Saturday, 28 May 2016

A Book's Genesis - Introducing "Draped in Deception"


     I'm really happy to let you know that I will be participating in a link-up called 'A Book's Genesis' hosted by Danielle Ark. I'm a bit behind, so I will technically be posting April's topic at the end of May. But that's okay! I'm a tad late to the party, but that doesn't mean we can't have a good time. *winks*

     A Book's Genesis is all about chatting about your WIPs, what inspired you to start writing it, your writing process, and so on.

     Let's get to it!

In Beautiful People I talked about Taylan from 'Golden Revenge', but I thought it only fair to talk about another WIP I am super passionate about: 'Draped in Deception'.
What is it about? Make a blurb for us, Melissa.
(Warning: I am bad at summarizing)

Teenage warrior Lissaer Jianca must kill the rival royal family to prove her worth to her mother, but a fear of blood and killing holds her back. Lissaer goes under disguise in an enemy city, but when she is tricked into an illegal fighting ring, she brings more enemies to the table. Prince Eric Relen wants to do his duty for the Lacerian Empire, but he can't read. He desires nothing more than to find someone who loves him for his personality and not his title, but he is thrown into an arranged political marriage. When Lissaer and Eric meet, something grows between them. Something stronger than friendship.
Love or duty. Hate or worth. Fear or passion. 
How do you decide when the tides of war are sweeping in?



A really short summary:

Falling for the wrong person + illegal fight-to-the-death rings + fear of blood + "real women kill" + fantasy version of dyslexia + romance + disguises + sucky duties + sassy physicians + finding your worth = Draped in Deception

(All pictures from pinterest, but combined by me)


Where is it set?
     I'll talk about the broad setting of Draped in Deception this time.
     Draped in Deception is set in a world of my own making, called Terra'imperi, where there are two major people groups at odds: the Lacerians, and the Beautians. They have been at war for hundreds of years. The major reason for their hatred of each other is their difference in religion, looks, culture, and past slaughters on both sides.
     Beautians reserve touch for marriage; Lacerians are open with it. Lacerians believe in one god; Beautians believe in twelve.
     In case you were wondering, Eric is a Lacerian prince, while Lissaer is a Beautian warrior. 
     There are other people groups in the story (such as Adireans: lake people who wear headscarves and focus more on spirits, and Teriteans: who are obsessed with science) but they are much smaller in number than the Lacerians or Beautians.


Tell us about Eric and Lissaer:

(I imagine Eric looks similar to Freddie Smith,
but not as neat and with a crooked grin)
      I'm so glad you asked! ;) They are very complicated characters who both struggle with what they want and what their cultures demand of them, self-worth, and who to trust.
     To give you a quick snap of what they are like, Eric is very awkward, often sweet and considerate, but if you hurt him or those he cares about, he will not leash his temper. He also has very low self-esteem as he suffered major bullying because of his inability to read. He loves emberball (imagine soccer/football, but with a burning ball).
     Lissaer has been considered weak ever since she refused to kill. She goes on her mission in a last desperate attempt to prove she is strong to her mother, who is the head of the Beautian army. She likes to stick to plans, is passionate about beading jewellery, and even though she is talented at fighting, she never enjoys it.


     So that wraps up the basics of Draped in Deception. Be sure to check back in a couple of weeks to learn how I got the idea, more about a certain sassy physician, and my writing process!

What do you think of Eric and Lissaer? Would you like to know more about Draped in Deception? Have you participated in A Book's Genesis (if so, post your link below!) Let me know in the comments; I love hearing from you!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

In Which I Share my Old Writing

Old writing can make me cry. Or laugh. Or be mildly concerned how on earth I could believe exclamation marks after! every! sentence! was a good thing.

I’ve always loved writing, and I blame this partly because of how much I read and partly on how my imagination is bigger than Antarctica. Thankfully it's a bit warmer too. I remember my very first story, and since it is so short, I’ll just drop the unedited beauty down below.


Once upon a time there was a magic rose. The rose turned into a bus.
The End.

