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O – Okami to Koshinryo (Spice and Wolf)

  • Posted on April 18, 2017 at 7:33 pm

Okami to Koshinryo, Spice and Wolf, or as my friends call it, “Moe Economics” is proof that you can make any hobby into something interesting. So don’t hesitate to give your weird, questionable ideas the room they need to grow! A series about a spice merchant and his companion, the wolf Goddess Holo, the story basically follows their travels through a world fraught with trade and stories.

Why I recommend it to Writers: The story revolves entirely around the world around Holo and Vincent. The two of them are players on a massive stage, and that teaches a great love for the way money and trade works.

Warnings: Nudity.

For the rest of the articles in this series, please visit this page.

Have you seen this anime? What about it made you want to be a better writer? Do you intend to go shotgun this anime now that I’ve shown it to you? Comment below and tell me what you think!

IWSG – 03/01/17

  • Posted on March 1, 2017 at 12:15 am

There’s a lovely group of people who listen to my woes and comfort me every month, and this month I have the honor of giving back by co-hosting the lovely Insecure Writer’s Support Group. If you don’t know about this group or are relatively new, here’s how it works:

  1. Click on the picture
  2. Sign up
  3. Post a post every first Wednesday about your struggles as a writer, your triumphs as an author, and any encouragement you have to give others. (prompts are provided, most times.)
  4. Go and read about other’s struggles and comment with support!

When I was fourteen years old, I had a dream. To this day the only thing I can remember about the dream was that there was a sorcerer and a swordsman, and the swordsman ran the sorcerer through with his sword. He caught the dying sorcerer, and the sorcerer said to him, “You never could save me.”

That’s how two of the main characters of the Kurylian Saga were born. Others came afterward, but Yumil and Dirk were the ones who stuck around the most. I drew comics of them, I wrote short stories to myself. I even considered making a full-blown manga out of their adventure.

In the end, I settled on a book, and with the encouragement of my then-boyfriend, in 2013, I wrote the first draft of the Kurylian saga. The characters were wonky, the settings were forgettable, and the action was… well… inactive. I met my mentor, Chris Votey, and began work on the second draft. And then the third. And then I put it away for almost a full year, while I was homeless and running around my town trying to get my feet back under me.

Most recently, I’ve been struggling with a feeling of dejection. That the story I was telling was either not good enough, or that I, as a writer, didn’t have the skill to tell it. I absolutely drove myself mad over it to the point where I considered whether or not to scrap the book entirely and just move on.

I tried to do just that. I opened rough draft after rough draft. I tried different genres. I tried everything. But I always came back to Dirk and Yumil. The two of them needed their story told, and my fourteen-year-old-self was still in love with the way their world worked.

So I went to Chris and I asked him for help. As always, he gave me lovely lessons on world building, and how to use what I was learning in college in my writing. Then he set me the challenge of writing short fiction. Just real quick 500-750 word drabbles centered around one of the other characters in the story named Eamon.

Doing this unlocked something in me, and I found myself starting to get excited about the book again.

However, those doubts started niggling again. I couldn’t possibly be writing this right. I was obviously doing something wrong. Why was Eamon acting this way, when I had thought she was a more simple character?!

Chris came to me again and offered me the chance to analyze Dirk and Eamon, to see how they really ticked. I jumped on it, thinking that, as always, Chris must have some kind of reasoning behind it. And to be honest, I’m not the greatest at Character Profiling. Or world building. Or prose. Or, well you get the drift.

The first thing we did was sit down over voice chat, and he started asking me questions. I was instructed to answer the question three times. Once for Dirk, Once for Eamon, and Once for myself. I recognized the questions as being similar to an MBTI test I took and abandoned halfway through a long time ago.

For those who don’t know, MBTI stands for Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which is a psychological profiling system. It’s become very fashionable lately to know what your MBTI is on Tumblr, so I’ve kind of been rolling my eyes at it as any kind of diagnostic tool. However, Chris is on the verge of something wonderful, so I went along with it.

Going through the questions made me think about things I’d never considered before. Was Eamon organized? Did Dirk like being in the center of crowds? Did either of them enjoy spending time outdoors or indoors more? The questions were thorough and difficult to answer.

Over the course of the questions, however, the two of them started to form more solidly in my head. These were real people I was talking about suddenly. Not characters in my mind, but people I knew more intimately (apparently) than I knew myself!

It got me to thinking, however, about the characters and how they were and what they were doing. I started asking myself questions about my other characters, like Yumil and Jorgan and Anelace. Were any of them wallflowers? Did any of them answer emails promptly? It made me feel more connected to the story, which suddenly made me want to write more on this behemoth that had already taken up four years of my life.

