of my list for the year. It’s September, and it’s completely doable. I’m a quick writer, too (not as quick as some writers out there, but I can still get a lot of words down in a day) so theoretically, it should be easy to tick off all my writing goals for ’17.

It’s also impossible for me to not have a working WIP. I love to have something to brainstorm about. Something to write, or fix, or plot…to daydream about.

But, like most writers, my creativity cycle ebbs and flows.

Sometimes inspiration crashes into me, and I can’t get the words down quick enough. Other times it feels like the world has sucked all the words from me, and this is one of those times. I think every writer goes through cycles of creativity, and sometimes it’s SO HARD to get out when you’re in a rut, like I am now.

Writing right now is…hard, like pulling teeth, but it’s getting better slowly. I think it’s been a culmination of things: Drafting and revising so much already this year, I feel sort of burnt-out. I not only needed to recharge, but find the love again in writing and my current project. I’m currently working on THE FLAMES ARE LEGION (a brief rundown of the plot: a wyvern-tamer is forced into taming/training the rising dragons for the tyrannical witch-queen of the Empire and her army) after not touching it for over six months, and it’s a strange, but exciting experience, to fall back into my volcano-ridden, ash-covered, blood-filled world.

I realized something last night: I needed to figure this WIP—and myself—out before I could push on with this draft. So this morning I woke up. Made myself a cup of coffee (or two…) and got to work. I spent most of the morning on this WIP, and I think I’m finally, finally, finally working my way out of the rut I’ve been in for weeks, and it’s slowly feeling like a weight’s been lifted from my shoulders. To reignite that writing spark, I did the following things:

1. I wrote a pitch/query, as well as a synopsis. I’m not a huge outliner; I prefer to be surprised by my stories and where they take me…but sometimes this leads to very muddled, very confused drafts (and I think in turn why I’m in such a rut.) This helped A LOT. I now have a clearer direction of where I want the story to go. I know my characters better, and how their emotional development affects the plot around them. I have an ending, too, as well as a way to set up into the next book in the series and the events to follow. I also focused on ramping up the tension between the characters, and how to twine some of my most beloved characters more closely into the plot.

2. I reread what I’ve already written—and decided that it wasn’t as crappy as I thought it once was. (Or at least I know there are ways to fix it in later drafts.)

3. I found a way to fall in love with my MS again. Writers can be so focused on trying to write the perfect story we forget to take a step back, forget about its flaws for a moment, and let ourselves fall back in love with it. For me it’s been finding the root of the story and the initial inspiration which has helped. My protagonist is a wyvern-tamer, and because I was so focused on what was wrong with the story, what needed to be done, just how much further I have to go on it… I kind of forgot how badass she is, and how much fun she is to write. Writing a synopsis and query has helped me realize that, okay, so while I might still have a long way to go until this novel is done-done, I love what I currently have of it, and I’m looking forward to seeing what unknown twists will surprise me along the way.

To all the writers out there: How do YOU deal with a writing burn-out?


Currently reading: THE SONG RISING by Samantha Shannon

Currently listening to: Game of Thrones S7 score by Ramin Djawadi (!!!!)

P.S. guys: HOW GOOD WAS SEASON 7 OF GAME OF THRONES!? I was literally spellbound the entire time. From the music to the acting to the special effects… simply AMAZING. (And—well, dragons!) I need the next season NOW.

Reading · WIP · Writing

Recent Book Recommendations, What I’ve Been Up To, & A Teaser From My Current WIP

Happy July, everyone! You’re either freezing your butt off, or you’re sweltering hot, and here in Australia, I love the fact that it’s winter. A perfect excuse to read out in the gentle winter sunshine and curl up in a sweater/in front of the heater at night.

I’ve been in such a huggeee reading slump lately, but oh my gosh, have I read some simply BRILLIANT books in the past weeks that are beginning to tease me from my slump! So, without further ado, here are some of the books I’ve been reading…

imagesTHE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN by Roshani Chokshi.

Simply amazing. I had to put this book down at several points so I could savor Chokshi’s lovely, heart-rendering prose. A blend of Indian mythology and the Greek tale of Hades & Persephone (which, as you know, is my favorite EVER), it had me enchanted from the beginning pages—literally. I read this book in one sitting; it was that good. Along with the gorgeous romance, I don’t have the words to describe the originality of this book. Read, read, read! I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of A CROWN OF WISHES (which has a stunning title and cover. I love it as much as the first.)

images (1)THE CHOSEN by J.R. Ward.

I’ve been a fan of this series from book one, and several books later, J.R. Ward has not lost her flair for exceptional romances (that are very steamy, readers beware.) I’ve been waiting for Layla’s story for a long, long time, because heck, she deserves the world. I loved the deeper exploration of the characters and story, and had me hooked from beginning to end, and let’s face it: those Brothers are amazing (except Qhuinn—he deserves a kick up the ass.) I’m so, so looking forward to seeing where J.R. Ward takes the characters next.