I have to say that story just brings tears to my eyes every time. The prose, the characters, the plot, and the theme is just so moving. The metaphor of how we all turn into things to protect ourselves really represents life.

Not.

I’ll cut myself some slack here; it was kindergarten. It amuses me that I probably thought this story was the best thing ever (at least I didn’t have problems with a gigantic wordcount).

My writing has gotten better, I promise.



As the one page novels about magic roses faded into kindergarten memories, I moved onto the journals teachers tried to enthuse me with by giving 'fun little prompts’. Occasionally I dotted the pages with illustrated works that were rip-offs of every Spiderwick novel. Ever. 

Some of it sucked (including the spelling).

One day I met a girl that could fly. Her name was Lilly. She lived in a cloud with her pet tortoise, his name was Slowpoke. One day she flew with her flying tortoise to my house. But when she flew near a road she made a car crash, but luckly she saved the people in car by flying near them and grabbing them. The police man saw this and said she was a hero!  At my house, I said, “Where is she?” because she was late for our playdate. But when she came near my house and landed with Slowpoke I saw her medal and it said what she did to get the medal. Then I knew why she was late. So the next day we had a party to celebrate. The end.

Others entries had interesting concepts.

I woke up in a sweat. “It’s just a dream, it’s just a dream,” I told myself.
“Hah, you wish,” a voice said from somewhere in the room. The moon shone and pecked its light through the window. A girl with pale blue hair and snow white skin stepped into my view, smirking. But...she had wings. 
Black wings.
Then I noticed she had a dark blue gun in her hand.
“You,” I said.
“Yes, me,” she said. She was wearing jeans and a white shirt with angel sleeves.
Then, she shot me.
Later, I woke up. I think. I remembered my dream. It was exactly what just happened. Then I realized I was in a tank. It was full of water and black glitter. Strange. My back started tickling. Something was growing from it. Then something sprouted from it. I felt it.
Wings!
The fairy looked at me. She dived in and pulled me out. “Welcome to ‘Black Fairy Training Camp!’”



Then the journal entries faded to the dust, and I started on my first novel: Sharissa’s Story. I wrote it ages ago around the sixth grade (because I’m obviously so old now), and though it didn’t really have an ending so to speak, it was so fun. 

Sharissa’s Story was essentially the story of, you guessed it, Sharissa. She was the best female thief of all time, who discovered the enemy country’s war plans, but was also tasked to steal the biggest black diamond of all time because…she wanted the money. The plot is a mesh of pure coincidences, my weird sense of humour, a random war, a surprising love triangle, people who tend fireplaces for a living, and way too many exclamation marks.

A good friend also named a water bottle after the love interest.

I consider that a win.


I looked up, my eyes red, and saw Twane standing over me. He didn’t say anything, just stood there, with his hand on my shoulder.
“Oh, sit down already.” I said tearfully.
Twane sat down next to me. “I’m sorry. I…I didn’t think you would react like that.”
I sniffed. “I didn’t either.” I put my head on his shoulder. “I’m sorry I ran off.”
“I’m sorry I tickled you.”
“I’m sorry I missed when I tried to punch you."
Twane smiled and stroked my hair. “Now that’s the Sharissa I know and—” He stopped and blushed, pulling his gorgeously muscular arm away from me.
I looked at him suspiciously. “And what, squirrel boy?”
Twane’s face turned even redder and he turned his face away from me and looked at the rising sun.

     Here's a later scene:

Johnathen’s eyes turned dark and hardened like polished steel. “I’ll tell you,” he growled. Then before I could think he dragged me into a nearby empty shed crammed with gardening supplies and pinned me to the wall with his strong hands.
This wasn’t good.
I prepared myself to grab my dagger from my brace up my sleeve I always kept there. Something about Jonathen’s eyes told me I was in huge trouble. His grip tightened on my shoulders until he was almost crushing them. His eyes burned with fury, and for one of the first times in my life, I felt scared.
“I know who you are,” he snarled. “I know what you’ve done."
I felt myself go pale. He knew who I was? He knew I was Sharissa Shadore and a thief? Carefully, I spoke. “Of course you know who I am. I’m Rose Esorevet and I’ve travelled around Centuria in an acting troupe before coming here."
“No,” Jonathen hissed. “You’re a dirty, lying, thieving maggot. You are Sharissa Shadore, the one who killed my brother.” His last words were spoken with such anger I felt it. It was a venomous, writhing snake in his burning eyes. A snake of pain and anger, desperate for revenge.