And then, a few days later, Chris said he had the results. And when we went over them, something amazing happened. It was more than just a confirmation of who the characters were. It was like Chris was reading to me a manual on the characters that I had dreamt up, loved, and written for years. They came alive on the paper, and their actions suddenly made SENSE.

Dirk adopted Jorgan because his emotions thrive on love and care, and children are love and care incarnate. Eamon feels pressure to be like her father because it’s difficult for her to be original because of her personality. Everything made sense. I wasn’t crazy. These characters really were like real live people.

More than anything, by getting to know these characters, by learning how they think, how they feel, and what their rich inner lives were like, I knew that I was doing the right thing. That I was the writer to tell their story. After all, if I could make a complex character that fit into a personality profile used by psychiatrists, how could I possibly be doing my story injustice? I hadn’t known that these profiles existed when I made Dirk. So I wasn’t copying.

I had known Chris was doing research on personality typing for character creation, and he had mentioned MBTI types as well as astrology. Now I couldn’t help but wonder if his research for that project was what he used to help me. He confirmed it, of course, when I asked him. I felt so privileged that he would share such a thing with me.

I was so giddy with elation I rushed out of our voice chat, leaving poor Chris behind,  just to write all of this down. So let me tell you, fellow writers. If you are lacking motivation, or if you feel like you aren’t good enough… Sit down with your characters. Get to know them. Learn their inner lives. Do these things, and you’ll find that you ARE a writer, you are a good one, and you can do this.

After all, they chose you to tell their story.

So get out there, and tell it.

By the way, the test Chris recommended I use to find out the other characters MBTI profiles is right HERE, so feel free to use it! I also recommend THIS WEBSITE for getting to know each MBTI type.

As an aside, next month I will be joining the Blogging A to Z Challenge, co-hosted by IWSG’s Alex Cavenaugh! Follow me now for awesome articles every day in april!

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Distractions – IWSG 05/04/16

  • Posted on May 4, 2016 at 5:14 pm

We're here for you. Things that Distract one’s Focus

  • The sudden and unexplainable urge to read something one has never read before.
  • A broken nail that begs to be filed.
  • Hair that must be plucked, brushed, tweezed, or otherwise groomed.
  • The click of a pen in another room.
  • The need to feed pets, children or a partner.
  • The need to bathe said pets, children or partners.
  • A sudden and inexplicable yearning to clean every inch of one’s house.
  • The pile of laundry calling, begging to be folded.
  • An old notebook found in the deep recesses of a closet.
  • The sudden and startlingly shrill scream of a child.
  • Especially so if that child is not injured in the least, but rather enjoying the startlement they have caused.
  • The ring on one’s finger.
  • The thought that one ought to be writing, but instead is doing something else.
  • The thought that one ought to be doing something else, and so therefore, should not be writing.
  • The glowing numbers on a clock.
  • The ticking of a clock.
  • The hush of rain outside.
  • The hush of wind through trees outside.
  • The sunshine streaming through the window.
  • The blackness of the night outside one’s curtains.
  • A reminder that one’s favorite program has come on.
  • A reminder that one’s bills need paid.
  • A sudden urge to check the mail.
  • The sound of a hamster running on it’s wheel.
  • The thought that you might have books to return to the library.
  • A rambling search for said books.
  • The library.
  • The siren call of someone messaging you.
  • A tangle of cords peeking out of a box.
  • A new idea where one was not before.
  • A new plotline for a part of the story one has not reached quite yet.
  • The thought that perhaps this story isn’t worth telling after all.
  • The gross misconception that one can handle writing three or more books at once.
  • A sudden, undeserved pity party.
  • A sudden, well-deserved pity party.
  • A sudden, and entirely deserved party.
  • Any sort of party, really.
  • Cake.
  • The Dog Park.
  • One’s own thoughts.
  • A game that one wants to play.
  • A chore one must do.
  • The irksome feeling of an unmade bed.
  • The act of making a bed.
  • The comfort that comes from sitting on a made bed.
  • Pictures.
  • Dreams.
  • The look on one’s face in the mirror.
  • Anything broken.
  • Lights flickering.
  • The ding of an appliance.
  • The hum of a refrigerator.
  • Eye contact.
  • The reward one has set oneself for completing the act in the end.
  • The idea that one must complete the act at all.
  • The uncomfortable tingle of a bladder over full.
  • The rush of a breeze over one’s arm.
  • Anything at all can be a distraction.
  • When you think about it, in the end, even what you’re writing is a distraction.
  • A distraction from all of these distractions.
  • The best sort of distraction is an entertaining one.
  • So make your distractions entertaining.
  • And then write them down.
  • And share with the class.
  • Who knows.
  • Your distractions.
  • Might become someone else’s.
  • And then.
  • The world will be a better place.
  • Or so this one thinks, anyway.