 

images (2)WINTERSONG by S. Jae-Jones.

Oh, wow. Everything about this book had me spellbound. The writing, the lush world, the romance… It’s a book that’s really, really worth reading. It’s also fitting that it’s the middle of winter, and there was nothing lovelier than sitting curled up by the heater and utterly devouring this book. But more than anything, I felt this book. Lisel was such an incredible, raw character, and I truly felt her in my heart. Her pain, her triumphs, her anger—it was all so fabulously and painstakingly written. I adored the emotion in this book, and I’m really looking forward to finding out where S. Jae-Jones takes the story in SHADOWSONG.

I have SEVERAL amazing-looking books on my TBR—Frostblood, This Savage Song, The Flame in the Mist just to name a few waiting for me—and I can’t wait to dive into them. (So. Many. Good. Books. This. Year.)

Moving on…

If you don’t already know, another one of my passions/hobbies is photography, so when I recently got a new lens (a 35mm), I thought I’d test it out and share some of my favorite shots. (Which I’m super nervous about, because I’m fairly certain I still suck. I’ve put them in a slideshow below, which I’ve never done before…so I’m not 100% sure it works.) And… I love this lens. It’s a lot easier to handle in manual mode than my other lenses, so NO regrets in buying it at all.

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(Aaaaaand, if you’re interested in more of my photography, check out my Instagram!)

As I mentioned in my last post (which you can read here), I told you guys I started working on, or, more accurately, reworking an old MS called THE EMPIRE OF STARS—also known as TEOS as the title can be a little too much to write. So I thought it would be fun to share a teaser. It’s only short, but this comes from the very beginning of the book…which is probably one of my favorite parts. The beginning of a journey that’s very close to my heart.

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I’m incredibly excited about this novel for so many reasons…and I hope I get to share the rest of it with you guys one day. ❤


Currently reading: FROSTBLOOD by Elly Blake

Currently listening to: The Force Awakens OST by John Williams (Chills, guys, chills. Rey’s theme is so breathtaking.)

WIP · Writing

Why I Use Music to Plot + Five Things About My Current WIP

It’s recently occurred to me that I’m probably a bit of a workaholic when it comes to my own writing. I tend to get anxious when I’m not working on something…so I decided to dive into a new WIP the other day. I’m finally getting back to THE EMPIRE OF STARS, and gosh, I forgot just how much I love working on this book (as hard/frustrating as it can be.) Re-exploring it has been so much fun so far. And so today I thought I would share some music inspiration & some things about this novel.

It’s rare that I’m writing and not listening to music (Unless I REALLY need to concentrate on something.) I always seem to have my novel playlists going on in the background. A lot of writers I know do the same, too. For me it’s not only a way of visualizing the novel in my head, it literally inspires whole scenes, sometimes even characters. Most (okay, basically everything) is soundtrack-based and classical (LOVE ballet/Russian artist’s classical) and it’s just so, so inspirational to me.

 

 

I chose these tracks because BOTH inspired entire scenes from TEOS. Both are just so emotionally moving and although it’ll be awhile until I get to draft them, I’m really, really looking forward to them. One scene, inspired by Valse Sentimentale, is a pivotal point in my MC’s emotional development (well, technically, they both are, but this one maybe more so in some regards.) And oh my god, Hans Zimmer & James Newtown Howard are actually legends…and dude, it would sound incredible live. The entire soundtrack to the Batman movies, the three they scored, are downright incredible. Spine-chilling. And so, hopefully, is the scene I have planned. So basically, that’s how I plot my novels: Pinterest and music. ❤ (…Welllll, that and a lot of handwritten scrawls in my notebooks.)

And now…a bit about the novel.

1. I’ve been working on this novel since I was fifteen! I’m now twenty. So…that’s five years. It’s developed A LOT since the first draft (um, thankfully) and I’m heavily revising it yet again. I literally cannot stay away from this book. It’s my heart. It still hasn’t reached the vision I’m aiming for, but it goddamn will one day, because I just can’t give up this book. Will you ever see it on shelves one day? God, I hope so, because this book is my entire world. I believe in it endlessly.

2. My protagonist, Evony, was inspired a lot by the Morrigan. For all of you who aren’t OBSESSED with mythology as I am, the Morrigan is the Celtic goddess of war, death, and fate. (Fun fact! Her name either means Great Queen, or Phantom Queen.) She’s also often associated with ravens/crows. She’s always fascinated me, so I blended her character with my protagonist’s, and I adore the outcome. Evony is one of my favorite characters in the book—she’s lethal, not afraid to embrace her darkness, and very heart-driven…which gets her in a lot of hell, usually. (All the time.)

3. It’s fairy-tale inspired. I love, love, love fairy-tales. While THE EMPIRE OF STARS isn’t strictly a retelling, there are nods to some of my favorite tales (and pieces of mythology) here and there. Initially, the book was inspired by a pretty unknown tale called “The Maiden with the Rose on her Forehead” (which is literally about a girl about a rose growing from her forehead) and I seriously just found myself so…intrigued by the concept. I started thinking “Why” and “What if?” and, well, TEOS was born. There’s also a Cinderella aspect to it which I love…and I can’t wait to explore that more in this draft.