Thankfully my writing has improved a lot since I wrote these excerpts.


I had so much fun reading through my old stuff to find all of this. And though I realized I have several characters with the same names throughout several novels (which really confused me), the read made me appreciate how much we can grow as writers in a few years.


Do you enjoy reading through your own old writing? Is it great, or cringe-worthy? What were your first stories about? Share them in the comments below; I’d love to hear about them!

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Songs of the Deep: Yes Girl

I listen to a variety of music, whether it be clean rap, alternative, pop, Christian music, or powerful moody songs. Today I am super excited to share a new song in the last category. For the past day I've been blaring this strong beat into my earphones. 

Listen, and enjoy!

(Note: I couldn't upload the official audio of the song, but here is a lyrics version)

Song Title: 'Yes Girl'
Singer(s): Bea Miller
Written By: Pop & Oak, Ilsey Juber, and Bea Miller


How I Discovered this Song: I've listened to Bea Miller for a while, and think she is a super talented singer. I'm subscribed to her Youtube channel, and was immensely pleased when she uploaded this song a few days ago.

What I Love About It: Bea Miller's voice is quite raw and rough, which really makes the song very powerful to me. The beat also builds up along with her voice, drawing you into the chorus.

Emotional Connection: I understand this song as standing up for yourself and not going along with what other people think simply because you are afraid of them. 'Yes Girl' also reminds me of one of my main characters from Draped in Deception, Lissaer, who learns to stand up for what she believes in during the course of the book.

Favourite Lyrics: Every time I listen, the way the below lines are written and sung pull me in and grab my attention.

"Just let me go, just let me go. Won't be your yes girl, no, not anymore. You used to always let me in; do you even know you've changed?"


Best Listened to When: You're in the mood for a song that pushes you to be strong, or when you're writing a scene where your characters need a shove to keep fighting.


Have you listened to Yes Girl before? What do you like/not like about this song? What styles of music do you listen to? Let me know in the comments; I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Commonly Forgotten Parts of World-Building

     One of my favourite things about fantasy books is their ability to transport me to a completely different world. A world with magic, new cultures, and intriguing types of fauna.

     Most fantasy books have the basics of world-building, or go above and beyond to make the world feel real, but a couple miss a few aspects of world building I consider important.




1) Myths/Legends: Our world has been around for a very long time. Every continent, every country, has its own myths and legendary figures that existed in the past (or not), and did some pretty unbelievable things. Myths and legends play directly into our culture today. An example: dragons are in the Chinese Zodiac, drawn on flags, and used in modern stories. 
     Myths would influence a fantasy world, from magical creatures to powerful figures. And not like Some-Dead-Evil-Wizard-Who-Almost-Conquered-World-And-Now-Has-A-Child-Who-Wants-Revenge. I mean figures such as explorers who founded the capital, or a legendary warrior who was said to capture a city with rare magic but never admitted to having it.
     These slight mentions, just dropped in as a reference or as a glimpse of the world's past, give depth to the world.



2) Food: Let's be honest here. Not every single fantasy world would be eating bread, cheese, and some type of meat stew on a daily basis. I understand if it's a Medieval fantasy based in Europe, but there are many other places to base your worlds off of. Since I live in Thailand, traditionally bread is desert, and rice is considered a staple for most meals. Most books overlook the idea of changing the meal of bread and cheese to something more true to the world. (And it would be nice to have descriptions of unique cakes to satisfy my mind's appetite)


Beautiful Thai rice fields
3) Clothing: I talked a bit about why your character's appearance matters here, but what about the style of clothing itself? One style might be more in fashion to one culture at the time of the story, and they might have a negative or positive association with certain colours. Or it could be an association with a certain rank. (Example: colours in Thailand, such as yellow or blue, are associated with certain members of the royal family.) Adding small details such as the style of clothes, what colours and fabrics are used, all give a nod to good world-building.