The Homestuck Finale

  • Posted on April 19, 2015 at 11:48 pm

For those of you who follow my blog, you are aware that I am Homestuck Trash. Basically what that means, for the uninitiated, is that I read, almost religiously, a webcomic called Homestuck. And for the Purists, yes, I came in after the trolls were introduced, and I don’t care.

I started Homestuck when I was nineteen. A little old for the target demographic, but I instantly bonded with the characters. From John’s dorky love of ‘the animes’ to Jade’s amazing freedoms, I was reminded of myself at that age. In fact, I identified with them so much that they started me writing fanfiction again. (I’ll spare you the gruesome details.)

Homestuck is a webcomic of second chances. I started reading it six years ago, when it was new, and dropped it, like so many people do, before it got good. I picked it up a second time and discovered an amazing story. It got me to give Tumblr a second try. The fandom goaded me to try NaNoWriMo. Even in the webcomic itself, time travel and extra lives prove time and again that second (and third) chances are a universal thing, built into the fabric of paradox space.

Homestuck is about growing up, taking chances, making mistakes, and building your own world. Sometimes with your friends, sometimes with family, but always your world.

Through John, we learn how one simple word or deed can change everything. Through Jade, we learn how easy it is to let one bad friend influence us. Through Rose, we see how difficult it can be to pull ourselves back up from a fall. Through Dave, we learn many things, but most of all, how dangerous it is to live in the past.

No matter what though, my favorite character is Gamzee. He was born to high position. His life should have been perfect. But every step of the way was difficult, from neglect to drug addiction to hurtful friends, to hurting friends. Gamzee has a rough life.

And because of that, and because of his choices, he is an amazing villain. Unlike bratty Caliborn, who simply doesn’t know better, Gamzee had examples, his friends, and chose avoidance and worship of maniacal gods over change.

Whenever I find my fear of change hissing at something, the cautionary tale that is Gamzee’s life plays out for me.There is nothing scarier than change, except perhaps the idea of what sort of monster I might become without it. And whether he is redeemed at the end or killed or something else, Gamzee will always be my favorite for teaching me that.

Perhaps Andrew Hussie didn’t mean to teach that lesson. Perhaps he just wanted to make a story about kids playing a game. However, no matter his intent, he’s given the world a gift. He has taught a generation about persistence, perseverance, and acceptance. I hope, one day, to do the same.

In the meantime, I’ll be over here, reading the ending with tears in my eyes, a pen in my hand, and notes being taken.

Weekly Writing Update – 02-19-15

  • Posted on February 19, 2015 at 10:07 pm

So this week has been a big win! Not only have I started writing again, I’ve really taken control of my finances, with the help of my tax return! <3 I’m proud to report my nest egg has grown from exactly jack-fucking-squat to $350, in two months! <3 I’m also getting new glasses and a new phone here soon. That’s going to be fun. ^.^

Here it is! My Weekly Writing Update!

Word Counts: 

First Book of the Kurylian Saga: 1.5 sections rewritten (Current total: 16,323 words)

Kaimi Rowe Series: Seeker Born – Rough Draft – Restarted

Blue Roses – 9,971 words – Dystopian Love Story

Blog Posts

The Anatomy of an Anime Mental Breakdown

Books Read

None this week… I’ve been having trouble finding good audio-books to listen to during my commute. Any recommendations would be awesome! Fantasy, self-help, personal finance, and horror are some of my favorites!

Goals 

Finish Real Money Answers by Patrice C. Washington

Keep Bullet Journaling

Two more blog posts for this blog this week!

Hit 16500 on Kurylian Saga!

 

And for those of you intrepid writers watching me, I challenge you! Start your own Weekly Writing Update! Or just a Weekly Update! You’d be surprised how motivational it is!

Weekly Writing Update – 02/05/15

  • Posted on February 5, 2015 at 9:17 am

This has sort of turned into a biweekly writing update, hasn’t it? I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a bad egg when it comes to keeping schedules. I hope you all aren’t too bored of me, or disappointed in me for that! As it is, I’ve been having trouble at work and at home, and just about everywhere, so there’s that. But! I’m not giving up! <3 I still plan to have my first book out by June!

And on that note, here are the tallies:

Word Counts: 

First Book of the Kurylian Saga: 1.5 sections rewritten (Current total: 15,041 words)

Kaimi Rowe Series: Seeker Born – Rough Draft – Restarted

Blue Roses – 9,971 words – Dystopian Love Story

Blog Posts

None this time… I’ve been pretty bad about this!