4. It’s about elves (aaaaand the inevitable rift between the mortal and the immortal)! Ever since LOTR, I’ve been fascinated by elves/Fae (…I also have another WIP mainly featuring Fae…SO excited to get to write that project. Hopefully sometime this year, too! It’s been gnawing at me for ages now.) Called the “highborn,” they’re arrogant, lethal, and my MC definitely has a bone to pick with a certain highborn lord she may or may not be in love with. This book involves perytons, too, which is a concept I NEVER see in books these days. Legit the most underrated mythological creature I know. They’re a mix between a stag & a bird.

5. My protagonist is sort of an anti-hero. Basically: she’s out for revenge against the people who wronged her. But she also has a gentle heart—and that mix between being out for revenge but being caught up in a much larger plot—is super fun to write! Evony is a character that’s been with me for years, so I know every little thing about her, and she has a wickedly fun (and terrible) past I hope that one day I’ll get to dive into! I’ve always be fascinated with the concept of good and evil—which a lot of what this series deals with—and more so the concept of a character whose teetering on the edge of darkness, I guess. Plus, Evony is a super capable woman who absolutely knows it and when push comes to shove, she can kick some serious butt (but, ultimately, is loyal and kind.) And this pic is DEAD-ON how I picture my MC, which is epic.

Annndd now I’m off to write more of this WIP. ❤ This post ended up wayyyyyy longer than I intended. So, writers/music-listeners out there! What do you love? Anything to recommend? And: I’m thinking of starting a regular music-inspired posts! What do you think? Let me know! And—what WIPs are you writing now? I’d love to hear about them.


Currently reading: THE BLACK SWAN by Mercedes Lackey

Currently listening to: The Runner by Zack Hemsey

WIP · Writing

The Importance of Female Characters in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

So, err, my resolution to blog more frequently hasn’t gone all too well lately, BUT! I have just finished my most recent round of revisions for MIDNIGHT QUEEN. I’m super happy with the way it turned out—although I am aware it does need a lot more tweaking to fit my vision of how it should be—but for now I’m pleased to have it…done. Which also means that I can focus on other things! I’m currently at the blissful stage of “What do I work on next!?” which is both terrifying and exciting…and one of the feelings I treasure most as a writer. And as I’m drafting this I’m combing through my current list of WIPs and deciding which one is beginning to be written/edited next. ❤

So this post comes on the heels of the release of Wonder Woman which I’m so, so, so excited to go see. (About TIME we get a female lead for a modern superhero film.) And of course, whenever a big-budget female-driven film is released there undoubtedly comes a ton of male criticism—or, just as bad, the need for this film to “prove itself” for more female-driven superhero films to be created. I’ve been meaning to draft this post for a while now on female leads in sci-fi/fantasy, and I can’t think of a better time.

Literally all protagonists I’ve written so far are female. A lot of my books (basically all) revolve around science-fiction or high fantasy. I grew up with an older brother, which meant Star Wars and computer games, and learned quite quickly that female presence in a central role in them…wasn’t a lot. As amazing as Leia Organa is, I wanted a female to be the one saving the galaxy; I wanted a female Luke Skywalker. I’m now eternally grateful for characters like Rey and Jyn Erso but sort of wish that I’d had women like that when I was a kid…hence why I write what I do now. For teens, especially. One of my current WIPs, THIS STORM RISING, is a YA sci-fi in the same vein as Star Wars and yep, you guessed it, my protagonist is female. She’s a thief, she’s a con-artist, she’s a character I intentionally put in this role because it felt like such a traditional…man’s role. (She was also sort of inspired by White Collar’s Neal Caffrey & Leverage’s Parker. Side note: if you’ve never watched these shows before, DO SO. They’re amazing.)

With my protagonist in THIS STORM RISING, I wanted to write a female character that challenged feminine stereotypes. I wanted to write a character whose femininity was viewed not as a weakness, but a strength. A woman with high standards and knows what she’s worth. I wanted to write a character who owned herself; her body, her sexuality, her own intelligence, and didn’t let the men around her—no matter how powerful they were—define who she is. She cares how her nails look and uses her beauty as a weapon…but she’s also not afraid to fight and get her hands dirty (both literally and figuratively, I guess.) She lives in one hell of a gray moral zone, kicks some MAJOR butt throughout the book, but ultimately, I want to craft her as a flawed human being that messes up. A lot. But neither does she let her mistakes define who she is—or how others see her.

It’s a novel I’m aching to get back to because the characters—the MC, particularly—mean the world to me in so many different ways.

So—chin up, ladies.

We rock this world.


Currently reading: THE CHOSEN by JR Ward (DAMNNN these books. <33333)

Currently listening to: The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky

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.)