4) Entertainment: Not every character spends all their time slashing people with swords and kicking peoples' butts. Unless they're in a war in the middle of an epic fantasy. But if they're not, the types of games and sports people play always seem to be skipped over. I love scenes where characters chat over a country's unique card game, or play some strange sport. Fantasy worlds aren't carbon copies of our own, after all. We both enjoy having fun, but it's unlikely we do it in the same way.
     Example from my editing WIP, Draped in Deception: emberball is a common sport where a burning ball is lit, and players rub non-burning oil from a special type of tree on their skin. They pass the ball around with their feet, and the goal-keeper can only use their elbows to catch it. Emberball is the major sport in the Empire.


Do you wish these elements of world-building were included more in books? How many of these do you put in your stories? Do you have an interesting element of your story world's cultures? Feel free to share in the comments; I'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, 14 May 2016

The Power of Words

     One word is worth a thousand pictures.

No, I did not get that saying wrong. I've changed it around a bit, because it is true, an image can be and is a powerful thing, but I don’t think we should put down the power of words.


Think about the word ‘once.’

A thousand different pictures can come to mind. A first kiss. A fairy tale cover. Holding hands. Standing over a grave. 

You can interpret that single word, one syllable, into thousands of situations and images. And each one, belongs to the word in a way that no other picture can.

Crazy, isn’t it?

And if you are still doubting me, think of a setting in a book you love. Those brilliantly crafted sentences conjure images in your mind, and I would bet a hundred thousand dollars that the image of the setting in your mind is different from everyone else’s who has read that book.

Our memories, experiences, places we’ve been, and imagination tweak the words we read into images in our mind. We are essentially creating our own personal movies as we read.

Words allow us to carry around worlds with us.
Words entertain us. They provide an escape.

Words put things in motion. A simple ‘hello’ could lead to a life-changing situation or relationship.

Words inspire us to be as brave, to believe in love, to speak out.

Words can build us up, or bring us crashing down. I am the kind of person who takes every word ever said to me, and then runs them over and over in my mind until I think I know the true meaning behind them. If you say something slightly insulting, even not really meaning it, I can assure you those words will make me question everything I do.

Similarly, one compliment can make my whole day.

But back to the power of words. 

In both real life and writing, we need to consider the words we wield. We can twist them, or make them beautiful. Words can be a weapon or a gift.


The images we create with words can mean different things to different people. The thousands of images a writer creates can touch the hearts of thousands.

I'm not sure about you, but I want to be that kind of writer.

I want to use the power of words to inspire.


What inspires you in your writing? What is your dream for the words you write? Do you want your words to inspire and motivate people? Let me know in the comments; I'd love to hear from you!



Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Should Books Have Other Languages in Them?

      If you read a fantasy book of any kind, at some point there will be some line in italics that you stare at for a moment, before realizing it's not in your native language. Maybe it's the language of a fantastical tribe, or rival people, another country in contemporary, or another being entirely.

     But should authors create languages for their fantasy worlds? Should books have snippets of fake languages or even real ones in them?

     The way I see it, there are both pros and cons to including other languages.




Pros:

Authentic World: Earth is home to over six thousand different languages. Six thousand. Wouldn't it make sense then, in a fantasy world, for there to be just as many spoke languages? Yes, it would. There might be a core language used in trade, business, etc. (like in many real world empires in the past, or even think of how English and Mandarin are two major languages). But there might also be smaller languages used by a certain tribe, used only in religion, and so on. By books including their own languages, it gives you the sense that the author has built up their world and given it some thought.

Quick snap of one of my own languages only briefly used in Draped in Deception
Source of Tension: If you've ever been travelling, communication is a big deal. From ordering at a restaurant, to asking directions, to wanting to chat, we all usually do this through verbal communication. So when you can't understand each other, you might not get what you want. Pointing at a menu can only get you so far. In books, not getting critical information across because of language barriers can be a huge problem characters have to conquer. 