Books Read

None this week… I’ve been having trouble finding good audio-books to listen to during my commute. Any recommendations would be awesome! Fantasy, self-help, personal finance, and horror are some of my favorites!

Goals 

Finish Real Money Answers by Patrice C. Washington

Keep Bullet Journaling

Two more blog posts for this blog this week!

Imagine Your OC – Practice Drabbles 1

  • Posted on October 19, 2014 at 10:15 pm

In the spirit of NaNoPrep, I’m taking some time to build my characters! And in doing so, apparently, I am avoiding all responsibility by surfing tumblr. Anyway, I found this post here, entitled ‘Things to consider when making your OCs” and I realized, honestly, they’re some pretty amazing prompts! So here we go! I’ve picked random characters for each prompt, and will flesh them out some! This should be an adventure, yes it should.

~*~*~*~*~

How would they react upon accidentally walking into a glass door?

The pain was nothing to the embarrassment. Knocking into the sliding glass door only caused a slight ache in the bridge of his nose, but Dirk’s pride? Now, that was bruised beyond repair. With Yumil laughing in the background, he groaned, rubbing the sore area. Stay calm, Strausson, stay cool. No need to let the normally-unflappable idiot you hang around with take the wind out of your sails.

“I meant to do that.” Dirk stumbled, saying the first thing he could think of. This, of course, only increased the howling of laughter from Yumil.

Jorgan, sweet, innocent Jorgan, took the handle of the door, and opened it. “There you go!” Dirk knew letting Jorgan hang around his older brother was a bad idea. Look at that tiny smirk. Yumil was a bad influence. Giving up, the mahogany skinned man slid past Jorgan and out into the yard, ignoring the burning of embarrassment in his ears.

*~*~*~*~*~*~

How do they react to having their name spelled wrong on a Starbucks cup?

“…Excuse me. This…” Dirk was holding a cup, on which his name had been… well… The letters in scrawled sharpie clearly emblazoned the word “DICK” instead of Dirk. He stood at the counter, as the person behind the counter stared placidly back. Before he even finished, he realized he’d already lost this battle. However, Dirk was never one to give up.

“This is unacceptable. This kind of profanity is unprofessional.” He managed, fighting through annoyance and embarrassment. Everyone was looking at him at this point, but Dirk had to make a point here. What if this had been for some impressionable preteen? What then? “I’d like to speak to your manager.”

“Sir, I am the manager.” The employee intoned, soulless eyes staring sightlessly. “If you’d like to register a complaint, you can go online-” This was where Dirk sighed, giving up entirely. Maybe if Yumil had been here, he’d have gotten somewhere. His partner never turned down a challenge. Although that might end in the Starbucks being burnt to the ground… Best he wasn’t here at all then.

“Excuse me, sir? My name is Dick Dickerson, and I believe that’s mine.”

*~*~*~*~*~

What kind of vines do they make?

“Wait, why am I holding a pot again?” Dirk asked, possibly for the third time. He couldn’t quite remember. He honestly was trying to convince himself that what he kept hearing WASN’T incredibly stupid. But of course, this was Yumil, with his sidekick Lette he was talking about, who tended to bring out the worst in each other. He looked at the odd old-fashioned crock-pot he was holding, and wondered, again, why it was filled with fish.

“Just don’t move, alright, and keep still.” Yumil hissed, holding the phone. “Alright, go ahead Lette!”

Lette grinned into the camera, making a peace sign with her teal-painted nails. “Hi, I’m Lette, and this is jackass!” Then, she turned around, and Dirk got to see what she was holding. A bat. Oh god. He flinched back immediately, and the crock-pot went flying. Water and fish flew everywhere, and he stared at Yumil’s  laughing grimace, realizing that he, perhaps, did not have the best of friends.

*~*~*~*~*~

What would their reaction to your favorite character be?

He really didn’t understand this show. He supposed he could understand the characters. Leon, he was an officer of the law, and someone Dirk respected. Well, despite the fact that he acted like an eighties thug. But he really did want to stop people being hurt. He didn’t really understand the other character though. D, this so called-count. He was reminded of someone, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.

“God, could Leon be any more stupid? of COURSE it’s a mermaid!” Yumil shouted from an armchair, painting toenails pink again. Long black hair was piled high up on the back of a pretty head. While D was incomprehensible, it was Leon he understood perfectly.

After all, his own incomprehensible idiot sat right across the way from him, didn’t he?

*~*~*~*~*~

How would they play the Sims?

Dirk checked the meter once again, and then smiled. Good. Every single one of their meters was alright. Although, little Eamon looked like she was going to end up peeing herself if he didn’t get her away from that computer. He clicked on the toilet and got her to head that way. He intercepted little Yumil from trying to set a plant on fire, again, and sent him to the library to study next to little Dirk.

He liked it best when everything ran well. Little Yumil is a scientist, and little Dirk is an author. little Jorgan is still in school. He ended up having to make him little Yumil and little Dirk’s kid, but it was worth it. Little Eamon was a cop and Little Anelace her partner. Little Lette was a movie star, and little Espin was the chore-boy. But he seemed happy enough that way.

Dirk saved, just to be safe, and started adding on the new wing of the house. After all, pretty soon little Dirk and little Yumil would be adopting some kids. That’d certainly keep them busy, wouldn’t it?

*~*~*~*~*~*~

What would their finishing move be?

“YUMIL!” He roared, cutting through another enemy to get to the summoner. He could see the summoner trying to call down Ifrit, his favorite summon, but he knew it would be too late.  The behemoths were quick, despite their large lumbering forms.

Things seemed to slow. His feet pounded the floor. His breath slowed. He felt it, then. Something powerful. He roared, leaping. Into the air he went, his sword raised high. Down, it came.

“EXCALIBUR ARCH!” A blaze of blue light, and the behemoth threatening their summoner dashed into a thousand shimmering pieces. Once it was done, he whirled, and Yumil’s back touched his, a renewed sense of purpose washing over him. “Everyone, REGROUP!”

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group – 09/03/14

  • Posted on September 4, 2014 at 1:00 am

IWSG badgeI only recently found out about the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, so forgive this post being a few minutes late.  Basically, from what I can understand of the website, it’s a group meant to bolster and support those going into writing as a career, by helping them see that others have similar insecurities, and by talking them through them.

To be completely honest, I have more insecurities than triumphs, right now, and that’s not something to shake a stick at. I’ve triumphed a lot in my life, to get where I am now, and so when I say the insecurities way me down, I mean it, truthfully.

The thing about it is, however, that you can’t let that sort of thing hold you back. Several of my fears are completely valid. Being the type of person I am, I compartmentalize, and then end up completely disorganized through out the entire process, which just leads to chaos. So, in an effort to help you through some of the things that I’m suffering through, I’m going to organize a little.

Worry one: I’m not going to make it. 

My mother is an author. My best friend is an author. My Mentor is an author. All of these people, I hold dear. But each in their own way, they struggle beyond what is possible for me to feel comfortable with. My mother has one book published, and is working on her second, and honestly, I’d give anything to be nothing like her. That’s a whole seperate story. My best friend has written five books, and none of them are published because he is waiting for one specific publishing house to recognise his works. And my mentor, possibly the most successful of all of us, has two books published, and still is not earning enough to support himself yet.

None of these are my idea of ‘making it’. Of Succeeding. My idea of succeeding is the type of fandom and fame that people like Neil Gaiman, Andrew Hussie, and J.K. Rowling have. And my fear is that I will never reach that level of success.

But that’s wrong. To worry about that so early in the game. The only way I will ever make it, is if I put my all into it now, if I give everything I have to succeeding. I can’t allow this worry to cripple me, the way I’ve allowed worries like this to do so in the past. I have done so much in my short life, and this will not be something that I don’t cross off my bucket list. So please, don’t let the high pole of your own idea of ‘making it’ hold you down.

Worry number two: The things I’m writing will perpetuate horrible things.

If there is one thing I want more than to be the next J.K., it’s to make sure that my writing MEANS something. That it gives someone who didn’t have representation before, that representation. That it allows people to feel more comfortable being themselves.

So I worry and fuss and drive myself nuts over my books and blogposts and writing, to make sure that they don’t hurt those I’m trying to help. It’s a lot harder than one might think to avoid internalised misogyny, or misandry. To fight off homophobia that I didn’t realise slipped into the way I write. To tear away anything that might make someone feel worse about themselves than they already do. And I’m scared that I might never be able to do what needs to be done to make the world a better place.

To combat this worry, I’m trying to learn as much about the world as possible, so that I might end up helping, instead of hurting. I’m attempting to make sure that nothing is left out. That I leave no stone unturned. Honestly, there are some who would tell me not to worry about this, but it seems to me that not enough people worry. So I try my hardest.

Worry number three: I’m afraid I’ll decide this is a waste of time someday, and quit.

I have picked up a habit over my years on earth, and it’s a bad one. I start something, put a lot of work into it. Hard, fun work, that leaves me breathless and wanting more. And then suddenly, as if nothing ever happened, I just… can’t do it anymore. I can’t pick up the pen. I can’t make myself write that next reply. I can’t tell myself that I need to continue it.