Literally went onto Google Translate to figure out this one...
Of course, with the good always comes the bad.

Cons:

Confusion: Nothing annoys me more than a book having snippets of French or something, with no explanation given. There wasn't even a glossary in the back of the book so I could understand what the characters were saying, or the POV explaining what had been said. Instead, I was left in the dark with no knowledge if an insult was just said, or confessions of love were exchanged. If another language than what the book was printed in is going to be included, and there is no way of figuring out what it meant, it really throws you out of the flow of the story. It might as well not be in there. 


Added to Impress You: Not every fantasy author creates a billion languages as a side project for fun (which is completely fine!). If the author's shiny new language shows up every single page, with no contribution but bragging about how intelligent they are, this can totally kill not only the book's authenticity, but my respect for the author. Anything added to a story should help make the story the best it can be, not feed any egos.

     Of course, many books avoid the cons and use the perfect amount of other languages, but there is a fair amount that don't. In my opinion, if the lines in another language add to the story, and give the world authenticity (with some explanation of what it means!) I am all for it.
Do you think other languages should be added in books? Do you create new languages for your own stories? What books add languages and do it well? Let me know in the comments; I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Beautiful People: May Edition


     I am super excited to participate in my first linkup: Beautiful People! It's hosted by lovely Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further Up and Further In. They both has wonderful blogs, so definately check them out!

     Beautiful People is a linkup where you are given ten questions each month to get to know your characters/book better.

     Let's get straight to it!


Today I'll be answering the ten questions for Taylan, a teenage mercenary refugee, from my WIP 'Golden Revenge.'

Here's a brief summary for you: 

Teen refugee Taylan fled from his civil war strewn country when royal soldiers slaughtered his village and family for supporting rebel soldiers. Now, all he desires is revenge against the magic-hoarding royals. Away from the war, Princess Mida has been considered a monster all her life with her golden touch, so she stays away from almost everyone. Mida seeks a cure to her curse by delving deep into the illegal magic market, while Taylan struggles to make any money working as a mercenary in the palace. 
When the rebel soldiers find their way over the border into the refugee camp, looking for new recruits and money to fund their army, the answer to their problems might lie in the two teens; revenge and the touch of gold.


Taylan is on the bottom right

Onto the questions! 

1) How often do they smile? Would they smile at a stranger?
Taylan is not exactly the 'wake-up and smile at the world because, hey, they're alive!' type. Be easy on him, he lost his entire family, and is now a refugee in Mohetania, where it is ridiculously hard for him to find a good job. Anyway, he'll only smile around a certain someone. *wiggles eyebrows*

2) What is the cruelest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?
Excuse me while I pull out a list. Hmmm. There was one time when he was called a, to put it politely: "butt-licking mongrel" when he was twelve. He was told this by a royal soldier when was taking part in the mandatory military service for three months. The royal soliders are not the kind of people you would invite over to a party, unless you intend on cleaning blood off the floor. Anyway, Taylan retaliated with a fist to their gut. That got him several scars in return.

3) What is the kindest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?
Taylan's best friend, Koray, said to him once: "Tay, if another guy richer than the royals marched in and offered me his friendship, I wouldn't accept it. They don't get better than you. So pull yourself up, and play cards with me before I throw them at you." Taylan listened to Koray, clapped him on the back, and lost at the game. Needless to say, this made Koray happy.



4) What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?
Probably on his fourteenth birthday when his village was invaded with royal soldiers because they suspected rebels were being allowed to stay. The royal soldiers started to slaughter everyone when they found men bearing the rebel wrist tattoo. Taylan's mother yelled at him to run as the soldiers pinned her down. And so did. He kept running, and then swum through the sewerage pit between Paralin and Mohetania that serves as a border.
No explanations needed about why this is a lasting memory.

5) What book (a real actual published book!) do you think your character would benefit from reading?
Any YA book ever because (a) he needs to know that want for revenge is probably going to end up with a whole ton of innocent people dead and (b) give him hope that he can be with someone he loves despite all odds.


I want this so much for Taylan it's a little unhealthy
6) Have they ever been seriously injured? How severely? How did they react?
When he was running from the royal soldiers, an arrow sliced through his ankle, and he dislocated his shoulder an hour later. So combined, they are probably the worst he's had. He can still walk, but there is a scar on his ankle, and occasionally his shoulder twinges. When it happened, he just kept running despite the blood and pain. When your life is at stake, there isn't much choice.

7) Do they like and get along with their neighbours?
This question amuses me, because in the refugee camp Taylan shares a 'bathroom' with six other homes. This usually ends with him pounding on the door needing to pee after his neighbour has been in there doing their hair with a broken shard of mirror for an hour. They're not best friends, but not enemies. The only enemy the refugees have are the royals and their soldiers.

8) On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being easy and 10 being difficult) how easy are they to get along with?
Around a 6, because while Taylan is sweet at times and very polite (his mother drilled that into him), he also is very hot-tempered and can tend to be very unpredictable when his need for revenge is concerned.

9) If they could travel anywhere in the world, where would they go?
Taylan just wants to go back to the ruins of his village, so he can properly mourn his family in his own country. 



10) Who was the last person they held hands with?
Well. No one that recently, but I will mention that this certain someone, Feriha, held his hand when he was getting the arrow ripped out of his ankle. She held his hand so he wouldn't scream, but it certainly sparked something a few years ago. ;)

Have you participated in Beautiful People? Would you like to meet Taylan in real life? How often do your characters smile (if at all), and where would they travel? Let me know in the comments; I'd love to hear your thoughts! 


Thursday, 5 May 2016

Six Ways to Tell a Story (Excluding Writing)

     When someone says 'story-telling', my automatic thought is: writing. This is completely true, but there are so many different ways to tell stories. Ways that can range from images, to words, to a tune.

     As writers and story-tellers, we need to be aware of the different forms stories come in, and reflect this in our writing. There are more ways than black letters on white paper to draw readers in.


     There are six methods of story-telling apart from writing that my brain has come up with.





1) Music: Music does have some writing involved, but it is the combination of lyrics, a solid beat, and voice that form something magical. Songs tell stories without having to include too many words. The word choice, any rhymes, and the sudden shift in the bridge--which could be compared to the climax in a novel--create a story. This is why we connect to music so much: its stories, whether break-ups or love songs, resonate with our life experiences.



2) Dance: I am a dancer. Not a very good one, but I do love the way our bodies can bend to music in order to tell a story. Stories can be told through a dancer's expressions, speed of movement, type of actions, and how they react with other dancers around them. A leap could be in joy, or in danger. You don't need to have words in order to communicate emotions.



3) Comics: Comics really hit the mark for short, snappy story lines binding words with images. Oftentimes comics rely on the reader's notice of the characters' surroundings (portrayed in images) in order to provide valuable information in the plot.



4) Film/Drama: I know I shouldn't be grouping these two together, but they are very similar in how they tell a story. The initial script is given, but from there it really just depends on the actors, actresses, (cameramen/women for film) and directors to show the audience the story. The acting and how the characters and plot are delivered can really make or break these two ways.




5) Art: Art is a beautiful, abstract thing. By combining colours, shapes, and different mediums (clay, paint, pencil, etc.) a single image can draw you in and let you explore its story and purpose for hours. Art also allows a person to interpret its story in a way other forms often can't.




6) Orally: Last but not least, the way people have been telling stories since the beginning of time, really. From those stereotypical camp-fire ghost stories that make you wish camps had proper bathrooms, to just telling your friends how your day was, oral story-telling is amazing. Tone, enthusiasm from the story-teller, and word choice really showcases the story-teller's personality and pulls the reader in.



Do you tell stories in any way apart from writing? Which of these six if your favourite or least favourite? Let me know in the comments; I'd love to hear your thoughts!