Knitting, Final Fantasy Eight, Gardening, Drawing, Painting, Manga-writing, BDSM, Domme-ing, Relationships, and numerous, numerous story ideas. All thrown to the wind, on a whim. I have come to accept that I am a fickle creature. And what worries me, is that after all this effort I’ve put into working so hard on this, I’ll just… give up.

I don’t know how to combat this worry. I don’t know how to get rid of it, or change it, or make it work for me. The best I can do, the best anyone can do, is take it one day at a time, and try their hardest. That’s why I write as many blogposts as I can, that’s why I read so many blogs on my Feedly. That’s why I twitter more now than I ever have before. That’s why I search for blogs and talk to other writers, and try desperately to tie what I’m doing here into my other areas of interest.

Worry number four: I’m worried that this will take over my life, and kill my other dreams.

I want to open a Manga Cafe. The first Manga Cafe in Colorado. I want to have children. I want to travel the world. I want to be financially stable and own my own home. All of these things… None of them are mutually exclusive. But I’m afraid that all the work, all the effort, all the energy I have to put into this whole author-business, will take away from the energy I’ll have for these other dreams.

How can I run a cafe, a business, when I have to spend so much time writing, just to be a mediocre author? What will my children think when I have to tell them I can’t take them to the park because Mommy has to write? Travelling the world costs money, and since it looks like I’m going to be an indie-author, I can’t afford that kind of expense. My money, my life, my energy has to go towards my career as an author.

This is a simple fix, though. This is all just a matter of perspective. If I can wire my writing into the rest of my life, as well, then maybe, just maybe, I can have it all. Why not write while travelling? It’ll make my books more realistic! My cafe can give rise to whole new book ideas, as well as a place to sell my books, and others! My children will see me working hard towards my dreams, and gain a work ethic themselves. I can do it. I can do this, and I WILL make my dreams come true!

Worry number five: I’m worried that I’ll succeed. 

Now, bear with me here, because I know one of my worries up there was that I WOULDN’T make it. But, making it, succeeding in becoming the type of author I want to be… Well, that’s just as terrifying. The kind of fanbases that J.K. and Hussie and Gaiman have are amazing, but also, dangerous. People have Andrew Hussies’ BABY pictures online. I would have no privacy. Not only that, but these people would be hanging on my every word. I would be responsible for a part of their world view. That’s a horrid responsibility.

And there would be my close friends. What of my best friend, who is still waiting for that publisher to call him back? The jealousy there might ruin our friendship. I would rather die than lose him as a friend. And what of my mother? I love her, but what if she thinks this is some kind of contest? We barely have a tenuous relationship as it is. I’d rather not turn into Rose Lalonde, thank you.

The only balm I can soothe this worry with is that I won’t let success change me. Not really. I will still be friends with those I love. I will still be me. And I know I’ve never intentionally hurt a person. And I’ve never withheld an apology when I knew it was really needed. So I can only hope that responsibility will sit with me easily.

Does anyone else have these worries? How do you soothe yours? Please tell me, because I’d love to hear.

Breaking Down Nemesis: Part One

  • Posted on August 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Welcome to a new series of articles centered around breaking down, and understanding Nemesis, a Miss Marple Mystery, by Agatha Christie. If you’re curious, and wish to follow along, you can purchase the book here! (or make use of your public library, of course! <3) We’ll be breaking down several things, focusing on the Tension, the Characterization, and the Plot Threads, while searching out this mysterious Agatha Christie Code that I’ve heard so much about!

Nemesis is a story in the middle of the Miss Marple Mysteries, a series about an old woman, Miss Jane Marple, who happens to solve mysteries in between gardening, knitting, and enjoying her golden years. At twenty two chapters, we’re going to be breaking down each chapter and looking over it. At the end, I’ll give a final post about what I’ve learned from the intrepid Miss Agatha.

In the afternoons it was custom of Miss Jane Marple to unfold her second newspaper.

The cover for the copy I am reading. Clicking will take you to Miss Christie’s Wikipage.

This is the first line of the novel. Odd choice, honestly, but it works, because it shows off a certain oddness about Miss Marple in the first place. Then, odder still, Miss Marple goes off on a tangent about how often her paper is late because the boy delivering it is either late, or has handed off his route for a little while, or has been sacked.

Strangely enough, this drew me in immediately, if only because I really felt like I was listening to the mental ramblings of an old lady. But another part of it shows just how very AWARE Miss Marple is about EVERYTHING. She knows more than just ‘oh the paper’s late, I can’t read it with early morning tea.’ She knows WHY her paper is late, which is something few people even bother paying attention to.

The pacing so far is unbearably slow. I haven’t figured out anything other than what this old woman is doing with her afternoon. Which appears to be reading a newspaper she’s nicknamed “The Daily All-Sorts”. Then, we are treated to another rant, this time about being unable to find anything in the Times. This rant seems devoted to her lamenting how things have changed from when she was young.

A wonderful way to show us her age, and also an intriguingly clear indication that perhaps the so-called Agatha Christie Code is correct. She seems very intent on describing Miss Marple’s thought process in larger-than-life detail.  Here, we find out another odd detail about Miss Marple.

“It’s sad really, but nowadays one is only interested in the deaths!” – Miss Marple

Miss Marple discovers the Internet

She seems to be looking to see if anyone she knows has died, or perhaps given birth, or gotten married. An odd passtime, but when one has all the time on her hands that Miss Marple seems to, I can see why it would become interesting. Everything about Miss Marple at this point seems to be just this side of odd for an old woman. Miss Christie is leaving us hints as to just how odd Old Miss Marple is underneath. This is wonderful examples of characterization. But still, nothing has happened yet.

Finally, Miss Marple comes across a name that stirs some familiarity. Jason Rafiel, listed in the obituaries. She can’t seem to remember who it is, but she has no doubt it will come to her. In fact, we are treated to a long process of her figuring it out. She begins by looking out the window, lamenting that the doctors refuse to allow her to garden. Another hobby we find she enjoyed that now she is restricted. Poor Miss Marple, her old age is catching up to her. Turning away from the window, she picks up her knitting, which appears to be a pink jacket, just missing the sleeves.

Now pink wool, this triggers something of her memory. As we can see:

Pink wool. Now wait a minute, where did that fit in? Yes- yes- it fitted in with the name she’d just read in the paper. Pink wool. A blue sea. A Carribean sea. A sandy beach. Sunshine. Herself knitting and- why of course, Mr. Rafiel. That trip she had made to the caribbean. The Island of St. Honore. A treat from her nephew Raymond. And she remembered Joan, her niece-in-law, Raymond’s wife, saying: “Don’t get mixed up in any more murders, Aunt Jane. It isn’t good for you.”

Do you see what she did there? Miss Agatha Christie just took us through a perfect example of how the mind ACTUALLY works! After scent, touch is the closest sense to memory, followed by sight! Now, Miss Marple didn’t just remember this up, as if it were a scene, no, it’s broken down into actual recollections, actual thoughts. Instead of a flashback, we get a disjointed connection through various memories.

And like any of us, Miss Marple doesn’t just remember everything about that trip at once. No, she has to tease it together, starting with the names. She remembered the elderly Major, whose name continued escaping her. Then she remembers the kind of man Mr. Rafiel had been. Not perfectly, as some people are want to do. She remembers him being an obstinate man, as well as strong, as well as rich. Difficult, irritable and shockingly rude, she remembers. Clearly he made an impression on Miss Marple. And, not only has she remembered Mr. Rafiel, but others too.

Mrs. Walters, a widow and Mr. Rafiel’s secretary. Mr Rafiel’s Masseur-Attendant, Arthur Jackson, who she thought was a rather doubtful character. But instead of being sure of Jackson’s name, she continues to question it. This is a very organic process of tracking down what the thoughts and memories of this time were. And clearly she is remembering the people specifically, not the events. I assume this was Miss Christie’s way of not rehashing the entire events of the previous book, but instead teasing us along into remembering it as well.

Then comes Miss Knight, who was once Miss Marple’s own companion, a young woman she’s rather happy to get rid of. But for some reason, she keeps messing up her name, thinking of her as Miss Bishop. She even quips about it:

“Oh dear,” said Miss Marple again, “I always get all the names wrong. And of course, it was Miss Knight I was thinking of. Not Miss Bishop. Why do I think of her as Miss Bishop?” The answer came to her. Chess, of course. A Chess piece. A knight. A bishop.

I’ll admit, at this point, Miss Christie had me hooked as a writer, although perhaps not as a reader. Such an organic transition, and a clear definition of this character’s mind. Already I am aware that she notices things others don’t care about, and she puts together odd connections, forming them in her mind to remind herself of things. I haven’t even had to read the rest of the series, and I find myself feeling like Miss Marple is an old friend.

She gives us a rundown of how she and Mr. Rafiel had been partners, for a time, but she never gets around to explaining in what. This makes me want to track down the book previous and read it. Well played, Miss Christie. We find out that Miss Marple was quite excited about these events, and it makes us excited too. Already, we’ve found ourselves enthralled by the way Jane Marple sees the world.

Then, we get to meet Cherry, who is now Miss Marple’s Companion. It seems that Miss Marple uses Cherry as a bit of a sounding board. Also, the voices between Miss Marple and Cherry are quite different. I find myself seeing Cherry as perhaps african american, if only because of the vernacular she chooses.

“You did have it in for little Gary Hopkins I must say,” said Cherry. “When you caught him torturing his cat that day. Never knew you had it in you to go for anyone like that! Scared him stiff, you did. He’s never forgotten it.”

“I hope he hasn’t tortured anymore cats.”

“Well, he’s made sure you weren’t about if he did,” said Cherry. “In fact I’m not at all sure as there isn’t other boys as got scared. Seeing you with your wool and the pretty things you knits and all that- anyone would think you were gentle as a lamb. But there’s times I could say you’d behave like a lion if you was goaded into it.”

Also, a wonderful choice there, to show us Miss Marple’s sense of rough justice through the eyes of Cherry, her companion. At this point, I’m also hoping to see more of Cherry. Their interaction seems quite natural, that of a companion and someone of an age beyond adulthood.

Let’s pause for a moment and talk about the syntax of Miss Christie’s work. So far, I’m seeing quite a large number of ‘said’s, and very little added description. She was clearly a follower of the ‘no adjectives’ rule, as well as a detractor from the ‘said is dead’ forum of discussion. However, I don’t feel it takes away from her work. The dialogue itself is well written, as well as showing us little glimpses of what we need to know about Miss Marple. There isn’t a word wasted here. I can see why Agatha Christie is said to be the single best-selling author in the world.

There’s a small break away from the heavy thinking to have a conversation with Miss Bartlett, a companion-gardener to one Miss Hastings. Then, her mind turns back to Mr. Rafiel, and gives us a wonderful description of their relationship. Ships that pass in the night. After that, she resolves that she will probably never think of him again. She’d look out for an obituary, out of what seems an honor for his passing, but she isn’t very hopeful about it. As a final thought, she notes that he hadn’t been anyone of major importance in any industry.

He had just all his life made enormous amounts of money…

All the money. Obsene amounts of money.

What I wouldn’t give to make enormous amounts of money. But on another note, clearly, the foreshadowing here is pretty thick. On the second read through, I found things I hadn’t noticed, such as the Mrs. Hastings reference. Already we have so many characters to follow, and Miss Marple at the center of it all. Red herrings everywhere for a mystery that hasn’t even been introduced, and I’m excited about this book that literally NOTHING HAS HAPPENED IN. All Miss Marple has done is read her newspaper, think about old memories, and talk to two women for five minutes each!

Breaking it down, just a bit, we see already how Miss Christie built up the character for us, showing through thought and action just what sort of woman Miss Marple is. We know she has just a little lion inside her, and is the kind to beat a child senseless for torturing an innocent creature. We know that she has an impeccable memory for detail, although sometimes it takes her a minute and some odd associations to get there.

This entire first chapter was spent introducing the main character. But it wasn’t wasted at all. We weren’t bored to tears by a flashback of what happened in the Caribbean. We weren’t shown her beating the boy, we weren’t even shown her doing anything other than normal things. THIS is an introduction chapter. This is the type of first chapter that will get you published.

Here’s a challenge, then. Take the first chapter of your book, or first paragraph of your short story, or any beginning at all. And have the main character do nothing, but think. Explain who this character is, show it, by their thoughts and actions. Give us a snippet of your results in the comments! And don’t be afraid to tell me what you think about the article either!

Researching Mystery

  • Posted on August 11, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Today, I have a guest blog published over on Cindy Grigg’s website. We’ve swapped guestblogs, and her post, 9 ways to fix your Stereotyped Character is informative and fun to read! Go take a look at it! Also, take a look at the article, Researching mystery which you can find here:

If you’re curious, here’s the first two paragraphs of the article, for your perusal.

To begin with, I’m not normally a mystery author. To be specific, when I was younger, I only ever wrote fantasy novels, or romance. Now, however, I’m trying my hand at mystery novels, which means quite a bit of strife. I have a natural instinct when it comes to fantasy, so I find it easy to fall into. With Romance, I have my years as a fanfiction writer and fandom roleplayer to fall back on, which can both enhance and detract from my writing. (No one likes reading author’s notes, I’ve since learned.)

I came to mystery as a genre because I love the tense atmosphere. Maybe it’s less mystery and more suspense that I enjoy. But recently, I’ve found that I want a challenge. And the best way to challenge yourself is to write something you’ve never in a million years written before. But how can you write something you’ve never written before? How can you make sure that you don’t slip back into writing what you know? And worst of all, how do you manage to make it a GOOD manuscript when you know nothing about your genre?

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